Quarantine Diaries: Day #3

Written by Culture, Editor's Picks, Gaming

Three days into our two-week set of diaries and the measures that the UK government have put in place are only getting more severe. To beat any blues that this might have caused, our trio of Gaming Editors look towards virtual lobbies, VR and simulation.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

George Boatfield, Newcastle upon Tyne → Harrogate

Having learnt my lessons from yesterday, I decided to spend today revisiting the familiar multiplayer offering of Mario Kart 8.

With a Nintendo Switch Online membership now mine – I bought a three-month pass, my own optimistic appraisal of this outbreak – I was ready to begin the karting shenanigans with my friends and my sister back at home. There’s nothing quite like returning to the satisfying handling, manic item hurling and vibrant track styling of the series. It will always be a reminder of the treasured times sharing the family DS copy, even after hundreds of hours playing the newest outing.

However, following Boris’ late-night announcement of the lockdown, my day ended with an impromptu upgrade from Mario Kart to actual kar. It was a mad dash from Newcastle back home to Harrogate. While I was nervous about the implications of returning from Newcastle, potentially putting my family at a higher risk, the thought of being back home was a welcome one.

With my own little gaming setup hastily reassembled in my room, and with my sister isolated with a slightly better-arranged Switch, the online membership ended up being pretty useful after all. While we may be in different rooms of our house, it certainly makes the online lobby feel a lot closer than it would back in Newcastle.

Half Life: Alyx

James Troughton, Newcastle upon Tyne

Whilst we can’t go outside unless it’s for our once-a-day allowance of exercise due to yesterday’s lockdown, we can explore the virtual world. So I’ve opted to hop into a dystopia that’s ripe with eerie zombies, disheartening alien grunts and plenty of spooky dark corridors coated in a nice layer of interdimensional fungus, so not too different to last week.

Half-Life: Alyx is Valve’s own pre-sequel, or at least I hope it is, and it comes 12 years after their last installment, Half-Life 2: Episode 2. Does it live up to over a decade’s worth of hype? Absolutely.

It’s the pinnacle of VR advancements whilst making leaps and strides of its own, being the first fully-fledged, triple-A, designed-for-VR experience that’s as long as Half-Life 2 and even better looking. What’s more? It works surprisingly well without the finger-tracking perks of the ludicrously priced Index controllers. I’m looking at you Boneworks, you janky nightmarish tech-demo that caused my joints to ache.

The horror elements rampant in the first two games are amped up tenfold given the immersive climate, the gunfights are even more adrenaline-packed and the puzzles are an absolute treat. Despite being an entirely different experience that plays out in an entirely different medium, it still feels like a Half-Life game. After over ten years of waiting, that’s more than enough for me.

Stardew Valley

Alex Darbyshire, York

In this time of crisis, I decided to try and empathise with the local farmer with a spot of Stardew Valley. Returning to my old farm brought back some fond memories from a couple of summers back. It’s strange revisiting a game you played, or a movie you watched, and connected to a very specific point in your life. It’s like a smell that immediately brings you back to your childhood. 

Do not think this game is devoid of content, as ConcernedApe continually adds free content updates

What was meant to be a quick session quickly ate up my entire day, as these games tend to do. Much like Animal Crossing, Stardew oozes relaxation, what I believe the kids call ‘chill vibes’. The soundtrack, I feel, is especially underrated. Synthy-farm music is apparently a genre and it is incredibly soothing during day after day of the similar gameplay loop that Stardew involves. That said, do not think this game is devoid of content, as ConcernedApe continually adds free content updates and plans to add more. This one is definitely worth picking up if you want to sink a few days into creating an idyllic virtual farm.

Last modified: 25th March 2020

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