Other than the Myst games, I can’t think of any obvious points of comparison to help you decide whether or not to give Return of the Obra Dinn a chance. The lack of guidance and completely open nature of the puzzles separate it from the likes of The Vanishing of Ethan Carter which had you solving smaller puzzles one at a time. This originality is the exact reason you should try it for yourself. I can’t guarantee you’ll love it as much as I did, but I’m certain it will keep nagging away at you in the back of your mind, encouraging you to boot it up one more time to see what else you can discover.
Cuphead is one of the most visually interesting games I’ve ever played. Its gameplay is a throwback to old-school bullet hell shooters and tough boss fights, without the need to worry about running out of lives. I wish I could tell you to ignore the discussion around difficulty and just buy the game, but that’s not fair. Cuphead is a challenging game that requires a lot of practice and patience. You may not enjoy it and that’s fine. However, if you’re at all interested in what Cuphead has to offer then you should take the risk. Dive in and see what happens. I played Cuphead for 15 hours and most of them were a hell of a lot of fun. Not all of them, but most.
Horizon Zero Dawn hits the trifecta. Incredible combat, story, and characters. It’s also polished and doesn’t outstay it’s welcome. I can’t imagine I’ll play it again anytime soon, but the fifty hours I spent with Horizon were some of the best I’ve ever had.
The combination of strict linearity with varied snippets of gameplay might just be the ideal combination for these type of narrative experiences. What Remains of Edith Finch leaps right into my top three games in this genre alongside Gone Home and The Stanley Parable. In fact, I think it’s leapt right to the top.
The lack of challenge is a touch disappointing but doesn't detract from the sheer joy I got from bouncing along to the music, or the sadness of watching a man try to save his friend from inevitable death. When the main problem with a game is that you just want more, that's usually a good sign. The Sexy Brutale is absolutely worth your time. If I had Boone's powers, I'd rewind time and play it all over again.
Now that I have finally played and enjoyed Shadow of the Colossus, it would be easy to say I regret not playing it all those years ago. I'm not sure that's true. This remaster is sublime and—as I can attest—no nostalgia is required to appreciate it. This is almost certainly the definitive version of the game and I’m thankful I finally got to play it. I highly recommend you do the same.
I’m not sure I’ll ever truly finish Celeste. I still have a couple of B-Sides to complete and the C-Sides are likely beyond my skill level. Assist mode is there if I need it, but I’m not ready to admit defeat yet. Neither am I ready for Celeste to be over. I’ll be dipping back into this masterpiece for many months to come.
Dead Cells might not be the Metroidvania it half-heartedly professes to be, but it is a phenomenal rogue-lite and probably the best game I’ve played this year. The constant feeling of progression should be enough to tempt even those who don’t usually enjoy the genre while still being intense enough for those who lap this stuff up.
Guacamelee 2 is a game I didn’t know I wanted until a year ago when I saw the reveal trailer and it’s a game I didn’t know I needed until I played it. Guacamelee 2 doubles down on everything that made the first game great and improves on a few of the weaker areas as well. I don’t know where Drinkbox Studios can go with a potential Guacamelee 3 but I thought much the same thing after the first game and here we are five years later with a sequel that is a huge leap forward for the excellent original. There’s a lot of competition in the 2D platformer space this year, but you absolutely must find the time for Guacamelee 2.
I’m always reluctant to throw around high praise and label games as the best the genre has to offer. Games tend to be overhyped on release and then the love dies down over a few months and you end up looking a little stupid. Here’s the thing though, Resident Evil 2 really is that good. It actually is genre-defining. It is one of the best triple-A experiences I’ve had in years and it will be in contention for my game of the year. You can believe the hype this time. Resident Evil 2 is phenomenal.
The Ultimate Edition subtitle is fitting because it’s hard to see where the N formula goes from here. With over 4,000 levels in N++, not including community created ones and those you create yourself in the level editor, there’s not much need for another sequel or special edition. That makes N++ an easy recommendation, especially on the Switch where it is perfect for short pick up and play sessions. Yes, as much as it pains me to say it, N++ is “perfect for the Switch.”
After finishing SOMA, my mind was consumed with thoughts of what it means to be human. Did I torture and kill people in my attempt to escape? Or were they not really people at all and I can sleep soundly? That SOMA made me ask myself these questions is the reason why you should play this game, despite the inclusion of unnecessary and frustrating “video game moments.”
Tacoma shows that with great writing and voice acting, you can become attached to characters you only know through colored body outlines and a couple of pictures. I even wanted to know more about the crew’s family back on Earth and I was desperate to dig further into the corporate structure of Venturis and the overall state of the global economy. Tacoma is enjoyable enough that it left me wanting more, even if the experience didn’t hit quite as hard as Fullbright’s groundbreaking debut.
At $13, some people will no doubt find Donut County a little too expensive for such a short experience. A quick story playthrough is around 90 minutes to two hours, although if you go for all the achievements (which is definitely worth doing) then you’re looking at nearer three hours. Donut County is also one of those special games that don’t require any gaming experience to enjoy, so don’t be surprised if non-gamer friends and family get sucked in too. The hole experience (couldn’t resist!) is so relaxing you might even find yourself revisiting it: I went back to capture some footage and ended up playing for another half an hour. Give Donut County a try if you can. We could all benefit from something a little more peaceful once in a while.
Many have accused Battlefield 1 of being a WW2 shooter with a WW1 skin. I can’t argue with that, but I also can’t get that upset about it either. I love running out of the trenches with a group of teammates, as we charge towards the enemy and get mowed down by turrets and sub-machine guns. If we survive, there’s a good chance we’ll end up choking on mustard gas as we try to claim a control point. I’ve not experienced this in any modern FPS, and it does make a difference, regardless of historical accuracy. And that whistle. Holy crap, that whistle.
Yakuza 0 is good enough that I regret not having played the other games. I plan to work my way through Yakuza Kiwami and Yakuza Kiwami 2, however I fear I may never play Yakuzas three to five. Still, Yakuza 0 has room for improvement which leaves me hoping that the best is yet to come. I’ll be there for the next steps in Kiryu’s and Majima’s journeys, even if I don’t know their entire life stories. Not yet, anyway.
Nioh is difficult and the frantic pace of its combat means that even Soulsborne veterans can expect a challenge. The lack of level variety is an issue, however I enjoyed every single fight thanks to the varied and deep combat. With three stances, five weapon types, skills, ninjutsu, and magic, it’s hard to get bored during a fifty to sixty-hour campaign and you’ll likely jump straight into new game plus without stopping for breath. Team Ninja set its sights high with Nioh, seeking to create a samurai-inspired Soulsborne game, with a distinct personality and combat style. Somehow, Team Ninja pulled it off.
NieR: Automata has far too much padding and would be better as a 20-hour experience instead of a 40 hour one. Despite all that, I can’t deny that there are parts of this game that simply have to be experienced. The music and the story are phenomenal; it’s just a shame the combat doesn’t live up to the highs I experienced elsewhere.