With another year having drawn to a close and the endless possibility of the next one upon us, we are being treated to the annual tradition known as the award’s season. Every other artsy industry has to have it, so videogames have to have it too.
Without further adeu, here is a list of games (in no particular order) that I didn’t necessarily think were even that good, but that no one else is writing about.
1.else.hearbreak() – Let me just say, firstly, that this IS a good game. A very good game. However, it’s barrier for entry is probably too high for its own good. It’s a game about hacking the world around you to overcome obstacles and puzzles, but also (and more so) is about a young guy and his relationships with his friends. The open-world town of Dorrisburg runs on its own schedules; all your friends have jobs and homes and things to do, and it’s only through an understanding of both this human system of life and the mechanical system of computer code that you can complete the game. I’m struggling to put into words the warm feeling I got while hanging out at parties and making friends in else. Heartbreak(). Well worth it.
2.Panoramical – An absolute MUST for any musician or composer. This game is like Chopin or Bach brought to life in a techno-organic version of Fantasia. That’s the wankiest thing I’ve ever written. Seriously though, this game will make you want to put it down constantly, so you can go compose a symphony.
3.Painter’s Guild – The more I look back on this game, the less thrilled I am with it, but I’m including it here because of how excited and intrigued I was the very first time I played it. The game has you manage a guild of painters during the renaissance era, apprenticing greats such as Leonardo DaVinci, while balancing the books and selling masterpieces. I still feel like this game has some great little moments of emergent storytelling, but I really have no desire to play it again. Cute, unique and worth it the first time, however.
4.Keep Talking And Nobody Explodes – Unique, humorous, multiplayer that actually forms a connection between players. This bomb-disposal game has it all. Yes, the difficulty ramps up far too quickly and, yes, there is a learning curve that will make at least one drunk party guest have a hissy-fit, but it’s worth it. The barrier for entry is so low that anyone can play, despite it’s insane difficulty in later levels, and I would seriously put this forward as a great game to convince naysayers of the merits of the medium.
5.The Curious Expedition – If we’re counting Early Access games (we are), then this game is a legitimate contender for my game of the year. This is the game I have wanted since I first died horribly in Spelunky, since I first read Tin Tin, since I first told someone “it belongs in a MUSEUM!” A strategy/management rogue-lite in the vein of FTL (I bet the developers are sick of that comparison), except without the annoyance of random numbers killing your whole crew, and the freedom to tailor your trek to your own play style. This game is like a perfect mash-up of so many different styles of game, in a way that many people would call if a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none, except that it IS a master. Of ALL of them. There is not a single mechanic in this game that is undercooked, or overbearing, and this kitchen-sink approach has paid off with one of the best rogue-lite games in existence. This is a game that has benefited immeasurably from a long stint in early access, to the point where I’ll be sad when they stop adding and tweaking things. Don’t even question yourself, just go and buy this game.