26 Games for 26 Years – Part 1

For my birthday I decided to give a little insight into me as a gamer, and talk about some of my favourite games.

Today is my birthday. Since I’m turning twenty-six, I decided to list twenty-six of my favourite games and tell you why I love them. It wasn’t an easy task: I had almost fifty games on my shortlist when all was said and done, and paring it down didn’t prove to be a simple matter of elimination. It took a couple of days to arrive at twenty-six, though so many didn’t make the cut: Fallout 4, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Pokémon Sapphire. I suppose you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs though, right?

So off we go! For convenience I have split the list into two, stay tuned for part 2 (and thanks to the random number generator I used to generate the order!).

  1. Detroit: Become Human

I genuinely don’t believe I’ve ever been quite as emotionally destroyed by any form of media as I was by Detroit. I’ve always been one to become invested in an intense narrative, but this was something else. The story this game tells is a heavy-handed one, but not in a poorly-executed way. It’s a story that’s meant to rip out your heart and make you despair, spurred on by the outstanding performances of its stellar cast. The scariest part is that this is a glimpse into a future which isn’t wholly unrealistic, as we as a society move towards greater automation of the menial workforce. It may not break any ground in terms of gameplay mechanics but for me it doesn’t have to. As strange as it sounds, this game’s ability to have me weeping indiscriminately is more than enough for me to love it unconditionally.

Currently the digital deluxe edition of Detroit: Become Human is free on PS Plus, so definitely download it if you haven’t already! This edition also includes the digital soundtrack and artbook, themes and avatars and also the PS4 remaster of Heavy Rain.

  1. The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth +

As a kid who started her schooling in a Roman Catholic primary I’ve known the biblical story upon which this game is based from an early age. What the story doesn’t tell you is that Isaac was forced to traverse through procedurally-generated dungeons in his basement, fighting all manner of grotesque horrors with nothing but his tears, before finally facing his mother at the end of it all (if you even survive that long). It’s a game that’s punishingly difficult but still unrelentingly fun, due to its easy-to-grasp control scheme and simple, but gross, visuals. It is a lottery as to whether the dungeon layout and the items spawned will be beneficial but when they are, and you’re bulldozing your disgusting foes with ease, there’s no sense of achievement quite like it.

  1. Batman: Arkham Asylum

Whilst I won’t deny that Arkham City is the superior game in terms of gameplay – especially in the fluidity of the combat – it’s the first title of Rocksteady’s trilogy that has the superior storyline, atmosphere and setting. Arkham Island itself is eerie and foreboding, absolutely the last place you’d want to be sent for psychiatric care, and not just because The Joker set the straitjacketed lunatics from the Penitentiary loose from their cells. Danger lurks around every corner, usually in the form of Joker’s goons ready to try and beat you to a pulp – it never ends well for them. Asylum does an impeccable job at making you feel like the Batman, whether you’re gliding silently through the air to kick a thug in the head or using gadgets to find your way out of a jam. It scratches the itch that lives within us all: the opportunity to be a totally badass superhero for just one night, and it does that perfectly.

  1. Stardew Valley

When life gets me down, when adult responsibilities are overwhelming and when everything is just a little bit crud, I will fire up my Switch and launch Stardew Valley. It’s such a welcome change of pace, inhabiting a world where the most pressing concern is ensuring I milk my cows and get to the store in good time to restock my supply of kale seeds. There’s something so incredibly satisfying about cultivating your virtual farm, catching plenty of fish from the pier and maybe finding that special someone to marry. If only it really was that easy to breeze through life without a care, worrying about nothing but which town inhabitant I want to partner me at the annual Flower Dance. The way I see it is this: does it really matter that my own life might be falling apart when Dragon Roost Farm is thriving?

  1. Saints Row IV: Reelected

What’s not to love about a game wherein the opening mission involves the player disarming a nuclear missile in midair before crashing through the roof of the Oval Office and landing in the chair behind the POTUS’ desk, all to the tune of the timeless classic I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing? This game is utterly over-the-top and ridiculous, and that’s what makes it such a joy to play. Honestly, this made the list because it’s just a game that’s complete, unadulterated fun, a game in which the primary objective is to be a massive troll and mess with as many people, or aliens, as possible. With the iconic Dubstep Gun having your NPCs dancing in the street (quite literally) and the alien police turning up to shoot you if you get too rowdy, there’s nothing about this game that isn’t stupid and dumb, and that’s exactly why it’s earned a permanent place in my heart.

  1. South Park: The Stick of Truth

This is a game I didn’t expect to like. I like my fair share of gross, un-PC and offensive humour but I often find South Park a little too crude for my tastes. ‘Charming’ isn’t a term I’d usually associate with the show, but The Stick of Truth is just that, unerringly charming and packed full of sweet nostalgia. At its heart it’s a game about little kids playing make-believe in their gardens, and it’s impossible not to sit and remember the times that we did the very same as children. Of course, there is also a sequence that takes place exclusively up Mr Slave’s butt because it is still South Park after all. But the simple joy of winning a fight against kids dressed as elves using an axe made from a stop sign tied to a pool cue, healing yourself with crisps and being home in time for bed is innocently joyous, and reminds us all of a much simpler time of life.

  1. RiME
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The mysterious tower, ever-present in the distance

RiME holds the honour of being the very first game I ever reviewed. At the time, I thought it was a stunning and moving experience with a wonderfully emotive soundtrack, and whilst it definitely tugged at my heartstrings, it didn’t completely resonate with me. All of that praise is still true of course, but it’s also a deeply personal experience that can be altered by life experience, a story of loss and grief with a fair few gut punches for good measure. It’s always been a game I’ve loved based on the music and the visuals, and its relative simplicity: there is no dialogue, no walls of text giving you tips on what to do or how to play. Instead, you learn by exploration and a degree of trial and error. But playing it again after a recent death in the family is when I truly understood the story’s meaning, and what affirmed my love for it even more. It’s deeply bittersweet, but also a tool for healing, a way of ensuring we understand that grief is a process we all need to face, but as with all things it has an end if we can bring ourselves to let go.

  1. Thimbleweed Park

There were many point-and-clicks that could’ve made the list, such as the equally as zany and hilarious Day of the Tentacle. Ultimately, what won Thimbleweed a place on this list was how self-aware it is. It’s packed to the rafters with every trope and genre in-joke imaginable; my personal favourite is the specks of dust one can collect, and how characters will wonder why on earth they’re picking them up. It’s also wonderfully mysterious: the town of Thimbleweed Park is an unsettling place to be, but definitely not because the coroner, the sheriff and the hotel manager are absolutely not the same person (a-who). Thimbleweed is both a love-letter and a gentle spoof of an era-defining genre, a real nostalgia trip for those of us who grew up playing point-and-click adventure games but also a joy for newer players as well.

  1. Bioshock

Possibly one of the best games ever made, Bioshock ticks all the right boxes. Is it in a creepy, abandoned or isolated setting? Well, the city of Rapture is all of those things combined. Is it dark and twisted? Definitely! Does it involve awesome supernatural powers that I wish I possessed? Absolutely, because I have a list of people I would gladly set ablaze with the Incinerate plasmid. The final reveal was spoiled for me long before I got to actually play it – the hazard of being late into gaming – but that didn’t make it any less enjoyable to play the first time or the fiftieth. This game is dark and oppressive, filled with tension at every turn. Rapture is a beautiful and broken city, littered with the shadows of scientific achievement and the stench of death. It offers a delightfully visceral experience of the ruins of a lawless society, all with the ability to electrocute an enemy with a flick of the fingers, or summon a swarm of bees to attack them for you. Honestly, what’s not to love about that?

  1. Overcooked

From the horrific to the harebrained, we jump into the utterly ridiculous kitchens of Overcooked. Much like Bioshock this game includes fire, although this time it’s absolutely not intentional. This is because normally, frying a burger patty does not present much of a culinary challenge. Then again, most people aren’t trying to do it in a kitchen that consists of two lorry trailers that periodically separate, leaving the frying pans on one side and the chef on the other. It’s a game best enjoyed with friends, so you can cry with laughter together as you throw tomatoes around the place and yell, “But it was your job to get the fire extinguisher!”

  1. The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker

If I was to cite any game as making me into a gamer, it would be this one. It’s the first game I ever really got absorbed into and to date my favourite entry in the Zelda franchise (remember the name of my Stardew farm?). There is so much to love about this game, from the cel-shaded graphics to the grandiose music as you sail the King of Red Lions across the sea in pursuit of your kidnapped sister. I was captivated from the first moment I played it; Outset Island was a tranquil haven I was sad to leave as I embarked on my great adventure but, much like Link, I soon found my stride as the mighty hero foretold in all the legends, even if that means we can’t also forget that bloody Tingle exists.

  1. Marvel’s Spider-Man

By now I genuinely believe that Spider-Man surpasses Arkham Asylum for the title of ‘best superhero game ever made’. It’s not unreasonable to call this game a complete masterpiece. Everything about it is superb; the story is superbly written and performed, swinging around Manhattan feels incredible and the combat is wonderfully slick and satisfying. This is one of the best incarnations of both Peter Parker and Spidey, right down to his flippant quips and trademark wit. There is truly nothing better than swooping in on a break-in in progress, sticking a brute of a thug upside down to the nearest wall and shooting him the finger guns as you swagger away, sirens in the distance.

  1. Portal 2

This one should’ve been obvious, given the name of this website. I love Portal as a universe for many reasons, though it’s difficult to single out any particular one. Is it because the portal gun is the coolest piece of tech ever? Or is it because the Aperture Science facility is run by the most passive-aggressive operating system on the planet? Perhaps it’s down to the fact that Aperture saw fit to name something as simple as a pressure pad the ‘Heavy-Duty Super Colliding Super Button’. Regardless of what the specific reason is, Portal 2 is a game I can come back to time and time again and never feel bored playing. I never tire of the test chambers; I never tire of GLaDOS’ wit. I never tire of Stephen Merchant’s wonderful portrayal of idiotic Wheatley. And most of all, I never tire of listening to Cave Johnson explain that for one particular test, subjects need to remember which skin is theirs so they can be stitched back into it at the end.

We’ve reached the end of part one! As I said, watch this space for part two as I continue to gush about my favourite games for no other reason than because I CAN!

 

EGX Rezzed 2019 – Highlights

Trying to pick just a few of the amazing games we played at this year’s Rezzed show was difficult, but we managed to narrow it down in the end!

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Very few things in life can be approached with sky-high expectations and have them be met, every time. Rezzed is one of the few exceptions, with wonderful content always bursting from every corner. The show floor this year was stunning, and overflowing with choice. Narrowing our experience down into a list of eight was always going to be tricky, and we wish we could just put ‘ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING, OMG’ as the main body of this post, but we’re all about Proper Journalism here. So, keeping in mind that we couldn’t give the fudge stand its own entry as it wasn’t a game, here are our top picks from Rezzed 2019.

  1. Close to the Sun

Set in an alternate-history timeline, one in which Nikola Tesla pioneered electricity and its technology, Close to the Sun takes place aboard the Helios. The jewel in Tesla’s crown, a shining monument to scientific progress, this colossal ship is home to the world’s best and brightest scientific minds immersing themselves in their ungoverned research.

Arriving aboard the giant vessel in search of your sister, you are quick to discover that something has gone horribly wrong. Darkened and deserted, the rooms and corridors of the ship are blood-splattered. You quickly discover that it’s going to take all of your wits, and your ability to sprint, to escape the ship with your life. It’s tight and tense, with impeccable sound design and a gobsmacking sense of scale. This game is a must for horror fans.

  1. Eastward

Both of us were pinning a lot of hope on this game, and we’re happy to report that it more than lived up to our expectations. A truly beautiful pixel-art RPG, with gameplay deeply reminiscent of old-school Zelda, Eastward left us wowed with its utterly gorgeous visuals and music. The devil is in the fine and characterful details, from the cat snoozing on one of the roofs in town, to protanonist John’s habits of stuffing his hands into his pockets.

However secretive developer Pixpil may have been about this project, it’s clear that this is a creation with a lot of love behind it. The world is deeply colourful and beautifully crafted, populated by strange monsters and strange people alike. We’re definitely going to be hanging on for every reveal and announcement in eager anticipation for its release.

  1. Heaven’s Vault

This entry will be brief, because we’ve been lucky enough to secure a couple of review copies ahead of the game’s release on April 16th.

I will say that I have had the pleasure of watching this game grow from the demo first debuted at Rezzed 2018, to the finished title I have currently downloaded to my PS4. It’s like watching a bud grow into a dazzling blossom, and we’re excited to share our review of this title in due course. Suffice it to say that’s it’s as beautiful as it is unique, with its blend of 2D and 3D visuals, carefully measured pace and intriguing plot.

  1. The Breakfast Club!

We always knew this game was going to be insane, but it definitely exceeded our expectations of just how insane.

I described The Breakfast Club as the ‘Dark Souls of breakfast simulators’ and I was 100% on the money. The goals are simple: make buttered toast or grill some burgers and hot dogs. Achieving those goals, however, are not, although this game has the advantage of allowing you to blame everyone else for your failures, so there’s that. I don’t think either of us had ever really considered the complexities of sausage physics before now, but I think we mastered it considering we won the level and won a tiny frying pan. Packed full of puns and pure silliness, this game is an absolute delight for fans of zany couch co-op fun.

  1. Terrorbane: 100% Bug Free

We do love a bit of satire and meta-humour, and Terrorbane delivers that in spades in this delightfully tongue-in-cheek love letter to games development, and the medium in general. Packed full of references and shout-outs, this game is equal parts bonkers, charming and hilarious.

As a playtester tackling a game built by the world’s ‘best’ developer, you have to navigate through his broken mess of an RPG in order to pick out the errors that are absolutely Not His Fault. These include anything from cows making a noise closer to electrical interference than a moo, to a crate of pears joining your party (although it did prove itself in battle, so you go pear crate!). Some bugs are just funny, others can be exploited to complete puzzles. If the short demo has us cracking up as much as it did then we cannot wait for what the rest of the game has in store for us!

  1. The Meridian Line

You know your game is freaking awesome when you require people to press an actual ‘doors open/close’ button from the London Underground to start your demo, after providing them with a ‘ticket’ to ride (well, we thought it was cool so SHUT UP). 

The Meridian Line is the urbex thriller on the Not Tube that we didn’t know we needed. Set well after operational hours on an underground automated transport network, you’ve broken in to search for your missing brother. The atmosphere is oppressive, an expertly-crafted combination of comforting familiarity and growing unease. The focus here is on tension, and the impeccable sound design delivers this in spades, helping you understand that you are certainly not alone down there. Prepare to be plunged into darkness, to pick locks and hack computers, and contend with the network itself as you unravel the secrets the silent tunnels are hiding.

  1. RAD

Tim’s description of DoubleFine’s RAD was something along the lines of ‘Diablo meets Fallout, but neon’, which is an apt summary. Choosing one of a roster of characters wielding various weapons, players traverse the irradiated wastes of the procedurally generated Fallow, encountering and slaughtering hosts of strange monsters in a bid to revive the land. Grass and flowers spring up beneath the player-character’s feet as they breathe new life into the barren wasteland – this also acted as a useful breadcrumb trail when navigating a dungeon, as it turned out.

Our favourite moments came when we found we could use the exposure to radiation to our advantage and mutate, which led to one character spawning eggs from their back that hatched into little decoys for instance. It was next to impossible for us to tear ourselves away from the demo, the addictive soundtrack and undeniably fun gameplay gluing us to our seats and leaving us wanting just one more go. I can absolutely see myself booting this up to play, only to realise that I’m still on my sofa in my PJs and several days have passed.

  1. Metamorphosis

Of all the things I never thought I would actively enjoy, playing an insect was definitely very high on that list. And yet, the pure joy I felt from playing Metamorphosis, a game inspired by the Franz Kafka novella of the same name, was so unbridled I fear it’ll mar my view of platformers for the rest of my days!

Players assume the role of Gregor Samsa, a travelling salesman who wakes one morning to discover he’s been transformed into a giant insect overnight and must adjust to his new existence. In-game, this means leaping through beautiful hand-painted environments that range from the straightforward to the more abstract. Being an insect makes the first-person platforming so much more enjoyable than in almost any other game; a bug can crawl up the side of an object, so no more pixel-precision is necessary! With its source material being so famous, and open to huge amounts of interpretation, we are so looking forward to delving into the full game and exploring everything Gregor’s new perspective has to offer.

Mieke’s Honourable Mention: The Collage Atlas

In a world of fast-paced action and blood-and-guts combat, it’s always a joy to come across something serene. It’s my best friend I have to thank for bringing my attention to this game, although it definitely would’ve piqued my interest regardless of her input.

Drawn entirely in pen and ink, The Collage Atlas is an utterly breathtaking trip through a world that looks like it has sprung from the pages of a sketchbook (which, essentially, it has). As the player travels forwards, the world before them gently blooms into existence in a way reminiscent of how memories fade in and out of consciousness. It’s entirely up to the player as to how they discover the narrative and its many branches and secret areas waiting to be unlocked. It’s a game that invokes mindfulness and self-reflection which, in such times of turmoil, can’t be a bad thing can it?

Tim’s Honourable Mention: Pacer

As a huge WipeOut fan, Tim was instantly drawn to this when he first laid eyes on the stand – it did help it was probably the loudest booth in the room. Previously known as Formula Fusion, this is a anti-gravity combat racer that ‘pays homage to the old’ with a contemporary twist.

Exactly what he wants from a current-gen iteration of WipeOut, Tim’s sweaty palms and racing heart at the end of a race is an indication of how good an experience Pacer is. Crafted by a team clearly holding their inspiration in deep reverence, this lightening-paced racer captures the ‘flow-state’ required to ace a track perfectly. Tim found every track he played to be a joy, with the option to customise his ship’s stats and appearance being something he’s personally craved from WipeOut as a franchise. It’s fast, it’s frenetic and despite finding the weapons feeling a little ineffective, Tim loved every second of it, evident by the colossal grin on his face at the end.

Phew! Done! This was an incredibly difficult list to write, not just because we hate excluding anyone, but also because we didn’t play anything unworthy of an entry here. We managed to get through the vast majority of the games we wanted to play, and we weren’t disappointed by a single one. It’s always an incredible experience to walk around the show floor and take in the variety of what’s on offer, which is why Rezzed is hands-down my favourite event. and that’s not just because it’s an excuse to spend all my money on delicious fudge.

Five Games We’re Looking Forward to Playing at Rezzed 2019

Rezzed has arrived once again, and we’re been pondering what we’d most like to play when next week rolls round.

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This time next week, we’ll have reached the halfway point of Rezzed 2019. The indie game event is back at London’s Tobacco Dock from 4-6th April and will once more play host to a show floor packed with delights that we look forward to sampling.

With just under a week to go the list of playable titles is almost complete, with the possibility of a few more announcements between now and then, and it’s shaping up to be a cracking show. Alongside devs debuting their demos for the very first time, we have some old favourites returning to the show: Beyond Blue and Heaven’s Vault are two such gems.

Combing through what’s been announced has excited us greatly for what is to come, and presented us with a tough decision about what to prioritise. With every announcement since this article was first drafted we feel our task getting harder. However, after some discussion we have managed to pare our extensive shortlist down to just five.

  1. Inmost

The first of two entries on this list brought to the show by publisher Chucklefish, Inmost is a game we wanted to play at EGX 2018 but never got round to (which will definitely be the case for about 99% of the Rezzed show floor too). Intriguing, atmospheric, and possessing some of the most innovative use of lighting in a pixel-art game we’ve seen in recent years, we’re already sucked in and desperate to learn more about the game’s universe and story.

  1. Close to the Sun

If Close to the Sun manages to emulate even a fraction of the wonderful atmosphere of Bioshock’s Rapture, then we will be very happy bunnies indeed. Involving a similarly foreboding feel, Close to the Sun also takes place in a self-governed ‘utopia’ created for the cream of the societal crop. Adding a Dead Space-esque twist to things, the place is deserted and filled with dead bodies and dread. Equal parts intriguing and insidious, we know this game will get under our skin in the best way possible.

  1. The Breakfast Club

Sometimes a gamer needs a break from the relentlessly spooky and turn instead to the relentlessly silly as a salve. Having watched the alpha gameplay of The Breakfast Club, Tim and I have agreed that in all honesty, we’re more likely to be crying tears of hysterical laughter than killing each other playing this game. (I certainly make no promises; watch your back Tim…). The likelihood of us beating any of the levels is low because it’s basically the Dark Souls of the Making Breakfast Simulators – Tim is still recovering from his I Am Bread-induced PTSD – but as long as nothing ends up on fire we’ll consider it a success (everything will end up on fire).

  1. Fade to Silence

We’re both huge fans of a good, post-apocalyptic horror experience so it’s no wonder that Fade to Silence pushes all the right buttons. What happened? Why is there an eternal winter? What is the corruption threatening the land? There’s a delightful Horizon: Zero Dawn feel to this, a sense of needing to discover the history of the world, a task made difficult by the overarching need to survive. The question is what will kill us first: the abominations that roam the landscape, or the arctic fury of Mother Nature?

  1. Eastward

If there is anything we’ve come to expect by games developed or published by Chucklefish, it’s the killer combo of gorgeous graphics and a wonderful soundtrack. We’re tipping our hats to Eastward developer Pixpil for giving us both of those things in spades! Eastward is beautiful and mysterious, with a haunting and eerie beauty to the decaying city it is set in, with which we’ve already fallen in love. ‘Escort an important side-character’ seems to have become its own niche genre of late – with The Last of Us and Bioshock Infinite leading the pack – so we’re especially interested to see John and Sam’s adventure play out in this captivating world.

We can’t close out this list without a few honourable mentions. We’re definitely looking forward to playing as the adorable Birb in musical platformer Songbird Symphony (for which Tim would book a three day appointment if he could), and Terrorbane looks to be a delightfully self-aware comedic homage to both JRPGs and game development as a whole. And as always, we’re looking forward to catching up with the E-Line Media team and their ambitious project, The Endless Mission.

Most of all though we’re excited to discover the hidden gems that Rezzed has to offer, the games we didn’t think would be our cup of tea and yet become our show highlight. The show floor is a goldmine of passion and potential, and we’re looking forward to sinking our teeth into what’s on offer from a diverse and unique line-up.