Well, I’m not gonna deny it–this year went fast. Except for June through July, but that always seems to drag by due to non-gaming reasons I won’t get into, but otherwise, the months really did seem to slip by. This was extremely noticeable once I began to actually work at my “five games I want to beat in 2013” checklist, and it seems like I was only able to polish off three out of five: Chrono Cross, Silent Hill 2, and Primal. I’m pretty proud of that, but I probably should have started much earlier than the summer. However, I did complete a good number of games over the past three hundred and sixty-five days, and one might consider some of them big AAA titles that are probably going to be on everyone’s final praise list, such as BioShock Infinite and Grand Theft Auto V, though they absolutely won’t make mine. Sorry, Animal Crossing: New Leaf is my game of the year; just deal with it.
Once more, here’s what I didn’t get to play last year, the year before that, and the year before that:
Also, do not worry: I have plenty of sad puppy photos to do this kind of post for many more years, so long as videogames keep coming out and I keep not playing ’em. That sounded more threatening than I originally wanted. But enough behind-the-scenes talk. Let’s get into the meat of this yearly post, shall we? The meaty meat, I mean.
10. Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag
Sounds like this is a return to form, though the last Assassin’s Creed game I played was Brotherhood, so hopefully people are meaning that game. I’ve kept my distance from the franchise since then for good reasoning, as the later games have seemed repetitive, clunky, and sub-par, but I do enjoy pirates and the ship-based combat looks kind of neat. I wonder if the multiplayer is still there, as that is surprisingly an enjoyable slice of cat-and-mouse. This could be a really perfect summer time-sink for 2014, though I still also have an untouched copy of Assassin’s Creed II in my backlog to get to as well. Hmm.
9. Saints Row IV
Originally, the Saints Row series was just another take on Grand Theft Auto, if a bit more ambitious and zany. I never got into it until Saints Row: The Third, and that was only after hearing the Giant Bomb staff praise and praise and praise it. I’m glad I finally listened to them, as I absolutely loved my role as the leader of the purple-clad gang on the rise, but I haven’t made the jump to Saints Row IV yet, as this year I gave my time and money to Grand Theft Auto V instead. I probably choose poorly. In this one, you can literally jump up to rooftops, thanks to alien superpowers. However, the console versions don’t sound up to par to the PC, but I don’t have a great gaming computer so I might just let this one slip by entirely.
8. Tomb Raider
Here’s a little known fact about me: I’ve only played the original Tomb Raider. That’s right. Just the first one, and I remember it fondly, despite it probably aging terribly. My copy sits proudly next to Suikoden and Suikoden II. The sense of exploration was fully realized–for the time–and I loved how the game slowly revealed its supernatural hand with each level. Like Indiana Jones, a perfect mix of serious and silly. This 2013 reboot looks gritty and grimy and throws Lara in one terrible situation after the next, but sounds well done. Plus, she can use a bow for stealth kills. Mmm. Stealthy. Rhianna Pratchett wrote the script, which gives me hope that Lara, as a person, is more fleshed out here as well.
7. Rogue Legacy
I enjoy rogue-likes because, for me, they don’t ask for much. You can do a run, and if things end terribly, then that’s it. Try again. Conversely, if you’re on a hot streak, every action, jump, and sword swing becomes stressfully vital. This is why I continue to poke at The Binding of Isaac, in hopes of hitting a lucky note and making it to Mom easily, brimming with powers and extra hearts. Alas, that’s not happened yet–but it totally could one day. Rogue Legacy seems to share a lot of that, with the neat mechanic of playing as the children of whatever character you just got killed. These kids acquire different traits–such as colorblindness and vertigo–which affects how you move through the main castle. It’ll probably end up in a Humble Bundle some time in 2014.
6. The Last of Us
Look, I barely got through Silent Hill 2 this year. Horror-themed games are very difficult for me to keep my cool in, and it sounds like the majority of the combat scenarios have you creeping around enemies, trying not to make a sound. That sounds fine to me, actually, but the monster designs and sounds they make are very unnerving, and I just don’t think I could ever get through The Last of Us, which is a dang shame, as it certainly sounds like an amazing–if depressing–experience.
5. Mario & Luigi: Dream Team
The last Mario-based RPG I played, Paper Mario: Sticker Star, kind of left a bad taste in my mouth, and so I remained skeptic when a new one came out, even though it lives in an entirely different franchise. However, according to some reviews, it sounded like this one was maybe too hand-holdy, which is funny because Sticker Star couldn’t lift a finger to help you out. When I bought Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time and Metal Gear Solid: The Legacy Collection, I also grabbed a used copy of Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story on the Nintendo DS for free. I suspect I’ll give that one a go and if I love the mechanics and all that jazz will move on to the newer iteration.
4. Super Mario 3D World
Super Mario 3D Land is one of the rare 3DS titles that I continue to pop back into the handheld and fart around in for a few minutes, always with the hope of earning a couple more stars. See, I’m in the post-completion content, but only halfway through it, so there’s still plenty more to see. And it sounds like Super Mario 3D World is all that and more…and on a console, which is where I’d truly rather be playing my plumber-based platformers. Throw in a silly cat theme, and I’m salivating from the mouth. Alas, no Wii U in this house, and still no interest in getting one any time soon unless there’s a big price drop or more interesting games in the pipeline. Sorry, I have no interest in the Smashing Bros.
3. LEGO Marvel Super Heroes
Love me my LEGO videogames, and I haven’t played one since LEGO Lord of the Rings, which means Tara and I are severely overdue for some co-op funtimes. Any will do, really, but I’d rather side with Iron Man and Wolverine over Batman and Superman. That’s right. I’ve always been a Marvel fan before a DC one. The formula doesn’t look to have changed one block–hub world, individual levels, a billion things to collect and unlock–but that’s okay, because at least I know what I’m getting here.
2. Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons
The subject matter of Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, two siblings on a mission to save their deathly ill father, hits a little too close to home for me, and so I doubt I’ll ever get around to playing it. It’s not a direct parallel to my life, but there are enough elements present to put more weight on my shoulders, push me closer to the ground. Yes, I suffer from depression and would rather avoid mediums that enhance my feelings of hopelessness. I do love the idea of controlling two separate players with both analog sticks, but ibb and obb showed me just how difficult this could be for my brain to wrap its mind around. Also, Ni no Kuni did it first. I suspect the Giant Bomb podcasts will end up spoiling the story’s key moments and ending.
1. Gone Home
Sigh. My gaming laptop is really great for playing indie Flash games or point-and-click adventure games that don’t require too much in terms of software. In the past, I’ve been able to play bigger productions, like Red Faction: Armageddon, but only if I turned down every setting, and even then it’s a bit rubbish. Same goes for Fallout: New Vegas and Skyrim; there is no draw distance because I can only see a few inches in front of my character. All of that is to say that I don’t think I can run Gone Home at the required settings to do it justice. Evidently, the game is loaded with high resolution posters, pictures, notes, and so on, and a big part is exploring the house and looking at stuff up close. I have no other way to play Gone Home, so hopefully it’ll come to consoles at some point, but I kind of doubt it.
Well, there you go. Or rather, there I go, not playing all these games. Of course, there’s more that didn’t make the list, such as Papers, Please and The Stanley Parable, but I had to draw a line somewhere. Given that I still haven’t played a few games from the previous lists yet–hello, Portal 2!–I wouldn’t hold my breath expecting to see me get to all of these next year. Maybe one or two. Plus a ton of older games. Can’t forget about the PS1 and PS2.
Anyways, what games did you miss out on this year? Shout ’em out in despair in the comments section below.
Gone Home, where happiness doesn’t have just one address
It’s been a few years since I first played Gone Home. This was back in 2014, when my life was wavering, changing into something new and different. I was, at that time, drawing small, teeny-tiny comics for each game I completed instead of my now much more popular standard of haikus, and the one I did for The Fullbright Company’s first-person adventure exploration debut remains one of my more popular pieces on the photo-sharing site Tumblr. Which I have always found interesting because all I did was use Sam Greenbriar’s words about her girlfriend with a few crude illustrations to accompany them. Art is odd.
A quick Gone Home plot summary for those that don’t remember what is going on here: 21-year-old Katie Greenbriar returns home in 1995 from being overseas to her family in Oregon only to discover the house is completely empty of life. As she begins to explore the house, she’ll discover clues and notes left behind that explains where everyone went. It’s a story about love and loyalty, abuse, friendship, religion, dedication, confidence, neglect, connections, mental health, and more things than I can list out here. The easy joke to make would be that this is one full house. I’m not going to re-hash what I previously wrote some years back, so please click here for a deeper dive into the game’s narrative and theme, among other topics.
Right. For the console version of Gone Home, not much has changed in terms of gameplay, though I do enjoy using a controller to navigate and examine neon-colored highlighters more this time. Also, there’s Achievements, and this is where I found new life in the rummaging simulator. A couple of them, specifically “Homerunner” and “Speedreader,” are all about completing the game quickly with next to no room for error. Another has you going through the Greenbriar house slowly, methodically, pausing with curiosity and searching every nook and cranny for the chance to learn more. I loved both plans of attack and want to talk about them individually below.
It’s official–Gone Home is the first game I’ve spedrun. Speed-runned? I’ve done a speedrun of? Ugh. There’s really no graceful way of saying it, I guess. Look, I beat Gone Home in under a minute. I never even knew this was possible. The “Homerunner” Achievement asks that the player complete the game in less than 1 minute with no modifiers enabled. That might sound crazy difficult until you realize that you can access the secret room by the front staircase at any point when playing to grab the attic key. After that, it’s all about cutting corners and navigating down a dark hallway to click on Sam’s diary. It took me a few tries, but I eventually did it, and that felt pretty cool. The next game I plan to speedrun is Animal Crossing: New Leaf, 100% catalog, all fossils, fish, and bugs. Just kiddin’.
For the “Speedrunner” Achievement, you need to complete the game having found all 24 journal entries, without any modifiers turned on, in less than 10 minutes. Hmm. Again, it sounds tough, and there is little room for wasting time, but once you know the best path to take and make a b-line for every audio journal trigger, it’s not too bad. I didn’t personally time myself, but the Achievement popped on my first go after thinking about where everything was for a moment, so it was obviously under ten minutes. Now, before I did this one, I also learned about the secret journal entry you get by bringing a tiny ball from the garage up to Sam’s room and dunking it in the basketball hoop, which I never did initially. The reveal is purrfect. So that was another fun treat to learn about, as well as the task of bringing Christmas duck to its rightful abode in the attic.
Lastly, there’s the “Behind the Scenes” Achievement, which wants you to find all the commentary nodes in the house after turning them on via a modifier at the start of a new game. Commentary in games, much like on DVDs, is something I find neat and cool from afar, but rarely digest. I don’t know why that is. Certainly, when it comes to a movie or TV show, I’d rather just watch the original material and read an interview with the director or actors later. However, games can be more interactive than this, which gives new life to the idea of re-exploring these environments. I enjoyed it in Blackwell Deception and Even the Ocean, and I greatly enjoyed it here, though some nodes offer more stories and details than others. The truth is, as an Idle Thumbs fan, I could listen to Chris Remo go on for days about composing music. Still, I learned a lot about hidden secrets and design choice from Steve Gaynor, Karla Zimonja, Kate Craig, and Emily Carroll, as well as got Sarah Grayson’s take on her character Sam, who drives the game forward with her painfully heartfelt narration. Finding each one was rewarding, and I refused to leave the area I was in until the recording was done playing.
Basically, in the last week or so, I ended up beating Gone Home several more times, all via different types of playthroughs, and I still think this is one of the more important games of the last decade. Play it, please. I suspect I’ll return to it again down the future road; until then, I really need to check out Tacoma.
Posted in achievements, entertainment, impressions, musings, randomness, videogames
Tagged behind the scenes, commentary, exploration, Gone Home, Greenbriar, Homerunner, Majesco Entertainment, Speedreader, speedrunning, Steve Gaynor, The Fullbright Company, walking simulator