asylumrunner

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Games Completed in 2020

Like last year, I'm giving myself a goal to clear out a certain amount of my backlog this year. Despite actually missing my target last year, I'm going to increase the target this year to 30 games. The reason is that I want to encourage myself to play more of the smaller (<5 hour) games in my library, and forcing myself to in order to reach a quota makes sense.

Same loose set of rules apply as last year: any platform counts, replays count as long as it's the first time I played it this year, and a game is "completed" when credits roll (er, at least, the final credits, if a game is gonna pull some Okami or NieR: Automata credit shenanigans).

List items

  • A charming little Metroidvania, although it never quite gets much of an identity of its own. Has some challenges that rely more on execution than clever thinking, which are frustrating because the controls are just a smidge too slippery for that sort of gameplay.

    A lot of my memories with this game are frustrated, partially because I accidentally did something of a sequence break in which I did an entire fourth of the game without a critical movement upgrade (did snag an achievement, though).

    I wonder how well this game will stay in my memory with so much competition in the Metroidvania space.

  • I dunno, I think a lot of my opinion of this game is ballooned by my wanting to like it more than my actually liking it. The art style is really charming, and the dialogue is too, but, I dunno, it maybe was just a bit too aimless for me.

    Really, my big issues with the game were a combined lack of navigability to the map and a lack of any sort of log or quest list. I get that this isn't a game for 100% Tryhard Doin' Stuff Hardcore, but when I find an object, and I don't remember who wants it, or where they are, it's not relaxing, it's annoying.

    I think I just don't dig these sorts of feel good, chill out games.

  • Genuinely a masterpiece in my opinion, and one of my favorite games of all time.

    I'll concede that this game has some low points. The dialogue can be especially on-the-nose, sometimes Sam gets a bad case of "can't keep balance for shit-itis", and the combat starts to feel a bit tiresome by the end.

    But goddamn if this game isn't like anything else ever made. This game's themes and ideas are so fantastically interesting and moving and incredible to witness. The world is absolutely gorgeous. Obviously the soundtrack, and the game's careful deployment of it, is phenomenal. I can genuinely say that no game has moved me like Death Stranding in a long, long time.

  • I really enjoyed this! The writing is great, even if the larger plot beats are moderately predictable. The Picrossin' here is good, even if I find myself wishing for a few convenience features like a chat log or a "reset puzzle" option. Also, the intro cinematic is *perfect*.

    I would love for this to turn into a whole series, maybe even with some more in-depth interrogation mechanics.

    My one big complaint is that there are some tonal inconsistencies, where a few characters just really stick out as real sacks of garbage in an otherwise fairly lighthearted game, and not even sacks of garbage in a fun, bad-guy-in-a-comedy sort of way, but genuinely unlikeable, and it rubs me the wrong way.

  • Astonishingly good, no-frills puzzle game. Does a lot with an extremely limited pool of mechanics, with no chaff, easy resets, fair hints, and enjoyable bonuses to collect in the form of the game's crowns and cosmetic unlockables. I made a ritual of clearing a world before bed, and it was a delightful little brain teaser. Like the best puzzle games, any time I was stuck, I was able to just put it down, leave for a few minutes to do something else, come back, and immediately see an answer.

  • I really, really, really like DUSK. The shooting and movement both feel top notch, which is, like, 100% of this subgenre of old-school shooter. The level designs feel inventive and extremely interesting, and there are a lot of fun enemy types that behave differently, that the game does a great job of mixing and matching to create new, interesting combat encounters. Really just sublime in every regard, I don't have much of a complaint in any regard. A worthy successor to Doom and Heretic

  • The best racing game ever made, bar none.

    Lacking a traditional "story", I'm invoking the credits roll here as a signifier of a game being "done", I got the Burnout License, and to get anything higher requires beating every event in the game, which, fuck that.

    I have remarkably few complaints. The soundtrack, save 'Girlfriend', has aged like garbage, the game could really do with a "restart event from start" shortcut, and sometimes the post-takedown autopilot puts you back in control of your car in a place that's extremely disadventageous. But, dammit, the driving in this game feels good, exploring Paradise City is a blast, and running expensive cars straight into a goddamn wall is never not fun.

  • I don't envy the task of having to make a game to follow up Doom(2016). That game's excellence comes from how tight the design is, there is so little chaff (and what chaff there is sticks out painfully as the worst part of the game) that trying to add to it must have felt like trying to add to this dense, atomic black box.

    In the realm of combat, they totally did it. Going back and watching footage of Doom(2016), it looks positively glacial compared to Eternal. The resource collection loop, combined with some fun new enemy types, great weapon changes, and excellent movement options, make most every fight feel dynamic, and it does, to use the line, make you want to rip and tear.

    But wow everything else they added is bullshit. The plot here is both clumsily written, bafflingly paced, and tries too hard to justify things that I did not care at all about. This game is borderline character assassination for the Doom Slayer, turning him from a single-minded engine of carnage to a dweeb who collects Funko Pops and has a pair of nunchucks. The platforming elements at best elicit no reaction, and at worst are hot garbage.

    id, for Doom Eternaler, I don't give a shit about Doom Lore. That was the beauty of Doom(2016), was that there was a setting and lore and themes, but you created a player avatar that embodied the player's desire for violence. Don't make me collect ancient relics. Don't make me listen to the monologues of villains, taunting me with guilt. Give me huge guys, with huge guts.

  • Oh my god I regret sleeping on this game, it's a genuine gem.

    For starters, the dynamic bump-and-grind-based movement mechanics are an absolute delight to play with, making every fight an extremely high-paced romp and ensuring you're always moving, always looking for the next rail or bounce pad to jump between, and it never gets old.

    This game is also just gorgeous? The art style and animation are phenomenal, you can tell a lot of love went into them. Do yourself a favor and go look up a reel of the respawn animations, just them alone are such a good encapsulation of the fun and creativity in this game.

    Speaking of fun, it goes for ironic, fourth-wall breaking humor and it totally works? In an era of shitty Deadpool knock-offs, it's good to know that there are still writers out here who can totally nail this punk, too-cool-to-be-here, referential tone and actually genuinely make me laugh out loud.

    This game rules. It's on Game Pass, go play it for free, and then go buy it anyways to try and get them to make more of them.

  • A game that someday I will be able to recommend without reservation, but... not at launch time.

    The changes to the XCOM formula are fantastic here. Keeping a small squad of unkillable named characters means you never have a campaign implode because of casualties in your "A-Team" forcing B-Team squaddies to come out in late game, but the wound churn for that A-Team means you're constantly switching up your squad composition and trying new powers. Breaching is a nice way to simplify the sluggish early setup turns of XCOM, and the new timeline is very fun to mess with.

    But HOLY SHIT this game is buggy right now. In the 4 days it took me to plow through this game, the game crashed *eleven times*. Animations would freeze or bug out. One of my squad members was unusable, because the game refused to let me equip them. Fittingly, the second the credits stopped rolling for me, the game crashed.

    But once that stuff all gets patched out, Chimera Squad is a ton of fun. I'd love to play it again down the road with some of the other squad members I didn't pick, the gameplay is just so fun and satisfying, and I hope they carry its best ideas to the XCOM 3 they obviously set up at the end.

  • It honestly fucks me up how good Ape Out is.

    I love jazz. Like a lot. When I moved recently, vicinity to jazz clubs was, like, one of my top three metrics for choosing where to live. Of course, the Current Unpleasantness fucked that up for me, so something about hearing some dynamic, live(ish), excited, goddamn JAZZ filled me with so much joy.

    And the gameplay here is delightful, so simple as to be easily understood, but with a tactility and forcefulness to it that makes it constantly delightful. It never didn't bring a smile to my face to hurl a guy straight into a wall or out of a window.

    Ape Out rules. Everyone should play Ape Out.

  • The calculating, cold part of my brain loves Florence for what a masterpiece of interaction design it is. The way Florence conveys narrative almost exclusively through interaction is amazing, the subtle way that mechanics are played with and change to mark changes in the story borders on genius. Any game should look to Florence as a master class in how controls are a key vector for meaning in an interactive medium.

    But boy, my bleeding heart just loves this game even more. The story it tells is cute, heart-wrenching, joyous, sorrowful, just amazing. Florence almost made me cry. I love this game, no doubt. I'm very happy I played this.

  • Necrobarista is probably my game of the year.

    This is a visual novel in the purest sense of the word: there's very little in the way of interactivity, you're essentially just along for the ride of this story, and as someone who normally looks for interesting mechanics first when looking at a game, that might have been a dealbreaker here, but the writing in Necrobarista is so absolutely sublime that I just can't complain at all. The character work here is phenomenal, I love every character in this story (especially Ned), and I was absolutely in tears by the end. A flawless game, everyone should play it.

  • EarthBound is as good as all of the indie RPG designers will tell you, and then some. I think this is going to manage to be one of my favorite games of all time. Honestly, this thing is a work of goddamn art.

    The story is charming, and perfectly captures that youthful sense of adventure, still harrowing during its darkest moments, but with a permeating feeling of happiness and silliness through it all. The writing is spectacular even at its most absurd, there are some fantastic mechanical touches that set it apart from other JRPGs of the era, and there are some remarkably modern-feeling touches to a game coming up on its thirty year anniversary.

    If I had any complaints, they're a pair of small ones: many overworld enemy sprites don't have well-defined "backs" which makes it hard to land sneak attacks, and the inventory management is a bit clunky. That's pretty much it.

    Seriously, EarthBound is amazing, and it's as amazing in 2020 as it was in 1994. This game makes me want to be a kid again.

  • I enjoyed this on the merits of being more Dishonored, but it's definitely the weakest link in the series, for exacerbating some old problems and creating some new ones.

    Existent in 2 but far worse in DotO is how much the game wants to spoon-feed you all of the various paths you can take to completing your objective. Every alternate route and alternate assassination method is announced as unavoidably as possible, and sometimes the "special" routes are made so painfully easy they're easier than just up and stabbing the guy.

    The level and mission design here are also weak showings for the series. There's a lack of good character buildup on the antagonists, something that 1 & 2 do really well, and the levels just aren't very interesting or fun to explore. Good Dishonored 1 and 2 maps feel like puzzle boxes to pick away at until the whole space becomes clear (sometimes literally), here it's just, like, some streets. The last level especially feels quite bad all around.

    Lastly, the story and themes of this game almost come together but just don't. Character motivations are all over the place and generally kind of gibberish, and there's this thematic arc of redemption that half-assedly gets explored through the game before being hurredly thrown in as a fulcrum of the conclusion which, eh. I see what you're going for, but it didn't land.

    All in all, as a Dishonored game it's still pretty good, but Dishonored 1 and 2 are some of my favorite games, and Death of the Outsider falls short of those highs pretty noticeably.

  • I thought it was neat! Fun music, a fantastic art style, and a generally delightful little interactive music video with some affecting mood and tone.

    I wish the main game was its Album Arcade mode, in which one track seamlessly flows into the next, because the pattern of beating a level, pausing (to silence, notably), getting a score, and getting booted back to a menu to pick the next level/song is a real flowbreaker. Also, for all but the boss battle songs, which are all gorgeous, each track in the game feels like it ends like two minutes too soon, an abruptness that also serves to kind of derail the game's pacing.

    Some of the actual endless runner portions felt a little BS to me but I might just be bad at video games. This was still really cool, and knowing a full run is only about an hour I'll definitely be replaying this again and again.

  • Not much to say other than the fact that this game is extremely clever, with puzzle mechanics unlike anything I've seen before. Absolutely gorgeous too, ultimately the kind of brain-bender that left me satisfied the whole way through.

  • Absolutely excellent game feel and sense of humor, feels appropriately frantic, punchy, and violent. Everything about this game, in the classic Devolver house style, feels fast and punchy. The kills feel good, the kicks feel good, everything feels good. There's a character named "Professor Meth".

    My main complaint is the three boss fights, which feel extremely inappropriate for this kind of game and somehow make the movement speed feel extremely sluggish. The handling is great for corridor shooting, not for obstacle dodging.

  • First game cleared on a next-gen console! Downloaded this onto my Series S after waxing nostalgic for pre-reboot Assassin's Creed games. And you know what? My nostalgia was wrong!

    I am happy I played this game, because it helped me perfectly encapsulate everything I hate about AAA video games from the last ten years. An open world littered with meaningless collectables which just require you to go to a spot, press B, and get XP. The same jank-ass controls that have plagued this series since goddamn Altair.

    This game almost completely dodges saying or even showing anything interesting about the period, a time rife with classism and industry and colonialism. The one hilarious exception is that the game goes balls to the wall on the issue of child labor, which it depicts by making you sneak into factories, violently murder people in front of children, then just say "hey, you're good now" to all the kids, to get a big banner that says "CHILDREN LIBERATED". Then, when you go back to the factory after it's in your control, the kids are STILL THERE.

    The writing is also garbage. Almost 24 hours of playtime later, I still have no idea why the villain is the villain other than "he is a Templar and Templars are bad". He has a scheme in literally the last mission to kill a bunch of English heads of state, which would maybe be compelling if I didn't spend all game assassinating heads of state. The game attempts conflict between the leads and a romance subplot, both of which are terrible. No characters have any personality or motivation for doing what they do, other than "they are a character in a video game and they have to do this for the video game to happen".

    God I really wish I didn't hate this game.

  • Another AAA franchise I dropped a while ago, I have a lot of fond memories of playing the original Gears trilogy with my high school friends, and so when I saw Gears 4 in the Game Pass selection while deciding what to put on my Series S, I was like "sure, let's see how this series has grown".

    Honestly, pretty well! I remember very little from the original Gears trilogy, but that was no hinderance with this game, which very quickly sets out to provide a new world, new characters, and new foes, while still feeling decidedly Gears-y. The plot is actually alright this go-round, although there's a decided high point in the middle act bookended by bits that are just sort of fine.

    The combat in Gears 4 feels fantastic. Enemies feel clever, and there were a few times I got genuinely outplayed by the AI. The new guns are, eh, I could take 'em or leave 'em, but the old standbyes are still there, and with a trusty Lancer in hand, it's hard to go wrong.

    Pretty good! Not mind-blowing in any way, but some high quality Gears of War-ing.

  • Talkin' 'bout Bugsnax.

    I wish I liked the fundamental gameplay of Bugsnax as much as I liked the writing and characters, although, admittedly, I like the writing and characters a whole lot. The gameplay though felt a little plain, like I could have used a bit more mechanical depth or at least puzzle solving to actually catching the Bugsnax. Were this game just the mechanics, I probably wouldn't have stuck with it, but the characters are SO good that I was glued to my TV.

    Chandlo is maybe my new favorite video game character

  • This is fun and nice! The platforming here is pretty decent, and the haptic feedback stuff is great. As far as a tech demo goes, this has way more than it needs to, and the homages to Playstation hardware and games alike are constantly nice. I have a few minor quibbles (controlling a glider with a gyroscope will never be fun, video game developers, and neither will multi-stage boss fights without a checkpoint in the middle), but all in all, it's free, it's pretty fun, and it's nice to see all of my Playstation memories in one place.

  • Fuck it, I got a credits roll after beating Journey Mode, I'll count it.

    It's really good! I kind of don't have much to say. Tetris is good. Vibing is good. Vibing during Tetris is good.

  • Writing any sort of conflict for which the crux is a single piece of information that the main character knows but doesn't just say to the character with whom they have conflict should be five years' jailtime.

    Other than the pretty lackluster villain roster (save a brief cameo appearance by... sort of a classic Spider-Man villain), this was pretty enjoyable! If this was a 20-30 hour mega-open world, I would probably have gotten very tired of it very fast, but it clocks in short-and-sweet, meaning other than screaming at a character in the end, I enjoyed this tip to tail.

  • This was, if you'll believe it or not, my first time playing Journey, a game heralded as nothing short of a masterpiece since it came out eight years ago. My not playing it for so long was partially inertia, partially the shame of having to admit I missed it, and partially fear that there would be no one playing this game in 2020 save me, forcing me to both miss the game's valuable cooperative elements, and to mourn the loss of such an incredible game.

    But, no mourning today, I found Journey on PS4 to be alive and well, and joined a small troupe of companions during my journey up the mountain. I can't possible have much to say this late in the game that hasn't been said a hundred fold, but this game still does meaningful cooperation and multiplayer so simply and perfectly that it still stands tall as a masterpiece of the craft this far along later, and I hope travelers continue to go up the mountain for years to come, to keep this thing alive and perfectly beautiful.

  • Hey whatever man the Story Mode has credits even if I can't read them.

    Tetris is still very good, hasn't changed since I beat Tetris Effect two weeks ago. Some of the abilities in this mode are utter bullshit. I can't wait to have some friends over when coronavirus is over and I can show them the raw chaotic power of Ninja Kid.

  • This game fuckin' rules, oh my god, another thing I should have played years ago. As a sucker for ensemble villain casts, where every villain has their own, like, thing going on, a game about fighting your way to the top of an assassin leaderboard is absolutely my jam.

    I must echo the common complaint here, that the open world sucks and is pointless and sucks away too much time, but they already fixed that in the sequel, a decade ago, so how mad can I really be. My biggest stumbling block here was a lack of tutorialization. The game just straight up doesn't tell you about some mechanics (notably a sort of split-second dodge I unlocked somewhere around the halfway mark, I guess), and, in what I assume is a new issue to the port, no controls scheme really bites you in the ass when you switch from Docked to Undocked and the whole control scheme changes without it telling you how.

    I really love this game. The premise is good dumb fun, the combat at its peaks is extremely exciting and fast-paced, and I am a sucker for any game that structures itself around a series of cool, unique boss battles.

    The nice thing about being this late to a franchise is, hey, there's also No More Heroes 2 for me to play, and hopefully 3 just around the corner.

  • Outer Wilds is maybe the best video game I have ever played in my entire life. I think it's genuinely beautiful in almost every regard, and a pinnacle of the medium.

    This game feels like when you're a little kid in science class, and your teacher does some incredible demonstration where something catches fire or floats or changes colors or something, and you as a kid are like "Whoa, things work like that?". It's that sense of wonder and curiosity perfectly condensed into a game, where your measure of achievement isn't making numbers get higher or killing bigger things, but just being able to truly understand this world, seeing it as one beautiful, harmonious whole whose elegance becomes clearer and clearer as you understand the rules of the system. It feels like the bit at the end of Contact where they say "They should have sent a poet".

  • Ugh, I have a million thoughts about this game. I think it has extremely high highs and extremely low lows. I gotta try to consolidate this so it doesn't become a thesis.

    I think the beginning of this game is extremely weak, with bad early-game mechanics combining with some really weak writing, but once Johnny's introduced to the plot and the game picks up some thematic depth to sink your teeth into (I really enjoy this game's core theme of "how much control do we have over our own identities") and the roster of side characters gets added to the mix, the game really sank its hooks into me. The writing around the dozen or so really well-done questlines that form the main trunk of the game is excellent, with fantastic character work that stands with the greats.

    But boy, this ride gets rickety the longer you stay on it. The mechanics of the game get more and more tiresome and repetitive the more you play, to the point where I was just straight up ignoring side content for the sake of enjoying the good missions more. This game has a LOT of filler, and it shows.

    Then, oh god, the ending. The ending I chose was a narrative mess, paying off no themes, being completely uninteresting on its own merits, and being a complete non-sequitur from anything that came before it. Apparently, CDPR arbitrarily chose one of the endings to be The Good Ending, so my ending was awful for seemingly no reason. An absolutely deflating moment to end the game on.

    Also, for what it's worth, played this on PS5 and it was buggy as shit. Hard crash every hour and a half or so, for fifty hours. Completely unplayable at times.

    Ugh, this game is almost a diamond in some spots, and completely incompetent in others

  • What a fun, dumb thing to end the year out on. This is a remarkably well put together puzzle game with an absolutely delightful ending that is far better and more tightly made than a shameless excuse to inspire people to make pornography should be. This thing's just dumb and fun and nice.