Its month #2 of me cataloging all the games I played this year. I managed to play 11 games in January due to the large amount of free time I had at the beginning of the year. This month was a little lighter, due the fact I was busier and there were just less games I wanted to play. In February, I beat 3 games, finished Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam from last month, got part way through two others and played 12 hours of Devil Daggers, which I guess you may or may not really count as 'finished'. Here's my thoughts on all of those games.
Xcom 2 (2016)
The game I definitely spent the most time with in February, Xcom 2 is a game that I'm kind of struggling with how I feel about it. On the one hand, its very similar to Enemy unknown and hits similar highs that the previous game did. It definitely feels like Xcom, with all the thrilling missions, narrow escapes and frustrating shot misses that come along with it. Every time you see a new enemy its incredibly terrifying, and they always have some ridiculous power that manages to annihilate at least one person on your team(until you save scum, that is). The new geoscape is littered with things for you to do, but you have to manage your time carefully because its impossible to get to all the things on the map. Seeing your squadmates level up and giving them powerful new abilities is satisfying and once again, the ability tradeoffs they give you are often pretty tough to decide which way you want to spec out your squad. Time and resource management is just as fulfilling as it was in the last game, and the feeling of getting more powerful only to have some new ridiculous thing come along to crush your spirits is disheartening, but in a way that's kind of cool.
Xcom 2 is fun and all, but its the bad things about it that really put a damper on my feelings toward it. Even though it kept its great turned-based gameplay intact, it just felt like there was a little something missing. First of all, the game was still a technical mess. They did fix a lot of the absolutely game-breaking bugs that Enemy Unknown had, but it still has numerous issues, ranging from minor inconveniences to just standing there having the game not respond to crashes. The times where you're just sitting around waiting for the game to give you control again are way too frequent, and you just never know when the game is just going to fall apart or break in a way that screws you over. But still through all of that, I managed to beat the game twice, once on normal and once on commander/ironman, which was pretty exciting. Overall, Xcom 2 is similar to Xcom: Enemy Unknown in a lot of ways, not all of them good. I would've liked to see a sequel that was a little more ambitious than this game is, but I'm moderately happy with how this game turned out in the end.
Hand of Fate (2015)
Hand of fate was free on the Xbox One for February and seeing as I was already interested in it I picked it up and immediately started enjoying it. The game is structured as a card game mixed with something like FTL, where you're moving along a branching path, having some sort of encounter at every node. The encounters that you have are based on the cards in your deck and as you progress through the game, you're unlocking new cards to play with. Your three main resources you have to deal with are health, food and gold. Health and gold are pretty self-explanatory but you spend one food for every space you move, which makes you gain health. If you are out of food, however, you lose health with every move you make. Balancing all three of your resources and using them at the right time is crucial, even if luck isn't always on your side. The gameplay that can happen in each encounter varies from a card-shuffling minigame to mediocre batman-style combat. I definitely felt like I had to slog through the combat to get to the very well-done flavour dialogue that the dealer says during each encounter but overall it was a game that I really enjoyed playing because it takes multiple disparate genres and mashes them together in a unique and interesting way.
Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc (2013, Just came out on PC)
I don't like Anime.
I figure I'd lay that out plain and simple before I begin to tell you how I managed to really enjoy my time with Danganronpa, despite all the anime trappings that the game falls into. I managed to beat the game over the course of just 4 days and really felt a strong compulsion to beat the game and see the story through the end. If you haven't played the game its a visual novel-style game in the vein of something like 999 or Virtue's Last Reward. The brief rundown of the story is that you're an average high school student who through sheer luck, is invited to attend Hope's Peak Academy, a school for "Ultimate students". Things immediately go wrong and "Monokuma", an evil talking bear locks you in the school and tells you the only way to get out is to kill one the other 14 students who are also trapped there while also getting away with it. Once a murder occurs, its up to you to investigate the murder scene, pick up clues and convince the other students who did it and why. As more and more people are murdered, additional questions about the nature of the school, Monokuma and the students within are brought up which deepens the mystery that you'll only get answers to at the very end.
The investigation sections of Danganronpa aren't particularly intense, there definitely is no way that you're going to mistake this game for something like LA Noire. They actually don't let you miss any clues, its just a matter of going to the right areas and investigating everything in there. Its a recurring theme that the actual gameplay parts aren't the most engaging but the actual murders themselves are complex enough that there's enough intrigue to have you wondering what really happened, which leads me to one of the main parts of the game: The class trial.
At the end of each chapter you have a trial to try and figure out who the killer is. Over the course of your discussion, there are various minigames for you to play that help you solve the crime. The main one you'll be doing in the "nonstop debate", where the other characters have a conversation and you have to figure out who is lying or missing information. You do this by shooting your "truth bullets" (the evidence you collected) into their statement. Its a super interesting way to handle the trial but often times it can be a little clunky: The interface is gives you isn't great, and they are constantly adding new mechanics for you to keep track of (some of which are implemented too well). The Hangman's Gambit and Rhythm game style minigames are both short and uninteresting, but are so fleeting that they don't have enough to bore you before they're over. Lastly as the trial is coming to a close, you'll recreate the what happened over the course of the murder by putting together a comic of what happened, placing certain pictures into their correct location in the comic. Its pretty good, even though sometimes it can be a little difficult to distinguish between two similar images that you have to choose from. Overall the class trials were absolutely my favourite part even if the parts where you're actually playing are kind of mundane and they can last for a surprisingly long time. The class trials are stylized in an interesting way and they always manage to give you new shocking information at each trial. With the exception of chapter 1, you never really know the full story of what happened until the trial is complete and that's what made me super eager to continue playing to see who will be murdered, who was the killer and why did they do it.
Theres one last thing to talk about with Danganronpa, and thats the ending of the game. I'll tag the spoilers but before that I'll say that I really enjoyed it. The reveal of the fact that some kind of apolcalypse has happened and there's basically no reason you would ever want to leave the school is incredible. In a way it reminds me of the ending to Spec Ops: The line in the sense that everything you've done up until this point has basically been for nothing. Its a really ambitious ending that I think pays off pretty well. The game does a good job of tying up loose ends and not leaving any questions unanswered. It also uses an inception-style ending which I also thought worked well. Overall, Danganronpa has a bunch of problems, but I didn't really care too much about that stuff because I just couldn't put it down. I was totally able to look past its shortcomings in order to see what happened next. So if you're able to look past mediocre gameplay, a fair amount of anime BS, middling visuals and a LOT of text, you might end up enjoying Danganronpa... I know I did.
Devil daggers (2016)
Whenever you have a game that garners comparisons to Super Hexagon and Super Meat Boy, you can immediately count me in. Devil Daggers is one of those games that fall into that "Just one more run" category, with great gameplay to back it up. Its a simple premise: A first person shooter, you're in an arena and you have to shoot emitters and the skulls that spawn out of them and stay alive as long as possible. As you survive, you face more enemies as well as bigger, tougher to kill enemies. The bigger enemies, as well as the emitters drop gems that upgrade your weapon when you collect enough them. So is this game fun? You bet it is! Sure, playing this game for 10 minutes or so while I have nothing to do is fun. But I've also had much longer sessions mostly spent trying to figure out the enemy patterns and what strategies work best to stay alive. Its seriously addicting and definitely worth 5 bucks. I'm still not happy with my high score though, and this seems like a game I can and will come back to throughout the year and not miss a beat.
My personal record is 249.1665 - Not too shabby.
Need for Speed: Most Wanted (2012)
I'm a newcomer to Criterion's driving games, having just started playing them two years ago. Playing Hot Pursuit (the 2010 one) and Burnout 3 and immediately falling in love with them, I was delighted to hear that Need for Speed: Most Wanted was free on Origin. Unlike Hot Pursuit, you never play as a cop, only a racer. You wont be busting any racers. Instead, there are loads of races spread across the county. The game handles just as you would expect it to, in the sense that its a very arcade-y racing game and as you unlock new cars, the sense of speed increases to near ridiculous levels and its totally awesome. In addition, each of the cars in the game has its own set of races. This adds an incredible amount of length to the game, making it so that you'd be hard pressed to run out of things to do. You unlock cars by finding them hidden across the city. Once you locate these "Jackspots"(great name), you can hit the Y button and immediately be driving it. However, once you find a new car, it wont have any upgrades equipped and you have to win races in order to unlock better tires, bodies and even nitrous. Starting from square one with each new car is kind of a bummer though, which makes me not want to go and unlock everything with each car, which is a shame. Thankfully, the driving is good enough to make me want to keep going, but with other games coming out, I'm not sure just how much more time I'm going to put into this game.
Binary Domain (2012)
Binary Domain is one of those 'cult favourite' games where you know the action isn't at the top of its class, but has just enough charm to keep you playing it. That being said, I'm still only 3 hours in and haven't really played it in a week or so. Its probably worth seeing to the end and the shooting is fine so I see no reason not to pick this back up when I have the time. I'll finish it eventually but there's only one thing I want to say when i do... "THAT WAS SWEEEEET!"