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Rebekah and Adam Saltsman's Top Games of 2019

The co-founders of Finji had a busy year finishing up Overland, but they still found a few games to dump an ungodly number of hours into in 2019.

Rebekah and Adam Saltsman are the co-founders of Finji, developers of 2019's Overland, and publisher of games like Night in the Woods, Wilmot's Warehouse, and the forthcoming TUNIC.

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Rebekah

I was once asked on the red carpet of The Game Awards, in the only year I’ve ever attended The Game Awards, what was my favorite for Game of the Year. Anyone who knows me would cackle with glee at someone asking me, of all people who work in games, this particular question. Better questions would be any of the following:

  1. Did you play a game that isn’t your own show demo at the latest PAX you attended? (If yes, move onto #2)

  2. Was that game Threes? (If no, move onto question #3)

  3. Really?!?! Is this a joke? What game did you play?

I don’t get to play a lot of games. Unless you want me to tell you all about the perfect mobile game Threes, or what it is like to have a trash-talking 3rd grader playing with all of the Mario Kart handicaps activated, my game playing time has been pretty slim. So, go away. I’ve got a lot of stuff on my plate.

BUT this is the year, my friends, I PLAYED SOMETHING. And it wasn’t just the demo for Overland eight billion times leading up to launch--although, to be fair, I had to do that too. I am damn good at the East Coast, thank you very much.

I almost feel weird about telling you about this game but I don’t care; I love this game and you should too. Wilmot’s Warehouse is a perfect game and I still think about it everyday. Normally, when my studio, Finji, publishes a game, I have to be very involved with playing development builds or working through testing for consoles before launch. But I avoided this with Wilmot’s because I needed to play this by myself on my own device.

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Which brings me to my second “game of 2019,” and that is my beautiful and perfect turquoise Switch Lite. I know it isn’t a game, but you don’t even know what it is like for me to have my own console again. I haven’t had one that belonged to just me since my pink DS Lite in like 2005. JFC, were half of y’all even teens in 2005? I was 24. Anyways. I live in a house with a game developer, a 3rd grader and a 1st grader. There is no reality where I get to take over the house Switch. I sometimes travel up to 90 days throughout a year, and there is no version of reality where I can abscond with the household Switch. But that Switch Lite? It is mine. And the first game I put on it was Wilmot’s Warehouse.

Wilmot’s Warehouse allows me to be everything I am completely terrible at IRL. I regularly feel bad for my husband and partner, Adam Saltsman. “Adam! Can you call my phone, I’ve lost it again!” “Adam, do you know where I left my car keys?” “Adam, I seriously cannot find my wallet? I swear I had it in this pocket that zipped up!” “Adam, I know we are supposed to eat at the dinner table, but I am [still] organizing those papers [for 4 weeks].” “Adam, have you seen my computer? My kindle? My gloves? My left shoe?” I am very bad at putting things away. I am very good at pile life.

But in Wilmot’s, I can organize my warehouse in whatever way I want. Where do you put the lipstick, the monster eyeball, the toilet paper, the lotion bottle and the pants? You put them in the section called “Things women need in a bar bathroom.” OBVIOUSLY. What is all that red, white and blue junk in the bottom left corner, AKA the basement? You know that is the warehouse basement right? (that is so not canon) That’s all of the annoying paperwork and I hate it all--SO ROT IN THAT CORNER, 15 versions of geometric shaped tiles! I spent So. Many. Hours. reorganizing that warehouse. I sold pets, food, aquatic items (including beaches!), trees, construction pipes, five different flowers… And, even though I haven’t been inside my warehouse in over 7 weeks, I can still tell you where everything is stored. So if you want that microscope in “Stuff to look at little things with,” which is stored next to all the items listed in “Things that will kill you,” which overlaps “IDK Probably Vampires,” you let me know. I got you covered.

In my house, where I run Finji with Adam and we raise 2 dogs and 2 kiddos, I cannot tell you where I put the nice scissors and yes, I realize the tortilla chips don’t go in the fridge. Deal with it.

I’ll promise I will play more games in 2020. Assuming, that is, that I can play them on my Switch.

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Adam

I didn’t play a lot of new releases this year. I’m not sure that is any different than any recent previous year, but it’s a fact. I mean, you don’t have any way to see evidence of that. So I guess I’m not sure if it’s a fact, technically, but... listen I just didn’t play a lot of stuff, OK? I was busy. It was a busy year and I am happy it is ending. Eat it, 2019.

I did get to spend some time with Astral Chain, Card of Darkness, Mini Motorways, Untitled Goose Game, Assemble With Care, and they were all fuckin' dope. But I didn’t get to play them enough to feel like I Could Talk About Them. There were only two games that I played enough to feel comfortable really talking about.

What the Golf? reminded me how often I assume, when I see a good trailer for a funny game, that the game is going to be very short, or else very inconsistent. Which, I think, is a fair and defensible stance. Making a truly funny game is very hard to do and as a direct consequence is a truly rare accomplishment. But What the Golf? is very funny, and is not very short, and it is very, very consistent. One perfect little joke (OK, occasionally dad-joke) after another, over and over and over, and each time you bump into something that you think is a limitation or a drawback, realizing that actually it’s just nudging you toward even more good jokes. Even the parts of games that are bad are good, if they’re in this game. It might be a perfect game. And that is a wild sentence to type in the year 2019.

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So I played What the Golf? for at least four hours, which is a long time for me. But, according to my Switch user profile, I have played roughly 115 hours of Tetris 99. I have only just discovered this statistic, like literally right now, and am mortified. Here are some things that the internet assures me I could have done in 115 hours:

  • Learned the basics of speaking and writing Japanese

  • Become a more proficient baker

  • Become a novice piano player

  • Made 63 individual and unrelated Bitsy games

  • Finally installed those reading lights over the sectional

  • Got some six-pack abs ? Actually, not sure about this. How long does abs take?

  • Become a practiced calligrapher

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Tetris 99 might be a remarkable game--sure, it’s a funny bit of slightly subversive commentary on the Battle Royale format, sure it’s just a kind of weird playable ad for other Nintendo IP, sure it’s a profoundly compelling remix of the perfect game, sure it’s weird bait for Nintendo’s file backup subscription service--but is it worth 115 hours of my life??

On the other hand, 115 hours is basically just how many poops I’ve had to do since Tetris 99 came out. And I dare you to try to find a better way to spend a poop than T-Spinning somebody’s grandma into the fucking sea.