One of my most bittersweet gaming memories is pretty recent – at most it was a couple of years ago. It was the day after we all knocked off work and I pulled the sofa round in front of the TV and played a game that I wasn’t reviewing, or writing about, or checking up on to decide about coverage for. It was that Ubisoft Battle Royale. My memory is terrible and I just had to look up the name. It was Hyper Scape.
I had wanted to play it all year – that was the key fact here. I was and am a big fan of Battle Royale games, not for the shooting or competition so much as that if you land in a quiet part of the map you just get to pootle around and explore by yourself. It’s a bit like being home from university unexpectedly and walking around town while the rest of your old friends are still away.
Hyper Scape was perfect for this. I’d had my eye on it because it looked expansive and stylish, with a kind of pseudo-white-box style to the architecture. It also had that mysterious Ubisoft Machine behind it. Who really made this? And was it really intended to be a Battle Royale, or was it off-cuts from something else, some other mega project? I remember in one part of the map I found an incredibly detailed Gothic cathedral. This was made specifically for Hyper Scape? Really? I’d still love to know the story of that map.
Anyway. I had a brilliant few hours that afternoon – not playing the game so much as just checking it out, and checking it out because I’d missed the chance to connect with it all year when I was working or taking my daughter to school or doing a billion other things that got in the way of aimless video game pootling. Hyper Scape was pretty and polished and interesting. I look back now and it felt like going on a strange winter holiday just for a few hours. You can’t go home again, of course. Ubisoft shuttered the game a few months later.
And here’s the thing: I feel like this is something that happens every year. I don’t plan it – you shouldn’t plan it! – but around this time, when work knocks off, there’s the perfect chance to return to something that passed you by and finally give it its moment. Just one game. Make it special. Don’t let it encroach on anything else. Pick one game. It’s the Game Catch-up time of year!
This year, because I am a ludicrous hipster, my Game Catch-up game is shaping up to be GlagStone, for the Playdate. GlagStone looks lovely! It’s a town builder game, but it’s also the story of a mysterious place where something weird has happened. It has a lighthouse! It will play out on that tiny black-and-white screen. My Playdate is charging and I can’t wait.
So the question is: what’s your Game Catch-up game this year? Do you have time for one? In a way, it reminds me of the best Christmas song, Christmas Wrapping by the Waitresses. “Hey, it’s that guy I’ve been chasing all year…” Finally, in the quiet weeks at the end of the year we get a chance to catch up on something special.