List of Games Beaten in 2018

I'm not sure I have what it takes to make it through this year in one piece. Only one way to find out, I suppose.

Oh right, video games. Yeah, they're just below. Knock yourselves out.

/Edit: Stats! I haven't done these in a while, but then this is the first time I've ever completed 100 games in one year.

  • Total Games Completed: 100
  • 2018 Games Completed: 11 (the very busy 2017 kept me in good company instead)
  • 2017 Games Completed: 23 (see?)
  • 10+ Year Old Games Completed: 23 (due largely to this year's SNES feature)
  • Games Started But Not Finished: 10 (mostly "Indie Games of the Week" and "May Maturity" entries that didn't agree with me)
  • System Breakdown: PC/Steam (48), SNES (21), PS4 (19), Wii U (5), Switch (4), PS3 (2), Wii (1).
  • First Game of Year: StarCrawlers (left over from last year's Go Go GOTY!)
  • Last Game of Year: Grim Legends 3: The Dark City (a HOPA game to cap a hopeless year).

List items

  • 01/01. The sixth game of 2017's Go! Go! GOTY!. Just narrowly missed completing it last year, despite my best efforts. Turns out this partially procedurally-generated sci-fi dungeoncrawler was more substantial than I realized. Rad idea, but doesn't quite have the variation I'd hoped for. Since it's been in Early Access for years, it's possible they'll keep adding new content to this. (4 Stars.)

  • 03/01. Phenomenal. Superb. All the superlatives. This is peak Mario for a 3D platformer collectathon nut like myself, and I appreciated there was more going on than a goofy capture mechanic and shiny junk littered everywhere: some effort was made to expand Mario's repertoire too. Could've done without that many Broodal fights and that godawful final challenge, but otherwise it's a new bar for future Marios to overcome. (5 Stars.)

  • 06/01. The fifty-first Indie Game of the Week. A few months before its sequel season emerges, I took in another of Telltale's better-regarded episodic series. I liked the aesthetic of a neon fairytale noir, though like always I didn't really get the sense that my choices mattered a whole lot. A whodunnit with one guy what dunnit can only take you in so many directions, I guess. (4 Stars.)

  • 08/01. The first of many SNES playthroughs this year. Demon's Crest is, like many SNES games appearing in this list, a lost classic that deserves more acclaim than it currently enjoys. A rare stage-based spacewhipper, its presentation and character controls are stellar, and I like it a darn sight more than the sadistic Super Ghouls N' Ghosts. (5 Stars.)

  • 12/01. The fifty-second Indie Game of the Week. Really, I just needed something - anything - else to play on the Switch after I bought it, and the moderately discounted SteamWorld Dig 2 seemed like an obvious choice. Hopefully, Nintendo dispenses with this "Switch tax" and I can grab more Indies (sorry, "Nindies") for the platform. As for the game itself: pretty much what you would hope for in a SteamWorld Dig sequel, expanding on everything that worked and cutting down (or out) everything that didn't. I particularly liked the challenge caves with their little puzzles and how the game was kind enough to tell you if you'd found all the secrets within. Great progression for its spacewhipper-style traversal upgrades too - ensured that very little backtracking was involved. (5 Stars.)

  • 16/01. First of a presently unknown number of HOPAs - Hidden Object Puzzle Adventures - that I'm looking into for mostly my own edification. This was a fairly enjoyable entry to start off: the hidden object stuff wasn't bad, the rest of the puzzles were kinda fun, and the story was, let's say, dumb in a not-unagreeable way. (4 Stars.)

  • 18/01. The fifty-third Indie Game of the Week. A little bit of a disappointment perhaps, as it reaches for far more than it can manage. The purity of Octodad, as it were, lies in the original game's idea of "octopus posing as human finds even simple chores a complete ordeal" - when you start introducing boss fights and challenging platforming, it sort of takes away from that core appeal of the concept. Still, if nothing else it was probably a learning process for the devs. (2 Stars.)

  • 22/01. Another SNES game for my SNES Classic Mk. II feature, Operation Logic Bomb was a genuine pleasant surprise for me. I didn't imagine I'd take to a top-down shooter - not one of my favorite genres, as it's often the format for risible movie license games - but O.L.B. had some smart ideas and a tactical edge to it that forced me to think as well as shoot quickly. And all this from Jaleco, no less. (4 Stars.)

  • 25/01. The fifty-fourth Indie Game of the Week. Escape Goat's definitely in the "if it ain't broke" camp of game development, hewing close to the original game's blueprint to simply deliver more of the same. That isn't to say that I don't find the game compelling: the game has a mean streak a mile wide, and will frequently (and literally) pull the floor from under your feet as you try to solve its many single-screen labyrinths. The bonus rooms are particularly nasty. (4 Stars.)

  • 29/01. A bit more like what I was expecting from this genre. I'm already starting to see similarities emerge and replicated puzzle types, and the game's doofy story about chasing Roman gods around to recover a big hammer is some inspired insipidity. Still, can't begrudge these games for their simple pleasures. (3 Stars.)

  • 31/01. A tough nut to crack, this one. It's the best Persona in a lot of ways - presentation, style, music, and a myriad of mechanical and quality of life touches like baton passing, social link battle upgrades and more - but at the same time felt relatively weak in some areas too. Demon negotiation has never been all that compelling a feature, you don't spend enough time with the cast in less serious situations to really fall in love with them like you did in 4, and the dungeons became some real hit and miss business as you got further in. Still, have to admit, I got really sad when it ended and am still thinking about it days later, listening to its soundtrack as I write. Few games manage that. (5 Stars.)

  • 01/02. The fifty-fifth Indie Game of the Week. Did myself a disservice waiting this long to play this Wii U exclusive, in part because I lost out on any Miiverse functions it may have had. Stylistically similar to Nifflas other games - lots of puzzles in a 2D ambient environment - but the dashboard controls on the gamepad made for some really smart energy distribution puzzles. (4 Stars.)

  • 07/02. A bigger and smarter sequel that finds its own niche for the venerable treasure hunting series, balancing open-world exploration with survival/crafting elements and the usual traversal and ancient puzzles the series is known for. I particularly liked the mellow tone of the Croft Manor DLC: a riff on Gone Home that takes some time to remind the audience of who Lara is. (4 Stars.)

  • 09/02. The fifty-sixth Indie Game of the Week. In truth, this is just the first episode of the three-chapter game, and it was enough to convince me to keep an eye out for the rest when they go on sale. A mostly monochromatic noir detective story with a subversive streak and the promise of some meta mindtwistery later down the road. (4 Stars.)

  • 12/02. The third of the hidden object puzzle games I'm playing as part of a feature. Like Legacy of the Vulcan, it's another developer that nonetheless hews close to the formula established by Artifex Mundi and pals. Nothing egregious, but unremarkable from a critical standpoint (but man, the all-encompassing nature of this HOPA formula is something else). (3 Stars.)

  • 15/02. The fifty-seventh Indie Game of the Week. Poncho can feel a little empty in parts, a little too maze-like in others, but it's going for a combination of Fez and Mutant Mudds and I can't fault the developers for picking two bangers to base a game around. If only it didn't feel so... undercooked. (3 Stars.)

  • 19/02. The fourth SNES game for a SNES-centric feature this year. The unusual combination of a top-down brawler/shooter in the Pocky & Rocky vein with an RPG levelling mechanic that perhaps drags the game down more than it should, it's nonetheless an amusing and highly distinctive gem in the SNES library. (4 Stars.)

  • 26/02. Between the new Zelda and the new Mario, it's fully dawned on me that Nintendo couldn't have asked for a better year in which to debut the Switch. Both franchises are at the absolute peak of their, well, game, and BOTW especially has opened up a bold new direction for future Zelda games to follow. I hope we get more of the classic multi-faceted dungeons in the future, but both the many, many shrines and Divine Beasts adroitly filled that role. I'm curious to see if they ever top this. (5 Stars.)

  • 26/02. The fourth hidden objects game on this list, and the sequel to Grim Legends above. Again, a considerable number of connections and familiar ideas, and while Artifex's flagship series is a cut above the rest I've played, I long to see one of these HOPAs break from the mold in a significant manner. (4 Stars.)

  • 01/03. The fifty-ninth Indie Game of the Week, which covered the first two episodes. An affable sci-fi adventure game of the classic "point and click" model with some nice pixel art and mostly witty writing. Very slow-paced so far, which isn't necessarily a bad thing in smart sci-fi, but I can only hope the subsequent episodes start ramping the plot up. (4 Stars.)

  • 02/03. The fifty-eighth Indie Game of the Week. An SRPG-simulation game hybrid that has you running your own tokusatsu/Super Sentai/Power Rangers type operation, completing objectives that your director gives you to make episodes more "thrilling". It's got a great hook, a lot of customization options for your studio and team, and an evident amount of affection for its source material. (4 Stars.)

  • 05/03. Besides a few glaring issues, like a rushed ending and some mediocre character models, ZTD still has everything I've come to want from the Zero Escape series: a whole lot of pseudoscientific nonsense, plenty of dead ends and time-travelling, and escape room puzzles out the wazoo. Maybe a step down from the previous two games, but certainly not a catastrophe. (4 Stars.)

  • 06/03. The fifth of the SNES games I'm playing for a feature this year. Monstania surprised me with its modern accessibility - something older games usually lack - and how it cleverly streamlines the SRPG format back when it was still in its nascency, with fewer characters, an intuitive control system that eschewed the usual wall of menus for the most part, and a compact runtime that doesn't sacrifice any challenge. (4 Stars.)

  • 08/03. The sixtieth Indie Game of the Week. I've determined that comedic physics engine games, like this or Goat Simulator or Octodad, are best suited for streams where an audience can enjoy your frustration. When it's just you and that frustration alone, though, it's a bad time. Still, you could argue that snatching every victory from the game's capricious mechanics is a satisfying moment, and I like that the game is in on the joke with its deliberately condescending tutorials. (3 Stars.)

  • 12/03. The fifth of the hidden object games I subjected myself to this year in order to determine just how flexible the genre is. About as flexible as the solid wooden puppets in this slightly macabre HOPA, as it turns out. The Puppet Thief is easily the worst of the bunch I've played, but given that it's also the oldest I can forgive it. (2 Stars.)

  • 15/03. The sixty-first Indie Game of the Week. Mike Bithell's ode to top-down stealth games like Metal Gear Solid turned out to be more than tolerable, even for someone as averse to the genre as I am. The bite-sized levels and constant flow of new upgrades, enemy types, and hazards meant that the game whizzed right by. If you liked Thomas Was Alone's trenchant wit, Volume has that for you also. (4 Stars.)

  • 20/03. The sixth SNES game played for this year's SNES-based feature. Despite some heavy acclaim, perhaps exaggerated for the sake of the game's rarity, Magical Pop'n is a fairly standard 16-bit platformer with an underutilized spell system. It's definitely high in the list of the best SNES platformers by pure genre standards like controls and graphics, but in a modern context it's relatively unremarkable. (3 Stars.)

  • 23/03. The sixty-second Indie Game of the Week. Not really an Indie game, but a lo-fi 2D horror game from NIS (the Disgaea guys) that was originally released on Vita. It's Indie in spirit though, with some creepy visuals and classic survival horror mechanics like avoiding foes by turning your lights off or running in the opposite direction, depending on the ghoulie. (4 Stars.)

  • 24/03. Every time I worry that a new Ys is getting too ambitious, it shuts me right up by kicking ass the same way it has for decades. The high-speed action RPG franchise has its best outing here, in a truly enormous island adventure that offers the perfect marriage between classic blazing fast Ys combat and open-world exploration thrills with the same amount of welcome quality of life benefits that something like Xenoblade boasts. They even managed to compose a soundtrack that beats the one in Ys Seven, which science has long thought impossible. Excellent plot, too, especially in the way it expands on a classic JRPG trope ("where did all these high-tech ancients go?") in such a heartrending manner. I realize 2017 had many big highlights, but you don't want to sleep on this one. (5 Stars.)

  • 26/03. The sixth and final hidden object game I'm going to write about this year. Mythic Wonders is perhaps the best of the six, though given I chose it based on its review scores that's hardly surprising. I wanted a strong HOPA to go out on, and Mythic Wonders brought the hidden fury with a huge variety of puzzles and some good looking environments. (4 Stars.)

  • 30/03. The sixty-third Indie Game of the Week. Despite going fully 3D, Trine 3 was a step down from the previous two, as it had to jettison the versatile level-up system as well as half the plot in order to stay afloat long enough to reach its release date, but there's a lot of promise here if Frozenbyte ever decide to finish the story with a second part. (4 Stars.)

  • 01/04. Catching up with all the Wii U games I missed before they inevitably get overpriced enhanced versions for Switch. Woolly World is delightful, but I was a little disappointed in just how close it hews to the original SNES Yoshi's Island. It's sort of like New Super Mario in that respect: it's more about nostalgia than trying to evolve and experiment, and it doesn't do nearly as much with the wool stuff that Kirby's Epic Yarn did. Solid but unexciting. (4 Stars.)

  • 13/04. The sixty-fifth Indie Game of the Week. I generally give overly bleak games a wide berth, but I was glad I bit the bullet and tried out The Cat Lady. It could be brutal and miserable, but it also had some smart horror fiction writing and it played around with the player expectations frequently, both narratively and mechanically. (4 Stars.)

  • 16/04. The eighth SNES "candidate" game for the SNES Classic Mk. II feature. Goof Troop is a short and sweet licensed game that doesn't even try to fit its source material; a cooperative top-down action-adventure game that uses an early Capcom arcade classic as the basis for some clever block-pushing and AI manipulation puzzles. (4 Stars.)

  • 22/04. The sixty-sixth Indie Game of the Week. An old-school top-down CRPG that is technically Indie, but was really just a shareware RPG doing its thing as the Indie "brand" was getting its feet wet. Like Driftmoon, it finds a few novel and futureproof ways to modernize an older era of the CRPG genre while staying relatively true to its Ultima roots. (4 Stars.)

  • 27/04. The sixty-seventh Indie Game of the Week. My tolerance for gimmicky physics games in the past has been limited, but Snake Pass completely beguiled me with its juxtaposition of a harsh learning curve and an easy-going checkpoint system. It also looks and sounds great: the better successor to Rare's N64 tenure than Yooka-Laylee was, in part because it didn't feel the need to live in the past. (5 Stars.)

  • 28/04. While the cracks are showing from its troubled and occasionally outmoded development, there's enough I like about FFXV that I can't dismiss it completely. The camaraderie between its four principal cast members, the references, the in-jokes, the warping combat, the cool way they recontextualized summoned aeons, the high stakes towards the end: there's enough good ideas in the game that it makes up for some spotty execution, long stretches of uneventful downtime, and a meandering story that suddenly (and jarringly) accelerates to hyper-speed for the final few hours. (3 Stars.)

  • 01/05. The ninth SNES game for this year's SNES Classic Mk. II feature. Holy Umbrella's an inventive and cute platformer with a surfeit of humor, but hobbles itself somewhat with some very easy and short levels, made even easier by how many curative items it throws your way. The town parts, which breaks up the action levels, are a neat concept that perhaps misses the mark due to how the game shudders to a stop so you can check every object for potentially useful items. Definitely original, but fairly average overall. (3 Stars.)

  • 03/05. The sixty-eighth Indie Game of the Week. Deponia's an adventure game that's going for the whole Simon the Sorcerer despicable anti-hero bit, but leans into it a little too hard. That, plus some diabolical puzzles and a few spots where the game just drags forever, meant Deponia did not leave a strong first impression. However, there's enough potential here and a hint of redemption for its douchey hero that I'll probably give the next chapter a shot someday. (3 Stars.)

  • 10/05. (Specifically, the "Plague of Shadows" expansion.) The sixty-ninth (nice) Indie Game of the Week. I wanted to hop back and finish Plague of Shadows before King of Cards arrived, partly because it meant not going too far out of order, but really because I'll take any excuse to drop back into Yacht Club's world of shovelry and ne'er-do-well knights. Plague of Shadows is weaker than the core game and the Specter of Torment expansion I played last year, but only just, and I appreciated the overall "underappreciated sibling" vibe the game gave off. It's certainly still better than 99% of the retro platformers out there. (4 Stars.)

  • 11/05. The second game for May Maturity 2018. The previous two Kyrandia games were solid if eccentric adventure games that nailed the presentation but faltered with innovative gameplay that missed as much as it hit. Malcolm's Revenge is the ne plus ultra of that design philosophy, with branching paths and a mostly satirical score system that pulled you in multiple directions at once. It was also scuppered with some profoundly bad ideas too, alas, and left the trilogy on something of a low note. (2 Stars.)

  • 15/05. The tenth SNES game for this year's SNES Classic Mk. II feature. Wasn't sure what to make of this game, besides the piqued interest of knowing that HAL and Squaresoft worked together on an arcade-style action RPG. Alcahest feels like a modern Gauntlet, or at least modern for the time, with its option-like companions and a more RPG-puzzle focus to its level progression. It can feel a bit more like a top-down shooter (say, a Pocky and Rocky) than Diablo, and is packed with neat ideas and boss fights. I'd give it a shot if you have the chance, since it's neither the longest nor the hardest game in the world thanks to its smart, compact design. (4 Stars.)

  • 17/05. The seventieth Indie Game of the Week. Offspring Fling!'s practically a blast from the past, having been originally released in 2012 when you could count the worthwhile Indies coming out each year on one hand. It's a cute little puzzle game about figuring out how to quickly rescue your children by throwing them around a level, and built to test the player's speed - the various unlockables and bonus levels are only available to the most nimble. Wholesome, breezy, and not the worst way to spend an afternoon. (4 Stars.)

  • 20/05. The third game for May Maturity 2018. Ultima Underworld was definitely the highlight of May Maturity last year, and I've been salivating at a chance to jump into its sequel. Surprisingly, this one's even better, due to the sheer variety it presents in the titular labyrinth of worlds to visit. It is to Ultima Underworld what Grimrock 2 was to the original Grimrock, which almost makes me wonder if Grimrock's developers didn't plan it that way. (5 Stars.)

  • 24/05. The seventy-first Indie Game of the Week. After a couple of mediocre 90s adventure games during May, man was Kathy Rain a tonic. Reminded me that new developers know how best to present this type of game, even when they're recalling the same 90s era of 320x240 pixel art and credible voice acting. Kathy Rain doesn't exactly break the mold, but it's a very solid adventure game with a great story, a likeable heroine, and some of the best ideas lifted from Jane Jensen's Gabriel Knight series and the more recent graphic adventures produced by Wadjet Eye. (5 Stars.)

  • 28/05. The eleventh SNES game for this year's SNES Classic Mk. II feature. This one was just stupid fun; a Double Dragon style brawler with some advanced fighter game moves, and a whole bunch of gritty macho dialogue for its ruffian heroes to chew through. An uncomplicated treat, is how I'd put this wafer-thin semi-sequel to River City Ransom. (4 Stars.)

  • 01/06. The seventy-second Indie Game of the Week. Talking of stupid fun, Super Time Force invents a whole time-manipulation gimmick and weaponizes it for the sake of over-the-top Contra/Metal Slug style bullet hell run-and-gun action, complete with a script that feels like the dumbest action movie parody combined with the second dumbest. I couldn't say I was laughing throughout, but there's an infectious sense of stupid fun that permeates this thing that belies just how smart its mechanics truly are. (5 Stars.)

  • 03/06. I'm supposed to be playing World of Xeen, which is Clouds and Darkside combined, but since I'm taking a break before the second half of the game I figured I'd separate them here. The Xeen games represent the zenith of the Might & Magic series as the four-directional DRPGs they once were before VI changed everything. It's the right mix of tough and exploitable, where it feels like the game is dunking on you as often as you dunk on it. I also like how it approaches an open world like a puzzle: should you go here or here next? Which dungeon has the harder enemies, which regions are more inhabitable to cross, what quests are sitting in your log right now? It's the sort of CRPG, as dated as it may look, that never goes out of style. (5 Stars.)

  • 08/06. The seventy-third Indie Game of the Week. Just a delightful game from top to bottom, seemingly made to optimize cuteness. Though it's by all practical metrics a "hidden object" game, it's a little bit more involved than its cousins with all its interactive hotspots and heavy dose of humor. Highly recommended if you want to unwind with something chill and undemanding. (4 Stars.)

  • 14/06. The twelfth SNES game for this year's SNES Classic Mk. II feature. While it looks like a Western Zelda, it's really a far more straightforward multidirectional shoot 'em up with Zelda trappings. Fun for the few hours it demands, and I really like its sense of humor, but pretty basic overall. (4 Stars.)

  • 15/06. The seventy-fourth Indie Game of the Week. Some serious mechanical issues, but this is a nice-looking game that feels vaguely Nier-ish with its multiple camera perspectives and story of a desolate world with only a few sapients left to protect it. I might not recommend it, but it's not without heart. (3 Stars.)

  • 21/06. The seventy-fifth Indie Game of the Week. Another chill game with a simple premise - you're reassembling stained-glass decor one shard at a time in a jigsaw manner - that succeeds in part due to its sense of style and balance of challenge. Very short, but pretty sweet. (4 Stars.)

  • 25/06. Ueda's latest feels a little compromised, presumably due to putting development in fast-forward to finally see it through the gates after a decade of development hell. While the boy doesn't control all that well and Trico is frequently unresponsive, there's no getting past Ueda's wonderful sense of place and style which is still here in force. He handles immersion like no other developer auteur I know, and I really hope he continues making games even after leaving Sony with something of a disappointment. (3 Stars.)

  • 26/06. The thirteenth SNES game for this year's SNES Classic Mk. II feature. I was drawn to this chibified Japan-only adaptation of one of my favorite sci-fi movies by its look and attitude, but in its own way it's just as janky and unbalanced as the various LJN NES games we suffered through. Can nobody get hoverboards right? (2 Stars.)

  • 30/06. There's no real "end state" for Smash, besides maybe completing all its challenges (which isn't going to happen - the Wii U version's challenges are ludicrously difficult), but I feel safe in saying I'm pretty much done with its single-player content for the most part. I might pop in on occasion to move some collectible sliders along, but Smash is a dish best served in small portions. That said, I really couldn't get enough of its combination of action-platforming and fighting this month. (5 Stars.)

  • 05/07. The seventy-seventh Indie Game of the Week. A visual novel that is absolutely not messing around about sticking to its genre confines, lacking any sort of branching paths or interactivity beyond pressing next on the dialogue window. Still, entertaining in its own way, and I'm always happy to explore new avenues for storytelling in video games. (3 Stars.)

  • 10/07. The fourteenth SNES game for this year's SNES Classic Mk. II feature. It's another solid platformer that Japan kept to itself, but is the sequel to a lesser NES game we did get (Milon's Secret Castle). There's a lot of craft here and some well-rendered level backdrops and character animations, but otherwise par for the system. (4 Stars.)

  • 23/07. The fifteenth SNES game for this year's SNES Classic Mk. II feature. This one has sort of a badass 90s Image Comics vibe to it, as a man armed with a white shirt, headband and a Baretta descends into the demon-infested underworld to rescue his daughter. Sort of a cross between Castlevania and Contra, though some of its systems haven't aged well. (3 Stars.)

  • 26/07. The eightieth Indie Game of the Week. Less a full game, more a demo chapter for Life is Strange 2, the free adventure game concerns Chris Eriksen, who runs around his Oregonian home pretending to be the all-powerful Captain Spirit. The line between reality and magical reality is a little more solid here - it's clear what is in Chris's imagination and what isn't - but there's hints to the drama and supernatural happenings to come. If you're the type who spent 5+ hours on Gone Home investigating every drawer and nook, this game's got you covered. (4 Stars.)

  • 29/07. The truly immense fifth game in the Yakuza series ate my entire July pretty much, featuring five protagonists each with their own hours-long story chapters, cities to explore, and additional side-questing and mini-games to be immersed in. It's an impressive achievement of game design unmatched in the open-world genre in terms of the sheer breadth of what you can do, though I can appreciate why subsequent games felt the need to be a tad more concise. (5 Stars.)

  • 02/08. The eighty-first Indie Game of the Week. Simple enough puzzle game with stretchy pups that didn't wear out its welcome, but doesn't really rise above its lo-fi iOS game roots or have much in the way of visual variety. (4 Stars.)

  • 06/08. The sixteenth SNES game for this year's SNES Classic feature. A solid Ys entry, setting the foundations gameplay-wise for the franchise's big rebirth with Ys VI: The Ark of Napishtim. That magic system was a little underbaked though. (4 Stars.)

  • 21/08. The seventeenth SNES playthrough for the SNES Classic II feature. An exceptional Kirby game, perhaps lacking the variety of Super Star but unexpectedly filled with puzzles and a watercolor painting aesthetic that works in its favor. (4 Stars.)

  • 23/08. Probably the best of Traveller's Tales LEGO games I've played (though I've not played anything more recent), combining an enormous open-world with dozens of movie and TV references from various sources. Even incidental stuff, like the conversations you can listen in on while doing police detective work, are frequently hilarious. I still don't care for the whole "play every level twice for all the secrets" format, but this is the affable LEGO franchise working at peak level. (5 Stars.)

  • 23/08. The eighty-fourth Indie Game of the Week. Weepy adventure game with a few temporal puzzles to solve as you attempt to rewrite history to save your wife from a fatal car accident. I had some problems getting it to run right, but it's a touching game worth a look for the narratively-inclined. (4 Stars.)

  • 30/08. The eighty-fifth Indie Game of the Week. Some bugs and repetition spoil an otherwise great Indie Zelda-like action-adventure game that sets itself apart from those like it with its team of four characters, each of which with their own special abilities. It's satisfying to solve puzzles with multiple team members in mind, but it never goes as far as it can with the individual dungeon puzzles. At least the dialogue's pretty funny. (3 Stars.)

  • 03/09. The eighteenth "candidate" game for the SNES Classic Mk. II feature. Jumping in ahead of GBEast's Blue Bombin' by a few months, I thought I'd give the SNES's sole "classic" Mega Man a shot. The difficulty was weirdly everywhere - negated in one respect by allowing players to farm cash and buy as many energy tanks and other refills as they need, and then dropping the worst final Wily battle the series has ever seen. Lots of fresh ideas, but the polish wasn't quite there. (3 Stars.)

  • 07/09. The eighty-sixth Indie Game of the Week. The first of the now-ubiquitous "Holy Potatoes" series, these games are mobile-device-ready plate-spinners that, despite their whole "time is of the essence" conceit, are surprisingly chill and stress-free. Surface-level stuff, but I enjoyed my time with it. (4 Stars.)

  • 10/09. Long overdue, this playthrough of Revengeance was to finish off my "Mento Gear" reactions series, chronicling both the absurd stories and clever mechanics in real-time. There's a lot to appreciate here, even if Platinum's usual "character action" schtick doesn't always appeal to me, and I'm still jamming out to its silly rock soundtrack weeks later. (4 Stars.)

  • 13/09. The eighty-seventh Indie Game of the Week. Competent 3D platformer built on the backs of the genre giants that once dominated the 90s. While it is incredibly short - the designers wisely going for quality over quantity - it served sufficiently as a quick injection of 3D platforming magic. (4 Stars.)

  • 17/09. The nineteenth SNES game to grace the SNES Classic Mk. II blog feature. Despite being a licensed platformer from the team that brought us that regrettable anime Back to the Future game, Hameln actually rocked. It makes great use of a shapeshifting "kirugumi" idea that only offered more versatility as your collection of costumes grew. I kind of like its smartass presentation, though the fan translation was woefully inept. (4 Stars.)

  • 20/09. The eighty-eighth Indie Game of the Week. Not really a pinball guy, yet I found Yoku's to be surprisingly palatable with how smartly it layered its whole flippers and bumpers business over a standard 2D spacewhipper. It was colorful, calming, and a joy to explore. (5 Stars.)

  • 22/09. One of the most absurdly well-detailed RPG worlds I've come across in years; Obsidian's really taking their worldbuilding and storytelling to new heights. If only they were quite as thorough with fixing technical faults, but it was playable enough even with the glitches. A genius AI and combat system, difficult narrative choices, a streamlined exploration system that boiled a number of encounters down to a storybook "choose your own adventure" prompts, and a wonderful presentation. I'm certain it's one of the best games this year. (5 Stars.)

  • 30/09. The eighty-ninth Indie Game of the Week. A truly captivating combination of spacewhipper and From's Souls series, creating a kingdom of creepy-crawlies that's as beautiful as it is icky. Its tense boss fights are some of the best of any game I've played (barring the final one, which sucked dung beetle balls) and it pulled off Souls's best trick of "show, don't tell" with equal aplomb. (5 Stars.)

  • 03/10. An Indie Game of the Week that never was, I discarded Sproggiwood after burning out on roguelikes earlier in the year, but stuck with it in fits and starts regardless. Very much a condensed version of the roguelike, which was itself a fairly condensed RPG format to begin with, Sproggiwood's less about stats and items and more about puzzling out how to get through a room while taking as little damage as possible. It took on this almost Picross like muscle memory pattern as I quickly went through the motions. Oddly compelling at times, but not much of a game otherwise. (3 Stars.)

  • 07/10. The twentieth SNES game completed for my SNES Classic Mk. II feature. Robotrek was a big target for me this year, as one of the few Quintet games I'd never completed. While it certainly has some interesting concepts to build a turn-based RPG around - as well as beating Pokemon to the punch in a few key gameplay aspects - it falters a little with its repetitiveness (hardly the only SNES RPG to suffer from this) and sudden difficulty spikes. Overall, though, definitely the sort of innovative genre fare that you'd expect from the creators of ActRaiser and Soul Blazer. (4 Stars.)

  • 13/10. The ninety-first Indie Game of the Week. A Hat in Time is definitely the superior Indie platformer of last year (sorry Yooka-Laylee) but it still has its share of problems, a certain YouTuber voice cameo included. All the same, the developers were clearly more invested in ensuring each of its four worlds were very different both aesthetically and mechanically, and it's a case of quality-over-quantity with its modest run time. If 3D platformers continue to be something Indie developers are looking into, they could do worse than observing the example set by A Hat in Time. (4 Stars.)

  • 14/10. The ninetieth Indie Game of the Week. The third and presently final Shadowrun game from Harebrained Schemes, it's a little weaker than Dragonfall narratively but makes up for it with an improved version of the Matrix/decking and some smaller tweaks. I was a little irritated by the way it ended, but like the other games in the series it's good for a quick injection of cyberpunk. (4 Stars.)

  • 15/10. The twenty-first SNES game that I carved out a block of time to see for SNES Classic Mk. II. It's a frantic Tetris/Lemmings hybrid borne from an arcade series by Irem, though with infinite continues and a certain amount of luck it didn't take long to see all the levels it had to offer. Well, at least if you missed the bonus areas like I did. Kind of a nightmare at times, but in an entertaining sort of way that makes it easy to retry if you crash and burn. (3 Stars.)

  • 21/10. The ninety-second Indie Game of the Week. Aarklash is purely about the combat, restructuring the real-time (with tactical pausing) of the Infinity Engine games to take better advantage of real time team-positioning and cooldown abilities. The combat really is top-notch, but everything else suffers as a result, including the poor voice acting and strictly linear progression. (4 Stars.)

  • 24/10. This was a nostalgia trip for me, as one of the few CING games I'd been sitting on for a rainy day after the adventure game developer went defunct almost a decade ago. I finally dusted it off for a feature on CING, and while it's a bit too leisurely paced for its own good, it's also part of its "hanging out at a summer camp" aesthetic. A lot more "visual novel" compared to the puzzle-heavy DS original. (3 Stars.)

  • 27/10. The ninety-third Indie Game of the Week. Iconoclasts has a involved story with lots of twists and double-crosses and some really poignant and dark moments. That's good, because the rest of the game is just a standard spacewhipper with some decent bosses. (4 Stars.)

  • 01/11. The ninety-fourth Indie Game of the Week. Cat Quest is a cute little trinket of a game, the sort of brief diversion you might give your own cats to bat around with for a few hours. Built vaguely on a top-down action-RPG model like Ys and streamlined for the sake of accessibility, there's still some depth to its zoning-based combat but it's a lot of similar hack-and-slashing through side-quests and dungeons. I'd say give it a shot if you like grindy RPGs and cat puns. (3 Stars.)

  • 08/11. The ninety-fifth Indie Game of the Week. Made very much in the same mold as To The Moon, Rakuen has a bit more openness to its adventure game puzzles but still has you following a set of stories written to make you bawl like an infant. If you're in the market for adventure games full of puzzles and feelings and decent music, check it out. (4 Stars.)

  • 13/11. Another gigantic time hog for this year, Berseria returns the Tales series to its prime, adapting a lot of Zestiria's smart ideas with some even better ones of its own and a far more enjoyable cast of characters to boot. Everything from the FFIX equipment/skills system to the geoboard to the new "souls" combat to the Expeditions passive side-activity made this one of my favorite Tales games in years. (5 Stars.)

  • 14/11. The twenty-third SNES game for my ongoing SNES Classic Mk. II blog feature. I actually started this one in June 2017 for an "Alternative to E3" feature, but only got around to finally completing it in November 2018. It's a spectacular adventure game that builds puzzles around mini-games and using the right member of your three-person party, full of quirky characters and great 16-bit art and music. It would've been one of the most significant SNES games of all time, on par with EarthBound and A Link to the Past, had it come out sooner and received a localization. Well, better late than never, I suppose. (4 Stars.)

  • 16/11. The ninety-sixth Indie Game of the Week. Poi was one of the first of the 3D platformer collectathon throwbacks to come from the Indie space, though it would eventually be eclipsed by the likes of A Hat in Time and Yooka-Laylee in the years to follow. It's still a solid effort if a little graphically rudimentary, with plenty of side-content to enjoy and platforming challenges to tackle. (3 Stars.)

  • 20/11. This is specifically for the Jazztronauts mode for Gmod, which lets you become a prop hunter robbing other users' created maps for various gains. I love everything about this thing from its witty writing down to the carefree joys of running crime sprees across dodgy Gmod maps grabbing everything in view. Even after "completing the story" I don't imagine I'll tire of it any time soon. (5 Stars.)

  • 22/11. The ninety-seventh Indie Game of the Week. Mike Bithell focuses on his clever storytelling in this detective adventure game set entirely on a subway with robots. It's a very text-heavy, passive game, though there are times when you need to kick the ol' grey matter into gear to solve a few dialogue tree puzzles. An excellently compact adventure game for the short of time. (4 Stars.)

  • 28/11. The twenty-fourth (and penultimate) SNES game for my bi-monthly feature on the system. A bona fide classic of the era, its reputation isn't quite as glowing as others due to a lack of a North American localization, but it's easily one of the most impressive games on the system if nothing else. Stellar presentation, unusually deep themes about reincarnation, human innovation, and environmentalism, and an excellent action-RPG gameplay foundation. It's one of the games I explicitly created this feature for an excuse to play it. (5 Stars.)

  • 29/11. The ninety-eighth Indie Game of the Week. I kinda knew going in that Celeste wasn't going to be my kind of game, so unenthusiastic as I am for masocore platformers, but there's no denying the appeal of the charm and tight controls the game exhibits. Great chiptune music too. It's just the kind of game that likes to be hard for the sake of being hard, and I'm not on board with that. Still, if you're the type who likes to be challenged, there's no better pretender for Super Meat Boy's crown out this year that I'm aware of. (3 Stars.)

  • 02/12. An excellent sequel to an adequate game, Ni no Kuni II is Level-5 demonstrating that they can still put out a full-featured RPG with a huge budget behind it if they have the motivation to do so. Between building a kingdom, recruiting for it, and fighting all the tainted monsters and skirmishes, there's so much to maintain a player's interest when the story isn't enough. (5 Stars.)

  • 06/12. The ninety-ninth Indie Game of the Week. Minit's just the darndest little guy, but for as cute and minimal as it is there's also a lot of smarts behind its temporal puzzles and quick turnaround. Way to waltz into a neat mechanic and find every application you can, game. Kudos. (5 Stars.)

  • 11/12. The twenty-fifth and final SNES game for the SNES Classic Mk. II blog feature. Another colorful platformer, but notable for its non-linear progression (in its original Japanese version, at least) and rocket-boosted traversal that almost feels like a lost Sonic game, and not in a pejorative way. Definitely ahead of its time. (4 Stars.)

  • 15/12. The one-hundredth Indie Game of the Week. Some excellent platforming, enhanced by the acrobatic cloudstepping and tools like the rope dart, and an equally striking soundtrack and graphical switching, let down by its obnoxious writing and a meandering second half. (3 Stars.)

  • 19/12. Despite an uptick in difficulty, or maybe because of it, VC4 actually matches and possibly even surpasses my affection for the first Valkyria Chronicles. More mechanics, more unit types, more orders, more variation with mission objectives and level design, and a huge amount of post-game content. Maybe a little cutscene-heavy, but a very strong entry in a series I hope keeps going, possibly with a different conflict. Anime Vietnam, anyone? (5 Stars.)

  • 29/12. A mini-adventure that feels like an evolution of Undertale, especially with the new battle engine, but in other ways felt like a tech demo of something far larger. It also felt like it was on the cusp of messing with the player based on their grasp of the Undertale lore, but hadn't quite got there yet. It get a provisional four stars from me, but the full finished product could well be Toby Fox's best yet. Plus, you can't argue with "free". (4 Stars.)

  • 30/12. The seventh Hidden Object Puzzle Adventure of the year. A transparent attempt to boost my total completion number to three figures, this and the following two HOPAs are competent enough but hardly anything worth raving about. If you wanted BioShock to have less splicers and more scenes where you rummage through Andrew Ryan's garbage, this might be for you. (3 Stars.)

  • 31/12. The Enigmatis series raises the bar a little with a detective mode that has you piece together deductions from gathered clues, but a lot of it is still business as usual. (3 Stars.)

  • 31/12. Finally, we have the third part to a trilogy I started all the way back in January. Seemed like a fitting end to the year, though I don't recall these games having a mystical order that protects the worlds from demons. Or maybe they did and I wasn't paying attention. All that story is taking time away from scouring a static picture for feathers or diamonds or whatever. (3 Stars.)