The fantasy of subscription services is that one day we’ll have time. I joined Game Pass for the same reason I own a bunch of large, beautiful novels I have yet to read: Ooh, one day I’ll have time for that.
So let’s pretend, just for one Sunday, that the rainy day – the rainy weekend – is here. This feels like the best way to create an inroad in a list of games as wayward, and perhaps exhausting, as Playstation Plus’ current offering.
Let’s pretend: 48 hours with nothing else to do but play PS Plus games. What follows is my imagined journey through Playstation’s new service. What’s yours?
Day one. It’s morning. Do you remember Cuboid? It was a game from a decent while back – a clever puzzler about controlling a block of wood that was twice as long as it was wide. Over and over you’d turn it to navigate mazes and avoid traps. That feeling it gave you, of actually holding a block and turning it around in your hands. Ingenious and gentle, this feels like a lovely sleepy start to a day of games. Something to wake you up over the course of a few minutes and get your brain going.
After that, Super Stardust will get your eyes and hands moving: Housemarque’s frenetic twin-stick glitters and shimmers as you move around the surface of a planet swinging a whip of flame at your enemies. Give Super Stardust a minute or two and no longer, or you won’t escape its gravity for a week.
And you want to escape because next up is Returnal: from the Housemarque of the past to the Housemarque of the present, a moody and foul-tempered sci-fi roguelite to show you how far a team can come in a few years. But also, look at the enemy waves, the laser fire and sheer choreography of the thing. Look at the way the specter of Eugene Jarvis still hovers in the sky. Housemarque has not changed what’s important since the days of Super Stardust – there’s a straight line from there to here!
Next we should slow down a bit. And what could be slower than being dead? In I am Dead you wander the streets and houses of a small fishing village, a ghost who keeps an eye on the people they once knew. It’s the nosiest game ever made, and it moves at a snooper’s methodical pace, as you peer inside objects and learn a succession of sweet-natured truths about the community you once belonged to. A perfect mid-morning game. A veritable elevenses!
And the perfect pairing for 428: Shibuya Scramble, another prolonged rumination on place, albeit the vivid urban rush of Tokyo, framed as a visual novel. No spoilers: just head in and see what you can find.
For lunch, I think two games about movement might be nice. Celeste is a pure-hearted demon of a game, an exploration of mental health wrapped in one of the most exacting and deliriously rich platformers ever. It is not to be missed. Death Stranding, meanwhile, is a long boggy trudge through the end of the world rendered in Icelandic and Cairngorms colours. Watch your footing, and yes, that is the voice of Ubercorn.
Listen: it’s early afternoon. A time of day when I traditionally want a nap. It’s time to bust out the games that I can’t turn away from.
First up, Magicka 2, with its robed heroes and inventive, finger-tangling dial-a-spells. You’re a wizard, and magic is the elemental switchboard that you need to operate to connect your enemies with a swift, sizzling death. Also there are jokes. Next, Outer Wilds, just because any subs list with Outer Wilds on it pretty much demands a visit. Travel a pocket solar system and revel at the dynamism on offer: Heraclitus was right – the only constant is change. Finally, Big Sky Infinity is a space shooter in which you can chew through planets. This is basically the easiest sell of all time.
Late afternoon now, and if I didn’t get a nap I’ll need Asura’s Wrath to bring the energy levels back up. It’s a beautifully lurid button-masher about pure endless rage. A font of rage spilling from the centre of the earth. Plus, at one point you punch the earth so hard that it grows a beak.
Early evening and I’m going for a deep cut. InFamous is perhaps not the most loved of franchises, but its blurry parkour and electrical superheroes has always appealed to me. Festival of Blood is a perfect slice, and an ideal game to play as the sun goes down. It’s Halloween in New Orleans, or something very close to that. I mainly remember clouds of claret and the fact that I had a good time.
Now. Evening is the best time to discover that Lumines Remastered is on this list: the block-falling marathon to Tetris’ headlong sprints. I think this is a game that is best played in sessions of about four hours. Give it the whole evening, and then ring in midnight with the fireworks of Fantavision. And then bed.
When day two arrives, I feel like Kingdom: New Lands is the perfect game to greet the light of another day – a poetic game with a feeling of dawn to it, as you trot about on your horse, slowly transforming the landscape around you. It’s a perfect game to wake up to, and a perfect game to go into without knowing too much. But it’s melancholy, so follow it up with Capy’s deliriously colourful puzzle game Critter Crunch – the ludic equivalent of a glass of fresh orange juice – orange juice with bits in it.
Day one was flighty: so many games! So many possibilities. Day two is about making choices and living with them for a bit. So Hollow Knight is a magical game about the insect world and I demand that you give it the whole morning. They say it’s a metroidvania, but really it’s a place of adventure: venture forth and get the Stagways running again. You can rest in the glittering disarray of the Queen’s Station.
What’s for lunch? LocoRoco and Ape Escape! It’s great to have a bit of light-heartedness to go along with your sandwich. Peristalsis and timers. Good times!
For the afternoon, a bit of a medley, but still, this is day two, so give each game its moment. IQ Intelligent Qube is a gloriously odd puzzler that dates from the PS1 era, but feels in a strange way like it might be one million years old. Moving forward, Primal was a sort of early 2000s action game that gives you a great sense of what a PS2 blockbuster might have looked like back in the day. Use this as a gateway to one day explore the dizzyingly rich catalogue of this brilliant games console.
Next, Miles Morales, because it is pure joy, and Concrete Genie, because it is such sweet sorrow – from a superhero to a lonely artist bringing a derelict port town back to life. Both are enlivened by beautiful detailing and animation. The paint in Concrete Genie is reason enough to get involved, all before your brain tries to make sense of 2D puzzles that play out across a 3D world.
Almost done. How to bring things home? With a game that’s all about home, I think. I want to end my two days of PS Plus travelling with Gravity Rush, one of the most beautiful games ever made. This is the story of a clumsy newly minted superhero who can flip the direction of gravity as they race and plumet around an art nouveau city, slowly bringing new neighborhoods back from the ether as they go. It’s a reminder that this is once how Sony launched one of the quirkiest and most lovably lavish handhelds of all time – and a reminder that this is a video games giant that still knows how to surprise.