My blogging-friends and the games we’ve shared

Valentine’s Day is the celebration of love – but that doesn’t necessarily mean that feeling must be romantic. Love can encompass all sorts of relationships, from family members to good friends, from people you’ve met through blogging to your cat.

This is recognised by DanamesX from Tales from the Backlog in February’s EXP Share event. The subject for this month is ‘Share a story that involves someone special to you’ and as he points out himself, this can be ‘a significant other, older or younger sibling, parent, close friend, your Twitch chat, the voices in the wall or your pet’. I’ve decided to give a shout-out to the people who have been keeping me sane during the lockdown and share some of the video games we have in common.

Ellen from Ace Asunder

As covered in my post for the #CreativeChristmasCollab, the awesome Ellen is now someone I speak to every day and share hundreds of cat memes with. Our friendship was tested when we participated in a game-swap last year and she made me play Final Fantasy XIII in return for Her Story. I’m just joking: after over 50 hours of gameplay, getting hit with instant death attacks by the final boss several times and a 03:00 finish, I’m still talking to her. And that’s even though she doesn’t like full-motion video (FMV) heroes Poe and Munro.

GD from Gaming Diaries

When I decided to revisit a nostalgic game as part of our 50-day challenge for GameBlast20 last year, GD was one of the only people who supported my decision. Sure, Herdy Gerdy is an old PlayStation 2 title that not many people have heard of and won’t be to everybody’s tastes: there’s no action or explosions but there are plenty of cute little animals. It’s funny how it’s now become a running joke in our Twitch chat and GD champions the return of Herdy Gerdy while everybody else groans.

Luke from Hundstrasse

Luke and I have known each for ages through the blogging community, but we finally met in person for the first time at the Rezzed expo in 2018 where we watched a talk by Tim Schafer. When COVID-19 put a stop to our plans for meeting up at the London Gaming Market in March last year, we decided to do a game-swap by post and this saw me working my way through crazy platformer Whiplash. This game sums up Luke’s sense of humour: random, hilarious and absolutely perfect.

Teri-Mae from Sheikah Plate

Although Teri-Mae and I met through blogging, it’s pretty rare that we talk about video games nowadays. We’re more likely to discuss politics, world events, social commentary and baking. Saying that though, I’ve recently been trying to persuade her to give The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim a go after she decided to pick up something different and play Uncharted. Hopefully we’ll soon find Teri-Mae sneaking through Tamriel as a Khajit, going undetected and stealing all the sweet-rolls.

Kevin from The Lawful Geek

I’ve known Kevin since I started blogging in 2013 and he finally convinced Pete and I to try our first tabletop RPG towards the end of 2019. A year later and we’re still surviving in Shadowrun thanks to the support of fellow players Kat, Ozzy and Diane. Head over to the The Lawful Geek on Twitch every other Thursday to find out how we’re getting on – and you can also join Kevin there for an evening with special guests in support of GameBlast21 from 20:00 GMT this Saturday.

Friend-of-the-blog Phil

Sometimes it’s hard to believe I’ve known Phil for over 15 years. We first met when I started working at our current workplace in London and now he’s making himself known on Twitch (although we still haven’t managed to convince him to start up his own blog yet). Our shared love of FMV games started when we had the chance to meet Her Story creator Sam Barlow at an expo in 2015 and he streamed it shortly afterwards, and now we both keep an eye out on Steam for upcoming releases in the genre.

My stepson, Ethan

He used to be so cute and then he turned into a teenager… still, at least he realises how good the classics are. Ethan and I have shared many gaming memories over the years but my most recent one is us playing The Secret of Monkey Island together for its 30th anniversary. He spent the first hour or so of the stream talking in a Russian accent (I have no idea why) and no doubt he’ll return for another one soon. Unfortunately I can’t tell you which voice it will be next time though.

My husband, Pete

One of the questions Pete asking me during our first conversation was who my favourite Street Fighter character was. Since then we’ve played plenty of video games together and I have fond memories of us huddled together over a laptop in my small flat when we first met. The one we probably spent the longest on was The Witness; he even went to the trouble of making a physical board and pieces that replicated some of the puzzles in the title so we could solve as many of them as possible. There’s nobody else I’d rather be tackling these challenges with.

Thank you to DanamesX from Tales from the Backlog for a heart-warming subject this month. If you’re interested in joining in with February’s EXP Share, you have another week until the deadline and can find all the details in this post.

We’re taking part in GameBlast21 to support SpecialEffect, the gamers’ charity.
Making a donation will bring you great loot, increase your XP by +100 and make you immune to fire.*
(*Not guaranteed.)


Five Game Challenge 2020: my picks

At the time of writing, 8,181 games have been released on Steam during 2020 so far. That’s an average of 27 new titles every day and an awful lot of choice. But which ones would you choose if you were made to pick only five to last you an entire year?

This is the question posed by Naithin from Time to Loot. The first part of the Five Game Challenge community event involves writing a blog post about your choices, and those who were brave enough could test their selection by playing only those titles during November and writing about their experience for part two. I opted out of the latter as I had a bunch of half-finished games I really needed to complete this month – but I’ve been looking forward to joining in with the former and thinking about what my picks would be.

It’s a similar question to one asked by Kayleigh from Strange Girl Gaming all the way back in April 2018: you can only play one video game for the rest of your life, so which one is it? I found this pretty tough to answer because there’s so much choice available to us, but I eventually managed to narrow it down to two titles. It will be interesting to see whether these make an appearance in my selection this time around and what the other choices will be.

Coloring Pixels

I first tried Coloring Pixels towards the end of last year after it popped up in my Steam suggestions and two things happened after that initial session. First, I was surprised to find a game without a story had held my attention for as long as it did (I completed ten levels without being the slightest bit bored or even realising I’d done so many). And second, it turned out to be a great way to wind down after work because an hour or so of colourful clicking proved to be wonderfully therapeutic.

With 25 DLC packs now available and providing even more pixelated images to colour in, I think this could be a great choice for the Five Game Challenge. It’s perfect for those evenings when you want to do something but don’t have the energy to play an intense game, and there’s no risk of frustration because you aren’t penalised for filling in a pixel with the wrong colour. You can just zone out, click away, and eventually your masterpiece will appear in front of you.

Horizon Zero Dawn

One of the two games I chose for Kayleigh’s question in 2018 was Horizon Zero Dawn and there are a few reasons why it made the cut. If you’re going to spend an entire lifetime with a single protagonist, you’d better make sure it’s one you get along with – it’s incredibly difficult to hate Aloy. She tells men that her ‘eyes are up here’, questions the right of the matriarchs to take power simply because they’ve had children, and pulls apart any traditions that don’t make sense. You go girl.

With the main storyline, side-quests, errands, hunting grounds, Tallnecks and DLC, there’s plenty here to keep you going for quite some time. And you can always go exploring for the best scenic spots to make use of the Photo Mode when you need a break from fighting mechanical beasts and saving the world. I recently started playing this game again after being reminded of how much I enjoyed it three years ago so let’s see how many photographs I come away with this time.

The Elder Scrolls Online (ESO)

I’ve had an on-off affair with ESO since first playing it at Christmas in 2015 and found myself returning to it during the COVID-19 lockdown. The absence of a steep learning curve makes it so easy to get back into and there’s always something new to see: a villager who’ll reveal some local gossip, a hunter chasing a fox, a clifftop with a beautiful view. All simple things and events that don’t have any direct impact on your journey but ones which add more depth to this online land.

There’s plenty of exploring and action to get stuck into, but it’s not all about fighting long-dead draugers and killing giant spiders. This is a great game for simply hanging out online with friends. Some of the most memorable moments for me have been the evenings where we’ve left the dungeons behind and done something completely different – such as viewing everyone’s mansions in an ESO-version of MTV Cribs or seeing how many other players we can convince to dance with us. Good times.

The Long Dark

I became a Kickstarter backer for The Long Dark over seven years ago in September 2013 but haven’t yet tried it. At first, I was waiting for it to come out of early-access as I prefer to play titles once they’ve been fully released; and after that happened in August 2017, I’ve been delaying until all episodes of the first season of the story mode have been published. But if I’ve got to pick just five games to last me an entire year, I think this could be a very good choice because it contains a lot of content and looks beautiful.

Entries in the survival genre don’t usually appeal to me but the supernatural edge to the plot here made me pay attention. After mysterious lights are seen in the sky, the world is plunged into darkness and all our technology is knocked out in an instant. I think I’d end up getting wrapped up in getting to the bottom of what’s going on – but there is also a survival mode and standalone challenges alongside the story episodes. In fact, I think I might get this one installed and give it a go over the winter.

The Witness

The Witness is a title which frustrated me immensely when I played it in 2016. It was hard to accept that I’d sunk so many hours into completing hundreds of puzzles – some of which I’d had to bash my head against for hours – for so little pay-off in terms of a story, when all along it felt as though a mysterious secret was going to be revealed at the end. I think I would have gotten so much more out of it if I’d gone into it treating it as a pure puzzle game rather than a narrative one.

But this is knowledge gained with hindsight and the reason why it would be a really good entry for my selection. It’s similar to Coloring Pixels above in a sense because it provides a mental break: after a long day at work when I don’t have the energy to save the world, I can spend the evening mulling over a challenge or two and forgetting about everything else. There are also plenty of locations to take lovely-looking screenshots so my library won’t be full of Horizon Zero Dawn photographs only.

There you have it: the titles I’d choose to spend a year with as part of the Five Game Challenge. Would any of them make your list too? Thank you to Naithin for hosting the event, and good luck to everyone participating in part two this month!

Indie darlings: just not getting it

I love indie games. Since being introduced by a friend years ago, they’re the releases I pick up most frequently. They give me more of what I want from my hobby than the triple-A stuff: creativity, great storylines and interesting characters removed from the limited representations.

When Red Metal from Extra Life very kindly nominated Later Levels for a Sunshine Blogger Award last month, one of their questions got me thinking: what critical darling do you feel completely failed to live up to the hype? There have been a number of indie games in the past that the critics have gone crazy for, declaring them to be pinnacles of gaming – but I just haven’t been able to understand what all the fuss was about when I’ve picked them up. Here’s a round-up of some of those titles.

2010: LIMBO

I realised that LIMBO was the game which had spent the longest in my Steam library while hosting #LoveYourBacklog week with LightningEllen from LividLightning in February. So after almost five years, I decided to rectify that by scheduling a stream for #MaybeinMarch the following month. I was looking forward to finally trying out the title critics had said ’empowered players to work through puzzle solutions themselves’ and which ‘offered up what feels like a world of meaningful possibilities’.

Four months later and I still don’t get it. Yes, I like the art-style and the way you can never guess what’s going to happen on the following screen; but it feels as though Playdead’s project is trying to tell the player a message in a vague and slightly pretentious way. I understand that not all games need to be completely explained but unanswered questions frustrate me, and I like at least a nudge in the right direction. I had a go at trying to figure out the ending but I still don’t feel the explanation I came up with truly fits.

2012: Dear Esther

It’s strange this title made it on to today’s list because I absolutely adore narrative games, but Dear Esther was one I didn’t gel with. A friend suggested it to me shortly after being introduced to the indie scene and I’d read several news articles which had intrigued me so I was keen to give it a go. Critics had said it had ‘an impressively ethereal atmosphere’ and were praising it for what it did differently: tap into unhappiness, an emotion that few games at the time dared to approach.

I thought it was boring. It was pretty and the soundtrack was good, but the story didn’t click with me and my main thought when I reached the end was: ‘Is that it?’ I went on to try The Chinese Room’s next release, Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, in 2015 and it was the same experience. I still haven’t managed to complete the game because it doesn’t hold my attention – although I keep being told that its storyline is a fascinating one and I should try to stick with it.

2015: Undertale

I ended up playing Undertale long after its release, after so many friends and bloggers had told me I needed to give it a try. I could see why they’d enjoyed it: the twist on gameplay mechanics was clever, the soundtrack was excellent, and its story about determination and never giving up was very sweet. It had quickly gained a cult following, critics had said it was ‘unconventional, clever, and occasionally really difficult’, and more than a few ‘Best Game’ recognitions were awarded.

But it just wasn’t for me. Yes, the 12 hours I’d spent with Undertale were pleasant enough but I couldn’t see why everyone was going so crazy for it – and I certainly couldn’t face repeating the process so I could get the alternative outcomes. I thought this would be an unpopular opinion but when I tweeted a question about unliked indie titles recently, several blogging friends agreed. It seems as though Toby Fox’s game may have won the hearts of many but there are a few of us who it just didn’t click with.

2016: The Witness

I was so looking forward to The Witness. Jonathan Blow’s Braid was one of the first indie releases I ever played and I’d really enjoyed it, finding the narrative twist at the end to be unlike anything I’d experienced in the bigger-budget titles I’d been playing. After waiting eight years for the developer to release his second project, I was incredibly excited because the promotional screenshots looked stunning and critics were calling it a ‘beautiful, powerful and cleverly-designed puzzle game with a wealth of mysteries to unravel’.

And I did enjoy it to an extent. But during the 30 hours we spent playing, I kept telling my other-half that some big secret was going to revealed and he kept warning me to not be disappointed. He was right to do so. There was no big pay-off after completing all those challenges and even the secret ending wasn’t particularly fulfilling. I understand that The Witness is an experience – kind of like a mental holiday – but I came away feeling as though this was a work created by someone who spent too much time in his own head.

One of the best things about video games is that there’s a release out there for absolutely everybody, so I’m sure the titles above made it onto some peoples’ favourite lists! Which indie games have you just not been able to get?

For sale: video game real estate

Last week I wrote about my dream development team and how all we needed was an idea (plus the necessary budget, technology and skills) to make a best-selling video game. Once that’s happened and we’ve found fame, fortune and critical acclaim, we should really start thinking about investing our money and upgrading where we live. So what’s available on the market?

As part of the Liebster award nomination from Morgan over at Fistful of Glitter, the people she selected were asked the question: if you had to live in a fictional world, which fictional world would it be? Join me as I step into an estate-agent role in this post dedicated to this lovely blogger, and take you on a tour through some of the most sought-after properties in video game settings.

A rustic chateau in an idyllic setting

The Witness, video game, castle, lake, trees, sky, buildings, gardens

With natural harmony and traditional design throughout, this rustic chateau is in need of renovation but has plenty of scope for improvement. Spacious rooms are accessed via a state-of-the art security system giving peace of mind; and seven well-lit bedrooms and nine bathrooms split between three buildings would suit a large family.

Flat-roof terraces suggest warm summer evenings spent looking out over the beautiful shoreline and idyllic surrounding areas. With the nearest train station situated over 300 miles away and no incoming roads, this property provides privacy and tranquillity for a buyer looking to get away from it all.


A modern apartment in the heart of the Citadel

Mass Effect, Mass Effect 3, video game, personal apartment, living room, fireplace, sofa, stairs, modern

Featuring a weapon bench, armour locker and private terminal, this modern apartment is conveniently located in the heart of the Citadel and would suit an active Commander. Its sleek interiors and high-end furnishings provide a place for buyers to move straight into without need for redecorating or maintenance.

Three bedrooms, each with their own bathrooms and the master with a hot-tub, provide plenty of privacy while several seating areas give comfortable spaces for company and lively conversations. With an art gallery, gym, bar counters and gaming table, this is the perfect property for those who like to entertain guests.


A cosy cabin at an attractive price

The Elder Scrolls, The Elder Scrolls V, Skyrim, abandoned shack, cabin

Situated along the northern coastline, this single-story cabin is the perfect for a buyer willing to take on a long-term renovation project. The original stone fireplace would make an excellent focal point for a cosy living room, with new windows offering views of the beautiful mountains and lake in the surrounding area of Hjaalmarch.

Traditional wooden walls hold a rustic charm and any engrained stains can be hidden with a lick of paint. The current owners have priced this property at an extremely attractive price and are looking for a quick sale; they have assured us that the cabin will be fully cleaned before the keys are handed over.


An ancient castle steeped in history

The Beast Within, Gabriel Knight, Schloss Ritter, castle, mountain, trees , sky

The grand Schloss Ritter was originally built in 1223 and stands high above the cobble-stoned streets of Rittersberg with its traditional shops. Previously passed down through generations of Schattenjäger, its walls hide plenty of ancient Bavarian history and mysterious secrets for those with an enquiring mind.

The castle’s aged exterior encloses an expansive entry hall, library, chapel and reception room, with staircases leading upstairs to ten grand bedrooms which would be perfect after modernisation. A new central-heating system combats against freak summer weather conditions and protective external walls defend from wolves.


An art-deco apartment in a unique location

BioShock 2, video game, personal apartment

Looking for a home in a unique location? This gorgeous apartment may be just the place for you, situated in the underwater city of Rapture and accessed via personal bathysphere. Its original art-deco features, high ceilings and curved windows provide for one of the most sought-after properties on the market.

Although some water-damage is evident and small repairs are required, the in-built gene bank mean genetic modifications are available all day without leaving your home. A three-sided fireplace and glass bay window in the bedroom make for a romantic and relaxing space after a long day at work.


Thank you so much to Morgan for nominating Later Levels, and congratulations to all of her other nominees! Start boxing up your belongings and loading up the removal van, and let us know which video game world you’d like to move to.

Beginner’s guide to indie: part two

So your favourite genre of video games didn’t make it into the first part of my beginner’s guide to indie games? Well fear not, for I return with part two today! A big thank you once again to Dan from Now is Games for suggesting I write this series and being the inspiration behind it.

As mentioned previously: the following list contains only titles I’ve actually played myself and, as pretty obvious from the content on Later Levels, I tend to favour adventures or games with strong narratives. However, I’ve made a point of not making every entry a point-and-click (although there are still a few) and hopefully everyone will be able to find something that appeals to them here…

Horror

Ok, ok, I know I said I’d be careful about adding point-and-clicks to my list; but let me start off with one to get it out of my system and then I’ll leave them alone for a while. Stasis was a game I backed through Kickstarter and it’s one of the better titles I’ve received this way. It contains a few too many storyline elements to make it as cohesive as it could be, but the atmosphere is excellent and you’ll find the hairs standing up on the back of your neck.

If you’re looking for a more ‘traditional’ horror game however, Outlast may be the thing for you – especially with Halloween fast approaching. As investigative journalist Miles Upshur, you must explore the long-abandoned Mount Massive Asylum and try to survive long enough to discover its terrible secret; but without a weapon to hand, your only hope is to run or hide. Prepare yourself for jump-scares and a few screams along the way.

Platformers

Next up are a couple of ‘indie darlings’ and even if you’ve never played an indie release, it’s highly likely you’ve at least heard of them. Braid is a clever platformer that features a ‘time manipulation’ mechanic, which is extremely handy if you keep falling down holes and has an interesting effect on the game’s plot. It’s not however one for those who don’t like storylines open to interpretation or think ambiguous endings are pretentious and full of ‘hipster b******t’.

If you can appreciate a title which uses excellent narration to give otherwise simplistic shapes colourful personalities, it’s worth checking out Thomas Was Alone: a lovely little release about a group of artificial intelligences (AIs) who try to make their way to freedom before they’re deleted. If you’re not a fan of Danny Wallace though and can’t think of anything worse than listening to his voice for several hours on end, then I’d probably steer well clear.

Puzzle games

Little Inferno is a fun game whose cartoonish looks and cheery music disguise how clever it actually is. Players throw toys into their new Little Inferno Entertainment Fireplace and watch them burn as they figure out puzzle combinations, while the weatherman encourages them to stay indoors. But what’s really going on in the outside world and why does your weird neighbour keep sending you messages? It’s best to hide the matches after playing.

Meanwhile, The Witness is one of those titles where it’s more about the journey than the destination. You’ll find yourself on an island surrounded by beautiful scenery and hundreds of puzzles; and you’ll rage-quit often but still keep coming back for more. The lack of a plot to tie it all together is frustrating and has put many off Jonathan Blow’s post-Braid release (see above), but it’s worth getting for the experience.

Sport

Like cars? Like football? Then Rocket League is a match made in heaven. My other-half and stepson love this game and while it isn’t something I’d usually play, I have to say it’s one of the ‘nicer’ online multiplayers I’ve come across. Although there seems to be a habit of players on your team dropping out of a match soon after the other side scores the first goal, I’ve never encountered any kind of hostility while playing this title.

Unfortunately I can only give one option for this genre because I’m not really a fan of sports games myself! But if you have any recommendations, please feel share to share them in the comments below.

That’s all for now, so hopefully you’ve found a few titles to add to your wishlist! Part three of my list will be coming in a couple of days so keep your eyes open for that if you haven’t yet found the indie game for you.

Video game vacations

Save your game, pack your bags and grab your portable consoles, because summer is here and you deserve a vacation. Let Later Levels and friends be your travel agents as we guide you through some of the hottest destinations in video games that would make for a great holiday.

Palawan Lagoon from Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine

Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine, video game, Palawan Lagood, sea, ship, shipwreck, Indiana Jones

“I think Palawan Lagoon from the fifth level of Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine would be quite lovely to visit, what with the beaches and everything. Since it’s an Indy game, it’s no touristy place – but hey, there are a lot of adventures to be had there… so why not? You also got a semi-sunken ship to explore. I would love to visit this place just to see my childhood memories from the game come to life!”

Picked by NekoJonez from NekoJonez’s Gaming Blog

Dunwall from Dishonored

Dishonored, video game, city, town, harbour, buildings, tower, boat, sailor, sea, Dunwall

“As a warm-weather-dodger I will be taking my holidays somewhere cool. While a ramble around the mountain ranges of Skyrim sounds nice, once I’ve done the 7,000 steps there’s not much to see. I prefer a city break so plague be damned, I’ll be going to Dunwall for the beautiful architecture, museums, art galleries, the technological marvels, the sea breeze, and all the stolen valuables I can carry. A moment or two of conversation with Piero Joplin, an afternoon taking in the artworks of Anton Sokolov, time to take in the atmosphere – although not too much – and maybe book a trip to Karnaca (Dishonored 2) for winter.”

Picked by Joel from GeekOut South-West

Panau from Just Cause 2

Just Cause 2, video game, Panau, mountains, trees, beach, sea, waves

“When I think of my dream gaming holiday destination, a few places come to mind: the Mushroom Kingdom; Pokémon’s Kanto region; the beach where the Dead or Alive volleyball games take place (don’t judge me).

“In the end, though, I realised that what I need is a little excitement. So I’m jetting off to Panau, the island setting of Just Cause 2! It’s perfect: there are beaches, stores, airports… oh, and everything is constantly exploding. All the time. (Also, there’s a dictator whose accent might be really racist, but nvm.) I guess the caveat to my visit is that I sort of need to be the one blowing stuff up, not just a tourist caught in the crossfire, because that would almost definitely involve death and not be fun. I wanna be the one tying one plane to another and parachuting between them, not the one in a regular boring mode of transportation trying to avoid being crushed by men riding literal nukes.”

Picked by Chris from OverThinker Y

Hyrule from The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker

Legend of Zelda, The Wind Waker, video game, Outset Island, blue skies, island, sea, buildings, windmill

“The world of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker would be a top vacation spot, I think. Sure, there are loads of annoying critters that’ll try to kill you from time to time, but for the rest of your stay it’d be nothing but blue sea, blue skies and gorgeous, tranquil islands for you to sail between. Just playing Wind Waker is something of a holiday from the grimness and drudgery of real life, so to actually go there on vacation – like, for reals – would be a genuinely magical experience. In your face, Disneyland!!”

Picked by James from QTX

Hidden Retreat from Tekken 6

Tekken 6, video game, fight, fighters. Hidden Retreat, sheep, trees, grass

“Ah, the lovely Hidden Retreat is home to some of the most adorable animals on earth: sheep. They stand around as the characters of Tekken 6 sort out their business; with gorgeous green grass and a fantastic alpine backdrop, this location is an ideal place to get some much needed rest and relaxation.

“But when you shave away the animals, there’s something peculiar about this place. I mean, it’s so secluded and yet there’s constant yodelling! Don’t touch the sheep either, they’ll bounce away. Huh, the more I think about it, the worse this vacation gets…”

Picked by Tim from GeekOut South-West

The River from Pokémon Snap

Pokémon Snap, video game, River, Squirtle

“Pokémon Snap is a game for the Nintendo 64 that allowed the player to take pictures of Pokémon for Professor Oak. You had to have a keen eye in order to see the Pokémon hiding throughout each level. The River level introduces you to awesome favorites like Bulbasaur and Psyduck, along with the beautiful Vileplum. River is a great place to visit, camp, hike, kayak and take pictures. You feel at one with nature and I imagine the air smells pretty darn clean as well! Just look out for the Cloyster lurking about!

“Gaming friends, my pick Is a tropical retreat from a game that had plenty of scenic levels to choose from! Cast your lines out on this riverboat retreat on river, from Pokémon Snap! Enjoy the cuteness of baby Poliwags at the beginning of the river! Float further down stream and have a laugh with the wacky antics of Slowpoke, or marvel in the beauty of a Vileplum by the side of the riverbank! This level has it all if you’re looking for – fun, tranquillity, and reflection. Who says vacations have to be full with activities anyway?”

Picked by Luna from GamersUnitedGG Blog

Rapture from BioShock

BioShock, video game, Rapture, 1959, sign, New Year, rubble

“I’ve always understood the draw of the summer but personally I’ve never dealt well in the heat: I burn almost instantly, and plant-life assaults my nose with its inconsiderate pollen production. So for my ideal summer video game getaway I’ve decided to escape the heat, sunshine, and pollen by travelling via express bathysphere to that marvel of industrial enterprise, the underwater city of Rapture. There I’ll while away those hazy summer hours watching humpback whales through the inch-thick glass of my luxury apartment. In the evening I might head over to Fort Frolic to catch an avant-garde production in Fleet Hall before drinks somewhere in Poseidon Plaza and a few hands of blackjack over at Pharaoh’s Fortune Casino. Sure it’s a hedonistic place, but with a buck in your pocket the world is your oyster in a place like Rapture… I might even get a little spliced… because who wouldn’t want telekinetic powers… right?…”

Picked by Luke from Hundstrasse

The island from The Witness

The Witness, video game, island, sea, harbour, trees

“The island where The Witness is set is one of the most beautiful settings within a video game and would be an amazing place to visit in real life. You wouldn’t get one vacation but several: when you got tired of sunbathing on the gorgeous beach, you could take a boat trip, visit the sand dunes, explore the jungle or climb the mountain to reach the temple at the top. As if that wasn’t enough to do, there are plenty of puzzles to complete when you need something to tax the brain; and no other holiday-goers around would mean plenty of rest and relaxation. Pure bliss!”

Picked by Kim from Later Levels