What a thing. Arcade Paradise made me think of Outrun and GTA and Mr Driller, and also my own working life in my teens as a dishwasher and a double-glazing salesperson, sure. But it also made me think of those mazes tiled on the walls of Warren Street tube. Warren Street! Get it? Little puzzles made to be solved between trains, but tricky enough to encourage you to miss your train in the first place. Then you solve the maze and you're off into a wider maze of the underground network. And maybe, who knows, there's a maze beyond that too.
I could go on. Character outfits. Loadouts. A neat arcade mode. A room where you can wander among the unlocks. Brilliant audio which has clearly been recorded by the development team. Deathrun TV is a beautiful twin-stick made of lovely little pieces. And all the pieces matter. Eugene Jarvis would be proud, I think.
It reminds me of a story about Ricky Jay, the great and much-missed close-up magician and historian of magic. After a particularly dazzling piece of card control performed for a New Yorker writer, he was asked if there was anyone left in the world who would still play cards with him.
You know that moment in a good roguelite where you've overextended yourself, but you've also won riches that you don't want to lose before you can bank them? This is what Loot River is built for, ultimately: I race around the world, dashing from one tile to another, breaking off from a little continent, an archipelago of burning wood and then searching, searching for the level's exit as I eye my tiny health gauge with fear. A procedural dungeon-crawler where you can rescramble the once-scrambled levels? Gary Chang would be proud.
Ultimately, though, these games are so refined, and delivered with such odd, coffee-shop-and-library charm, that it doesn't matter how you play. My daughter is of the age where she completely missed the Wii, so when this new game arrived and we started moving the furniture around, she didn't have a clue what we were up to. But that afternoon we must have played together for hours, with breaks for when a diving header animation made her laugh so much she needed her breath back. The whole thing was intoxicating.