That’s a wrap on 2019, the year where I barely played Steam games in favor of itch, the year that Switch eShop discounts started getting amazing, and also a year where I graduated and moved away from my student house. Oh, and I also made a bunch of smaller games, while wrapping up Fake Illusions. Whew!
Here are some games I liked. Like last year, I just played these games this year, since I don’t really care about their original release date. The order of games is also pretty much “in the order I can think of them”, so take it with a grain of salt. Maybe two.
This game released on the same day as Untitled Goose Game on the Switch, and as such I was sent into doubt about which game to play first. Untitled Goose Game won that day, but this game kept lingering in the back of my mind. I beat the entirety of the game in one day (which is probably the best way to beat this game), and the music and graphics really evoked an emotion of flow in me that’s normally only reserved for rhythm games like Rhythm Paradise. Getting gold medals in the game is kind of awkward (because of how the scoring system was designed) but was ultimately very rewarding. The Zodiac Riddles create a very interesting reward system, and it further underlines the mystery beneath the game.
It’s artsy, wonderful, and also very metaphorical. It does everything it needs to do quite well, and some of the puzzles are actually pretty interesting. This is one of those rare games where exploration in itself is just incredibly rewarding on its own, you always want to see the next surprise the game will throw at you, and usually the game does that very elegantly.
I did not expect a Pokemon game to captivate me as much as this latest entry in the series, but it has clicked with me immensely well. The story is dull, but this entry finally makes the competitive aspect of Pokemon accessible enough for me to care about, after a decade (since my first Pokemon game was Diamond) of UX Design “Two steps forwards and one step back”. The connective motif of the Pokemon series is at its strongest ever, now that all multiplayer functionality is now available both locally and online, and players can cooperate in Raid battles.
I guess I got kind of burned out on puzzle games, but Baba is You really invigorated that love by making the game as much about programming as shoving blocks around. Although many of the games on this list so far have a sense of mystery surrounding them, but Baba is You does a really good job at creating that mystery on a system-scale level, where the rules of the game itself are mysterious yet brimming with potential. It does get complex really quickly and levels can be really hit-or-miss, but the game remains accessible enough for me.
Another game with very interesting system design is Dicey Dungeons, a game that I wouldn’t have expected from the Super Hexagon & VVVVVV designer as lead. Normally, I don’t have the patience for roguelikes, but this game has the wonderfully executed Episodes system that make each run different enough for me to care. It is a very refreshing take on luck and manipulating luck, filled with all kinds of silly things within.
If an Ys story starts on a boat, you already know it’s going to be the butt of a joke. It’s been a while since I played an Ys game, but I got around to picking up the latest entry. I skipped a bunch of games in the series, so I’m not sure at which point the narrative in these games became basically the same as in the Trails series (a more story-focused series of games by the same developer), but it works rather well, and for the story it didn’t matter that I missed the last couple of games. Basically the action is still really nice, and the story is just a really nice bonus for the package. It drags on a bit, but most of the really annoying stuff is optional.
Also known as Pitman, this is a really clever and elegant puzzle game, made even more impressive that it was a super early Game Boy release supporting an undo functionality and level editor. Some of the 100 puzzle rooms are kinda redundant, but across the board the puzzle quality is actually pretty impressive. I read about this in the Game Boy Works book and was intrigued enough to pick it up for €3 on the 3DS eShop, and was pleasantly suprised.
I had missed out on this cult classic before because it never made its way to Nintendo platforms, but I’m happy to have experienced it. It’s silly, charming, and all with a very morale underneath: Earth has too much stuff. My housemates did compain that the game was too noisy, which is also a good way to describe this game as a positive thing.
I’ve made over 60 courses, starting by doing the 4‑step level design that originated in the 3D Land and World games, and made a whole range of levels, from puzzles to autoscrollers and beanstalks to undergrounds. My favorite is a series of ten levels where you need to gather 999 coins within 60 minutes, which were both a blast to design and to play. Online can be a bit of a mixed bag sometimes, but just making levels already puts me in a state of flow that little games achieve for me nowadays.
The most thinky narrative game I’ve seen so far. The basic premise of the game is that you receive multiple letters from humans, and then you change the outcome of the scenario described in those letters by moving pieces up and down or between letters. This results in a lot of metagame as well, as only certain outcomes will unlock new letters. It can get pretty confusing and frustrating sometimes, but there’s nothing in there that can’t be solved by brute force.
A game about interpreting an old language, and all the story that surrounds it. I think this is the closest a game has come to portraying archeology… sorta accurately. It’s not exactly an Indiana Jones-style setting, but it feels much more relaxed and mysterious as you’re inside it, and all the things that can be missed while multitasking your actions. I don’t think it’s possible to play this game perfectly, which really sets the tone and game feel. I still think about the unanswered questions from the plot sometimes.
I ended up finishing this list a few months into 2020, so these are all the games that sticked with me. Thanks you for reading, and I am sure there will be many more games in 2020 to enjoy.