The title of this article says it all, but I would like to give credit where credit is due and say that this piece was ultimately inspired by @CoreyMotley and @StephenTotilo. Custom art by @Alex_Connolly!
JANUARY TOTAL: 25
1. Fortnite, PS4
I play Fortnite at least a couple of times a week because I am a sucker for earning new skins, and it’s consistently my top game (by hours played) on PS4. Playing weekly.
2. Marvel Puzzle Quest, Android
Same as Fortnite here, basically. I put in at least 30-60 minutes a night, so this is usually my most-played game (overall) of any year — and of my entire life! As this article goes up, I’m currently on day 2912! Playing daily.
3. Frostpunk, XBO
I don’t usually go in for sim or RTS-style titles, but I was interested in the aesthetics and the idea of surviving a frozen apocalypse. Thankfully, its scope is small and also offers the ability to pause everything at any time. With no need to scroll across large maps or to keep tabs on things happening off-screen, it was really manageable to play from a design perspective, while also still being quite difficult to succeed in. I failed the Medium campaign several times and was getting frustrated until I switched into a different mode and played on Easy. It made a world of difference and gave me the breathing room I needed to learn the systems and experiment. After that, I went through the campaign and all of the included DLC, and then got my son hooked on it as well. Finished. RECOMMENDED.
4. Baba is You, Switch
I respect the hell out of this logic-based puzzler that uses words to form statements that alter its world and rules (Baba is Wall! Door is Win!) but I found myself constantly stuck and frustrated. It was hard to grok the rules, and I guess I don’t have the kind of brain needed to make progress – I ended up going to YouTube for solutions way too often, so I didn’t see much point in continuing. It’s cool as hell, but it’s not for me. Did not finish. Deleted.
5. Code Vein, PS4
Big-titty anime vampire Dark Souls with strappy leather & buckles for visual style. The core combat was competent and it generally felt alright to play thanks to a low difficulty level compared to FromSoft’s work. The story was weightless nonsense and the campaign dragged on for far too long, though. I had a good enough time for about half of it, but it ran out of ideas long, long before the end and I bailed. Did not finish. Deleted.
6. Dandy Dungeon, Switch
It’s tough to classify this one — the premise is that a down-and-out game designer is creating a fantasy epic on his bedroom PC, but then he’s asking you, the real-life player, to test his creations. Each dungeon wants you to trace a path from a start point to an end point while touching every floor tile once, while also killing all the monsters that stand in the way. It’s cute, the levels are short, and it’s also fairly funny in a seriously otaku sort of way. There’s a little grind when it comes to collecting randomly-dropped items and money, but it hasn’t been prohibitive so far. Did not finish. Still playing.
7. Axiom Verge, Switch
It’s too much like Metroid, and I like Metroid, but Metroid is Metroid and I don’t like to play games that seem too similar to others. Did not finish. Deleted.
8. Warp Shift, Switch
A neat and simple puzzler ruined by the typical “earn three stars per level and earn stars to unlock more levels” scheme so popular in mobile games. Don’t make me try to earn stars by replaying old levels faster because I will. Not. Do. It. Did not finish. Deleted.
9. Space Pioneer, Switch
Sort of like a simplified, low-rent Helldivers, which is how it caught my attention in the first place. The graphics are cute and the play is simple, so it’s good in short bursts. Sadly, it uses the same “three stars” progression that I complained about a second ago in Warp Shift and on top of that, requires that players grind for gold to get upgrades which make getting those stars possible – it’s a good time ruined by misguided gating. But the thing that made me quit? Certain objectives that require killing X number of enemies and the enemies just stop coming. If I need to kill 80 enemies, why do they vanish when I’ve only killed 40? Don’t waste my time. Did not finish. Deleted.
10. Super Crush KO, Switch
A simple 2D beat-‘em-up action game that has a cute aesthetic but not enough meat on its bones. It’s quick and easy to play, and probably no more than two or three hours long, and I still got tired of it halfway through. Once I put it down, I had no desire to pick it back up. Did not finish. Deleted.
11. Hardcore Mecha, PS4
I watched the trailer and had zero interest, but PR had plenty of codes so I took one thinking I’d talk about it on the podcast whether it was good or bad. Once I fired it up, I was surprised at how solid it was! The art was quite good despite the fact that I’m not a fan of the semi-chibi style, there were a few little upgrade trees, and the action was satisfying enough. It won me over in just a few minutes and I was glad that I gave it a shot. Sadly, it does get a little old before the end, and the biggest downside is that the unconventional controls are really, really tough to get used to. Devs, don’t get clever – stick to established schemes unless you’ve got a REAL good reason not to, and at the very least, give us options to reconfigure. Did not finish. Deleted.
12. Witch And Hero, Switch
This is a super-simple tiny indie where a knight uses his sword and shield to kill hordes that want to destroy a witch statue he’s protecting. When he collects enough blood from felled enemies (yuck!) the statue comes to life and backs him up with magic. It’s really cute and also brainless, which makes it an easy play right before bed. However, it requires a lot of grinding for gold to advance, which is a real bumme. Clearly the devs were afraid the game would be over in 15 minutes if they didn’t add the grind, but it really drags things down with repetition. Finished.
13. Hob, Switch
I love the asymmetrical main character design and the concept of the world – the entire planet seems to be one large mechanism grown over with moss and trees, but despite the visuals, the experience just felt empty. I was unclear about who I was, what I was doing, or why. It felt like a lot of Stuff To Do, but there was no motivation. The signposting was also awful and I got stuck multiple times, just aimlessly wandering while trying to figure out where to go. I spent about two hours of going through the motions and wondering why. Did not finish. Deleted.
14. Draw Chilly, Switch
Picked this up randomly on a sale and was rewarded with intense weirdness – a very good thing! It’s a Russian (I think?) indie that has players controlling a skeleton and his crew while they ride an elevator upwards through purgatory fighting monkeys. The four horsemen of the apocalypse guest-star and it’s all vaguely tongue-in-cheek with a little fourth-wall breaking. The gameplay is dead simple, with the hero running back and forth on the elevator while whacking primates and earning cash for upgrades, but the humor and over-the-top weirdness made up for it. Finished. RECOMMENDED.
15. Picross S2, Switch
It’s Picross! Not a lot to say here, either you like it or you don’t, although this particular version has a lot of nice quality-of-life features like the game telling you right away if you make an error. I only play a level or two in bed before I fall asleep, but it’s a nice thing to wind down with. Did not finish. Still playing. RECOMMENDED.
16. Escape Goat 2, PS4
The original Escape Goat is one of my favorite puzzle-platformers, so I was stoked when EG2 came to PS4 in 2014. Unfortunately, I kept bumping it off my schedule since I wasn’t reviewing it, and then I just forgot about it after a while. I recently recalled that I never finished it (to my great shame!) so I’m going to keep chipping away. Unfortunately, it’s a really tricky game and jumping back into the middle of the campaign after not playing it for several years is rough. I don’t want to start all over though, so I may try to tough it out and keep going. Did not finish. Still playing. RECOMMENDED.
17. Peace, Death!, Switch
I enjoyed Draw Chilly so much I wanted to play more from those devs (Azamatika) and it turned out that I had already bought their previous game and already had it downloaded on my Switch! This is a totally different style of play, but it shares characters and seems to be set in the same universe. Imagine Papers, Please! in hell and you’re not too far off. It’s a little rough and the details you need to watch out for when screening people quickly add up, but I’m curious to see where it goes. Did not finish. Still Playing.
18. The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings, XB360 (via XBO BC)
I started this back when it was brand-new in 2011 but didn’t get far. Of course, Witcher 3 turned out to be one of the best games I’ve ever played, so I was motivated to go back to W2 and try again. Also, I blame @PassThemStickss for bringing it to my attention because I had forgotten all about it until I saw him tweet… Unfortunately, I’m not sure that I’m going to go the distance here. I want to engage in the story, but playing is a chore thanks to whiffy, loose combat and technical limitations. Walking around town is confusing since it’s divided up into sections so the game can load, and the use of map markers is atrocious – it seems like there are rarely any, and there are few things I like less than wandering aimlessly. Plus, one of the joys in W3 was taking in all of the sidequests, but the roughness of the experience is making me want to mainline the game and “get through it” which is not the kind of experience I was after – if I’m going to take shortcuts to finish ASAP, I might as well watch a story supercut on YouTube. Did not finish. Still playing… For now.
19: Warlocks 2: God Slayers, Switch
I had my eye on this 2D action-RPG for a while, but listening to @Onawa talk about it on @SoVideogames sold me and I pulled the trigger. The beginning is weird – it wants you to choose from five different characters but you are given NO information about them beyond their name and appearance. Once you start things are okay for a while, it’s basically simple platforming and killing enemies with levels to grind and loot to equip. However, you have to start a new campaign if you want to try another character and the combat ramps up to an unpleasant degree before long. Maybe I chose the wrong character, but how would I know? Did not finish. Deleted.
20: 7th Sector, PS4
Good man @Defunctgames had great things to say about this puzzler, so I gave it a look.Apparently it’s about a sentient spark of electricity in a dystopian future world? I dig that idea but I got stuck at a puzzle really early on and put it aside out of frustration. I contacted the developer for a solution and apparently there was an audio cue that I wasn’t hearing WHICH IS WHY AUDIO PUZZLES SHOULD HAVE VISUAL CUES TO GO WITH THEM. With his help I got past that puzzle but I was incredibly annoyed by this point, so I called it quits. Did not finish. Deleted.
21: Warhammer 40,000: Space Wolf, Switch
I’m not a huge 40K guy but I like turn-based tactics and I have enjoyed a few games in the franchise. Not this one, though. It starts off by throwing you into a battle with no lead-in and it felt clunky as hell to play. It turned me off immediately with a number of bad decisions, so I bailed. Did not finish. Deleted.
22: Coffee Talk, Switch
Coffee Talk is a cute narrative title taking place in a version of Seattle that boasts several fantasy races in addition to regular humans. In terms of structure it’s a lot like VA-11 Hall-A in that the player listens to characters unroll their stories and occasionally makes them a drink from a small selection of ingredients. However, VH had creepy sexual undertones that really put me off, but apparently didn’t bother many of the people who celebrated it. I bounced off it pretty quickly, but Coffee Talk has (thankfully) avoided that same vibe so far. I only got through the first chapter but the writing is solid and I liked putting the text on auto-scroll and just watching things play out. There were no responses to choose when it was my character’s turn to talk — a bit odd — but I’m in to see where this goes. Did not finish. Still playing.
23: Sea Salt, Switch
I originally played this in 2019 and it was a lock for my top ten, but I hit a glitch halfway through that caused a problem with the campaign progression and I couldn’t keep going. However, it’s finally been patched and I’m happy to get back to it! Imagine playing Pikmin except with Lovecraft-esque monsters ravaging a countryside on behalf of watery lord Dagon, and there you go. The abstract pixel art is fab, the level and scenario design are great and the whole things just rolls along. Mixing and matching different minions works well (get those black cats, yo!!) and the theme is a perfect fit for the material. Did not finish. Still playing. RECOMMENDED.
24: Age of Wonders: Planetfall (demo), PS4
The GC review from @OzymandiasAV had me curious about this one, although 4X-style games have never been my thing. I saw that there was a demo up on PSN, so I hopped in to check it out and confirmed that this was, indeed, not my thing. The battles were actually not too bad and played out pretty similarly to other turn-based tactics games that I’ve enjoyed in the past, but the rest of the experience left me pretty cold. The tutorials were way too wordy without showing what they were talking about, there were a jillion menus, and it felt like the devs were assuming I had enough basic 4X knowledge to get rolling, which I didn’t. I lost interest pretty quickly once I had to do things away from the battlefield and moved on. Deleted.
25: Journey to the Savage Planet, Xbox One
First-Person games aren’t really my jam but the trailer for this one caught my attention, and by the time it was available, I was in the mood for a palate cleanser. The premise is great — you’re an explorer sent to a strange planet to scan stuff and see what’s exploitable for your parent corporation, but it’s all tongue-in-cheek with more than a little black humor. The structure is simple and straightforward, and reminds me of Subnautica just a bit in the sense that you collect natural resources, bring them back to your base to craft new gear, and the gear lets you explore further. The scale of the world seems small (in a good way) and the overall scope seems pleasantly modest. I’m looking forward to seeing more of this one. Did not finish. Still playing.
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