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What we've been playing

A few of the games that have us hooked at the moment.

A screenshot from Bramble: The Mountain King. Two children stand in front of a huge, car-sized toad with a crown on. In the game's reality, the children have been shrunk.
Image credit: Eurogamer / Dimfrost Studio

17th November, 2023

Hello! Welcome back to our regular feature where we write a little bit about some of the games we've found ourselves playing over the last few days. This time: nordic horror, axolotls, and karting

If you fancy catching up on some of the older editions of What We've Been Playing, here's our archive.

Loddlenaut, PC

Loddlenaut is one I've been looking forward to ever since I played the demo earlier this year, and it hasn't disappointed. It continues what I've noticed as an eco-conscious trend in games - you play as a worker whose job it is to clean up the waters of a planet from rubbish and industrial waste, while befriending local wildlife along the way.

As you explore more of the game's areas, you learn more of the planet's (and your employer's) history. The company you work for attempted to use the planet's underwater fruits and veggies for energy, but caused an oil spill. Rather than sticking around to mitigate the issue, the company packed up and moved all of its employees out, opting instead to send one person back, the player, years later, to clean up the mess and restore the planet's balance of nature.

The cleaning up part of the game is very relaxing. Floating around and sucking up plastic with my little bubble gun is addictive to me and I often ended up ignoring where the game wanted me to go next in favour of following trails of rubbish around the map and exploring.

My favourite bit has to be the loddles, though. These are the planet's local inhabitants, and they look a lot like axolotls - they're so adorable. You can feed them, even cook them treats, or make them toys to play with, or just pet them for minutes on end. As they move back into the cleaned up areas, they grow from baby loddles to adults, and what they eat affects what they grow up to be. I'm sure I've not seen all the different types of loddle yet, but I do think my favourite is the bunny one. I wasn't expecting to become a mum of 100, but here I am with my nurseries of loddles helping them grow up and return to their waters.


Mario Kart 8 Deluxe DLC, Switch

I am rather smitten with Pauline in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. Other than seeing her in Odyssey, I will confess I didn't know much about her character in the wider Mario world. However, when she made her roster debut last week as part of the final wave of DLC, I decided to take her out for a spin. And she was a hoot!

I absolutely love the way she will go over a jump and then just bring out her microphone mid-air like it is no big deal. I wish I had that kind of sass and attitude in real life. My kids also loved it, and everytime Pauline went over a jump, we would all look to see what move she was going to pull this time (this made winning against my children quite a lot easier than normal, as when they were looking at my screen they were also casually driving their characters off the road/into stray goombas/the wrong way round the track). I used to always play as Rosalina, but I have to say, I think Pauline may be my new go to Mario Kart 8 character.

As for this final wave of booster pack courses, my children and I had a lot of fun blasting around the last eight tracks. A particular highlight was (and I suppose still is) DK Mountain. Did I deploy plenty of banana skins on the rickety bridge just before the finish line to trip up my children? Of course I did. I also made the most of my Wii knowledge, and zipped up the shortcut on Daisy Circuit, much to their confusion.

I am going to miss our steady release of new Mario Kart 8 goodness now that Nintendo has wrapped everything up for this edition. But at least while we wait for the inevitable Mario Kart 9 on Nintendo's next console, whenever that may be, I have all of that Pauline fabulousness to keep me company.


Bramble: The Mountain King, PC

Bramble: The Mountain King has a very strong sense of style and place. It's like being transported inside a Scandinavian folk tale.

I've been meaning to give Bramble a go for a while. It came out in April this year, and it's made by a small Swedish team of relatively recent students, and judging by the feedback on Steam, it's been going down really well.

It's a game about - well, it's a game about being in a fairytale, really. A Scandinavian fairytale. One that can look and feel childish while at the same time be laced with menace. The set-up is you're a young boy whose sister goes running into the woods at night, so you climb out of the window and go running after her. Inadvisable, but then, it all seems perfectly acceptable and welcome until, of course, it isn't.

It's an odd game to place. On the one hand, it feels so childish as to almost feel like watching In The Night Garden or something similarly designed for young eyes to gawp at. It's not saccharine in the same way, but there are parallels with the forested setting, and it is enchantingly realised, I have to say. But on the other hand, there's a darkness and uncanniness always pushing at the back of your mind, so be warned if you're inviting younger players on the journey with you.

How dark it gets, I don't know - I'm waiting for that moment to really kick in. I'm only an hour into it. But it is flagged as a horror game. Maybe this sunny, childish introduction is all misdirection to soften me up for what's to come. Part of me hopes so, because at the moment, as intrigued as I am to see more, I'm not sure whether to continue on.