Games of the week: The Medium, Spire Blast, Encodya and Solas 128
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Platform: Xbox Series X/S / PC
Price: £41.74 (also available with Xbox Game Pass)
A tale of two universes
The Medium brings double horror to an overdone genre, with a truly unique split-screen experience. Main character Marianne – who is, as the tin suggests, a medium – finds herself in Poland trying to understand her ability. What you do in the real world is replicated in the spirit world, effectively putting you in control of two versions at the same time. At occasional points it will show both universes on screen, with objects and obstacles only visible on one side, influencing your ability to move forward. Slick and well executed, the suitably disturbing and freaky antagonist also jumps from the spirit side to the real world, creating a real sense of heightened tension.
Skip to the end: Nerve-wracking psychological horror from beginning to end, made more jumpy thanks to the split-screen approach showing two very different worlds.
Encodya gives cyberpunk a dash of cuteness, as you play as nine-year-old orphan Tina and her robot guardian SAM-53 in Neo Berlin, 2062, seeking answers to her father’s mysterious disappearance. It’s a straightforward point and click entry with few thrills beyond the charm of its two central characters. The ability to switch between the pair to utilise their unique skills is a plus, but hardly something new. The puzzles are not all that challenging either. Despite looking dated, the graphics are actually likeable and there are lots of cool locations to explore. But overall, Encodya lacks variety and depth to put any real adventure in front of us.
Skip to the end: Encodya is entertaining but lacking any real challenge to excite us.
Platform: Switch, PC
Price: From £11.39
Time for reflection
Some things do well at sticking to basic, and Solas 128 is a perfect case in point. The idea is simple yet satisfyingly challenging, and the neon retro graphics and techno music serve as an added bonus. All you need to do is reposition mirrors so that beams of light are able to exit, allowing you onto the next stage. Levels quickly become much more complex, requiring more thought and planning with a limited number of mirrors at your disposal. When you do reach those trickier stages, there is nothing more rewarding than completing them. There’s no apparent story here, but that’s just fine.
Skip to the end: An irresistible level of challenge makes Solas 128 an ideal puzzle game for those who don’t irritate easily.
Price: £4.99 per month with Apple Arcade
It all comes crashing down
Spire Blast feels a bit like a multicoloured game of Jenga, where the aim is the opposite – to bring down the tower using as few balls as possible. It’s easy enough to understand, the towers stand in different coloured wobbly blocks – balls are loaded up at random to shoot at the tower, but it will only make the blocks disappear if the colour you hit is matching. The more neighbouring blocks of the same colour, the better. The need to knock over so many of one colour to progress creates a good challenge, though the overall aim is a bit repetitive. The music is pretty annoying too.
Skip to the end: Low commitment puzzle gaming ideal for those spare 10 minutes rather than a full on session.