Jack Gallagher is currently employed by WWE, a member of the Cruiserweight Division, and a star of the weekly show 205Live. He spends most of his time wearing suits, waxing his moustache, and may or may not be a fictional character. He can be found on both Twitter (@GentlemanJackG) and Instagram (@MrGentlemanJack) shamelessly self-promoting and nattering on.
Hello! Lovely to be here. 2017 was a year, wasn’t it? Well, most years are but I assume you understand me beyond the superficial. My year in video games included buying a VR headset, the novelty of which has yet to wear off, and traveling with a console for the first time in my life. Although after a few goes through airport security I can tell you the novelty of carrying PS4 everywhere quickly disappears.
Quickly, before I get to the top ten, I have to declare that as I am a character in WWE 2K18 it would not be right to include it in the list, as I’d obviously be biased in favour of the pixels of my pale mug. So, for this reason and this reason alone, it will not be included … onwards!
10. Black the Fall
Is there agreed upon name for this genre? 2.5D platformer? Limbo-like? Whatever it is, Black the Fall is another one of those. It stands out in my memory with its political symbolism and robot helper dog. In that final or so hour of gameplay I was close to a panic attack at the thought that they’d kill my robo-pup.
Until this year, I’ve never really been one for online gaming. Video games were always a solitary pursuit, and all the stories I’ve heard regarding multiplayer focused games involved racist children screaming down a microphone whilst being significantly better than you at the game, therefore making it three times as frustrating. Happily, that wasn’t my experience playing Friday the 13th. This became myself and the wife’s date night game for some time, where we’d turn off all the lights, get some popcorn, and take turns at doing our best to outrun whatever incarnation of Jason was chasing us down that week. When the inevitable happened, and we were caught and brutally murdered, we happily spectated the remaining players as though it were an old fashion slasher film playing out before us.
What a lovely game. Put some headphones on, or at the very least turn the sound up all the way up on your device, and get a little lost in the tiny world on your screen. This game became my morning crossword for about a week: that thing I used to get the gears moving. It’s challenging, but never frustrating, and always wonderful to look at in motion.
7. Sonic Mania
As someone whose first console was the Sega Master System, I’m happy to report that they have indeed made another good Sonic the Hedgehog game. I don’t know how they did it and I’m not going to question it.
Could they have replaced the Lord of the Rings setting with Dungeons and Dragons or Warcraft and have retained the majority of the systems at play in this game? Yes. Would I have been as likely to play it? No. The world of Middle-earth sold me on Shadow of Mordor and it sold me on Shadow of War.
I know of Eru Ilúvatar, the Ainur, the Valar, the Maiar, the Istari, the Great Song, Melkor, Tom Bombadil, how Tolkien never really explained where Hobbits came from, and the importance of always having rope on you. I’m well aware that the power fantasy that is Shadow of War is at odds with the themes of good old J.R.R.--but I get to fight a Balrog in this one!
Change the difficulty level to Nemesis and the encounters you have with each captain become a tense affair again. Two enemy captains became a significant threat, three meaning you’re potentially royally buggered. It’s a far cry from dropping into any Orc stronghold and rolling over people’s backs until you’d mercilessly butchered everyone in sight, without a scratch to show for it.
I really wanted more Shadow of Mordor and I ultimately got that--and a Balrog.
It’s a game about existential animals who never question why there’s normal animals, like squirrels, running around doing normal animal things, though the existentialism is a little bit of a stronger theme. It’s a quiet, personal game that balances it out with spoons full of silliness. The cartoonish characters and their antics mean that the themes of loss, depression, and anxiety never weigh too heavily on you as you progress. Though the characterisation of them is still strong enough to make everything feel genuine. I think it may be a game where you either immediately associate with one or two characters very strongly, or none of them at all. For me it was Bea.
This is what you’d get if you took equal part Hayao Miyazaki and Texas Chainsaw Massacre. This is a creepy game. It never ventures into being actually scary, but the implied grizzly fate that awaits your unnamed, raincoat wearing protagonist is omnipresent throughout. It always seems to have that perfect measure of when you do everything correctly you only just get away from the monsters. Of course, your character is no less creepy in her own way, but she’s at least a monster you can root for.
3. Superhot VR + Superhot
Superhot is a fantastic game. It was very well established last year (shush) how good a game this is. However, I don’t know if any action game has ever made me feel as cool as when I was duel wielding handguns, simultaneously knocking bullets out of the air and returning fire, and being in the VR headset only furthered the feeling that I was operating in the Matrix the entire time.
Superhot is smart, innovative, and all those other words people have already used to describe it. Superhot VR is fun.
The key to a good murder mystery is charm. Even though this is more of a How-Did-They-Do-It? than a Whodunit?, it is laced with it. I loved the charming little clockwork mansion that the developers had constructed. I prodded and poked at every nook and cranny of the Sexy Brutale until I’d discovered that I’d found … well, everything: I’d read every bit of text, found every room, every hidden item, every ending. It was a game I wished that I could immediately forget, rewind the clock, and start all over again rediscovering its secrets.
1. Persona 5
Okay. This isn’t Persona 4. Once I got over that fact I really started to enjoy Persona 5. I still find the series staple of scheduling my week, my social life and my studies, oddly satisfying. There may be a way to play “perfectly” on a single play-through, but that doesn’t interest me. There’s weight to deciding who you are or aren’t going to spend time with if you’ve accepted that not everyone is going to be your bestest of best friend at the finale. Not only that, but I think the battle system is perhaps my favourite in any JRPG that I’ve played. By the end I had so many options when approaching a battle that I didn’t feel that same last dungeon drag that tends to happen in games such as this.
I definitely didn’t feel as attached to the supporting cast of characters this time around as I did the Investigation Team™, but found myself caring a lot more about the non-party members you befriend out in the world. Working with a previously disgraced politician, or a punk rock doctor with clinical trials, or your teacher with … things … and stuff … important stuff, they all reflected the games intent of speaking more to society than simply high school. It’s not Charlie Tunoku and Chie again, but I still spent 90+ hours with it and probably will again.