Games I Played This Year That Kicked Ass: 2020 Edition
December 31, 2020

It's that time again. Everyone is doing their "year in review" type of topics and videos all over the place, and I don't have an original bone in my body. Obvi, I'm just going to copy off their tests because it sounds like a lot of fun and it gives me a chance to relive the cool things I played this year.

I don't have much of a criteria for listed titles here. Any title must score a 3.5/5 or a 7/10 at the very least, it must be something I played this year, and I had to have made enough progress on it to feel it kicked an ass or something similar. There are some games that technically meet the criteria, but didn't get posted because I'm kind of sick of them (Gateways, for instance).



There are two games I've just started and haven't really gotten into: Hello Neighbor and Painkiller. The former is a stealth thriller where you play a child sneaking into a house where one of his neighbors has been presumably held captive or murdered by a mysterious assailant who looks like a really pissed off Mr. Belvedere. The latter is a frenetic shooter where you're essentiall a hitman for Heaven, attempting to take out some demon lord so that the powers that be will allow you to see your wife, who died in a car crash along with you. I don't have much to say except they've been wonderful plays for the brief amount of time I've put into them.

I also started Dead Cells and really enjoyed it, but put it aside because it wasn't what I was looking for at the time. I'll come back to it soon enough. It plays like a roguelike platformer with Metroidvania elements, if that makes sense. It's so weird and it seems like it shouldn't work at all, but it's a blast. The same can be said for Dragon Quest Builders, which I played (and dug greatly) for all of a day.

ACA NeoGeo: Strikers 1945 Plus (Switch)

I used to play the hell out of this game back in the day, at the airforce base arcade. I don't know that I would rate it as highly these days, but it still provides enough explosions and over-the-top plane designs to be worthwhile.

Akane (Switch)

An arcade action game where you fight off waves of Yakuza punks with with either a katana or a gun. It's simple, easy to get into, difficult to master and just loaded with mayhem. Good stuff!

Ara Fell: Enhanced Edition (Switch)

A turn-based RPG that draws heavily from the old school, makes use of choice new school concepts, and is just fantastic. Though it looks like your average RPG Maker fare, it's actually far superior to most that I've played in that category.

Astray (PC)

Astray only barely makes the grade. It may have only kicked a tiny ass, but it kicked an ass nonetheless. This game starts off with cliches, hits you with some puzzles and ends with Lovecraftian madness and a bleak finish. Though it may not excel as a first-person horror adventure, it still stands firmer than a vast portion of the junk on Steam.

Battle Chasers: Nightwar (Switch)

A wonderful reminder that the incomplete high fantasy comic from the late '90s/early 2000s isn't dead yet. Oh, and it became one hell of a turn-based RPG. Like Ara Fell, this one gives off a retro vibe while offering some more modern twists, so it doesn't feel horribly antiquated.

Bendy and the Ink Machine (PC)

A first-person horror title that's all about the "cute things from our childhoods can be creepy" concept. Despite its flaws, this title shows us a whole new, disturbing world where Disney-like merriment give way to existential terror.

Blasphemous (Switch)

I never finished this marriage of hardcore platforming and Soulsborne mechanics, mostly because it wasn't what I was looking for at the time. However, the content I did touch registered in my head as grade-A asskickery that will probably hold my attention better when I'm in the mood for a punishing game. Its combination of frightening visuals and religious-inspired lore ensure that this title will remain somewhere in the forefront of my mind until the time is right.

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night (PC)

Konami's decline and the "death" of Castlevania still sting. However, news that a spiritual successor with Koji Igarashi on board gave me hope. And with Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon and its follow-up Ritual of the Night, the torch has officially (and proudly) been passed along. This game not only fondly remembers Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, but gives it a much-needed overhaul by including the best elements from Aria of Sorrow, Dawn of Sorrow and Order of Ecclesia. It offers everything I would want in a modern day Symphony successor.

Carrion (PC)

A monster movie turned pathfinder adventure, this game delivers. Granted, it could've used a more in-depth plot and a map of some kind, but its deliciously brutal offerings make it terrific horror game.

Chronos Twins DX (Wii)

A strange platformer that seems like it shouldn't work at all, but it does. Being able to control two characters shouldn't be this breezy (and admittedly, the game does get pretty hard at points), but somehow developer Enjoy Up! worked a miracle here.

Cthulhu Saves Christmas (Switch)

It's great to see Zeboyd's Cthulhu again, especially in a roleplaying game that's as enjoyable as this one. The game plays a bit like Cosmic Star Heroine, but with a friendship/relationship building mechanic and a day-by-day flow. More than anything, it reminds me that Zeboyd is still turning out good stuff.

Dogurai (Switch)

Dogurai is far from the best game I played this year, but is still simple and challenging enough to entertain. Its boss encounters especially call to mind old school video games, where pattern memorization was key to survival.

Dragon Quest (Switch)

While I've kind of soured on the original Dragon Quest over the years, I still appreciate this enhanced edition greatly. Its campaign is much smoother than before, complete with virtually every improvement you can imagine in place, while maintaining as many of the original game's memorable qualities as possible.

Goblin Sword (Switch)

One of the better mobile games ported to Switch. I nearly reviewed it, but ended up canning my piece (it would've earned 4/5). What I like about this one most is its structure. Each level holds numerous little secrets to locate, usually containing money or special items or equipment. You can then use the money to buy other weapons, armor and such to help you locate more stuff. It's a pretty simplistic title, but addictive all the same.

Grandia HD Collection (Switch)

Never mind that Grandia II is still pretty glitchy, this package is still pretty worthwhile. Better than the original releases? Well, maybe in some ways... If nothing else, it was great to revisit these titles on more modern hardware, particularly a portable platform.

Hades (Switch)

Apparently I can't decide whether I'm tired of roguelikes or obsessed with them, because I can't stop playing this one. I'm still in the middle of it, so there's time for me to break my obsession.

Into the Gloom (PC)

A lo-fi horror game that's not entirely scary, but thoroughly unsettling. It keeps its draw distance short so you can speculate on what isn't or isn't in the haze, waiting to spawn and kill you.

Kindergarten (PC)

Arguably one of the most screwed up games I played this year, where you take the role of a child trying to survive (literally) a day of kindergarten. If you step out of line, you never know what'll happen. The principal might shoot you in the head, your teacher could poison your lunch or the custodian could beat you to death with his mop. Meanwhile, you complete quests for characters while solving a mystery involving a missing child.

The Last of Us Remastered (PS4)

I dragged my feet when it came to playing this game, but I eventually did so. While I don't practically worship this game as some do, I do enjoy it. It does a fair enough job of creating the impression that you're just barely scraping by without completely depriving you. Granted, it's loaded with some zombie movie cliches that have gotten tiresome, but it's easy to look past them and enjoy it for the cinematic third-person shooter it is.

Mega Man IV (GB)

I didn't finish this one, even though it's the first Game Boy Mega Man game that isn't terrible. Sadly, I got distracted by some other stuff, but I'll eventually return to this one and its tight controls and amusing/challenging levels.

Mute Crimson+ (PC)

A game that could best be decribed as Super Meat Boy meets Ninja Gaiden, although not as difficult as other of them (yet still challenging, all the same). This title helped relieve a little of my 2D platformer burn out and show me that yes, that genre is still fun as hell when it wants to be. I initially planned to review this game, but circumstances prevented me from getting one out.

Pokemon: Let's Go, Eevee! (Switch)

A pleasant, adorable title that arrived while I was battling really bad anxiety. I may not be the biggest Pokemon fan, but this genre always has a knack for keeping that particular issue of mine at bay. This title served as a good remake for the original entry, even despite its snags.

Skyborn (PC)

One of the few RPG Maker games I've enjoyed. It's got some enjoyable characters and a neat little combat system, along with a hefty serving of steampunk trappings.

Spooky Ghosts Dot Com (Switch)

A really short Metroidvania that gives you just a little taste of the genre before overstays its welcome. It's not groundbreaking or anything, but its mixture of solid boss encounters and challenging segments earned my adoration.

Toki Tori (Switch)

A puzzle platformer with plenty of tricky levels on offer, plus a rewind function. It's addictive, but sometimes also flustering. I am currently taking a break from it, though I look forward to diving back into its cute, egg-collecting world.

The Unholy Society (Switch)

A graphic adventure game full of horror movie references and comedy, where you play a wise-cracking priest on a skateboard. It's a pretty ridiculous game, and I think that's why I enjoy it so much. I understand it'll grate a lot of nerves, but its cheesy charm won me over.

The Vanishing of Ethan Carter (PC)

An intriguing, weird and ultimately crushing adventure title, this game makes me glad that the walking simulator sub-genre didn't end with the awful Dear Esther.

Wild Arms (PS)

It was nice revisiting this RPG from my teen years. Its campaign and story remarkably hold up well, making it one of the few original PlayStation games I still recommend.

Wild Arms 2 (PS)

A batshit follow-up to a good RPG, but one that didn't age entirely well. Still, its constant barrage of nonsense makes up for its over-indulgence of Philosophy 101 material.

Worse than Death (Switch)

Between this and The Unholy Society, I've really gotten into the side-scrolling adventure-horror titles. To hell with The Long Reach, though. This one offers some likable characters and an interesting enough story to pass the time, even if the big reveal is kind of a letdown.

You Must Build a Boat (PC)

Perhaps the best anyone could expect from a sequel to 10000000. It's not only much more doable than that game, but there are so many more goodies to earn and collect that the experience remains addictive all the way to the finish line.

Ys Origin (Switch)

Fact: I played through this game with every character so I could do a proper review, and I don't regret it at all. It's a fun dungeon crawler occupying the Ys timeline, and a good way to revisit some aspects of the first game without actually replaying it. Prior to this, I never realized Dark Fact was actually that character's given name. I just though it was his "supervillain" name. Who the hell names their kid "Dark?"

Most recent blog posts from Joseph Shaffer...

EmP EmP - December 31, 2020 (03:35 PM)
It's been months - months! - and I'm still annoyed about having to give Carrion away.

Good idea on a recap topic. There's a nonzero chance I'll steal it.

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