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Gorgeous and deeply absorbing: Manor Lords reviewed

Grade: A ‘God games’, as they used to be called, have a storied history. SimCity, Civilisation and the excellently sadistic Dungeon Keeper have all been responsible for many a PhD thesis being delivered late. The Almighty seems to have smiled on the latest iteration of the genre. The product of a one-man-band independent developer, Greg

Entirely pointless and extremely pleasant: House Flipper 2 reviewed

Grade: B+ Most video games challenge the player’s problem-solving skills, reaction time or hand-eye co-ordination. But a handful of them offer satisfactions of a different sort: the gentlest of difficulty curves and the calming pleasure, instead, of a mildly absorbing repetitive task which whiles away the idle hour in the way you might pass it

The joy of jump-scares in gaming

Grade: A- One thing videogames are surprisingly good at is scaring the willies out of you. Claustrophobia, unease, jump-scares, anxious-making camera-angles… Gamers of my generation will not have forgotten the spooky crackle of the Geiger counter in Silent Hill; nor needing fresh trousers after that dog jumps through the window in the first Resident Evil.

Original and absorbing: A Highland Song reviewed

Grade: A- Why don’t you go outside and get some fresh air instead of playing that stupid game? A) I’ve been outside, and I didn’t like it. And B) there’s a game for that. A Highland Song excellently simulates the experience of going outside for a walk and regretting it. Moira sets off to meet

The art of walking

My pilgrim companion William Parsons and I did not call our first journey a pilgrimage. Rather, it was a song walk: a walk with a purpose of taking a song, ‘The Hartlake Bridge Tragedy’, back to where it came from. It was also an attempt to reclaim my place in the world, after too much

A short history of stained glass

On 13 December 1643, a Puritan minister called Richard Culmer borrowed the Canterbury town ladder and carefully leaned it against the Cathedral’s Royal Window. He then ascended the ladder’s 60-odd rungs, holding a pike; according to his account, modestly written in the third person, ‘Some people wished he might break his neck.’ Culmer had in

Has all the charisma of Chernobyl: Manchester’s Aviva Studios reviewed

There is a (possibly apocryphal) story about William Morris, where he spends most of his time in Paris inside the Eiffel Tower’s restaurant because ‘that is the only place where you can’t see the damned thing’. Aviva Studios risks a similar fate. Designed by architects OMA as the permanent performance venue for the Manchester International

Why intellectuals love Disney

This month marks the 100th anniversary of Walt Disney’s company. The first cartoons it was founded to produce – the animation/live-action shorts Alice Comedies – are largely forgotten, eclipsed not least by the resounding success of Mickey Mouse. Mickey Mouse grabbed much of the attention from the get-go, including that of several philosophers, sociologists and

‘She had no neutral gear’: Lindy Dufferin remembered

In 1957, when my dear godmother, the Marchioness of Dufferin and Ava (1941-2020), was 16, she began her diary. The granddaughter of the Duke of Rutland and daughter of Loel Guinness, an MP, financier and Battle of Britain pilot, Lindy Dufferin had a gilded childhood. Her entries as a teen are like no other: ‘Randolph

Free, noisy, fun: Young V&A reviewed

One of the annoying things about too many contemporary museums is that, having ditched old-fashioned closely typed descriptive labels and display cases, they often seem to be pitched at the level of a 12-year-old. So it’s refreshing to go to a museum that really is for 12-year-olds – or, at least, babies to 14-year-olds. Three

Policed conviviality: Serpentine Pavilion 2023 reviewed

As I sat down at this year’s Serpentine Pavilion, I overheard a curious exchange. ‘You mustn’t create art within art,’ said an invigilator frostily. He was telling off Fred Pilbrow, an architect, who had been taking in the Pavilion’s sociable atmosphere with friends and painting a watercolour of the scene. They proceeded to enter a

Can we know an artist by their house?

Show me your downstairs loo and I will tell you who you are. Better yet, show me your kitchen, bedroom, billiard room and man cave. Can we know a man – or woman – by their house? The ‘footsteps’ approach to biography argues that to really understand a subject, a biographer must visit his childhood

Are surgical museums such as the Hunterian doomed?

I have a soft spot for specimen jars and skeletal remains. Museums of natural history, surgical pioneering or anthropological oddities have always struck me as equally suitable for lunch breaks and first dates as for serious study and research. As far as public and casually accessible encounters with mortality go, these kinds of museums are

‘I love twigs’: botanical painter Emma Tennant interviewed

Hermitage, where the heel of Roxburghshire kicks into the once-lawless Debatable Lands, seems an unlikely place to find a botanical artist. It’s hard to make anything grow here, let alone an exhibition-load of rare and sometimes exotic plants. Lorded over by Hermitage Castle, a menacing hulk of medieval brutalism described by George MacDonald Fraser as

‘I have uncancelled myself’: David Starkey interviewed

David Starkey’s commentary on the Queen’s funeral on GB News was generally agreed to be the best of all the TV coverage, and now he is covering the coronation, and has made a three-part documentary about it for GB News called The Crown. Of course he knows the history, going back to King Edgar’s coronation

Why do theatres hate their audiences?

War has broken out in theatreland. Managements are increasingly at odds with the audiences who fund their livelihoods. A recent stand-off involved James Norton’s new show, A Little Life, which contains a couple of scenes in which the actor removes his clothes. A punter at a preview in Richmond secretly photographed the moments of nudity