Tuesday, 11 June 2013

The Games You Must Have Played 2012/13 - Part 1 of 2

There was a time on this blog when I did previews and recommended games and things, and that time is returning... NOW! I've been stuck in exams and The Swapper crunch for the last month or three, but no longer.

Every week I play games that are worth writing about. I rarely actually write because the internet is full of such things, and actually lists are a bit time consuming to write; but it is worth doing if even one person comes here and is sold on a game they'd not gotten around to yet, so here we go. These are the games that stirred that childhood emotion inside me of wonder and delight over the last year.

XCOM: Enemy Unknown
My word does XCOM make me realise how much TBS fans have been hard done by over the past decade, and how glad I am those days are over. Frozen Synapse reinvigorated my interest in the genre, and games like Memoir '44, Hero Academy and Rad Soldiers have been sustaining it. XCOM well and truly sates it.

It's hard not to admit that a big part of XCOM's appeal is in the looks (especially with the HD mods). The cover system is similar in function to Rad Soldiers' (though far more nuanced than), but seeing your people actually dashing for cover in roadie-cam, being pinned down by suppressing fire and shying away from incoming fire actually makes me feel like a commander. Sure the animation and clipping is still seriously rough really quite frequently, but who cares?

The meta-game deserves mention as well. While it's not as involved as the classics, it does a decent enough job of representing to you the global view, and the dramatic progress that you're making. I love the X-Com experience more than anything because it's holistic: I don't feel like I'm playing a game, I feel like I'm defending the world from aliens.

Don't Starve
If I'm honest, I've not booted Don't Starve since it officially released. It hit that point for me where I hadn't played in a while, and I couldn't bring myself to make the reinvestment in the perma-death only to starve gruesomely yet again. Don't Starve, it's true, has a bunch of features that distance me from it. There's not enough hand-holding for me - I like feedback from a game that I'm doing something significant, even if it's only a few lines of text. There's a bit of grind in the Minecraft-y elements as well, and frankly clicking on tiles all day so I can make my garden more aesthetically pleasing isn't the sort of activity I'm ever likely to engage in voluntarily.

None of this is to say I didn't thoroughly enjoy the hours I put in during the beta. I love Don't Starve because it's one of the best survival games I've played. I love dynamic systems, I love fleshed out worlds, and Don't Starve's nightmare wilderness is at once fascinating, fluid and convincing.

Quite apart from its lovely aesthetic, Journey was an important game for me for its 'co-op'. By eliminating almost all interaction, and then placing players in that beautiful, ever shifting desert Journey achieves that most difficult of goals: it takes the general awfulness of people on the internet and turns it into something wonderful. Okay, perhaps the way I've described this makes Journey a sort of lobotomy: take all the tools away from people and they've got no choice but to be nice; but play through the game to the end with someone you'll never know and tell me you didn't appreciate it.

Part 2 next week.


  1. What would be in your list? I'm certain there's some significant gaps in my knowledge of releases over the last six months.

  2. Miasmata and Dark souls (prepare to die edition) i found specially compelling.
    I also really liked Hotline Miami, Jelly No Puzzle, Xcom and Dishonored.

    I haven't yet played FTL or The Swapper, they look amazing though.

  3. Kentucky Route Zero has been wonderful so far.

  4. Ok, just had a quick look of my gaming machine's desktop. Let's see:

    - Knytt underground / The great work (Nifflas): good stuff, very immersive!

    - Hotline Miami (Cactus): GTA at 3x speed and zoomed in!

    - Super hexagon (Terry Cavanagh): The definition of crack cocaine.

    - Cognition episodes 1-3 (Phoenix online): Point'n'click adventure
    with very good narrative IMO, especially episode 3 blew me away. I think you'll like this Tom :).

    - Gunpoint (Tom Francis): Clever puzzles and not void of story!

    - Trauma (Krystian Majewski): Very unique game/experiment involving an amnesiac girl trying to find her memories from old photographs. I really like the way you look around the scenes (point at a frame, take a pic, be transported in that view). Goes without saying that I like the narrative. (Although I think that this game might be a bit older - well, I only discovered it recently and felt like sharing)

    - Kentucky route zero episodes 1-2 (Cardboard computer): Bloody hell I really love the aesthetics on this one. And camera work. And story.

    - The swapper: No comment!

    So yeah, indie titles. I do want to give X-com another try as I started it at a period that I was way too busy to give it the attention it deserves. Memories of Incubation flooded by though, which is a really good sign! Also I have a copy of Far cry 3 blood dragon, although I'm pretty sure I won't enjoy that too much. Ah yes, Karateka is still whining, waiting for me to give it a spin - I'm too terrified it'll ruin my sweet memories I have playing it on the old Atari 800XL :).

  5. Thanks for the recommendations. I've reached the same point with Don't Starve.

    "Papers please" looks to be very interesting and powerful. Dishonored was a wonderful throwback for a Thief/DX fan. Antichamber was quite atmospheric except for the crude text elements.

  6. Yeah, Papers, Please is excellent, the demo's well worth a whirl. Enjoyed Gunpoint and its writing, but way too short!

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