Saturday, 7 January 2017

2016: Game Awards in a Post-Game Society

The end of a quiet, but not insignificant year for gaming. Allie and Tobi may not have picked up a lot of new games from this year, but we tore through a fair bunch of classics. And about time, too! Here are this year's awards for the best and bafflingest.

As always, these are games Allie and Tobi personally played this year, regardless of when they came out.

Best Character

Det. Bobby Fulbright (Ace Attourney: Dual Destinies)


Bobby is the new detective in the Ace Attorney series, who replaces ma boi Dick Gumshoe. I was sad to see Gumshoe go, as he was my previous fave, but Bobby is a most worthy successor. His hobbies are justice, encouragement, and being helpful. The guy oozes with enthusiasm, and doesn’t mind turning a blind eye when the rules and law are being unreasonable or standing in the way of justice. Just an absolutely adorable chap. Too good to be true really.

This year has a lot of VERY GOOD BOYS, as far as Allie is concerned. Fulbright is one of them. He’s all about dutifully trying to do the right thing with a smile and a catchphrase. He seems easily emotionally manipulated, which is quite good because he’s not supposed to help the defense attorneys but he dooooo. He plays so well off the other characters, acting as the Yin to Prosecutor Blackquill’s Yang (or whichever way round that is...) and engaging in top bantz with the equally high energy Athena Cykes. Fulbright is not just some loveable pushover though. He can be surprisingly forceful and will leave you guessing if he’s going to be a big help or a big hurdle in any given situation. Ah, so dreamy… I sure hope nothing breaks Allie’s heart this time.

Runners up: Gundham Tanaka (Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair), Sigma Klim (Zero Time Dilemma), Frederick Jenks (Contradiction: Spot the Liar)

Worst Character

Bozé Lowes (Xenoblade Chronicles X)

Oh, good. Get in one then.

It’s been a long year of surprisingly lovable characters for the most part. I really enjoyed my time spent with most of the motley flawed weirdos you can team up with in Xenoblade Chronicles X. Not Bozé though, ugh. This dude’s a stubborn, zealous and preachy commander and outspoken xenophobe. Still, you’d think he makes up for it by being a relatively competent soldier and leader, right? Wrong! He keeps losing squad members and basically blaming the rest of the universe. It seems he has all of BLADE fooled into thinking he deserves some amount of prestige because he’s big and loud and patronising. Would rather spend my time getting stabbed in the back that one woman who’s LITERALLY NAMED ‘MURDERESS’.

When I started playing Xenoblade Chronicles X, I just wanted to do one thing. Have glorious campy space-opera adventures and make lots of friends with alien lifeforms. Sadly enough this game decided it was Real O’ Clock and made the majority of the humans xenophobes who loathe people different from them. Most of the game you’ll be trying to de-escalate discrimination and violence within the confines of your little society. Rather than booting everyone that can’t play nice out of the city, the game tells you it’s important to work together, whether they are bigots or not. One of such human-shaped garbage piles that you have to cooperate with is Bozé. If he isn’t being crazy speciesist to any non-human, he’ll ramble on about how superior Asian culture is, or what a total badass he is. He is an anime Steven Seagal, and I mean the IRL Steven, and not the movie Steven (though both are fundamentally unappealing). I don’t want him in my games, so please escort him off the premises.

Runners up: Widowmaker (Overwatch), Renée (Nintendo Presents: Style Boutique)

Best Soundtrack

Xenoblade Chronicles X

I’ll be honest, I was not feeling this one too much at first. I wasn’t familiar with the composer, but everything people had linked me did not inspire me with a lot of confidence. His style sounded very ..."eclectic". Incohesive, tons of vocal tracks (which I typically don’t like in my video games) with bad English and German, and just a cheesy overall package. Now that I have finally put dozens of hours into this game, I can confirm that all those initial impressions still hold true, except I kind of dig it. It’s camp and silly, but it’s falls comfortably in the “guilty pleasure” territory. Xenoblade Chronicles X was a perfect example why I shouldn't be judging soundtracks of games I haven't played. Sometimes strange things just absolutely fit when surrounded by other weirdness. One thing Xenoblade Chronicles X is great at, is giving a huge alien world to explore, and boy does it have the music to go with it. Like the game before it, themes get a day and a night version as well. All these region themes are excellent, and do a great job at capturing the spirit of these areas. Strong percussions boost the more primal feel of certain areas, while the more floaty instrumentation accents the more serene areas. It's quite a departure from Xenoblade Chronicles' soundtrack, which I think is still far superior to this, but this turned out just fine.

SHOW US LIIIIIIIIIIGHT FOR NOWWWWWW SHOW A SIIIIGN FO- oh huh? Sorry. Yeah so, full disclosure: I basically bullied Tobi into agreeing to make this the soundtrack of the year. It’s so ridiculously unnecessarily rowdy, it just about turns the whole game into a J-Rock karaoke fest, making the game very divisive among critics, with many complaining that they couldn’t hear the dialogue over the jamming tunes, and others, such as myself being like ‘I CANT HEAR YOU, I CAN’T SEE YOU!! WOOH-HOO-HOOH! WOOH-HOO-HOOH!’ I mean come on, it’s called a SPACE OPERA, right? I think a lot of people were hoping for a more serious and meaningful game, but while I found it all very deep and emotional in its story segments, the overall story is kind of a big mess that gives way to game’s indulgent fantasy fulfillment of cool mech battles and flying through truly spectacular landscapes with incredible dramatic music. Phew! I said all that without using the word ‘Epic’. Where’s my Pulitzer?

Runners up: Paper Mario Colour Splash, Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair

Best Art Direction


Sky people have never heard of SWAG
OK so I haven’t played this game yet, but I seen lots of pretty pictures. This game got to be so fancy because the developers spent ages working on it with no deadline… But hey, I think it paid off! It has a stunningly beautiful and distinct style and it does some pretty wild stuff with foregrounds and backgrounds. Pixel art has long been past a point where it feels noticeably limited by technology, so nowadays 2D art can feel really timeless. Good jobbo, Owlboy.

Owlboy is the product of one of my all-time favourite pixel artists, Imson. Without gushing too much about the technical side of things, just trust me that he excels at making highly detailed, natural looking scenes in pixel art. Probably the first indie game I’ve seen that can compete with the high-end pixel art of “back then”, which indies often aspire to. Owlboy is also full of well-designed, creative looking characters, vistas and gorgeous full-screen scenes, each as meticulously crafted as the last. It took over seven years to make, but at least it’s clear where all that time went.

Runners up: Overwatch, Ace Attorney: Dual Destinies, Kirby and the Rainbow Paintbrush

Ugliest Art Direction

Zero Time Dilemma

When Zero says all you need to do is figure out how to ESCAPE THE ROOM
Ever wondered what would happen when a visual novel developer decides it’s time to put on the big boy pants and moves away from still images, with a full 3D production with dramatic camera angles, full animation, while still retaining the budget of the old 2D stills projects? Absolute disaster is what happens. Zero Time Dilemma might be infinitely more ambitious than its low-budget peers, but it’s been a very long time since I’ve seen a game looking so rough and amateurish. While the camera direction itself is decent, every time it goes for a close-up, it becomes evident that the 3D models are not meant to be seen from up close. Every time someone moves, it’s clear that these movements are not tailored for the scene at hand, and struggle even coming across as human. Everything is poorly done and cheap. It also doesn’t help that everything was also clearly made with low-spec handheld games in mind, while I played it on a large TV.

I’m not normally fussy about what a game looks like. Which, yes, is a bit ironic for a professional game artist but THEN AGAIN maybe that’s why. Still, this is one of the few games where each time I recommend the game I feel the need to apologise in advance for the game’s visuals and animation. In such a dramatic thriller game (though not without a sense of humour), you kind of want to avoid the uncanny valley as much as possible. This game plunged right into the uncanny valley and brought a shovel. Put the ol’ rose-tinted imagination to good use though and it’s a uniquely intense game that gave me HELLA EMOTIONS. But some of those were admittedly cringe laughs.

Runners up: Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, OFF

Best Story

Danganronpa 1 & 2

Not the cleverest strategy, but bless you for trying.

While we’ve spent the rest of this awards list treating these games as standalone titles, both of us played the 2 games in fairly quick succession and the story is quite heavily linked between them. Regardless, both games would still be tied as the most memorable gaming and story experience of the year. At a glance, Danganronpa has the Kill La Kill problem of looking like offensive schoolkid fetish fanservice… probably because, yeah, it… it is. But beyond that, it’s an outrageous murder mystery thriller that’s really about compassion. It’s built like a dating sim where you spend time with the characters and learn more about them so that you can feel bad when they die. And then you get to bring the killers to some cruel and unusual justice, you get to hear them share their point of view. And then you do a cry. And then a teddy bear laughs at you.

Danganronpa is one of those games that tricks you into being invested, and then punishes you for caring. It makes you want to help, and then punishes you for your e-altruism. It’s a long and exhausting ride, full of betrayals, impasses, and taunts. Just when you think you’ve got it all figured out after the first game, the second one introduces elements that just make everything feel hopeless and impossible. It’s frustrating, but in engaging and fascinating ways. I really liked the integration of social sim elements with murder mysteries, as they complemented each other really well. I’ve played quite a lot of visual novel and story-driven games in 2016, but no games grabbed me as much as my imprisonment in Danganronpa.

Runners up: Zero Time Dilemma, OFF, Ace Attorney: Dual Destinies

Best Original Game Concept

Zero Time Dilemma

I know someone got decapitated last time, but I've got a good feeling!
Imagine for a second: a novel. Got that? Now imagine a jigsaw puzzle. Still with me? Now imagine someone ripped out all the pages of that novel, crossed out the page numbers. Now finally imagine that this novel you had was packed with highly technical jargon on really dense subjects, and full of the raving ramblings of a street corner doomsday preacher. That’s should give you a good idea of what Zero Time Dilemma is like. If you think that sounds frustrating and confusing, it is.

OK it would appear this one was overwhelmingly my pick. This game’s trollish metapuzzles are exactly what I liked about it though! Previous games of this Zero Escape series had established the already mind-boggling concept of multiple timelines, so how do you one-up that? Splitting the narrative up into confusing fragments made me already quite eager to try and get on top of what exactly the game’s overarching puzzle was this time around. In the previous games you often made yes/no decisions to split the timelines. But now in this game, you make decisions about probability, so it asks you to bet on the outcome of, say, a coin flip or a dice roll. Giving the player decisions, and then having the outcome be determined by something else, that seems like kind of a troll. Because it is! But that is worked right into the themes and narrative of the game as you explore all kinds of different famous paradoxes and rationality challenges. Love it or hate it, this game got my cogs turning and my jimmies rustling.

Runners up: Pokemon GO, Nintendo Presents: Style Boutique, Suikoden

Funniest Dialogue

Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair

Dude, it's kind of an unspoken rule that you don't hit a guy in the hamsters.
Kind of messed up how often it’s low budget english localisations of japanese games that give me the most chuckles. And not even unintentionally! Well… mostly. DR2 has a great cast of deeply troubled characters with way too much energy. They say some rude stuff. Allie laughs. GG

I’m not sure if I’d call this a low-budget localisation. Everything seems to make sense and flows well. I think you nailed it though with the energy though. All these characters have their tropes turned up to eleven, and play off of that. You end up with some outrageous individuals and a lot of social friction. I guess shlock like this is what the appeal of reality TV is. Either way, it’s cute and provides sensible chuckles..

Runners up: Paper Mario Colour Splash, Final Fantasy VIII, Shantae: Half-Genie Hero

Biggest Surprise

Sorcery! (parts 1 & 2)

Get you a manticore who can do both
Video games have tried their hand at many types of roleplaying and choose-your-own-adventure stories before, but none are as pure as Sorcery!’s. Its modest presentation allows itself to be narratively unshackled, and makes great use of it

I had no idea what this was when I saw it on my steam list, presumably some residue from a humble bundle I got at some point. Turns out it’s a really user-friendly and enjoyable little visual novel. You can choose spells that allow for a significant amount of outcomes, there’s a light and easy combat system, and it even respects your time and attention by letting you page back to any point in your adventure, rather than forcing you to start over if you’re regretting your decisions. But there’s plenty of replayability if you DID choose to start over anyway, so you feel like you can really role-play this game in any way you want without being punished. Which is ironically very rare for ‘RPG’ games. I was kinda sold on the tone of this game too, when I came across a bunch of dangerous looking semi-intelligent beasts and I used a panflute I had bought in town to cast a dance spell on them, and instead of feebly trying to make an escape when my left-field plan inevitably failed, it turns out they loved to dance and invited me for tea. Cute!

Runners up: Overwatch, Mystic Towers, King’s Quest (2016)

Biggest Disappointment

Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth

'Is that a head massager? Oh my goshhh I can't turn around in this tub though.'
I was really genuinely hyped to play this for halloween. I had a lot of options but everyone who’d heard of this game seemed to light up when it got mentioned, talking about how it was underrated and a great adaptation. (Turns out few, if any of these fans had actually finished it, of course.) Then Tobi broke the news before we get started that it was… quite buggy. Like, we prepared a bunch of fanmade patches in advance kinda buggy. And these patches still weren’t enough. See our Halloween review for more detail on that. But the thing is… it wasn’t just the bugs. The game was just kind of flawed in a bunch of ways that fundamentally made it such a struggle to enjoy. It doesn’t really help that stealth/survival isn’t really my ideal genre to begin with.. But this is stealth/survival with bad AI and user-unfriendly controls and puzzles. And the worst part is, now that i’ve slogged through it, I realised that the game with it’s scenarios and settings could have been something as good as Half-Life 2 or Bioshock. But I don’t know, maybe that applies to a lot of bad games if they were… y’know, good instead.

There’s not a lot to add that we didn’t already say in our previous review. The game had some ambition and tried its best, but its best simply was not good enough. I had this game recommended to me so many times in the past, so it’s easy to see why this buggy slog ended up letting us down. I see what people like in the game, but I think people like the idea of the game more than the game itself.

Runners up: Paper Mario Colour Splash, Drawn to Life, Dragon Quest Heroes

Usual Suspects Award of Most Time Wasted


Time you got back near the payload, Squint Eastwood.

I don’t even know how this happened. I don’t have a competitive bone in my body, I’m more of a single-player gamer, and I am hesitant to play first person games, as they can easily give me headaches. Somehow I got roped into playing this game, and now a thousand matches later, I’m still playing. Cute designs, solid mechanics, and regular content-updates just keep me coming back most days of the week. 

Overwatch, for me, filled a niche quite similar to Mario Kart. I can just keep playing it in short bursts any time, it’s so easy to get into and feels good to play. You keep improving steadily over time as there’s lots of techniques to master so that it never feels like you hit a wall or reached an obvious end. I think it’s our love of playing Monster Hunter together in previous years that drew us into exploring more role-based cooperative action games. It also helps that Overwatch keeps drip-feeding content like new maps, heroes and seasonal events. More on this game... nnnnext paragraph!

Runners up: Xenoblade Chronicles X, Cookie Clicker v2

GAME OF THE YEAR (released in 2016)


Fondly also known as: Team Fortress 2 for lesbians
So… the last couple of years I haven’t really been feeling the gaming ‘drought’ people talked about... (admittedly mostly a console thing anyway.) But this year, while it still felt like a blessing that I had less to tempt me away from my massive pile of older games, I realised I've played about... 4 games that released this year?? I didn’t even initially intend to play Overwatch. I had already kinda missed the boat on Team Fortress 2 when that was popular and I just kind of assumed I'd never get around to picking up any of these popular coolkid online games because I just...l hadn’t before? And then I just slowly realised that I could just get this game if I think it sounds so fun and just... play it. Moron. So I did and then I realised I really needed a PC upgrade so I did that and then yay! Overwatch! It’s really good. You shoot people and cooperate with your team using different abilities that drastically change the playstyle and the UI is nice and all the audio and visuals are cleverly designed for maximum clarity and playability. I talked Tobi into trying it out too, and 6 months later we’re still playing it.

My best moments I’ve had with video games in 2016 were undoubtedly from Overwatch. It is also in the unique position to also have contributed to my absolute worst moments in games. Since the game is about teamwork, it can become so frustrating and unfair when people on your team act like lone rangers. Luckily rounds are short, and you can get different teammates every single round if you want. Overwatch’s biggest asset is its large cast of characters, each with their own unique skills. With over 23 characters, you’re bound to find several characters that will fit you. The characters are also spiced up with cross-media bonuses, like comics and animated shorts. They’re not earth shattering, but they are cute additions to the IP. I don’t have a ton of experience with this type of game, but I was also very pleased with all the tweaks you were able to make in the game, that really kept my eyes from overheating. Good stuff.

Runners up: Pokémon Sun/Moon, Xenoblade Chronicles X

DINOSAUR OF THE YEAR (released before 2006)


For years publishers have been ignoring the plight of gull gamers.

Terranigma was an old favourite of mine, so I was happy to revisit it and see how it held up. Turns out it held up pretty nicely. Terranigma sets you out on a journey to discover the world, and helping guide its evolution. The early game is front-loaded with distanced action and lonely dungeons, but as the world develops, the anti-social protagonist has to grow too. The game is drenched in questionable historical fiction and spirituality, which could have easily come off as immature or stupid, so I’m glad it pulled it off with some dignity and elegance.

This year I played a lot of classic sprawling, um… *sigh* ‘epic’ *hands back pulitzer* old RPGs. I played 2 of the biggest and most talked about Final Fantasy’s (VII and VIII), and though these wouldn’t qualify for this category, I also played the big new Pokemon game and XBCX and a few other lesser JRPGs. I’m all RPG’d up. But still, I got to see the FF series develop and evolve into something long and flashy, with memorable moments, but ultimately a bit messy and narratively unsatisfying. Maybe i’m just SNES biased or something, but this year Terranigma stole the show for nostalgic old RPG’s I finally got around to. Terranigma ain’t perfect, but it’s a huge journey that spans not just across lots of dungeons and locations, but across time as well. Even the gameplay develops from a simple top down hack and slash to become more rescue-oriented missions and then zelda style town-developing quests as the game goes on. Honestly? I’d almost want to compare it to something like frog fractions. Terranigma took me on some kind of wild and crazy journey I didn’t realise I had signed up for. If you have a lot of emotions when you think about games like Chrono Trigger, Earthbound and Zelda you should check this out. Pain in the ass though, bring a walkthrough.

Runners up: Suikoden, Theme Hospital

Craziest Amateur Game


Junior baseball as I remember it.
OFF was on my radar this year pretty much because I heard it was one of a bunch of RPGs that inspired Undertale. Yknow, that game I raved about last year. OFF was mechanically a much more straightforward RPG puzzle game with fairly boring turn based combat. The puzzles were good though. But the game’s heavy artistic atmosphere and eerie storyline are what makes it a standout game. OFF takes place in a surreal world where metal is farmed from cows and the oceans are liquid plastic. Your allies are mostly cats and your task is to purify the world by destroying all the spectres. But in doing so, if you return to a level you’ve beaten, it becomes quiet and empty. There’s also this bird that comes out of a cat, and, well.. That was kind of messed up.

I have a soft spot for amateur RPGs, and this game is a great example why. OFF is a weird and trippy game, that feels uncomfortable and unwelcoming. While the game is clearly limited by the author’s abilities, his vision still came through strongly. This is the type of game that probably can only exist in the independent or amateur market, and why these types of games are worth playing.

Runners up: Bit. Trip Complete, Charity, Her Story


Overwatch’s Alternate Costumes

Cheers, love! The fashion police are here!

Remember how earlier I mentioned how I love the game’s characters and their designs? ...welllllllllll, I don’t really like all of them. Every character has more than out outfit, and quite a few of them are less than ideal. Since these alternate costumes are relatively rare rewards for playing the game, it can be pretty grating to earn something you’ll never want to use.

Yeah I mean, there’s been some hubbub about some of these costumes being downright culturally offensive, such as Pharah, an Egyptian national, having one of her alts be a native american inspired bird suit with tribal makeup. Putting the awk in hawk. But I feel as if it’s more just kinda…. forgivably insensitive. I get the impression the early character design iterations weren’t intended to be so characterized and important, and were initially just more vague representatives of gameplay classes and given some wildly different designs. But as the characters got more fleshed out, they started to represent personalities, nations, races, genders, etc. The diversity became kinda important to the community and it seemed ill-fitting. Even so, some of these costumes are just… yeesh, who thought that colour scheme looked good?

Runners up: Meredith & Co. (Xenoblade Chronicles X), Zell (Final Fantasy VIII)

Headache of the Year

Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit

Cheevo if you can find the playable character on the screen.

Even the name gives me a headache. This game’s tryhard edgelord attitude reflects as much in the gameplay and performance as it does in the aesthetics. It throws in every possible ‘cool’ idea and platforming mechanic it can copy from other wii gen platformers to culminate in a barely functioning hot mess. You play as a rabbit who’s permanently stuck in some kind of wheel shaped weapon with a jetpack and drill so that you can have the holy trinity of bad platforming controls: No grip, awkward elevation momentum, and slow pointless digging sections. And you go around finding minibosses to defeat with quick-time events. There’s also spaceship sections, turret sections, and LOTS OF EXPLOSIONS AND BLOOD SPLATTERS AND ILL-FITTING VFX BECAUSE HNNNGH.

That said, it’s not really the worst game. If you really want to like a slightly frustrating platformer and honestly don’t have anything better to play, it’s alright.

One crucial element in video game aesthetics if that everything should be easy to read, no matter how frantic a game gets. Hell & Yeah: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit starts out as a messy game from start, and progressively gets worse as the game goes on. It’s an assault on the eyes and ears, and I cannot take this game for sessions longer than 10 minutes. All of the dialogue is absolute drivel, and it controls like a seizuring ferret on rollerblades on ice. A playable fever dream.

Runners up: Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth, Theme Hospital

Worst Trend of the Year

“Worst Trend of the Year Delayed to 2017”

The body is ready, but the flesh is weak.

Please be excited.

(Pre-purchases are available.)

Runners up: “Full Release is the new Early Access”, “It’s a survival simulator!”

Dumbest Premise

I joined the mafia because I lost my cat and they might know where it is (Puzzle & Dragons Z)

What is a man? A miserable little pile of seagulls.
So this cult gem-matching game has a very pokemon/digimon kind of vibe and story. You and your partners (a token cocky boy one and competent girl one) and sassy magical animal mascot have to traverse 6-8 element-themed continents and in each one defeat the special miniboss operative of the OBLIGATORY EVIL ORGANISATION OF CRIMINALS CONSPIRING TO DESTROY THE WORLD or whatever. And, surprise, the penultimate one is the childhood best friend of your girl flavoured comrade! What could have possibly happened those few years apart to turn this kindhearted and talented Ms Perfect against us?

Well, you see, when they were kids, they used to look after this stray cat and they really liked it and made a childhood promise(™) to protect this kitten. One day the kitten went missing and there was clearly only one option: Ayame (that’s her name btw) had heard that this evil organisation bent on the destruction of humanity just so happens to know where this random stray cat was at, allegedly, and so she joined them and dedicated the rest of their life to rising in their ranks to become #1 evil henchman. Because they maybe knew something about a kitten. Nya?

I mean, it’s all there in the title, really. It’s a premise so flimsy that I cannot imagine that these makers thought about any of the story’s consequences and implications for one second. It’s the type of ideas you’d stumble on when you dissect a low quality TV show for toddlers, or a big budget comicbook movie.

Runners up: Rabbit nudes were stolen (Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit), A lawyer must defend a killer whale in court (Ace Attorney: Dual Destinies)

Most Awkward Moment

BARFMAGEDDON (Theme Hospital)

Med Max Beyond Chunderdome
Just when you think you’re in control, and you’re on cruise-control towards success, life finds a way to throw a wrench in your plans. Theme Hospital is a game where you play as a hospital administrator, and you have to manage all the facilities and staff. While most missions are straightforward, a surprise epidemic on top of your usual objective will ruin your day. A few patients that throw up will have a domino effect that cascades into more and more barf until everything is barf.

So I finally played this game for the first time ever this year, would you believe. Good game, I like! The game explains most of its systems to you pretty adequately, but it failed to mention this one particular feature before it was too late: That a patient vomiting their delicious kit-kat brand beverages(???) can create some sort of domino effect with dramatic results. you’ll spend a minute or two distracted by the complexities of effective radiator placement, and BOOM, while you were gone, your hospital halls became a river of slime that no amount of janitors can seem to salvage. 

Runners up: Having to play along with regressive and insulting cultural lines of thought. (Danganronpa 1&2), When strangers all pick Reaper/Widowmaker/Hanzo/Genji and then demand that everyone else be healing support (Overwatch)

Most Tears Shed

Gundham’s Fate (Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair)

Why yes, I do have a DR2 screenshot for every occasion.
Tobi gave me a lil’ heads up that I was probably going to be quite fond of Gundham Tanaka. And OH MY GOSHHHH YESSSSSSSSSSSS listen ok, ok, listen up ok:

- He keeps hamsters in his scarf
- Socially awkward just plays games by himself like me as a kid ;.;
- Self-proclaimed actual dark wizard lord
- Spicy
- Really appreciates animals a lot
- Secretly protective and diligent nature
- Goofy fuckin’ trenchcoat and eyeliner wearing poseur nerd
- I’m sorry, did I not have you at HE KEEPS HAMSTERS IN HIS SCARF?!

Now, where does it all go wrong, you wonder? WELL. Danganronpa is a marathon of buzzkill, but nothing destroyed me quite like the events of Strawberry House. Up until that point, immersed as I am in this series, I always felt like, eh, I could probably hack it in these murder trials and not be tempted by money, mistrust, or misplaced loyalty enough to betray the rest of the group. All we needed to do was just be stubborn and trust eachother enough and we could stop winding up dead like suckers. And then Chapter 4 happened. What was an admittedly cruel game, but one for the foolish, suddenly became completely inescapable and insurmountable. I as the player felt like giving up too, honestly. And then the worst possible thing happened. My lil’ virtual soulmate went and did what I think I probably would have done too. :’<

Course I’m not gonna tell you exactly what went down. What happens in Strawberry House stays in Strawberry House.

Just like Allie, I naively wrapped Danganronpa up thinking ‘I could totally survive that for these and these reasons’. Then Danganronpa 2 quickly jammed a stick in my spokes by giving me more and more reasons how I could easily fail, and making examples out of characters I like. Going by the “fate” part in the title, you can probably tell Gundham’s fate isn’t all rainbows and sunshines, but the slow build-up to the events is what makes this one particularly rough. There were also his hamsters, the four dark devas of destruction, and I’m just a weakling when it comes to sad animals that don’t understand. Pathos in overdrive.

Runners up: Sigma and Diana (Zero Time Dilemma), Sakura’s Letter (Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc), The original Goat Mom (Terranigma)

Most Terrifying Moment

The Nursery (ZombiU)

Ring around the cul-de-sac, a pocket full of prozac...
ZombiU is a game where the odds are already stacked against you, and losing is a normal part of the game’s design. No matter how much developers try though, sooner or later, you get used to the mechanics and gameplay loop, which undoes a large part of the tension. You need some kind of twist that makes you feel powerless in spite of all the experience you collected up to this point. I’ll let you lead for the particulars, since it’s far fresher in your memory.

Zombies are so passé. 14 year old Allie watching Day of the Dead was scared of Zombies, but 29 year old Allie is very much not. I've long since seen zombies become the new vampires and ghosts, populating children’s games and cartoons in spite of really being some of the most gruesome and adult concepts you can imagine. But whatever, society. In the first few hours my hot take on ZombiU was that it was arduous and stressful, but it had good tension.... BUT at the cost of being fun. Actually, that’s still a really good summary. It doesn’t have the mystique of a game like Amnesia: The Dark Descent. You know what Zombies are and exactly what they do and ZombiU follows the standard Zombie fiction formula and tone. But, yknow… ‘stressful’ is kiiiiiind of just a euphemism for scary, really. While most of the game was just a low level atmospheric hassle, and hella predictable, there was actually one distinct bit that fucked me right up anyway. 

Uh, ~spoiler warning~ if you’re a bad enough dude that you think you’ll play this some day, just skip to the next category.

So I have to go and get something from inside an abandoned children’s nursery. ‘GEE’, I exclaim, ‘I WONDER IF THERE’LL BE IRONIC LULLABY MUSIC AND CHILDREN'S LAUGHTER AND MAYBE A TOY CLOWN SOMEWHERE’. (Yes there were all those cliches) I scoffed at it all, but I also knew that that it was an awfully quiet section, as if they were gonna pull out the stops and try to do me the real big scare. It’d just be a bunch of zombies though, maybe baby zombies. I just need to get in and get out of a small building OH CHRIST fine the floor collapsed under me and the lights went out now I don’t know where the exist is, that’s NOT REALLY IDEAL SINCE I WAS PLANNING TO NOT DIE HERE. And then the game pulled some brand new shit. A ghost zombie. A zombie ghost where the bullets didn’t shoot the zombie. and it teleports. THAT’S FUCKING CHEATING. EXTREMELY NOT COOL, GAME. I DID NOT SIGN UP FOR THIS. So yeah, I begrudgingly admit that ZombiU is actually a pretty scary game.

Runners up: Nagito, your friendly neighbourhood anarchist. (Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair), The Shower Room (Zero Time Dilemma)

Deja Vu Award for Ballsiest Ripoffs

No Man’s Sky was honestly just hoping you weren’t going to notice all the stuff they lied about.

Deja vu indeed.
I was never really all that sold on No Man’s Sky to begin with. Granted, I’m an OLD LADY gamer now, but does anyone else remember the original announcement for Spore? Another game that literally promised the universe. It featured a limitless and intuitive creature designer, and then you literally evolve your sim pets from single-celled organisms all the way up to a functioning civilization, and the gameplay too would seamlessly evolve from a survival into a massively multiplayer online planetary scale… uh…. Thing. Where you do stuff. Lots of stuff. Unlimited things. It sounded crazy exciting, loads of people I knew were MAXIMUM HYPE. And… in fairness, it kind of technically delivered on the kinds of stuff it showed off, generally speaking. It had a unique character creator, it had online capabilities, it had planets that you could just… yknow.. Watch a bunch of samey procedural creatures lumber around on while you contemplate how other games had a similar gameplay system that was way more mechanically in-depth and rewarding. ...Hmm, that sounds familiar. 

There's quite a few layers to this. The first one is because of the initial reveal trailer, which showed off a far more interesting game than we got. Dishonest trailers that show off the "spirit" or "feeling" of a game are not uncommon in this industry. Both because they technically aren't illegal, but also because fans crave 'em. Much like the audience of a magic show, seance, or conservative congress, getting sold on a feeling is something people value more than being sold realities. The ripple that made No Man's Sky a lot messier than most other shady marketing however, were the interviews with the developers themselves. Descriptions of the actual game were incredibly vague for the longest time (big red flag), so gamers everywhere were stuck with the question "what do you do in No Man's Sky?". This question kept floating long enough that it became a focal point of games journalists, who ended up finally doing their job for once, and asked what you could do in it. The short of all those interviews resulted in more intentionally vague answers, with implications confirmations. Being vague became harder and harder over time as people took notice, and this resulted in some fibbing to try and keep all the passengers on the hype train. Sadly for them, several of the ones with fibs were video ones. Once the game came out, people noticed tons of stuff was missing, and the illusion of a near-finite amount of unique planets, fauna and flora was shattered within a handful of planets. Once the dam broke, people were actively looking for all the stuff that wasn't there. Ironically enough, this quest to unearth more lies ended up being the most gameplay this game would end up offering the consumers. With the game's facades unravelled, this revolutionary game was just a big empty field of nothings. To make things even worse, the game's entire point was to find the mystery of the centre of the universe. This was the one goal the game had, and was supposed to be a goal that every player would work towards together. Since the universe actually had 18 quintillion planets in it, this goal to find what was in the centre was the last stand for the remaining true believers. Spoiler alert, the centre of the universe contains a warp that sends you all the way back to the edge on a random planet, so you can do it all over again. A fitting anti-climax to an anti-climax of a project.

So are the consumers, carried away by their own overzealous interpretations of a game’s trailer, to blame for their own disappointment? 


Eh. A little bit. 

18 quintillion little bits 

But not entirely. And definitely not when the marketing STRAIGHT UP LIED.

Runners up: Overwatch and Paladins, Giana Sisters DS

Bognor Award for Exemplary Fucking-Shit-Up-itude

The Batter is here to shut everything down. (OFF)

Awh, he looks so pleased with himself though.
The Batter isn’t a very multifaceted man. He has a bat, and he fully intends to use it. Uncaring and straight-forward, he ...ahem “purifies” anything in his path.

Yeah there’s something pretty Bognor about a lone self-assured no-nonsense humanoid with a baseball bat. And systematically destroying a whole plane of existence, entity by entity? Really, in terms of fucking-shit-up-itude, I’m not sure where you go from that. Well, okay, that probably wouldn’t be the first or last destroyer of worlds nominated for this category. But there’s something about the bleakness of this game that, by its conclusions (don’t forget to save, multiple endings!) you may feel like it ate a tiny piece of your soul.

Runners up: Sigma Klim has the most Fucked Up Shit Life (Zero Time Dilemma), Nagito Komaeda is the Ultimate Lucky Student (Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair)

Bonus statistic: Number of times video games broke Allie’s heart into tiny little pieces this year: 14 (good thing I stocked up!)

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