Monday, November 28, 2022

Games of the Year 2022: Pokémon Scarlet and Violet

Pokémon Scarlet (and Violet by extension) was the rare Pokémon game that hooked me and kept me interested all the way through.

I'm not doing a full review, but I do feel the need to call out how much this game struggles on performance.  It chugs along, has tons of bugs, and the frame rate is just brutal.  Although, none of that really detracted from my overall enjoyment.  Your results may vary.

The two things that truly let this game get its hooks into me were the open world and the new quality of life feature auto battle feature.  The open world fairly quickly gave me three main story progression paths to go down and complete freedom in the order I wanted to pursue them.  The typical Gyms are here but so is a storyline about Team Star and a completely different storyline about Titan Pokémon.

Given the freedom of the open world and the ability to do almost instant auto-battles for experience, I quickly threw on some podcasts and audiobooks while just running around the world.  It was a ton of fun.

And, in the end, the story had me invested.  All three storylines come together and do some cool things towards the end.  Ultimately, I'm not sure how much (if any) endgame content I'll do now that I've rolled credits... but this game was great.

It doesn't quite make my top 5 but it easily slots in just underneath it at number 7.  This is easily above two other strong open world games, Pokémon Legends: Arceus and Horizon Forbidden West.  I went back and forth a bit on almost putting this at number 6 but The Stanley Parable Ultra Deluxe just kinda blew me away.  They're such different games that they're hard to compare, but it's my list and this felt right to me:

  1. Elden Ring
  2. Xenoblade Chronicles 3
  3. FFXIV Endwalker
  4. Citizen Sleeper
  5. Marvel Snap
  6. The Stanley Parable Ultra Deluxe
  7. Pokémon Scarlet and Violet
  8. Horizon Forbidden West
  9. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge
  10. Pokémon Legends: Arceus
  11. Chrono Cross: Radical Dreamers Edition
  12. Cult of the Lamb
  13. Neon White
  14. Halo Infinite
  15. Vampire Survivors
  16. Gotham Knights
  17. Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin
  18. Playdate Season 1
  19. Immortality
  20. Cyberpunk 2077
  21. Forza Horizon 5 Hot Wheels DLC
  22. Triangle Strategy
  23. Mario Strikers: Battle League
  24. Multiversus Pre-Season
  25. Stray
  26. LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga
  27. Nobody Saves the World
  28. Unpacking
  29. Kaichu
  30. Tinykin
  31. Splatoon 3
  32. Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope
  33. Shovel Knight Dig
  34. Total War: Warhammer 3
  35. Tunic
There's really not much of the year left so you're looking at an almost complete list at this point.  The last few games that I think have a real chance of shaking things up near the top of the list are God of War Ragnarok and Marvel's Midnight Suns.  God of War Ragnarok is one I started but I literally put it down to play Pokemon, so we'll see how it feels to return to it.  Midnight Suns is out later this week.

There's always a chance that one of the last minute indie games or Game Pass games that I'm catching up on over the holiday break crack the top 10 too, but those typically come out of left field.

I'm excited to see what the final list looks like in about a month!

Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Games of the Year 2022: Marvel Snap

Marvel Snap is the best digital card game I've ever played on mobile.  In general, it's one of the best digital cards games I've played in years.

Their are a few key factors here.  The two biggest of which are the speed of play (fast) and the monetization (cosmetic).  This isn't a trashy mobile pay to win game.  If you want to spend money, you can spend it on cosmetics but you can't spend it on power.  As you "upgrade" cards you're just upgrading how cool they look, you aren't upgrading how good they are against other players.  Which means this game can actually be balanced and fun for everyone.

The speed of a single game is also super fast.  Most of my games last 2-5 minutes and that's just about perfect.  You only ever play six turns and then the game is over.  It's enough time to engage your brain and feel like you actually did something mentally stimulating, but short enough that it's not a big deal to lose and you never feel like you're on tilt in a negative way.  I've been able to consistently find ways to fit this game into my life because of the approachable match lengths.

Compare this to something like MTGA, which is another excellent digital card game, but the match length of a MTGA is so much longer.  It requires more of a commitment and, if you lose a few in a row, it's so easy to fall into a bad headspace about it.  Marvel Snap is breezy and lightweight in comparison.

There's also so much room here for interesting interactions.  I bought the first battle pass not because I wanted the cosmetics but because it had interesting challenges in it.  I love a good mini-challenge to work towards and Marvel Snap is constantly throwing those my way.  Not to mention the new locations they are rolling out regularly which change up the gameplay without fundamentally messing with your cards or decks.

Marvel Snap is still very new in full release but it comes roaring out of launch and into my top games of the year at number five:

  1. Elden Ring
  2. Xenoblade Chronicles 3
  3. FFXIV Endwalker
  4. Citizen Sleeper
  5. Marvel Snap
  6. The Stanley Parable Ultra Deluxe
  7. Horizon Forbidden West
  8. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge
  9. Pokémon Legends: Arceus
  10. Chrono Cross: Radical Dreamers Edition
  11. Cult of the Lamb
  12. Neon White
  13. Halo Infinite
  14. Vampire Survivors
  15. Gotham Knights
  16. Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin
  17. Playdate Season 1
  18. Immortality
  19. Cyberpunk 2077
  20. Forza Horizon 5 Hot Wheels DLC
  21. Triangle Strategy
  22. Mario Strikers: Battle League
  23. Multiversus Pre-Season
  24. Stray
  25. LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga
  26. Nobody Saves the World
  27. Unpacking
  28. Kaichu
  29. Tinykin
  30. Splatoon 3
  31. Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope
  32. Shovel Knight Dig
  33. Total War: Warhammer 3
  34. Tunic
I'm pleasantly surprised to be adding a game this high up the rankings this late in the year.  There are really only a couple games left to come out this year that might land higher than this.  There's a chance this could slip to spot six or seven by the end of the year but it could just as easily stay at number five through year end.

Thursday, November 3, 2022

Games of the Year 2022: Gotham Knights

Gotham Knights is an interesting entry on this list.  As much as any game can be measured objectively... this one isn't great.  It feels like a solid 7 out of 10 type of game and it's hard to argue for it to be rated much higher than that.

But, for me, this is one of the 7 out of 10 games that just hit right and kept me interested.  I was craving an open world game and I enjoy the Batman/Gotham setting.  This hit at the right time and was good enough to keep me coming back to play more.

It's extremely rough around the edges, doesn't always feel great to play, is full of compromises and odd decisions... but I had fun messing around in it.  Honestly, this is probably higher on my list than it would have been if any other open world game hit around the same time.  The release timing on Gotham Knights was right around the time we typically get Assassin's Creed games which tend to scratch the same itch for me.  Without one of those around this year, my attention was put into this instead.

So, although it's hard for me to recommend this one to anyone else, I ultimately enjoyed my time as Batgirl roaming the Gotham streets and digging into the Court of Owls storyline.  This one ends up slightly higher than the middle of my ranking, right next to Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin:

  1. Elden Ring
  2. Xenoblade Chronicles 3
  3. FFXIV Endwalker
  4. Citizen Sleeper
  5. The Stanley Parable Ultra Deluxe
  6. Horizon Forbidden West
  7. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge
  8. Pokémon Legends: Arceus
  9. Chrono Cross: Radical Dreamers Edition
  10. Cult of the Lamb
  11. Neon White
  12. Halo Infinite
  13. Vampire Survivors
  14. Gotham Knights
  15. Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin
  16. Playdate Season 1
  17. Immortality
  18. Cyberpunk 2077
  19. Forza Horizon 5 Hot Wheels DLC
  20. Triangle Strategy
  21. Mario Strikers: Battle League
  22. Multiversus Pre-Season
  23. Stray
  24. LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga
  25. Nobody Saves the World
  26. Unpacking
  27. Kaichu
  28. Tinykin
  29. Splatoon 3
  30. Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope
  31. Shovel Knight Dig
  32. Total War: Warhammer 3
  33. Tunic
Similarly to Maneater in 2020, I wouldn't recommend this one to many people but I personally had fun with it.  I really don't expect to see it on anyone else's games of the year list, but that's totally ok with me.

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Games of the Year 2022: Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope

Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope was an interesting game to play around with.  I made it through the first world and a half before realizing the game wasn't what I was in the mood for.  It has a lot of interesting things going on with it, but ultimately didn't click with me.

Which is interesting, because I could also see this game being the game of the year for certain people.  It's trying new and interesting things in the turn based strategy X-COM-like game space.  I loved the move away from a grid and instead having a certain radius distance you can run.  The addition of movement abilities that don't use your two "actions" each turn was super cool too.  It was consistently fun to do a slide dash through a bob-omb, pick it up, throw it at a group of enemies, watch it explode, and then realize I still had my two primary actions left to play around with that turn.

In the end, it was the Rabbids and some minor annoyances that turned me away.  The game takes a long time to load anything, the animations are too slow, the enemy turns are too slow, the menus are slow and clunky, there's just a lot of tiny friction throughout interacting with the game.  That friction was a major reason why I put the game down.  And, not to hit on this too hard, but... the Rabbids just don't do anything for me.  They actively make me less interested in the world and story.  I think this game would be so much stronger with just the core Mario cast.

With all of the above being said, I still wouldn't be surprised to see a strategy game fan have this high on their list of favorite games this year.  For me, it ended up near the bottom of mine.  Still worth an entry since it held my attention for awhile, but not very high up the list:

  1. Elden Ring
  2. Xenoblade Chronicles 3
  3. FFXIV Endwalker
  4. Citizen Sleeper
  5. The Stanley Parable Ultra Deluxe
  6. Horizon Forbidden West
  7. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge
  8. Pokémon Legends: Arceus
  9. Chrono Cross: Radical Dreamers Edition
  10. Cult of the Lamb
  11. Neon White
  12. Halo Infinite
  13. Vampire Survivors
  14. Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin
  15. Playdate Season 1
  16. Immortality
  17. Cyberpunk 2077
  18. Forza Horizon 5 Hot Wheels DLC
  19. Triangle Strategy
  20. Mario Strikers: Battle League
  21. Multiversus Pre-Season
  22. Stray
  23. LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga
  24. Nobody Saves the World
  25. Unpacking
  26. Kaichu
  27. Tinykin
  28. Splatoon 3
  29. Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope
  30. Shovel Knight Dig
  31. Total War: Warhammer 3
  32. Tunic

Now that it's November, we're getting close to the end of the year.  Not much time left for things to shift around but there are a couple big releases I'm still excited for.  We'll see what kind of impact those have.

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Games of the Year 2022: Shovel Knight Dig


Shovel Knight Dig is a game I almost didn't add here but, in the end, decided to capture some of my thoughts about it.

Shovel Knight Dig is a roguelike take on the core Shovel Knight platformer gameplay.  As much as I still love the core platformer gameplay on display here, the roguelike nature of this one caused it to not land well with me.  I was hoping for some consistent meta progression that would help me make my way deeper into the game at regular intervals.  There is some meta progression but it wasn't consistent enough or interesting enough to keep me hooked.

I wish I could see more of the game without feeling like I'm just grinding the same thing over and over.  I know that each run is actually unique, but it all has that typical roguelike feel of "I've basically seen this before" that quickly wore out it's welcome for me.

If you are a Shovel Knight fan and a roguelike fan, you will most likely love this game.  For me, it managed to make it on this list, but just barely near the bottom:

  1. Elden Ring
  2. Xenoblade Chronicles 3
  3. FFXIV Endwalker
  4. Citizen Sleeper
  5. The Stanley Parable Ultra Deluxe
  6. Horizon Forbidden West
  7. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge
  8. Pokémon Legends: Arceus
  9. Chrono Cross: Radical Dreamers Edition
  10. Cult of the Lamb
  11. Neon White
  12. Halo Infinite
  13. Vampire Survivors
  14. Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin
  15. Playdate Season 1
  16. Immortality
  17. Cyberpunk 2077
  18. Forza Horizon 5 Hot Wheels DLC
  19. Triangle Strategy
  20. Mario Strikers: Battle League
  21. Multiversus Pre-Season
  22. Stray
  23. LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga
  24. Nobody Saves the World
  25. Unpacking
  26. Kaichu
  27. Tinykin
  28. Splatoon 3
  29. Shovel Knight Dig
  30. Total War: Warhammer 3
  31. Tunic
Shovel Knight Dig did beat out Total War: Warhammer 3 and Tunic but that's not saying much based on my personal tastes.  At this point in the year, I doubt anything will come in lower on the list so we're most likely going to see it drop further down as games get added somewhere above it.

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Games of the Year 2022: Splatoon 3


Splatoon 3 is both good and disappointing at the same time.  At its core, Splatoon 3 is a solid game.  It still has lots of fun with squid kids, octolings, and fresh styles.

All the fun from the past Splatoon games is represented here and there are nice quality of life features that are notable improvements as well.

But, unfortunately, it doesn't actually do much new.  There's new gear, a new single player campaign, and one new (time gated) mode.  Besides that, it's basically the same game as Splatoon 2.

So, although the core gameplay is fun, this one ends up fairly low on my list since it's not really doing anything new:

  1. Elden Ring
  2. Xenoblade Chronicles 3
  3. FFXIV Endwalker
  4. Citizen Sleeper
  5. The Stanley Parable Ultra Deluxe
  6. Horizon Forbidden West
  7. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge
  8. Pokémon Legends: Arceus
  9. Chrono Cross: Radical Dreamers Edition
  10. Cult of the Lamb
  11. Neon White
  12. Halo Infinite
  13. Vampire Survivors
  14. Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin
  15. Playdate Season 1
  16. Immortality
  17. Cyberpunk 2077
  18. Forza Horizon 5 Hot Wheels DLC
  19. Triangle Strategy
  20. Mario Strikers: Battle League
  21. Multiversus Pre-Season
  22. Stray
  23. LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga
  24. Nobody Saves the World
  25. Unpacking
  26. Kaichu
  27. Tinykin
  28. Splatoon 3
  29. Total War: Warhammer 3
  30. Tunic
Maybe they'll drop free updates or DLC that is more novel in the future, but I'm a little disappointed by what this game has on offer.

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Games of the Year 2022: Kaichu


Kaichu is a cute and lightweight game about Kaiju dating.  You take on the role of a Kaiju looking for love.  The core premise is that Kaijus date through destroying landmarks together.

The gameplay quickly shows itself to be a fairly simple game about trying to guess the right answer for compatibility on your dates with other Kaiju.  It's not a complex game... but it's cute, it's cozy, and it has a lot of heart.

This one was a quick hit but I had more fun with it than I thought I would.  It ends up near the bottom but... not in a bad way:

  1. Elden Ring
  2. Xenoblade Chronicles 3
  3. FFXIV Endwalker
  4. Citizen Sleeper
  5. The Stanley Parable Ultra Deluxe
  6. Horizon Forbidden West
  7. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge
  8. Pokémon Legends: Arceus
  9. Chrono Cross: Radical Dreamers Edition
  10. Cult of the Lamb
  11. Neon White
  12. Halo Infinite
  13. Vampire Survivors
  14. Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin
  15. Playdate Season 1
  16. Immortality
  17. Cyberpunk 2077
  18. Forza Horizon 5 Hot Wheels DLC
  19. Triangle Strategy
  20. Mario Strikers: Battle League
  21. Multiversus Pre-Season
  22. Stray
  23. LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga
  24. Nobody Saves the World
  25. Unpacking
  26. Kaichu
  27. Tinykin
  28. Total War: Warhammer 3
  29. Tunic
I'm happy to be adding this one to this list!  It's just such a quick hit of a game that it doesn't rise to the heights of many others on the list.