Rule #32 – Enjoy the Little Things: A Selection Of Smaller Titles To Consider

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I recently picked up Forgotton Anne, a game I’d been meaning to play for a while. It was on sale on the PSN so I finally caved and bought it. What followed was a whimsical 5 or 6 hours of gameplay that I thoroughly enjoyed. Was it the best game I’ve ever played? No. Did it have something interesting to say? Yes. Was it worth checking out? Most definitely.

That got me thinking about smaller, shorter game experiences from the last few years that people might’ve missed. So here are some games I’d recommend that are not as time intensive as some of the bigger titles on the market.

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FORGOTTON ANNE

ForgottonAnne

I had to start with this one! Forgotton Anne is a puzzle/platformer in which you play as the aforementioned Anne. She is an enforcer in the game’s world, which is a place when forgotten items (odd socks, old light bulbs etc.) end up. Everyone in the city is working together to build a bridge back to the human world, until a group of rebel ‘forgotlings’ try to sabotage it. Cue lots of jumping, climbing and pulling levers. The big selling point of this game is the animation, which is glorious.

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THE SEXY BRUTALE

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This hidden gem was one of my favourite games of last year. You play as Lafcadio Boone, who awakes during a friend’s annual party to find himself stuck in a time loop. The aim of the game is to save all the other party guests, who meet grizzly fates otherwise. You play through the day and then the clock resets, letting you explore further or use the knowledge you now have to influence events. It’s a game with a fantastic sense of style and is great fun. I was pretty sad when I finished this but it was a game I’d recommend to anyone.

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PYRE

Pyre

I wasn’t sure about Pyre when I first heard about it. A game that had created it’s own fictional sport? Sounded like more hassle than it was worth. However, once I started it up I got sucked into the world and its wonderful cast of characters. You play as The Reader, a type of coach if you will. Your team, The Nightwings, need to win matches to earn their freedom from the land they dwell in, a kind of purgatory. The sport itself, while fun and well designed, plays second fiddle to the character development and story here. I haven’t quite finished the game yet but I am thoroughly enjoying my time with it.

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THIS WAR OF MINE

ThisWarOfMine

This War Of Mine is a really bleak game. You take control of several characters that share a house in a war torn area. You have to defend your house from looters, while also going out and scavenging yourself. Everyone’s game will be different, with various characters and events, on each playthrough. This is a very serious title that treats issues like violence and desperation with the respect they deserve. At one point a character had to kill someone while scavenging, it was him or them and so I had him kill the other guy. My character then went home and basically sat on the floor, crying and wouldn’t move. He was broken by that experience, nothing I could ‘press’ or do would get him out of it. Shortly afterwards it was ‘game over’, when another gang broke in and killed everyone in my house. A brutal but essential game.

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ICONOCLASTS

Iconoclasts

When I think of the title screen and music for Iconoclasts a big smile spreads across my face. A 2D title in the same vein as Sonic or Castlevania, Iconoclasts see you play a mechanic called Robin in a world in which access to machinery is strictly limited by the government. This is a platformer very much inspired by older games. You will be backtracking a lot, finding keys and unlocking new routes to different areas. All in glorious, bright colours accompanied by some excellent music. The writing is pretty good too and does a nice job of bringing the characters to life.

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FIREWATCH

Firewatch

Speaking of characters, a game in which the majority takes place with only two people talking doesn’t necessarily sound like it would be a gripping title but Firewatch manages to keep things interesting until the very end. You play as a man called Henry, who has taken a job as a fire lookout at a national park in the US. I don’t want to spoil anything but what unravels from there is a tense and, at times, sinister story which focuses on grief, isolation and paranoia. It’s also lovely to look at, with a very nice art style.

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So there you have it, a few titles you might not have heard of to check out. Hopefully if you give any of these a try you won’t be disappointed!

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GregHorrorShow’s Year In Gaming 2018

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It seemed 2018 was as good a time as any to mix up these end of year posts, mainly due to the way a lot of games are becoming sprawling services that span years of content as opposed to annual franchises. A lot of what I played this year wasn’t released in the calendar year but that seems to matter less and less as time goes on. I’ll list the release date next to anything not from 2018.

For anyone interested here is the non-gaming round up in case you missed it. For now though let’s delve into last year’s gaming…

hitman

I know Hitman 2 came out in 2018 but let me tell you about Hitman (2016). This was a game, like Life Is Strange, that really nailed the episodic format. It was a joy to jump into a new level (each with varying locations around the world) and spend a good chunk of time messing around, trying to find a stealthy way of taking out a target. Then I’d be happy to put the game back on the shelf and return to a new area in a few months. 2018 was the year I finally finished the last of Hitman’s content and I would definitely recommend giving it a shot.

I played A Way Out in full co-op with a friend and had a blast with the game. I’m not sure it would’ve been as much fun playing solo and while the story was fun it wasn’t the greatest narrative I’ve ever played through. This year I also played This War Of Mine: The Little Ones (2016), a title I’d been keen on for a while. It tasks you with scavenging to survive in a war torn country and really gives you a sense of how tough that kind of thing can be. The mental effects can completely change the game, if the characters become too scared or depressed you can lose control of them and they won’t respond to commands. It was tough watching my little group of survivors deteriorate until they fell apart, a rough but worthwhile gaming experience.

vallhalla

VA-11 HALL-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action was a game I was super excited for and I really enjoyed taking on the role of a cyberpunk bartender, despite not being the best at remembering the drink combinations! Luckily there is a recipe book on hand to help. This is a visual novel on Vita so it’s a lot of reading, with a small gameplay element of mixing the drinks – giving customers different drinks can alter the storyline, which is cool. Hue was another Vita game that I put alot of time into, the puzzle solving was good fun and the use of colour was interesting.

Two games that took me an age to finish were Assassins Creed: Origins (2017) and Fallout 4 (2015). I wrapped up both this year and they were enjoyable for different reasons. Origins was a real high point for Assassins Creed, with a good story and lots of fun gameplay additions. I’d still rather they lost the current day set up as I find it really detracts from the main story but maybe there will be a payoff for that stuff at some stage? Fallout 4 left me in a frustrating spot so I didn’t ‘finish’ the game in terms of seeing the credits but felt I’d told my characters story to it’s conclusion, the game was exactly what I wanted from it and I look forward to playing the next numbered Fallout title when it arrives.

I also played through The Walking Dead: New Frontier (2016) and finished that a week or so before the sad news that the game studio behind it was shutting down. While the technical cracks were showing throughout the game I still enjoyed spending some more time with Clem and watching her grow over the course of the five episode arc. I didn’t play much of Gran Turismo Sport (2017) but the hours I put in were really enjoyable. I’m terrible at the game for the most part but as usual the joy of the game comes from heading to the car dealerships and picking up lots of different cars to race.

fortnite

In terms of online gaming its difficult to talk about 2018 without mentioning Fortnite. I’ve dropped off of the game in the last 3 or 4 months but I imagine I’ll be back at some stage to play some more. I enjoyed the tense, high stakes gameplay of solo the most, although it was definitely fun with friends as well. FIFA 19 is, finally, a more than cosmetic update of the yearly title. I think the changes they have made are certainly for the better although the issue of ‘rubber-banding’ (allowing slower defenders to catch up to attackers and tackle them) needs to be addressed as it can completely break the game flow and seems totally unrealistic. Another fun multiplayer game was Laser League (2017), which I picked up as part of PlayStation Plus. This is a futuristic sports game where you turn lasers to your colour on the playing field. If your colour laser touches an opponent they are taken out of play – it’s a really interesting idea that is well delivered.

My favourite online games from 2018 though were Battlefield V, Overwatch (2016) and Rainbow Six: Siege (2015). As a Battlefield veteran (from Bad Company on) I’ve enjoyed but not loved the recent titles in the series. I think Battlefield 4 was the last one I really put a lot of time into. Hardline was something different and Battlefield 1 was good but didn’t hold my attention. However something about Battlefield V just clicked with me – possibly it’s the heavy emphasise on squad play but this, for me is the best Battlefield since the Bad Company 2 days. It certainly has some issues but overall a really solid title. I absolutely love Overwatch. I still play regularly and have a great time with it – the updates with new maps and characters help keep the game fresh and with the newly launched Overwatch League, it seems the game is here to stay. That works for me.

siege

Having said that my pick for online game of 2018 is 2015’s Rainbow Six: Siege. The recovery of this game from a troubled launch is astounding. It has a vibrant esports scene and the continued release of maps and content (now stretching into the game’s fourth year!) makes sure the game is constantly evolving. It’s similar to Overwatch in that two small teams face off in a map with one objective and the teams take turns attacking and defending. Another familiar aspect is that a roster of characters each have different specialisations that can be used to gain an advantage or swing a fight. While Overwatch is like a bombastic, Saturday morning cartoon, Rainbow Six takes things a bit more seriously, although some cosmetic options allow you to lighten the mood a bit. The gameplay is finely balanced and it’s really unforgiving but definitely worth your time.

sexybrutale

In terms of single player games Detroit: Become Human was a highlight. While it was maybe heavy handed with its messaging I found the game itself to be enjoyable and the sheer amount of choice, in terms of the branching storyline, was hugely impressive. David Cage has done this before but each game genuinely improves on the last. The fact I can talk to other people who played it and we have very little in common in terms of the story of the game is actually quite astounding. One of my other favourites from this year was The Sexy Brutale (2017), a really clever puzzle game in which you relive the same day over and over, trying to stop a bunch of murders. It’s a touching, smart title with a great graphical style and some excellent music. A real joy to play through.

I’m still making progress through Persona 5 (2017) and loving that. The story is starting to build and I’m adding more characters to my roster of crime-fighters. The Persona games always have a lovely sense of style and this is no different – the music is as amazing as ever and graphically it looks brilliant. Another superb title I’m still finishing off is God Of War. This is one of those titles that really show off what a PS4 can do and also give a good reference point for non-gamers to see how games are progressing. It’s a tour de force really, while still maintaining a fragile father and son story that doesn’t feel melodramatic or forced. The script and voice acting help with that, it’s a game I can’t recommend enough.

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There is only one game that can be both my favourite thing from this year and also the best game I’ve played in years. Red Dead Redemption 2 arrived after a seven year wait but it was worth it. A prequel to the original title it tells the story of Arthur Morgan, a member of the same gang as the first game’s protagonist, John Marston. This is a huge game with so much content it’s likely I won’t experience much of it at all in the grand scheme of things. I’m about 25 hours in and still only midway through, I’ve spent a bunch of time just living in the game world, hunting, playing cards and fishing while completely ignoring missions. The world feels alive and there is always something going on just around the corner. I haven’t really touched the online beyond setting up a character but I’m also looking forward to getting more into that in the future. Red Dead Redemption 2 is my game of the year for 2018.

division 2

There was a lot I didn’t get around to playing that I want to try – Spider-man, Hitman 2, Iconoclasts and Life Is Strange 2 to name a few. As my backlog builds there is also plenty to look forward to in 2019. I think The Division 2 (above) is my most anticipated title, although if The Last Of Us II does get confirmed for this year that might just pip it. As well as games, it seems like another generation of new consoles are also on the horizon which should lead to some interesting announcements and game reveals.

Exciting times ahead in the world of gaming!