The year 2013 was a massive one in gaming! The legendarily successful Ouya launched and it was such a massive hit that it was discontinued indefinitely just to give Sony and Microsoft a chance with their own new consoles the Playstation 4 and the Xbone. Meanwhile, Nintendo’s Wii U languished, wasting its head start and...well, I’m getting ahead of myself. As I continue trying to sort out what my Game of the 2010’s was, I invite you to join me in my insane ramblings. So, here’s my breakdown of 2013:
Antichamber looked like a really interesting game when I first heard about it. It looked like it was inspired by Portal, but it didn’t seem to be directly ripping it off. Here is a game where you’re in a white hallway, good luck with the rest. From that starting point, you’re told that nothing is as it seems. If you want to move forward, you may literally need to go back the way you came. I like that premise, and I like the idea of utilizing lateral thinking to solve problems. So here’s my problem with Antichamber: Unless I missed something there doesn’t seem to be any point to it. There’s no context given as to who you are, where you are, what your goal is, why you should care, anything. You’re just a pair of floating eyeballs hovering around a sterilized series of hallways. Portal had an incredibly simple and effective set-up that eventually subverted your expectations and concluded with a very interesting final act. The Stanley Parable is a similar style game to Antichamber too, but there’s an interesting narrative struggle attached to that game too. Antichamber just exists, and when I realized it wasn’t anything beyond a somewhat series of hallways I lost all investment and interest. I looked up the ending on youtube and finding out that it essentially has a cold-close confirmed my earlier thoughts: Antichamber has nothing to offer me that I can’t find elsewhere.
Beyond: Two Souls let me ruin Ellen Page’s life more thoroughly than I ever would have expected. During the course of Beyond: Two Souls I made Ellen Page dance awkwardly around bullies, completely fail to impress a date, and eat garbage out of a dumpster. This probably reflects poorly on me, but if David Cage didn’t want me to ruin Ellen Page’s life he wouldn’t have given me the option to do so in his game. The plot of Beyond: Two Souls is broken up and played out of order. There is an option to play in chronological order, but that wasn’t the recommended way to play so I guess David Cage can laugh at my expense for assuming everything would turn out alright if I did things his way. The way the game is broken up highlights various formative and important moments in Ellen Page’s life, from her youngest years as a child haunted by an imaginary friend that can make bad things happen, to her days as a teenage special service agent, to her time as a homeless person, even that time she lived on a native american ranch and fought against a wind spirit! I’m serious about that, the whole desert ranch segment comes out of nowhere and raises more questions than Willem DeFoe can answer. Before I forget again, Willem DeFoe is in this game too, and he does help Ellen Page learn more about herself and the origins of her supernatural powers. I probably would have had more fun with this game if I played it in chronological order rather than David Cage order, and I probably would have most enjoyed it if I just watched a Let’s Play. This is easily the worst David Cage game; the things that stick out to me don’t stick out because they were particularly compelling plot points or visceral gameplay moments, they stick out to me because they were awkward and make me feel like Ellen Page wasn’t paid enough money for her participation on this project.
(This game is essentially just Ellen Page crying; the game)
Bioshock Infinite is a regressive sequel and makes the entire narrative of the Bioshock franchise seem absolutely pointless. If you want a spoiler-free hint as to why Bioshock Infinite makes the entire narrative of the Bioshock franchise pointless, then please look up the definition of the word “infinite”. As for the spoiler, apply the word “infinite” to the word “timelines'' and/or “dimensions”. It doesn’t matter what you do in Bioshock Infinite, because there are an unlimited number of Bookers who did exactly the same things as you, mostly the same things as you, mostly different things than you, exactly the opposite things as you, etc. There are an infinite number of Father Comstock’s who did the opposite thing that they did, there are an infinite number of Lutece twins, there are an infinite number of Elizabeths. Nothing about the plot of the game matters in the least. This is fine though because first person shooters don’t really need a great plot to be great games; the plot of a first person shooter is like icing in that cake doesn’t really need it to taste great. The gunplay in Bioshock Infinite is weak and derivative. Booker DeWit is given an overshield like he’s the Master Chief, he can only hold 2 weapons at once like he’s the master chief, and you can call up cover and chest high walls from alternate realities like Gears of War with a smidge more sci-fi. You can ride on rails using a new hook weapon and that breathes some life into the enemy encounters in this game, but it doesn’t stop anybody from being bullet sponges. Plasmids are still a thing, though they have a different name and there definitely seem to be combinations that are better than others. The combo that springs to mind as the most useful is the one that spawns crows from dead enemies which can snowball to a murder of murders of crows. I don’t mind admitting that when I played Bioshock Infinite, I played it on easy. Even on that difficulty setting, enemies just ate ammo like they had chronic iron and lead deficiencies. Then larger enemies who definitely weren’t Big Daddies showed up to eat even more ammo. Then even larger enemies showed up and ate just about all of my ammo. I can’t understand the argument that limiting the number of weapons you can carry actually makes combat more tactical or strategic: In what reality does limiting resources give you more options? Bioshock is a better game with a better story than Bioshock Infinite. Bioshock 2 is a better game with a better story than Bioshock Infinite. I will die on this hill: Bioshock Infinite is not a good game. Thankfully, since there are infinite timelines, there are infinite realities where Bioshock Infinite isn’t canon and that’s the one I reside in.
(Pictured: Wasted potential)
Game & Wario is a lot of things, and I mean that literally because Game & Wario is a compilation of mini-games designed to demonstrate all of the different ways the Wii U Gamepad can be used in other games. I guess you could call it a tech demo so it’s not a bad concept but I really don’t think it turned out all that great. I’m positive I played this multiplayer back when it was new, but I only really remember the single player games: Arrow, Shutter, Ski, Patchwork, Kung-Fu (Young Cricket & Master), Gamer, Design, Ashley, Taxi, Pirate, Bowling, and Bird. The 4 multiplayer exclusive games were Disco, Fruit, Islands, and Sketch. The main gimmick of a lot of these games came from asymmetry: You would control the games on the Wii U gamepad, but the TV would display something completely different. In Shutter for example, your point of view is that of a camera’s viewfinder, focusing on a much larger image shown on the TV. In Gamer the TV shows your character in bed while their mother stalks the background, whereas the gamepad shows the games he’s playing. I have this game marked as bad instead of meh for a couple of reasons: For one thing, the gimmick doesn’t feel like it was used to its fullest extent. Mini-games Patchwork, Bowling, Kung Fu, and Ashley could have been done just as well, if not better, on a standard controller or Wii-Mote. The branding also hurts this game: Game & Wario is evocative of not only the Game & Watch series but also the Wario Microgames series. Gamer is the only game here that feels like any of the classic Wario Ware games, and that’s interrupted frequently unless you’re playing the unlimited mode that unlocks after a while. Game & Wario very much feels like a series of proof-of-concept games with a fairly decent bowling mini-game stapled on, and I just didn’t like it.
I really didn’t like The Last of Us as a game, but as a story I thought it was functional if over-hyped. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before:The world has essentially ended but humanity is clinging on and trying to keep society from completely collapsing. You play as a grumpy middle-aged man with an immortal teenage girl following after him (though she’s only immortal until the plot says she isn’t). The game unfolds over the course of a full year and in that time you must sneak around horrible mushroom zombies, craft weapons and tools, and try to survive against the most terrifying monster of them all: MAN! This isn’t a game that I played through to the end. The prologue chapter was fairly intriguing, the very first third-person shooting gallery (literally a grey ditch with a bunch of chest-high walls) wasn’t enough to make me stop playing either. What made me stop was just how difficult I found it to engage with the game as a whole. When you’re in an environment with hostile humans, the game plays out in a way that I just think is boring. You hide behind cover, take pot-shots at people when they get up, and try not to be flanked. When you’re going up against the zombies, you just need to keep out of their reach, usually by making a noise happen away from where you are so you can get by. I might have been more interested to play more if I knew that the men and monsters could fight among themselves, but apparently there aren’t any instances where that happens. Earlier I mentioned an immortal teenager, and what I mean here is that unless the story specifically puts her in danger, she is never in danger. Ellie moves around freely but enemies, be they human or fungus, completely ignore her. Even the zombies that hear through sound will ignore any sound that she makes which kind of hurts the feeling of tension that should be absolutely oppressive in this game world. Speaking of broken tension and the game world not making sense: The most frightening enemies in The Last of Us are the clicker-type mushroom zombies. They’re described as being completely blind and only being able to see by clicking and utilizing echolocation. The player character Joel has a very similar ability whereby he can see outlines of enemies through walls using a sort of focus vision, but it demonstrates how clickers should just be able to find and murder you far more efficiently than what you ever see in-game. Making that realization completely harmed the reputation of an otherwise interesting creature for me. My main issue with The Last of Us is just how poorly it was able to keep my interest. In general, I hate dealing with zombie-type enemies in third-person shooters, so for me sticking with this game was going to be an uphill battle. I’ve seen better plots, stories, and characters in other games too, so seeing just how praised this game has been has also rubbed me the wrong way. Not that Joel and Ellie are bad characters (except maybe one late-game decision that I disagree with), but I just didn’t connect with them at all. I played this on the Playstation 3, and I was happy enough with the presentation, but that’s all that really kept me in while I was playing it. It just wasn’t enough for me though. Spec Ops the Line had a story and characters that engaged me far more effectively, so too did Bioshock and Deus Ex: Human Revolution.
(Pictured: Joel is actually a Clicker)
Knack is great in that it’s an unambiguously bad game. You play as a tiny crystal golem who can grow to kaiju-size and you follow a humanoid child because Knack is written like it ties into a Saturday morning cartoon that doesn’t exist. Knack was discovered in a mine and he’s a point of interest to two science men, one good and one evil because again: this game is written like it ties into a Saturday morning cartoon that doesn’t exist. Gameplay in Knack is simple, you walk along a linear path punching goblins on their heads until they explode into particle effects. As you travel along the linear paths, you break in-world objects to collect crystals and expand in size. Starting as a 2 foot golem and expanding into a skyscraper-sized behemoth sounds like a great concept, but the problem is all of the environments and a majority of the enemies grow with you so the sense of scale just isn’t there. It took me about 10 or 11 hours to get through Knack, and in that time all I really did was follow the path and use the same three-hit combo on the same goblins. I might have mentioned this before, but the story and characters that tie the game together feel like they tie into a Saturday morning cartoon that doesn’t exist. It was one of the Playstation 4’s launch titles, but all it really demonstrated was that early adoption of a new console generation is usually a bad idea.
I feel like this might be my most controversial bad game, but I really disliked The Wonderful 101. The presentation is fantastic, and I like how you’re essentially playing as thinly veiled caricatures of other games that Hideki Kamiya was involved with developing (Red being Viewtiful Joe, Blue being Dante, Pink being Bayonetta, etc), but the gameplay itself didn’t click for me at all. It’s weird to me that the dodge move is locked away behind a paywall, but what I really didn’t like is how ineffective attacks seemed to be. I feel like I have to mash and mash and mash an enemy before they actually die. That’s just the push attack though, the main bread-and-butter attacks come from drawing weapons and using those, but this is another issue I have. Using the gamepad to draw those weapons is probably fine for right handed people, but I’m left handed so it physically hurts me to actually do it that way. Luckily you can also draw weapons using the thumbsticks, which works much more efficiently for me for the most part. I’ve had trouble summoning the right weapon during a heated combat moment: I’ll try to draw the whip, but get the speak, I’ll try to draw the gun but get the sword, it’s really frustrating to me. Another issue I have with the combat is just how small all of your characters are compared to the enemies: I can easily lose track of my position and take a hit that I wasn’t expecting. Then there are the sections that require you to look at both the gamepad screen and the TV screen: from the first one onward, I was always really disoriented by those segments. I can accept that The Wonderful 101, just like Devil May Cry, Bayonetta, and the like, are just not for me. I’m still going to call this a bad game though; I felt like I was fighting the game itself in addition to the enemies the game threw at me and it was just a bad time.
Aliens: Colonial Marines has a reputation and it absolutely isn’t a great game, but it’s not as terrible as I was expecting it to be. Frankly, it’s my favorite game Gearbox has ever launched. The plot is completely meaningless to me, and seems to be a string of familiar locations from the film series, which is to be expected. The shooting is functional, and I like how for the most part, the aliens go down fairly easily. The Xenomorphs are known for being stealthy and swarming their prey from the shadows, so it makes sense to me that they wouldn’t be able to take a lot of fire. There’s one particularly interesting chapter where you’re unarmed and need to sneak around blind Xenomorphs that actually felt tense to me. I didn’t do much with the multiplayer, but I would always recommend a game with split-screen multiplayer. It’s not great, but it’s a lot better than what I expected.
The Angry Video Game Nerd video game was designed to be obnoxiously difficult. The main menu and level select screens don’t kill you, but every level is populated by instant-kill hazards like bottomless pits, spikes, and the like. The eight levels all reference episodes of the Angry Video Game Nerd series, so if you didn’t like James Rolf’s series, you’re probably not going to get the references. Despite how difficult the game is, the level design is fair so completing each level is really satisfying. AVGN Adventures plays a lot like a Mega Man game: you select a level and move from the left to the right of the screen, shooting enemies and avoiding hazards. It’s a good time, but it’s short and not really all that memorable, hence why I consider this to be meh rather than good.
(I looked through a few screenshots before I found one that didn't have terrible fucking language)
Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag is the one with piracy and sailing. I don’t know when that starts though, because the first hour of the game didn’t interest me, and I never bothered to go back. There may have been a naval battle early on, but I can’t really remember. I remember wandering around on an island, but that’s about it. My history with Assassins Creed is spotty: I loved the original, Assassins Creed 2 started strong but beat me down to the point that I beat it out of spite. I played Assassins Creed 3 for about 2 hours but it never felt like it actually started. Assassins Creed 4 felt very much the same as the other 3: I was playing a game I already felt bored with and I didn’t want to put any additional time into it.
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow wasn’t a series I cared too much about, but Mirror of Fate seemed to be the most appealing since it was the most like previous Castlevania games. It’s presented in 3D, but you play it in 2D space, which sounds great but it must have been too much for 3DS hardware since it felt incredibly slow to play through. It seemed like every time I pressed a button it would take a few seconds for the action to occur. I had forgotten that you play as multiple characters in this game, and honestly I made it through a single character’s segment. The choppiness of the game kept me from really getting into it despite returning to the series roots. I feel like I went directly from this game to one of the older DS Castlevania games. I’m sure the modern re-release of this game is fine, but the original version just didn’t entertain.
Deadpool is a comic book character known for being insane, but it’s the mid-2000’s LOLZtehRandom type of insanity. The 2013 game doesn’t really embody that, instead feeling very similar to other melee-focused spectacle fighter games. Deadpool can use a few different types of melee weapons: fast sai, not-quite-as-fast katanas, slow hammers...he can also use guns to spice up his combos. Like other spectacle fighters, guns feel completely useless if you want to deal damage, and in general enemies seem to take more damage than they probably should. Considering this is a Marvel game, I was hoping this might be a more memorable game, but other than Deadpool and a few X-Men, I can’t recall much of the plot or if there were any antagonists other than Mr. Sinister. I recall a running gag featuring pancakes, but that’s about all. Not bad, maybe the remaster is better, but I’m not interested.
Democracy 3 isn’t a game that I can really recommend, but it’s interesting enough that I picked it up and played through it a few times. I kept getting the same ending though: assassination. You are the leader of a nation, and as leader you can change policy by adjusting slider bars. Maybe you want to increase military funding, maybe you want to defund healthcare, maybe you want to implement new laws via executive order? I’m sure there are ways to be a good leader who gets re-elected, but the only times I’ve ever played this game I would get assassinated. I didn’t even play as the American President for all of my runs! The graph-based gameplay and the harshness by which you’re judged for playing with the graphs, just wasn’t all that fun for me, but I could absolutely watch someone else play it, so absolutely meh instead of bad.
(I gave it a good, honest, try but...well, LOOK at this!)
2013, also known as the Year of Luigi (or YL1) saw the release of a few variations of famous Nintendo games featuring the famous green man. Dr. Luigi is one of those games, and all it really changes up from the original is an emphasis on ‘L’ shaped pills. This ups the difficulty a little bit, but Dr. Luigi is still really manageable and fairly enjoyable. For me, it doesn’t distinguish itself much from the original, even though the presentation is much more modern than the 8-bit original. Dr. Luigi is fine, but it’s nothing spectacular, just a simple and satisfying puzzle game.
I really wish I liked Ducktales Remastered more, but it has the same problem as other remakes of classic games: It’s essentially the same exact thing as the original but much prettier. Don’t get me wrong either, Ducktales: Remastered is gorgeous and it brings back the original cast of the original cartoon. That alone is a nostalgic dream come true for me. I had Ducktales on the NES as a kid though, and it wasn’t a game that I would say I loved back then. I played it very casually and preferred games like Ninja Gaiden and Kirby’s Adventure. Playing Ducktales Remastered definitely puts me back in a positive childhood mood, but I don’t like playing the game. I want to go back and watch the movie or the old cartoon.
Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is an MMO and the fact that I’m not calling it bad is a testament to how good it must be, because usually I have a strong dislike of MMO-RPGs. I think of that whole genre as being passive: there are automatic attacks and you’re just waiting for cooldown timers to expire so you can hit one of your number keys and do some actual damage on an unflinching enemy. Then the number hits zero, you get good numbers, and you continue on your quest to collect X number of monster parts. FFXIV wasn’t as passive as I was expecting it to be, and the combat wasn’t as static as I was expecting it to be either. You actually need to click to use standard attacks and the special attacks that are mapped to the number keys have a tangible impact on enemies and monsters.
I played for about a week when it was free to do so and in the relatively little time that I didn’t get a sense of there being an overarching story. The various guilds might have had their own small stories, but the quests I ran through didn’t feel like they were leading anywhere. I played long enough to raid a couple of dungeons with other players, but after doing two or three of those I had had my fill. There isn’t anything I hate about Final Fantasy XIV, but I don’t see myself actually playing it again. MMO’s just aren’t my thing.
Grand Theft Auto V is very well made, it looks great, it has an incredibly lengthy story, and all of that other stuff you probably expect from the game that embodies what it means to be triple-A. Here’s why I call it a ‘meh’ instead of good or great though: The first issue I have are the characters. Having three playable characters isn’t a bad idea, but the only one who seemed to evolve was Michael. I think Franklin had the most GTA style story, and Trevor is just reprehensible which made him interesting at first, but faded into white noise after a while. They all play the same, but there’s an RPG-style development system that gives them different skills to start with. Trevor for example can fly planes immediately, but Michael needs to train up his flight skill before he can fly as well as Trevor.
It’s shallow, it’s better than nothing, but I wish GTAV was more like San Andreas in that it just had one playable character who can be customized in more ways. I like how cars and weapons can be customized, those systems seem to have been beefed up considerably from previous entries in the series, but overall it doesn’t feel like you can do as much in GTAV as you could have done in San Andreas. As for the story, GTAV seems to be showing one of two ways Franklin could go as he begins his life of crime: He could grow to be jaded and vaguely suicidal like Michael, or he could grow to be jaded and overtly suicidal like Trevor. By the time I finished the story mode I didn’t feel much of a connection with any of the characters, and I still consider GTAIV to have the best story in the series. Even if you just want to walk around a virtual city and cause mischief, there are other GTA titles I would rather boot up than this one. There’s more to do in San Andreas, and GTAIV has a physics engine that makes pushing people down stairs a lot of fun. I like GTAV, but I wouldn’t call it particularly good.
Injustice: Gods Among Us is Mortal Kombat, but you play as DC Comics characters. Unlike the previous Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe, the fighting engine in Injustice feels quick and responsive. There’s also a story here that isn’t afraid to shake up the status quo in the most plain and played out sense possible: Superman has gone rogue. There’s a rift that’s connecting more than one of the DC Universe’s to each other which explains how Batman can fight against Batman. There’s also a...thing going on that puts everybody on equal footing so you can have The Joker fight against Doomsday and have a chance of not being killed in seconds. Oh, and since this is a DC Comics game for kids, there are no fatalities.
The context is there, and gameplay is there, but at the end of the day this is just Mortal Kombat wearing a different skin. One on one fighting games aren’t bad, and I can generally play through them long enough to see the resolution of a couple of character’s stories but they’re not usually a genre I can stick with long term. I like how the story mode forces you to play as multiple characters and tells a complete story, but what’s available here isn’t as good as similar stories shown in other media. I can think of 3 alternate Earth episodes of the Justice League cartoon that I think was executed better, but as far as video game writing goes, this is fine. It’s all so very one-and-done for me though. I played through it once, I enjoyed the story once, I can’t go back. Technically Injustice is perfectly well made (I assume the multiplayer is considered good), but subjectively it just doesn’t have any replay value for me.
(Lobo really should have been in the base game...)
Lego City Undercover is essentially baby’s first digital sandbox, except it’s not. You’ve given an open world city to explore, but you can’t fully explore it until you unlock all means of transportation. You can’t unlock all modes of transportation until you unlock all of the jobs in the Lego job market, and you can’t do that until you do 10’s of hours of story missions. They’re not bad missions mind, and they’re generally forgiving since this is specifically a game made for a younger audience. Besides, when I say “fully explore” what I mean is, you can’t collect all of the collectibles until a certain point, after a certain number of missions have been completed, and a specific ability unlocked. The story that unfolds is about stopping corruption in Lego City that goes all the way to the top of the societal ladder. The story is also happy to reference pop culture, sometimes in ways that made me laugh and sometimes in ways that it hoped would have made me laugh. The Shawshank Redemption chapter didn’t exactly entertain, but the cop drama stuff tickled my funny bone pretty effectively. Lego City Undercover is probably the most easy-going city sandbox I’ve played, but it’s not one that I really like to go back to. Definitely not a bad game, but I haven’t bought the Switch version, and I don’t plan to.
I really liked the original Luigi’s Mansion, but I haven’t actually finished Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon. For one thing, I don’t like how Dark Moon has more of a level-based structure instead of just dropping you into a mansion and letting you go at your own pace. In addition to Dark Moon being more level-based, there’s more than one mansion to explore. Since this is a 3DS game though, and cartridge memory is limited, I recall each of the ‘mansions’ I explored to be somewhat smaller than the single one from the original game. I can’t recall why I stopped playing Dark Moon. I’m going to blame my lack of interest on other 3DS games that I might have been playing at the time, like Theatrhythm. I just know that Dark Moon couldn’t hold my attention.
I have a lot of trouble getting into spectacle fighters and Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is no exception. For one thing, the world Metal Gear takes place in isn’t one that I’ve ever had an easy time getting into. Revengence is mostly its own thing though, so I didn’t have to worry about Big Boss, The Patriots, or anything else Hideo Kojima has ever transcribed at 2am from a dream or anime binge. The way I played (ie: skipping cutscenes) it was just non-stop action except for the one or two times it asked me to try being stealthy.The action is fairly standard based on my understanding of the genre: you get a light attack, a heavy attack, a dodge button, and there’s a way to parry but I don’t recall if it had a dedicated button or not, and that’s probably part of why I stopped playing.
Dodging out of the way of an attack seemed to work well if I didn’t want to lose any health, but the best way to kill your enemies and get the most points by doing so is to parry and retaliate. Fighting against mobs of nobodies was pretty satisfying, and using the slow-mo super slash attack thing that I don’t recall the name of was visually interesting, but I hated the boss fights. They take all kinds of damage before they go down, but only need to land a few solid hits on you before you’re asked to try again. It’s not unusual I guess, but it took me out of the game and eventually I just stopped playing. Revengence looks good and the gameplay is fine, but this just isn’t a genre I like.
Monster Hunter 3: Ultimate is the game I expected to spend the most time playing until something actually good launched on the Wii U, like a 3D Mario or Zelda. I didn’t play the Wii original, so I don’t know if there are any differences other than the obvious visual ones. I’m going to be blunt: I don’t like MMO style games and even though this is a third-person action game, this feels very much like an MMO-RPG to me. Your character isn’t a character so much as they’re an avatar. I usually play as either Great Sword, Great Lance, or Sword-n-Shield. As for progression, kill the same monster over and over again until you can craft a full set of armor and a matching weapon out of their bones and skin...assuming of course they drop those resources to begin with.
Don’t get me wrong, the first time I fought a Legiacris, the first time I killed a Barroth, the first time I killed a Diablos, those were all fantastic memories and experiences. Realizing that I would have to fight them again, and again numbed me to that though. What’s worse is, once I did make better equipment and went back to spank a beast that gave me trouble earlier on in my playthrough, it didn’t seem to make much of a difference at all. I guess taking 15 minutes to kill a monster that used to hang in there for a full 25 is something, but I never felt like I was getting any stronger and ultimately, I didn’t spend tens of hours with this game, only about 10 or 15. This is by far the most I’ve played a Monster Hunter, I can see the appeal of the series, but this is as nice as I’m going to be about Monster Hunter so keep that in mind when I eventually complain about the modern one.
(I straight-up love this monster design)
I definitely played Monster Loves You, but I don’t remember very much about it at all. I seem to recall it being about building a monster society and I seem to recall there being multiple paths depending on how you play, but that’s about all. I know I played this recently too, but it just completely failed to stick with me. I don’t want want to call it a bad game though: I definitely made it to the end at least once, and I don’t usually do that with games I dislike, but I’m definitely calling it ‘meh’ because of how little impact it made on me.
Mutant Mudds Deluxe is a game I knew I wouldn’t spend much time on, but I can’t even recall if I actually finished it. This is a 2D platformer, where you play as a dork who has some kind of gun and a thing that isn’t a jetpack, but it’s jetpack adjacent. The gameplay is incredibly simple: go through each level collecting coins and avoiding death-hazards like spikes and bottomless pits. There are enemies to kill or avoid too, but the main thing that separates Mutant Mudds Deluxe from other 2D platformers is a mechanic that allows you to jump into the foreground or background. It’s not a very exciting unique-selling-point, in a game that’s already not very exciting. I think I realized I stopped playing this game. It’s perfectly functional, but it’s just so bland.
NES Remix isn’t what I was expecting it to be, and that’s why I’m calling it ‘meh’ instead of ‘good’. Based on the marketing, I expected NES Remix to be a collection of classic Nintendo games cut up and mashed together. It’s kind of like that too, but there are only about 50 challenges that take a classic scenario from a classic game and remix it. I was expecting that to be the core of NES Remix just seems to be, “Here are several well-known Nintendo games, here are multiple ‘challenges’ structured in such a way that you will beat these games”. The Legend of Zelda and Super Mario Bros. sections for example is just that: Each challenge is basically in the order than you might have done them yourself as a kid, from the beginning of the game to the end with no real variation or twist. I also wish there were more games to choose from, but that’s what NES Remix 2 is going to add. Ultimately, I don’t care for this as a Wii U game: it just makes me want to replay the few NES classics that I enjoyed instead of what they’re presenting here.
New Super Luigi U is just New Super Mario Bro. U but instead of playing as the second player, you play as Luigi from the beginning. The overall color palette favors green where red is usually shown too. There are a few other small changes that make New Super Luigi play differently to the original Wii U release: Instead of having 300 seconds to make it through a level, you only have 100. Luigi runs a little faster than Mario, but he also has a much higher jump and lower traction than his brother. The levels may all be the same, but playing as Luigi gives them all a distinct feel and introduces challenge where there may not have been before.
This is another of the Year of Luigi releases Nintendo put onto the Wii U, and it’s definitely my favorite. Since it’s on my ‘meh’ list, alongside Dark Moon and Dr. Luigi, that probably speaks poorly of the promotion, but none of these games are bad, they’re all games that I wish I had played instead of the originals as that may have made me like the green versions more. If you buy New Super Mario Bros U on the Switch this will be packaged with it, and even later editions of the Wii U version of New Super Mario Bros U were packaged with the Luigi version. This is a fine game, but again, I’ve played this before and definitely felt burnout by world 2.
I don’t remember much of Pandora’s Tower. I remember it left a good impression on me, and I remember using a chain to platform up the titular tower. I remember the combat being real-time, and I remember using the wii-mote to use-chain-on-monsters. The problem is, I don’t remember anything about the story. I don’t even recall if I played it for more than an hour. I definitely remember this game leaving a good impression on me, which is more than I can say about the bland Last Story, and the painfully dull Xenoblade Chronicles. I really hope this gets remastered eventually.
A part of me wanted to put Pikmin 3 on the bad list, but I was never that frustrated by Pikmin 3. I liked the design of the bosses and monsters, and I would go so far as to say Pikmin 3 is the best looking game on the Wii U, but I just don’t like playing it. At first, dividing play and responsibilities between three captains with their own Pikmin teams seems like a great idea. In practice, I was easily confused and never sure what I should be doing. In theory, the idea of turning Pikmin into stronger variations or even evolving them into entirely different species seems like a great idea, but it didn’t really feel like much of a difference is made between a bulb Pikmin and a fully flowered one.
I enjoyed fighting the bosses, especially the cave moth, but getting to them can take a long time and I hate being forced out of a fight because it’s sunset. I absolutely hate timers in games, even though it makes sense in the context of Pikmin’s story. This may or may not be a problem, but the most satisfying aspect of Pikmin 3 to me comes at the end of an in-game day, where the fruit you’ve collected (if you found any) is squeezed into a jar. Part of why I played for as long as I did came from that feeling, and seeing what kind of juice I would have at the end of that day.
(I love Vehemoth)
Risk of Rain is a game I messed around with for a few hours, but it didn’t sink its hooks in me very effectively. I can’t even recall what sets it apart from other arcady rouge-lite games: You start in a difficult level with a limited load-out, the levels get much harder over time but your levels carry over after you die. It was good enough to keep me playing for about 3 hours, which is more than I can say for the next game on my ‘meh’ list, but ultimately I don’t think there’s anything more that this game can offer me that I haven’t already experienced.
Rogue Legacy isn’t a game I’ve beaten, but that’s because I’ve only just started playing it within the last few months. I can see why it started a revolution of sorts though. The gameplay is simple and challenging. When you die, your next-of-kin takes your place and tries to avenge you. Based on how well you did, your skills are passed on to your heirs. In a way, it doesn’t really matter how often you die, you’re eventually going to play as somebody who’s strong enough to overcome the dangers of the castle that took the lives of so many of your forebears. I think part of why I haven’t gone back into this game though, is because a lot of modern games play like this: You live, you play, you die, your stats are pushed onto a new character, you try again until you’re strong enough to win. Rogue Legacy is fine, but there are other games in this genre that I would rather be playing.
Slender: The Arrival, like Rogue Legacy, probably isn’t the first game of its kind but it definitely started a fire that still burns to this day. You’re alone in the woods, you find a piece of paper with a creepy drawing, then you’re suddenly not alone anymore. There are seven pages that you need to find, and the more you find the more likely you are to be caught by the dreaded Slenderman. I don’t remember beating this game, but I do remember having a pretty fun night playing it with friends several years ago. That’s probably why I haven’t gone back to try again; as a game, Slender: the Arrival isn’t incredibly compelling, I don’t think the forest changes at all, just the potential locations of the seven pages. By the time you’ve collected 6, it seems like Slenderman can teleport directly beside you, thus ending your run. The scare-factor of the game doesn’t last, and when you get a gameover out of nowhere that makes a previously scary experience more annoying than anything. I’m glad this game exists, but I don’t see myself ever playing it again.
Sonic Lost World is a Sonic the Hedgehog game with a dedicated sprint button. I don’t think I need to say anything else; the idea that a Sonic game has a button that makes you move quickly is just insane to me. It maintains its weirdness too, since Lost Worlds takes place across several themed worlds (grasslands, desert, tropics, ice, forest, sky, and lava), each one with a themed, if forgettable, boss and Robotnic at the end. If this sounds familiar, then you’ve probably played a Super Mario game or two. Lost Worlds has some speed to it, but it just doesn’t feel very Sonic the Hedgehog to me. Funnily enough, it’s probably because it feels so anti-sonic that I liked it as much as I did. I played this one through to story completion, and for the most part it was a really easy ride. The bosses were laughable, and there was only one segment right at the end that I had trouble with because wall-running hadn’t been mandatory before. That’s part of why I wouldn’t put this on my good list: Sonic Lost Worlds is just too easy, the Sinister Six are forgettable, Dr. Robotnic’s role is forgettable, I feel like I should be playing as Mario...it feels like this game has an identity crisis. Maybe the 3DS version is truer to what Sonic the Hedgehog is, but the Wii U version just came and went for me, leaving a minor impression.
Animal Crossing: New Leaf is by far my favorite game in the Animal Crossing series. The beginning is kind of ominous: You arrive in a town and are told you’re the mayor, there’s even a letter that mentions you by name, but you don’t need to worry too much about your mayoral duties since series newcomer and apparent heavy-drinker Isabelle is there to help you actually run your town. Like in previous versions, you’re provided with a hovel that Tom Nook will fix up, and build upon, as you collect money. Instead of him building additions onto your house in the dead of night though, he’ll wait for you to ask. Collecting money and adding onto your town is the main thrust of the game, but nothing is instant. It takes real time, sometimes literal days, before you can build a bridge or a coffee shop or what have you. Every in-game day you’ll have something to do: Maybe a fruit-bearing tree is ready to be harvested, maybe you’ll find a new fossil in one of the new dig spots of the day, maybe a new villager is building a home for themself in your town! Animal Crossing New Leaf is a huge game, presented in small pieces. After a while, it’s easy to run out of things to do in a single day, which is the only downfall of the game, but you’ll always have something to do tomorrow, which kept me coming back to check on things. Animal Crossing: New Horizons just launched, but I don’t know when or if I’ll be picking that one up. It looks great, but the portability of New Leaf appeals to me more...I’ll probably wait until Brewster sets up shop before I dive into the new Animal Crossing experience.
(This is my favorite person in all of Animal Crossing)
Batman: Arkham Origins is essentially a new adaptation of Batman: Year One, but it takes place in the Arkham timeline. Twas the night before Christmas, and all throughout Gotham, a bunch of assassins are trying to murder Batman. The infamous gangster Black Mask put out the hit, but by the end of the adventure Batman will have come face to face with his most iconic and marketable villain, The Joker. The map used in Origins is essentially the same one used in Arkham City, but everything has been dusted in snow, so this could be a very familiar game to play through. I mention Year One, but the story on Origins also has a lot of Knightfall thrown into it. Nothing really significant happens, which makes sense considering this is a prequel, but it’s still really interesting to watch the story unfold. At this point, the combat is familiar but it hasn’t quite worn out its welcome, and the boss fights here are pretty good. There’s no equivalent to the incredible Mr. Freeze fight from the previous game, but there’s no Killer Croc equivalent either which is a definite positive. It’s a shame that not all of the assassins get a proper fight to go with them, but again the plot covers those cracks nicely enough. The general consensus is that the Arkham Trilogy is made up of Asylum, City, and Knight, but I would strongly recommend playing Origins instead of Knight.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution - Director’s Cut was asked for multiple times by multiple people. It’s essentially the same as Human Revolution from a couple years ago, but you actually get stealth options during boss fights instead of being forced to fight them! This version was also made available on the Wii U. I’m one of the 12 people who bought and played through it on that platform, and I had just as much of a good time playing Human Revolution a second time as I did the first time around. I meant to play this again, I have it installed on my PC right now, but my time and attention has been completely overtaken by another game, as is usually the case. I can’t recommend Human Revolution any harder though. There are consequences for your actions or lack of actions, the levels are sprawling with multiple ways to go about getting through them, this is one of the few cyberpunk stories that I liked from beginning to end...It’s a great ride, go play it.
Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon takes Far Cry 3 and turns it into a cyberpunk shooter that’s candyfloss and neon colored, and populated with neon dinosaurs. Unlike Far Cry 3, I don’t feel like a silent sniper-rifle would have broken Blood Dragon. Despite its excellent premise, art style, and its willingness to detach itself from reality, I haven’t actually beaten Blood Dragon. It’s probably the game that left the best impression on me that I haven’t played through, but it’s constantly on my list of games that I really should get back into one of these days...when other games aren’t distracting me.
Fire Emblem Awakening is one such game that distracted me from other otherwise fantastic games. I don’t really play strategic RPGs, and I definitely haven’t played any other Fire Emblem games for more than a couple of hours, but something about Awakening just hooked me. The presentation and story were fine, but it was the characters who most engaged me. The way that characters interact on the battlefield and off were really interesting, and the ability to couple people up was also fun to play around with. Making your main character stronger in certain areas based on who they eventually married definitely makes me consider playing through again and wifing somebody else. Awakening is a fairly lengthy game, especially for a 3DS exclusive.
(And now I have 'By the Sea' from Sweeny Todd stuck in my head...)
Gunman Clive was another game that kept me from playing Dark Moon and who knows how many other 3DS games. It’s a very simple, stylized platformer, it’s a very quick game to get through, but it’s art style is something I can’t say I’ve seen before. Gunman Clive is very charming to look at, and the gameplay makes it very easy to get into. All you’re doing is moving right, jumping, and shooting. There are power ups that can give you a spread-shot, stronger shots, or faster shots. As the titular gunman, you must defeat hordes of outlaws, steam-based robots, and ninjas, among other things. The game steadily ramps up the challenge at such a pace that it’s hard to say where exactly things go over the top. If you haven’t played Gunman Clive, it’s really inexpensive and on PC in addition to Nintendo platforms.
(This is the only Cowboy fiction that I'm willing to accept)
Gunpoint is a game about a detective flinging himself at buildings using hyper-advanced pants with reckless abandon. This is all in the name of corporate sabotage and petty theft. Ultimately, you should be striving to remain unseen by the security who have been hired to keep people like you out, but you can easily pounce on them for a quick knock-out or beat them mercilessly if you’re feeling violent. You can eventually unlock a gun too, but the stealth in this 2D platformer is really satisfying and I wouldn’t recommend using it until you beat the game. As you play through each stage, you’re paid based on who you take jobs from and the money you get can be spent to upgrade your pants, your other equipment, or your skills. You can take jobs from multiple sources, and for the most part they’re all working against each other. Who you work for changes the plot somewhat and lends Gunpoint a bit of replayability, especially for someone like me who really liked the writing. This is another game that’s really inexpensive to pick up and easy enough on the ol’ CPU that even weak PCs can get the intended experience out of this game.
Hatsune Miku: Project Diva F is a rhythm game, and like most rhythm games I’ve probably come close to putting a hundred hours into it. Like every other rhythm game out there, my enjoyment of this game is incredibly subjective since I can’t recommend this game to people who don’t like J-Pop or digital pop stars. Admittedly, I don’t love the entire soundtrack but I enjoyed it enough to get through a majority of it on the higher difficulty setting.
This is one of the harder rhythm games I’ve played too: even on lower difficulties, following the button prompts can be overwhelming since they move around the screen and the point where you need to press the button isn’t set like it is in your Guitar Heroes or your Theatrhythms. What sets Project Diva F apart from other rhythm games I’ve played is that the points you earn can be spent to buy the idols gifts and decorations to set up in their rooms. It’s not really a dating sim kind of experience, but you can feed and pet the idols outside of the core gameplay loop. I didn’t really see much point in this aspect of the game, but making them happy unlocks PSN trophies, if you’re into that kind of thing. Again, I’ve played rhythm games that I’ve enjoyed more, but this one was a lot of fun and I’d play other games in this series.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is probably my portable game of the year if nothing else. I played Link to the Past at a young age and this is essentially a sequel to that game (in fact in Japan its title is literally Kamigami no Triforce 2) so when it was announced I was very much anticipating the release of Link Between Worlds. The game opens with a sorcerer turning people into paintings and trapping Link in a wall. Luckily, a mysterious bunny-hooded guy gave him a bracelet which lets Link move around in 2D space! From here, the structure of Link Between Worlds is similar to Link to the Past, but somewhat more open ended.
You need specific equipment to get into specific temples, and the equipment you need can be rented (eventually purchased), within the first half hour or so of play. Since you can basically go wherever you like (with maybe 2 exceptions) from the beginning, there isn’t much of a difficulty curve to speak of. Not that Link Between Worlds is overly easy or difficult, I just wish there was a way to maybe scale enemies or introduce new, or more difficult variants as you collect more equipment permanently or increase your heart points. Something that I love about Link Between Worlds is how once Yuga is introduced they don’t backtrack and reintroduce Ganon (mostly). Yuga is a very interesting antagonist, and the way the plot unfolds makes it my favorite in the series. In fact, ‘favorite in the series’ might just sum up my feelings on Link Between Worlds in a general sense too. The price for Link Between Worlds has been reduced and if you haven’t tried it, I would recommend this as an absolute must-play for the 3DS.
(Villain of the Year)
(continued in Part 2)