Sunday, 14 January 2018

2017: An Amazing Year of Great Games We Didn't Play

It’s 2018! Trump isn’t dead just yet, western cinema is poised to ruin Akira, and everyone’s still wearing their pockets the right way round like squares. 2017 was a fantastic year for games, shame Allie and Tobi didn’t puhhhh-lay any of them. Instead we’re going to do awards for the games that we, personally, did pick up at some point during 2017.

Best Character

Adelbert Steiner (Final Fantasy IX)

Yes, you!! The chrome teapot with the eyeliner!
It was hard to pick a single character out of the whole playable cast of FFIX, because they’re all such a charming and fun lot. Even Zidane, who’s the token terminally uninvested roguish romantic that every FF game must have by law, has redeemable qualities (he’s the one character that regularly checks up on the feelings of other party members!) Anyway, this one’s for mah boi Steiner because he’s fucking hilarious and I love him. Steiner is the captain of the royal guard, whose authority has been completely undermined by a new and shinier militia. He’s robotically stubborn and judgemental, making him a great (tin) foil (heheh) to really everyone else in the party. Steiner can often be seen doing other people’s jobs whenever he sees something that needs doing, and wringing his hands impotently as the rest of the party make decisions he disagrees with. The simple but effective characterization in this game through animations and miniature cutscenes really pays off in this game as it just makes me smile a lot.

Steiner is basically Fantasy Seymour Skinner. He has his little place in the world, and takes great pride in it. He doesn’t get a whole lot of respect, but he’s a principled man with a strong sense of duty, and his entire arc is about what happens when this duty conflicts with his principles. He changes and grows quite a lot throughout the course of his arc, which is always a good sign of a strong character. Like Allie said, his demeanour plays off really well off the pragmatism and easy-going attitudes of the rest of the cast. His characterisation doesn’t just inform his own character, but quite a lot of other characters and parts of the world. In spite of being one of the more vocal characters in the game, he also displays a lot of non-verbal communication. Just a lot of good stuff.

Runners up: Kaine (NieR), Vivi (Final Fantasy IX)

Worst Character

Dante (DmC: Devil May Cry)

I know, he's flipping the bird yet I still can't relate to him.
There hasn’t been a more controversial character redesign in recent history than Ninja Theory’s interpretation of Devil May Cry’s Dante. Some might dismiss the criticism as folks being upset that he doesn’t look like the original Dante, but that’s not the heart of the issue by a long shot. Even when judging this character as a completely new character from an entirely new IP, the new incarnation of Dante would have easily earned this top spot all on its own. If you want the short version of the characterisation, he’s essentially a brattier, more immature version of a sitcom or movie bully, put in an adolescent hunky body. Think a modernised Gaston, but with tourettes. The overall issue isn’t just that he’s irredeemably unlikeable though. A large part of what makes him insufferable is that the game’s presentation keeps lingering on his shitty behaviour so you can take in how “cool” the creators think he is. He unfortunately just isn’t, and all he does is make me miss the fun Uncle Dante incarnation from prior games.

DmC’s Dante never fails to rub me the wrong way too. I think even if I was 10 year old I’d still be calling him an annoying shitkid. The now infamous ‘fuck you!’ boss fight scene is a perfect example of what bothers me, I just feel like they were doing that safe bet thing of ‘ITS IRONIC IF YOU WANT IT TO BE’ humour to get people to rally to defend it because if you full-body cringed listening to the dialogue in the game it’s because you just didn’t ~get it~ or something. He is angry and he hates fun and thinks old Dante was too camp and goofy (But later his design purposefully emulates the old Dante design so uh.. ok). He has zero wit. He sounds like he’s not old enough to buy a beer but he gets his kit off a lot so I think he’s supposed to appeal to ephebophiles who like the late punk/early grunge aesthetic from 20 years ago? Swing and a miss.

Runners up: Chris Redfield (Resident Evil 6), Pop & Fizz (Chibi Robo: Park Patrol)

Best Soundtrack


While Tobi played NieR Automata this year, I was a step behind and picked up the original NieR instead. This soundtrack didn’t really get it’s dues in the year Tobi played it since we were both busy admiring Xenoblade Chronicles, but I’ve been listening to this soundtrack for the last few years because it’s one of best soundtracks in gaming history. Hearing it in the game has only given me a greater appreciation for the songs as I remember all the accompanying context and imagery. City of Commerce takes me back to the peaceful sunny coastal town, Shadowlord gives me chills as I recall the rushing swell timed with the initiating fight, and Kaine’s theme makes me do 1 cris every tim. The soundtrack is a great balance of mystical and melancholic yet boisterous and melodic and I never seem to get tired of it.

I’m generally not one to hype up soundtracks with vocals, but they certainly add a lot to NieR’s. One way it capitalises on their inclusion is how the songs feature different languages. The composers thought this would make areas feel distinct, and they were right on the money. For the more mythical sounding pieces, they even made up a language of their own based on all major world languages, giving it a Tower Of Babel-esque feel. The creators admitted that game was made to fit the soundtrack, rather than the other way around, which is pretty unusual for game development. I can’t say it didn’t help though. This soundtrack is cohesive, powerful and absolutely incredible. It wasn’t just one of the better soundtracks we heard of the year, but I’d put it in my all-time greats list.

Runners up: Final Fantasy IX, VA-11 Hall-A, Splatoon 2

Best Art Direction

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Deactivated robot is watching you skinny dip.
I don’t often get impressed by how a game looks, but sometimes an aesthetic just comes together so perfectly that you just can’t help but be in awe. Breath of the Wild is far from the most technically impressive or creative looking game, but that’s not what it intends to be. What it set out, was to basically let you be absorbed in a world that looks and feels like a Ghibli movie. This is something other games have attempted, sometimes even in collaboration with the actual Studio Ghibli, but this was the first time I feel like it was actually achieved. The vistas are all nice and all, but I think the real highlights are the settlements and people. Everything and everyone feels alive. The places look lived in, the people have quite a range of diversity to them, and everything just feels immensely cohesive.

Back in 2011 a certain wii game called Xenoblade Chronicles impressed the heck out of me by having huge sprawling areas so densely packed with landmarks and immersive weather effects that I felt the bar had been raised for that whole sort of genre for years to come. Monolithsoft’s tech and design sensibilities can be seen in BotW, but now with unprecedented levels of polish and quality. BotW’s crisp and somewhat uniform art style is not only cohesive, but it’s intuitive. You can immediately guess at the nature of the interactive objects by looking at them: round boulders will roll, glowing shrines will light up at night, wooded objects will burn. You can also read body language to tell if Link is too cold or tired. It’s a perfect balance of pretty and practical.

Runners up: Dillon's Rolling Western: The Last Ranger, Final Fantasy IX, Shovel Knight

Ugliest Art Direction

Word Rescue

Russian Architecture strikes again.
Yes, that’s right, I played an old Apogee educational game for 5 year olds this year. Look, my Steam Library is my to-play list, no exceptions! I think Word Rescue thought could get away with a ‘naive’ approach to its art because for some reason everyone thinks kids like things that look like they were made by other kids. But when it comes to making a game, you kind of need to have some standards or the playability will suffer. If you can’t immediately tell what parts of the level would and wouldn’t have collision, for example, that’s kind of an issue. Shout out to the WoC playable character tho who gets replaced in the sequel while they kept that donald trump looking boy option i just noticed that what the fuck.

Excuse me, Al. I think you made some kind of mistake here. You accidentally added a screenshot of an ugly early 80s game, while Google says Word Rescue came out in the same year as Sonic 2, Turtles in Time and A Link to the Past. That can’t be right. It’s an oversaturated, sewage-looking colour palette with nasty dithering all over the place. Sometimes things have outlines, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes things are shaded or textures, sometimes things are just flat. The only consistency is that it’s ugly from start to finish.

Runners up: Glittermitten Grove, Hard Reset, Heroes of the Storm

Best Story


He has a precious happy child! What could go wrong?
NieR is… not an easy game to recommend. It’s got a lot of huge flaws in the overall gameflow that just make it kind of an arduous chore to play through at times. The repetition is a huge issue. But if there’s one thing I can’t fault, that’s the emotional resonance and storytelling qualities of the game. There’s heartbreaking moments, more heartbreaking moments and uh… some heartbreak. From the very second you start the game, you’re confronted with some surly, obnoxious, miserable characters. But over a bit of time and exposition, I was surprised at how much I loved the snarky voice acting and how I ended up wanting to protect everyone so much. I didn’t always know what to expect, there’s a lot of surreal elements and stuff I expected to amount to something that didn’t… But the true ending’s finale is legendary and the more I thought about it the more I love it. I remember just whispering ‘fuck it’, slamming the X button watching the credits with unease, rebellious pride and desperate hope for a feeling of satisfaction. And though for no grand happy conclusion or tangible gameplay reward, satisfied I was.

The story for me works on a lot of simpler levels. NieR is emotionally manipulative and mean, constantly trying to push my buttons and make me feel shitty, and constantly succeeding. Even when I’m fully aware of what it’s doing, I still fall for its traps. Narratively speaking, it’s the type of story where things are bad, and you want to help, but the more you try to help, the worse things get. One of its big features though is that it humanises its enemies, and I’m absolutely a sucker for that stuff. NieR does a lot of interesting things with expectations, perspectives, and the inability to communicate. It’s just shame the barrier of entry is so steep to get there.

Runners up: Shovel Knight, Killer 7, NieR Automata

Best Original Game Concept


Luckily, food hygiene standards are not a factor in scoring.
Confession time! I really enjoy games like Diner Dash and its ilk. Not sure what you’d call this genre, but if I had to slap a name on it, I’d say “service-industry time-trials”. The game slowly trickles a list of things to do on the screen, and you try to stay on top of things so you don’t fall behind. Good foundation, but the genre hasn’t really evolved much since its conception. Luckily here’s Overcooked to save the day. It thought to really dial the stage hazards to 11, and injected co-op into the experience. They didn’t just make it so a second player was around to make things easier, but they specifically made sure that cooperation between players was mandatory.

The genre is called ‘Time Management’ u noob. Do u even serve? Like Tobi says though, this game reinvented the kitchen-based sim genre into a communication driven party action strategy. What I really like about Overcooked is that every level is a unique puzzle. So few strategy games really manage to achieve an addictive formula that still demands you change your approach to completing an objective, rather than letting you find a technique for efficiency that works for you and repeating it ad nauseum. In Overcooked, the level-specific hazards are the main feature and the repeat mechanics work around them. And it’s really super fun so there.

Runners up: Magicka, Westerado, Pony Island

Funniest Dialogue

Final Fantasy IX

Hehhh poop. I hope I didn't oversell this.
Final Fantasy sure has come a long way by this point. From having some baffling localisations where items and spells were limited to 4 letter words (do you wanna cast BRAK, AFIR OR HRM2?) to the most prestigious award in all of literature: making Allie and Tobi do a chuckle or two. Still, while FF9 has the luxury of a big boy vocabulary, it’s the appropriately otherworldly bluntness that makes me laugh the most. Like Quina ignoring everyone and announcing their intention to just go eat an NPC, or Steiner getting so mad at someone for putting other’s lives at risk that he’s just like MURDER: Y/N?

The whole game plays out like theatre, everyone's a little bit dramatic and everything is carefully placed for good scene composition and pratfalls. There’s always tension in the party, but in a fun way where you anticipate shenanigans, and not a tiresome way where everyone snarks and you anticipate a hastily written third act where they suddenly decide they like each other for no apparent reason.

I think the comparison to a theatre production is a very apt one. The game kind of primes you for such a mood by setting several of the cast as members of a theatre troupe, and this penchant for the dramatic and theatrical kind of sets the tone. Characters have strongly personalities and they cause a lot of friction amongst each other, and with all the things they see and come across. A lot of the comedy is really cheesy, but it contributes to a jolly, pleasant mood. One of my favourite characters for this type of thing is the really one-track-minded Qu called Quina. They grew up a little sheltered from the rest of the world, and doesn’t fully grasp social norms beyond the culinary arts. Their silly observations, pragmatism, and simplified outlook on life is infinitely charming to me. Quina is probably the most realistic depiction of what it would be like if you could communicate with an animal, in all of its disappointing glory, and I love every second of it.

Runners up: Killer 7, Dark Souls, VA-11 Hall-A

Biggest Surprise

Dillon's Rolling Western: The Last Ranger

Is that... *squints* Mighty the Armadillo?
Tower Defence games had its time in the spotlight for a while. They were never really elevated above simple time wasters however. You just didn’t really care all that much beyond the mechanical layer of the game. Dillon’s Rolling Western tried to address that by injecting personality into the style and presentation of the game, and giving you direct control over a character to add a more action-focused layer on the the whole thing.

I think what impressed me about this game was just the general quality of it. My expectations were super low, I think I got this game with some of those old Nintendo club stars and it was just sorta there in my downloads for a while. It’s hard to recommend because it’s such a high stress, unforgiving game that can feel devastating when you’ve invested 30 mins of nonstop action perfection only to insta-fail the mission with a simple mistake. But the visuals, the design, the combat, the ideas, and even the character writing were all like weirdly good for a downloadable game nobody’s ever told me anything about. Maybe this game will get the recognition it deserves on a Switch sequel, or even, god forbid,

Runners up: Chibi Robo: Park Patrol, Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle

Biggest Disappointment

Secret of Mana

It's not a slime! It's a rabbit! ....slime.
This game I always considered to be in the ‘holy trinity’ of great sci-fantasy SNES RPG’s everyone talks about alongside FFVI and Chrono Trigger. I’d always been meaning to play it, given the reputation I seem to have absorbed from gaming culture, generally. The Ghibli-evocative intro screen certainly looks the part, and it boasts an actual multiplayer co-operative experience! Impressive. Or it might be, if the combat wasn’t awful. I thought our setup must have been busted, as the hits seem to register a solid second after you hit a creature but Tobi assured me that he’d experienced the same thing on the original SNES hardware. Still, the real nail in the coffin for me was when we started getting to the dungeons. There are identical dead end rooms all over the game, and no loot. No reward for exploration. To be frank, these dungeons did not have level design. Furthermore, there were no other real redeeming qualities that make up for it. The plot was about the same as NES era final fantasy games, the systems were grindy… I just don’t know what people really saw in the game. If there’s a holy trinity, Terranigma or Earthbound are far, far, far more deserving.

Pretty much. I think Secret of Mana gets a lot of props for being a co-op RPG, and it does what it says on the box in that regard. Unfortunately it feels like this game is riddled with issues, both on a design and technical level. Like Al said, the game often needs to catch up on what actually happened full seconds after the fact, and it just feels bad every time. Even if there were no computational lag or glitches, the game’s design just feels pretty shallow. For me the worst parts of the game were during boss fights. Most of them spam magic attacks, which have a 100% hit rate, no matter where you are or what you’re doing. If you’re unlucky, your enemies can trap you or your party in a hit-stun loop of where there is no escape. The game also really wants you to stay on top of your levelling, because falling behind even a little bit makes you do next to no-damage, while you take absurd amounts yourself. I liked the music and some of the aesthetic, but the game just was not all that fun for me. I’m not going to pretend it’s the worst game in the world, but I’m not going to pretend it holds up in 2017 either.

Runners up: Police Quest, Magicka

Usual Suspects Award of Most Time Wasted

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Run! Run from those adult responsibilities!
As someone that doesn’t like open worlds, exploring, or emergent gameplay, I didn’t think I was going to put a whole lot of time into it. I was surprised to see how long the game had its grip on me. The game does an excellent job at giving you short-term goals. Things like peppering points of interest across any direction of the map go a long way, but the cycle of climbing things and gliding off them really transformed how I saw and interacted with an open world game.

Yeah, I sunk over 200 hours into this baby. I decided I wanted to get all 120 shrines before I went for the finale, and the best part is that 119 shrines in I still felt like I was discovering exciting new areas I couldn’t believe I’d missed!

Runners up: Overwatch, Pokemon Sun/Moon, Pokemon GO

GAME OF THE YEAR (released in 2017)

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

4 great ways to wear clothes without actually wearing clothes.
I… really didn’t play a lot of new games this year. There were so many exciting new things getting rave reviews, but I am a stubborn lil’ Aller and when I said I was going to focus on my games backlog a bit more, I meant it! No regrets. But still, I made time for SOME new things this year, and Zelda was one of them. Which was a savvy choice, because by the sounds of it, it probably actually was one of the best games that came out this year, and that’s saying something! This game excels in pretty much every avenue. Charming world, emotional narrative, beautiful direction, and satisfying gameplay. Gold stars for days.

I’m a difficult person. I know this. I also don’t like it when you take something I’m fond of, and talk about how you want to turn it into something I typically don’t enjoy. Open worlds with a lessened emphasis on big puzzle dungeons and getting items? Yuck! Sounded like the polar opposite direction of what I’d want. Glad to admit I was wrong on this one. Everything just sort of clicked with me. I was fully absorbed and had some of my nicest moments all year in this game. Not sure if I want the next Zelda to be like this, but I’ll definitely be paying attention after they’ve proven what they can do with this sort of stuff.

Runners up: Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove, NieR Automata, 

DINOSAUR OF THE YEAR (released before 2006)

Final Fantasy IX

:'x precious
What can I say? I adore the vibes and characterisation in this self-professed love letter to the entire franchise. Its aesthetic and character design is still some of my favourite to this day, with its more whimsical, fairy-tale look and feel. Your party is made up of distinct characters with their own classes and roles, and all have different philosophical outlooks on life. I love how the characters interact with each other, and not just the events surrounding them, and quite a lot of the story is shown, rather than told. Things that JRPGs don’t always have the best track record in. To me it just really embodies the “fantasy” part of Final Fantasy.

I’m actually not quite finished with this game at the time of writing this review, but so far it’s been one of the easiest of the FF series to just really get stuck into. It’s immediately exciting and cinematic to start, and then as has kind of already been evident, the plentiful character interactions are just always a treat. The story is surprisingly thoughtful, with an emphasis on personal stakes and conflicts for each character instead of a simple villain and hero with their respective groupies, making it feel a bit more like a D&D campaign. The combat system this time around is nothing to write home about, but it sticks with a solid character-class party system similar to FFVI, with some passive abilities you can get from weapons like a better version of the materia from FFVII.

Runners up: King's Quest IV, Killer 7, The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages

Craziest Amateur Game

Pony Island

Nothing ominous here, it's fine.
I’m gonna get fatigue pretty soon on indie games that break the 4th wall i’m sure. But until then, Pony Island was a good ride! Obviously the less you know about it the better, but you can beat it in a weekend or less. It’s a good little lesson in logic puzzles too, so I guess it has educational value.

Yeah, it’s not easy to really talk about its worth and cool bits without giving it away. Let’s just say it’s a game about games and the creator behind it. I’m already kind of a sucker for meta stuff like that and this one in particular is cute and interesting. If you have the chance and an hour or two to kill, maybe give it a go. 

Runners up: Getting Over It with Bennet Foddy, VA-11 Hall-A

Citizen's A-Vest Award for Egregrious Fashion Transgressions

Dr. Puzz (Yooka-Laylee)

So like... did the fish cut her hair?
I don’t know how to say this politely, but I don’t really think they tried very hard here. First of all, Dr Puzz is the most humanoid looking original character in the game. Everyone else is a lot more animal-esque, and so she stands out like a sore thumb. I hate her beanie-looking bowl-cut hair, I hate her Battle Angel Alita Western CG Anime eyes, I hate how she has two styles of tentacles. I hate how those tentacles forced the design to leave the bottom of the upside down fishbowl open, making it so water would surely fall out. It’s an annoying and ugly design. When I saw her concept art looking like a child’s drawing, I just assumed I was perhaps being too harsh and this was simply made by a developer’s talentless, bad child. But no, it was an embarrassment by a professional grown-ass illustrator. The sad reality is that they probably just saw an opportunity for a pun, and desperately wanted to jump on it.

What have we got here? I normally am if anything a little too generous towards styles involving labcoats, but nothing about this whole look works. First of all, people had the audacity to complain about the haircut on Pearl from Splatoon 2, but THAT is how you make a bold but cute haircut evocative of a sea creature. This ones a mess. The colour choices are a mess. The skull shirt, is she a bit punk rock? Nothing else in the design follows through with that thought. And just... the execution, this looks like those early 3D advert mascots you used to see in the early 00’s. Someone didn’t know how to model humans. There’s no character designs I really am fond of in Yooka-Laylee, but this one I just don’t understand what happened honestly.

Runners up: Dust (Dust: An Elysian Tail), E.T.C. (Heroes of the Storm), Camilla (Fire Emblem Fates)

Maximum Swaggage Award for Best Dressed Bae

Freya Crescent (Final Fantasy IX)

Little Red Riding Hood, what big ears you have!
Oh that’s right keen observers, it’s a new category! Since we complain about bad outfits each year, we’ve decided to bring the universe back into balance by celebrating some razor sharp outfits. I seemed to have a bit of a thing for raincoats and ponchos this year, I guess they’re a good look for lil wee animal mans. Freya has just the best look though. Everything compliments her shape. She looks like a big badass cone with a winged hat and matching winged poking stick. She’s even got so much attention to detail, with some nice leather leg warmers and a little bow on her tail. She looks swift and deadly. And adorable, aww.

Absolutely. I also love how her outfit says a lot about who she is and where she’s from. She’s a dragoon knight from the kingdom of Burmecia. If you take a close look at her Snufkin hat, you’ll notice it almost has a visor on it like a knight’s helmet. But also that this piece of hat is also shaped like a dragon a little bit. The whole raincoat and hat look also makes amazing sense when you actually go visit Burmecia, which is a kingdom of perpetual rain. Freya’s pretty great in general, and she’s more than worthy of the honour to receive our new category’s accolade.

Runners up: Nomad (Dillon's Rolling Western: The Last Ranger), Min Min (Arms), Wedding Bowser (Super Mario Odyssey)

Headache of the Year

Payday 2

How it feels to play.
Tobi and I thought we’d give Payday 2 a try. Kinda helped that it was really cheap, but also it seemed to have a reputation for crazy cooperative action. I’d been warned that it’s kind of difficult and overwhelming and yikes, they’re not wrong. We failed stealth missions repeatedly, and winged it through non-stealth missions because I guess it’s impossible to fail those or something. Even though we started getting the hang of some of the missions, they were just painful from start to finish. We’d honestly just want to try and stealth a mission, but there’s just NPCs and shit everywhere, too much information, and then the shootouts are just a constant unending assault of boring NPCs while you wait like a solid 10 irl minutes for a drill or whatever. I felt like I really wanted to give this game a fair try, but when Tobi said he’d had enough already, I was kind of relieved to be honest.

When I’d say I had enough, I meant it in a physical sense. Payday often would devolve into this cacophony of sirens, gunfire, screams, drilling noises, and explosions, and I’m just not equipped to deal with that stuff. I tried playing with the sound off for most missions eventually, but it just made an already rough game even harder. It being first person with weird FOV stuff and full-screen warping effects did not help either. I would end almost every session we tried with a banging headache that would last me the entire evening. I spent just as much time in the menu trying to tweak the game into being something more tolerable, but in the end, it wasn’t meant to be. Not sure if I’d have liked it more if it didn’t make me ill though.

Runners up: Hard Reset, Secret of Mana, Commander Keen Complete

Worst Trend of the Year

"Too many good games, so little time!"

...and thats just a lil' sampler of the steam wishlist...
As a hipster and a hater, I usually pad my year with ye olde games from the days of yore, as most big releases of the year don’t speak to me. This works out great, because my backlog is already infinitely long. Sadly enough, 2017 was a naughty year. Not only did I not get a lot of opportunities to chip away at my backlog, my list of games to play increased a worrying amount. I know this is a nice problem to have, but being spoiled for choice makes it hard to decide what to do next. Nobody in the world has it worse than me.

Haha, yeah. I actually did a good job on my backlog this year, but I did also want to jump onto a lot of the new games I was excited for. But they’re all like 100 hours long as well as amazing. So I managed like…… 2? Still, I know it might seem a little miserable to call this the ‘worst’ trend, but really it’s more like it was just a glib way to call out the fact that it was a pretty awesome year, and the positive mood towards game releases kind of defined the year in gaming.

Runners up: "I hope you like loot boxes, because this is how it’s going to be now" (Added to the noms in very early 2017, and proud to see that this was a 10/10 prediction), “Lore Justifications” for sexism, racism, homophobia, microtransactions, etc

Dumbest Premise

Your dads on his deathbed: please do some chores for me, do some chores for my sworn enemy, kidnap a unicorn, swim in shark infested waters, generally almost die a lot, dig up an entire graveyard, kill a woman in her sleep, and maybe I’ll think about curing your father. (King’s Quest IV)

He'll "Get whale soon", they said.
Kinda wanted an excuse to talk about this game in general so I’m glad we got some goofy-ass (but very much deserved) award for it. I’ve been something of a mean ol’ hatebag to the Kings Quest series thus far. They’re just such a ballache to actually play, and KQIV was no exception with its crawl speed gameplay, precision death staircases and that BLOODY SHARK! Buttttt after some time, there’s just something about this game in particular that’s really grown on me. It’s got this great whimsical girly fairytale world that kicked me hard in the nostalgia, and it’s just… completely barmy. You’re this princess trying to save your father, and some supposedly benevolent fairy just comes to you and makes you do some completely weird shit. I think the game sets out to teach young gamers about social responsibility and kindness, but then you also technically end up doing a lot of stealing, kidnapping and well, murder tbh. Being pure of heart sure meant something different back in those days.

Pretty much nailed it for me. I don’t really care about the unforgiving and unfair game design of the King’s Quest series, but I can’t help but respect their ideas. I like fairy tales already, so seeing a series use that as its foundation is a lot of fun. KQ4 in particular is a weird one because in spite of using these stories that teach morals, it has some pretty warped lessons of its own.

Runners up: Monsters have TAKEN OUR LANGUAGE (Word Rescue), This is it. This is how the world ends. Not with a bang, but with spaghetti and meatballs. (Overcooked!)

Words & Deeds Award for Most Awkward Moment

You recieve a bag of human faeces (The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages)

That's also really not how you use a toilet but ok.

I really like trade quests in Zelda games. They’re like little puzzles that involve talking to NPCs, and remembering their quirks and needs. In Oracle of Ages, at one point you help a postman, and he gives you some heart-themed stationary as a token of his gratitude. Fast-forward a few hours, and stumble on a small room with a hole in the floor.

I believe the game refers to the object as ‘stink bag’. But if you’re following the events, you know exactly what’s up. There’s something poetic about this in my deranged opinion. All the Zelda games make you do these elaborate trade quests for really just the most quirky and oddly specific things. They’re always trying to make them memorable I guess, but in reality it doesn’t matter what the actual items are because they’re always just gonna write in some weird scenario in which they’re needed, you pass it on, get another item and continue. Here, take this bag of shit. We’ll never speak of this again.

Runners up: Avoiding a path because a player-created message warned of danger, only to realise that path contained a safe bonfire (Dark Souls), All of Resident Evil 6

Most Tears Shed

Campfires (Shovel Knight: Shovel of Hope)

Curses. I forgot the marshmallows...
Shovel Knight and Shield Knight are the #1 best love story in all if video games. Is there canonically anything more romantic than going on exciting adventures with your partner, trusting their independence, depending on their skills, judging their values, and occasionally chuckling as they get eaten by a mimic? In just 2 frames, Shovel Knight tells me why I should be ALL IN for this spicy hot couple. And then he loses her. Each time you make camp at the end of the level, you dream of rescuing her. And then you wake up alone.

It’s pretty sad each time it happens. The camp fires are supposed to bring you some room to breathe and relax after big battles, but these haunting dreams really rob you of that sense of relief. The whole thing foreshadows things pretty well though. They’re symbolic for what happened to Shield Knight, and sets up expectations for the game to subvert. Lastly, the campfire also beautifully returns at the very end of the game after the credits, to give us closure. 

Runners up: The enemy's side of the story (NieR), Marionette (Dragon Quest IX)

Most Terrifying Moment

Collecting electric arrows on top of the mountain / Lynels in general (Breath of the Wild)

I...i want to brush him..
On your quest to help the Zoras, a race of mermen-esque fish people, characters at one point will advise you to stock up on electric arrows. Seemed like a good idea, so I eagerly travelled to the place they said they’d be. A short journey later, I stumbled on the reason why they don’t have a bunch lying around. These things are the property of a colossal centaur boy with a bad temper. When I was asked to go there, I was nowhere near ready to take one of those guys on, so I had to sneak around and pick up the arrows it left behind from its previous battles. These things have exceptional awareness however, so if it even catches a glimpse of you, it goes on high alert and is ready to tear me to shreds. As someone whose situation awareness is bad in real life and worse in games, I was not having a jolly old time.

We played some actually scary games this year, but I just can’t get the glory and terror of the Lynel’s visage out of my head. You think ok, he looks tough, but he’s probably slow. Ok he’s fast and ferocious but I can probably take pot shots at him from a distance? Let me know how that worked out for ya. Lynels were notably hardy late-game enemies in the old Zelda games, but this latest incarnation really did them justice. There are no other enemies to dread being spotted by in BotW quite like these centauric sentinels.

Runners up: The state of Leonard (NightCry), Driving at night (Deadly Premonition)

Deja Vu Award for Ballsiest Ripoffs

Hero Mission is a Chinese Overwatch ripoff

Cheers, guv! The backup's arrived!
Sure there were a lot of other Hero Shooters that borrowed heavily from each other in the aftermath of Overwatch (and Battleborn and Paladins, I guess) which in turn borrowed from Team Fortress 2. But Hero Mission just makes me laugh out loud. The classes and designs are like PRETTY OBVIOUSLY lifted from Overwatch but in the most unexpected ways. Winston is a panda. Roadhog is BLATANTLY the villain from Mad Max Fury Road. D.VA is a sexy schoolgirl with neko ears. Mercy is just Mercy but with no pants on. McCree grew some nice bewbs. And Tracer is……… FUCKING SEPHIROTH!?!?!

Hero Mission is the video game equivalent of copying someone’s homework and changing some words here and there. It isn’t satisfied enough by just ripping off Overwatch wholesale. The alternate outfits contain things like Po from Kung Fu Panda, John Rambo, Ezio Auditore, Raiden, Finn from Star Wars, and yes, just straight up actual Sephiroth.

Runners up: Fortnite feels inspired by a dream it totally had or something and adds a BATTLE ROYALE mode, will be among the first of many.

Bognor Award for Exemplary Fucking-Shit-Up-itude

Ornstein and Smough (Dark Souls)

You said you were gonna bring the reasonably sized hammer!
What the dip, Al? They stole our thing. This is basically our self-congratulatory award where we talk about how a video game made us feel like a badass, but From Software meta-gamed the system. They made a duo of thicc, jangly Hammerbro tank and fursuit-wearing baron von Swiftenstabs. They’re a force to be reckoned with, and kind of annoying to deal with. They also go super saiyan when the other falls in battle. Basically stealing all our moves to the letter. Can we sue?

Pssh I defeated them on my THIRD TRY. Gti Gdu, scriblorb. I’d like to thank my sponsor, Havel ‘The Rock’ Johnson for lending me his stupid good armour which really got me through. I’m not sure if I prefer the scenario where I’m the moobs machine or solid gold Starfox in this relationship, but sure I feel you. They’re a great formula for a dynamic duo, and I see why they gained such notoriety. Also, RESPLENDENT much?

Runners up: Mask De Smith (Killer 7), Grocks (Dillon's Rolling Western: The Last Ranger)

So now that 2017 is over? What's in store for 2018? Ah, who cares, I've got sooooooo much catching up to do. ;_;

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