Thanks for checking in! If you missed the first half of my 2015 in review blog, I'll be providing a link to it in the comments. This one is all positivity, and a little bit of blah so prepare yourself for my sunniness!
Yoshi’s Woolly World is a game that I really wanted to like, but I just can’t get into it. Visually, it’s pretty fantastic; everything is essentially represented as being made out of yarn or having been crocheted. Unlike Kirby’s Epic Yarn, the Wii U’s stronger processing power sells the aesthetic and makes for a lot of really great looking character models and levels. The levels that you play through are all 2D affairs though, and while there’s some challenge to be had avoiding bottomless pits and enemies, finding all of the collectibles, and the like, it just isn’t all that interesting mechanically.
To truly beat a level, you need to complete it with full health, find all 5 yarn bundles, find all 5 special flowers, and find all 20 sticker icons. The collectibles are fairly well hidden, and they don’t really do much of anything, so you’re not punished by NOT collecting them, but the spectre of 100% completion haunts me when the stats are in my face like this. Collecting the yarn bundles is the most rewarding thing for me since that’s how you unlock differently colored Yoshis, unless you’ve bought a bunch of Amiibo. Amiibo will unlock exclusively colored Yoshi’s, but no matter what your Yoshi looks like, it’s all aesthetic. As annoying as it was to literally babysit Baby Mario in the original Yoshi’s Island, it made that game feel unique and challenging. Yoshi’s Woolly World can be challenging, but it doesn’t have anything really unique about it mechanically. Unlike most of the other games I haven’t finished, I don’t know if I’m going to ever go back and try finishing this one. It’s a really great looking game on the Wii U, but it takes more than that to pull me in. I've given this game more chances to win me back than Kirby and the Rainbow Curse so I guess that's a point in its favor.
Bloodborne is great! You play as a hunter with monster-infected blood trying to survive the night in the city of Yarnham. Like Dark Souls, the combat centers around stamina management, like Dark Souls 2 and Demon’s Souls you can grind up healing items, and like in those other games I just mentioned the bosses absolutely steal the show. At first everything seems straightforward; There are feral monsters that need to be killed, and there are feral hunters who will try to kill you. Bosses are just larger, more horrifying versions of those enemy types. Then after killing a specific boss, it’s revealed that cosmic horror was the real culprit behind the horrors we’ve seen up to this point. The escalation of the threat to Yarnham is part of what I love in Bloodborne, and it’s really interesting to watch familiar streets change as you gain more insight (a resource that shows you unseen things).
I hesitated to get into Bloodborne at first because the gameplay is much faster and requires more aggression than what players of Demon’s and Dark Souls may be used to. For one thing, shields basically don’t exist in Yarnham; instead the best defense is to parry an incoming attack by shooting the attacker at just the right moment. A charged, heavy-attack can inflict a critical attack after a successful parry to inflict heavy damage on the target. For enemies who can’t be parried, any health that they may take from you can be restored simply by hitting them back. When you’re hit, a hypothetical amount of health is taken from you before it begins to tick down for real. If you get a hit in before that countdown starts, you get that HP back. If you do end up losing health, you can use blood vials (a resources that can be collected or bought fairly easily) to regain it. If you’re killed though, you’ll need to get back to the place where you fell to regain your blood echoes.
Blood echoes are the currency that you use to level up, and bloodstones are the secondary currency that you need if you want to strengthen your weapons. Lesser bloodstones can be used to experiment with the weapons and see which one you like the feel of best, but if you want to fully upgrade a weapon there’s only enough resources to perfect one or two weapons in your arsenal, but those resources are very easy to miss. Unlike the Souls games, Bloodborne doesn’t feature too many weapons; you can only find up to 26, 15 of which being melee and the other 11 being firearms. This seems very slim compared to the Souls games, but unlike the weapons in those games your melee weapons have two modes so mastering these weapons takes a bit more time and practice. There’s enough openness with the systems at play that it’s possible to make a character who’s gun focused, but there isn’t really a magic system to play with here. What magic there is functions more like a single-use item rather than a skill that can be built upon. For me, Bloodborne is the only reason I have to ever use my Playstation 4. I’m hoping a PC version launches eventually, but as of 2015 this is the strongest reason to grab the Sony console instead of the Microsoft one. Even in 2020, Bloodborne is one of a handful of reasons I would still recommend the PS4 over the other non-Nintendo console.
(Looking away from a disaster is cool, you disaster)
Carmageddon: Reincarnation features DLC revolving around the 2016 election that I didn’t know about until just now. Anyway, violent car combat is something that I’m always going to be interested in. In Carmageddon: Reincarnation you engage in a series of arcade style races in non-linear stages in a bloody gauntlet to either finish first, rack up the most kills, or simply be the last one standing. To help you in your goal, there are a number of power ups and weapons that make your car more lethal: mines, wheel-blades, springs, and more can be found through random pickups. As you play and complete the races and whatnot, you’ll earn money that can unlock new cars, new paint jobs, new racers, and new buffs like armor or spikes. Since part of what sold this game is edginess, you’re able to drive your cars into pedestrians, but I don’t recall there ever being much incentive to do so. For me this was just a fun arcade racing game with a heavy focus on destruction, and an easy recommendation whenever it goes on sale.
(I get exactly this look when I see the countdown timer on a crosswalk sign and know I have enough time to cross the intersection)
Chroma Squad looks like an isometric, turn-based, Power Rangers RPG and while that’s a big part of it, what you’re actually doing here is doing everything you can to keep your TV show from being cancelled. Yes, it essentially is the Power Rangers, but instead of managing your team as an alien head in a jar, you’re a TV producer. Every successful episode earns you money, which you use on better cameras, microphones, costumes, sets, or new actors/actresses. While you’re not managing the cast, you pick scripts to run through, these being the levels.
Playing through the levels is fairly straight-forward: you position your Rangers based on the placement of the monsters in that episode. Your actors can have different abilities based on their roles, and different stats based on their costumes. At the end of each episode there’s usually a special fight that plays a little differently featuring a “giant” monster and the Megazord. The better the show, the more viewers tune in, and the more money you gain to make the show even better and earn more money in what is hopefully a never-ending spiral of success. Within the main story there’s a narrative that hints at something lurking outside of the studio...but I haven’t finished this game yet. It’s fairly entertaining, but like with many other games others took my interest and I haven’t got back around to finishing this one off.
(Go! TV! Management! GO!)
I’m surprised that I only played Dirty Bomb for 23 hours, but according to Steam that’s as much time as I put into it. At this point Dirty Bomb is essentially dead; it’s not being supported by the developers any more and I’m told the community is shrinking, but when I built my PC in 2019 I had a lot of fun with it. Dirty Bomb is a free to play first person shooter with a focus on completing objectives as a team before the opposing team can complete their objective. Team A is usually trying to press forward while Team B defends. There’s an overall timer so it’s possible for team B to win even if they suffer defeats early on. As team A presses on and completes objectives, the map expands which is great since there aren’t too many maps to play on and expansion keeps things varied.
Speaking of variety, Dirty Bomb is a hero shooter. Each of the playable characters has a special role and specific load out. Only a couple are available to new players though, and you’ll be able to unlock new characters as you play and unlock them through loot boxes. Loot boxes are also the means by which you unlock different weapons, and weapon attachments. Despite their presence I never felt compelled to buy loot boxes, but the option seemed to have been there if I wanted to take it. In the moment I had fun with Dirty Bomb, but it was definitely limited; the maps and objectives were limited but the shooting and different abilities were fun to engage with. There just wasn’t much of a point to it as in, no story to work toward. I don’t believe I unlocked all of the playable characters but I believe I’ve seen all of the gameplay that was available based on who I fought with and against in matches. This kind of game isn’t really my genre: it’s exclusively multiplayer and if it wasn’t free to play I wouldn’t have tried it at all. It was a fun introduction to PC shooting for me though, and an overall good time.
(It was a really fun game while it lasted)
I’m going to say something controversial, Dragon Ball Z: Extreme Butoden is a more impressive fighting game than Dragon Ball FighterZ. The Oozaru in the room that needs to be addressed is that there are only 4 playable Goku’s on the roaster, 5 if you count Gogeta. The other is that this is a 3DS exclusive so controls take a little bit of getting used to and I’ve noticed a little bit of slowdown depending on where you’re fighting and which special move you’ve activated. Those issues aside, Extreme Butoden gains points right away for having a menu-based interface instead of a hubworld like so many other anime fighters have used in recent years. Getting from the start screen and into a fight doesn’t take minutes!
There’s a story mode, a tournament mode, an Adventure mode, a survival mode, a versus mode, and a free battle mode. You can choose to play one-on-one, but you can also play two on two, three on three, one on three, two on one, and any other variation I’ve chosen to omit. Since Extreme Butoden launched in 2015 the story mode goes as far as Battle of the Gods, so a lot of it is going to be very, very familiar but without the taint of Resurrection F. Story Mode is also set up like Sonic Heroes of all things in that you choose to play as a team which get their own story, including a villain team which changes things up somewhat.
Adventure mode sets you on one of several maps that you unlock as you go through it. The maps are set up in a board game style, and each space gives you a pre-set character or set of characters to use along with a condition that needs to be met within a time limit. The tournament mode is what it sounds like: The characters you’ve unlocked engage in fights until one of them, or you, are crowned winner of the tournament. Free battle is also what it sounds like; this is where training mode is hidden and it’s a fairly effective way to come to grips with the controls. Tournament Mode and Free Play both have multiplayer options, though I didn’t really get into MP because that’s just usually how I play. It took me about 13 hours to get through all of the stories and challenges, but I still went back to this game occasionally if I wanted to get into a quick fight. This is a game by Arc System Works, so even though it’s on the 3DS the presentation is phenomenal. There was a moment where this was the best looking Dragon Ball Z game to me, and I still consider it to be a must-buy if you still regularly use a 3DS.
(Spoiler Alert: I consider this to be a much better game than Dragon Ball FighterZ)
Grim Fandango Remastered is Grim Fandango, but remastered. Grim Fandango is a 3D adventure game by Lucasarts wherein you play as Manny Calavera, a skeletal travel agent living and working in the afterlife (shut up, I know what I’ve written). Manny works as a travel agent, he helps the recently departed book a travel package that will lead them through the afterlife and to the ultimate end. This can range from a golden ticket on a high luxury train down to a walking stick and words of encouragement. Unfortunately a mix-up occurs and it’s up to Manny to track down and save a recently dead woman before she succumbs to the dangers of the afterlife. At least until he loses track of her, gets side-tracked, spends a couple of years working in a...uh...'adult gaming venue'.
Grim Fandango is very different to other adventure games I’ve played in the past. For one thing, Manny always seems to be on the ball and in control of whatever situation he’s in. Comparing him to say, Foster from Beneath a Steel Sky is like comparing a firm, straight-forward apple to a mandarine slice. Part of what I like about Grim Fandango is how there doesn’t seem to be any failure states or sudden instant deaths like in adventure games that end in the word “Quest”. It was my transition from consoles to PC that I’m going to blame for my not having finished this one yet. I’m proud to say I made it to the section wherein Manny works in an adult, neon, play-place without looking through a guide as I went, which definitely wasn’t the case with other adventure games I’ve played recently. At any rate Grim Fandango is fantastic; the writing and voice acting is great, the characters look really interesting, and I still want to see how the story unfolds.
(I can't say the C word, it keeps getting me in trouble)
Gunman Clive 2 is the sequel to Gunman Clive: a stylized side-scrolling shooter about a cowboy named Clive who runs, jumps, and shoots other cowboys (and also robots and dinosaurs and the like). In Gunman Clive 2 you get 25 levels to run, jump, and shoot through and unlike the original you have the choice to play as Clive, Ms. Johnson, Chieftain Bob, or a secret character who is unlocked once you’ve beaten the game once (it’s a duck).
As Clive you start with a single-shot pistol, but it can be upgraded with power-ups into a triple-shot or rapid fire pistol. I only played this for a couple of hours, but that’s completely due to how quick this game is to finish. It’s possible to go from chasing a steampunk spider-robot through a burning western town to shooting dinosaurs in under an hour if you play well enough. Side scrolling levels are broken up by levels where you ride an animal or vehicle, but you’re still doing more or less the same thing of avoiding obstacles while shooting enemy cowboys, ninjas, robots, and ducks. It’s usually cheap so even if you don’t wait for a sale Gunman Clive is worth checking out. An HD edition bundled with the first game is also available and definitely worth checking out.
(It's short, it's sweet, and it's pretty)
Huniepop is a match-three game that rewards skillful play with a dating mini-game and anime boobies (that is, if you’ve modded out the censorship). Huniepop opens with your character being visited by a fairy who you fail to hit on, and who breaks into your apartment soon after because she just feels so bad for you. She agrees to help you engage in human intercourse so that maybe, just maybe, you’ll be less of a loser in life. It’s not really sex making that she helps you with, rather she helps you with things like talking to and dating women.
Like in real life, talking to attractive women is as simple as matching three or more colored symbols which represent charm, wittiness, cheesiness, etc. Each of the women have their own preferences, so if you keep matching 6 or more wittiness colors at them, but they want cheesiness, you’re not going to woo her as effectively as you could be. You can give the women gifts as a way to make them like you more, and if you take them on enough successful dates they’ll agree to engage in some casual, no-strings-attached pattycake with you. There are six girls to begin with, but if you succeed in getting some of that sweet, premarital hand holding with them another two will become available for you to match colors at. According to Steam I spent 15 hours playing this game, and it was time I had a lot of fun spending. It’s really satisfying to figure out which gifts the girls prefer, and there’s satisfaction in the simple act of matching several and watching a cascade of matches follow that initial matchup.
(Nothing to see here, just a harem of waifu)
Ironcast, much like Huniepop, is a match-three puzzle game. The framing device and overall plot is very different though. Ironcast is an alternate history game taking place in Victorian London. You pilot one of several steam-powered Mecha, taking on missions to defend the homeland and gather resources in preparation for an imminent invasion and attack on London itself. Most of the missions you’re going to get into are combat based, and that combat is turn-based. You have a set number of moves you can make during your turn on a match-three grid, and successful matching can replenish your ammo, coolant, energy, shields, and health. After you’ve taken your chance with the match-three grid, you’re free to expend energy in several ways: you can power up your shields, begin moving, move faster, or attack your enemies or their resources.
When you attack an enemy it heats up your mech, overheating can damage you, but enemies can also overheat. You can choose to attack your enemy’s core, their weapons, their legs/treads, there’s a lot of depth to the combat in Ironcast and everything you can do to your enemies they can do to you right back. The amount of management, forethought, and strategy Ironcast demands was a little bit overwhelming to me at first. It’s because Ironcast is so demanding that I can’t help but recommend it. Even if you don’t like the steampunk thing, I’ve seldom come across a game that’s this easy to get into yet with this much depth to it. Ironcast is on most consoles and it’s a low-intensity PC game, so it’s really accessible if you’re curious.
(This game is really, really good)
Just Cause 3 begins with Rico Rodriguez of the previous games flying through a town in his homeland and destroying the facilities and military installations which had been built up in his absence. Like with Just Cause 2 the goal of the game is to systematically infiltrate, subvert, and destroy propaganda, weapons platforms, and corrupt bases so as to liberate Medici. How you do this, and in what order, is completely up to you. You can shoot gas tanks, steal armored vehicles and drive them through walls, steal helicopters right out of the air and use their firepower against the forces which dispatched them, and so much more.
There are a lot of buildings, statues, billboards, and bridges that can be utterly destroyed, and the spectacle of that destruction is always fun to watch unfold. Once I realized how effective and how easily refilled they are, I began to rely heavily on the use of remote bombs to do a majority of the damage to structures. When it comes to firefights though, things feel a bit more freeform. Guns are effective, rocket launchers are effective, ramming vehicles into enemies is effective, using your hookshot to attach enemies to each other, or a soon to be destroyed structure, is effective. The moment-to-moment gameplay of Just Cause 3 is absolutely delightful, and the island of Medici is wonderful to look at too. This game is one that I would highly recommend, easily.
(Why does everything need to be destroyed? Tiiiiiiiiiiiiitle drop!)
In 2015 the ancient and well-known King’s Quest franchise was brought back to life. The first two chapters were launched, with three more releasing in 2016 so I’m going to just talk about chapters 1 and 2 here. The whole narrative is framed as a series of stories King Graham is telling him grandchildren (usually his granddaughter). The aged king spends the first chapter telling the tale of his arrival in the kingdom of Daventry and how he became King to begin with. The narrative always seems to end the same way, but the means by which you solve the puzzles can vary. It’s more of an order-thing though rather than there being a lot of different ways to solve each challenge. There are also moments where you’ll be asked to resolve an issue in one of three ways and your choice influences what lessons your grandchild takes away from your tales.
In addition to the kind of puzzles that require you to find a thing and use it on an object or give it to a person, there are also climbing sections, arrow-shooting sections, time-based puzzles, and branching dialog. Chapter 1, A Knight to Remember, introduced several important residents of Daventry and some of the fantasy creatures who call this place home. After the action-packed prologue that involves escaping from a dragon, the rest of the chapter is puzzle solving that’s paced about as quickly as you want it to be. The first chapter is so easy-going that it’s literally impossible to fail the final challenge that decides if you become king or if another character does. It was easy, but the first chapter of King’s Quest did a fantastic job of introducing the world and characters.
The second chapter is much more demanding and unforgiving. It begins with King Graham being overwhelmed by his new kingly duties. He takes a walk to clear his head only to be kidnapped by goblins. You soon find that the familiar villagers from the previous chapter have also been captured by goblins. You’re not getting any food, neither are they, and you only have a limited amount of time to solve chapter 2 if you want to save everybody. WIthout a clear idea of what you need to do, that’s simply not going to be possible. You need to focus on helping one specific person, make sure nobody else starves, and complete very specific actions within a specific number of days if you intend on saving everyone and it’s a challenge that I’ve failed. King’s Quest only has one save slot too, so the only way for me to try again would be to start over from the very beginning. This is actually part of why I consider King’s Quest to be a really good game so far; there isn’t technically a fail state but you can still mess up in fairly significant ways. The story being told has been really interesting to me too, and I’m curious to see if anything happens with the modern-day segments eventually. The first chapter of King’s Quest is free so there’s literally nothing to lose if you wanted to try it, and I’m happy to have picked up the other chapters when I was able to. I can’t wait to talk about the other chapters for the next entry of the decade project.
(I look forward to talking about the other 3 chapters in the next entry)
Mega Man Legacy Collection is on every current console and since it’s a collection of the first six Mega Man games I would be shocked if it wasn’t. Your favorite meme probably takes up more space on a hard drive than the Mega Man games that launched on the NES, and the new features that were added to the Legacy Collection don’t seem to be very high impact. If you’re like me, ie: you’re terrible at NES games, you can quick save and quick load save states basically whenever you want to. I’ve beaten Mega Man and Mega Man 2 before, but I’ve never finished the other games in the series before I played the Legacy Collection. These six games have been available on digital platforms for years now, and I could have bought any of them at any time individually.
I could have downloaded roms of these at any time and enjoyed the save states feature roms usually have. The most substantial criticism I have against the Mega Man Legacy Collection is that it doesn’t collect all 10 Mega Man games. I find it hard to believe that a 3DS cartridge wouldn’t have been able to handle that much content. As for the Mega Man games as a whole; I don’t think it’s controversial to say that I dislike the first game in the series, but it might be to say that 6 might be my favorite. I like 4 more than the third too but I have trouble giving a definitive ranking of my favorite Mega Man games aside from saying 2 and 6 are the ones I’ve had the most fun with and 1 is the only one I don’t see myself ever playing again. Speaking of things I don’t see myself going through again; the Legacy Collection has a massive gallery of box art, promotional material, and development art for all 6 games. It’s really interesting to see but it’s a feature I only checked out once. I recommend the Legacy Collection but I realize most people have likely already bought some, if not most, of these games multiple times already.
(You already know if you like these games, I know I do!)
Nintendo Badge Arcade is (or possibly was) a free download on Nintendo’s 3DS. You spend play coins (those things you have 300 of because that’s the cap and you probably haven’t checked since 2016) to get a go on one of several claw or drop machines. You’re also given the option to pay a microtransaction to have more tries on the claw machines that are available that day, but I never really say the point in that since using play coins were always adequate. So since this game has microtransactions unless you’re willing to do some hiking, the rewards must be actually worth something right? I would say they are: What you get are badges, and what badges are, are essentially bits of pixel art that you can use to decorate the home screen of your 3DS.
Every day the prize catchers change, and aside from being offering slightly different layouts, they also have different themes. It’s possible that you’ll load up Badge Arcade and see machines offering Pikmin or Chibi-Robo badges, but on other days you might find something good like Pixel-Art Pokemon, or Mario & Luigi badges. Maybe I’m looking back on this fondly now because it’s 2020 and you still can’t customize the Switch in any significant ways yet. I still carry my 3DS with me whenever I go out, and Badge Arcade is an app that I put 47 hours in, possibly more than that since I lost a lot of data at some point in 2015 or 2016. The point is, for as simple as this game is, it’s one that I got a lot out of, and I hate that there isn’t an equivalent on Switch.
(This application not being on Switch is a literal crime)
OlliOlli is an incredibly simple 2D, side-scrolling skateboarding game. You skate through a variety of settings, with each one having a different set of challenges waiting for you to overcome. Executing tricks in OlliOlli can be as simple as flicking the analog stick or inputting a simple quarter-circle command. Pressing and holding down at the right time will have you grinding along a rail. You can also execute kick-flips and spin-based tricks. OlliOlli is incredibly simple; you’re just rolling downhill, racking up as many points as possible, and trying not to wreck. It’s one of those arcade games that are incredibly easy to pick up and just lose yourself in for hours. I played this game on the 3DS, which I think is a perfect home for this kind of game, and I strongly encourage you to give it a shot since it’s on just about everything.
(Such a simple, addictive game...)
Party Hard is an indie game that tells the very relatable story of a person who’s just trying to sleep but whose raucous neighbors won’t allow that because they insist on party rocking in their house all night. Being a level-headed protagonist, you head on over to your neighbors’ house and systematically murder everybody in the house. The methods you choose can range from overly elaborate Rube Goldburg style machinations that take out multiple party goers at once, or you can just grab a weapon and stab a bunch of people. If you get caught in the act, or if bodies are found, the police will be called in to investigate and you’ll need to take care of them too if they catch you. Depending on the party you crash, you might have the cops called on you anyway since some of these parties are exclusive and you’re definitely not on any guest lists. The gameplay is about as simple as the premise, and it plays out as a fairly satisfying stealth affair. Party Hard isn’t a game I’ve finished yet, but it left a really good impression on me.
(Here we see a clearly level-headed, logical protagonist)
Renowned Explorers is essentially a digital board game with rogue-like elements. There are several boards that you can explore, with more to unlock as you successfully complete expeditions. To embark on an expedition you’ll need to set up a party of three, a leader (you’ll unlock more leaders as you play), and two additional explorers. Every explorer has their own stats, strengths, weaknesses, etc so it’s important to build up a party of explorers who have complementary skill sets. Skills come into play as you move around the various game boards and land on instances; depending on what you land on, you may have the chance to accept a challenge that could net you extra gold or resources if you pass the skill check.
There’s also the chance of getting into a turn-based encounter. It’s not necessarily a fight since they don’t have to be violent. You could absolutely build a party of three He-Man, brawler explorers who Nathan Drake their way to explosive victory. You could also build up a party who succeeds by encouraging the opposition, inspiring the opposition, demoralizing the opposition, or making the opposition so depressed that they just go away. Renowned Explorers presents all kinds of unique scenarios that I haven’t seen before or since, like that time my team was assaulted by goats and I defeated them through a series of jokes and encouragement. Or that time I defeated a gang of pirates by calling them names until they cried and ran off. Renowned Explorers is a lot of fun. It’s a game that can be completed in about an hour, and every time you beat a game you unlock more stuff to play around with next time. It’s on Steam, check it out.
(Thank you Total Biscuit for letting me know this game exists)
Rusty Lake Hotel is one in a series of puzzle games, this one focusing on accommodating the guests of a...well, a hotel. To do so you’ll need to complete a lot of item-based puzzles and brain teasers. Mechanically, the Rusty Lake games are really simple. They’re easy to get into, but just as easy to get hung up on since the solutions to the puzzles can be really obtuse. What got me into the Rusty Lake games though, aside from a lot of them being free, is the disturbing imagery, stories, and puzzle solutions. It’s not uncommon for puzzle items to include things like insects, body parts, and the like. All of the Rusty Lake games have presented some really disturbing stories, set pieces, and themes, and they’ve always interested me. For all of its mechanical simplicity Rusty Lake Hotel is a standout in its genre, and definitely worth a look even if it’s not on sale.
(The Rusty Lake games also remind me a lot of Salad Fingers...)
SOMA is a game that explores themes of existential horror in the context of a rogue AI taking over an undersea lab some time after an asteroid wiped out all life on the planet Earth. You play as Simon, a Canadian on death’s door after a car crash damaged his brain leaving him with survivor’s guilt and terminal brain damage. There’s a slim chance that a brain scan can prolong Simon’s life and whether or not it did is a mystery because we’re actually playing as Simon 2.0, that same brain scan of Simon, only inside of an augmented diving suit. Most of what you do in SOMA is exploration, with a light sprinkling of stealthily moving by horrifying monsters, and puzzle solving.
For me, the greatest challenge when it came to puzzle solving was finding all of the pieces of them in the first place. It was fairly easy for me to accidentally overlook an input on a console that would unlock doors, or a pipe that could be broken off of a bunch of other pipes. Like I said earlier, those times when I had to find a specific thing or things were usually more difficult than solving the puzzle that would allow me to take those things. Then there are the choices; I don’t think I can call them moral choices since there’s not usually a clearly good option or a clearly bad option, there are just depressing options and uncomfortable options.
The worst thing I can say about SOMA is that you can only play it for the first time, once. I played it recently on PC, and while I could recall when monsters would appear, I was still pulled into the atmosphere of the Pathos 2 station. This place looked like it’s lived in, maybe not comfortably depending on where you’re stationed, but the environmental storytelling made me want to see everything this game had to offer. I’m not sure if I’ve already spoiled more than I should have, but what I’ve said about the story so far is established fairly early on in the narrative. Who Simon is isn’t as much of a mystery compared to the bigger questions regarding what it means to be alive in general. SOMA delivers a really thought provoking story with interesting characters. SOMA is one of the best games to have launched in 2015, and is an absolute must-play.
(It's like that one episode of Black Mirror, only good)
In June of 2020, it’s still possible to play Splatoon on the Wii U online. If you still have a Wii U and a copy of this game then I don’t see how it’s a lesser experience than playing Splatoon 2 on the Switch. Anyway Splatoon; you’re a kid who is also a squid living in a post-human Earth where competitive painting is all the rage. Before I forget, you can play Splatoon offline and single-player, but the experience is very different. Playing offline only allows you to play 1V1 matches where you and the other player compete to see who can pop the most balloons. Single player gameplay takes place through a series of relatively short levels where the goal is usually to get to the end of the stage while also taking out all of the hideous, malformed, octopus children inhabiting them.
There are a handful of boss fights to take care of too and while they’re not especially difficult (the single player really feels like an extended tutorial for the Multi-player to be honest), the boss designs are imaginative with cool accompanying fight music. The final boss is especially memorable because of how it breaks with usual conventions, that is, you need to hit it five times instead of three to defeat it. The single player gameplay only takes a couple of hours to get through, after that there’s multiplayer. In multiplayer there is one game mode; 2 teams of 4 squid kids
(I'm a Squidna, I'm an echidna)
Steamworld Heist features cameos and song snippets from the band Steam Powered Giraffe, which would have been all I needed to have downloaded this one. The core gameplay being fun was just chrome on the cog. What you’re doing here is building up a team of robots and taking on various heist missions in space to gather resources from uncouth types like robot-space-pirates. To steal riches from them, your crew and theirs take it in turns to move and attack one another. Unlike other turn-based tactics games, this one allows you to manually aim your weapons before you fire. A lot of the weapons feature ricocheting projectiles too, so it’s possible to take out, or at least damage, multiple enemies with a single well-placed shot.
The more heists you successfully carry out, the more resources you’ll have to trade in for better equipment, new crew members, and things like that. Steamworld Heist is a game that absolutely charmed me, but I haven’t actually finished it. I picked it up about a year after it launched, and 2016 was just a bad year for me in general. It’s a game that I’m going to be revisiting sooner or later though since the mechanics are still fairly unique and I’m at a point where I can listen to Steam Powered Giraffe again!
(It's steampunk, but it's in space)
It took me a couple of tries to really get Undertale. I went into it knowing the twist, and how it subverts the genre so I knew how I wanted to play from the outset. Playing in a passive manner was a pain in the butt though since I’m really not good at bullet-hell style games. While it’s presented as a JRPG when an enemy attacks you can negate all damage by literally avoiding it in a brief minigame. Against random encounters they’re not that bad, but the bosses gave me a lot of trouble, so much so that I had to take a break when Undyne knocked me around multiple times over.
The writing, and a Switch port, was enough to get me to give the game another chance. The cast is all fairly memorable, and I really liked the humor used throughout. There’s a good chance that, if you’ve used any social media within the past half-decade, you’ve seen Undertale referenced in some way, shape, or form. With that much saturation, you may already be sick of Undertale without having ever experienced it, or perhaps you’ll be more into it if you haven’t tried it yet. Really, it’s the writing that makes or breaks this game; it’s nothing to write home about visually. Undertale looks like it could have run on a Super Nintendo after all, what with its tiny sprites and simple backgrounds. I really liked the soundtrack, but I prefer the fan remakes that have sprung up over the years to the original music at this point.
Choosing to fight seems standard if you’re familiar with JRPGs, but subverting combat has an interesting puzzle thing going on. There’s one enemy for example, who you need to ignore and walk away from. There’s another enemy type who’s a dog and can thus be defeated by patting it. Figuring out how to subvert all of the enemy types can be a bit of a challenge, especially when it comes to bosses, but it’s a challenge worth taking on. Despite all of the praise surrounding this game, and even though I played it and enjoyed it, I was satisfied to have only played Undertale once. I had fun with Undertale, I listened to GAMetal’s Megalovania cover, and I’m satisfied. You already know how you feel about Undertale and this is one of those times when I agree with the majority about a game being good.
(You already know how you feel about this game too)
Yo-Kai Watch looks like a blatant rip-off of Pokemon, but instead of turning nouns into creatures it just uses cutely designed Yokai. Youkai are creatures of Japanese folklore used to give a face to unexplained phenomena; for example if you’ve ever dropped a log into the toilet and had a drop of toilet water splash into your brown eye, that can be explained away by a Yokai (probably Hanako-San, or Aka Manto, or Kurote). The premise of Yo-Kai watch centers around Nate, a dork who finds a capsule machine in the middle of a forest which gives him a watch. The watch allows him to see Yo-Kai and use Yo-Kai medals.
In the context of Yo-Kai Watch, a Yo-Kai is a ghost that, when it hangs around a human for long enough, changes that person’s disposition. It can make a person unreasonably angry, annoying, or just make them have to pee really, really badly. Nate needs to get these Yo-Kai to leave people alone, and he usually accomplishes this by beating them up until they decide to go away, leaving behind a Yo-Kai medal which Nate can use to summon them into battle. You can use the Yo-Kai Watch to search specific parts of the city to find Yo-Kai, and you strengthen your party through combat. As your Yo-Kai get stronger, they can evolve similarly to another monster collection handheld game. There is an elephant in this room and it’s this: The combat system in Yo-Kai Watch is largely automated and I’m on record as someone who usually hates that type of system.
In the beginning, and during the endgame, I played in spite of the auto-battle. Each Yo-Kai has a special attack that you have control over, but it’s essentially just a button tap that triggers an animation and high damage (depending on buffs, debuffs, elemental strengths/weaknesses, etc). Like with another popular monster battle series, you can have a party of up to 6 Yokai, but unlike certain other pocket-based creature games your whole party can fight at once. Only 3 can be active at a time, but you can change out who’s active via the touch screen, literally rotating out fatigued or fainted Yokai. If one of your creatures have been hit by a debuff like despirit (think Slow or Stop), you can purify them via a short touch-screen minigame after rotating them out of active battle.
There are 245 Yo-Kai to consider in this game, but there are a couple of asterisks to consider: For one thing, 21 of them are unobtainable bosses and a further 5 are incredibly difficult to obtain jeweled variations of Jibanyan, a Yo-Kai that already has a number of variations. Since combat is mostly automated, the abilities Yo-Kai can used are limited but to keep this from being too frustrating the Yo-Kai’s typing is set up based on their role in battle (called Tribes). There are healers, tanks, CQC specialists, but the Tribes don’t have straight-forward names. The Brave Tribe is the one that specializes in physical attacks for example, while the Slippery Tribe specializes in debuffs. Once you’re in it it’s fine, but from the outside it seems a lot less accessible than it ends up being.
I haven’t completed Yo-Kai Watch to 100%, but I have spent over a hundred hours on this game. It introduced a new franchise to Japan years earlier, so much so that by the time this game launched in the West Japan was getting ready to roll out the sequel, and it got me excited to see what would be coming next. Considering the sales of this game and its merchandise though, my enthusiasm was a statistical anomaly. At this point you can find new copies of Yo-Kai Watch for the 3DS at Five-Below...or at least I’ve seen them there in bulk in the before-time.
(It was a good game and the franchise should have been much more successful)
Here at the end of 2015 there are a few loose ends that deserve some tying up. One of the biggest holes in my list is one that should be occupied by Geralt of Rivia (shut up), but to date I’ve only played about a half hour of the first Witcher game and nothing more. I haven’t played the awkwardly titled Rise of the Tomb Raider yet either despite quite enjoying the 2013 revival. Halo 4 left a poor impression on me, and I had no intention of getting an Xbone, so Halo 5 is likely to be a game that I’ll never play. I’ve only ever played Assassins Creed 1 and 2 through to the end, and while I feel some interest in the series awakening in me, I haven’t dedicated myself to any other entries in that series yet. Mortal Kombat 9 did nothing for me, and I don’t even like the one-on-one fighting genre very much, so it should come as no surprise that I haven’t played Mortal Kombat Eks. The Order 1886 is a joke, and I don’t intend to give it any more time or attention than what I’m giving it in this sentence.
Then there are a handful of games that I definitely own and may have even played, but which I don’t remember at all or else don’t have anything to say good, bad, or indifferent. I own Chibi-Robo: Zip Lash, but it’s in a sealed box with an Amiibo. I may get a second one to try the game, and since I’ve never played the other game in the franchise I might even like it. I own the Wii U, Rodea the Sky Soldier bundle but I only played the Wii U version (apparently the lesser version compared to the Wii original) for a few minutes. The Adventures of Bertram Fiddle: A Dreadly Business is an adventure game that I played through to the end, but which I have completely forgotten about aside from the name and art style. I can say confidently that it’s better than Life is Strange, but I can’t remember why. Please Don’t Touch Anything isn’t a game, it’s an activity center with puzzle elements. It’s something you mess around with when you have a few minutes free to see lights and colors shine for a moment. Pokemon Picross is similar, but definitely more of a puzzle game. If you know of Picross, just apply Pokemon to it and you’re golden. If you don’t know, you’re given a grid with numbers, those numbers correspond to a number of tick marks that row/ column will feature. These tick marks, once they’re all on the grid, will form a crude doodle, Pokemon in the case of Pokemon Picross. Then there’s Stretchmo, which definitely exists and is likely a sequel to Pushmo.
We’ve finally reached the peak of the 2010’s, and are entering the second half of the decade. I’m already seeing so much variance between games I’ve typed about in this entry compared to games I had written about two or three entries ago. The next generation is here to stay, and after a couple of shaky, early years that eighth generation is finally ready to take off in earnest. Next month, I’ll be releasing the 2016 section of my Decade Project. I’ve been looking forward to that year specifically; the highs are notable, the lows are devastating, and I’ll get to bore you all with even more talk about Dark Souls! If you’ve made it this far thank you for reading. I’ll be adding links to earlier entries in my decade project, and I hope you look forward to the next entry.