2016 in gaming
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Few games manage to make me lose track of time - my regular gaming sessions usually last about an hour, I get a little restless after that. Not with The Witness though, where I frequently (for the one week where I basically marathon-ed it during all of my waking non-university hours). Expertly crafted puzzles, beautifully rendered world and... that's pretty much all there is to this game, but there doesn't need to be any more.
I may be in the minority on this one, but Dark Souls III is by far my favorite Dark Souls. It is also the only Dark Souls I've played to completion. It seems to me like From Software learned some lessons while making Bloodborne, and imported some of its faster combat to its main franchise. Almost all of the boss fights were great (certainly memorable), and the stretches in between the bosses were great as well.
Doom brought back the first person shooter campaign in a big way, creating a rich world, smartly mostly accessed by data log entries instead of chatting it up during cutscenes and the like. Sure, there are a handful of cutscenes in the game, but most of it is about one singular thing; killing demons. The firefights, especially toward the end of the game get REALLY intense, pitting you against hordes of demons that keep getting summoned to stop you. The enemy variety is great, with each enemy having a very clear silhouette and being identifiable on the spot, giving you quick response times as to what weapon you want to use against them. That being said though, I found that I could seldom play the game for more than 30-45 minutes at a time, with it getting so intense that I just felt like I head to take a break.
From the opening minutes during the twine intro, I was already pulled into this world and its characters. All the way up until the third act switch-up, I was on the edge of my seat, waiting for the next interaction with Delilah or the next story beat. Some people disliked the way the game ended, I kind of liked it.
A modern take on the classic adventure series that works surprisingly well most of the time. Episodes 2 and 4 presented minor dips in overall enjoyment, but the highs are so high that I'm willing to look past all that. Great puzzles (mostly), great story, great writing and great voice acting!
This remade version of Day of the Tentacle is a remake done right, in my opinion. It doesn't change much except the way it looks (keeping the exact same animation frames, just with updated art assets), and removes the verb bar at the bottom in favor of an interaction wheel, which has become the standard since its original release in 1993. I had not played Day of the Tentacle before this, and it's a classic for a reason!
With that said, it's not immune from the criticisms regularly leveled at adventure games of the point & click variety - there are some REALLY dense solutions to some of the puzzles, but with a (third party, outside of the game) hint-guide at my disposal, it didn't bother me too much.
There's two parts to this game - the visual novel part, with a story that had some really crazy twists and turns, with characters that are unfortunately somewhat expected and familiar anime tropes. And then there's the Escape Room puzzle game, which thematically is somewhat tied to the unfolding story, which alternated between being genuinelly great puzzles and obtuse pixel hunting because you were stuck on a puzzle step without seeing an obvious next step, and it turns out the way forward was being bottlenecked by not seeing an interactable item because of either the camera being wonky or because it just blended in to the background too well.
All of that to say that I still definitely really enjoyed my time with the game. The game tells its story in 'fragments', and while it seemed a bit weird at first it makes sense as a storytelling device considering the characters themselves experience the day in 90-minute chunks before they're put to sleep and injected with amnesia-inducing drugs. Not knowing what's going on and trying to piece everything together works really well because the characters we follow are doing the exact same thing.
Then there's the whole business of parallell timelines and alternate histories - all of which might seem like a video game contrivance to support a gameplay loop of being "free to choose" how the story unfolds. That is most assuredly not the case. The characters themselves are made aware of the alternate histories, and it plays into the overarching plot in a really cool way.
I haven't played Journey, but I keep hearing this is supposed to be like that, but underwater. If this is what Journey is like, sign me up! Abzû is a gorgeous looking game, with a story told through environments and actions rather than spoken or written words. While a little shallow (put not intended) on the gameplay, it succeeded in drawing me in to this fantastical world with its visuals and the way swimming FEELS, man.
Another solid entry in the Telltale canon with a unique spin on Gotham's residents and rogue's gallery. Well directed fight scenes, well voice acted but somewhat bogged down by the slower paced detective scenes.
A really solid inventory-based point & click adventure game. The story was the main draw for me here. It sets up a cool world and fleshes it out decently, with a host of memorable characters. The final 30 minutes or so feel like they were kind of rushing to get to the end, but other than that I really enjoyed my time with it.
This point and click adventure game is dripping with cuteness, from the art style to the animation to the characters to the whole world. It's almost Disney-esque. While a pretty simple and straightforward affair (pretty brief as well, I finished it in about an hour and a half), I thoroughly enjoyed my time with it. Sometimes, games don't have to break new ground, they just have to stick with what works and make it well!
The oft-cited pitch for this game sounds something like "Tindr meets Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books". You are faced with decisions, and you either swipe right or left depending on what you want to do. Those decisions in turn have an effect on your kingdom via 4 different 'stats'. The clergy, the people, the army and your wealth. The objective is to carefully balance those stats so that no single one is depleted or skyrockets. For example, if you heavily invest in your army, it might become so strong that it decides to rebel against you. If your army is weak, an invading force might wipe you out. When you die, your heir starts their reign and the cycle begins anew.
The problem for me was the amount of repetition. There is a finite number of cards (events), which means that you will see the same exact scenarios play out a bunch of times, which ultimately led me to grow tired of it.
A hard platformer, more in the vein of Trials than Super Meat Boy, is pretty great at first, with butt-sliding and jumping and all that good stuff. Somewhere along the way though, it muddies itself up by introducing a hook-shot which gets used way more frequently toward the end. To me, it just wasn't any fun using it. I'd rather have seen more run, jump & butt-slide levels.
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