Saturday, January 31, 2015

Year 2014 Lists: Part II, Games

Games Played This Year (In No Particular Order)

Warning: Video games may occur.  Proceed at your own risk.  Reprinted from Facebook where this is a yearly feature.

1. Kami. This is a puzzle game. You are presented with a flat plane colored with 2-6 colors. You can recolor the different areas, and if a bordering area has the same color, the areas will merge. Attempt to make the entire plane one color in a minimum of moves. This game has peaceful music and a pleasing stop-motion papercraft animation style. I played a puzzle every once in a while throughout the year, and I do recommend it.

2. The Dream Machine. Another game animated with stop-motion. This one is a point-and-click adventure that is not quite finished, but most of the game has been released. Something is not quite right about your apartment. It may have something to do with the giant semi-organic machine growing in the basement. The game manages a creepy horror atmosphere despite the adventure game pacing.

3. Cinders. You are Cinderella, and you must Choose Your Adventure! This game has ridiculously pretty characters and a branching storyline that doesn't take too long to complete. Cinderella, the step-family, and even the love interest, all have a bit more depth in this version of the tale, and it is nice to see them developed a bit by the story. Unusually for a visual novel, it Does Not Have Manga Art.

4. Stick it to The Man. You are some guy who gets mixed up with The Men in Black and Alien Escapees and such and ends up with psychic powers in the form of an invisible arm growing out of your head. Pick up items and smack them elsewhere or smack them into the thoughts of other people (the arm makes a nice SMACK sound when used). Evade The Man! at all costs. Cute, fun, and short.

5. Among the Sleep. You are a baby, and this is a horror game. As a toddler, you can crawl fairly well, but other than that, your movement is limited. Evade the scary thing(s) mostly by hiding in creepy environments that somehow seem to be in your closet. Your character has a light-up teddy bear he can squeeze if things get too intense (but be warned that the monster(s) can also see the light). The psychological symbolism is a touch heavy-handed, but this game has a good level of creepy for me. It is intense without silly jump scares.

6. The Shivah. This is a very short point-and-click adventure. You play a mean, cynical rabbi who has been accused of murder. Find someone else for the police to suspect by talking, searching the internet, and doing some amateur hacking. The characters are pretty dark and hard-boiled here, but the game also enjoys making fun of itself. (Wait until you see the combat system.) It has a lot of clever ideas, but the voice-acting is only mediocre, and the entire game is really too short, making for a rushed character arc.

7. Ben There Dan That and Time Gentlemen, Please! This game really deserves a wider audience. A point and click that is just brimming with British humor, it probably just didn't get a lot of press. Plus, there is the matter of its terrible programmer art... But in this case, it works. The characters are fourth-wall breaking no-accounts who constantly mock the game. I found it very entertaining.

8. Cook, Serve, Delicious! This game requires you to, with almost inhuman speed, prepare meals for five simultaneous customers as you run a restaurant. "Prepare meals" here means tap the right buttons in the right order and with the right timing. It's sort of a frantic cooking arcade game with a moderate amount of strategy as you can change your menu every day, choose which orders to take first, etc. Lots of fun if taken in small doses.

9. Brothers, A Tale of Two Sons. This is either a game for two players or one player using two hands. You control a pair of brothers on a quest to find a medicine for their dying father. The game starts in their hut, then their tiny village, and then out into the increasingly eerie and huge world. This is an amazing game with innovative story-telling methods, but unfortunately, it does seem to be a bit buggy, but the first time I played it, I had no trouble, and maybe you won't either. (One other note. If you play this game with your little brother, and he is playing the little brother character, and he keeps getting the little brother killed, this can be TOUGH for the older sister to take. No killing my brother!)

10. Papo y Yo. Best Game of the Year for me. An adventure game set in a Brazilian town with colorful mural art painted by real artists, a town which can be moved around and manipulated in an Inception-like wa, this game walks you through what it is like to be the child of an alcoholic as you play a little boy in a similar situation. Very touching.

11. Walking Dead II and A Wolf Among Us. Telltale continued releasing holonovel-like games this year. They are very impressive, and I would love them were they not so deeply depressing that I can't play through them. These games are GRIM (add an extra m for a Funny Pun in the case of the second game), albeit Very Good. I have high hopes for the new comedy games in this style Telltale is making for the next year.  Update:  A Wolf Among Us is almost comically grim.  It makes me want to scream, "Move out of New York City, you idiots.  This would solve all your problems!"  That said, it is a gorgeous game with Dramatic Lighting and a Hero you can customize to be anything from Hopelessly Mean to Unintentionally Mean.  It is Noir, Noir, Noir, and it is great.  And Tales from the Borderlands is hysterical.  More on that next year.

12. Octodad, the Dadliest Catch. This game made me laugh. You play an octopus who is somehow the father in a 1950s-sitcom-style nuclear family. Much like Chicken Boo, Octodad keeps his true nature hidden. Your job while playing the game is not to reveal the secret by tripping over or suctioning onto too many of the many, many things on the floor. Making this task more difficult are the controls, a separate set for each limb (you have four because you are a man and not an octopus who has braided his tentacles together to form a grotesque mockery of legs). Meanwhile, the settings are providing a lot of snarky digs at suburban life (in the 50s?). A crazy game altogether.

13.  Unrest.  A Kickstarter game I backed whose campaign was run on-time and professionally, and they delivered exactly what they pitched.  This is a fantasy game set in Fantasy India (made in India by an Indie Indian game studio...India) presented as a series of scenarios where you play several characters, ranging from a princess to a slum girl to an ambassador from the non-human tribe.  In each scenario you are given a backstory and an environment to interact with and, ultimately, a choice, the deciding decision of this character's life.  You make the choices and see the results at the end of the game.  A very cool concept.  (By the way, the soundtrack alone is worth the asking price.)

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