Games I Played Through in 2019 That Kicked Ass
January 02, 2020

[Pre-blog note: I will proofread this later. For now, suffer through my unedited words.]

I'm not going to do a top ten or a recap of everything I played, because honestly I played a lot of crap last year. Instead, I'd like to focus on the stuff I liked and get some positive vibes out there.

I mean, I already wrote some scatching stuff about Huntsman: The Orphanage in my previous blog post, so I've got my negative bases covered for a bit.


Anyway...



The Adventures of Elena Temple


A retro-style platformer that almost authentically feels like it was released for older hardware, but with the modern infinite lives feature. The developer made expert use the game's real estate, too, cramming lots of little touches into tiny nooks and crannies. It's basically a faux museum game, giving us a fictional history of a classic title that never existed. That's some impressive, next-level stuff, and I'd like to see more of it. You know what would be cool? A fake compilation of classics for a fictional developer or publisher. Assuming it's done correctly, of course.




Alicemare


A horror adventure made with either RPG Maker or Game Maker, I'm not sure which. You explore a dream-like dimension that details the past lives of the orphans who live with you. Everything looks sweet and innocent, until it threatens to brutally murder you for failing to complete various challenges. It's a decent affair with a good story, but one that fizzles out if you try to go for the "good" ending.




Alien Shooter 2: Conscription


Same old, batshit Alien Shooter, where you shoot hordes upon hordes of horrifying, extraterrestrial monster. This one is no less gore-spattered or intense than its predecessors, though it still has that skipping scrolling flaw that the series can't seem to shake. Supposedly, Sigma Team is working on updating the AS series, so we'll see if they come up with something even better than before.




Among the Sleep


I never thought I'd play a good game starring a toddler, but here we are. This one smacks a bit of Papo and Yo, but way scarier and with more subtlety. Like, PAY goes out of its way to make sure you know alcoholics can be monstrous, where this one doesn't fully reveal its big secret until the very end (though you find some obvious hints early on, but might think nothing of them when you see them). This one cuts back the primal fear you felt as a child terrified of any place the light didn't touch. We haven't seen this kind of vulnerability in a horror title for a while.




Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon


I kept my fingers crossed that this would turn out to be a good revival of the spirit of Castlevania, and not another Might No. 9. And my god, did Inti Creates knock it out of the park with this one! It's tough, fittingly old school, but forgiving and fair, plus each level branches. It takes all of the best qualities from Castlevania III and modernizes it without bastardizing it. Not many developers can say they've done that with spiritual successors.




Cat Quest


A nice, breezy action-RPG starring a cat. There really isn't more to it than that. You explore some open terrain, kill monsters, complete simple side quests, explore tiny dungeons and play through a cute storyline. It may not be the kind of game hardcore RPGers are looking for, but anyone searching for a more casual adventure will be pleased with this one.




Cat Quest II


Take everything I said above, but reapply it here. Also add dogs and the fact that you control two characters in this one (plus there's a co-op mode). Long and short, still a good, casual title.




Children of Morta


An action-roguelike where you play as members of a family challenging a corrupt deity who demands they sacrifice their newborn addition to the bloodline. Each member of the household represents a different class. You select one and jump into a procedurally generated dungeon, battle monsters, earn loot and eventually fight a boss. It's pretty straightforward stuff, but effective and entertaining nonetheless.




Cosmic Star Heroine


A turn-based RPG with a ho-hum story, but a great battle system. Seriously, some of the fights in this are nuts, as they require a fair but of planning and strategy. I just wish the characters weren't so flat. As hastypixels (I think?) put it, it'd be nice if the characters weren't all so agreeable. C'mon, guys, disagree at least once.




Dark Devotion


A mixture of Dark Souls and dungeon crawling that didn't win everyone over. I like it, despite its cheapness and frustration factor. Something about progressing through a game this tough feels satisfying. Having said that, I'll also add that the final boss can die in a fire. Seriously.




Doorways trilogy


Yet another first-person horror game, but one divided into three parts. The first of these, Prelude, was pretty dull. Part two, The Underworld, proved to be a tense, albeit unoriginal, experience. Still, despite its lack of inventive mechanics, it was my favorite of the three. The final chapter, Holy Mountains of Flesh, was pretty good, but suffered in a few areas. It really made its protagonist out to be kind of villainous, and not in an engrossing or interesting way.




Dust: An Elysian Tail


There's not much for me to say about this one, except that it's a terrific pathfinding title with a great combat system and wonderful characters. I'd love to see more stuff set in this world.




Gothic 3


Yeah, I'll say it: this is the best game in the Gothic series. No, it's not the second one, because that one is more riddled with bugs than E.G. Marshall's apartment in Creepshow. It's not the first one because that game's not only buggy, but clunky as hell. Why make players press three keys just to pick up an item? Gothic 3 streamlines that nonsense, providing all the Piranha Bytes "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" gameplay combined with piles of the dev's trademark cheese. It doesn't get much better than this.




Gunmetal Arcadia Zero


An NES-style platformer I played through and didn't feel like reviewing. It's a good piece that's fittingly hard, but not so much that it feels dated. You can easily beat the game in one sitting if you try. Unlike its successor, Gunmetal Arcadia, this one doesn't have procedurally generated levels or perma-death. It's just a level-by-level affair that fittingly feels like an 8-bit action game.




Iconoclasts


I started off no liking Iconoclasts much, but it grew on me over time. I actually played a lot of games like that this year. I didn't like Dark Devotion at first, but it grew on me. I didn't like Virgo Versus the Zodiac, but it grew on me. I wasn't all that in love with Doorways, but I ended up becoming a fan. This one appears to be your standard Metroidvania game, but it's really more linear than your average bear. Still a worthwhile game, though.




Knights of Pen and Paper +1 Edition


A pretty clever RPG, where you play a party of friends playing a tabletop game. Meanwhile, the stuff from their session appears on the screen. It's addictive at first, but kid of fizzles out towards the end. I enjoyed it for the most part, but I felt it got too grindy after a while.




Monument Valley


One of the few mobile games I give my full stamp of approval. It's beautiful and engaging, but not overwhelming.




Phantasy Star II


One of the best and toughest RPGs from the '80s. It doesn't like to mess around a whole lot, especially in regards to giving you vital information. Yeah, you can learn all of its secrets if you experiment or talk to everyone, but otherwise this game just shrugs its shoulders and says, "Tough break, kid" every time you lose.




Phantasy Star IV


"If you make Phantasy Star easier, it won't be fun." -someone from way back who turned out to be wrong. PSIV was a hell of a send-off for the series, with a more balanced difficulty and a more active storyline.




Riviera: The Promised Land


The first installment of the Dept. Heaven franchise, but the second one I've checked out. This one blends dungeon crawling, turn-based combat and point-and-click adventure elements to create an experience that'll make a real save-scummer out of you. Thankfully, it's a pretty fun title with terrific fights and an addictive level up system.




Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice


Part Tenchu, part Dark Souls, part face-melting beast. This title gets my pick for best of the year, complete with super tough moments and stuffed with oodles of hidden goodies and countless boss fights.




Super Mega Space Blaster Special


Okay, I'm not going to pretend this was a GOTY contender, but I had an arcade itch, and it scratched it just fine. I just wish it had more content.




Superhot


I really don't want to write another description of this game. Again, it's first-person Hotline Miami with tech horror elements. It's also quite addictive, as I made short work of it.




Titan Souls


Its moniker makes it sound like a Souls-like, but it isn't. It's more akin to Shadow of the Colossus, but 2D. Like Superhot, I got swept up in this one and completed it in short order. I didn't bother to try my hand at the true final boss, because the one before him was bad enough.




Undertale


A lot of people cringe at this game, and even I was ready to deride it as overrated. However, i found myself liking it quite a bit. Surprise! I know people have said more RPGs should take this approach, but really, no. This one is kind of special, and it shouldn't have hordes of clones.




Unforgiving: A Northern Hymn


Arguably the best horror game I played this year. This one shines its spotlight right on its folklore-based monsters, which is a subject that makes a hopeless horror kid and mythology fan like me swoon.




Untitled Goose Game


Not much to say. You play as a goose, complete objectives (which are logic puzzles) and annoy people. What more can you ask for from a goose-themed video game?




Virgo Versus the Zodiac


Man, this game is pretty nuts. I could sit here all night listing the weird things I've experienced plaing this one, but I don't have that kind of time. I also started off not enjoying this one much, but came to dig it after it all clicked. You play as a physical embodiment of the constellation Virgo, and your task is to acquire all of the crowns of the Zodiac so you can usher in a new era. It's odd, but it's good stuff. Review coming soon.




The Wanderer: Franenstein's Creature


Finally, a point-and-click adaptation of Frankenstein that's more soulful than scary. I've always had a soft spot for the creature, and all this game does is reinforce the notion that he's an unfortunate outcast whose heart doesn't quite match his exterior. I've really wanted the guy to find a friend. Seriously, when I saw Bride of Frankeinstein, I shed a real damn tear when he found the old, blind man. This title gives you feels kinda like that.

[Post-blog note: Thank you for suffering through my words. I will proofread them after I've slept.]

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