2015 was a pretty crazy year for me. A lot of great things happened for me, but I was also kept grounded by some terrible things that happened as well. Maybe it’s karma or whatever you want to call it, but at least I’m alive, happy, and extraordinarily excited about things going into the upcoming year.
And, much like you all, I have video games to thank for my general positivity. Games have always been my rock, the one thing that I know I can turn to when I need to escape reality for a few hours. Be it playing video games for no reason other than sheer, youthful enjoyment, or writing about them in one facet or another, I have video games to thank for my sanity.
I played a shitload of games this year. Every January, I tell myself that I am going to make a spreadsheet or keep some tally of each game I play through so that I have some number to brag about to the internet come late December. I always forget.
Over the last week, I’ve been trying to remember each game I played, and while I will be the first to admit that I don’t have the mental agility to keep track of all the titles that crossed my path, I do have a number of games that left a lasting impression on me.
The Witcher 3 and Bloodborne absolutely blew me away. Until Dawn thrilled me on two different levels. SOMA made my brain hurt and so on and so forth. There were a lot of great games that game out in 2015, and there were a lot of ones that sucked.
The game’s that really stick out to me now, as the coffee courses through my veins and I think of things to write about, are the off-the-walls, screw you if you don’t get it, downright zany and weird games of 2015. Maybe there was something in the game developer water this year, maybe a consortium of lesser-known devs huddled under the light of a red moon to make a pack to create a stable of games that go to bizarre places. I don’t know how, or why this happened, but I do know that it was a good year for weird games.
D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die
Technically, D4 came out in 2014, but I didn’t play through it until the PC release earlier this year. I’m a Swery fan and the kind of sad person who will argue for the artistic beauty of Deadly Premonition. Suffice to say that I had high hopes for D4. I let everyone know it. Even Swery.
D4 was pretty much everything I wanted it to be. It was weird and oddly endearing and the kind of game that I tried to write about for a few months straight. No joke, I still have a line by D4’s Forrest Kayson on my whiteboard six months or so later.
“Loneliness can really work a man over.”
Kind of a poignant thought, right? To me, that kind of statement is really what makes Swery’s games special. On the surface, D4 is a game about a time-travelling detective who loves to eat food while he tries to figure out who killed his wife. But when you move past that, it’s really an examination of loneliness and figuring out the kind of person that you really are. D4 dives into introspection whenever David Young – the game’s brash Bostonian hero – examines the sad state of his apartment. His wife is dead, but everything that the player looks at and interacts with sheds some insight into the emotionally turbulent nature of David’s existence without Little Peggy.
Oh, did I mention that the game is wacky as shit?
Seriously, you travel through time, using the mouse (or Kinect) to simulate most of David’s movements. All of the Swery strangeness is there: a hulking man who may or may not be an ethereal being, an avant-garde obsessed fashionista who is “involved” with a mannequin, and dialogue that feels like it was utterly shredded in translation.
Even if you’re not the kind of nerd who wants to play D4 for its sad underlying motifs, it’s an utterly bizarre little journey that deserves a fair shot.
Shower With Your Dad Simulator 2015: Do You Still Shower With Your Dad?
Having only shared a shower with women I am romantically involved with, I went into Shower With Your Dad Simulator knowing that I was going to be introduced to a whole new world of cooperative showering. I didn’t expect to find that in addition to Father/Son hygiene, I would be playing a game that so gleefully warped and shattered its own existence.
The most apt description of Shower With Your Dad Simulator is that it places itself somewhere between a jokes that’s been beat to death and the closest thing to Frog Fractions 2 currently playable.
Shower With Your Dad Simulator starts off innocuous enough. You play as one of three children in varying game modes, all with the end goal of reaching your respective father so that the two of you can lather us and rinse down. It’s arcade-like in the simplicity of its modes, with speed-showering and endurance tests that are built around quick and replayable jaunts.
And just when you think you’ve experienced what Shower With Your Dad Simulator has to offer, reality as you know it comes crashing down. Literally.
After playing a certain amount of time, it becomes apparent that something’s not quite right in the proverbial locker room. Glitches appear and things get weird, building up to a bizarre segment known as “Inglorious Bathdads” – because puns are important in showering situations and in real life – which is a hybridization of Flappy Bird and a 2D shooter. It’s glorious. It’s weird. And it’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Going further down the dad-bod hole reveals that Shower With Your Dad Simulator doesn’t give a shit about what you think the game is. It continues to twist and warp with consecutive playthroughs and after spending a fair amount of time with it, I’m not even sure I’ve experienced all it has to offer.
Showering with a partner is always a treat, but Shower With Your Dad Simulator makes a good case for saving some water with your father.
Can anything be said about Undertale that the internet hasn't already stated, argued, or assumed about the charmingly absurd little RPG?
Probably not, but bear with me.
Undertale is powerful in that it means a lot to a lot of people. It’s a game that is first and foremost about subversion – which if you read anything I write, you know I’m all about the subversive side of games – and much like Shower With Your Dad Simulator, Undertale is an experience that no one really sees coming. Unless you have used the internet in the past three months, of course.
I couldn’t get enough of Undertale. I bought it on a whim a day or two after it released on Steam, simply because one or two critics I respect mentioned that it was interesting. With no real knowledge of the game – save for the fact that you might be able to talk your way out of some stuff – I plunged in.
The beauty of Undertale and the reason that it has garnered so much attention in the wake of its modest release, is that it is arguably the most self-aware game out there. Every little piece of the game is designed in such a manner that it makes the player feel how they always feel playing a video game. Visually, it hearkens back to NES-era, turn-based roleplaying games. It’s simple opening is reminiscent of a time where games didn’t bother making you watch a forty-five minute cutscene just to learn that you’re a vaguely troubled badass who is going to shoot a lot of people. Undertale ushers in gamers with an air of familiarity, just to set up its mind-boggling conceit.
Of course, it’s selfish to talk at great lengths about how Undertale plays with expectations by breaking the fourth wall constantly and shifting interactions based off of minor, seemingly inconsequential choices.
And just like it’s selfish to talk about Undertale’s spoilerific actual meat of the game, it’s unfair to not talk about the humorously weird elements of Undertale that make it genuinely endearing.
Undertale contains some of the most enjoyable dialogue in any recent game. It’s a blend of EarthBound whimsy punctuated by SMT: Nocturne nihilism. Undertale is the doped up, dying patient at the end of the hospital hall that uses gut-busting humor to stay just above the crushing weight of existence.
It works, too. Undertale’s writing and the comical characters that inhabit the game are the designs of a jovial madman. Conversational moments rise and fall as often as players change screens. Mix that in with adorable characters who pour their heart out on the battlefield (or in the bedroom, even) and you’ve got a game that defies explanation simply because it’s a mix of everything you never knew you wanted.
Of course, there's Dropsy and a handful of other games that I wanted to include, but for the sake of time, I'm going to have to stop myself here. Consider this part one, if you will, I'll be back to write some more real soon.