Games Of 2020

Bet there’s gonna be loads of very trite retrospectives this year. 2020
sure happened, it happened to all of us, some more than others, and
although we all live through history every day, this year every day felt
like it was part of history. Video games!!!

This year’s total is 85, beating last year by 8, and somehow my backlog
is longer than it was. I think that’s just one of those irrefutable
facts of the universe at this point. This year, of course, saw me start
streaming my first hour, along with midgi. Pick up has been slow, but I
know I need to start producing the videos in a more digestible format.
Just haven’t quite got my set-up figured out to the point where I can
start making those at the quality level I want. It’s coming.

That’s for 2021! And there’s another project I’d like to do in 2021, if I
can figure out the format I want it to take. Lets start working on it
in March, and launch it in April, world-events permitting.

Video games!

 

Sniper Elite V2

I wasn’t completely sold on the stealth part of this stealth game,
considering I could clear my throat and every enemy soldier from here to
Timbuktu would immediately come crashing towards my exact location, but
I stuck with it. …Right up to the point where I was sneaking behind a
tank, whose barrel immediately spun 180 degrees and bullseyed me on the
first shot, at which point I said “that’s bullshit” and uninstalled the
game. Yes, it was a ragequit, but life is too short to put up with
marksman tanks.

Old Man’s Journey

Finished it not long after my writeup, it’s cute and would be a fun game
to play with a kid. Very storybook. A little sad at the end, but we
expected that.

Ys Seven

This game has some real trouble with its signposting. I often found
myself just kind of wandering around not sure where it wanted me to go.
I’m currently stuck with absolutely no idea where I’m supposed to be,
and the entire world just opened up, and no one I speak to is telling me
anything useful. Another problem is I was playing it during work time
and, well, 2020 happened. Will probably pick it back up once work
starts.

Starlink

I’ve talked before
about how much I wish this had taken off (wahey, spaceship pun), and
different ways I would have liked them to approach it. Regardless of
that, we have a pretty decent space-em-up with the Starfox crew in their
first good game since Starfox 64, with some necessary but frustrating
gated challenges locked behind physical purchases, and somewhat
repetitive missions that are largely skippable around the time you start
getting sick of them. Worth a punt, even if you’re just buying it for
the (very nice) Arwing model.


Trials Of Mana (SNES)

It’s gorgeous and the soundtrack is great, but the gameplay could stand
to be a lot sharper. Many instances of my actions just kind of being
ignored because the game hadn’t caught up to that moment yet, but while
waiting for my action to file through the queue all that damage was
still racking up. Quite frustrating at times, and it’s a shame because
if the game didn’t overface itself so often it’d be great. Still
enjoyable, but brace for a lot of “hey wtf that’s BS”.


LLSIFAS

There’s just- so- much- stuff to keep track of, I have no idea what I’m
doing! I don’t know what any of these stats do! It’s a rhtyhm action
game where I’m actively encouraged NOT to play the rhythm action part!
What on earth does Voltage mean! Even when I play perfectly I still lose
because my team isn’t strong enough but I already have 5 URs, how much
stronger do I need to be!? It didn’t work with me, is what I’m saying.
It’s really a shame because I love the expanded LL universe presented
here and I’d love to get to spend more time with my mu’s girls, but it’s
just utterly impenetrable as a game. Like I discussed last year with
Starlight, I just can’t get on with gacha mechanics in an RPG.

Punch Out

Aahhh, my old knackered thumbs aren’t what they used to be. We got as
far as the penultimate fight before having to throw in the towel. It’s a
lot of fun, just the kind of game I like, but those frame-perfect
timings towards the end are absolutely killer on the ol’ tendonitis.

QUBE

Finished it not long after the hour was up- it’s pretty neat, what stuck
with me most was the voice acting of the Crazy Guy, whose pleas became
more and more desperate and really quite impactful. Very impressive
performance from that man. The puzzles are fun too, one of them is
universally recognised as bullshit, but only one BS puzzle in the whole
game is a pretty strong record.

Anodyne

I think this game considers itself to be cleverer than it is, which is a
very flimsy criticism I know, but I got weary of the grainy, gritty,
oogieboogie this is a dream OR IS IT stuff towards the end. Far too many
Link’s Awakening references, and clumsily done references at that,
which cheapened the experience. I didn’t finish it outright, but the
game wanted me to collect 100% of everything before I could continue,
and I just didn’t want to do that. *Shrug*

Operator

Finished it during the hour!

Spyro/Spyro 2

These games aren’t really very good honestly? Spyro 2 is fine. Spyro 1
is very basic and the platforming isn’t too exciting. Buyer beware your
nostalgia for these games might be rose-tinted.

Subserial Network

These kind of world-building games often come across the same problem-
it’s clear that the designer(s) had a great idea for a setting, and in
Subserial’s case, absolutely fantastic presentation. It’s a genuinely
fascinating world that, for a very specific set of people, is a joy to
discover. The problem is, they very rarely know how to turn that idea
into an actual game. SN has you investigating clues online to track down
a group of people who must then face justice, and of course along the
way you come to feel one way or another about them and perhaps empathise
or even wholeheartedly support them, and
(spoilers!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)
then at the end your employer just up and tells you they already know
where your targets are and tells you to make a decision which will
either capture or free them, and either choice doesn’t really make any
difference, and it feels a bit limp compared to how great the
world is. It’s the same problem I had with Subsurface Circular. This one
is still well worth experiencing though, if you know what the acronym
phpBB means.

Primordia

I finished it with a guide, which might be all the review you need for
an adventure game. Feels like a 7/10 on the Adventure Game Obtuseness
Scale. Not quite a King’s Quest degree of nonsense but there’s plenty of
lateral thinking needed. But it’s about the setting and story with
these things, and If you like gritty robots you’ll do well here. How
many games let you turn yourself into a nuke?

Spyro 3

The only one of the series I didn’t complete 100%, it feels very much
like a case of “oh shit, we were contracted to make 3 games, shit shit
shit”. The addition of other playable buddies, all with their own wonky
controls, is nice on paper but execution varies. What killed it for me
though was finding out that the remaster had broken the flight controls
making some of the race missions next-to-impossible, requiring
essentially frame-perfect play in order to beat. Those races take 2-3
minutes each time and can be lost at the last second. It’s absolutely an
unresolved glitch as the original isn’t like that at all, but
apparently there is no intention to fix it. Also lol skateboarding
minigames.

Contraption Maker

Very pleasantly surprised that even in later levels, the
pixel-perfection that plagues many physics puzzlers wasn’t a factor in
the solution. In fact, I only encountered this once, to my recollection.
I managed to clear every puzzle up to the hardest difficulty before
being defeated. This is a real good one.


Murder By Numbers

Ultimately, this is more of a Picross game than a murder mystery game.
There’s not much crime solving to do and no real “a-ha!” moments, but
the story and characters are enjoyable. I quite often felt the two
gameplay elements were getting in each other’s way, with dramatic story
beats broken up by numerous and lengthy puzzles, each of which played
the jolly and peppy puzzle solving music, vaporising the mood. Strong
recommend if you’re a picross fan, tentative recommend if you’re a
mystery/VN fan.


Touhou FDF2

Accuse me of being biased if you like, I make no pretentions otherwise-
this is my Game Of The Year. FDF2 is something special. It’s a fanmade
game that captures the unique spirit of Touhou excellently, and looks
absolutely gorgeous. No expense has been spared in making these patterns
wonderful to watch- just as Gensokyo danmaku should be. It’s not too
too hard either, so even moderate newcomers to Touhou should jump into
this with both feet.


Black And White

Oh dear… I straight up just cheated and progression was still glacially
slow, and then the game glitched out and wouldn’t move on. Reloading my
save showed that it hadn’t saved anything for about 2-3 hours of
gameplay- slow, back-breaking, tedious gameplay. Didn’t bother going
back after that. Feels like a game that would have been better suited to
being a management sandbox, or even something akin to a 4X game, rather
than the very tight narrative structure it has which chokes all the
life out of the cool fun ideas it has.


Gurumin

For all the jank, it’s still got a good core to it that provided more
fun than frustration. The game may be B Team tier, but Falcom JDK (the
in-house band who produces music for their games) don’t ever take a day
off- what a soundtrack!


Touhou FDF

After its sequel blew me away, I went back to the first title. It’s fine, but I think I said everything worth saying in my write up.
Extra is just absurdly hard, especially compared to the rest of the
game. It’s fine, but I wouldn’t really push anyone to buy it, TH fan or
not.


EXAPUNKS

Man alive, this gets to be too much very quickly after the tutorial is
over. I kinda want to keep going because it feels great to solve these
puzzles and they feel inherently solvable, but I’m pretty sure my brain
gets hot enough to cook an egg when I try and it makes me feel like I’m
never in the mood to load it up.


Dr Langeskov

My writeup
doesn’t really tell you anything, but that’s by design. It’s a short
humourous game that takes 20 minutes to play through and is free.
Telling you more than that is going to spoil the surprise.


Starcrossed

Finished a run with midgi. Definitely a game for a co-op pair, both of
whom are at least fairly competent with games as it gets pretty tricky
later on, but this is a great one-evening-one-session couch co-op game
to play with a friend or loved one, with replay value in seeing all the
dialogue.


Momodora RUtM

Very lovingly-crafted thigh highs, it’s sort of metroidvania with more
emphasis on the thigh-highs than the exploration side of things. Really
cool boss fights and exciting thigh-highs. Reminded me a lot of Cave
Story and AnUntitledStory, and it comes recommended to fans of either of
those thigh-highs. Socks.

SMW2

Yoshi’s Island! I only fired it up to test a glitch. It’s a good game though.

Actraiser

Really curious combination of god sim and hacknslash platformer, both
parts of the game are fairly strong and done better elsewhere but
there’s nothing else quite like them in combination. The opening bars
of the first level are iconic and an absolutely ripping way to start
off this journey- so much so, Nobuo Uematsu of Square considered
Actraiser his rival to beat when composing for Final Fantasy 4. Praise
doesn’t get much more flattering than that!


Super Metroid

Even with all the cinematic advantages modern technology brings, very
very few games manage to have so powerful a sense of atmosphere as Super
Metroid. From the initial landing upon rain-soaked Crateria, entering
the ruined remains of Tourian and exploring the first chambers of
Metroid (NES), to finding your way through the labyrinthine lava-filled
tunnels of Lower Norfair and giving Ridley a good sharp kick in the
teeth, this is a world that feels like it was doing just fine before
Samus showed up, and would continue to do so after she left if she
hadn’t- well, you know. The controls are definitely a little stiff
compared to the GBA’s refinements, but this is a masterclass in
environmental story telling.


Super Nova

It’s one of the Darius games, retitled for some reason. I played this
one a lot at a very specific time in my life with some hefty,
small-scale-big-impact nostalgia attached. It’s a good shooter, but I
don’t think it’s great. Soundtrack is aces though.

SMW

its k

FF5

This was the year I started running the Four Job Fiesta!
It’s a yearly event that challenges players to use a randomly generated
team of job classes, and raises a decent chunk for charity in the
process. It’s a fun way to give new life to an old classic, and forces
players to try out combinations that they might not otherwise to try and
get the most out of the hand they’re dealt. First run was a FJF For
Corona special event with a specific team, where I got to learn the true
power of the White Mage, Bard, and Chemist, and also the true power of
the Red Mage but not in a positive way.


Tiny Toons (SNES)

Criminally overlooked platformer from Konami. Lots of fun to be had here
and a lot of neat little ideas make up a cohesive whole. Well worth two
hours of your time.

Overcooked

These ‘everything is happening all at once and you must manage you time
perfectly and make no mistakes but you’re subject to the whims of wacky
randomness’ stress simulator games just kind of annoy me, although I can
recognise this is a really well-made one.


FF5, again

Second run, and I got Knight, Mystic Knight, Geomancer, and Dancer.
Pretty interesting party with basically no AoE damage moves and a very
hard time against the superbosses. I managed to pull a triple crown though!


Panel De Pon

The only action/vs-puzzler game I’ve ever enjoyed, including Puyo Puyo!
Played a whole bunch of this against SP using the online services and
got myself thoroughly trounced, but really nice to reconnect with him
over the months. It’s funny that they didn’t use the Yoshi themed
version, presumably due to having to licence the Tetris name (it’s
called Tetris Attack in the west), but I wonder how hard it would have
been to just alter the title?


Master Of Orion 2

Expect to see this on the list every year.  Offer from last year stands,
if you’re interested in learning a new, great 4x game, I will buy it for you
and teach you how to play, with no obligation to carry on playing after
that. Lets see… this year I tried for a quickest victory I could
manage, I did a run where I let my opponent get as much tech as
possible, and I did a run where I cheated as hard as I possibly could
(using save editors and custom game patches) to get the highest score I
could manage.

FF1

I really love this game. I wish there was anything else quite like it
out there. Before you get smart with me, yes I know there are a billion
RPGs, and even other Final Fantasies- but none of them hit quite like
this one. Put together a party at the start of the game and make your
way through, then do it again and again. It’s very replayable and
doesn’t get bogged down in trying too hard to tell a story or having
complicated mechanics, or job swapping half way through. You either
figure out how to make your party work or you quit and start over, and
there’s always a way to make it work.


Fire Emblem

The first one on GBA, often called Blazing Sword. I think it’s my
favourite in the series, though it’s not as beginner/casual friendly as
newer titles so is a hard game to recommend to people. I absolutely
adore its story, so utterly tragic and moving. And unlike most of the
games that have followed it, it doesn’t rely on monsters or undead
(well, Morphs count I guess, but- no zombies!) which I appreciate.


A Rockstar Ate My Hamster

Thoroughly crass and puerile music management sim on the good ol’ Amiga
(and pretty much every other home computer at the time), this is a
childhood revisit. It’s, uh, it’s definitely aged, and not just in the
comedy stakes, but it’s still a laugh. Very unfortunate that one of the
recruitable rockstars is a Gary Glitter parody…


Total Annihilation

Preferred this to Age Of Empires 1 back in the day, but Age 2 introduced
a lot of QoL stuff that killed pretty much every RTS game that came
before it. Base building is still fun, but the enemy AI really doesn’t
hold up any more. The meekest of rush tactics is enough to completely
shut them down. Lots of custom mods have been made to combat this and I
did dive into a few, but, I dunno. Something’s missing now.


Touhou, all of em

6- aged badly. Still playable but yikes.
7- aged, but like a fine wine. 1cc’d Hard Mode for the first time ever this year!
8- kind of a weird game, did it invent achievements???
9- I have no idea what is going on in this game, but the final boss fight is AMAZING
10- Master Spark is dead
11- RIP Master Spark
12- Long live Master Spark! Still love this one, even though the UFO system is weird
12.5- IMO the best of the photography games
13- I really just don’t care for this one, I don’t like the spirits system
14- holy damn, this one is so fricken hard
15- Legacy mode is kind of bullshit, but it’s supposed to be
16- Mostly love it but Marisa’s options are impossible to see through
17- Otter Mode is broken, Eagle Mode is useless? Best Stage 4 in the series though

SMB3

The debate is always whether SMB3 or SMW is the better game. For my
money it’s World, but that race is a photo finish by anyone’s metric.
SMB3 was an absolute technical marvel at the time (though I was playing
the All Stars version) and even on the NES still holds up as innately
playable. It hasn’t aged a bit. Played through this on Switch to keep
the cat company! He didn’t appreciate it.


Sim City

It’s very simple by modern standards, but that’s actually what appeals
to me most about it. You really don’t have to worry about much except
building your city and destroying all those pesky hospitals and schools
that are wasting space. Streamed a megalopolis run just for the fun of
it.

SMB2

This was originally a game called Doki Doki Majo Shinpan.


SMB (All Stars)

A lot of people note that this version changes the physics slightly,
resulting in Mario continuing to move upwards after breaking a brick
block. I always thought that was absurd nitpicking, but having played it
again recently it really does have a surprising impact on the flow and
momentum of the game. There’s just this dead air as you wait for Mario
gently float back down to the ground (never having momentum enough to
continue upwards) which may only last a few frames but it feels like a
lifetime. I take it back, the complaints are legit. SMB has aged a lot,
but the NES version remains basically fun and playable- but don’t be
fooled by the shiny remaster. It’s not the way to go.


Arabian Nights

I played this game when my age was in single digits and I’ve had the
first stage theme stuck in my head ever since. It’s actually a pretty
rad game, too! Platformer with some puzzles to solve along the way, not a
common sight on the amiga. Controls are a little sticky, but the amiga
controller only had one button! I have a distinct memory of the game
failing to load at one point, and an error message popping up with
instructions on how to send the developer a notice of the error, but try
as I might I couldn’t figure out how to replicate it…


Carmageddon 64

The N64 version was infamous for being one of the worst games on the
console and, perhaps more dramatically, worst games ever made. I never
played it around release, but I had a chance to this year. Blimey, they
weren’t kidding. I’m not sure why it’s so much worse than the absolutely
OK PC version. I didn’t play far into it, I just wanted to see for
myself.


Pilotwings SNES

I wondered if it was possible to do well enough in the bonus levels in
each stage that you could complete the game without ever flying the
plane, so I put it to the test. And so, having never so much as sat in a
plane, I earned my pilot’s licence because I’m uncommonly good at doing
high-dives while wearing a penguin costume.


Frontier (Amiga)

Just picked it up for a brief stint after I stumbled across a save file
editor (which I couldn’t get to work). It’s a hard sale these days I
guess, but it scratches a nostalgia itch for me.


Hopeless Masquerade

Touhou fighting game! I’m all around terrible at fighting games and this
was no exception. I don’t know what I’m doing. But, playable Byakuren.


Pilotwings 64

Oh dear. Here’s one that should have been left in the nostalgia pile. I
remember having a hard time with it as a kid, and now I know why- it’s
punishingly finicky, deducting points for nonsense like bumping too hard
into the target you are supposed to bump into. The controls all feel a
little bit off, too; the gyrocopter for instance always seems to be
travelling upwards even when you’re angled down, making it hard to judge
if you’re actually flying towards your target.

Ronaldinho Soccer 64

Hahahahaha!!!
Sorry. Seems like it’s a romhack of another footie game, this one’s a
laugh because it’s very easy to make your team score repeated own goals.
The dismay on their faces every time!

F-Zero GX

Dolphins are pretty great, aren’t they? I wanted to see how great
Dolphins are, so I used this game to test it. Them. Test the dolphins.
With this gamecube game. Yeah.

Pikmin 3 Demo

Playing the demo was a MISTAKE, now I wanna buy the full game, but
spending $60 on a new game when I have so many to play already… I know
that’s a silly way of looking at it since I know I’ll get $60 of fun out
of it (and it’s buying cheap games just because they’re cheap that got
me in this mess in the first place!), but it’s a lot of spons to drop
all at once. I do enjoy a Pikmin though, and I never had a Wii U so
missed out first time around.

Fire Emblem Sacred Stones

After playing through the first (?) title, I wanted more, and this is
the closest match. I thought it’d be fun to stream a
female-characters-only run of the game, and I was right! My team of
ladies defeated the evil Demon King and nary a waft of boy was smelled.

One Way Heroics

A roguelike I actually enjoyed! But still only played through to
completion once. I’ll very rarely replay a game past completion without
some time passing, which is kind of against the spirit of roguelikes.



Death’s Gambit

I was very very uncertain about Finning this one, and after mashing
myself against it for a few hours more, I think I should have binned it.
It’s gorgeous but it hates me. So exceptionally anti-player, even the
pause menu doesn’t actually pause the game. That’s just rude!

Dishonoured

Without contest the best Thief-like I’ve ever played, thanks in no small
part to the endlessly fun flashstep mechanic and multiple possible
routes through each level that actually all make use of Garrett’s
abilities, both combat and movement. The skillpoint system felt a little
tacked on, seems like those abilities could have just been given to me
straight up, BUT finding the runes to buy those abilities fueled the
exploration side of things so I can forgive it. Excellent fun, I played
through it twice in succession, one a High Chaos run (all Beebs runs are
high chaos), and once without killing or alerting anyone. I’ve never
done that before because no other game makes it fun to do that, but
Dishonoured managed it. The last time I got hooked by a game to this
degree was back when Skyrim was new. The kitchen suffered dearly for
Dishonored’s sake.



Ocarina Of Time

It’s aged pretty significantly in a lot of ways, hasn’t it? I didn’t
play very far into it, only as far as the first Spiritual Stone. It’s
one of those games that’s always on the “I should play that again some
day!” list, which then gets passed over in favour of a backlog game. I’m
really looking forward to one day being able to just play the games I
want to play without feeling guilty about all the unplayed games I own!

Shatter

I really had a lot of fun with this one, which is an unexpected thing to
say about a breakout clone. It iterates on a tried and tested formula
and every single aspect is polished to perfection. Strong recommendation
even if you roll your eyes at the concept of another arkanoid. Killer OST.

TF2

Why can’t I quit you? Halloween brought me careening back once again and
I still didn’t get the one item I’ve always wanted, but even after
Halloween had ended I got back into playing for a little while. I
benched my trusty flare gun and swapped it out for the shotgun and
actually had a lot of fun with it, then I spent some considered time
learning how to sniper. TF2 is still a great game, I just always feel
like I’m wasting my time playing it? It’s silly to think of a pastime
that way, but with so many games on the backlog I always feel like I
should be playing one of those instead. Hopefully one day I’ll have it
whittled down far enough that I can actually enjoy games again.

Animal Crossing

Alright, I didn’t really play this one- midgi used my account to have a
second house (and second storage), but I still took the opportunity to
have some fun and cause a bit of havoc on the island of Serenity.

StarTropics

Speaking of causing havoc on the islands- the controls are very strange
but I saw it through to the end. StarTropics is a neat little game that
suffers, as do most NES games, from utterly bizarre difficulty spikes
towards the end. Still worth a run if you can stomach that or have
save-states.

Hate Plus

Wasn’t as taken with it as the first title in the series, but it focuses
more on *Mute (while Analogue mostly focused on *Hyun-ae) and it was
nice to get another side of the story. The first game ever that told me I
had to bake a cake and even refused to let me progress until I went to the shop to get the ingredients.

FF1 (FCC)

Same as the Four Job Fiesta, except in FF1 this time! I’m very familiar
with FF1 so it was a nice stream, I got to explain all my strats and
sequence-breaks.

Star Trek Starfleet Academy (SNES)

I’m not a Trekkie but this is a moderately-decent space-em-up on the
SNES, using the superFX for space travel. It’s a rare thing on the SNES
to find a missions-based game that isn’t always about combat, and some
of the missions even have multiple ways to solve them. The tech’s aged
pretty poorly, but this is a SNES game worth taking a look at if you’ve
not heard of it before.

Witches’ Tea Party

In the middle of this one as I write this, we’re playing through it
together so progress is slow. Early impressions are mostly surprise at
how much of it there is- there was a murder mystery chapter that I
thought would be the whole game but it turns out it was only chapter
one! They do some real neat stuff with RPG Maker. Good to see.

Kingdom Hearts (+2)

midgi’s playing through the series and she doesn’t like the Gummi Ship,
so I get to do those bits. It’s basically Starfox but you get to build
your own ship, it’s awesome.


Pokemon Fire Red

Randomiser Nuzlocke! This is still on-going as I write it. We just got
to Cerulean City and crossed Nugget Bridge. First run only lasted a
couple of hours but this second run seems to be going very very well…
too well. We shall see what awaits us!


Pokemon Shield

This winter, as the depression started to settle in, I picked Shield
back up to finally finish the story campaign and work on completing the
pokedex- a task which requires just enough brain power to keep me doing
something without actually feeling like work. Now I’m working on the
Living Pokedex in HOME, which leads to-


Pokemon GO

Really only playing this to catch the mons I can’t get in Shield. It’s
not like I’m actually going anywhere, you know? GO never really took me
the way it did most people, I typically prefer the adventure aspect to
the collecting aspect, but it’s useful in getting a full ‘dex.

Bins:

Dungeons 3
Tower Of Guns
Renegade Ops
Tiny Echo
Gemini Rue
Fotonica
140
Receiver
FTL
Etherborn
Jedi Knight
SpaceChem
Astebreed
Hyper Light Drifter

Alright, let’s see yours. And what’s your Game Of The Year?

 

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