Games I’ve played 2021
Let's keep this going, thanks for reading some or all and let me know if you have any thoughts on the games I've been playing. Can't wait for more in February!
Dragon Quest XI
I love this game. Just got to the third act and want to play more.
Return of the Obra Dinn 9/10
A super innovative game that just falls short of perfection. The visuals are breathtaking, the music and sound design really set the tone, and the gameplay is so creative and fun. Obra Dinn feels like a true detective game and it really makes you think about what’s going on in each snapshot, and what’s going on in the story overall. Despite the kind of open design, it feels very game-y in a good way. The player is the one that pushes everything along and has to make legitimate deductions about the world before you can move on. There’s also quite a few “oh shit” moments in the story that are really fun to come across on your own. Unfortunately the game takes a little to long to get to each memory. You have to scan the memory, listen to the audio, stare at the scene for 15-20 seconds, watch a kind of fade-out, then it finally fills in your book and you can actually start playing and making concrete deductions. This design makes every memory take too long and definitely could have been quicker. The “make three deductions” before the game checks if you’re right system can also be abused. You can make one or two really obvious deductions, then swap names until you get it right. I definitely did this for about a quarter of the people on the ship once I figured out what section of the ship they were on (i.e Topman). Finally, the section of the game that is locked until you solve everything is fairly lackluster. It’s built up throughout the game since you flip past it all the time and the way you get to it is pretty cool. Once you get to the new area it doesn’t really give you anything revelatory and gives you very little new story. Obra Dinn accomplishes a lot as one of the best detective games out there, but it falls short in some key ways. Hopefully we get more games like it to expand on what it started.
I only played LISA for a few hours and couldn’t really get into it. The story is interesting but depressing, the dialogue is funny but cynical, the music is rad and kinda jarring, and the gameplay is super boring. So far it’s just walking around and mashing buttons in combat. It seems like a game that I’ll want to complete once I get more invested in the story/characters, but I’m not sure if I’ll get there.
Beginner’s Guide 8/10
A very interesting game that requires you to commit to and believe in what the narrator is presenting. The main story is presented as a kind of non fiction documentary of someones game projects. You play through all of them as the narrator takes you through them and presents a kind of depiction of the developer. Then the climax comes and gut punches you and you just keep moving forward until the narrator finishes talking. I found the game successful at bringing me in to its’ narrative, but I felt kind of hollow about it once I stepped back and realized it was a work entirely of fiction. If the player does not get sucked in to the story then I think it’s unlikely they will enjoy the game. It seems like a story that could only be told well in a videogame, even if the gameplay itself is not very interesting. Overall an intriguing experiment in story telling that I’m glad I experienced.
I had just finished being obsessed with the amazing Dicey Dungeons and crushed through everything available in the game and wanted to revisit some Terry Cavanagh. All of his level designs are so well thought out and fun to play. Music is insanely slappin’ and I’ve been listening to it frequently for almost a decade now. The game has an impressive amount of new ideas to test you with despite the simple mechanics. Short and sweet, no filler, pure game distilled into a great time.
Dragon Quest I (SNES) 8/10
A surprisingly enjoyable game. Everything is a little simple, and the random encounters are tedious but for the first JRPG it gets a lot right. The gameplay loop of fight monsters, level up, get better gear, make it to the next town, and find info on where to go next is super satisfying. The monsters have cool designs, the towns have some fun dialogue, and I enjoyed figuring out where to go based on all the clues you find. The world is a good size for something with no map and I never felt stuck on where to go or what to do next. The SNES remake seems to have smoothed out the experience compared to the NES original so I would recommend playing it if you want to experience a fun piece of gaming history.
Blazing Chrome 9/10
I haven't really played and Contra-type games before, but after loving JoyMasher’s Odallus I figured I’d give this one a shot. I might have to play more of this style of games because Blazing Chrome is so rad. Everything about Blazing Chrome is a good time and fits in to it’s aesthetic. The synth-rock soundtrack gets you pumped up, the crisp and detailed pixel art really brings you into the world, and the sound effects and little voice clips make me smile. Ducking and weaving through bullets and enemies while precisely firing off your own shots is super satisfying and kinda feels like a combination of Castlevania and Gradius. Good difficulty curve overall, varied level design, and fun and cool bosses. Also one of the few games where I wanted to run through the game again after beating it. Just a fantastic game and I am super down to play whatever these developers make next.
Dragon Quest II (SNES) 6/10
DQII adds a lot when compared to the first one but ends up being a lot more tedious and obtuse. DQII added a lot of monsters to the series, the companions you get are great, the story is more involved and the music is sweet (even though the main battle theme is super goofy). The encounter rate seems to have increased which sucks, and battles take longer since there are more enemies on screen. It’s pretty straightforward until you get the boat and the world opens up greatly. The game world is too big for how hard it is to get around, and how poor the map is. Towns also give you less hints on what to do/where to go, and the ones they give you are less helpful. So you end up wandering between islands on this boat until you stumble on what to do next or give up and look at a guide or at least a functioning map. I thought putting a small version of the DQI map in the game (with the music) was super cool, unfortunately it just makes you lost since you don’t actually have to go there and end up just doing more backtracking in an already exhausting game. DQII added a lot to the system of JRPG’s but unfortunately is basically unplayable without an emulator making heavy use of the increase game-speed option.
Celeste 2 10/10
I love Celeste. I’ve been playing stuff from Matt Makes Games since the first Jumper and it’s definitely the culmination of everything they’ve done so far. Celeste 2 is a fantastic sequel to Celeste Classic. It’s short, sweet, and has very creatively devious level design. The central grappling hook mechanic took me a bit to get used to but once I did I was zipping through all the levels and grabbing all the berries. I’m not expecting a full, non Pico-8 version of this but if they did I would be Extremely OK with that. If nothing else it just shows that Maddy and co still have plenty of ideas left for whatever their next game is.