List of Games Beaten in 2020

Gaming in the 2020s! I predict it'll be another quiet year, at least until the new consoles show up (and maybe a little after then, since launch libraries are rarely anything to write home about). I'll probably spend most of this year trying to polish off all the standouts of the previous decade; I've still got a lot to get through.

Here we go:

List items

  • 09/01. The one-hundred-and-fifty-second Indie Game of the Week. A delightful game about ghosts, frogs, wool, dancing, science, and the importance of oral hygiene. More of an interactive kid's cartoon than a detective game. Wholesome but wafer-thin. (4 Stars.)

  • 12/01. A carry-over from last year, where it was the December Bucketlog entry. Despite not really caring for Fire Emblem, this FE/SMT cross over might be my favorite of the MegaTen games, at least mechanically speaking. The sessions system, though it makes every battle twice as long, is a fun idea that has you pondering the best chains to use and all the showbiz flourishes definitely lent the game a distinct personality. (5 Stars.)

  • 22/01. The one-hundred-and-fifty-third Indie Game of the Week. Avadon 2 is much like the first: you play a cop in a corrupt system that might still be the only failsafe to prevent all-out war, and you fight a lot of monsters and brigands in an isometric grid-based battle system. Not much to look at and very similar to other Spiderweb games, but I like to drop back into this series occasionally for that boost of nostalgia. (4 Stars.)

  • 23/01. The one-hundred-and-fifty-fourth Indie Game of the Week. A chilling space thriller that feels part Event Horizon and part Aliens, that largely deals with unethical science and how much more messed up it can get with space-age technology. Some really irksome and unintuitive puzzles towards the end mars an otherwise atmospheric and disturbing adventure game. (3 Stars.)

  • 26/01. The adventures of Luigi and Gooigi sounded like one of the highlights of 2019, so I was fortunate enough to receive it as a gift and took to cleaning up the massive hotel and its unusual thematic choices of floors. I think this game could be considered the best you're going to get out of its specific model of vacuuming up trash in the hopes that money or a Boo pops out, and I enjoyed its endless imagination. Kinda wish I had a better use for that money than the usual Wario Land "you get a better castle at the end". (5 Stars.)

  • 31/01. The one-hundred-and-fifty-fifth Indie Game of the Week. More first-person real-time dungeon crawlers are starting to emerge after the surprise success of the Grimrock games, and Vaporum might be the first to hit the same highs. As well as nailing its eerie steampunk atmosphere, there's some new great features - a button that makes time stand still, so you can think about your next move or make timing-based puzzles easier - and a heavier emphasis on epistolary storytelling. Makes me hopeful this hoary sub-genre isn't running out of steam, so to speak. (5 Stars.)

  • 05/02. A superb open-world RPG from Obsidian, very much aligned with what they were doing with Fallout New Vegas with a whole new setting that still balances older visions of the future with jeremiads on rampant capitalism and corporate ownership. It almost feels like what might've happened to the Fallout universe if the bombs didn't drop and they reached the Space Age. Gameplay's good - the slow-motion is an adequate VATS replacement - and having multiple worlds makes for a fine change of pace. Just wish it was a little bigger in every sense of the term - world mass, items, mechanics - but I know if it was, Obsidian would still be ironing out bugs to this day. Good on them for exercising some restraint, I suppose. (4 Stars.)

  • 13/02. The one-hundred-and-fifty-seventh Indie Game of the Week. Cute little game about dropping things in holes, somewhat scuppered by the law of conservation of detail that smaller Indie devs have to abide by. Katamari (which clearly inspired Donut County) could fill its levels with all sorts of junk and let the player pick their route through it; with Donut County, there's almost always only one ordered critical path. Still, it's very charming and some uncomplicated fun while it lasts. (4 Stars.)

  • 19/02. It's been too damn long - almost six years! - since I last partook in Falcom's other major RPG series. Trails in the Sky SC not only has the excellent writing (and localization!) and characterization of the former, but the combat's been tweaked for the higher difficulty and made far more complex and compelling as a result. It's hard to name too many JRPGs that are operating on this game's level, despite its slightly antiquated look. (5 Stars.)

  • 20/02. The one-hundred-and-fifty-eighth Indie Game of the Week. I've got a twofer here for the 158th slot: Ludosity's ZX-inspired Princess Remedy duo are action games that feel like miniature Zelda shoot 'em ups, presented as abstract battles of medicines versus ailments. The exploration angle and the snappy dialogue help elevate its action core further. (4 Stars.)

  • 20/02. The one-hundred-and-fifty-eighth Indie Game of the Week. See above, really. Heap of Trouble is an improved commercial sequel/reboot that adds a few new quirks and features to the format of the original, but otherwise plays and looks the same. (4 Stars.)

  • 27/02. The one-hundred-and-fifty-ninth Indie Game of the Week. Gunpoint in space would be a reductive way to put Heat Signature, but it hits the same highs of hilarious violence and a test of the player's spontaneous improvisational abilities. There's a dizzying amount of customization and variation the player could use to finish the current mission. I arbitrarily determined the game completion point as my current character's "personal mission" (a high-difficulty mission that allows that character to happily retire) but as a roguelike there's always an endless amount to do. (5 Stars.)

  • 29/02. One of the best open-world games I've played, due to a combination of excellent, varied combat, exploration that rewards puzzle-solving and perception, and a huge amount of incidental lore and backstory to pursue. I'm not quite done with it as of the 29th - there's a few Valkyries and collectibles left - but it's proven to be an excellent way to suffer through a cold month. After all, the UK in February is hardly as bad as Niflheim during the Fimbulwinter. (5 Stars.)

  • 07/03. The one-hundred-and-sixtieth Indie Game of the Week. An explormer that scrapped the gentle point-and-click format of its forebear but retained the more intriguing aspects, like a gradually learned musical language that the game folds into its traversal upgrade system. It's a bit rough in spots but I think it has more depth than most reviews give it credit for. (4 Stars.)

  • 13/03. The one-hundred-and-sixty-first Indie Game of the Week. Played on Friday the 13th, this horror adventure game doesn't quite hit the same highs of depravity and weirdness as its predecessor The Cat Lady and is quite shorter also, largely because it's a remake of the studio's first game. Some real "low opinion of humanity" vibes, but that edge serves it well. (4 Stars.)

  • 20/03. The one-hundred-and-sixty-second Indie Game of the Week. Almost the exact opposite of the previous item tonally, A Short Hike initially feels like a 3D platformer but considerably less goal-oriented. It's a bit closer to an Animal Crossing in practice where it's more about soaking in the chill atmosphere. Make your way to the top of the local mountain at any pace you wish. (4 Stars.)

  • 26/03. The one-hundred-and-sixty-third Indie Game of the Week. Daniel Mullins returns with the fourth-wall breaking havoc that endeared Pony Island to the few that discovered it, The Hex expanding on an overt "creations versus their creator" tale with a genre-hopping gameplay core. Playing it wasn't always fun, but it has the sort of unpredictable narrative that hooks you. (4 Stars.)

  • 31/03. A month-long odyssey brings me to the end of Monolith Soft's latest overwhelming RPG, full of narrative twists and deeply intertwined systems and features. It doesn't quite hit the same highs as the first, and I could take or leave its gacha-style delivery of new "Blades," but it's a damn fine open-world RPG released in a year that had no shortage of them. (5 Stars.)

  • 10/04. The one-hundred-and-sixty-fifth Indie Game of the Week. A very faithful recreation of an ahead of its time Master System/Game Gear explormer from the '80s. Definitely plays like an antique for better and worse, though the hand-drawn art style adds a lot. (4 Stars.)

  • 19/04. The one-hundred-and-sixty-sixth Indie Game of the Week. A Recettear with a bit more polish and an evocative art style, it has a strong gameplay loop but suffers from the usual procgen/roguelike repetitiveness in longer stretches. Spending some time away from the dungeon to sell your spoils and upgrade the town a little helps mitigate that flaw to a degree, though. I also wish it had more ranged options, because parsing those hitbox zones wasn't always as intuitive as I'd have preferred. (4 Stars.)

  • 24/04. The one-hundred-and-sixty-seventh Indie Game of the Week. Another Clifftop Games joint following in the footprints of Jane Jensen's better investigative adventure games, Whispers of a Machine has a cyberpunk edge that allows it some Deus Ex indulgences with divergent paths/puzzles based on how you've chosen to develop the protagonist's abilities. I also dig its anti-technology, mostly agrarian variation of a post-apocalyptic world. (5 Stars.)

  • 26/04. A cybernetic Souls-like that took way longer than I anticipated it would, as I picked my way through its technological corporate meltdown and its gratis DLC scenarios. Some interesting features to the usual format, including an upgrade system that has you severing body parts before you learn how to build them, and a character development system that is almost wholly focused on versatile "implants." A bit rough around the edges but compelling in its own right, probably on a tier with Nioh and Salt & Sanctuary. (4 Stars.)

  • 29/04. Picked up a few of these Switch Picross games since they went on sale for the first time recently. Picross S is slick but quite limited, especially with how its tougher "Mega Picross" puzzle set simply repurposed the original puzzle set. I'm hoping the sequels have more ideas and fewer shortcuts. (3 Stars.)

  • 08/05. The one-hundred-and-sixty-eighth Indie Game of the Week. I played the original Splosion Man way back in the day for 360, but I slept on its slightly improved sequel. A very chaotic and exacting platformer that frustrates as often as it delights, especially when you're expected to 'splode stationary barrels while flying across the screen at the speed of sound, I still overall liked it for its Looney Tunes humor and rapid pace. (4 Stars.)

  • 08/05. The one-hundred-and-sixty-ninth Indie Game of the Week. While I didn't see every possible route, the template of Burly Men at Sea and its branching path of possible encounters made it a compelling way to tell a story, if only to a degree. Once you'd seen most of the "start" choices and had to proceed past them multiple times to get to the later branches, it lost its spark. Looked nice, though, with the minimalist style and light colors. (3 Stars.)

  • 16/05. The one-hundred-and-seventieth Indie Game of the Week. Death's Gambit might be the first case of a "Soulslite" I've seen; the same grim and gothic aesthetic, a similar level of challenge albeit in a 2D context where platforming is much more a factor, and a similar character progression system and shortcut-enabled level design. However, it's much more compact and not nearly as demanding as typical Souls, or even Soulslikes of a 2D bent like Hollow Knight or Salt and Sanctuary. I didn't dislike it though; it had some fun ideas for bosses and I appreciated that one of the classes was essentially "Bloodborne mode". (4 Stars.)

  • 21/05. One of only two "May Millennials" - older CRPGs released around the dawn of the 21st century - that I actually managed to complete that month. Gothic II is like the first but much larger in scope, still tinkering with its little ecosystems and your participation in same as you play factions against each other and slowly work your way up the food chain to take on harder assignments and explore the more hostile areas of the island setting. I really like this series, but if they keep getting bigger I'm not sure I'm going to find the time for them every year. (4 Stars.)

  • 22/05. Marginally improved over the first with its new "Clip Picross" mode, that has you building much larger pixel images via a composite of smaller picross puzzles. It's a cool idea I've seen done elsewhere, but S2 only has five of them and then it's back to the standard 150 normal puzzles followed by the same 150 images with the tougher "mega picross" rules. Given how much these games charge, I wish they still had a bit more in the tank. (4 Stars.)

  • 23/05. The one-hundred-and-seventy-first Indie Game of the Week. Surprised not only by how much I enjoyed this Zelda action-adventure, but by how straightforward it was given the reputation of the series and its deliberately strange artistic choices. Entering people's brains to complete Zelda dungeons thematically based on their psychoses is a neat idea I hope the real Zelda series decides to follow up on one day. (4 Stars.)

  • 31/05. The other completed May Millennials game this year. Titan Quest goes on a little bit too long and the PS4 version of the remaster is replete with bugs, but it's easy to understand how this Diablo also-ran could find an audience of dedicated hack-and-slashers with its mythically-derived menagerie and a novel character building system that affords you more control over very specific builds. I think I'm good on any future NG+ loops, but it was nice to get briefly captivated by a loot RPG again. (3 Stars.)

  • 01/06. The one-hundred-and-seventy-second Indie Game of the Week. Ethnobotany and post-apocalyptic mutations are merely the backdrop to this emotional adventure game about a small, close-knit community. A bit ponderous, but easy to fall in love with. (4 Stars.)

  • 19/06. Falcom's decennial Xanadu reboots have allowed them to get more experimental than they could with the more structurally defined Trails and Ys series, with Tokyo Xanadu offering a look at their take on Atlus's Persona franchise. One key difference is that the combat is as fast and intense as Ys, with an arcade, high-score chasing sensibility that requires split-second strategizing and real-time combat. Not much to look at and a little too prone to clichés, but like all Falcom games it's got it where it counts. (5 Stars.)

  • 21/06. The one-hundred-and-seventy-fifth Indie Game of the Week. A charming Zelda-like with a stronger emphasis on combat over puzzles and exploration, though it's certainly not lacking for either. Notably quite challenging, despite its cute appearance. (4 Stars.)

  • (Mobility for Itch.io) 22/06. Played for a special Indie Game of the Week feature on the enormous Itch.io charity bundle from June. A stage-based masocore like Super Meat Boy or N+, but with variable modes that allows you to take on the same levels with blocks disappearing or turning deadly for an extra layer of challenge and some new pathing required. Very brief, but offers a decent challenge. Didn't care for that final boss though. (3 Stars.)

  • 22/06. Played for a special Indie Game of the Week feature on the enormous Itch.io charity bundle from June. Hard to rate this as a game, because it stands better as an interactive art piece than a vignette-based video game with simple puzzles and repeated instances. The message is a little scrambled too: a diatribe against mindless conformity or a symbolic representation of the awkwardness of our teenage years? Or just a bunch of stickpeople falling in holes? Unclear. (2 Stars.)

  • 22/06. Played for a special Indie Game of the Week feature on the enormous Itch.io charity bundle from June. A picturesque series of diaramas that slowly reveal themselves to be much more than initially meets the eyes, with each everyday setting transforming and mutating to something otherwise fantastic. Great little trippy game to play in the wee early hours, when you're already halfway between reality and the sleeping world. (3 Stars.)

  • 26/06. The one-hundred-and-seventy-sixth Indie Game of the Week. Functional if undemanding puzzle game based on tangram shapes: using the same seven pieces to form a variety of different images. Some organization and presentation problems let it down a little, but entirely inoffensive and approachable to anyone regardless of their puzzle-solving prowess. (3 Stars.)

  • 04/07. The one-hundred-and-seventy-seventh Indie Game of the Week. Wonderful 16-bit JRPG throwback that packs its world with so much detail, both narratively and graphically, and has the same sort of approach to modernization that the Zeboyd games boast. What you want but so rarely get with these SNES-styled "RPG Maker" type games. (5 Stars.)

  • 06/07. I finished Watch Dogs around the time when all the Ubisoft misogyny and abuse allegations were coming to light, and it was somehow oddly fitting. Watch Dogs is a miserable game that treats its female characters like garbage but at least has some novel ideas - most of which revolve around hacking in some way, surprise surprise - that would find better purchase in the more upbeat Watch Dogs 2. At least, I suspect so, since I plan to move onto it eventually... or had before this Ubisoft business left a foul taste in my mouth. Yuckers. (3 Stars.)

  • (Cuckoo Castle for Itch.io.) 06/07. Played for a special Indie Game of the Week feature on the enormous Itch.io charity bundle from June. A Game Boy-inspired mini-explormer with a character switching feature that also doubles as the usual traversal upgrade system. Cute in its micro-sized ambitions, but the combat's a bit too chaotic: very easy to take hits without knowing how and why. (3 Stars.)

  • 07/07. Played for a special Indie Game of the Week feature on the enormous Itch.io charity bundle from June. Kinda basic explormer that looks like it was made in a week with Unity and MS Paint, though the elemental environment manipulation was a neat idea that could use some fleshing out. (3 Stars.)

  • 09/07. The one-hundred-and-seventy-eighth Indie Game of the Week. An Irish adventure game that had movie-level animation quality (positively Bluthian, even) and a two hour run time to match. Despite being over almost as quickly as it started, it had a decent array of inventory puzzles, some less fun lilypad puzzles, and a certain streak of wholesomeness that made it hard to dislike. (4 Stars.)

  • 17/07. The one-hundred-and-seventy-ninth Indie Game of the Week. A rare 3D hidden objects game, the objects invariably being cats and yarnballs. Scanning around the game's many picturesque wintry scenes for mewling felines was compelling in the way all these Where's Waldo types are, but I wished it had more variety. Still, seems like the developers made several sequels in different settings, so I might hunt those down if I'm in a casual, kitty-loving mood again. (3 Stars.)

  • 19/07. The Ace Attorney franchise is on full throttle here for the possibly last outing of Phoenix, Apollo, Athena, and co.. It was both heartwarming and weird to bump into adult versions of Maya and Pearl Fey after seeing them as kids for so many games (they've barely changed personality-wise, at least) and all the Séance business gave these cases some fun twists to suss out. I also appreciated that they vastly cut down on the less interesting "Investigation" portions of the game, though it still dragged a bit overall. Not the worst game for these characters to go out on, if that proves to be the case. (4 Stars.)

  • 19/07. This is specifically for the Randomizer ROM hack, which I played with both Skulltula Madness and Keysanity settings enabled (I really wouldn't recommend either, and especially not together). Richly rewarding in an entirely new way that demanded I summon every dreg of Ocarina of Time knowledge to make any progress. Challenging doesn't begin to describe that process. Oh, right, and Ocarina of Time still kicks ass too. (5 Stars.)

  • 21/07. Played for a special Indie Game of the Week feature on the enormous Itch.io charity bundle from June. An Indie Zeldalike that, unlike most, chose to ape Link's Awakening in particular. Charming as a microcosm of that franchise, but flavorless as a potential successor and far too surface-level with its puzzles and item usage. (3 Stars.)

  • 21/07. Played for a special Indie Game of the Week feature on the enormous Itch.io charity bundle from June. A dry yet compelling psychological horror game about depression and "routine therapy": maintaining a cycle of repeated steps to return oneself to a state of normalcy. Doesn't quite fly off the precipice the way some other mental health-related games might, to its reserved credit, and still tells a relatable story in the midst of a terrifying breakdown of reality. (4 Stars.)

  • 22/07. Played for a special Indie Game of the Week feature on the enormous Itch.io charity bundle from June. A little puzzle-explormer that's small in scope and ideas alike, though it offered a fair challenge and some delightful pixel graphics. Could easily be the precursor to something far greater if the devs decide to follow it up, but it sounds like that team all went their separate ways. A little buggy too, alas. (3 Stars.)

  • 31/07. The one-hundred-and-eighty-first Indie Game of the Week. An RPG Maker game repurposed as a dual simulation/adventure game about running your own inn. The day-to-day is about fixing up rooms to suit incoming guests and figuring out the right costs-to-revenue ratio, while there's plenty of tasks that require exploring the town and talking to the right people, most of which result in some boon to your establishment. A bit limited in many respects, but a great idea executed well. (4 Stars.)

  • 04/08. The sixth (well, seventh (well...)) Yakuza game is an exercise in restraint, following the efforts made to sort the wheat from the chaff in the move from Yakuza 5 to Yakuza 0. Though it has way less content than its predecessors, and I didn't care so much for the new "big" minigames (a baseball sim and reverse tower defense warfare strategy), it's still every bit as excellent in terms of its narrative, its new and improved activities, and the usual substory buffoonery. It also got an excellent character (and performance) from Beat Takeshi, who I'm sure had been asked to appear in every Yakuza game so far. Like Spirit of Justice, above, I'm sad to leave these characters behind but not sad that their final bow was on a high note. (4 Stars.)

  • 06/08. The one-hundred-and-eighty-second Indie Game of the Week. Both a "demake" of its cousin Ghost 1.0 and a more relaxed approach to explormers, you could finish Mini Ghost in a few hours with no upgrades if so inclined. Upgrades instead make the game easier, but only rarely are they absolutely necessary. It feels a bit more like a large and interconnected Mega Man stage instead. (3 Stars.)

  • 09/08. New Colossus runs into a problem that its forebear shares, in that it wants to be a fast-paced, guns-akimbo tribute to the original 3D Wolfenstein game, while also being stealthy and sneaky like the original 2D Wolfenstein. Splitting the design focus between stealth and balls-out gunfights lessens both as a result; I hated fighting through crowds of Nazi goons to get to the commanders whose alarms were causing endless respawns, but I also hated getting quietly close to them when I had very few stealthy means at my disposal - when stealthy, the game world itself feels like it's impatient for the fireworks to go off. I still absolutely adore the worldbuilding of this alternate 1960s, for as bleak as it is, and there are some appealing characters and highly memorable cutscenes scattered about, but it's when I'm outside the hub HQ that I'm a little more at odds with the game. (4 Stars, though I'm inclined to drop it to 3 just for that credits song alone.)

  • 13/08. The one-hundred-and-eighty-third Indie Game of the Week. An "Escape Room" style adventure game filled with puzzles that require a bit of memorization, and so it has an in-game means of remembering codes and patterns: a photography mode that lets you capture the immediate screen for later perusal, which was a stroke of genius (though I don't recall if the Myst games had anything similar). It suffers a little bit from its clunky UI, however. The developers were kind enough to promote my review on Twitter, so I feel a little indebted to check out its sequels eventually. (3 Stars.)

  • 24/08. The one-hundred-and-eighty-fourth Indie Game of the Week. An anthropomorphic adventure game about a girl returning to her hometown and discovering how much it has and hasn't changed, while also wrestling with her inner demons and fixing estranged relationships. With a subversive streak of humor and some great characterization, it's only hobbled by how far it stretches all these moments apart with endless circuits of the town following each new morning. Felt much longer and drawn out than it needed to as a result, though that's largely the fault of my OCD in wanting to check in with everyone on each of the game's 12+ days. (4 Stars.)

  • 25/08. Played for a special Indie Game of the Week feature on the enormous Itch.io charity bundle from June. Affinity's a straightforward jigsaw puzzle-style game about rebuilding objects from different pieces. Each piece has a slightly different shade or hue, so the patterns and contours of each one tend to vary a lot from puzzle to puzzle. It starts to get tricky in its later stages from the amount of small and intricate pieces that form. Fortunately, it has a great set of quality-of-life flourishes and some chill music to listen to (some of which is generated by the player as they pick up and drop pieces). (4 Stars.)

  • 26/08. Played for a special Indie Game of the Week feature on the enormous Itch.io charity bundle from June. A short horror adventure game about a vicious alien predator loose on a space station (though neither the Alien nor the Predator), the game makes great use of a low-poly, low-rez filter that obfuscates an already chaotic scenario (Return of Obra Dinn made use of a similar style later, for its privateer mishaps). Though it only took about half an hour to complete, it was very well constructed. (4 Stars.)

  • (The Sword and the Slime for Itch.io and Steam) 26/08. Played for a special Indie Game of the Week feature on the enormous Itch.io charity bundle from June. A puzzle-platformer where you control a free-floating sword and must help a slime companion make it through mazes and gauntlets, while keeping to lit-up areas at all times. Some neat ideas for puzzles, though occasionally frustrating due to its difficulty and imprecise controls. (3 Stars.)

  • 30/08. The one-hundred-and-eighty-fifth Indie Game of the Week. A brand new sequel (well, spiritual sequel) to the Wonder Boy legacy, Monster Boy brings back the monstrous shapeshifting of Dragon's Trap but greatly expands the size of the world and the hero's arsenal of gear and magic. There's fortunately an equally impressive amount of variation in terms of puzzles and encounters to match its length, and it never lets up on the challenge unlike other explormers that tend to get a lot easier once you've done some exploring. A few irksome scenarios, like a certain haunted house obstacle race, only drag the game down a little. (4 Stars.)

  • 31/08. An adorably compact yet surprisingly in-depth action-adventure game that balances town development and management with exploring Zelda-style puzzle dungeons alongside companions possessing distinct skills that are needed to progress. The town building directly benefits these expeditions - your oasis's happiness is funnelled directly into bonus HP - while exploring your surroundings and collecting external resources is the best and usually only means of recruiting new citizens or improving the station and well-being of those already living there. It's also a game perfect for a portable system, due to the near-endless number of little sidequests and other objectives it has you chasing. Certain aspects feel a little rudimentary - the real-time combat for one, which feels mashy and underdeveloped - but overall I came away impressed with the total package it presents. (4 Stars.)

  • 04/09. The one-hundred-and-eighty-sixth Indie Game of the Week. A narrative adventure set in a near-future dystopia where you, as the person who picks the headlines for the news broadcast that evening, can make general sweeping changes to public opinion. Each session is short and the game is built for replays to let see how you could've made better choices, so I appreciated what the game was doing with the "your choices matter" format popularized by The Walking Dead and Papers, Please et al. (4 Stars.)

  • 06/09. Probably inessential to the overarching Danganronpa story, but an interesting diversion nonetheless, Ultra Despair Girls switches the action to a vaguely RE4 third-person shooter set in a technologically advanced city beset by killer Monokumas. The gameplay is whatever, even with the smarter arcade room challenges, but even as an action game it doesn't skimp on the visual novel-length story and dialogue scenes. I'd say check it out if you already like the series, but otherwise it might be a little too offputting and obtuse. (4 Stars.)

  • 07/09. King Art Games have made some great adventure games in the past, but Black Mirror - inspired by a Czech series of the same name, not the TV show - doesn't compete. It's functionally competent, though the PS4 version I played had more than a few issues, but rather pedestrian with its minor puzzles and tends to make you wander around a lot to find the next story thread. Visually, at least, it's got some style and panache with certain supernatural sequences. (3 Stars.)

  • 11/09. The one-hundred-and-eighty-seventh Indie Game of the Week. I enjoyed this time-hopping explormer quite a lot, though there's no denying just how much it cribs from the IGAvania/Symphony of the Night model. I also think it could've leaned into its "what you do in the past affects the future" idea a little more, though you get nice touches like accidentally poisoning the air in the future (which makes backtracking temporarily impossible). Some decent worldbuilding and lore scattered around, which isn't often a concern in explormers, and the unusual orb system for weaponry can offer a great deal of customization. Big thumbs up for this one. (5 Stars.)

  • 13/09. Played for a special Indie Game of the Week feature on the enormous Itch.io charity bundle from June. Started this in August and kept chipping away at it thereafter. A stage-based explormer that keeps tossing out new missions and is filled to the brim with collectibles and secrets. My favorite part is that you can upload your stats to an external site to see how much progression you've made. Just wish it was a little easier to navigate that hub world; a map would've helped. (4 Stars.)

  • 20/09. The one-hundred-and-eighty-eighth Indie Game of the Week. At first I worried that The Tenth Line was going to bite off more than it can chew, as it has some very ambitious mechanics between its Valkyrie Profile combo-heavy combat and platforming, and its spin on FF8's card game, but it smartly kept things manageable by only ever having three party members to worry about. Story and graphics were decent enough too, though the floaty platforming was probably the weakest link in the chain. The post-game superbosses kicked my ass, so I think I'm done. (4 Stars.)

  • 24/09. The one-hundred-and-eighty-ninth Indie Game of the Week. A 2016 game that felt like a 2010 game, though not necessarily in a bad way. More in the sense that it has the tone and mechanics of a puzzle-platformer in the mold of Braid, which aren't the types of Indie games you see quite as often these days. Holding the scrolling screen in place so you can warp between sides leads to a number of interesting applications and variations, but you soon get a feel for it and can sorta glide through most of the game. Still feels good to do so though. (4 Stars.)

  • 27/09. Initially kinda meh, Lost Sphear has a mostly hidden side to its character progression that can lead to some really fun overpowered character builds. If the combat ever feels too awkward or staid, it's worth messing around with sublimations or the party make-up to spruce things up. Story-wise, I think it has an interesting premise that it squanders a little with some rote characters, but it's frequently as meta as one of these old-school JRPG throwbacks might ever get outside of an Undertale. Happy I stuck it out, despite feeling ambivalent during the first few hours. (P.S. Galdra kicks ass.) (4 Stars.)

  • 02/10. The one-hundred-and-ninetieth Indie Game of the Week. An ingenious fusion of match-3 puzzle and side-scrolling brawler, with a strict time limit for both halves that really forces you to prioritize. Some very sharp anime-style graphics and deeply empathetic characterization serves as an appealing garnish. (5 Stars.)

  • 07/10. I'm sorry I missed this when it released in 2016 and could've used more press; Obsidian are getting shockingly good at these Infinity Engine throwbacks, filling them with mechanically-rich systems and compelling world-building alike (it's extremely grim, though the player character can serve as a slim ray of hope if they so choose). I think the magic system is especially well-considered, and am glad that being a magic-user was recommended to me. It's relatively brisk for the CRPG genre too, so it was over long before I'd grown tired of it. I hope they consider a sequel, though I'm unsure what form it would even take. (5 Stars.)

  • 09/10. The one-hundred-and-ninety-first Indie Game of the Week. A droll exercise in recognizing your RPG tropes, as you endeavor to find all one hundred endings to this superficially familiar tale about a courageous hero, a legendary sword, and a destructive dark lord. Its unpredictability is its greatest strength, so I'd recommend going in knowing as little as possible and take the time to feel it out. (5 Stars.)

  • 15/10. The one-hundred-and-ninety-second Indie Game of the Week. An evolution of that old Flash game standby where you're incrementally developing your character for progressively more successful sessions. In this case, the sessions involve ascending a tower rocket-first and using flying minions to maintain momentum. Simple, but effective at what it does. (4 Stars.)

  • 16/10. I feel by this game you either know if you're on board for Danganronpa's misanthropic anime mayhem and deeply stupid class trials or you aren't. Danganronpa V3 gets even more meta than its predecessors, and I struggle to put into words just how wild that ending is. If you're just here to suss out stupidly elaborate murders and converse with another rogue's gallery of "Ultimate" weirdos, V3 has you covered. I'd enjoy it too, because I don't think there'll be another one of these. (4 Stars.)

  • 19/10. Even Falcom's less-renowned outings have much to recommend them, as anyone who played this way back in the day when it was a PSP exclusive can attest. An action-RPG take on Mr. Driller, the diminutive heroine works her way through several combat encounters and platforming challenges in order to help her monster friends. It's worth noting also that Gurumin has personality to spare - it reminds me a lot of Dreamcast era Sega - and a musically diverse soundtrack that is absolutely worth tracking down, as most Falcom soundtracks tend to be. (4 Stars.)

  • 23/10. The one-hundred-and-ninety-third Indie Game of the Week. I've covered all three previous Trine games in various blog features, so it only felt right to keep that combo going. It's very much retreated to its comfort zone of 2D puzzle-platforming, handing out a few new powers to its trio of heroes to play around with, and framed it with its usual penchant for picturesque , color-saturated backdrops. Trine games are always a joy, whether a new one decides to push the envelope or not. (4 Stars.)

  • 24/10. The first game in the Itchy, Tasty Spooktathlon, covering horror-themed games included in the Racial Justice and Equality bundle. Immure is a promising first chapter in a modal, side-scrolling horror adventure where between running from terrors you do the investigative work to figure out how to defeat (or release!) them for good. It just has the one scenario right now, but if gains more content in the future it might become another Indie staple of the genre. (4 Stars.)

  • 25/10. The second game in the Itchy, Tasty Spooktathlon. A cutesy platformer with Halloween characters like Pumpkin Man (and his own Luigi, Butternut Man) and a very basic 8-bit stage progression with a few secret unlocks to find for subsequent playthroughs. It's about as substantial as the phantoms it features, but a charming enough throwback all the same. (4 Stars.)

  • 26/10. The third game in the Itchy, Tasty Spooktathlon. A distressing game, because it covers a fictionalized version of some very real cults, replete with hints of all the brainwashing, sexual slavery, and inner-community isolation and violence that most of those cults devolve into. Its first-person, lo-fi presentation is fittingly disquieting for the epistolary story it tells and the truths it uncovers. (4 Stars.)

  • 28/10. The fifth game in the Itchy, Tasty Spooktathlon. Easily the least scary game from the Spooktathlon, Dead & Breakfast is a cute little sim about setting up a hostelry for the deceased. This not includes talking to guests and fulfilling their requests, but balancing the books with some lucrative gardening on the side. Not the most complex of sims, but it gives you enough to do between the story-heavy parts. (4 Stars.)

  • 29/10. The sixth game in the Itchy, Tasty Spooktathlon. Another bite-size action game, this time of the explormer genre. It lacks much of the item progression and upgrades typical to that type of game and feels rudimentary as a result, but it serves up a decent challenge and was fun while it lasted. (3 Stars.)

  • 29/10. The one-hundred-and-ninety-fourth Indie Game of the Week. A sci-fi adventure game with a rhyming gimmick, Milkmaid doesn't have a whole lot to offer beyond its old-school aesthetic and some occasionally charming storybook writing. Oddly relaxing too, even in moments of dire peril. (3 Stars.)

  • 29/10. The seventh game in the Itchy, Tasty Spooktathlon. Another escape room puzzle-adventure game like its predecessor, Forever Lost expands the world size and makes a small amount of improvements to its UI and mechanics, though it still feels kinda busted much of the time. The puzzles are compelling enough though, and it continues to feature a dry sense of meta humor that takes the edge off the ominous setting and overarching plot about a SAW-like mastermind screwing with you. (3 Stars.)

  • 30/10. The eighth game in the Itchy, Tasty Spooktathlon. Some weird-ass visuals and a Lovecraftian plot about a schism between two demonic deities serve as trappings in this otherwise standard 2D puzzle-platformer that, similar to The Swapper or PB Winterbottom, involves creating and moving clones to necessary locations. Definitely one to play for the visuals, because the artists really went all out designing this creepy world for maximum discomfort. (4 Stars.)

  • 31/10. I'd been looking for a GOTY frontrunner for 2020 and, so far, I think the new Paper Mario might be it to the shock and surprise of many (me most of all). I'm still not copacetic with the ongoing decision to eliminate any RPG progression in Paper Mario, since it renders most random encounters pointless if all I'm doing is using up my best items to earn the money needed to replenish them, but Origami King at least frames its battles as intriguing sliding block puzzles (which, well, your mileage may vary on how much you enjoy those) and filling its game world with a huge variety of stuff to do, see, collect, and discover. It's also excellently written too, easily as sharp and amusing as any Super Mario RPG prior, and it almost made me cry a couple times. It's going to be the one to beat as we get closer to the end of this accursed year. (5 Stars.)

  • 06/11. The one-hundred-and-ninety-fifth Indie Game of the Week. As predicted, I fell right in sync with this warehouse storage puzzle game, organizing and re-organizing to account for larger numbers of stock in more shapes and colors. I later discovered that the hundred item types that I was pushing around wasn't necessarily the same as everyone else's - even on that icon to the left, there's stuff I never saw. I think this was a "safe" pick for me; I liked it exactly as much as I suspected I would. (5 Stars.)

  • 12/11. The one-hundred-and-ninety-sixth Indie Game of the Week. Another in a rich history of emotional narrative adventure games built in the unassuming RPG Maker engine, OneShot makes it clear from the outset (or its very name, even) that you'll make at least one decision and have to stick by it. Its exploration of a world on decline and meeting what few souls remain, robot and otherwise, gave me Fragile Moon flashbacks too. For my own mood's sake, I should stop playing these lugubrious games... (5 Stars.)

  • 19/11. The one-hundred-and-ninety-seventh Indie Game of the Week. This was more cute than anything, giving you a stylish spy caper that was really just another HOPA-style puzzle-adventure game involving the usual sliding blocks and an inventory slowly filling with crap. I liked its moxie and aesthetic, even if the protagonist's silly mugging felt a little out of place. (3 Stars.)

  • 22/11. I loved the first Nioh for its open mission structure and deeply involved weapon skill customization, and Nioh 2 did not disappoint as it built on both those aspects and introduced many more besides. Creating my own character, determining the type of half-yokai samurai I wanted to be, tinkering endlessly with skill trees and blacksmithing menus, and taking on some creative and visually impressive bosses all made for a great Soulslike. It could've been a little shorter perhaps, but you can't say it wasn't value for money. (5 Stars.)

  • 26/11. The one-hundred-and-ninety-eighth Indie Game of the Week. A time-hopping explormer that impressed me not only with its ideas, but in how it took such a lofty and complicated sci-fi concept like time-travel and looping and made it all as accessible as possible with its marvelous UI. Instead, the challenge came from the gameplay itself, which required some excellent reflexes and very tight timing. Definitely one of the best Indie explormers in recent years, especially if you're looking for something that stands out. (4 Stars.)

  • 30/11. Spun-off from one of Steins;Gate's many alternative timelines (why yes, I did play two "jumping timelines" games in a row), Steins;Gate 0 doesn't necessarily need to exist but earns its right to be by creating lots of smaller stories with peripheral characters that leads to many moments of drama and levity across a spectrum of possible storylines. I think anyone curious about this whole VN boom owe it to themselves to try the Steins;Gate series to see if it clicks, because if it doesn't it's unlikely anything else will. (4 Stars.)

  • 02/12. First game of Go! Go! GOTY! 2020. A delightful low-key puzzle game about disassembling, repairing, and assembling beloved keepsakes and electronic devices in an unhurried and calm atmosphere. A game visually and aurally pleasing from its empathetic stories about family and generosity down to the way components click and clunk when taken apart and put back together. (4 Stars.)

  • 03/12. Second game of Go! Go! GOTY! 2020. Not so much a game but a component of Lair of the Clockwork God, with which it came free, it's still full of that game's humor and sheer disregard to modern Indie gaming trends, in this case specifically towards anime-style romantic highschool visual novels with immaterial branching narrative paths. It's like 15 minutes long though, so it wasn't really intended to be a full commercial product. Maybe it exists for some other reason... (3 Stars.)

  • 08/12. Third game of Go! Go! GOTY! 2020. Initially skeptical of its conceit that you could combine picross puzzles with an investigative murder mystery adventure game without resulting in some sort of tragic mutant, MbN won me over with its wit, charm, sharp writing, and regularly doled out visual puzzles. (4 Stars.)

  • 09/12. Fourth game of Go! Go! GOTY! 2020. Excellent premise and adorable visual design, Part Time UFO is let down with its preponderance for exasperating "stacking shit in a big pile and hoping it doesn't fall over" puzzles, which made up easily half of the stages (or "temp jobs") in the game. Like the first Scribblenauts, the foundation is sound but it could use some better quest design and refinement. (2 Stars.)

  • 11/12. Fifth game of Go! Go! GOTY! 2020. A truly bizarre setting for an otherwise relatable murder mystery, Paradise Killer balances your time between interviewing suspects with branching dialogue trees and exploring Island 24 through a combination of first-person platforming and keen observation. Equal parts visual novel, open-world collectathon, and Suda51 enigma, this is one of the year's most fascinating games. (5 Stars.)

  • 12/12. Sixth game of Go! Go! GOTY! 2020. A Zelda clone with a compelling hook - how would a game's characters react if the world was taken over by corruption caused by a glitch? - and builds most of its content, dungeons and overworld, via a procgen algorithm that robs it of its essence. It plays well enough and has more than enough content for would-be Heroes of Time, but outside of the story twists it's fairly rote and unexciting. (3 Stars.)

  • 13/12. Seventh game of Go! Go! GOTY! 2020. I added this to this year's GOTY homework without realizing that it debuted on PS4 in late 2019, but no matter: I don't think this was going to make it to the top ten regardless. There's some fine ideas and an intriguing art style, but playing it on inadequate hardware made it even more of a chore than it was to begin with its overly exacting puzzles. (3 Stars.)

  • 15/12. Eighth game of Go! Go! GOTY! 2020. Short but sweet puzzle game about recruiting demon lasses for the beefy protagonist's harem, each of whom needs some convincing first. Amusing, good-looking, and unexpectedly wholesome, it's one of those free games like Doki Doki Literature Club that grabbed a lot of (deserved) interest out of nowhere. (4 Stars.)

  • 16/12. The one-hundred-and-ninety-ninth Indie Game of the Week. The bastard merger of an idle clicker game and a survival/crafting sim, Forager is the sort of thing that can eat an entire week of your life if you let it, running around hitting resources and pouring them into machines to make more elaborate resources that can then be turned into even more junk. It's compelling enough once you're gripped by its hooks, but I wish I could've weaned myself off of it earlier. (3 Stars)

  • 17/12. Ninth game of Go! Go! GOTY! 2020. A funny and ingenious mix of traditional adventure gaming and the puzzle-platforming more typically found in Indies, the iconoclastic irreverence of the heroic duo of Ben and Dan is as refreshing as the sheer variation of scenarios that the game presents to you to muddle through. Hard to anticipate where it will go next. (5 Stars.)

  • 30/12. The two-hundredth Indie Game of the Week. Despite being built like a game I was destined to fall in love with - an action-RPG that's as fast and fun as Ys boosted with heavier character customization, with an attractive pixel art style and a deep story about MMO players in the distant future - I started getting irked with certain game design decisions here and there and these annoyances just kept escalating, like a snowball full of glass shards rolling down a mountain directly into my genitals. Good soundtrack though? (3 Stars.)