Games of the week: El Hijo – A Wild West Tale, Override 2: Super Mech League, When the Past was Around, and Alba: A Wildlife Adventure
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El Hijo – A Wild West Tale
Platform: PC, Stadia
Mum’s the word
You’ll be forgiven for thinking anything with the words Wild West in the title includes some form of violence, but El Hijo (‘The Son’) takes a refreshing step away from this persona, turning it into a puzzle-like stealth game about a child trying to find his mother, who left the titular character at a monastery to keep him safe. Deciding to escape, the game throws a series of challenges your way which require you to carefully navigate around foes, from lurking in shadows to causing distractions with your slingshot, all in the name of being together once more. Levels progressively become harder, with a particular spike in difficulty towards the end. There’s no dialogue but you can make out what’s going on thanks to the stunning art style.
Skip to the end: Perfect introduction to stealth gaming for newcomers, which leaves plenty of trial and error while at times testing your patience.
Override 2: Super Mech League
Platform: Xbox, PlayStation, Switch, PC, Stadia
Fighting games have been done to death and sadly Override 2: Super Mech League doesn’t really breathe any new life into the genre. There is little new to discover in this Transformers-esque sequel to 2018’s first Override game, unless you enjoy button mashing. Characters have some unique moves and there is some fun to be had from that, but it tires very quickly otherwise. Fortunately, you can play against three others locally or online, so there is some enjoyment to be had there.
Skip to the end: Beat ’em up becomes repetitive too quickly with no real story to hook us in.
When the Past was Around
Platform: Nintendo Switch
The art of puzzles
Proving puzzle games can carry a story and emotion behind them is When the Past was Around. It’s an artistic triumph aesthetically but also succeeds in telling a tale of love and loss, through the eyes of a woman called Eda who is grieving for her dead lover Owl. The point and click puzzles throughout the game allow Eda to go through her memories and eventually heal from the loss. It’s a powerful and emotional journey and the puzzles work well in this context, though the game overall feels a little short.
Skip to the end: A surprisingly emotional puzzle game which tells its story beautifully, even if you are left longing for more.
Alba: A Wildlife Adventure
Platform: iOS, PC
Price: £4.99 per month with Apple Arcade
A mayor on a little island is planning to build a hotel on an ailing nature reserve. Can you convince the locals to campaign against it? Playing young Alba, you must complete tasks and talk to locals as you go about this nature-saving mission. It’s a story that plays out authentically – people see real opportunity in a new development but can also see the obvious downside – and with your nurturing, you might just scupper the plans altogether. It’s not a timed game, creating a truly calming atmosphere, leaving you to run around freely. One of the great things about this nature lover is Alba’s sense of discovery, and you’ll be tasked with taking photos of more than 60 species around the place, kept in a log – and they’re not all easy to snap either, particularly a flying bird.
Skip to the end: It’s impossible not to like Alba, with her nature-loving attitude and the calming environment she roams within, despite the very serious issue it addresses.