The Bad and Meh lists are covered in Part 1, posted previously, as is a sizeable chunk of the Good list. I'm can't say I'm surprised that this happened, but I'm a little bit proud to see that I've found and smacked against the upper limits of the character limits here on the C-Blogs! This section is just the last half of the good list, seen below:
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD didn’t need to be made. Wind Waker on the Gamecube holds up incredibly well not only visually but from a gameplay point of view. In fact, I hate how much bloom there is in the HD edition. Bad lighting aside, The Wind Waker is one of my favorite Legend of Zelda games and the quality of life updates here definitely make playing this version worth it, even if you’ve already played the original. Sailing around the great sea has always been relaxing, and the addition of a speed-sail makes it easier to get where you need to go if you chose to buy it.
There are a lot of islands that don’t have much to offer, especially now since Miiverse is dead and a lot of treasure chests were packed with Miiverse-exclusive content, but there’s still a lot to be found by exploring. It’s a shame Wind Waker wasn’t expanded upon for this re-release, and it’s also a shame that an interesting new character was essentially sacrificed for the sake of Princess Zelda, but those are the only major wrinkles for me. I think my favorite thing about Wind Waker though is the way combat works. Your tools feel more viable than ever before and Link has some pretty impressive moves with his sword. The boomerang stun looks great as always, but cutting off an enemy’s armor, then using your grappling hook to steal their things is equally satisfying. At the time, I would have said Wind Waker is my favorite 3D Zelda game, and it’s still one that I love going back to. I’m hoping a Switch port eventually happens, but I would also hope for lighting and graphical options which probably wouldn’t happen.
(Look at this little dweeb!)
Mario & Luigi: Dream Team took me a while to fully embrace but once I was in I was in. Mario and Luigi are on an island that seems to have a bed and pillow theme, and it’s here we discover that Luigi may be suffering from narcolepsy. Magical narcolepsy as it would seem, since Luigi’s can enter a whole new world by falling asleep in specific places. In the dream world, Luigi can inhabit a number of...things...that can then be manipulated in such a way that allows Mario to progress through each of those sections. In between platforming sections and exploration, you’re going to be getting into a lot of turn-based fights.
Like previous Mario RPGs, you’re not just choosing an action from a menu and watching combat play out: You also have to press an action button to make those actions even more effective than usual. When an enemy attacks, that same action button is used to either dodge an attack or reduce damage from an unavoidable attack. It kept me engaged fairly effectively, but I’m one of those people who really like turn-based combat in general. The story of Mario and Luigi keeping Bowser and his cohorts from attaining the power of dreams is fairly entertaining, the combat is fairly entertaining, but I feel like the game drags after a while. I’m glad I stuck it out until the end, but this isn’t my favorite game in the series. I would still recommend it.
Papers, Please is beloved and for good reason: it’s a very simple game to understand and the story surrounding it is incredibly compelling to me. Every day, you walk to your menial job that was given to you by the cold, unfeeling Government.
You’re sat at a security checkpoint, looking at documentation and determining whether or not the people queued up are eligible to enter the glorious nation of Arstotska. Every day, the requirements to cross the border become a little bit more complicated until you get to a point where you find yourself sorting through multiple papers, documents, and pages of your reference book. You can examine people to see if their height and gender match up to what the papers say, you eventually unlock a scanner to see if anybody has contraband hidden on them, and you can even be given a gun in case of attacks on your checkpoint. The number of people you process in a day directly ties into how much you’re paid, and if you don’t make enough money, you’ll have to make a tough choice between going without food or heat and potentially putting your family in mortal danger.
At the checkpoint, you’ll encounter people who may beg or threaten you to let them through and thus is the moral choice that immerges. Multiple women who you process could remark on the distinct gentleman in line behind them who beats them. When it’s his turn to be processed, all of his papers are in order and if you don’t process him correctly you’ll be penalized by your superiors but making sure other people are safe. A married couple could pass you by, but only one of them has their documents in order: so do you wave the other one through and risk your family, or go by the books and seperate a young couple who believe they’ll die if they don’t both make it through the checkpoint? Papers, Please tells a lot of short stories and you directly influence how they ultimately play out. It’s an absolute must-play title, and unlike anything I’ve played before or sense.
Pokemon X and Y do what most other Pokemon sequels do: They introduce a new setting and new Pokemon to collect. The number of new Pokemon here isn’t as extreme as the number introduced for Black and White, but I think that’s partly because this is the first game in the Pokemon series to bring everything into 3D. Other new features include character customization and Mega Evolution, but sadly one of those two things have seemingly been dropped in the most recent entry to the franchise.
Pokemon X/Y takes place in the very French-inspired Kalos region, where the dastardly Team Flare seek to make money by exploiting Mega Evolution somehow and stealing Pokemon too because that’s what all these evil teams do. The Pokemon formula is maintained throughout your adventure around the Kalos region: you have 8 gyms to get through, you can carry 6 different Pokemon, there’s one starter that I instantly clicked with and one that actually went on to be popular, pointless unobtainable Pokemon, rival characters who I completely forgot about as time went on...I consider this a good game because of the sense of familiarity.
I really enjoy the Pokemon games, even though I realize on some level that I’m playing what is essentially the same game that I’ve been playing since 1996. There were better JRPGs launched this year, in fact there’s a better JRPG that launched this year that lets me collect monsters, but Pokemon X/Y was still a really enjoyable game for me.
(This is a Pokemon that you're basically forced to take and use at least once)
I haven’t beaten Puppeteer, in fact I haven’t spent much time with it at all, but this is on my good list because of just how charming it is. It’s a PS3 exclusive that launched around the same time as the PS4, you play as a marionette, it’s a 2D game, and I think I just realized why I had never heard of it before I stumbled across it in a used game shop late in 2016. The reason I haven’t played much of it is because I bought it in late 2016, a time when my life kinda got flip-turned upside down and my ability to play PS3 games kinda got jacked up to the point where I still have yet to plug the thing back in.
(This looks so charming...why didn't Sony give this a marketting budget?)
Shadowrun Returns is exactly what I like and exactly what I wish there was more of in terms of setting. I’m not huge into CRPGs but unlike others this isn’t a game that I played in spite of its gameplay. The world of Shadowrun is Earth but roughly 80 or so years from now. Also, in the year 2012, Magic returned to the Earth and with it a large percentage of humanity transformed into elves, dwarves, orcs, goblins, Dragons, and other such fantasy races. This, children, is what we call sci-fantasy: The world has advanced technologically to the point that certain character builds can enter the matrix, everybody can use guns, but melee weapons are viable and certain character builds can use honest-to-God magic. Shadowrun Returns starts as a sort of revenge plot, where the character is trying to find the person who put a kill-switch into the head of an ally, but it quickly unfolds into a story of a clandestine organisation, secret bioweapons, and a potential infestation of astral insect monsters.
It’s not an overly long game at all; I was able to beat the main story in under 10 hours without being particularly good at this genre. Since you can make so many different types of character and there’s some branching in the otherwise linear story, that’s where the replay value comes from. I remember playing as a decker, but I could have played as a mage or street samurai or what have you. For the story and setting alone, I would recommend this series but CRPGs can be difficult to get into from a gameplay point of view.
Shin Megami Tensei IV is another sci-fantasy game from 2013 that I got into, but unlike Shadowrun Returns I played this one for 10’s of hours and I don’t think I’m close to the end yet. In this game, the world has essentially come to an end. Humanity is living underground in the metro stations littering Japan and trying not to be killed and devoured by the monsters and demons of various mythologies, religions, and folk tales.
Your player character is unique in that they’re able to talk those monsters into being friends and joining your combat party. You’re going to want to build up a strong party too because combat can go disastrously wrong ludicrously quickly in SMTIV. If you attack a monster with whatever they’re weak to, they’ll be stunned and you’ll be allowed to attack again. The same thing can happen with you, and it seems like enemies don’t need to work with trial and error to determine the best ways of dealing with your weak, human, body. The difficulty really made me enjoy Shin Megami Tensei IV, but the length and my being distracted by other games, kept me from actually finishing it. I haven’t played the updated version of this game that launched a few years ago either, but I’m looking forward to Shin Megami Tensei IV.
Super Mario 3D World is one of the Wii U games I had been waiting for and one of the reasons I stopped playing Mario Kart 8 and Monster Hunter. It was also one of the first 3D Mario games that I can say I loved without forcing it. Galaxy was fine, but it gave me vertigo and made me dizzy for the first couple of hours. Sunshine and 64 though...I don’t like those games. I think part of why I loved 3D World is because it’s a 3D Mario game but it’s presented in the linear 2D style. Most of the levels aren’t very open, but there are ways of getting around that are satisfying to discover.
The new power ups are a little bit of a mixed bag: The cat bell trivializes a lot of the levels, but its use during the endgame made for an incredible finale. The multiplication cherries are fantastic, because they make a mostly easy game much more challenging on the levels where they’re present. Another thing I like about 3D World is how it has memorable boss fights for the first time in a long time. There are only a handful of boss encounters, but they’re decent fights. The aspect of 3D World that I can’t really speak for is the multiplayer, again, because I play games by myself.
The multiplayer looks like it’s utterly chaotic, and I can’t say it looks appealing to me. There’s another aspect of this game that I did enjoy, but I won’t fully get into it here because it was so well enjoyed it was spun off into its own game. Super Mario 3D World was my favorite 3D Mario for a while, and I still count as a favorite Mario game. Here’s hoping it gets re-launched on Switch eventually!
(More games should end with boss fights against the main antagonists' fursona)
The Stanley Parable is a simple narrative.That is, The Stanley Parable can be a simple narrative. The Stanley Parable is actually not a very simple narrative at all. In fact, The Stanley Parable is quite a deep and engaging narrative. The Stanley Parable is about a person who stands indefinitely in a closet. The Stanley Parable is a game that encourages you not to play it for five years. The Stanley Parable, in a word, is a game about anarchism. The Stanley Parable is, in a word, a game about conformity. The Stanley Parable is, in a word, “Game”. I just realized that if I install and play The Stanley Parable right now, I’ll be able to unlock the 5 year achievement.
Basically, you start the game in a cubicle and whether or not you follow the instructions of the narrator dictates what kind of experience you’ll have with the game. When I first played it 5 years ago, I thought it was really funny and even though I knew it was impossible to truly subvert the game, I had been drawn into the game effectively. I’m absolutely going to be playing this again, even without the promise of unlocking insane achievements. It’s a really engaging and fairly unique twist on the walking simulator genre. Definitely give it a shot if you haven’t played it before.
(This is Stanley's Desk)
Steamworld Dig is a 3DS game I spent a large chunk of time with way back when it was new, and I’m glad that it’s since spun off into a larger series. This entry in the series follows the adventures of Rusty, a gruff robot who digs a massive hole looking for a vault. The deeper you go, the more durable to soil and rocks but luckily you find minerals and items that make you a more effective digger and help you combat the creatures living underground.
It’s a very simple gameplay loop, and it’s satisfying knowing that you’ve essentially made your own map as you dig deeper. You can’t just dig indefinitely though: you need light to see and you’re a steam powered robot so you’ll have to find water as you dig to keep your systems active. Even though there are creatures in the caves you eventually dig to, combat really isn’t a focus in Steamworld Dig. There’s one boss at the very end, but a vast majority of what you’ll be doing is exploring. It makes Steamworld Dig a really relaxing experience, and I recommend it, its sequel, and Heist...I haven’t played Gilgamech yet.
(This is a good game, check it out)
Surgeon Simulator is simultaneously endlessly frustrating, but also endlessly satisfying. Using the mouse and keyboard you manipulate the hands and fingers of a surgeon who must do progressively more difficult procedures. It’s really difficult to get into too, to the point that the main menu acts as a sort of tutorial. You’re sat at a desk and you initiate surgeries by picking up a video cassette, loading it into a VCR, and pressing the ‘play’ button.
The simple act of moving your arm toward the videotape alone could cause you to knock everything off of your desk, including the tape you were hoping to grab. Once you get the hang of controlling your surgeon, things smooth out significantly, but there are still instances where you can be met with unexpected difficulties. If you accidentally poke yourself with a syringe, for example, your movements could become delayed or over exaggerated, your vision could blur too. Some procedures are done in stative environments like the back of a moving ambulance which makes everything around you move. Surgeon Simulator is constantly ramping up its difficulty from stage to stage so mastering these levels and getting better completion times, feels incredibly satisfying.
I’ve never played the VR version, but it looks like something is lost in translation between the version that uses a keyboard and mouse versus the version that uses controllers that directly control and move your hands in what looks like a much easier way. I strongly recommend Surgeon Simulator, since its original release additional content has been launched for it at no additional charge, but the base game alone is definitely worth a look.
The Tomb Raider reboot didn’t feature a story that I really liked. In fact, I started skipping cutscenes almost immediately because I just wanted to explore the island in peace. The broad strokes of the story, as I understand it go something like: Lara Croft is a grad student, her and her small class are shipwrecked on an island in the Pacific equivalent of the Bermuda Triangle, there are already people on this island and they’re very keep to keep Lara and company away from whatever treasures and antiquities are hidden there. It’s up to Lara to reunite with her group, discover the hidden mysteries of the island, and find a way to get home.
If she’s not careful, she’ll be captured by the people already on the island (this happens at least twice), and if she’s really not careful she’ll be killed in surprisingly graphic and gory ways. I jokingly called this game, Last Tomb on the Left and I Spit on your Tomb, and those joke titles fit surprisingly well if only because of how grim failure states can get. Story and gore aside, Tomb Raider 2013 is a fairly standard third person shooter; you hide behind cover, you kill goons with a few body shots or a headshot, the bow-and-arrow is surprisingly effective, hunting game is tutorialized but largely pointless, etc. There are tombs to be raided, but each one can be boiled down to a single, simple puzzle that, once completed, gives you a single weapon upgrade.
That’s really the bulk of Tomb Raider: killing goons, exploring your environment, and raiding somewhat hidden tombs. I love how you’re not limited to only 2 weapons like certain other games launched around this time, and better yet, a lot of weapons can use multiple types of ammunition thus giving you even more options in combat. There’s a certain level of verticality in some areas of the island, and once you find the climbing hook you’ll be able to climb specific rock walls in addition to crumbling, decades-old ladders. I didn’t care about the story at all, but the gameplay was consistently satisfying. Even late in the game when supernatural elements were introduced, it wasn’t enough to disengage me from the experience. It wasn’t enough to make me want to go for 100% completion, but I quite enjoyed my time with Lara Croft on murder island.
The first in the new Tomb Raider trilogy goes on sale fairly often (on PC anyway), and maybe it’s because I bought it for less than the cost of a Big Mac, but I really liked my time with Tomb Raider and I’m somewhat curious about the other two in the reboot series.
Ride to Hell: Retribution is a game that defies categorization. It’s clearly broken, that much is undeniable. The gameplay is choppy, you either get headshots on your enemies or they don’t die, the sex mini-game is bizarre and terrifying, and the story fails to provide any motivation for the antagonists to actually be antagonistic. Your player character has some decent motivation, your brother was killed right in front of you by the same people who killed your father so that’s fine. As for the gameplay, you’re sent to a variety of levels that were once meant to be part of an open world.
These levels have invisible walls all over the place, but they don’t get too annoying until you have to go through a motorcycle section. The invisible walls are so bad in motorcycle sections, that you can go very slightly off of the road and the whole game will fade out then fade back in with you several dozen meters back. Hand-to-hand combat is present in Ride to Hell, and it’s very much the antithesis of Arkham style: you can use a simple 3-hit combo but that’s uneffective since enemies always block. You can cancel a block by kicking a blocking enemy, which is all you’re going to end up doing since it does damage in addition to breaking blocks. It looks ridiculous, and is really the only viable melee option. There are also turret sections, but those are basically bad in every action game.
I mentioned sex mini-games earlier and they’re just as sudden and strange as my mention of them: By killing certain enemies, you will have directly saved a woman from assault. To reward you for your heroism, you’re automatically warped into a bedroom, presumably surrounded by other enemies, for some clothes-on dry humping. After you complete a couple of mandatory missions early in the game, you get a small hub town to wander around in. Collected money you find through the levels can be used to make your guns and motorcycle better, but in practice, everything feels exactly the same. Riding your motorcycle doesn’t feel tuned whatsoever, and shooting is either a headshot-or-try-again affair.
(Seriously, you owe it to yourself to try this game)
At the dawn of the 7th generation of consoles, Sonic the Hedgehog launched and was dubbed the worst game of the time but it was a game that was so bad you had to play it to see what all the hype was about. Now, during the twilight of the same generation, Ride to Hell: Retribution has come to close the curtain, shut off the lights, and see this generation off. Bioshock Infinite, The Last of Us, and The Wonderful 101 are games that I would be happy to never play again, but Ride to Hell: Retribution is a game that I can’t recommend highly enough. It’s not my game of the year of course, that would be insane, but you owe it to yourself to play it for yourself. If Sonic 06 was Manos: The Hands of Fate, Ride to Hell: Retribution is The Room.
Again, I'm kind of proud of myself for bursting through the character limits here. Looking ahead to the next few entries of my decade project, it's almost certainly going to happen again for my 2015 entry, and possibly for 2014 and 2016. I could just try and summerize more or I could just not write about the games that I barely remember, but I want to be as thorough as possible when I consider what my potential game of the 2010's might be. I've been highlighting games from each of the Good lists, and those are the most solid contenders for my game of the decade. When I finally get to that entry in this project, it shouldn't be as dense of a piece of writing but I won't know that until I get there. I hope you'll follow me along as I sort through my thoughts, feelings, and experiences of the games that I've played through the previous decade.