I don’t get out all that much anyway, what with the gammy leg and all, but there’s a world of difference between choosing to stay at home and being told to. Waking up to a text message from the government, demanding that we all remain indoors, shows what a raging dumpster fire the world has become. Life feels a lot like a SyFy made-for-TV movie special, from a director who’s only ever seen Outbreak and V For Vendetta and has a real thing about edibles. It’s all very weird and it’s easy to let it get to you.
Well, don’t let it get to you! We’re here to help, with a run down of five titles from Xbox Games Pass(1) which will help to distract you from the nightmarish prison that your living room has become. Raising spirits all over the place, that’s us.
5) Grand Theft Auto V
One of the things that people are finding particularly difficult to deal with right now is the curtailment of certain freedoms. While we’re stuck in lockdown, you can’t just go for a drive, hop out and take a wander along the street, pop in to the nearest store to rob it blind at gunpoint and then flee into the hills, pursued by suicidal police officers and army choppers. The simple things which make life worth living.
With GTAV, you can scratch that extroverted itch from the comfort of your own sofa. I fired it up a couple days ago and went for a blast around the city, tearing along the streets at full pelt in my modded Banshee, screaming at pedestrians to get the hell inside because they were breaking lockdown. Then I appointed myself Quarantine Judge and began to issue stern warnings to those who broke my newly imposed rule of law, warnings in the form of bullets! It was at this point that I became very aware that I had been awake for 24 hours, had drank far too much coffee and was just driving along pavements, cursing and eating Wotsits.
If you haven’t already succumbed to madness, GTA is a great way to pass the time and have some laughs with friends. Fire up the online mode, start a private game and invite everyone you know. Blitz round the city or just go for a walk along the beach, whatever works. Just know that if you invite me, there’s every chance you’ll be crushed under the wheels of a stolen city bus, as I mumble “social distancing baby” through a mouthful of cheesey snacks.
For a complete change of pace, why not give the ridiculously adorable Riverbond a whirl? It’s absolutely the cutest thing and incredibly relaxing to play. You bimble around the world of Riverbond and yeah sure, things might attack you, but you just bop them with your weapon of choice and if they kill you, you respawn with all of your progress saved. There are literally no consequences to your actions.
As a lifelong gamer, there is something incredibly liberating about a game that lets me charge in, without stopping for even a second to consider what might happen as I dive headfirst into battle, knowing that whatever the outcome i’ll just pop back up and can resume where I left off. Even in boss fights, you get smushed and then just reappear with your damage dealt maintained.
The game is super pretty, sounds lovely, plays like a dream and it’s 1000 gamerscore in a day for the cheevo hunters out there. No brainer, get it downloaded.
3) Two Point Hospital
The whole point of this top five is to give you some ideas to take your mind off Covid-19, so I understand that featuring a game themed around illness and hospitals seems counter-intuitive, at best. Allow me to persuade you, gentle reader.
Two Point Hospital is the spiritual successor to Theme Hospital, a wonderful little game which stole many hours of my life during the heady days of my youth. The summers were long, the stars shined brighter and I was locked in my room, avoiding the balmy days and sparkling nights while I smashed away at my keyboard like a pianist on speed.
It was during these formative years that I discovered the phemonenon I call Gamer’s Temporal Flux(TM). Basically, it’s the absolute certainty that you’ve only been playing for an hour, maybe two, which is shattered as realisation dawns and you find that six days have passed and you’re severely dehydrated, caked in your own filth and coated with a thin layer of dust. Man, those were the days.
Normally, i’d advise against any game that can induce GTF(TM) as it tends to disrupt normal life but hey, normal life is not only disrupted already, it’s been thoroughly kicked to pieces and scattered over the landscape. Might as well spend some of that time gaming and GTF (TM) will certainly make the time fly by. Because science.
2) Dead Island: Definitive Edition
The streets are empty, save a few shambling bodies, moving without purpose and seemingly devoid of higher thought. In this post apocalyptic landscape, it’s kill or be killed. You lash together some basic electronic components and attach them to a machete, creating a heated blade which will slice the flesh of the undead like butter. You are finally prepared.
Then, instead of venturing out to Tesco to try and bag a loaf of bread and a four pack of Charmin, you settle in for an all night session of Dead Island. Four player co-op means you can socialise as you brutalise, cutting a bloody swathe through the holiday makers turned zombies as you attempt to answer the greatest mystery of all. Who do YOUR voodoo?
Dead Island is so much fun played with friends and offers more than a few laughs solo. The open world, makeshift weaponry and multiple quest options are just what the doctor ordered for some mindless, brutal fun.
1) Power Rangers: Battle for The Grid
This little beauty just hit Games Pass on Thursday 27th March and it’s better than it has any right to be. It’s got that Marvel vs Capcom feel, but with a cast of familiar heroes from the Power Rangers world. Plus some less familiar. I’ve no idea why the Black Ranger is “Mastodon Sentry” now but I figure it’s something to do with the story mode. I mean, he’s got a gun for the love of…
Look, this isn’t a review so I’ve not played it all that much. What I do know is that this game has that senseless button-basher feel with an absolutely incredible remix of the Power Rangers theme blaring over the menu and at one point, I called in the Megazord and it trod on a guy. Just straight up stomped him and raked the remnants with a sword. That’ll do you, hey?
It’s a scary world, folks. Not in the Power Rangers game, i’m concluding here. There’s a lot going on out there and it’s not much fun but stay home, stay safe and play some damn video games. That Pile of Shame is finally going to get a kicking.
(1) I’m not forgetting about Playstation. I just don’t have one.
Stock images courtesy of Pexels.