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What we’ve been playing

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: loops, museums, and difficult cities.

I really like the buttons. I can almost feel them, like I’m pressing a stone button on a dirty temple somewhere, and that dirty temple is probably an 80s role-playing game. I love the retro feel. I also love Loop Hero’s different approach to an RPG, and as it’s not a real RPG, but more of a reverse defense game, where you’re trying to attract more danger, rather than less, so you can go through it and get more items.

I like the very simple amnesic history that surrounds it, because it complements and explains the configuration without disturbing it. I think it’s cool, literally – cool as a math problem. And when you back up a little bit, I suppose that’s what Loop Hero is. It is like an equation that you are always balancing on the spot. You adjust your numbers so that they produce more favorable equations than those of your enemies, exchanging equipment and weapons and laying tiles, depending on what you enter.

I really like the simplicity of it. And I can’t stop playing.

Idle Museum Tycoon, smartphones


I received three million pounds just for picking up a banana peel the other day. This is the intoxicating surrealism of games that pretend to be strategy games, but are actually clickers. Or maybe clickers are actually strategy games. I feel that so much is happening in clickers and inactive games, so much that it is interesting and so much that it is not, that the genre has been monetized very successfully, without really being understood. Loot Hero is a clicker? I do not know. Is Cookie Clicker a strategy game? He shrugs.

Idle Museum Tycoon is not a strategy game – at least I don’t think so. It was here that I won three million with a banana peel. Minutes later, I emptied a drink machine and took a billion. You know the business: you run a museum, but it’s not really. You open the doors and buy galleries that you can update. You click and things get brighter and the numbers go up.

And the numbers quickly reach a point where everything turns into comedy. Millions for sweeping the floor. A trillion to get one more person in the new exhibition in Egypt. Idle Museum Tycoon is terribly well monetized and, at the end of my night, the real mark of success for me was that I didn’t spend real money on anything I didn’t need, but I really felt like I needed it.

So did I win? I am not sure. Perhaps it is really a strategy game.

Chris Donlan

All my cities die from the same thing: total failure in all areas at the same time. They will grow more and more, neighborhoods crowding, small square buildings becoming big and round, and then I will take my eye off for a second and everything will be overloaded and the roads will be blocked. Total failure.

It’s amazing, actually: one of the buildings clearly pushes me to the limit, but a game rarely ends with less than five or six ready to start. Even so, I keep playing, because Mini Motorways is very rewarding. This Apple Arcade gift – which will arrive on the PC in May – is an absolute classic. You connect houses and stores of the same color. That’s it. But of course that’s not it, because the colors multiply, and some of them are in strange places, and then their roads are blocked with traffic and … it’s over.

I love it, though. The Mini Highway uses stylized maps of real-world cities, so if I get to Manila, I’ll be ready for the fact that the city is a nightmare, with all those rivers dividing things. I always run out of bridges in Manila. In addition to being educational – more or less – the Mini Highway is simply beautiful. Every screenshot I take is my new favorite screenshot of all time. Mini highways have an excellent design elevated to real art.

This week I set myself another challenge. In addition to keeping traffic flowing and resources accumulating, I also took charge of knocking down some of the small circles on the map that represent trees. They have always been there and I have always demolished them. No longer! The roads now curve around them and offer them a respectful space to live their lives.

So far, the result has been total failure.

Chris Donlan

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