GOTY 2018

Here I am back home again, rating games.

List items

  • I can't stop thinking about this game. Everything about its construction and execution are so intricate and tightly interwoven. I loved getting to explore so many tragic death scenes and piece together exactly what happened on the Obra Dinn. There were many times when the sound design was an integral part of determining what happened. I love the black and white look and it makes some of these scenes even more tragic and brutal. There were a few times when the "cause of death" felt a little vague but after you get a few you can assume that other event are similar. It's such a neat feeling to discover a story for yourself as you meticulously pore over details of a scene. I loved the story and the ending.

  • The most fun I've had with a platformer since Super Meat Boy. Another game where everything feels great. What I really love about this game is the story. The characters discuss real issues in a way that's not corny or preachy. I love the idea of battling a dark part of yourself and ultimately losing. I can relate to this battle. The game manages strikes the right balance between psychological elements and fun platforming. The challenges get better in the most satisfying way such that at the end of the game you feel like you're playing one of those ridiculous Super Mario World levels and succeeding at it.

  • OK, what does it mean when playing a game feels like your actual, day-to-day, work? I spend most of my days doing some form of computer programming and I really enjoy my work! I like to solve problems and I feel intellectually fulfilled by my work. Programming can also feel incredibly mindless: "I can see where I need to get to easily but there a hundred small changes I need to make across 25 files". EXAPUNKS gives me both of these feelings. I love the late 90's future setting, the zine and all of the UI design around the programming puzzles. I love that narrative is dripped slowly through the chatroom, zine and even the files you find on the computer systems. (I guess I always like the feeling of piecing a story together for myself). Each hacking segment has a clear goal and it quickly becomes clear what the crux move will be to get things to work. I love figuring out that crux move but as with all programming, there's some amount of cruft around getting to a solution. The API for the EXAPUNKS is small enough that it doesn't feel overwhelming to write anything but it still takes time. The best puzzles are the ones done in about 15 minutes--you try out a few quick things, see where you went wrong, correct and feel like a genius as your EXA's carry out your perfect plans across 100 scenarios. The harder puzzles seem to require careful, tricky bookkeeping that feels like the least fun parts of programming. That said, I still get an immense amount of satisfaction from optimizing these problems too. The hardest of these puzzles had me slowly thinking through the logic as I lay in bed at night. The same way a problem at work does. I honestly don't know if I like this? It's very satisfying to turn a problem over in your mind and feel like you've made progress. But...it's hard to turn that part of my mind off once it gets started. It's a compulsive feeling, and that's where I start to dislike this game, when I feel like it's taken over my mind.

    I really liked this game. It was incredibly satisfying but I am glad to be free from it's clutches and it's not the kind of game I ever want to replay (or have that desire to somehow forget the experience so I could replay, a la Obra Dinn).

  • I love the aesthetic and the main mechanic. There are a lot of games where I like those things, I specifically like the very bare world. It makes every little detail stand out so much more in a way that makes it kind of beautiful. I really enjoyed exploring the world and the accelerated Zelda gameplay.

  • Donut County is kind of a childern's picture book turned into a game. It's about a raccoon that got greedy for prizes and ended up destroying a town. The hole mechanic is very satisfying, especially the way things fall into a hole. I would have liked a few more puzzles around using the hole because the few they have are so satisfying (fattening up a frog so he can pull a switch was awesome). I do love just being in its weird world, and BK is a great pseudo bad guy that everyone still loves somehow. The music and the art design also add in a wonderfully chill vibe.

  • I just finished easy mode but I'm already digging the chess match that is this game. It reminds me a lot of playing Advance Wars--planning out the best possible sequence of moves is always fun.

  • A good adventure game. These games are starting to become comfort food for me in the same way that metroidvania games are. I like to slowly find out a story and solve puzzles. This game has some great humor and silly descriptions on an otherwise serious story. I still like that tone I just have some issues with the pacing and some of the puzzles solutions. I enjoy solves puzzles (even obtuse ones!) while the pacing is good and I'm getting some story bits. Solving puzzles with no story for what feels like no obvious connection (other than a fetch quest) can try my patience. So at some point in the third chapter I didn't enjoy being "stymied" anymore. That said, there were a lot of satisfying puzzles--throwing the scarecrow in the dam, stealing cupcakes, developing photos. This game has great energy but an uneven pace.

  • I ended up really liking Iconoclasts. It started very slow and hinted at all the lore it wanted to show me. I was eventually won over by the big, novel boss battles and big set pieces. I also liked how they didn't go full exposition most of the time! I still have a lot of lingering questions about the strange world of ivory and the One Concern state religion. This game is very heavy on the "puzzle" part of the metroidvania equation, with most rooms being about how to use your abilities to open doors and move blocks instead of fighting tough enemies. I generally like puzzle rooms like this but there's something about the momentum of a game that never really develops as you enter each room with a new block puzzle to solve.

    The game is not afraid to show you some oddly dark things--groups of religious zealots sheltered from the outside world, an incredibly corrupt group of religious leaders seeking to save only themselves at the end of the world. It feels great to see these terrible people get their just rewards and the boss battles give you a fun way to dish out justice.

  • So I play a lot of this type of game. I think I've played four action platformers this year. It's kind of a comfort food for me. I think my favorite game of all time is Super Metroid. I still love feeling like I'm exploring a world. The Messenger has a beautiful, interconnected world, but it's light on the exploration and more about giving you a set of tools and pitting you against creative platforming challenges. I'm ok with this! I have Hollow Knight for that! I guess I'll just look at this from a design perspective. I think it's cool that you kind of play through the game once before the world opens up. It really shows you how familiar you are with the mechanics. That said, there is so much traversal from a potential point of interest to the next that I felt bogged down while chasing the end-of-game collectibles. That second half of the game also has almost no story and no character interaction, which are the high points of the game. The Messenger has great characters that are funny without being annoyingly ironic. They know they're in a game, but they're happy to be there! This light fourth wall breaking is used with great effect throughout the game and it works best in the shopkeeper and the other blue-robes. The shop keeper gives you life advice, tells you ridiculous stories, parodies other item shops and also loves your new hat. It's all great.

    I'm always happy to play through a challenging platformer and explore a world. I just wish I would have got more of The Messenger's great personality all the way through the game.

  • Florence is a great outline of a failed relationship you can kind of project yourself into. I liked feeling how day-to-life become routines through the repetitive gameplay actions. This punctuates how great it feels to meet someone new. This game didn't go quite enough into the "drifting apart" details for me. I think drifting apart is such an interesting part of a relationship, especially when I look back on my failed relationships. I still really enjoyed how the light gameplay mapped to a relationships ups and downs.