Thursday, July 28, 2022

Games of the Year 2022: Forza Horizon 5 Hot Wheels DLC

I always hesitate to put DLC on a list of games of the year but I had a lot of fun with this one so I felt I needed to include it!

The Hot Wheels DLC is the first of at least two new DLC areas that is included in the Forza Horizon 5 add on pass.  When Forza Horizon 5 came out last year I tried it because it was on Game Pass and was surprised that I got pulled in enough to play the entire game and do every event.  By the end of my time with it, I was essentially out of things to do.

The Hot Wheels DLC not only gives me more to do, it also includes an entire new map with multiple biomes and it's all tied together with gigantic life-sized hot wheels tracks.  It's so incredibly evident how much fun the team was having when making this DLC since they were getting to play around with all the Hot Wheels love from childhood but bring it into a completely new context within this game.

I loved my time with it and it has made me even more excited to see what they do with their next DLC map for this game.

If I were adding just the base Forza Horizon 5 to the list it would be very high up, but I'm putting this one more around mid-list ranking since it's a DLC instead of the full game.  I really enjoyed my time with it, but a lot of that comes from the core mechanics already established by the base game:

  1. Elden Ring
  2. FFXIV Endwalker
  3. Citizen Sleeper
  4. The Stanley Parable Ultra Deluxe
  5. Horizon Forbidden West
  6. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge
  7. Pokémon Legends: Arceus
  8. Chrono Cross: Radical Dreamers Edition
  9. Neon White
  10. Halo Infinite
  11. Vampire Survivors
  12. Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin
  13. Cyberpunk 2077
  14. Forza Horizon 5 Hot Wheels DLC
  15. Triangle Strategy
  16. Mario Strikers: Battle League
  17. Stray
  18. LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga
  19. Nobody Saves the World
  20. Unpacking
  21. Total War: Warhammer 3
  22. Tunic
At this point, I'm curious how long this running list will get by year end.  I'm also starting to think about whether I want to do this exercise again next year.  I'm not sure yet.

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Games of the Year 2022: Stray


Stray was both amazing and a disappointment for me at the same time.  This is a great example of a game being a mixed bag for me.

The part that's amazing about Stray is the fidelity of the cat.  The animation, sound, behavior, motion capture, interactions, and everything having to do with being a cat are executed incredibly well.  This is probably the most well realized cat in a video game ever.  Every time I got a chance to just be cat-like I was having a great time.

My disappointment comes from the gameplay.  The trailers made me think this was going to be some kind of cyberpunk setting platformer game but instead it's just kind of an adventure game.  There's nothing wrong with adventure games but they're just not my favorite.  In terms of adventure games I've liked over time, this one is high up the list... but the genre just doesn't click with me very much.

If you're an adventure game fan that is also a cat lover, I can't recommend this game enough.  For me, it ended up in the lower quarter of my running list at number 16 for now:

  1. Elden Ring
  2. FFXIV Endwalker
  3. Citizen Sleeper
  4. The Stanley Parable Ultra Deluxe
  5. Horizon Forbidden West
  6. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge
  7. Pokémon Legends: Arceus
  8. Chrono Cross: Radical Dreamers Edition
  9. Neon White
  10. Halo Infinite
  11. Vampire Survivors
  12. Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin
  13. Cyberpunk 2077
  14. Triangle Strategy
  15. Mario Strikers: Battle League
  16. Stray
  17. LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga
  18. Nobody Saves the World
  19. Unpacking
  20. Total War: Warhammer 3
  21. Tunic

I fully anticipate more games coming in above Stray and pushing it down the list further as the year goes on.

Thursday, July 7, 2022

Games of the Year 2022: Neon White


Neon White is a first person action platformer with shooting elements.  It's hard to describe, but if you watch a video of some gameplay you can grok it quickly.  Essentially, the game is all about platforming, but it also incorporates FPS elements along the way.  There are items you pick up in the form of cards and they each have two abilities.  One functions as a primary ability with ammo while the other one is a secondary ability based around movement but it requires you to discard the item.

Again, a lot going on there, but quick to pick up if you actually play.

Neon White was extremely fun... until it wasn't.  Based on the achievement list I took a look at, it seems like I made it to about 60% or 70% completion of the main story before I stalled out.  I didn't hit a brick wall of progression gating with difficulty.  Instead, I hit the point where I was having more stress than fun so I decided I should be done with it.

For the right kind of speedrunning or platforming fan, this could easily be their game of the year.  I would not be surprised to hear people arguing for this as GOTY during end of the year debates on podcasts and on gaming site articles.

But, for me, it was fun while it lasted but ultimately didn't have staying power.  That's why it's ending up right around the middle of the pack on my running list:

  1. Elden Ring
  2. FFXIV Endwalker
  3. Citizen Sleeper
  4. The Stanley Parable Ultra Deluxe
  5. Horizon Forbidden West
  6. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge
  7. Pokémon Legends: Arceus
  8. Chrono Cross: Radical Dreamers Edition
  9. Neon White
  10. Halo Infinite
  11. Vampire Survivors
  12. Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin
  13. Cyberpunk 2077
  14. Triangle Strategy
  15. Mario Strikers: Battle League
  16. LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga
  17. Nobody Saves the World
  18. Unpacking
  19. Total War: Warhammer 3
  20. Tunic

I do look forward to seeing people master this game and destroy record times in the future.  It could be a cool speedrunning game to keep an eye on.

Thursday, June 30, 2022

Geek to Geek Finale

The Geek to Geek podcast had our finale a few weeks ago.  We wrapped it up after about 7 years of episodes.  We covered everything in the episode and I can't do it justice here but it feels like I should acknowledge it on the blog.

So, if you want more information, the link to the episode is here.

Also, I've embedded it below:



Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Games of the Year 2022: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge

 


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge is extremely fun for what it is.  It's a brawler in the old 90s arcade style of beat em up games.

Don't get me wrong, it has some modern conveniences and additions as well.  You can mix and match local co-op play, online co-op play, and online matchmaking.  It makes it super easy to get a lot of co-op players on screen quickly.  You can go all the way up to six players instead of just four.  There's a whole story mode with some meta-progression and unlockables.  There are difficulty modes and minor differences in character stats.

But all of that is secondary to the fact that this is a TMNT beat em up at its core.  If you liked the old TMNT games in this style (like I do) then you'll probably like this one too.

My son and I played through the entire main game the first night we checked it out on Game Pass.  Most of that time was with a full crew of six co-op players.  We had an amazing time and it only took about 2 hours all-in.  Since then, my kids and I have been randomly picking up the game and playing a few levels at a time just for fun.

This is one of the more enjoyable multiplayer experiences I've had this year so it lands surprisingly high in my rankings coming in just below the top five:

  1. Elden Ring
  2. FFXIV Endwalker
  3. Citizen Sleeper
  4. The Stanley Parable Ultra Deluxe
  5. Horizon Forbidden West
  6. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge
  7. Pokémon Legends: Arceus
  8. Chrono Cross: Radical Dreamers Edition
  9. Halo Infinite
  10. Vampire Survivors
  11. Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin
  12. Cyberpunk 2077
  13. Triangle Strategy
  14. Mario Strikers: Battle League
  15. LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga
  16. Nobody Saves the World
  17. Unpacking
  18. Total War: Warhammer 3
  19. Tunic

I love easily accessible multiplayer games with some depth to them that my kids and I can play together.  This one definitely hit the mark for my family.

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Games of the Year 2022: Mario Strikers: Battle League

 


Mario Strikers: Battle League was a mixed bag of a game for me.  The single player experience leaves a lot to be desired but the multiplayer experience was a lot more fun.

The single player modes and options are very shallow.  There's not much in terms of progression, direction, or really much to do outside of the core gameplay loop.  It's like the made the gameplay and then forgot to build everything else around it.  There are a few cups you can participate in but, beyond that, not much else.  It honestly reminds me of Mario Kart in that way, except even more shallow.

Where the game actually comes to life is the multiplayer.  I've now played this game with two, three, and four players locally and every player we added only added to the fun.  Compared to how lifeless and dull the CPU controlled teammates are in single player modes, having everyone on your team independently controlled by a human player was so much more fun.  We played through a couple of the cups this way and had a great time!

But after experiencing both sides of it, I think this is a game I would only pick up in situations with 3+ players.  It will stay on my Switch but essentially just slot into the same play space as games like Mario Kart and Mario Party.  Something to break out when you have the right people around but not something you pour hours into on your own.

Mario Strikers: Battle League ends up in the bottom third on my running list but not all the way at the bottom:

  1. Elden Ring
  2. FFXIV Endwalker
  3. Citizen Sleeper
  4. The Stanley Parable Ultra Deluxe
  5. Horizon Forbidden West
  6. Pokémon Legends: Arceus
  7. Chrono Cross: Radical Dreamers Edition
  8. Halo Infinite
  9. Vampire Survivors
  10. Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin
  11. Cyberpunk 2077
  12. Triangle Strategy
  13. Mario Strikers: Battle League
  14. LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga
  15. Nobody Saves the World
  16. Unpacking
  17. Total War: Warhammer 3
  18. Tunic

It's possible games could come in under it, but I honestly think most games worth writing about between here and the end of the year will come in above it and push it down further.

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Games of the Year 2022: Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin


Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin has a wild and non-descriptive name that you almost instantly forget as soon as you here it.  Which is kind of fitting for a series with spin offs that are extremely hit or miss.

This one is no exception.  In a lot of ways, this game is extremely rough around the edges.  So many things aren't up to modern standards including the graphics, voice acting, story, script, level design, and more.  But, despite all that, there's something here that hooked me and kept me playing until the end.

The core of what kept me interested was a combination of the story and the job system.  The story isn't well told but it does function as a true prequel to Final Fantasy I.  There are almost no spin-off games that tie directly into mainline games.  Because I'm so invested in the mainline Final Fantasy games, just knowing that this tied into the very first one of the series had me intrigued.

The other piece that held my interest in the moment to moment of gameplay was the job system.  This game has a ton of jobs and they all pull from series history.  At any point you can have two different jobs equipped and swap between them with a push of a button.  It encouraged me to change things up and experiment with different jobs while always working on leveling into new, more advanced, jobs as well.  It scratched the same kind of itch that  previous Final Fantasy job systems did.

With Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin being such a mixed bag, it ends up in the middle of the pack for me, slotting in right underneath Vampire Survivors and above Cyberpunk 2077.

  1. Elden Ring
  2. FFXIV Endwalker
  3. Citizen Sleeper
  4. The Stanley Parable Ultra Deluxe
  5. Horizon Forbidden West
  6. Pokémon Legends: Arceus
  7. Chrono Cross: Radical Dreamers Edition
  8. Halo Infinite
  9. Vampire Survivors
  10. Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin
  11. Cyberpunk 2077
  12. Triangle Strategy
  13. LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga
  14. Nobody Saves the World
  15. Unpacking
  16. Total War: Warhammer 3
  17. Tunic
This feels like a very middle of the pack game and I expect it to stay fairly middle-ish as this list continues to build out in the back half of the year (we're almost half way through the year already!).