2019's 9 games I beat +3

As usual I played more old games in 2019 than new ones. Check the rest out here in my 2019 Game Journal.

I included Kingdom Hearts III and Resident Evil 2 for the sake of completion despite not playing them very much. Dreams is getting a proper release in a couple months and hopefully I'll return to it and have something new to say in 2020.

Here's a tease for my number 1:

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List items

  • I had no intention on playing this game, but when I saw it on sale for 70% off I remembered that people seemed to like this one. I played some of the first game and have always been curious about this series as an animation fan. I sprung for the bundle that included the full remastered series, but thought maybe I could start with the third game. As the best playing in the series I thought it could have been an ideal entry point. I knew these games have a complex backstory, but I thought maybe I could appreciate the Disney worlds on their own.

    After completing the first world I knew I was wrong. The story telling in the Hercules world was shallow, echoing the movie, and still heavily referenced the story of the past games. Outside of the Disney themed worlds they can't go a sentence without referencing an endless number of characters and events I don't know.

    Maybe next year I'll find the time to go back to the first game. There's a flow and spectacle to this game that is intriguing enough. Although, Epic Mickey might be the better Disney fan service game for my tastes.

  • I felt so rushed to buy Kingdom Hearts III before that sale expired, I didn't realize PSN's Black Friday sale started the next day. I managed to get Resident Evil 2, the game I really wanted, at a 70% discount too.

    Perhaps, unsurprisingly, I fell off pretty hard from this game. I could never get through The first Resident Evil remake, despite my best efforts. This game really doubles down on the survival horror. Enemies are virtually invincible, giving very little reprieve from the relentless tension. The satisfaction for these games, comes from clearing a room and knowing it's safe to explore for the moment, with an allowance for the occasional jump scare. My interest in these games leans far more to the exploration part, rather than the ammo scarcity and unkillable enemies.

    I really intended to come back every time I put this game down, but it became difficult to gather the will to return.

  • I'm amazed by the power of the tools in Dreams. I've worked with development tools like Unity, Unreal Engine, and Z brush. This takes concepts like visual scripting and intuitive virtual sculpting and puts it in a package that anyone could try.

    I'm particularly impressed with sculpting using the move controllers. Although clumsy and hard to wrap your head around, the motion controllers offer something a step closer to real life sculpting in 3D space. I love how quickly I made a D.Seuss landcape using the soft sculpting tool.

    I've only played through the first set of tutorials. I really enjoyed them. One favorite is basically a 3D colouring book. Drawing with the move controllers is, surprisingly, not bad.

    There is amazing work being done in the community, but I've hit a wall. As a often do with ambitious creative projects, I don't know what to make. I hope I'm not finished, but I fear I've move on to other games. Maybe I'll return for more tutorials, once they are added, at the very least.

  • 9. This game, in concept, is my jam. A small, hand crafted island to explore without combat to get in the way of the discoveries. With a cool, charming art style and compelling traversal mechanics. For the most part A Short Hike is successful.

    It reminds me of when I would explore the woods by the ocean as a kid. Only if I could fly! The writing is okay, a little too saccharine for my tastes. It could use more humor like, my favorite moment, when a frog boy builds his own sandcastle city, but looses the mayoral race. The Canadian team puts a little patriotic nods in here and there that I appreciate.

    What kept me from 100%ing this game was a frustrating and rigid camera. It's always pointed at the character, so you can't see where you're going. It was easy to get lost in this game without a map and this camera. It would also automatically make major camera changes while I'm climbing or gliding, throwing me off completely.

    During my second, and final, play session with this game I finished the story and continued to play for a little while to finish selected quests. My total time with the game was 2 hours. I was in a paradoxical position of not wanting to put the game down because I knew I was never going to play it again. It's a good time for it's length, but I'm glad it wasn't any longer.

  • 8. Baba is you is super fascinating. Having the game play be about changing the way the game's logic works can lead to some very cool situations and baffling new types of puzzles. Becoming a wall and moving as an entire building to the goal is an amazing feeling.

    Much of the time it's too baffling. I would spend, what seemed like forever banging my head against each level, until I couldn't stand the thought of returning to it. Sometimes it can be something super simple I didn't think of. after overthinking by trying most convoluted solution with no success. Although, it can be incredibly satisfying when you do find that solution.

    At this point I haven't finished the game, and it's been a while since I've touched it.

  • 7. Link's Awakening has long been my favorite 2D Zelda. I played the Game Boy Colour version soon after playing Ocarina of Time. I've played it multiple times since on GBC and 3DS. There wasn't any doubt that I was going to play this Switch update, but I wasn't happy with spending $90 (Canadian, after Tax) for this remake of a remake of a Game Boy game.

    The graphics are great. Seeing colorful 3D versions of the sprites I know so well is a wonderful novelty. The hand drawn, cross hatched opening and closing cutscenes are the look I've wanted Zelda to try for years. I wish Nintendo would embrace 2D art more often for their 2D games. Although, I am thankful this homage to the concept/promotional art of the early 90s in this game, even if it's a small part of it.

    The new features are underwhelming. The dungeon maker is okay as far as it takes to get the rewards, but I don't want to play it further and I miss the photo booth. They also give the crane game realistic physics and more items to collect from it. This is good if you like real world crane games, but I sure don't.

    Replaying A Link to the Past earlier this year was a good opportunity to compare the two. ALttP may have been the game that defined the formula that Zelda games would hang their hat on for the next 25 years, but LA streamlined that formula to create the more fun game. Particularly with combat. ALttP has Link bumping into enemies all the time and taking unavoidable damage too often. The trade off is LA feels much more breezy and less substantial than it's SNES predecessor. I felt that way partially because I played the GB game first and more often. Yet, I returned to it so often because it was so easy to play.

  • 6. Geese swarm by the dozens in the large grassy school and park fields where I live. This game stars the most cuddly, adorable goose I've ever met. It's for the best because they exchange the endless pellets of bird shit for a bigger brain. They sure got the nuisance down, but this bird is a schemer.

    I had a brief, fun time with Untitled Goose Game. There's great variety in the mischief to get up to by simply moving these poor people's things around. I particularly like the area that pits two neighbors against each other.

  • 5. While I've enjoyed each Luigi's Mansion game, this is the best yet. The first felt very brief, but had a solid core. The second game was an improvement, but compared to this latest game, it is less focused. That's fair, because there aren't many games that are so tight structurally as this one. 15 floors, none overstay their welcome.

    Each rethink the game just enough to make the game constantly feel fresh.

    The only time it began to feel a little tedious what due to my own compulsion to vacuum everything up. That's because secrets could be hidden anywhere, the game is packed full of hard to spot puzzles that could reward gold or a coveted gem. Needless to say, I got them all and had a great time searching for them.

    Aiming Luigi's vacuum is a pain, especially during combat. Each boss fight is enough of a challenge to puzzle over solving how to harm them for a while, but not to the extent that I would die too often.

    Luigi's Mansion 3 is a good time, one of the best games I've played this year.

  • 4. Outer Worlds is a fantastic satirical vision of a colonized solar system ruled by bureaucracy. A lot of people are going to go into this game with the assumption that corporations are the bad guys and those standing against them are good. With the exception of one character, people aren't presented as wholly evil. There are shades of grey everywhere.

    It's possible to pick a binary side with each major decision in the game, but there is always the option to compromise. Early on in the game I nearly missed the third choice, but when I discovered it was a revelation. I played the remainder of the game choosing the mutually beneficial solution. Usually it was more work, but it was satisfying knowing I was working towards a better future for the colony. Every group of people, that is, sometimes not every individual could be convinced.

    Playing on normal the combat was trivial, but I was playing for the story and didn't mind. There was fun to be has with the shooting, but the inventory management became a chore. Fortunately it's fairly easy to get around and combat sequences aren't over long and are often avoidable.

    I adored the colourful humor of Outer Worlds. They commit to it. A cleaning robot that dispenses nothing but corporate catchphrases as a full companion character is brilliant. Although my favorite companions were Parvati and Max. One was a timid, self loathing mechanic that you help to find the courage to love. The other was a religious leader on a quest for knowledge and an anger problem that he comes to terms with.

    The religions in Outer Wilds are scientific, but only partially right and ruled by dogma. In keeping with the overall theme. Just like in the real world, we're all just trying to do what we think is best. If we do away with snap judgement and listen to each other we can work towards a better world for us all.

  • 3. The Oldest House is a place with an uncertain dreamlike reality. A world that forces us to question our preconceived notions on what the world really is. An important lesson today as the meta culture breaks down and our own individual communities wage war with each other online. Yet Control doesn't shy away from being fun, pulpy and outright silly. The perfect tone for me.

    Control's world building and story are its greatest strengths. It's full of hundreds of collectible documents, many are fascinating to read and further deepen the fascinating world. I felt the need to read them all, something I don't usually do, but the volume of reading is staggering. It felt like it got in the way of playing the game.

    As a Metroidvania, Control rewards you for exploring its intertwined world. Yet it has one of the most confounding map designs I've ever seen. It was the cause of a lot of wasted time trying to make my way.

    Besides documents the collectibles were materials and upgrades. Incremental stat upgrades that weren't worth the constant inventory management.

    The core of combat is fun for most fights. But it can become chaotic and infuriating. Most of my deaths came suddenly from some unseen enemy striking off screen.

    Overall I enjoyed my time with Control. I fell just short of getting the achievable platinum trophy because I got fed up with the combat.

  • 2. A new Star Wars third person action game with metroidvania elements! Of course I was looking forward to Jedi: Fallen Order, no brainer day one perchase. I wasn't anticipating how much Dark Souls DNA it would have. I've played about 20 hours between Dark Souls and Blood Borne. The combat difficulty drove me away, but I've always wanted to return because I love the nonlinear world design. Fallen Order is the perfect balance for me.

    This has the most satisfying world I've explored since Outer Wilds. Like Metroid, it reveals what sections of the map still have secrets to find. This allows for a satisfying checklist feeling to focus exploration and minimize looking for outside help online. But it doesn't hold your hand, it's easy to get lost in these large worlds with one way paths and no fast travel.

    Combat is also very Dark Souls and very Star Wars. It's a blast taking out a standard Stormtrooper with a single slash or by deflecting one blaster bolt right back at them, just like the movies. I never quite got the hang of Parrying and can get frustrated by the animation priority. Still, it was never too much for me to handle at the default difficulty.

    The story is very well told. Very much inspired by the moral complexity of The Last Jedi. Your companions are great, especially the adorable BD-1 droid buddy. As a huge Star Wars nerd I loved constantly customizing my lightsaber each time I got new parts, despite not really paying noticing it during gameplay.

    Unfortunately this game suffers from some technical issues and lack of polish right now. It crashed on me a total of 4 times. 3 of them within 30 minutes of each other. Some puzzles are difficult because they rely on physics, like throwing items with the force and no aiming mechanic. One boss fight was a literal fight with the camera because of the size of the boss. These issues weren't enough to sour me on the game, but I hope they get fixed.

  • 1. Outer Wilds is a transcendent game, and my favorite of the year! A completely open solar system to explore where you have everything you need to beat the game (except knowledge) from the beginning. There's no combat, but a constant sense of danger.

    You acquire this knowledge like an archaeologist by exploring the varied worlds and reading the writings of an ancient race. There's a lot of reading. One of the complaints I have is, I wish it would mark previously found writings. Although there is a case to be made that rereading and entry later in the game, after you have learned more from other worlds, will make more sense.

    I was also very frustrated for long periods of no progress. It's easy to miss information in areas you've explored. I wish there were a tiny bit more clues, but it's a tricky balance to make considering how every player will have different information for most of the game.

    Perhaps the most amazing thing is how deep the rabbit hole goes. There's an incredible amount of variety and creativity to the design of each of the worlds. A lot of thought went into the story of this ancient race and their technology. My fascination with their story and the space they once lived drove me to uncover the next secret.