Doing 3 Minute Review on EscapistMagazine.com (and Gameumentary before that) is an amazing experience. While I try to give reviews on a base level of quality with opinion sprinkled in, my top and bottom five of the year are fully based on personal opinion. As such, several of my bottom five games are there more because of disappointment than a complete lack of quality.
5 Games that Made Me Happy to be a Reviewer
- Arise: A Simple Story
As heartwarming as it is tragic, Arise: A Simple Story is exactly what it sets out to be. Its universally understandable story about companionship and loss pulls at fundamental feelings we all share. Frequent checkpoints means even the spotty platforming won’t slow you down for long, allowing anyone who can hold a controller the ability to experience the story.
- Dark Devotion
Despite its flaws, I never wanted to stop playing Dark Devotion. Every new weapon was worth trying at least once. Encounters offered something unique. The varied combat made the primary loop of kill, advance, kill again satisfying, and the nuance of it all strung together made each moment captivating. 2D Dark Souls or “another metroidvania” isn’t enough to describe how Dark Devotion stands above many others that share those titles.
At first glance, Rainswept doesn’t look like anything special. Beneath that first impression, there’s a captivating mystery and meaningful story that expertly tackles issues few games dare to do more than touch upon. While closer to a visual novel than any other game on this list, it still deserves a place among the best games I played this year.
Observation has you playing the computer aboard a space station working with a human played by the game. Taking orders from a human who is definitely letting their emotions cloud their judgement is one of the many unique ideas Observation plays with. It’s captivating, clever, and imaginative. It was an easy #1 for game of the year. That is until I played…
As a fan of SCP (Secure. Contain. Protect), the core concept of Control was enough to interest me. An imaginative story, incredibly fun combat, and expert pacing made Control exceed my expectations in every way (except lip-synching). It is an absolute joy to play from the opening scene until the very end. While other games on my top 5 list had excellent story, combat, or some other factor that made them engrossing, Control has all of them in one beautifully put together game.
5 Games that Made Me Weep over the Time I Lost (not literally)
- Devil’s Hunt
I was actually excited to review Devil’s Hunt. The cheapness could have turned it into a campy game about the most fun of campy ideas: punching demons. Unfortunately, Dollar Store Donte was a repetitive slog with repetitive enemies, weak combat, terrible pacing, and a story that was excessively ridiculous for how serious it struggles to be. A healthy dose of self-awareness could have made it great, whether that was turning the silliness into something more meaningful or leaning into the camp. Despite not enjoying it, I’m curious to see what the developers can do with their next game.
Despite gorgeous backgrounds and a charming plot, Truberbrook is all style and no substance. All of the story elements that tease going somewhere meaningful either vanish or receive and unsatisfactory conclusion. Pepper in moon logic puzzles and underdeveloped characters, and it becomes a disappointment in every way.
- Silver Chains
Silver Chaints a checklist of tropes poorly strung together by passable puzzles and jump scares void of anything frightening. While it might be objectively the worst game on my bottom 5, it sits at #3 because 1 and 2 were disappointing on top of being not fun.
- Pathologic 2
I don’t think Pathologic 2 is a bad game, and that’s why despite being my least favorite game I played this year, it isn’t in the number 1 slot. There’s a lot it has to offer, like excessive micromanaging and a story that requires several playthroughs to fully experience. However, the tedium of endless walking and micromanaging along with the bugs and eventual soft locking means I couldn’t get any enjoyment out of it. That said, it’s a niche game with an audience that craves what it has to offer.
Greefall disappointed me with nearly every mechanic, idea, and aspect it had. My expectations for Greedfall were high. Spiders’ games shoot for the stars but don’t leave the atmosphere. However, there’s a chance they’ll soar and land somewhere you wanted to go, even if it isn’t everything you hoped for. However, plot points are predictable and characters are one-dimensional, resulting in every conversation and story beat feeling hollow. While it is technically more competent than many games, the failure to capture any of the ideas it toys with made even good parts of the game disappointing because I knew it couldn’t deliver on its own ideas.
5 Games I Played this Year and Wish I Could have Given Full Reviews:
- Divinity: Original Sin 2: An RPG that would have too much content if it wasn’t for the compelling characters and world to pull you through
- Lost in Vivo: A truly spooky PS1 style horror throwback that is actually one of the creepiest games I played this year
- Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice: Fromsoftware’s attempt at a 3D platformer
- Drawful 2: My current favorite party game
- Turok: Dinosaur Hunter: So wild it’s getting its own video
I’m intractable on