Hey folks. I kind of did a similar thing last year where I listed out my top ten games of 2017 and also included my favorite things about those games. It's all a gimmick because I make the Best Of vidz for the site. Why not add another gimmick where I also talk about the "Best Feel" from those games. OK!
Onrush carries the “fucking rad” flag into the modern era of video games by building an entire game around traffic checking AI cars in order for you to gain the boost necessary to take down your opponents. They also introduce the extremely novel concept of “not all car games needs to be races” and build game modes similar Overwatch & Call of Duty. The soundtrack design also gives you nostalgic flashbacks to SSX Tricky with the radio DJ popping in every once in a while. Overall Onrush is a very rad game that you better download for free on PS+ this month or else I will be disappointed in you.
Every vehicle class in the game has unique abilities, and out of all of them the most satisfying is the airstrike from the Charger. If you hit a jump and you’re over your opponent, just hold the boost button and your car kinda magnetizes to your enemy and you ground pound them into the dirt. Extremely satisfying whenever you have a chance to pull it off.
As I said before, ever vehicle has their own set of abilities… but with RUSHing I just want to point out how fantastic the “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHH” sound effect is and really gets across you flipping the switch on your Overdrive ability. The sound byte comes from a song from The Death Set called Too Much Fun for Regrets, linked below. (video @0:40 if autoplay is broke)
9. MONSTER HUNTER: WORLD
Ever since the PSP, I’ve been standing on the sideline for all of the Monster Hunter games. “What’s going on over there” I’ve been saying to myself. “These guys look like they’re having a good time with this thing, but it just looks tedious as hell”. With the PS4 release of Monster Hunter, I finally got to dip my toes into the water and the developers did a great job of easing in new players and giving us the same joy that long time fans have had. It’s good mindless fun to just start up a mission with a group of strangers to take down these well designed monsters, and it kept me coming back throughout the year.
A lot of the combat in Monster Hunter feels incredibly satisfying and has a lot of impact when you hit your prey, but there’s nothing as satisfying as when you land on top of the Monster and hold on for dear life as you attack it while you’re on top. Whenever there’s a Monster next to a ledge, I usually feel the need to abandon attacking it and go over to the ledge and “Jump into the pool” trying to land a jump attack. Better yet, it’s great when you end a combo by launching yourself in the air hoping you land in the right hitbox to end by riding the Monster.
Look at this fucking weird thing. Most monster designs tend to resemble dinosaurs/lizards, and then every once in a while you'll stumble into really interesting weird nightmare creatures and Paolumu is my favorite one. It's a flying creature that knows how to defend itself and it's shifty so that makes it a bit more difficult for me to figure out how to attack consistently, but the main feature is that it puffs its neck into a balloon that hilariously gyrates and it uses it to blow some kind of wind attack that could fuck you up by pushing you off a cliff.
You can jump. You can dash. Go make a game.
Celeste does a fantastic job of continuing to introduce more and more surrounding gimmicks to interact with the core mechanics to make the gameplay more varied. And then at some point you realize just how many things you can do with just your jump button and dash button. The B-Side levels do a great job of showing you just how deep the game is after you think you’ve previously mastered the controls. And by the end of your experience with the game you actual feel like dabbling with speed runs because the game has taught you everything you need to know to conquer it and it’s just up to your execution. Also this game goes the extra mile of including a subtle story about mental health that’s told in a really effective way, which is a pleasant surprise and a huge accomplishment in a 2D platformer.
Not sure if I’m describing it the best way that I could, but when you’re grounded it’s just fun to jump by quickly rolling your thumb across the Dash into the Jump button to launch yourself forward a bit faster than a normal jump would. It proves very useful in the later windy levels and just felt satisfying to pull off.
Reflection is probably my favorite level in the game from a story perspective (it's when you kinda hit rock bottom) and from a gameplay perspective (it's where the game introduces the feather mechanic as well as those cool rock dudes). At the end you face the boss and it's just the perfect mix of platforming, dodging attacks, and music in the game. Also it does a clever little thing whether you notice it or not where your air-dodge naturally turns into an offensive attack. Every time you hit the boss the game launches you back a little bit and introduces some on-the-fly platforming that you have to worry about, and the further into the boss fight the more challenging the platforming gets. (video @37:50 if autoplay doesn't work)
7. MARVEL'S SPIDER-MAN
Swingin’ around feels real good. I think it says a lot that there is fast travel in the game, but I never once thought about using it other than the one time it forces you to because I’d rather take the five minutes to glide around New York City. Other than the swinging, the combat is a clone of the Arkham series which is fine to me since I don’t feel like it’s been overused yet. And kudos to all involved in actually having the guts to end this game the way that Insomniac & Co. did.
Swingin' around feels real good.
Wah Wah Wah. They got stealth sequences in my Spider-Man game. Wah Wah Wah.
The best level in Spider-Man is a stealth sequence where you're in control of Mary-Jane while she's being held hostage where a bomb is about to blow up Grand Central Terminal. This level combines all of the fun gadgets that you've used so far in the stealth sequences, as well as a fun button to command Spider-Man to take out all of the guards once you've got them by themselves. The animations are a lot of fun and it's just fun to finally be able to go on the offensive in a stealth section in the game. (video @9:20 if autoplay doesn't work)
6. RED DEAD REDEMPTION 2
Why am I chopping wood? Why do I brush my horse every time I come back to camp? WHY MUST I GREET EVERY SINGLE PERSON I WALK ACROSS IN TOWN?
Red Dead’s controls are often very criticized with being sluggish, but to me they are extremely grounded and forces me to not just constantly run around a bunch of set dressing that is an environment in a video game and I genuinely feel like I am playing this character in an old school western. And the story is genuinely fantastic. Characters throughout your camp are really fleshed out and create for a really dynamic group of personalities that you care for (or hate).
The real great stuff in this game is the smaller narratives that unfold in front of you through the side missions or the random encounters you have throughout your travels. They range from the classic rockstar goofiness of gathering up escaped “zoo” animals to telling really sad stories well that flesh out the main character to be a good person that you want to get behind (thinking specifically of the woman in the north east corner of the map who’s husband died when they tried to live out in the country and Arthur teachers her how to hunt/survive).
It’s a huge huge game that has many different faults to it, but the sum of its parts make for another incredible entry into the catalogue of Rockstar games.
The opening door animations in the game are very magnetic all round, but the animation on it is realistic and feels good. But every time you run through the door you shoulder plow through it and what really puts it over the top is everyone in the building will react to you and call you out on coming through the door like a damn crazy person. It's hilarious every time and it's always the first thing I show off in the game when playing it around others.
Most people point to the Lenny mission as the biggest standout mission of the game, and they might be right… but it didn’t quite make me smile ear to ear like the house building montage did. I love that Rockstar built up this dumb montage by including MULTIPLE missions that taught you the mechanics of basic labor just to pay it off with this mission backed by THE GREATEST SONG OF 2018. It’s fantastic.
5. DEAD CELLS
I like fun video games, and Dead Cells is a FUN VIDEO GAME. Everything about the experience of playing it feels so incredibly polished. The combat is so incredibly satisfying no matter what combination of weapons I start off with (ok maybe some weapons are duds but it’s always fun to challenge yourself with non-ideal combinations to see if you can survive until you can find something more suitable). The developers are also able to squeeze a ton of personality out of the game with the silly emote animations of the main character to the plot around him, as well as the low-key best new character of 2018 being the cursed crates. Absolutely one of the best games of 2018 and has now become the go-to game for my Nintendo Switch in the same way that Spelunky was my go-to game for the PSVita.
I know it's starting to sound like I have some kind of fascination with doors this years, but there’s just something incredibly satisfying visually with breaking a god damn door down so hard that a ton of little pieces explode into the next room. Also they made it a useful gameplay mechanic to do this over just opening the door by stunning any and all enemies that happen to be on the other side of the fatal door. There are also hidden perks with rolling through any and all doors that you see by bypassing you having to spend your souls in between levels by just rolling through the locked door.
4. INTO THE BREACH
Every time the winter olympics come around, I get to witness my favorite weirdo sport: Curling. There’s just something so oddly captivating with fucking over your enemies by moving their shit around in a way that they didn’t attend it to be. The people that made FTL (which is a game that had amazing music, nice sprites, and a really fun gameplay loop) made a Turn-Based Mech Combat Curling game. I am in heaven. I had to hold out from original release until a Switch version was available because I knew that this would be the perfect Switch game and turns out I was right! I have probably played this game the most this year based off of just me having to play something while GB Videos/Sports/TV is going on in the background. The AI is outstanding in this game and every move has a chess-like counter move that the game expects you to perform after every turn.
Of course there’s many different ways in which you can out maneuver your enemies and make you feel like the smartest person in the world, but sometimes the simplest way to kill your foe (pushing them into a water tile) is the most satisfying.
Ok, the word "Favorite" might be a weird way to put it... how about "The Most Effective"? The Game Over screen does an amazing job of making you feel so defeated. YOU LET DOWN EVERYONE WHO LIVES IN THIS TIMELINE! And then Space Bugs start spawning on every tile of the play field... it really makes you feel like you fucked up in a way that I super appreciate.
3. GOD OF WAR
God of War was a series that got stale by the end of the second game and desperately needed a breath of fresh air. God of War 2018 takes inspiration from a bunch of different places (I’m thinking Skyrim, Dark Souls, and even a bit of Tekken in the combat system) and still is able to bring it all together in a package that feels like it belongs in the God of War franchise. The story goes off into very interesting and exciting places that surprises you throughout, and the game does a masterful job of transitioning from slow-paced grounded exploration into bombastic set pieces that God of War is known for (the key example here being the first meeting between Kratos and Baldur). The game also smartly integrated things I loved about previous God of Wars into this one, including a world that is basically arena mode from the older GoW games is a really cool addition and the rogue-like mini game was surprisingly very addicting and was a good distraction from the main storyline.
Sure the gameplay is spectacular and I can go on and on about how I felt executing long strings of juggle combos mixed in with the bow to extend the combos felt amazing, but really the most weirdly satisfying part of God of War was recalling the axe. It’s so goofy, but it really makes you feel like some Jedi Knight every single time you do it, and the audio and visuals go a long way into making you feel like the axe is coming back from a long distance away as it clangs throughout the entire level from wherever you left it. They also go the extra mile in building many puzzles around throwing the axe in a specific place and you walk into another area and recall the axe in such a way that to cuts through a puzzle piece.
There are many moments throughout God of War that are amazing, but nothing quite floored me like any and every interaction with the World Serpent. The size of many characters in the God of War franchise have been quite large, so not exactly breaking new ground there, but the sound design of the World Serpent is out of this world great. Every time you talk to the thing, more of the world also opens up so there's a little bonus for you right there. Get yourself a pair of nice headphones and buckle in!
2. TETRIS EFFECT
The world needed Tetris Effect in 2018. Lumines is one of those games that I always look back on incredibly fondly. But when revisiting Lumines Remastered I realized that the gameplay in Lumines is interesting but incredibly basic. When you figure out the certain number of combinations to form, you can get out of a jam fairly easily and manage to always be in control. The presentation around Lumines from music to Styyyle is what really puts it over the edge. So why not take the timeless gameplay of Tetris and mix it with the Styyyle from Lumines?
Well… that’s what Tetris Effect is, and it’s exactly what you expect it to be. Tetsuya Mizuguchi has been making these types of games for his entire career now and it shows (this game exudes confidence in what it’s doing). Tetris Effect features music in many different genres, most of which is stuff that nobody is going out of their way to listen to, but it’s incredibly worthwhile to experience with or without the VR headset due to the stages that are built around the music. And unfortunately there’s no multiplayer, but the game goes way beyond what I would’ve expected them to in additional features. Now join me in crossing your fingers and hoping they put some Lumines bangers in this game as DLC.
Just kidding… but just wanted an excuse to post the Master Mode song in this post because it’s one of the better songs in the game and I never get to hear it because holy fuck how in the fuck do you even survive for over a minute in that mode?
Tetris Effect really opens with the show-stopper. Just an absolutely beautiful pop song that always tends to make me weirdly emotional playing it, plus we’ve got the signature Mizuguchi space whale swimming around in the background.
1. ASTRO BOT: ROBOT RESCUE
When the PSVR was first released, there was a free set of mini games released alongside with it called Playroom VR. A lot of the minigames were novel party games and were designed around having different screens between the person wearing the headset and the other players watching the screen, but there was one demo named Robots Rescue that stood out as a proof of concept for a single player platformer. It was only a single level, but it looked stunning in VR and there was a few gameplay mechanics in it that was really neat and left me wanting to see what a full game would look like.
Astro Bot is that game, and it’s something that is a must own if you are in possession of a PSVR Headset. This game really nails the classic PS1 vibes that Knack tried to pull off years ago, and is very comparable to a modern day Crash Bandicoot game that’s done right (all the way down to the dancing at the end of every level… just imagine that Crash replaced the crotch chops with flossing). Each level often features something new and keeps the game fresh throughout the five worlds, and the level design itself improves level-by-level. Looking out for hidden lizards and robot buddies throughout all of the levels smartly adds an extra bit of exploration throughout a linear game. The 26 different mini games are fun distractions from the main levels if you get burned out on those while going through them, and are surprisingly really varied given the limitations of being a platformer. The boss fights are all simple but visually incredible, with the final two fights as the biggest standouts in the game. All of this is anchored by stunning visuals in VR and a steller soundtrack that is almost Splatoon-like.
Also, the game made me weirdly emotionally attached to this weird little protagonist. Everytime you look at him in the game and he’s facing you he waves at you. Everytime you’re in the main menus he’s right next to you and I couldn’t help fist bumping the little guy with my controller whenever we pulled off some cool shit. This game does a lot that just generally made me a happier person than I was before I started play sessions with it. It’s a landmark game for VR and it’s personally my favorite game of 2018.
Usually in 3D platformers you want some sort of visual representation of where you want to land when jump from platform to platform. Most of the time a shadow underneath a character achieves this. It’s a little bit trickier in VR since sometimes the developers want to include platforms that you are looking up at, so their solution in Astro Bot was to make the hover jump shoot out lasers from his feet so you know when he’s safely over the platform. This is extremely useful in telling where he’s at when he’s airborne, also it’s used as an attack on enemies. Smart!
Astro Bot to me was a game that continually gets better and better the further you go in it, and they absolutely stick the landing with the last boss of the game. Going up against a giant alien dude who’s using a stolen PSVR headset and giant Dualshock 4 controller had me grinnin’ from ear to ear throughout the fight, and being able to stick my Dualshock into a bigger Dualshock almost made me lose my shit the first time I realized that was about to happen. From there more gimmicks are introduced including a pseudo-Punch Out! section. (video @16:00 if autoplay doesn't work)
Once again, thank you to the people who support me and this website! You guys continue to have an opportunity to completely reject me yet you still somehow decide to put up with me and for that I'm thankful. Hopefully your 2018 was as good as it could be, and if it wasn't then I'm sure 2019 will be better!
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