Upping the Majesty: Games I've completed in 2013

Man. You guys, my backlog is pretty big. I know I'm not alone here in this post-Steam-sale world, but it's still a problem I feel compelled to address.

In an attempt to motivate myself to start moving things to the left, I've decided to start a list keeping track of games I've completed in 2013. I'll try to write a mini-review for every game I play and complete - my backlog is varied and I tend to shy away from big games when they first launch, so very likely this list will be all over the damn place.

Hope you enjoy it

Disclaimer: Defeated might not mean "Beaten". It might also mean "Boy this is a bad game, I think I'm going to stop playing it"

I try to give each game at least an hour of my time, though

List items

  • What is game?

    Rating: What is game?

    Defeated: 01/03/2013 (what is game???)

  • It's hard to talk about Spec Ops without spoiling the whole thing. I'll try my best.

    It's undeniably one of the most important games released in the last decade. That's a broad statement that is as arrogant as it is meaningless, but it's one I firmly stand by.

    Here we have a story that could not have been told by any other medium other than video games. Contrasting the approach of series like Metal Gear Solid and Uncharted - games that tell stories largely by holding your hand and removing player agency - Spec Ops instead embraces the player's role in the game. It uses every part, every mechanic, every trope of what makes a game a game - right down to the loading screens - to tell you a story. The craziest part is that it succeeds.

    It constantly makes you question your role as a player and how it relates to the game, the character your controlling, and choice. Over and over again these themes come up, but it's not until the credits role that you can actually sit back and think about the questions it asked.

    It's a bit hamfisted in its approach. It's also, as far as shooters go, aggressively mediocre.

    ...and yet...

    Honestly? In the age old debate of "are games art?", this provides a rather poignant answer.

    Rating: You are still a good person

    Defeated: 01/03/2013

  • Important note: This is for the Missing Link DLC, not the entire game.

    I have a weird relationship with DLC. I hated it back in 2006, and I've been unwilling to set aside that angst even in the face of a post-microtransaction world.

    Yet I always buy it, at least when it's on sale or part of a GotY edition. I guess that's how The Missing Link ended up in my library, as I don't remember buying it. I booted it up after I couldn't get into a full replay of the original.

    What a great game. It's everything that made the base game interesting while being new enough to warrant a full play through. I felt the story was overall quite a bit weaker, and the areas far smaller, but I got to feel like a stealth badass again and the more contained areas were easier to "master".

    Plus, the ending sequence was far, far better than the bosses of the original.

    This is the type of DLC I can get behind. Make more of these!

    Rating: I legitimately didn't ask for this, but it turned out great!

    Defeated: 01/23/2013

  • I'm not exactly sure I liked this game. I mean, I completed it. I unlocked mostly everything. I could barely stop playing it the 3 or 4 days after I downloaded it.

    I think it's the genre. These "match 3 - now with RPG elements!" games have always bugged me. I think it's largely because match 3 is a really awful puzzle archetype; it's the definition of mindless, something you play by letting your eyes go out of focus and flailing around like a dope.

    (I know there's actual strategy, but it doesn't do itself any favors by rewarding thoughtless action)

    Finally, it's 2013, dog, the fake retro style is way too played out.

    Rating: Addicting, but more like "meth" than "caffeine"

    Defeated: 01/30/2013

  • Not gonna lie - this is an average game. It's not a good game. It's not a "so bad it's good" gane. It's just average. Aggressively average.

    And yet...I'm happy it exists. The story is awful and the 2D shooter gameplay is about as vanilla as you can get, but this isn't a game that was rushed out for a quick buck; there's a surprising amount of love and care put into this game.

    You know what it reminds me of? Being a kid and getting some weird unknown game for Christmas from a relative, one that knows you like games but has no idea what to get. Like, as if my grandpa saw me playing Mega Man and assumed this was the sequel.

    If I were 15 years younger and my grandpa got me A.R.E.S for Christmas, it'd likely be a game that I actually enjoyed without really knowing why

    At 25, with no real knowledge of how it even got on my Steam list, my verdict is obviously different

    Rating: Confirmed to be not the worst

    Defeated: 02/02/2013

  • Right away I felt that BioShock 2 had two very large issues. For one, it seemed way too self-aware that it was a video game. "Levels" were just that - discrete, disconnected areas that you progressed through in one direction, faced some sort of boss encounter, then went through in the reverse direction. Every single time.

    Weapons, ammo, and Eve/First Aid kits dropped like candy. Enemies were everywhere with barely of the hint of the hand-placed feel of the previous game. There were entire sections where it was basically Horde mode.

    The second major issue was that it had a bad case of the "me too!"s. In stark contrast to the first point, it tried way too hard to ape the beats of its predecessor. Entire sequences seemed lifted straight out of the first game, to the point of having a persistent feeling of deja vu.

    Even many of the game systems - like that of the Little Sisters or the weapon/Adam upgrade system - seemed hamfisted into the game like it was trying to say "see? I'm a BioShock, too! Look at all these BioShock elements!"

    So, despite all that, what did it get right? Honestly, it's one of the few games where the back half of the story actually drew me in more than the first. It showed a surprising amount of constraint with the end sequence in particular - I half-expected a twist similar to BioShock 1, but 2 did not take the bait, even when there was a pretty obvious avenue for it.

    I even liked Eleanor a lot more than I expected to, largely because she isn't the walking plot device that I initially feared her to be.

    It's also hard not to admit that the combat was decidedly a lot better than the first game. However, I'm torn about how much that should matter. In the context of the obvious shooter than Bio2 is, that's great news. If you're expecting a tense, atmospheric game with the worries of a survival game...you're unfortunately out of luck

    In all, it's obvious Bio2 was made by a different studio under much different guidance. It comes across more as DLC or maybe even a very high end fan mod than a true sequel. But it knew how to tell a story, and they didn't take the series into a nosedive like so many others.

    Looking forward to Infinite now.

    Rating: It's good and all, but let's never talk about Big/Little family members ever again

    Defeated: 02/14/2013

  • Blade Runner meets Thirty Flights of Loving. Kinda. Extremely short, extremely free, and extremely intriguing. It's basically a short story in game form.

    (though the parts where it IS a game - like the bizarre shooting sequences - are very poor)

    I really very much enjoy the fact that "browser games" are becoming more and more experimental - a far cry of the casual arcadey games I remember from a decade ago.

    Rating: games are pretty cool

    Defeated: 02/25/2013

  • In a lot of way, I played Burnout Paradise like a Grand Theft Auto game. Not in the sense that it was an open world game with cars - though that's of course very relevant - but in the sense that 90% of my time was aimless driving.

    Eyes out of focus, foot on the gas, crashing and respawning and crashing again. No lessons learned, no accomplishes made. Just...mindless driving, usually while a podcast plays in the background.

    Does that have any bearing on it being a good game? I typically sneer at casual games because they are known for their lack of critical thought or engagement, yet I played Paradise until the credits rolled. Am I a hypocrite, or is there genuinely a difference between these two forms of "mind loops"?

    Rating: Who cares! It's a fun game with amazing crash cams and a great sense of speed. Play it on mute, though.

    Defeated: 03/01/2013

  • Many games try to deal with death and sorrow, and many games fail at the task. It's a difficult subject, one that is hard enough to breach in other forms of art.

    Dear Esther succeeds. The best way to describe it is an audio-visual poem about death. To describe it in any more detail would be a unwise and unsatisfying (to you, the reader!) so I'll leave it at that. Just know that, like Spec Ops, this is a style of narrative that could have only been told through a game.

    Are games art?

    Rating: Yes

    Defeated: 03/02/2013

  • What a charming little platformer! I bought this game ages ago and never got around to it. I have to admit I was more than a little bit cynical before booting it up - yet another indie platformer with a unique mechanic? I mean, those are a dime a dozen at this point, right?

    Well, maybe that's true. But this game was an absolute blast. Just the right amount of difficulty, a perfect use of its central mechanic without things getting too crazy. And the visuals! Really excellent, really unique. Clearly I'm very positive on this game.

    What more can you ask for? No dumb twist. Interesting mechanics. Perfect length.

    Rating: +∀

    Defeated: 03/12/2013

  • This game wasn't for me. I mean, that much was obvious even before I booted it up, but became all the more clear after I couldn't stomach more than 20 minutes of it.

    It's boring. How could a "bullet hell" twin stick shooter be boring? Great question. For the answer to that question, please see Bullet Candy

    Rating: -

    Defeated: 03/28/2013

  • Wow.

    Rating: 5 stars

    Defeated: 04/08/2013

  • I'm learning a lot about myself in this, the year 2013.

    For example, I don't very much enjoy match 3 games.

    That being said, Tidalis has a certain charm about it. It's not polished, not by a long shot, but it tries. The dev team clearly cared about what they were making, and you can't fault guys like that.

    Rating: Still, let's all stop making match 3 games

    Defeated: 04/08/2013