Ian Dallas is the creative director at Giant Sparrow, creators of What Remains of Edith Finch (2017) and The Unfinished Swan (2012). He's interested in creating experiences that help people see the world in new ways and in making the world a stranger place.
I was so busy finishing our own game this year that I got behind on playing new games, but here's five from this year that stood out for me.
One of the few games where I feel like I learned things about myself by playing it. It’s a free browser-based game and the less you know about it beforehand the better, but I do want to warn you not to give up. Initially it looks basic and stupid but if you stick with it for a few minutes it evolves (and keeps evolving) in ways that will surprise you.
I wish there were a hundred games each year that didn’t fit into any existing genre because their emotional goals were so bizarre and questionable and noble but this year I know of only one: Everything. The premise that you can become anything you see--zebra, fern, galaxy, etc--is a lovely start, but the inclusion of thoughtful audio clips from philosopher Alan Watts, and the gentle progression tied to discovery, help to round out the experience into something worth sinking into.
Does a 3-on-3 game of mystical football need a good story? Probably not. Does it need one of the most imaginative and charming worlds I found this year in games? Definitely not. I don’t know if the game’s writer, Greg Kasavin, is too good at his job or he just didn’t know how little he could have gotten away with. Whatever the reason, I’m glad this game exists.
There is too much in this game that is new and weird and fun and breathtaking for me to remember all of it after I finished, but the parts I do remember were wonderful, like: becoming a stretchy millipede, or a creature with expanded stilts for legs, or the delightful 2D bits.
The positive glow around the new Zelda is so intense that I feel comfortable recommending it even though I haven’t played it yet (I will, I will). This is a game we should both be playing if we haven’t already.