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JMachine’s Year In Review (2019)

by on January 1, 2020
 

2019. What a year that was eh folks? I mean we had such highlights as… Well at least… Hmm… We got the Cosmic Crisp apple! That was cool right? Okay. So maybe this year had it’s fair share of hardships but it was also a real good year for gaming. A lot of cool indie games made it’s way to me as well as some surprising additions from mainstream publishers; some very unique. With that said why don’t I just cut to the chase and I’ll tell you some of my favourites of last year. Heck. Why stop there? Let’s call em the best and make a pseudo awards show of it!

Best In Development: Viola
My first first look for Game Octane was Viola: a lovely, music themed RPG with platforming baked in that is currently in early access on Steam. It had heart; it had puns; it had… Fun. Since my article the game has added more areas to explore, new characters, as well as fully fleshed out the store, world map, and fast travel aspects. This is a labor of love I can’t wait to see completed. Heck I just want another opportunity to SING Viola’s praises.

Best Puzzle Game: Dicey Dungeons 
A game that has seemingly flew under the radars, possibly from being eclipsed by the similar and popular Slay the Spire, is Dicey Dungeons (DD). What separates DD from Slay the Spire though is well… just about how everything is implemented. Instead of cards, DD uses the more RPG traditional concept of equipping attacks. Instead of a rising map with few options to change course. DD is built like a board game with relatively free movement for each floor. DD is also more light-hearted and colourful in just about every aspect; From the amazing, lively soundtrack by Chipzel, the bright and cute monster and character designs, to even the dialogue which is full of wordplay and jocularity. Also of note is DD’s accessibility. This game is far kinder to the beginner than Slay the Spire is and it also offers a puzzle aspect to challenge the more adept and learned players.
Honestly I could write on and on about how I stopped collecting cards and starting rolling dice but I got more games on the list to take care of. Of all the games here though, this is the one I enjoyed the most and is a contender for game of the year IMO.

Best Racing Game: Garfield Kart: Furious Racing (PC)
No really; Garfield kart: Furious Racing is a good game and def better than CTR to me. sure the music and level design isn’t as bright and exciting but It plays similarly, is 1/4 the price, has free online with no micro-transactions and is simply fun. Seriously. If you haven’t given GK:FR a chance yet, do it. Just be super careful and don’t buy the first game in the series (it’s cheaper and it shows)

Best Platformer: Bloodstained ROTN
This game reignited my love of the Metroidvania genre. It looks great, it has stained glass which is my fave art medium, it’s fun, and most importantly; it offers challenge when it needs to and has a good level design feel that ensures you don’t become lost and are kept on a steady flow between exploration progression and side questing. It just feels good. Iga really outdid himself with this game.

Retro: FF VIII Remake
It seems this year I only played three retro games this year and those were Spryo and Crash’s trilogies and FF VIII Remastered. Since the only game of the three I enjoyed from start to end was FF VIII, this wins my pick. (Both Spyro 3 and Crash 1 are games I did not enjoy playing for those wondering why these wonderful entries lost out to such a divisive RPG)
FF VIII Remake does so many things to help modernise the experience of the PC version: it gives native X input for controllers that just work out the gate, it has the superior PS1 OST baked in, Just about all upgraded assets are beautiful (sorry Squall; you are no longer the prettiest boy in the room), the code has been updated in a way that makes modding even easier and more capable, FREAKING FAST FORWARD FOR THE THOSE WHO LIKE TO GRIND DRAW COMMAND IN BATTLE…
Honestly this remake offers so much that i’m willing to ignore the fact vibration no longer works. it’s newfound accessibility is just that good.

Best Remake: Deadly Premonition Origins on Switch
Had to give my man SWERY the crown for best remake though. I mean It’s Deadly Premonition BUT IT PLAYS WELL! No more crying late into the night over trying to get the PC version running. No more needing to plow through the PS3 Directors cut’s “quirks” to play one of the best games of the decade. Now we can all rejoice and consume the pinnacle of modern cult classic gaming. It’s like Twin Peaks but interactive and better and nonlinear and… OMG it’s just so… GOOD. Like there’s a scene where you are chasing down clues by following a running dog and the music is just so out of place and surreal and then the action constantly gets derailed for periods where they stop running to have small talk, all while the dog keeps running off into the distance…

If you have a switch buy it! You won’t regret it. and you’ll be ready for when Deadly Premonition 2 comes out later this year.

Best RPG: Ring Fit Adventures
Ya that’s right. Despite being an RPG and a remake, FF VIII lost again. That’s not because it’s not a good game or anything. In fact; it’s my 2nd favourite RPG of all time. That accolade however falls a little flat when you have a game like Ring Fit Adventures nipping at your heels.

Okay but hear me out. Yes it’s pretty light fare for an RPG in general. The story isn’t super deep and it’s pretty much what would happen if FF XIII was your personal trainer BUT it ticks every box for an RPG: Yes the story is there. Yes you have a big bad to defeat, yes you explore various locals, you get into battles and you get experience and level up. Heck. Technically you upgrade your equipment too because the more you play the more fit you become and that means boosts in speed, strength, and defence stats as well as an increase in MP (those balls you shoot) and vitality.
That aside; Ring Fit Adventure has one more ace up it’s sleeve: It incentives physical activity. In a world where sedentary lifestyles are becoming more and more prevalent and where being active has a ever climbing price to admission, it’s nice to see an affordable, engaging way to get in shape and stay there. I mean FF VII is a great RPG but that’s about twenty hours of sitting in front of a screen hitting buttons and let’s face it: I need all the chances to get out of this chair I can get lol.

Best Social Experience: Kind Words (Lo-Fi Chill Beats to Write to)
When I first experienced Kind Words I was immediately hooked and wanted to tell everyone one about it. The only problem was it’s not technically a game. I wanted to write an article but I couldn’t find my angle and it wasn’t an easy thing to properly grade in the traditional sense. It’s essentially a social experiment by a small group of people wanting to spread positivity by pairing strangers with one another via letters anonymously. One person would ask for advice and then send it to be answered. You could also send words of encouragement in the form of paper air-planes that would fly across the screen while using the app. Lastly you could add stickers to your responses that were both collectable and used to decorate your room with actual interactive objects. All of this was done with lo-fi music playing in the background that you unlocked by coming back each day.

Kind Words gave me the most enjoyment of any program/game I had experienced this year. It improved my mood and outlook on the internet’s more social aspect and for that it was well worth it’s small price tag. It’s positive psychology personified.

So there you have it. The best games I’ve played this year all tied in a neat little bow of categories. Happy New Year everybody! With that I think I’ll retire to bed and dream of all the great games we’ll see in 2020 like Yakuza 7 and… Wait I was just given a note from the producer… WHAT DO YOU MEAN I NEED TO DO A LIST OF MY BEST OF THE DECADE!? Ya I get it but… Fine whatever. Looks like I won’t find rest yet folks. Tune in next week for my decade in review. (But in all seriousness; I’m excited to share my top picks of the twenty-teens with y’all.)

*2019 image courtey of: https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background (Created by rawpixel.com)

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