Games. So. Many. Games…in 2018

I have been kind of dreading this one, talking about games. I have played a lot of games after all–I usually do. I’ve restricted this list to games I’ve beaten this year, sorted by the console (Or PC application) the version I played was for (so Virtual Console games are under their released console), and within that, roughly how I felt about them. Buckle up, this is a long one.

Where possible I link to a way to purchase the game, but not everything is readily available in stores.

Special Mentions

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (Nintendo, 2018)

While I haven’t beaten the World of Light story mode, I would be remiss not to mention the newest Super Smash Bros., which has already led to at least one full day of festivities with my friends. There are so many characters that it’s honestly hard to keep track of what they all can do, but so far all of them are a blast to play, even if my main man Little Mac has really really bad recovery. A worthy successor to the king of party games.

3DS

Worth Its Weight in Quarters

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice (Capcom, 2016)

Continuing the trend set by Dual Destinies of focusing on a stronger narrative–at the possible expense of gameplay–Spirit of Justice manages to not only really deliver on an Apollo plotline, a character I haven’t super cared about since his debut, but to also keep me guessing at key parts of the plot. The gimmick of the title, the ability of a princess/priestess (new character Rayfa Padma Khura’in) to reveal the last moments of a departed spirit to use as evidence in court, brings a fresh take to the trials above and beyond the emotion assessment of the most recent new gimmick from the last game. While the characters do continue to rely on tropes to help establish them quickly, the game still managed to be gripping, to provide resolutions to long-running plots while bringing fan favorites back. It’s just a solid example of an Ace Attorney game and is not to be skipped.

BOXBOY! (HAL Laboratory, Inc., 2015)

In my opinion, the hardest type of game to create is a puzzle game with a new mechanic, one that even if it has been used before, your intended audience is unlikely to have encountered. That is exactly what Hal Laboratories pulled off with the BOXBOY! series. You play as an adorable, simple box that can create more boxes from their body, either launching them off of themself or wearing them attached to their body. These boxes are used to cross gaps, climb stairs, push buttons and much, much more. Possibly the game’s strongest feature is the variety of ways to use that one ability, which trickle in as you solve puzzles; slow enough to never overwhelm, fast enough to keep you interested. I have no idea what the story was supposed to be saying, but this simple black and white puzzler charmed me–I’m really happy there are two sequels to sink my teeth into soon.

Beat It and Forget It

Detective Pikachu (Creatures, Inc, 2018)

I am very much not the target demographic for Detective Pikachu, which is basically a point and click adventure game for young children. The game is set in the world of Pokémon in a way that most games in the series aren’t–one in which the Pokémon are truly characters inhabiting that world. They live in the parks, work in the businesses, and are all around just a real part of the characters’ daily lives. The game wasn’t difficult by any stretch of the imagination, but it was pleasant–sort of like watching a good cartoon for children while babysitting. I might not recommend it to the average adult–but I’m definitely going to see the movie adaptation.

I mean, how could I not want to go see the movie with that face.

Fire Emblem: Echoes: Shadows of Valentia (Intelligent Systems, 2017)

I liked Shadows of Valentia. It has some fresh(read: old) takes on how class changes and magic that made it feel unique amongst the Fire Emblem games I’ve played. The dual-protagonists helped with that (even if I didn’t really agree with them coupling up at the end) since the only other time we’ve really had that was with The Sacred Stones, and even then, you didn’t play each lord’s full path in that game.
That said, a lot of what I’ve come to love in Fire Emblem games are the character interactions, and Shadows of Valentia just doesn’t really deliver on that. They did add in support conversations, but everything felt more forced than in the other entries, more just hitting the archetypes and less having the units be people. You also get a lot of units that feel rather interchangeable–Celica gets three different mercenaries–and without the weapon trinity, there’s less strategy in who to use when, making it much easier to sort of let people fall by the wayside. I also continue to miss the old battle animation style of the Game Boy Advance entries, but I doubt we’re ever getting that back.

Android

Beat It and Forget It

Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth (Capcom, 2009)

Can’t find any of my good screenshots, but this at least shows the art style for the segments that aren’t really in the core Ace Attorney games.

I’m going to start by saying I wish I had played this on DS, as the touch controls for moving around and selecting were constantly a little wonky with my fat little fingers. That aside, I rather like Miles’ first outing as the protagonist. The cases tie together in fun ways; the new characters are fun and interesting. Hell, the final confrontation is some of the best “all sides of the justice system banding together” that I’ve felt since the bonus case in the first game. It can be a bit contrived in its logic though, and while Edgeworth’s new mechanic of combining ideas to make logical leaps towards what happened is cool, I’m one of those people who often is leaping a step too far, which can make that feature more frustrating than fun.

Game Boy Advance

Worth Its Weight in Quarters

WarioWare. Inc,: Mega Microgam$! (Nintendo, 2003)

Microgames are kind of great? Like, boiling tasks down to only one or two button presses that you have to expertly time really ups the tension, and the absolute absurdity of the art and characters makes the WarioWare series a treat start to finish. It’s also almost terrifyingly difficult at higher levels and really felt like it was pushing me to be better at skateboarding and administering eyedrops without dying from lasers. It’s a game of just raw fun and I really need to pick up more entries in the series.

Congrats on Your New Frisbee

Yu Yu Hakusho: Spirit Detective (Sensory Sweep Studios, Screaming Games, 2003)

That building is the best looking thing in the game.

This game plays as poorly as it looks. Basically a two button brawler, Spirit Detective takes you through the first couple arcs of the manga it’s based upon, only with more filler combat, barely responsive controls and character models among the ugliest I have ever seen. Just skip it.

Game Boy Color

Beat It and Forget It

The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening DX (Nintendo, 1998)

While I may have gotten my start with the original Legend of Zelda, the first one I really sank time into was Ocarina of Time. Therefore, moving back to a 2D entry is always odd. I want to move in a way you just don’t, and I sometimes don’t manage to keep the map straight in my head or understand the perspective of the art. That said, it’s a good time. This is a classic Zelda title, with fun bosses, sometimes confusing dungeons and an overworld that feels like it naturally changes between the different terrain types even when they live next door. I had a good time, it just isn’t my favorite in the series by far.

Humble Store (PC)

Beat It and Forget It

Quiet City (increpare games, 2017)

A Humble Bundle published little game that provides a short, thoughtful look at the different activities taking place in a city. A perfectly reasonable way to spend fifteen minutes but hasn’t really left an impact on me. Also surprisingly NSFW, player be warned.

Mystery Series: A Vampire Tale

I have a fondness for hidden object games, but I recognize they aren’t for everyone. There isn’t really anything in here you wouldn’t expect from such a game, which has two protagonists in both a human woman…and a vampire. Oooooo.

Human Resource Machine (Tomorrow Corporation, 2015)

The main view of the game, sans the list of commands to be run.

Human Resource Machine is a game about algorithms and programming told via the never ceasing toil to the top of a skyscraper in a game with a very similar theming and art to the studio’s prior title, Little Inferno. It’s kind of fantastic for some basic visualizations– the floor of the room you work in represents the actions you are doing–but the actual list of steps can quickly grow out of control, and optimizing the functions is much, much more difficult than expected. Most people will probably get a few floors in and give up and I can’t really blame them.

HunieCam Studio (HuniePot, Inc., 2016)

This is one of those resource management games that are kind of a dime a dozen–but you are running a porn studio. If that joke won’t carry you through a couple hours of gameplay, skip this game. If it does, you’ll find a setup that has put a decent amount of thought into that premise, though mechanically it isn’t anything super new.

The sexual themes in this game are mostly for fun/humor and don’t make for particularly great fapping material.

–HuniePot, Inc.

PC

Worth Its Weight in Quarters

DELTARUNE Chapter 1 (Toby Fox, 2018)

I mean, a follow up to Undertale was always going to have high expectations, so I can’t pretend to be unbiased here. DELTARUNE is really good though. An evolution of the bullet hell meets RPG combat of the prior game brings more party members into play, and others moving around with you helps enforce the character interactions that the first game was so good at without relying only on the cutscenes between battles. The plot has plenty of twists and sets up further chapters nicely, and the central questions remain to be answered. I still love the idea of non-violent RPGs, and you can bet that I’ll be awaiting the next installment eagerly.

Congrats on Your New Frisbee

Game of the Year 420 Blazeit

I kind of hated this game? I downloaded it for free forever ago and just…it’s a vehicle for loud, abrasive, memes and effects. That’s it? It feels like the joke could have been served just by screenshots that they mocked up. I hope whoever made it at least had a good time doing so cause I certainly didn’t have one playing it.

DS

Worth Its Weight in Quarters

Elite Beat Agents (iNiS, 2006)

Gotta love that pompadour.

A trio of suited men saves the day in missions of increasingly escalating stakes that start as humbly as assisting a babysitter. A rhythm game that plays similarly to Osu!, which circles to tap and drag across the screen in time with the tunes that the agents dance to. Both of these statements describe Elite Beat Agents while failing to convey just how fun the game can be. It’s a campy trip through a collection of “dance” tunes that honestly surprised me in their selections. It’s fun, not much longer than a typical album takes to listen to (unless you fail) and definitely easy to pick up on the cheap.

Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime (Square Enix, 2006)

This is a game about stretching and then flinging the titular Rocket Slime at enemies, items, switches, mine carts, other slimes, whatever’s in your way. It was great to play with all the Dragon Quest monsters with no pesky heroes in sight to worry about, and the mech fights that intersperse the stretch-and-smash gameplay are fun–if a bit repetitive, especially towards the end. I never really got sick of seeing the little slime launch first a pillar, and then himself, through a cannon, and I doubt you would either.

Trauma Center: Under the Knife 2 (Atlus, 2008)

Under the Knife 2 iterates just enough on the first game to stand above, with some new diseases to fight and a difficulty that just seemed fairer. I think the narrative of the first game might be a little tighter, but I definitely had a better time with the sequel.

Beat It and Forget It

Trauma Center: Under the Knife (Atlus, 2005)

Speaking of Trauma Center, the first Under the Knife is a pretty good game too. The series is a mix of visual novel segments and an arcadey-surgery game, where you not only patch up internal bleeding and remove tumors, but also burn, cut, freeze and extract giant viruses known as GUILT. It’s intense, difficult to the point of being unfair, and downright elating to complete.

Trace Memory (Cing, 2005)

Trace Memory apparently holds the honor of being the first DS game that utilizes the fact that the machine closes as an element of a puzzle in the game (at the time of writing, I could not find proof of this), but otherwise it’s a mostly pretty standard puzzle adventure game, with a healthy dollop of mystery and ghosts and possible memory manipulation thrown on top. It’s pretty short, which works in its favor as it doesn’t drag with completely obtuse puzzles like some of its contemporaries would have.

Feel the Magic: XY/XX (Sonic Team, 2004)

A series of minigames strong together with a nonsense plot about trying to date a girl that results in kidnapping, being stranded on an island and more. It’s a weird, weird game, released early in the DS’s lifespan, making it one of the first to really embrace the hardware’s functionality, including the microphone, to, in my opinion, disastrous effect. Worth a bargain bin price these days, but other games just do the minigame fest better.

Congrats on Your New Frisbee

Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days

Sometimes when a game series has a number of entries on handheld games, it means that the developers had some ideas they wanted to use but couldn’t work them into the scope of their console titles.
Sometimes it’s Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days. It’d be easier to say what this game does well–a variety of playable characters in a multiplayer mode is a nice touch. Some peak behind the villain’s curtain is always appreciated. And…I’m out.
This game is surprisingly bad. The combat is stiff; the camera fights you at every turn. Almost every area is a rehash of already seen things from other games–and you revisit each area so many times you could probably memorize the layout of every brick and blade of poorly rendered grass. The story doesn’t really say anything besides “they were friends” and introduce the character of Xion, who is yet to really matter outside of this game, so it’s not worth the effort. It’s just so bland and repetitive. It could be half as long and still be too stretched out and repetitive. Not worth it, even for a Kingdom Hearts fan.

Switch

Worth Its Weight in Quarters

Golf Story (Sidebar Games, 2017)

Pitched to me as a successor to the Mario Golf games I never played, it won me over with it’s, well, story. The tale of a washed-up wannabe golfer climbing the ranks until he’s the winner of every tournament nearby, Golf Story pulls you in with quality pixel art, a strong soundtrack and just good golf gameplay. It’s also just wacky enough, with a mystery segment, absurd animal obstacles and even a section where you have to defeat a group of necromancers’ skeleton army by hitting them with golf balls. It’s worth a play if you have a Switch and just want to relax on the green. It also makes good use of the HD rumble that the Switch offers. Not in a game-changing way, but still nifty.

Beat It and Forget It

Fire Emblem Warriors (Omega Force, 2017)

The second of the Nintendo/Omega Force crossover games brings the hack and slash Musou gameplay of the Dynasty Warriors to a crossover heavy universe filled with your favorite Fire Emblem characters from like, 5 of the games. While it does have more characters than Hyrule Warriors, the individuals don’t feel as unique. Similar to complaints about the Fire Emblem characters in the Super Smash Bros. Series, the characters that share a class tend to share a lot of the same moves and feel. Even characters of different classes but the same weapon suffer from this. The weapon trinity implemented in the game is a great way to encourage the player to switch up fighters mid-combat, and the game does look and sound great. It just didn’t wow me the way that I really wanted it to, both from neglecting some favored games in the series and by having so few characters really feel both useful and unique.

Cat Quest (The Gentlebros, 2017)

I bought Cat Quest because I needed a game where I would just get to watch my stats increase and the numbers all grow. The game gave me an action RPG where I got to watch my stats increase and the numbers all grow. I rate it a set of cat’s whiskers out of ten; would watch the numbers go up again.

PlayStation 2

Worth Its Weight in Quarters

Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 (Atlus, 2008)

Dojima is bae, fight me.

For a game I put over a hundred hours into, I am quite conflicted about Persona 4. On the one hand, it’s a mystery romp in a quiet town full of character interactions, memorable scenes, and some engrossing grinding and Persona fusing. On the other, some of the characters are extremely frustrating, to the point where I wouldn’t use them, leaving them severely underleveled. There’s some other minor nitpicks, but I swear overall it’s a great game. I would expect a larger piece on it from me at some point though. I have…feelings.

PlayStation 4

Worth Its Weight in Quarters

Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep: Final Mix (Square Enix, 2010)

Terra in his boss battle for Lilo & Stitch

After how disappointing 358/2 Days was, this was a goddamn miracle. While I never really grew to love any of the protagonists in the way I would have wanted to, they still used managed to clearly convey who they are. More impressively, even though you’re going to every world three times, they still felt fresh one each visit. A lot of that comes down to the fact that each protagonist reaches the worlds at a different time–you are most often dealing with the causes or results of what the other two routes did. The combat is also really dynamic, with the command deck, D-Link, and shotlock systems all just working together to make up a system that gives you a lot of viable options for taking down foes. The storyline still has some of the baffling choices that Kingdom Hearts is known for now but at least it could be followed start to finish, which is more than I could say for some other games in the series. Overall I can see why it’s sort of codenamed Kingdom Hearts Zero as it certainly deserves to stand up alongside the other main entries.

Beat It and Forget It

Never Alone (Upper One Games, 2014)

There’s nothing wrong with Never Alone–it’s yet another puzzle platformer, but this one with a focus on co-op play and with a rather unique look how and theme of Native Alaskans, with ice and snow and all that jazz. I did enjoy playing through it with a friend but I I don’t feel myself going back to it and I wish I would. You don’t get games focusing on native people–especially native people from that part of the world–in an authentic way very often. I just wish it was a game that gave me more reason to stay in that world.

I realize the ‘ice and snow and all that jazz’ is rather reductive but I don’t really know how to talk about the tribe–I didn’t watch all of the extra material and so I worry I would be even worse if I tried to be better.

Steam

Worth Its Weight in Quarters

Kero Blaster (Studio Pixel, 2015)

Just seeing the name Kero Blaster makes me want to play it again. By the same studio that made Cave Story, the game stars a frog that works for a vague corporation as some sort of battle janitor on likely the worst day ever of his job. Run and gun gunplay with great visuals and music that just feels good to play commences, and while the game isn’t long, it also makes the most of what it has. Ribbit ribbit.

Squidlit (Squidlit Ink., 2018)

Keeping up the theme of animal games, Squidlit is a Game Boy-inspired platformer where you play as a…squid. It’s adorable and playful and just made me feel warm and fuzzy inside. Or I guess squishy.

Stikbold! A Dodgeball Adventure! (Game Swing, 2016)

I feel like I could link the trailer and it would tell you everything you need to know about this game. In fact, I think I will.

Gunpoint (Suspicious Developments, 2013)

I started Gunpoint because it was short, not really knowing what to expect. It gave me a rockin’ jazz and electronic soundtrack, full stealth levels full of rewiring switches and jumping vast distances, and just an all around good time.

The Beginner’s Guide (Everything Unlimited, Ltd., 2015)

A game about taking a tour through a bunch of games made by one person who doesn’t themself appear, guided by a narrator who is obsessed with the creator to the point of altering the games he made to try to find more meaning behind them. A treatise both on the relationship between audience and creator and the simple questions “Is it me? Am I the problem?”

Cosmic Star Heroine (Zeboyd Games, 2017)

An early boss battle, before you have multiple aliens to use in combat.

Zeboyd Games finally gets to work with their own IP again after doing the 3rd and 4th Penny Arcade game, giving us a love letter to Phantasy Star, Chrono Trigger and, in some ways, Suikoden. Playing as an interplanetary secret agent, you recruit a number of humans and aliens to deal with threats both within and without your civilization. The combat system emphasizes strategy with its build-up “Style” system and emphasis on status effects, and every character feels quite different. Some of them so different I didn’t find them useful, sure, but different. A great play for someone itching for a SNES/Genesis-era JRPG.

Beat It and Forget It

Final Fantasy VIII (Square Enix, 1999)

Most people would say that Final Fantasy VII is far better than Final Fantasy VIII. After finally playing both, even as much as I don’t really like VII, they’re kind of right. VII definitely has the edge when it comes to the soundtrack, and characters, and world building. I think VIII has a better protagonist, and honestly, both of their plots are kind of terrible, but VIII has a more interesting (to me) combat system, even if it is far more exploitable. It isn’t my favorite Final Fantasy (Crystal Chronicles ❤ ) but it’s still worth playing–at least a couple discs worth.

140 The Game (Carlsen Games, 2013)

It’s just so bright and clashy.

A fun platformer with kind of abrasive graphics. Pretty short, and kind of frustrating towards the end, but still, I had fun.

Eets Munchies (Klei Entertainment, 2014)

A puzzle game where you guide these rabbit things to eat the foods you want and then exit the level. A little bit Rube Goldberg in terms of setting up chains of events, but ultimately I found it forgettable.

An Octave Higher (Kidalang, 2015)

A visual novel in a, I guess mage-punk world? Magitech world? Not sure I have the right noun, but in any case a visual novel where you follow three protagonists–a wealthy noble, a student of magic and a poor factory worker–who become entwined in a political revolution. Your point of view switches between the three as the story unfolds and I did like the magic system of elements being combined with different emotional forces to make things happen. I feel like the narrative suffered from wanting to be replayable though, with too much locked away behind playthroughs that would, at the same time, be too similar to each other.

Emily is Away (Kyle Seeley, 2015)

There’s someone that resonates with me at watching a relationship, be it friends or something sort of more, fall apart in chats. I’ve been through that before. It sucks. You’re left wondering how much things would have been different if you had tones, facial expressions, or just the ability to share a space and understand through proximity without understanding why you do. Emily is Away captures that, in pure America Online Instant Messenger.

Journey of a Roach (Kobold Games, 2013)

Going up a curving pipe is a pretty normal occurrence in this game.

A post-apocalyptic point and click adventure where you play as a large cockroach in a human-like society underground, looking for your friend after he falls down a hole or something. The art and feel are nice and cartoony, and the puzzles generally make sense, but the mechanic of being able to walk up curved walls to the ceiling, while nice and thematic, mostly just left me disorientated and nauseous.

Thoth (Carlsen Games, 2016)

A sort of puzzle/bullet-hell where one shot forces you to start the level over. Simple and colorful and a lot of fun, if challenging. Not going to win any awards for story, but a nice change of pace from the usual planes and mechs and witches that dominate that genre.

Dragon Quest Heroes: The World Tree’s Woe and the Blight Below (Omega Force, 2015)

Another Omega Force crossover game, this time with Square Enix’s Dragon Quest series, with all of its RPG trappings. Magic, crafting, level ups, classic Dragon Quest monsters and plenty of protagonists from past games make it clear that the developers cared about recreating the feel of both series when making this entry. And it is a lot of fun for a while. Then it just. Keeps. Going. And I don’t know what end user they were thinking of when designing the ingredient drops and alchemy system, but it certainly wasn’t me. I don’t even want to think about how much time it would take to make everything it wants you to. Fun hack and slash gameplay though, with well-differentiated characters and some varied and expressive locales and foes.

Epistory – Typing Chronicles (Fishing Cactus, 2016)

I kind of love typing games, ever since I first was learning to type in a copy of Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing. Epistory scratched that itch, with a papercraft tale of a girl riding a fox and restoring a land challenging me with the sheer ferocity with which I had to type in order to defeat the giant bugs plaguing her journey. My biggest complaint was that the game tends to chug, no matter what system I played it on, sometimes during big combats, sometimes for no reason at all.

Fearless Fantasy (Enter Skies, 2014)

Not to reference Osu! twice in one list, but Fearless Fantasy is basically a short RPG where special moves are clicking in circles and dragging through lines, similar to Osu! or Elite Beat Agents. It’s kind of bland in its setting and characters and the forums complain of it being a mobile port of shoddy quality, but I had a decent time with its nonstandard combat.

I’m realizing how many times I’ve used “play” and “fun” and really just a lot of words to the point where they’ve lost meaning.

Me, the night before posting this list.

Planet of the Eyes (Cococucumber, 2015)

A game in the same rough vein as Limbo and other “move right to win” puzzle platformers, Planet of the Eyes puts you in the role of a robot on an alien planet, trying to find out what happened to the humans that brought you there and hoping to survive the hostile landscape you’ve found yourself in.

Unmechanical (Talawa Games, 2012)

Another puzzle-platformer, again with a robot, but this time a dirtier feel, more lasers and caves then creepy monsters. Had about the same amount of fun with it as I did Planet of the Eyes.

Hero of the Kingdom (Lonely Troops, 2012)

Hidden object games strike again! This time it’s a fantasy title where you rise up from being a peasant to being a knight, mostly by doing fetch quests where you collect firewood from trees and eventually fighting goblins and swamp frog things and the like. It’s more fun than that sounds, I promise.

8-Bit Bayonetta (Platinum Games, 2017)

A promotional game for the Bayonetta series that has you jumping and shooting a never ending series of enemies that come at you from the right hand side of the screen. Fun for what it is, but it isn’t much.

Super Daryl Deluxe (Dan & Gary Games, 2018)

The game’s art just screams fun and also well-made Flash game.

The art and first few hours of humor and gameplay in Super Daryl Deluxe are great. Unfortunately, rather than simply tell the story of a world that fell apart due to a self-help book in the time it wanted to take, they drew it out. It’s more grindy than needed, the story has extra twists that ultimately mean nothing but simply exist to extend the runtime,  and, of course, contains a healthy amount of backtracking. It was still fun–don’t get me wrong. But I started to feel like it was wasting my time, and that’s not really a great last impression for a game to make.

Serious Sam HD: The First Encounter (Croteam, 2009)

A fun first-person shooter that has aged surprisingly well, with effective, sometimes delightful weapons (I particularly like The cannonball) and insane looking enemies. The final boss was more of a gauntlet than the rest of the game had been, so I remember it clearly which is always a nice touch. It isn’t a sub-genre I tend to play often (I like my shooters to have a little more story, a little more progression), still fun.

Torchlight II (Runic Games, 2012)

So Torchlight 2 is hard for me to rate. Partway through I glitched out and got dozens of extra skill points. I then proceeded to use them. I had been playing a modded class–one that was designed to be comparable to the existing ones–and somehow in a level up I screwed something up and then, well, I had maxed out passives for the rest of the game. It didn’t make it completely broken, but it did mean that for most of the game my experience was hold down the left mouse button and just sort of walk around and enjoy the show. With that as the core experience, I had a good time. It wasn’t what the designers had in mind but it was still fun.

VVVVVV (Terry Cavanagh, 2010)

Every screen has its own name which is worth a few good chuckles.

So I saw this game at a Games Done Quick a while back and thought it looked fun and so I checked it out. the principal idea is that it’s a platformer where instead of jumping, you reverse gravity’s effect on you. While it is great to sort of blast through space upside down and also to navigate those tight quarters by bouncing between the floor and ceiling, it also was very easy to get lost and not to know where I was supposed to be going. The game is only a couple hours long and I still had to look up a map and a guide which was rather disheartening. If you’ve got an afternoon to just sit down and figure it out though, it is worth your time.

Narcissu 2nd (stage-nana, 2007)

A sort of sister story to the original Narcissu, it follows the point of view of a woman who used to volunteer at a hospital before falling ill herself. Eventually, is on the path to the long term care reserved for those who aren’t going to survive much longer–similar to the deuteragonist of the first story. It didn’t feel as poignant as the first half did, though that might just be my own distance from that concept at this point. It, however, remains a sad story of living with the keen awareness that you are running out of time and the challenges that that brings to your faith and your dreams.

NightSky (Nicallis, Inc., 2011)

I do love me some bi-bride sky gradients.

So I had to look up the game to remember what it was, but now that I have I remember actually having a lot of fun playing it. It’s got some great color palettes in the levels, some tricky platforming segments and a nice sense of identity due to being a platforming game where you control a ball rather than a person.

No Time To Explain Remastered (tinyBuild, 2015)

A side-scrolling shoot-’em-up platformer where there’s a lot of time-travel and tricky platforming to figure out with weapons like rockets and lasers being your primary methods of movement. The game doesn’t take itself seriously, which is good considering the tone it’s going for–an irreverent comedy of sorts that starts that each level with a parallel universe version of your protagonist trying to go ‘There’s no time to explain!” before getting killed, leaving you to pick up their weapon and move to the right, into whatever danger just arrived. It’s fun, but hardly the kind of game that makes you feel something, which is a lot of what I was looking for this year.

Silver Creek Falls – Chapter 1 (Sapphire Dragon Productions, 2015)

The first chapter in a very Twin Peaks inspired mystery story, Silver Creek Falls is a visual novel seemingly made in RPG Maker. There isn’t anything wrong with that; it’s just pretty descriptive of how the game functions. You just sort of walk around and talk to people and occasionally investigate crime scenes. Some grizzly things are definitely happening in town, and the mystery had me interested, sure, but it isn’t really clear what the quality of the full game would be, considering that this was only the first chapter of an episodic title.

Dyscourse (Owlchemy Labs, 2015)

I want to like Dyscourse more than I did. It has a unique art style and the concept of making choices for a plane crash full of people hoping to help as many of them to survive as possible is kind of intriguing in our post-Lost world. I just didn’t find it that engaging, for whatever reason. Possibly because every event just felt so sudden when it happened; possibly because a lot of the characters are kind of shitty. In the end, I never went back to play through the story a second time, short as it is, in an attempt to save different people. It just didn’t feel worth it.

Congrats on Your New Frisbee

hack_me

I wanted to like hack_me. I like the idea of a really kind of practical, almost boring feeling hacking game. The problem is that you don’t really do much? It’s basically just “follow these instructions to win” and that’s it.

Mandagon

Absolutely gorgeous art. I didn’t get at all the message it was trying to tell me though, hence being this low on the list.

Dear Esther

I don’t understand why this game seemed to make a splash when it came out. It doesn’t have the humor of The Stanley Parable, or even the interesting premise of something like Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture. It’s just a kind of whiny protagonist wandering a wet, miserable island and writing a letter to someone who may or may not already be dead, before basically committing suicide? I just didn’t like it one bit.

Unearthed: Trail of Ibn Battuta – Episode 1

I mean it’s just an Uncharted knock off. I don’t believe an episode 2 exists, which sort of tells you everything you need to know about the quality of this game.

Aaru’s Awakening

A story of a creature rolling around trying to like restore the balance of dawn vs. dusk, with the predictable twist of dawn being as evil as dusk is. I don’t remember why I didn’t like it; I just didn’t.

Please, Don’t Touch Anything

You are given a button on a table and told not to push it.
There are 18 endings.
It’s the sort of thing that I think would be really great as a physical experience at a convention or even as a high-end board game, but as a video game it boiled down to just clicking around until stuff happened. It’s hard to know what is clickable though, so you sort of waste time until you look up a guide and then there’s not a whole lot of point to it. Kind of a let down, even if it had some fun Easter eggs.

Ancients of Ooga

Another puzzle platformer, though at least this one isn’t just ‘move to the right’. The problem with this one is that it feels kind of offensive? I’m not one who can decide if a depiction of a native people is indeed offensive, but having these characters, these quasi-human things that sometimes have mystical powers–which include being stinky–just left a bad taste in my mouth. I only really finished it because I could play it on both my work computer and my desktop and that sort of portability was important to me at the moment during which I picked the game up out of my backlog.

Vita

Beat It and Forget It

Shovel Knight: Plague of Shadows (Yacht Club Games, 2015)

Getting some air off of explosions like a boss.

Of the three existing Shovel Knight campaigns, Plague of Shadows is my least favorite. That doesn’t by any means mean it’s bad–it still has the same great art, level design, and soundtrack sensibilities that Shovel Knight was known for I just never really got into how Plague Knight himself moved. It was an interesting thing, throwing the bombs to gain height and adjust your falling speed, holding down to explode around for a burst of speed, but it just never felt like I had the control that I had with Shovel Knight or later Specter Knight that made the core moving and fighting feel so good in those campaigns.

WiiU

Beat It and Forget It

Shantae: Risky’s Revenge – Director’s Cut (WayForward, 2010)

My experience with playing any Shantae title boils down to not liking them as much as I liked the first game I played in the series-The Pirate’s Curse. For those who know the series, that means my favorite game is the one that is most unique in how it plays, as it is the only one that lacks transformations and magic, instead focusing on items and pirate-themed equipment. Risky’s Revenge certainly isn’t bad–it’s a competent Metroidvania–but it just didn’t win me over the way Pirate’s Curse did.

Xbox 360

Worth Its Weight in Quarters

Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light (Crystal Dynamics, 2010)

Once you get past the idea that this is not a Tomb Raider game, but a completely different experience starring that series’ protagonist, The Guardian of Light becomes a great time. Basically a puzzle-platformer take on the Gauntlet series, this co-op dungeon crawler might have some possibly poorly handled mysticism based on cultures I haven’t studied much, but it’s a solid time for folks looking to scratch that isometric action itch.

Beat It and Forget It

Deadlight (Tequila Works, Abstraction Games, 2016)

There are a lot of zombie games out there. Deadlight doesn’t try to compete with them in terms of combat, or even lore. Instead, it focuses on escaping, on platforming and long search towards to right side of the screen to find out what happened to the protagonist’s family. I liked a lot of the set pieces–particularly one segment where you’re trying to avoid another survivor’s death traps–but overall the game is just sort of fine.

Toy Soldiers: Cold War (Signal Studios, 2012)

A strange mix of tower defense and third-person-shooter, Toy Soldiers has you playing as well, toy soldiers from a toy box, fending off against waves of foes using turrets, vehicles, and squads of soldiers, which you can either direct or assume direct control of. It works, and was rather fun, but has all of the control difficulties of any RTS on a console–having a mouse and keyboard really does help when trying to deal with an entire battlefield.

Congrats on Your New Frisbee

Rayman Raving Rabids

A collection of mostly functional, mostly dull minigames that you have to play through multiple times for the “story mode”. Less a Mario Party clone and more an example of how shameless cash grabs happen to once beloved mascot characters.

Xbox One

Worth Its Weight in Quarters

A Way Out (Hazelight, 2018)

This isn’t the screenshot I wanted, but they’re both so intense and I love it.

I could talk about A Way Out for hours. It’s just such a good heist movie, prison escape movie; just a good story of two people from different walks of life coming together on a mission to take someone out that has wronged both of them. The gameplay really strongly informs that bond you are building between the characters and the voice acting and dialogue were fantastic. The actual mechanics are fairly simple which could turn people off, and the reticle really, really should not have been yellow, but that’s nitpicking. I really want to do a longer analysis of the ending that doesn’t fit in this context, but I don’t think it is a stretch to say this likely my favorite co-op game of 2018–hands down.

Tomb Raider (Crystal Dynamics, 2014)

So I had played the original Tomb Raider and bits of Angel of Darkness before, but this is the first time I looked sat down to a Tomb Raider game and played at start to finish. I picked it back up because my roommate had started playing it and it was just a lot of fun to explore caves and mountains and forests and to hunt with a bow and arrow–even eventually basically trying to only do combat with said bow and arrow. The platforming felt great, the combat was intense without feeling unfair, and overall it just was a really good experience. I mostly wanted the survival elements to be played up more, which seems to be the case in the next game in the series. From a narrative perspective I liked the step back to a young, unproven Lara, and bless her little gay heart I hope things work out for her in the end. It was also nice that she had crewmates along for the ride–it helped establish human stakes rather than just one woman against the wilderness, which she has done again and again before.

It also bears mentioning that a lot of the death scenes are unnecessarily graphic. If you are squeamish or otherwise adverse to violence, be aware of that if picking up this game.

Dragon Age: Inquisition + The Descent + Trespasser (BioWare, 2015)

This game, including DLC, took me around 150 hours to beat. Add onto that the 80 or 90 hours I’d previously lost in a save file and you have likely one of the games I’ve spent the most time with in my entire life. So I definitely enjoyed the game. It’d be foolish for me to have put that many hours into something I didn’t enjoy. It has flaws: it’s buggy; combat, especially in the DLC, can shift very quickly from going very well to whoops, you just died; the choices could be a little bit too morally black and white; etc, but it has all of the elements that made me really like a Dragon Age game. The characters are well-fleshed out, and for lack of a better word, very human. You like to like them and hate to hate them, as it should be. The world is well developed, taking the player to areas only glossed over by previous games, like Orlais, that help to make the entirety of Thedas feel more cohesive. The combat is generally satisfying, giving you enough options to try different ways of approaching situations, but does get repetitive after 150 hours, and I can’t really imagine any combat not doing so. I wasn’t a huge fan of the actual climax of the game, though the Trespasser DLC felt like a really good like end of TV show movie that sort of wraps up loose ends while giving you fan service, which was nice. In the end, I don’t know if it was worth quite the amount of time put into it but I had a really good time and I keep saying I had a really good time in this list and it’s lost all of its meaning as a phrase.

Oxenfree (Night School Studio, 2016)

Oxenfree details a group of teenagers that go to a nearby island to goof off and drink and just not be home for a while when some really messed up stuff starts happening. There’s some stuff with ghosts, radios playing strange messages, characters being possessed and even potentially aliens–you’ll have to play the game yourself to find out. It also has a really dynamic conversation system where you can interrupt other characters, as well as simply not respond in most cases. That gives two more variables to how a dialogue tree unfolds along with simply the actual words, and it feels really natural in practice. I’ve really been meaning to play through the game a second time and make some different choices, but I might settle on just playing the studio’s next game, Afterparty, when it comes out.

Superhot (SUPERHOT Team, 2016)

The art in Superhot is striking yet functional.

“Superhot is the most innovative shooter I’ve played in years”. Phrases like that pepper the landscape of reviews of this game, and not without merit. This game’s tactical take on a first-person shooter where you can really plan out your moves–because nothing is moving when you’re not–was really engaging. It gets a little too hectic towards the end where because you don’t have more of a field of vision, just having time slowed to almost a stop just doesn’t give you enough information to make the correct choices, and so you end up dying a lot. But until you hit that point its just so satisfying to look into a room, figure out what’s going to happen, lineup your shots, and take ’em out.

Beat It and Forget It

Final Fantasy XV: Episode Gladiolus (Square Enix, 2016)

As much as I loved Final Fantasy 15 and as much as I love Gladio, I just didn’t find that much in this DLC. It tells how he got his scars when he vanishes for a time in the main game, but it’s just in a fight. It’s a fight against this big ol’ spirit dude representing Gilgamesh during Gladio’s intense mission to prove he’s worthy of defending the king, yes, true. But it’s still just a fight, without any of the grandiose scales that so defined the end of the core game. It’s a shame because it was kind of a nice change of pace to play as a party member that you normally just order about, but it wasn’t enough of a nice change.

Saints Row IV (Deep Silver, 2015)

Saints Row III was a goddamn gem of the game. Saints Row 4 is good, but you can tell they were trying to follow up a game that was just not easy to follow. In this installment, you acquire superpowers, including extremely fast running and building clearing jumps, which fundamentally altered how you traverse around the city. The problem is that with all the superpowers you sort of stop using all of the other features in the game. I stopped driving cars, I stop shooting guns–I just used superpowers and punched people. It was still fun, but it seems a shame that the game deprecated so many of its own features like that. It does have a great opening, and I like that they really were like “there’s nowhere for us to go by aliens” and so they go for it. The result just didn’t have quite the level of character that the third game of the series had, and that kept it from being one of my favorites this year.

One thought on “Games. So. Many. Games…in 2018

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