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.

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Games of the Year 2022: Xenoblade Chronicles 3


Xenoblade Chronicles 3 blew me away in a completely unsuspecting way.  I love a good JRPG but had previously bounced hard off of the first two games in this series.  This one looked like it had some good quality of life improvements and the story hook was more interesting than the previous games, so a few friends were able to convince me to give it a shot.

I'm so glad they did.  After about 70 hours and rolling credits, Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is currently sitting as my runner up game of the year right behind Elden Ring:

  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. Tinykin
  27. Total War: Warhammer 3
  28. Tunic
I loved the story, combat system, class system, open world exploration, setting, premise, and so much more about this game.  I'm not sure if I'll go back to the previous entries that I already bounced from, but I'm definitely a convert and will be excitedly awaiting any future Xenoblade Chronicles games they make.

My running GOTY list isn't intended to be full on reviews, otherwise all my thoughts about this one would take up way too many words.

Instead, I'll just say... if you're a JRPG fan, I can easily recommend this one to you as a game I absolutely loved!

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Games of the Year 2022: Playdate Season 1


Playdate is a weird one to cover in this list since it's a game system and not a game itself.  But I decided to wrap in all of "Season 1" as an item on this list.

If you haven't heard of it, Playdate is an experimental 1-bit handheld game console that came out earlier this year.  They have a cool site that gives the basic rundown so I won't reiterate all of that here.

I've had a lot of fun poking around and playing on this console.  I've played a bunch of games I downloaded or bought from itch.io but I've now also completed their full Season 1 content which is why it felt like a good time to add it to the list.

Season 1 is a set of 24 games that were included with the purchase of the console.  Each week on "new game day" they deliver the next 2 games to your console.  That must mean I've had this for about 12 weeks.  The games themselves ranged from tiny arcade games, to full on adventure games, to little experimental music generators.  In some ways, it felt almost more like a toy than a console... but in a good way.

I really love the potential of the Playdate and I'm super excited for the future.  That being said, none of the games actually held my attention for more than a few days before I got bored and set my console down to wait for the next week's games.  The one exception is Pick, Pack, Pup.  That game rocks.


In my rankings, this one lands around the middle for being a super interesting experiment with a lot of potential but didn't end up higher because I feel like that potential hasn't been fully realized through the games on offer:
  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. Cult of the Lamb
  10. Neon White
  11. Halo Infinite
  12. Vampire Survivors
  13. Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin
  14. Playdate Season 1
  15. Immortality
  16. Cyberpunk 2077
  17. Forza Horizon 5 Hot Wheels DLC
  18. Triangle Strategy
  19. Mario Strikers: Battle League
  20. Multiversus Pre-Season
  21. Stray
  22. LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga
  23. Nobody Saves the World
  24. Unpacking
  25. Tinykin
  26. Total War: Warhammer 3
  27. Tunic

I'm still very excited about the potential future of this little experimental console.  If they end up doing a Season 2 of content, I will definitely be there on day 1 to try it out!

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Games of the Year 2022: Immortality


Immortality is a hard one to write about so this may be short.  But, I have to say something about it become it is most definitely interesting.

Immortality is an FMV game, but you discover the FMV clips through free association of objects that you click on within any given freeze frame of any scene.  The scenes themselves are clips from a series of made up unreleased movies that all star the same actress.

On it's face, the game is about uncovering movie clips and mentally putting them together to see this actress's career.  But, underneath, there's a ton of hidden stuff going on.  There's a whole secondary story that I didn't stumble onto until I had uncovered a large majority of the clips.

This one is really strange but is so unique that I needed to acknowledge it in my list.  Personally, I was pulled into the game for one session where I played through the entire thing until I hit credits.  I have a feeling this will be some people's game of the year this year.  For me, it's worth acknowledging but lands somewhere in the middle of the pack.

Here's where I ended up putting it:

  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. Cult of the Lamb
  10. Neon White
  11. Halo Infinite
  12. Vampire Survivors
  13. Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin
  14. Immortality
  15. Cyberpunk 2077
  16. Forza Horizon 5 Hot Wheels DLC
  17. Triangle Strategy
  18. Mario Strikers: Battle League
  19. Multiversus Pre-Season
  20. Stray
  21. LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga
  22. Nobody Saves the World
  23. Unpacking
  24. Tinykin
  25. Total War: Warhammer 3
  26. Tunic
In my mind, this is just "below the cut" for my mid-range ratings on this list.  It's holding fairly strong there in the middle of the pack but I expect it to get bumped down as more games hit this list.

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Games of the Year 2022: Tinykin

Tinykin is an interesting game that I almost chose not to write about for this list.  You'll see shortly that it ended up near the bottom of my list.  But the more I thought about it, the more I realized it was doing something interesting that deserves some acknowledgement.  And that was my goal with this running this during the year.  I wanted to highlight my favorite games while also highlighting games that ultimately didn't click with me when I tried them but were doing something noteworthy.

Tinykin reimagines what a Pikman style game can be and do.  That's the reason I wanted to give it some acknowledgement.  Pikman doesn't have many games like it and all of the Nintendo Pikman games follow a very similar formula.  You collect Pikman within a level and have to accomplish some collecting objectives within a time limit.

Tinykin takes the core idea of Pikman, that idea of gathering a small army of different and useful creatures that follow you around and are at your command, and places it into a much more open structure.  It's not exactly open world but it's more like an open level design of something like Banjo Kazooie.  It's a really interesting take on what you can do with these core mechanics.

If any of that sounds interesting to you, this one is out on Game Pass to try without a lot of commitment.  In that respect, it's an easy recommendation.  Go sample it if you're interested!

That being said, for me, it's landing third from the bottom on my 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. Cult of the Lamb
  10. Neon White
  11. Halo Infinite
  12. Vampire Survivors
  13. Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin
  14. Cyberpunk 2077
  15. Forza Horizon 5 Hot Wheels DLC
  16. Triangle Strategy
  17. Mario Strikers: Battle League
  18. Multiversus Pre-Season
  19. Stray
  20. LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga
  21. Nobody Saves the World
  22. Unpacking
  23. Tinykin
  24. Total War: Warhammer 3
  25. Tunic
I played a few hours of Tinykin and appreciated what it was doing, but didn't actually have a ton of fun with it.  I needed the platforming to be more compelling or the level design to be more interesting.  I would honestly love to see what they do with a sequel if they end up making one.

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Games of the Year 2022: Cult of the Lamb

Cult of the Lamb was surprisingly gripping.  It's a cute/horrifying roguelike with town building elements.  There's a lot going on with it and I'm not quite sure if that description does it justice.

There are almost two distinct games in Cult of the Lamb, but they each inform the other.

One of these two elements is a top-down action roguelike experience with semi-randomly generated maps and levels.  The combat is solid and no one run ever overstays it's welcome.

The second main element is a town building (cult building) game that is both cute and disturbing.  Everything is presented in a cutesy aesthetic but it's dealing with real cult-like ideologies and behaviors.  The discrepancy between the two is one of the compelling parts of the game.  In this second piece of the game, you're recruiting followers, getting resources, and building out your town amenities.

If Cult of the Lamb had leaned too hard one way or another, I'm not sure I would have liked it as much.  But, it seemed to strike the perfect balance to hook me and give me that "one more turn" feeling.  I finished the whole game over the course of the first weekend it came out.

Cult of the Lamb lands in the lower part of my top ten for now, right above Neon White and below Chrono Cross: Radical Dreamers Edition:

  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. Cult of the Lamb
  10. Neon White
  11. Halo Infinite
  12. Vampire Survivors
  13. Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin
  14. Cyberpunk 2077
  15. Forza Horizon 5 Hot Wheels DLC
  16. Triangle Strategy
  17. Mario Strikers: Battle League
  18. Multiversus Pre-Season
  19. Stray
  20. LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga
  21. Nobody Saves the World
  22. Unpacking
  23. Total War: Warhammer 3
  24. Tunic
I'm really surprised to put this more than half way up my list but I enjoyed my time with it a lot.  I kind of doubt it will stay in the top ten by the end of the year, but chances are good it will still be in the top half of the list.

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Games of the Year 2022: Multiversus Pre-Season

Multiversus is what happens when you take the core gameplay of Smash Bros, give it a slight twist, and then set it in a world of Warner Brothers characters instead of Nintendo characters.  I've been surprised by how much fun I've had with it.

I'm calling this my rating of the "pre-season" since I joined when it was in late closed beta and have been playing fairly consistently through open beta too.  The game just went into "season 1" but I actually think I'm going to take that as an opportunity to take a break from it.

The core gameplay here is good but could use a little more refining.  I also wish matchmaking was more even since I've had lots of matches where I just get steamrolled and feel like I can do nothing.  But that's kind of a general fighting game thing, not necessarily specific to this game.

The part I'm really interested in is seeing how they support this game over time.  If they treat it like a Fortnite style live-service game, it could get super interesting as time goes on.  Especially if they continually add new characters, stages, and modes to play around with.

If you're a fan of Smash Bros, I can easily recommend checking out Multiversus.  It's free to play and it scratches the same core itch.

For me, it's landing a little lower on my list.  I've had a good time with it, but competitive multiplayer wears on me after awhile.  If this had a full single player mode built out I would be ranking it higher, but for this "pre-season" it's landing down near Mario Strikers.

  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. Multiversus Pre-Season
  18. Stray
  19. LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga
  20. Nobody Saves the World
  21. Unpacking
  22. Total War: Warhammer 3
  23. Tunic
Being in the lower half, it will probably get pushed down the list a bit more as the year continues.

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!).

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

2022 Games of the Year: Cyberpunk 2077


Cyberpunk 2077 finally released the current gen version of the game this year alongside patches that fixed a lot of the bugs and major complaints from early reviews.  I had been waiting for it to hit that point so I grabbed it on sale and ended up liking it enough to play through the whole game.

That being said, this game is mostly... fine.  It's a fine game.  It's not amazing but not horrible either.

The fidelity of the world they've created is a huge achievement.  Night City feels well realized.  I was impressed by the overall look and feel of the game.

But the gameplay wasn't great.  It felt like so many first person western RPGs that I've played before.  If you've ever played an Elder Scrolls or Fallout game, this is very similar.  The combat is serviceable but not actually very fun moment to moment.  There's a lot of side content but ultimately not much reason to engage with it.  The main story is what kept me interested enough to finish the game but I didn't get a huge feeling of satisfaction for finishing that either.

Cyberpunk 2077 falls firmly into the middle of the pack for me compared to other games I've played this year.  The production values and the world building are what puts it above a handful of others on my list.  Here's where it lands in my ongoing Game of the Year rankings:

  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. Cyberpunk 2077
  11. Triangle Strategy
  12. LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga
  13. Nobody Saves the World
  14. Unpacking
  15. Total War: Warhammer 3
  16. Tunic

I feel like there's lots of potential for this one to get pushed further down the list as the year goes on.

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Games of the Year 2022: Citizen Sleeper


Citizen Sleeper may be my favorite cyberpunk story ever.  I loved this game.

Citizen Sleeper is an interactive storytelling game.  It has some visual novel elements, but it also has dice rolling, and also some resource management.  I've never been able to click with actual visual novels because there's not enough interaction for me.  This game hits the sweet spot of having some gameplay mechanics to grapple with to get you to the next story beat while still being primarily about the story.

And the story is truly what makes Citizen Sleeper land for me.  I don't have the space here to talk through everything that happens... and I wouldn't want to spoil it anyway.  But, I will say that Citizen Sleeper deals with deep thoughts about what makes a person a person.  It delves into whether you are you mind or your body while also tackling themes of chronic conditions through the cyberpunk lens.

I hope this one turns into an indie darling in game of the year discussions at the major gaming outlets.  I would love to hear Citizen Sleeper getting debated in GOTY talks.

This one is ranking really high for me.  I need some more time for it to fully sink in, but it's in the running for my favorite cyberpunk story of all time.  That's why Citizen Sleeper is coming in hot at number three:

  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. Triangle Strategy
  11. LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga
  12. Nobody Saves the World
  13. Unpacking
  14. Total War: Warhammer 3
  15. Tunic
I'm always so happy when an indie comes out of nowhere and grabs me like this one did.  And, as an extra bonus, it's on Xbox Game Pass so there's not much barrier to entry to check it out.

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

2022 Games of the Year: The Stanley Parable Ultra Deluxe

 


The Stanley Parable is a game I missed out on when it originally came out.  I played something like 10 minutes of it, didn't get what it was trying to do, and set it down.

Last week, a newly updated "Ultra Deluxe" version of the game came out on basically all the consoles.  People were finally talking about it more openly instead of being cagey around the core premise and I quickly realized the game is very meta and very much about exploring different choices over and over again in the same game.  I decided to give it another shot and am glad I did.

I kind of love this game.  I also now see why it was so hard for people to talk about.  To give any concrete examples from the game is inherently to spoil some of the core fun.

But, I can talk a little bit about what this game is.  At it's core, it could be reduced to a "walking simulator" but that doesn't do it justice.  It's also a choose your own adventure... and an examination of what makes a game a game.  On top of that, it's a re-examination of itself over time.

But maybe the best way to give a feel for it is to talk about the first real choice (of many, many choices).  You come into a room with two doors and the narrator says that Stanley goes into the left door.  But... you don't have to.  You can go against what the narrator says.  And that, in itself, is core to what the game is about.

I was incredibly surprised by how much I liked The Stanley Parable Ultra Deluxe.  It's landing fairly high on my list, currently coming in at number 3:

  1. Elden Ring
  2. FFXIV Endwalker
  3. The Stanley Parable Ultra Deluxe
  4. Horizon Forbidden West
  5. Pokémon Legends: Arceus
  6. Chrono Cross: Radical Dreamers Edition
  7. Halo Infinite
  8. Vampire Survivors
  9. Triangle Strategy
  10. LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga
  11. Nobody Saves the World
  12. Unpacking
  13. Total War: Warhammer 3
  14. Tunic

We'll see how it holds up over time but I suspect this is a game I'll be thinking about for a long time.

Thursday, May 5, 2022

2022 Games of the Year: Chrono Cross the Radical Dreamers Edition

 


Chrono Cross The Radical Dreamers Edition is a remaster of the original PS1 game that just released a few weeks ago.  I played the original Chrono Cross when it first came out so I wanted to dip back into it to see if it held up to my memories.

I'm honestly kind of surprised that I stuck with it, finished the whole game, and generally enjoyed the experience.  There's some roughness around the edges and there are a lot of things that wouldn't fly in modern games from a quality of life features perspective, but all of that is because it was a PS1 game and this is just a remaster.

They did end up adding a few things that help if you feel like enabling them.  There's a battle boost, a no encounter mode, an autobattle mode, and (my favorite) the speed up mode.  Speed up mode in particular went a long way towards making this game more acceptable through a modern gaming lens.  I basically had the speed up enabled in every battle and every time I was exploring the overworld.  It helped keep the pace of the game snappy instead of dragging.

For the game itself, it's still Chrono Cross.  I remember liking it when it first came out but most of the details had blurred in my memory with time.  I'm glad I got a chance to revisit it and re-experience all the things I had forgotten.

This is actually ranking fairly high for me and cracked the top five in my running rankings since it resonated in a nostalgic way.  Here's where it landed:

  1. Elden Ring
  2. FFXIV Endwalker
  3. Horizon Forbidden West
  4. Pokémon Legends: Arceus
  5. Chrono Cross: Radical Dreamers Edition
  6. Halo Infinite
  7. Vampire Survivors
  8. Triangle Strategy
  9. LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga
  10. Nobody Saves the World
  11. Unpacking
  12. Total War: Warhammer 3
  13. Tunic

I wouldn't recommend this one to anyone who hasn't already played the original, but can easily recommend it if you have good memories of the original and want to walk down memory lane.

As an added bonus, I listened to the Minnmax deepest dive on the game as I played through and having that feeling of others to play alongside was great!

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

2022 Games of the Year: LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga

 


LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga is a game I almost didn't even pick up.  My history with LEGO games has been extremely hit and miss, but I feel like there have been more misses than hits over the years.

When this game came out, I heard nothing but good things about it.  Even that didn't convince me until I had a friend play the game and tell me that they had fixed most of my main complaints about past LEGO games.  Namely, the levels are no longer straightforward corridors and the combat has actual mechanics.  The game is still easy but that was never the problem.  Now it has just a little bit more depth and that makes a huge difference.

The reason LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga is making my list is because I had a fun time playing it with my daughter.  As a single player experience I probably would have bounced off this game after a few play sessions but playing it with one of my kids made all the difference.  The local co-op works great and we made a lot of our own fun destroying things and messing around in the semi-open level design.

As a single player experience this would probably rank lower but because of how much fun the multiplayer was, this one makes it closer to the middle of my list:

  1. Elden Ring
  2. FFXIV Endwalker
  3. Horizon Forbidden West
  4. Pokémon Legends: Arceus
  5. Halo Infinite
  6. Vampire Survivors
  7. Triangle Strategy
  8. LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga
  9. Nobody Saves the World
  10. Unpacking
  11. Total War: Warhammer 3
  12. Tunic
I'm pleasantly surprised to be adding this one!

Thursday, April 21, 2022

2022 Games of the Year: Triangle Strategy


Triangle Strategy is a game I'm feeling very mixed about.  I went into it wanting to love and but ran into a bunch of roadblocks along the way.

At its core, it is actually a really solid tactics game.  This is one of the best tactical combat and tactical character progression systems that we've gotten from Square Enix in a long time.  Every time I found myself in a battle I was having a great time and truly enjoying the systems at play.

Unfortunately, there are so many other things around the battles that don't work as well.  

The biggest of which is the way the story is delivered.  For every 20 minutes of fun tactical combat it feels like there's 40+ minutes of slow story delivery.  Characters talk and you have no direct control or interaction for long periods of time during it.  It's not even like old school RPGs where it's a true cutscene that feels like a reward.  Instead, this is more like taking most of the control away from the player but still making them manually button through every possible character dialog.

The ratio is just simply off.  This is a game in need of a good copyeditor to chop down the story segments.  It feels like the important information could have been delivered in half or even a third of the time it actually takes.

That sense of having an annoying wall thrown up in front of me every time I wanted to just get to the next battle is what led me to put the game down.  I ended up putting in about 12 hours and, based on the chapter count, I was about half way through the game.  But I just couldn't put up with the plodding dialog segments anymore.

The worst part is... the tactical battle system is so good.

Now I guess I need to figure out where to slot this into the list... I guess it'll have to go here:

  1. Elden Ring
  2. FFXIV Endwalker
  3. Horizon Forbidden West
  4. Pokémon Legends: Arceus
  5. Halo Infinite
  6. Vampire Survivors
  7. Triangle Strategy
  8. Nobody Saves the World
  9. Unpacking
  10. Total War: Warhammer 3
  11. Tunic
I'm slotting it in behind Vampire Survivors and ahead of Nobody Saves the World.  Somewhere mid-list feels about right since the story delivery would be near the bottom of the list but the tactical combat would be high on the list.  On balance, it can live in the middle-ish of the list for now.

Honestly, I hope to see more tactical strategy games like this from Square Enix.  I just hope they learn from this one and tighten up the aspects of the game that are lacking.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

2022 Games of the Year: Total War: Warhammer 3

I gave Total War: Warhammer 3 a real shot.  I wanted to like it a lot.  And, honestly, there are parts of the game that I did.  This is another one of those games that is doing something interesting but didn't end up clicking with me.

I really liked the battles in Total War: Warhammer 3.  I think I've liked the battling in most Total War games that I've tried.  I also thought that they did some interesting things with the factions in this game that were fun to explore on the battlefield.

The part that constantly tripped me up was the strategy layer.  All of the things between battles are less interesting than the battling itself.  The strategy level of the gameplay ends up feeling like busy-work in between the fun of the tactics level gameplay.  I shouldn't be surprised since this is the same reason I stalled out when I played Total War: Warhammer 2.

I think this is still a really solid strategy and tactics game, it's just not for me.  I'm sitting here wishing for a version of Total War where I can focus in on just my hero unit and one core army while ignoring all the rest of the game that feels (to me) like a distraction.

This one lands in the lower part of my list for the year.  The running games of 2022 list now looks like this:

  1. Elden Ring
  2. FFXIV Endwalker
  3. Horizon Forbidden West
  4. Pokémon Legends: Arceus
  5. Halo Infinite
  6. Vampire Survivors
  7. Nobody Saves the World
  8. Unpacking
  9. Total War: Warhammer 3
  10. Tunic

It's not surprising to see a strategy game slot in lower for me.  I've always been more of a fan of tactics games rather than strategy.  Although that line can be blurry at times.

Thursday, April 14, 2022

2022 Games of the Year: Kirby and the Forgotten Land


Kirby and the Forgotten Land was a quick playthrough for me.  It came out on a Friday and I had beaten the game by Saturday night.  But length isn't all that matters in a game.  This actually ended up being an excellently timed palate cleanser of a game for me.

Coming off of playing Elden Ring, this was exactly what I needed.  A quick, fun, and easy platformer that kept throwing interesting new twists my way.  I feel like Kirby platformers never reach the heights of Mario platformers but they feel like a close cousin.  I could feel a lot of the design philosophy of Mario Odyssey while I was playing through Kirby and the Forgotten Land.

Ultimately, this game was a little too easy for me.  I played on the harder difficulty mode, still cleared every level on the first try, and got almost all the secrets in my first pass through a level as well.  I never felt inspired to swing back through a level I had finished because I had already kind of picked the bones clean.

That being said, Kirby and the Forgotten Land would make for the perfect intro 3D platformer game for someone that hasn't played one before.  It's approachable, not too hard, but still interesting and with high production values.

Being great for new players but landing on the easy side for me means that Kirby lands in the bottom half of my running list for the year.  This is what the rundown looks like now:

  1. Elden Ring
  2. FFXIV Endwalker
  3. Horizon Forbidden West
  4. Pokémon Legends: Arceus
  5. Halo Infinite
  6. Vampire Survivors
  7. Kirby and the Forgotten Land
  8. Nobody Saves the World
  9. Unpacking
  10. Tunic
Kirby and the Forgotten Land slots into seventh for the moment.  I'm still going back to Vampire Survivors regularly which is why that edges it out but there's no question that Kirby was more enjoyable for me than Nobody Saves the World.  The Nintendo magic goes a long way here.

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

2022 Games of the Year: Tunic

This is the first game that really made me think hard about what to include in this running list.  I've already decided not to include everything, but this made me define things further.  The place I landed is that I want to include anything I play that is either good, interesting, or both.

Tunic is an interesting game.  It's a mash up of classic Zelda gameplay, an isometric action game, Fez, and has some Dark Souls DNA in it too.  You get to adventure around this isometric world exploring and defeating enemies while uncovering the core functions of the game.

As you explore, you slowly find pieces of the game manual that have some illustrators on them but mostly are covered in symbols that don't (as of me writing this) map to a language we understand.  That's where some of the Fez elements come in.  It feels like a game that wants the community to come together to solve its mysteries.  If you're into that kind of community solving, this game might be for you.

Did I mention you're an adorable fox and that the art style is incredible?  I feel like that's more important to this game than most people realize.  The cutest makes the game feel more approachable at first glance than it actually is but I think that cuteness is also what has drawn a lot of people into giving the game a shot in the first place.

Ultimately, this was an interesting game that just didn't click with me.  I've heard other people loving the slow reveal of how the gameplay works through the manual pieces you find but for me that just led to frustration.  I really wouldn't be surprised to see high up on other people's lists at the end of the year but it's going to be low on mine.

Here's what our running Games of the Year list looks like now:

  1. Elden Ring
  2. FFXIV Endwalker
  3. Horizon Forbidden West
  4. Pokémon Legends: Arceus
  5. Halo Infinite
  6. Vampire Survivors
  7. Nobody Saves the World
  8. Unpacking
  9. Tunic
This is the first time I've added a game to the bottom of the list instead of somewhere in the middle or high up.  Tunic is really interesting and it looks like it would be great for certain types of players.  I just happen to not be one of them.  But, in the end, I wanted it on this list to acknowledge that it's doing new and interesting things.

Thursday, April 7, 2022

2022 Games of the Year: Elden Ring

I had an interesting journey with Elden Ring.  I almost bounced off the game a number of times in the first four to six hours.  Then, it got it's hooks into me and I kept coming back even though I wasn't sure if I was actually having fun but I was having an interesting time and that made me continually return.  Sometime between hour 20 and 30 I fell in love with this game and felt that way almost all the way until the end... until the last boss caused massive amounts of frustration.

After all that, where did I land?  Well... I think this may end up being my game of the year.

The exploration and world building in this game is simply incredible.  I can't even begin to quantify the amount of times I saw something new and novel while exploring the world.  Elden Ring takes the sense of open world exploration wonder that Breath of the Wild gave me... but then ramps it up by constantly rewarding me with new and unique interactions.  Every time I saw something that looked vaguely interesting, my curiosity was immensely rewarded.

The game world doesn't explain itself to you and that's a huge strength.  It gives you an entire new world to discover with new things around every corner.

The downside is that the gameplay, UI, and UX don't really explain themselves either.  That's the reason I almost bounced off this game initially.  It feels like FromSoftware could hook even more players on their games if they dedicated some more resources to onboarding, UI, UX, and just general usability of their games.  What I found is that it's not actually the difficulty of the combat or boss fights that negatively impacted my experience, it was the difficulty of understanding the core systems of the game.

That was the primary hurdle I needed to jump over to come around to embracing the rest of the game.  Because everything else on offer is incredible.  I think this will be a game that is held up as a new type of open-world standard for years.

Some of my favorite parts of Elden Ring were also around the launch weeks when the game was entirely unknown.  I felt like I was uncovering new things alongside the community.  Throwing things into slack chat with my friends and hearing what they were finding was part of the magic.

As I write this, it's mid-March and I've just beaten the game.  This post will go into the next slot in my current Tuesday/Thursday schedule so I'm guessing it won't get posted until April.  That being said, I'm already a little tempted to dive back in and experiment in New Game Plus mode.  I did a melee with shield build for this initial playthrough but I've heard amazing things about magic builds.  I'm very interested in experiencing the gameplay through that lens at some point.

This post is already long but I feel like I could go down so many rabbit holes about this game.  If you want to hear more off the cuff thoughts, I'm sure I'll cover them on the Geek to Geek podcast.

For now... I'm surprised to say it, but here's my current games of the year ranking:

  1. Elden Ring
  2. FFXIV Endwalker
  3. Horizon Forbidden West
  4. Pokémon Legends: Arceus
  5. Halo Infinite
  6. Vampire Survivors
  7. Nobody Saves the World
  8. Unpacking
I'm amazed that FFXIV Endwalker was unseated, but I have to be honest with myself.  I'll be thinking about Elden Ring for years.  I think it may end up hanging up there at the top of the list as my game of the year.

We'll see, we still have a lot of the year to go.  But this game is kind of amazing.

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

2022 Games of the Year: Horizon Forbidden West

Horizon Forbidden West is a pretty showcase for the PS5 and a really solid open world game.  But mostly, at it's core, it's a game that lets you fight giant robot animals and dinosaurs.  That alone pushes it up my list.

I actually had a hit and miss relationship with the first game in this series, Horizon Zero Dawn.  I played it a little when it came out but stalled out on it and set it down.  I came back much later and found a lot of enjoyment once I set my expectations correctly.

Horizon Forbidden West picks up right where that game left off, except it does a lot of things better.  There are quality of life improvements throughout and it's a gorgeous showcase of the PS5.  But my favorite improvements come down to the story and the characters.

The sci-fi aspect of the story is what drew me in and hooked me.  In the first game that is buried much later in the game but in Horizon Forbidden West it is core to the story from the start.  This game also made me actually care about the companion characters.  I felt like I was building a relationship with them as I got to encounter them every time I revisited my home base during the main story.  It even made me care about characters I had completely written off in the first game.

This is the most fun I've had in an open world game in awhile and the extremely high production values plus a great story actually put this one above Pokémon Legends: Arceus for me.  That means it gets slotted in right under Endwalker.

Here's where that puts our updated running ranking:

  1. FFXIV Endwalker
  2. Horizon Forbidden West
  3. Pokémon Legends: Arceus
  4. Halo Infinite
  5. Vampire Survivors
  6. Nobody Saves the World
  7. Unpacking
Endwalker is still going to be hard to topple but I feel like this list is starting to take shape now that we're starting to fill it out more.  The most interesting thing to me is, all of these are good games.  I still reserve the right to put an "interesting" but not good game on the list... but I just haven't run into any yet this year.  So far, this is looking very solid.

Friday, April 1, 2022

Geek to Geek Podcast S7E05 - Kirby and The Forgotten Land & More Elden Ring

The latest episode of the Geek to Geek podcast is now out in the feed.  You can listen or find links to listen in your podcast player here.

This week we discuss Kirby and the Forgotten Land as well as wrapping up some thoughts on Elden Ring.  Geekery includes match-3 games, Mario Tennis, The Emperor's New Groove, 1Q84, Iron Widow, Turning Red, and Book of Boba Fett.

You can also listen to the latest episode right here:


Thursday, March 31, 2022

2022 Games of the Year: Pokémon Legends: Arceus

Pokémon Legends: Arceus is the most fun I've had in a Pokemon game since at least X and Y but maybe even further back than that.  It fundamentally rethinks the relationship between the player and catching Pokémon.

In Legends: Arceus, it's all about building your Pokedex through the observation, fighting, and catching of Pokemon.  The awesome thing about it is that you can approach the Pokedex in whatever way you want.  If you like fighting, go for it.  Would you rather observe and catch?  That works too.

The biggest change is the move to a more open world where you can catch Pokémon without needing to engage in battle.  You can just throw a Pokeball their way and try to catch them without ever fighting.  It makes the game move so much faster and the older Pokémon games feel glacially paced in comparison.

I was enjoying this one so much that I found myself constantly ignoring the main quest just to spend more time in the open world building up my Pokedex.  This feels like such a good change to the core formula of Pokémon games and I hope it carries over into their next mainline entry this Fall with Scarlet and Violet.  If they take what they've established with Legends: Arceus and add some more structure on top of it in a modern setting with gyms and more trainer fights... that would easily become my favorite Pokémon game ever.

After having fully beaten the main game and doing almost all of the post game content, I can confidently call Pokémon Legends: Arceus one of my favorites this year so far.  I'm going to slot it into my running ranking right below Endwalker for now.

For those following along, that makes my running 2022 Games of the Year ranking now look like this:

  1. FFXIV Endwalker
  2. Pokémon Legends: Arceus
  3. Halo Infinite
  4. Vampire Survivors
  5. Nobody Saves the World
  6. Unpacking
Well done Arceus.  You landed much higher than I anticipated.

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

2022 Games of the Year: Vampire Survivors


Vampire Survivors is an incredible game in its ability to have such a core focused simple game that manages to be super fun moment to moment.

This is an indie game being developed as a side hobby by one lone developer.  It shows in the art assets but not in the gameplay.  The gameplay is a tight core loop where you control a character that is trying to survivor a bunch of enemies that are vaguely vampire adjacent.

The moment to moment sees you dodging enemies while your character auto-attacks.  Defeating enemies causes them to drop experience that you need to swing back around to pick up.  Once you get enough experience, you level up and gain new abilities or more levels of your current abilities.

And that's mostly all the game is.  Sure, there are characters to unlock, abilities to figure out combos for, and gold currency to pick up that will slowly increase your characters' meta-strength over time.  But the core run always takes 30 minutes or less (most of mine have been 10-15 minutes) and provides a bunch of highly engaging fun.

The closest game I can think of to Vampire Survivors is actually Geometry wars.  It has the same kind of vibe.

I really enjoy this game.  I'm tempted to put it in the number 2 spot of my rankings but I think Halo Infinite edges it out slightly due to how much fun I had with Halo's multiplayer.  If I was purely judging Vampire Survivors against Halo Infinite's single player campaign, I would actually put Vampire Survivors above Halo.  But the multiplayer means Halo edges this one out for me.

That makes our running ranking into this:

  1. FFXIV Endwalker
  2. Halo Infinite
  3. Vampire Survivors
  4. Nobody Saves the World
  5. Unpacking
I'm not sure how much staying power Vampire Survivors has in the top 5 but it'll be at least an honorable mention from me on the Geek to Geek podcast at year end.