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List of Games Beaten in 2017

Webster's Dictionary defines 2017 as "a number, sitting between 2016 and 2018."

I could've found a better way to introduce this year's list of completed games, but chose not to.

List items

  • 06/01. The first Indie Game of the Week. I quit Flywrench near its conclusion to write a scathing review, waited a day, booted it back up and spent an hour clearing its last few horrifying levels. Besides the cruel difficulty spike right at the end, the game's got an excellent sense of flow: the way you'd enter a stage, find the solution, practice until you get the timing right and move onto the next sounds like an arduous process but in reality can take anywhere from a minute to a handful of seconds, such is the game's pace. Good game for speedrunning, I'd imagine. (4 Stars.)

  • 07/01. Uncharted 4's amazing, but at the same time still beholden to flaws that have persisted throughout the whole series. I don't think anyone *loves* the combat, and it can get a little dependent on following breadcrumb trails of evident handholds and cliffsides for each of its traversal sequences. At the same time, the quality of the script and acting has never been better, and the game looks absolutely breathtaking. You are definitely getting more of the same from this one, but at least it means the Uncharted games can end on a series peak. (4 Stars.)

  • 12/01. The second Indie Game of the Week. Refunct is a sliver of a game, but it packs in a few neat ideas and first-person platforming controls that don't suck, so it's a case of "short but sweet". With the systems it already has in place, I could see a greatly expanded sequel come out of this. (4 Stars.)

  • 17/01. The first of many PS2 playthroughs this year, courtesy of my ongoing The Top Shelf feature. Onimusha Warlords straddles the line between awkward and clunky third-person Capcom action-adventure games and the new wave brought about by the likes of Devil May Cry and the irascible but gifted Kamiya. The usual ResEvil tank controls and key puzzles are a lot more fun when couched in a decent combat engine. I can't wait to finally get around to its sequels too. (4 Stars.)

  • 22/01. The third Indie Game of the Week. A brilliant SpaceWhipper with a lot of heart and a surfeit of artistic talent. I played a number of SpaceWhippers at the end of last year, which caused me to defer this one until 2017. In retrospect, I probably should've played this one first. (5 Stars.)

  • 26/01. The fourth Indie Game of the Week. Wadjet Eye Games has produced better, but Shardlight's still a solid adventure game with logical puzzles and a straightforward and engrossing story. It lacks a lot of the clever ideas of its contemporaries, however, and some of those puzzle ideas get recycled one too many times. I also didn't care for its sudden multiple choice ending either. (3 Stars.)

  • 29/01. I poured almost 200 hours into this thing. Whether you interpret that statement as a recommendation or a cry for help is entirely up to you. I loved, loved, loved this game, though I don't quite hold it in the same esteem as the original Xenoblade. It is, essentially, an anime mech equivalent to a Bethesda game with a(n un)healthy amount of Monster Hunter, Phantasy Star Online and No Man's Sky thrown in for color. It's such an impressive accomplishment of game design on both a micro and macro level and is, along with Metal Gear Solid V, a curious case of a Japanese studio tackling a predominantly Western genre and excelling in it. Some weird musical choices though... (5 Stars.)

  • 02/02. The fifth Indie Game of the Week. Abzu wears its influences on its wetsuit sleeve, but it's still a profoundly attractive game that clearly puts art direction above all else. That doesn't leave a whole lot for involved gameplay or challenge, but it's such a pleasant and serene aquatic adventure that it scarcely needs it. (4 Stars.)

  • 07/02. I thought this game was delightful, and surprisingly long given the relative smallness of its diorama-style levels. Losing the ability to jump recontextualizes the world of Mario and its many recurring foes, like the now-deadly Goombas and Shyguys, and the game is packed with collectibles, secrets and additional challenges built with the engine. It's not a core Nintendo game that saw a lot of fanfare compared to Super Mario 3D World or Maker, perhaps because many like myself erroneously regarded as a shorter variant intended for a younger audience. It absolutely deserves a better reputation though. (4 Stars.)

  • 11/02. The sixth Indie Game of the Week. A visual novel that breaks its talky sequences apart with a perfunctory drink-mixing mini-game that ever so occasionally finds itself involved with the narrative, VA-11 Hall-A's true strength is in its writing and cast of characters - a rogue's gallery of sci-fi archetypes from all corners of anime and western movie genre fare, fleshed out to resemble human beings likely to want to vent their worries to an empathetic (if reserved) bartender. (4 Stars.)

  • 16/02. The seventh Indie Game of the Week. Games like Adventures of Pip are starting to become gaming comfort food for me now: a solid 2D platformer with a mix of gameplay feature ideas and a little bit of meta humor concerning the genre and spiritual era it hails from. Quickly shifting from a 16-bit sprite to a single (if large) pixel and back again led to some pretty interesting and challenging jumping puzzles but it's overall generic enough that I imagine I'll forget all about it in due time. But hey, if an expanded sequel should happen, I'll be all over it. (3 Stars.)

  • 25/02. The eighth Indie Game of the Week. Oxenfree has its share of problems, but at least makes an effort to distinguish itself between contemporaries like Until Dawn and Life is Strange by placing its teens in peril in a 2D world of wraparound walkways and curious, mind-altering terrors, and emphasizing the dysfunctional way people communicate when they're emotionally caught off-guard or under duress. The game makes ample use of timed dialogue suggestions, defaulting to stony silence if the player can't agree on a response in time, and then exploring the repercussions of what was said (and what wasn't). Like many games of its genre, the teens feel sort out of time - due in part to a lack of any colloquial speech or references a modern teen might use, though the game also layers in overt visual and audio cues more reminiscent of 80s/90s horror media which - while cool - can also confuse the game's time era setting a little. I still enjoyed the story at its core, however, and I admire any adventure game that goes out of its way to forge its own distinct path. (4 Stars.)

  • 27/02. It took most of February, but I was drawn back to the seedy streets of Kamurocho once again due to some tinges of regret that Yakuza 0's release was imminent and I was still so far behind with the series. Yakuza 4 makes some much-needed strides with its narrative loop, introducing three new protagonists who interact with the setting in their own personal ways based on their backgrounds - a moneylender with many friends in low places, a convict coming home for the first time in 25 years, and a young rebellious cop with a lousy reputation for shakedowns and gambling - as well as their own distinct methods of fighting. It really helped expand the world of this series, while still wrapping up the four disparate stories with a satisfying conclusion. There's also the fact that the game adds back in all the mini-games removed from the localization of Yakuza 3 and adds many more besides, so it was definitely a game that took a huge chunk of my free time to complete. Might have to give it a year before I tackle the next one... (5 Stars.)

  • 08/03. Didn't find this game as disappointing as most, but it clearly didn't take any chances from the then-revolutionary JC2 and its grapple hook shenanigans. JC3 is slightly prettier take on the same game, mercifully condensed but still fairly expansive, and its cycle of parachuting into a town and blowing up everything with a red tinge to it. That core is still perfectly fun in small doses, but the additional flourishes - the game's many, many ring checkpoint challenges in particular - don't really add much. Connecting the game's upgrade system to completing challenges was a smart move, if only because they would've struggled to get anyone to play more than a handful of them otherwise. Overall, fine, but the model has aged into generic open-world fare in the years since JC2. (3 Stars.)

  • 09/03. The tenth Indie Game of the Week. Pony Island plays a meta long-game with the player, giving them some lateral thinking puzzles to contend with along with a hacking mini-game and Pony Island itself: a generic pony-based endless runner conceived by Satan that grows as increasingly unhinged as you'd expect given its creator. It's worth playing this one to see where it eventually goes. (4 Stars.)

  • 17/03. The eleventh Indie Game of the Week. Various technical problems probably unfairly soured me on this game, but while I enjoyed the fast-paced combat it felt a bit like it was overextending half of the few mechanics it had and leaving others undeveloped. I feel the same way about it as I do about Bastion: it's beautiful, it moves well when it isn't being dragged down by framerates, but it often felt like a whole lot of style over substance. (3 Stars.)

  • 22/03. In many respects, Mankind Divided suffers the same way Just Cause 3 (above) does. It's aping a game that was fresh and original over five years ago, and since then that specific blueprint has been co-opted and improved upon by others. Even so, there's no real replacing Deus Ex's imaginatively versatile approach to its cyberpunk skulduggery, and I actually found myself enjoying this game more than its predecessor due to some very important small quality of life tweaks and a better end game. I particularly enjoyed exploring its near-future police state Prague, and how the city's innards all connected like some elaborate biological organism. (4 Stars.)

  • 24/03. The twelfth Indie Game of the Week. Valley surprised me with its two-prong game design. One follows the pattern of contemplative first-person adventure games of recent, like The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, while the second more closely resembles the physical, physics-based challenges of Portal. There's a visceral thrill to be had striding through the game's forests at high velocity, leaping over entire lakes in a single bound, and it's a shame those sequences are so few and far between. (4 Stars.)

  • 27/03. I'd been playing this, the fourth Professor Layton game and the first of its "prequel trilogy", on and off since May of last year as my chosen portable game. It wasn't until fairly recently that I decided to start focusing on it more in order to move on to a few other pressing 3DS games waiting in the wings. It is very much the model of a Professor Layton game, with a mystery that the protagonist solves after five minutes but won't explain to anyone else until the very end, and puzzles that range in quality to thoughtful logic teasers to those thrice-damned sliding block and Chinese Checkers puzzles and others that seem to hound every entry. In any Layton, it seems, there's a combination of puzzles I enjoy working out and others that are a sheer pain to deal with, and it's why I'm playing them further and further apart. Still, I did already buy the next one (Miracle Mask) some time ago so I guess I'm not done yet. (4 Stars.)

  • 27/03. Kind of an also-ran in the wide world of 3D platformers, but at least it had some moxie. I wish it better realized some of its more clever ideas, like the town-rebuilding mini-game, and maybe spent more time generating better side-quests or at the very least made them more varied. It's not godawful and there's plenty of areas for a possible sequel to improve, so I wouldn't say it was a complete wash. (2 Stars.)

  • 31/03. The thirteenth Indie Game of the Week. I liked the format, and how it homages a particular kind of game few in this hemisphere will have ever seen before, but while its story is engrossing and told well it lets the puzzle-solving and exploration aspects of the genre fall to the wayside for the sake of a narrative railroad. Not necessarily a detriment, but I prefer adventure games that find a better equilibrium of the two. Music's great, though. (4 Stars.)

  • 10/04. The fourteenth Indie Game of the Week. There's not a whole lot of substance in this charming sketchbook-doodle tale of a robot forced to prove his humanity. It's trying to go for the Scribblenauts "summon what you need for each puzzle" approach, but simplifies everything to the extent of eliminating all difficulty. Maybe that's the point though. Between the simple empathy puzzles and pop psychology personality quizzes, I think it might be courting an audience entirely distinct from the one I belong to, and that's cool. Video games are for everyone, y'all. (3 Stars.)

  • 15/04. An admirable attempt to resurrect the Banjo-Kazooie style of 3D platformer. The game seems to go out of its way to be as obfuscating as those games, forcing you to hunt out its collectibles by combing each level as well as figure out the nuances of the heroes' acquired abilities through experimentation. It's as if the old-school approach was synonymous with an aversion to tutorials, which may have put a number of folk off. There's a few other issues that seem to have been preserved unnecessarily also, such as a wonky camera and some possibly-intentional wall-jamming sequence breaks. Even if I was being fair on the glitches, since it's a Kickstarted game with only a moderate budget, there's a few game design decisions I didn't care for either: the minecart and arcade mini-games, for instance, are pretty abysmal. On the whole, though, I think Yooka-Laylee delivers exactly what its backers asked for, even if it's unlikely to attract a new audience perplexed by its deliberate abstruseness. (4 Stars.)

  • 19/04. While I'll concede that No Man's Sky feels kind of empty and aimless right now (as of 01/05/2017), there's enough of a thread of discovery to follow that you're likely to get your money's worth, especially with the short-term goals offered by the new base-building update. The cycle of making money for better ships, more efficient multi-tools and a more capacious exosuit is enough for the early game, and seeking out blueprints and building new upgrades helps enhance the game in so many minor ways. Also, I've always liked games that offer a photography bestiary mode to supplement one's income (shades of Beyond Good & Evil for sure), and there's something to be said for warping into a new star system and seeing what there is to find. More quests, more alien species to interact with, more ways to make a living, and just more substance in general, and I think this could be the game its developers always promised it would be. (4 Stars.)

  • 20/04. The sixteenth Indie Game of the Week. There's something really special about Severed, as a game built for mobile devices or portable systems with touch controls that takes full advantage of that platform to deliver an eerie and cleverly designed first-person dungeon crawler game that relies heavily on situational awareness and reflexes for its combat. It's remarkable that it can feel like a mindless action game and a contemplative puzzle-driven dungeon exploration game at the same time, and I really feel that Drinkbox's supernatural Central American visual style is better served here than it was with the jokey and unbalanced Guacamelee. As I said in my Indie Game of the Week rundown, it makes me excited to see what this studio does next. (5 Stars.)

  • 30/04. Something feels off with Dishonored's sequel. Whether it's relying too much on lore established by the first game's DLC - which I'm not going to play, because they charge the same amount for that stuff now that they do for the core game - or the way each mission's zone seems way bigger than it needs to be, necessitating a lot of exploration to ensure I'm not underfunded or underpowered due to a lack of collectibles. It's still Dishonored, which means it has one of the best stealth systems of any game currently (even if the first-person view does limit one's environmental awareness) and a distinctive and well-realized universe that seems like a really crappy place to live. I've still got my zero-kills, zero-detections Corvo run to take on, but I might give it a few months first to recuperate. (4 Stars.)

  • 05/05. The seventeenth Indie Game of the Week. Song of the Deep's an aquatic spacewhipper in the style of Aquaria with Insane Twisted Shadow Planet's shoot 'em up mechanics and hook physics. Its tone and story structure seems to straddle the line between the two as well, giving folks a slightly darker fairytale spin on a young girl in a submersible looking for her father. It's a fine product, but not that remarkable given its clear influences. (4 Stars.)

  • 06/05. First game of May Maturity. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Toonstruck and am happy to finally tick it off the big list of adventure games I've been meaning to tackle. The game has an evident love for Looney Tunes and madcap slapstick of that nature, and like Ren & Stimpy is as quick to subvert the tropes of those cartoons as it is to treat them with deference. I particularly enjoyed Christopher Lloyd's performance as a tortured cartoonist who is on the same wavelength as his mad creations. (5 Stars.)

  • 11/05. The fifteenth, seventeenth and nineteenth Indie Game of the Week. After about a month of painstakingly recapping and reviewing each of Tales from the Borderlands's five episodes, I find myself appreciating the work both Telltale and Gearbox has done to create an amusing and entertaining story from a franchise that generally flubs its narrative due to an over-reliance on obnoxious characters and memes. I also didn't mind how "Telltale" it felt, with episodes packed with QTEs and binary long-reaching decisions in lieu of puzzles. I'm not about to rush out and buy up all the other episodic series Telltale has done, but I'm now more likely to try another one if it gets the same positive word of mouth this one did. (4 Stars.)

  • 12/05. Second game of May Maturity. Ultima Underworld's an important tentpole in the history of CRPGs, marking the point where the first-person dungeon crawlers earnestly tried their hand at fully 3D environments - it even pipped Wolfenstein 3D in creating a real-time action game in an environment that offered 360 degree movement. The plot's classic Ultima, in that the goal of the player isn't so much to kill things and accrue loot, but personify the eight "Virtues" in order to save the day. Still, it's an important historical artifact I'm glad I made time to see for myself. (5 Stars.)

  • 16/05. Third game of May Maturity. I've been curious about the Kyrandia series for a while, as a fan of Westwood (the creators of Eye of the Beholder, Lands of Lore and Command & Conquer) and of vaguely satirical fantasy adventure games like Simon the Sorcerer and The Book of Unwritten Tales. Reports suggested that the first game was a bit of an uneven slog compared to the next two, so I wanted to get it out of the way so I could appreciate its sequels. I found myself enjoying it regardless, though: it had some novel ideas for the genre, even if they didn't all work as well as I could hope. (3 Stars.)

  • 20/05. The twentieth Indie Game of the Week. This isn't so much the original as the remastered version that Double Fine put out recently. Any excuse to jump back into one of my all-time favorite adventure games, especially since it's been long enough now that I'd forgotten most of the puzzles. Still as expertly paced and thought-out as the first time I played, and still as hilarious. You know, for as much as Broken Age felt kinda meh, if Double Fine Kickstarted a third Maniac Mansion game I think I'd be on that like Hoagie on a hoagie. (5 Stars.)

  • 22/05. Fifth game of May Maturity. One of the minor LucasArts adventure games of its heyday was this contemplative sci-fi game about our place in the universe, the dangers of rapid technological advancement, and the value of life. The game is purportedly based on an idea Steven Spielberg had, though I'm unsure what his investment was. It feels very cinematic initially, but then becomes more like Myst as the player explores an enormous alien facility solving brain-bending puzzles to make incremental progress. It's an interesting game, but not LucasArts's best. (4 Stars.)

  • 29/05. Sixth game of May Maturity. Following on the heels of the Ultima Underworld series, this is another panoramic dungeon crawler that is instead set in the popular D&D setting of the Forgotten Realms, and in particular the cavernous and dangerous Underdark and the impressive Drow city of the title. It also serves as a vehicle for R.A. Salvatore's troubled hero Drizzt Do'Urden, who serves an important if perhaps not central role as an overpowered recruitable NPC. Menzoberranzan has some clever dungeon design and ideas (I especially liked its take on the auto-mapping feature), but neither its combat nor its relative dearth of puzzles were all that compelling, and the presentation - while impressive in its day for the clear amount of effort involved - has aged pretty badly. If you're catching up with all the old Forgotten Realms games available on GOG it's more accessible than most from that era, but still fairly inessential in the grand and lengthy history of CRPGs. (3 Stars.)

  • 31/05. Seventh game of May Maturity. I wanted to end this year's May feature by following up on the first Kyrandia, since I made that effort to lay the groundwork for the better games to follow. Hand of Fate definitely improves on the first in some significant ways, though falling into the same traps elsewhere (I've never liked adventure games with death scenes that prompted reloading a save, and Kyrandia's insistence on limited inventory space is baffling to me). It has a better range of locations to explore, a more entertaining protagonist, a better magic system, and was overall funnier to watch and listen to. If I had an issue, it's with its occasional breakneck pace, especially towards the end. (4 Stars.)

  • 04/06. The twenty-second Indie Game of the Week. There's a few elements about the gameplay I disagreed with, in particular the annoying way you have to carry your "weapon" several feet below your center point that makes it occasionally weird to aim, but the presentation of this 2D game is top-notch. (4 Stars.)

  • 12/06. Specifically, this is the version of the first Danganronpa included in the Reload compilation, which included a second "School Mode" which ended up being more compelling than I thought. Like a much more chaotic Ace Attorney with grisly murders and an inconsequential feature where you walk around the school's corridors instead of just warping everywhere. I'm definitely a Danfanronpa at this point, even if this first game had room for improvement, so I can't wait to check out the second game relatively soon. (4 Stars.)

  • 20/06. Like Onimusha, this was part of The Top Shelf feature, which is getting me to finally face my PS2 backlog after almost a decade. Headhunter's not the bad MGS clone I was dreading, and I appreciated the amount of attention it gave its near-future LA and the worryingly dystopian reality of that city, but it was a bit sloppy in parts too. No telling how much of that was just its age, however. (3 Stars.)

  • 22/06. The twenty-third Indie Game of the Week. I enjoyed Rebel Galaxy a lot, even if it started getting a little repetitive towards the end. Its particular brand of space dogfighting was more naval than I might've expected with its broadsides for capital ships and turrets for fighters. The music did a fine job setting the mood, and the cycle of earning money for new ship upgrades (and new ships) was just compelling enough to keep me invested until the end of the game's story. (4 Stars.)

  • 25/06. The twenty-fifth Indie Game of the Week. Short but sweet, Lara Croft Go manages to perfectly boil down the classic Tomb Raider experience - where it was more about traps and puzzles - to a simple strategy-puzzle game that got surprisingly tough in its later episodes. A turn-based Tomb Raider is kind of an odd notion, but it works. (5 Stars.)

  • 06/07. The twenty-seventh Indie Game of the Week. More of the same, though if anything the puzzles haven gotten less "puzzle-y" with more of the solutions basically boiling down to finding the right button or catch or panel. I do enjoy poking around some meticulously crafted puzzle boxes, but I'm hoping for a course correction in #3 whenever it should hit Steam. (4 Stars.)

  • 15/07. It took three months of incremental play to complete it, and I enjoyed my time with 3D Round 2 immensely. Some of the same gripes I had about the former game - it's very easy to make unintended clicks, especially when the puzzle is larger and zoomed out more - but I enjoyed the variety and the new color scheme. (4 Stars.)

  • 20/07. The twenty-ninth Indie Game of the Week. There's no faulting the wonderful animation and surreal visuals of Bound, which explored some neat ideas for 3D platforming as well as making the case for the fragmented and dreamlike nature of memories with its art direction. However, it's not actually that great a platformer. It does feel like criticizing a gourmet meal for its nutritional content, but since it has a built-in speedrun mode I think I'm justified in taking it to task. (3 Stars.)

  • 21/07. The twenty-eighth Indie Game of the Week. A Souls clone through and through, though not in a pejorative sense. Rather, it takes the Souls model, and much of its personality, in a smart 2D direction that also incorporates elements of the spacewhipper genre. I suppose what matters most is that they nailed the feel of the Souls games, from its dour locales to its outrageous boss difficulty (though one that can be mitigated easily enough), and if that was the intent then kudos to the two-person team at Ska Studios. (5 Stars.)

  • 27/07. The thirtieth Indie Game of the Week. Pendulo tries their hand at a (mostly) serious Broken Sword archaelogical conspiracy thriller, presenting an amnesiac hero with more going on beneath the surface than his dispassionate nature lets on. Some weird tonal issues and a handful of obtuse puzzles mar an otherwise excellent graphic adventure game, and I'm willing to find out if Yesterday Origins does good with the groundwork laid out here. (3 Stars.)

  • 03/08. The thirty-first Indie Game of the Week. Decent top-down action game with some well animated boss fights that's scuppered a little bit with technical issues. I enjoyed its deep dive into Norse mythology, even if it is a well-mined vein for video game settings. (3 Stars.)

  • 08/08. The surprisingly short action-RPG that kicked off a series of games that were released around the same time as the movie trilogy. It was, however, the only game of that trio to not be based on the movies but on the novel specifically. A curious game I was happy to see all the way through for The Top Shelf series, despite being a little generic and repetitive. (3 Stars.)

  • 19/08. I was clearly too harsh on Rayman Revolution (the PS2 "remaster" of Rayman 2) the first time I played it. It's not to the standard of Ratchet & Clank or Jak & Daxter, mostly because of its age, but I enjoyed my time with one of Rayman's earlier adventures. I'm always on the lookout for good 3D platformers from their heyday I managed to skip. (3 Stars.)

  • 20/08. The thirty-second Indie Game of the Week. Zeboyd's sci-fi JRPG homage is as deliberately considered and rife with allusions and obvious influences as their previous works, but it's a bit more serious and on-the-nose than the overt parodies they used to make. It's still got some fantastic 16-bit visuals and a phenomenal soundtrack, and recommended to anyone who likes their RPGs brief and tightly-paced. (4 Stars.)

  • 25/08. The thirty-fourth Indie Game of the Week. One of my favorite recurring themes with Indie games, along with those who seek to resurrect a specific genre that the major industry left behind, is discovering new ways to tell stories. I've been a proponent of point and click games since King's Quest II, but it's only been relatively recently that we've seen narrative-focused games take on all these different approaches with varying levels of interaction. Virginia's a little too passive for my liking overall, but I respect how it's going for this feeling of starring in a 90s FBI drama show where your character's perception of events is played around with as they suffer psychologically from stress and the decisions they make. It's neat, but it doesn't give the player much to actually do. (4 Stars.)

  • 27/08. It took two months, thanks in part to the large number of games I played inbetween, but the fifteenth core Tales game has been completed. There were advances made in Zestiria that I really appreciated, once I got the hang of the faster combat and how character progression had shifted from levelling up to customizing equipment, but the story and characters didn't grab me as much as other Tales games in recent memory. I have it poised for an NG+ run if I want to try it again, but I might be all set. I'm always happy to play a new Tales every so often, but like Yakuza they tend to take me a while and I'm ready to move on by the time they're over. (4 Stars.)

  • 28/08. The thirty-third Indie Game of the Week. I knew exactly what to expect from Trine 2 after playing its predecessor last year, and that's what I got. A puzzle-platformer that relies on shaky physics that is alternately satisfying and frustrating as the quickly-improvised plans I make to reach collectibles or the next checkpoint either come to fruition or fail horribly over and over. I like its look, I like its wit, and I like having multiple approaches to a problem that needs solving; there's just times when it can be a bit too finnicky and unreliable for its own good. (4 Stars.)

  • 08/09. The thirty-sixth Indie Game of the Week. A worthy attempt to convey the horrors of the first World War a century after its initiation, made with the same engine Ubisoft created for the Rayman reboots. A few glitches and some tiresome running around only slightly marred the experience. (3 Stars.)

  • 15/09. The thirty-seventh Indie Game of the Week. A neat idea for a botanical simulator couched in some familiar 2D spacewhipper gameplay. Build ecosystems to move ahead while taking part in a scientific mystery concerning the fate of Mars's once thriving ecology. (4 Stars.)

  • 18/09. The thirty-fifth Indie Game of the Week. An exceptional little turn-based strategy game that has you lining up shots and choosing the best cover to hide behind. A perfect difficulty curve, which is harder to pull off than it sounds. (5 Stars.)

  • 20/09. A very traditional strategy RPG with a lot of pedigree (Atlus co-developed, art direction by the Persona 3-4 guy, music by Sakimoto and Iwata of FFT fame) and some distinctly clever mechanics to exploit. It is prone to a lot of mindless grinding, however, suggesting that the game's main story arc wasn't balanced properly. (4 Stars.)

  • 21/09. The thirty-eighth Indie Game of the Week. An Indie adventure game that's more promising than exceptional, given its brief run-time. Borrows elements from Layton and Ace Attorney to build a charming little whodunnit mystery, letting the player piece together the solution themselves through reading comprehension tests. (4 Stars.)

  • 28/09. While very barebones in comparison to the loot RPGs of today, Norrath at least keeps itself interesting through a number of different environments and goals for any given area, and it's challenging enough to rise above mindless clicking on enemy hordes. I'll be comparing it to the sequel soon enough. (4 Stars.)

  • 29/09. The thirty-ninth Indie Game of the Week. More a full prequel standalone than a miniature DLC campaign, Specter of Torment controls even more fluidly than the original game and features a surprising level of craft and effort, between its remixed stages, remixed boss fights, and remixed soundtrack. An impressive expansion to an already impressive game. And it was free! (5 Stars.)

  • 04/10. Specifically, the version that is included in the Danganronpa Reload 1.2 collection. It's a bigger game than the first, which unfortunately meant expanding the first game's issues along with its strengths. More of those mini-games during the trials, and previous ones had been reworked to be even more annoying. However, I think I might've actually liked the story and characters more in this one: now that they've established the rules, they were free to subvert them and generate more twists germane to the first. Looking forward to playing the third someday. (4 Stars.)

  • 05/10. Part of my The Top Shelf homework, the Mark of Kri does a fine job up until the end at which point it forgets everything that made the previous levels fun (the stealth, the bird reconnaissance) for the sake of a giant free-for-all melee against respawning enemies. Ugh. Still, there was a lot of great potential in its stealth that other games would eventually pick up on, even if I didn't care for its equally distinct context-sensitive combat system. (3 Stars.)

  • 05/10. The fortieth Indie Game of the Week. Amanita Design have a very specific brand of adventure game going, one that relies on experimentation and dialogue-free storytelling, and you either love games like Machinarium, Botanicula or Samorost or you don't. I'm way into it though, and I really like how each screen has so much detail to pick at. (5 Stars.)

  • 08/10. Another PS2 game for The Top Shelf rankings, Rogue Trooper has a surfeit of ideas and a great setting which help bolster some otherwise standard (and slightly antiquated) cover-based third person shooter gameplay. I particularly liked being able to manufacture ammo and resources in the middle of whatever I was doing; something I'm only seeing in more games now with the likes of Far Cry 3 and Horizon. An underrated and overlooked shooter from the tail end of the PS2. (4 Stars.)

  • 13/10. The forty-first Indie Game of the Week. My favorite development in Indie RPGs, as an avowed fan of the genre, is how they perfectly pace the difficulty curve to suit a shorter game with fewer encounters. It not only makes each battle that much more meaningful and challenging, but cuts out the vast number of random encounters and grinding common to the genre. A great, condensed JRPG experience with some wonderful visuals (though I could've done without the mediocre rhyming). (4 Stars.)

  • 17/10. I have this reviewed elsewhere on the site, but I was impressed with this Kickstarted spiritual successor and how it captured the essence of the original Torment, even managing to surpass it in sheer weirdness. It won't be for everyone, especially those who prefer layered combat systems over role-playing and reading walls of prose, but as something that bridges the gap between throwback RPG and text adventure it's worth a look. If you're the type of person who stays away from fantasy RPGs because of "how generic they are", this one seems tailor-made for someone with a passion for the unique. (4 Stars.)

  • 25/10. Like Danganronpa 2, Gravity Rush 2 suffered under the presupposition that bigger always equals better. While the game and scope have been expanded exponentially over the once Vita-exclusive original, there's not much new in terms of actual substance. I actually got the most enjoyment from an online scavenger hunt which incorporated the photo mode in a neat way, and that won't even be in the game for much longer. If you had misgivings about the original, you'll find them all here waiting for you, but it's otherwise a fine if unremarkable open-world sequel that could've been a whole lot more with some extra finesse. (3 Stars.)

  • 27/10. The forty-third Indie Game of the Week. Driftmoon's a scaled-down, fairly rudimentary top-down RPG (say, like a 3D Ultima) that's actually kinda hard to dislike. Between the modest gameplay systems, a fun world to explore, and a witty script, it was just the tonic I needed after some of the longer and more intense games this month. If you don't go in expecting the moon, you should find Driftmoon to be a breezy way to spend a few hours. (4 Stars.)

  • 09/11. The open-world genre continues to get taken in new directions, and the beautiful Horizon Zero Dawn adds an element of Monster Hunter to its goliath-hunting that turns every combat into a hunt: one that prioritizes preparing the field and crafting all the necessary tools before ever firing that first arrow. To bolster this, the game's got a post-apocalyptic story and flirts regularly with how civilization crumbled, leaving nothing but ruins and aggressive robots for our descendants to deal with. And man oh man does it look good. (5 Stars.)

  • 18/11. The forty-fifth Indie Game of the Week. I figured this Indie Picross game would be something low-key to relax after some of the bigger games I've been playing, but I found it very agreeable. Whether it's the ruleset that doesn't penalize you for misclicks or the surreal humor throughout, it's one of the best times I've had with Picross for a long while. (5 Stars.)

  • 20/11. I'm still reeling from what Yoko Taro and Platinum have accomplished here, taking one of the secret best RPGs of 2011 and popping out its various dents for a much more confident product. Everything that made the original Nier work, from its relationship to the player down to its sublime soundtrack (fortunately not a Sublime soundtrack) to its melancholic core. Nier was something special, and Nier Automata is that something special delivered in a way that everyone could appreciate without blunting its edge for the sake of accessibility. Definitely one of the finest games of the year. (5 Stars.)

  • 24/11. The forty-seventh Indie Game of the Week. This would be the remastered version that Double Fine put out this year, using a similar level of treatment that went into Grim Fandango and Day of the Tentacle in years prior. Unlike those two, I'd never played Full Throttle before, so I'm happy to have had the chance to fill what was a conspicuous gap in my adventure gaming history. I like the game plenty - the setting and voice acting in particular, and the script was enjoyable too - but the game had a dearth of meaningful puzzles and instead brought in action sequences like the road combat. Like Brutal Legend, it's a game I mostly like for its heavy metal atmosphere and style, and less so for its gameplay. (4 Stars.)

  • 26/11. A Chloe-centric adventure that wisely dials back the excesses of Uncharted 4 to concentrate on the series's strengths, in particular the burgeoning relationship between would-be partners Chloe and the aggressive Nadine and combat scenarios that can be solved quickly with brute force or methodically with stealth. At this point I can take or leave the traversal and puzzles, but it's a fun franchise to delve into occasionally - I certainly didn't intend to play two the same year, but it wasn't too detrimental. (5 Stars.)

  • 28/11. Return to Arms is odd for taking both a lot of risks and a lot of shortcuts. After defeating an evil god in the previous game, the new hero (or your imported old one) takes to the many planes of the EverQuest universe, many of which are very reminiscent of the levels from the previous game, to recover his divinely-imbued shards before they fall into the wrong hands. In addition to the usual series of dungeons with ever stronger monsters and equipment drops, there's a lot of almost silly side-quest "challenges" you can try, from fighting enemies without your gear to underwater caves where you have to keep finding bubbles to regain air to a game of Pac-Man with invincible mobs and a whole lot of frogs to squish. Definitely a bit more fast and loose than the previous Champions. (4 Stars.)

  • 30/11. The forty-eighth Indie Game of the Week. A throwback Indie spacewhipper that doesn't so much try to surprise at every turn but stick to the fundamentals of the genre, giving players a challenge and a half to traverse its maps, solve its puzzles and defeat its bosses. Worth checking out if you're a fan of games like it, as long as it's understood that it won't push the envelope like an Axiom Verge or Shovel Knight. (4 Stars.)

  • 02/12. The second game of 2017's Go! Go! GOTY!. Play this cute little visual novel if you want to talk to anime girls about literature and write them poems. Oh, and I guess some other stuff happens. (4 Stars.)

  • 05/12. The fourth game of 2017's Go! Go! GOTY!. The unexpected highlight of December was this temporal adventure-puzzle game that pulls a Mask of Majora by crafting a game around observing NPCs, bouncing back through time for do-overs, and creepy masks that will kill you. The story's actually quite poignant too. (5 Stars.)

  • 12/12. The seventh game of 2017's Go! Go! GOTY!. An open-world puzzle-platformer that reminded me of Fez, both in how the world slowly reveals more of itself the more you figure it out and the general tone, soundtrack and leisurely pace. Never heard a thing about it before this month, it deserved more attention than it got. (4 Stars.)

  • 21/12. The forty-ninth Indie Game of the Week. A bit more personable than other "walking sims", largely because you're in constant contact with another NPC and thus have a lot of fun witty dialogue. Alternately serene and suspenseful, it's another smart subversion of typical storytelling from the Indie set. (4 Stars.)

  • 22/12. I was getting some mixed impressions from this game before starting, but I was curious to see what a System Shock homage from the Dishonored people would be like. I thought the game was phenomenal, from its lived-in and sci-fi movie era-specific level design to its surprisingly strong emphasis on characters and environmental storytelling given how much of the game is just you alone against the formless aliens that have taken over the station. It took me so long to complete because I wanted to soak in every new deck of the station, checking all the secret cubbyholes, reading emails, completing objectives and finding all the bodies of the crew. (5 Stars.)

  • 29/12. The fiftieth Indie Game of the Week and the last completed game of 2017. Feels like you can't fire a Super Missile or crack the Vampire Killer without hitting a 2D Indie spacewhipper on Steam, so it's easy for games like Pharaoh Rebirth - a rare Japanese Indie take on the genre, like Cave Story (but better!) - to slip between the cracks. Despite some localization issues and a few annoying action sequences, Pharaoh and its narrative were a lot of fun and remarkably ambitious. I particularly liked the smooth animations and wide selection of distinctive sub-weapons to choose from. (5 Stars.)