With only eight films watched this year, you might be wondering what else I possibly got up to during the year. Well, one of the distractions I provided myself was video games.
Having always played games, especially since the early 90s with the Amiga 500, and having studied to work in the games industry, video games are a big part of my life. As such, perhaps it is only fair to overview some of the games I played this year, old and new games. In no particular order!
Horizon: Zero Dawn (Playstation 4)
Post-apocalyptic, third-person action adventure. You play as Aloy in this multi-award winning game by developer Guerilla Games, as you hunt giant robotic animals using bows and arrows, traps, and stealth. The plot revolves around Aloy and her outcast upbringing, learning about the civilization that existed long ago.
It is a beautiful game, and the controls are flawless once you get used to them. Aloy is a wonderful character to follow during the story, and I was compelled to get the Platinum trophy for this game!
My only gripe towards the game is that the difficulty plateaus; you eventually earn tools (Tear Arrows, specifically) that just destroy everything in sight. But hey, even at that point, the game was still a lot of fun.
Hitman (2016) (Playstation 4)
I’ve never played the Hitman games until now, and it was mostly thanks to watching fun videos on Youtube (British channel OutsideXbox) that brought me into the fold. Since it released in 2016, I was able to play all of the episodic content immediately, and eventually got the Platinum trophy this year.
Stealth is key in this third-person game, and there is immense replay value as you learn levels, locations, and NPC movement to execute your targets without anyone knowing you were there. It is an extremely rewarding experience, and the game is not without its sense of humour to boot.
Completing more missions, achieving greater goals and challenges unlock more items, weapons, and gadgets to further improve your handling of missions. It is a wonderfully concise and impecably implemented game.
I am currently playing Hitman 2, and look forward to Hitman 3 this year!
Super Metroid (Nintendo Switch)
That is correct, I had not played Super Metroid until this year.
As someone who has not played any Metroid games outside of the Prime trilogy, and as someone who hasn’t played a single Castlevania game… playing Super Metroid was a very new experience to me.
The game originally released in 1994, and is heavily inspired by Ridley Scott’s Alien. You play as Samus Aran, and it is in fact a second sequel in the Metroid series.
As a side-scrolling puzzle/shooter, the game is a labyrinth of tunnels, full of enemies and hazards. It is a challenging game and not for the faint of heart. I had to look up walkthroughs several times as the various maze-like levels proved too opaque for me. But the game is steeped in atmosphere and dread, it is immense and definitely a game that withstands the test of time. If you enjoy a challenge, and the current trend of retro-style games, I highly recommend it.
Upon completing it, I got a total score of 73%. I don’t know how good that is, but it doesn’t sound bad!
Two Point Hospital (Steam)
Right at the start of the pandemic lockdown in 2020, I dived straight into Two Point Hospital. Hard. I didn’t just complete the main game, getting 3-star status for all hospitals, but I did this for all of the expansions at that point: Bigfoot, Pebberley Island, and Close Encounters. It was nonstop.
Inspired heavily by the 1997 game Theme Hospital by Bullfrog, this game scratched a nostalgic itch as well as took advantage of my work-orientated brain being starved of attention during furlough.
Two Point Hospital is a management simulation with a lot of humour and goofy antics. Manage your treatment rooms, staff, and patients to achieve goals and complete challenges, all the while the game throws curveballs at you like volcanos, emergencies, and earthquakes.
It can become tricky with certain hospitals with requirements, such as only getting money from completing challenges rather than treating patients. But overall, I steamrollered the content! Good fun.
NieR: Automata (Playstation 4)
From Square Enix, comes a sequel to the NieR games, set in a post-apocalyptic future where androids battle to defend the remains of Humanity from destruction. This third-person run-and-gun shooter is rife with strange, existential storytelling that will slowly bend your mind as the game continues.
Playing as 2B, a soldier android, and 9S, a scout android, the player will explore the ruins of civilization and do battle against hordes of robotic life. Levelling up with new powers and abilities as you go. Perhaps the most compelling reason to play it through is the characters and the unorthodox storytelling. Rated PEGI-18, Automata doesn’t pull its punches graphically, and if you are able to settle into running around the desolation a lot, the game will reward you with surprise twists, cool bosses, and an excellent soundtrack!
The other element, which incentivised me to earn the Platinum Trophy, is its multiple “endings”. These can occur at any time, and are often humorous and compelling.
Smash Brothers Ultimate (Nintendo Switch)
The Smash Brothers series is immensely fun, especially when you have a group of friends to play it with. Ultimate lives up to its name, with lead designer Masahiro Sakurai pouring his life into it (seemingly literally) by adding new characters continuously to the game as new content. Mario, Link, Samus, Sonic, MegaMan, Solid Snake, even Steve from Minecraft, are all here! It is a fantastic game with a lot of skill required on top of the style and colourful fun.
This year, however, I dragged myself through Ultimate’s single player campaign. It has a great start; full of nostalgia and clever level designs to invoke game franchises like Street Fighter and F-Zero, but after a while… the campaign becomes incredibly tedious. My character became so overpowered with skill boosts gained, that most fights were irrelevant, making the campaign stretch impossibly long with needless padding.
Stick to the multiplayer!
Shadow of the Colossus (Playstation 4)
A beautiful and melancholy experience, I’d been wanting to play Team Ico’s incredible game for years and years. Unfortunately by the time I had played the remaster by BluePoint, I had already had some elements of the story spoiled for me.
However, it is a stunning game. Almost completely silent; without any dialogue, you play as Wander, a young man tasked with taking down native giants to save the one you love. The gameplay being a third-person adventure puzzle; from traveling the beautiful open landscapes, to climbing the huge monsters and seeking their weakspots.
It wasn’t very difficult for me, but there were timed challenges and difficulty modes that would extend replayability. If you know nothing about it, and want a mystical adventure, I would highly recommend it.
Deep Rock Galactic (Steam)
All of the games so far I have listed as I have completed them. However, one game that continues even now, I have played so often this year that it would be a crime to not add it.
I’ve clocked nearly 400 hours into Ghost Ship’s Deep Rock Galactic this year. I’ve played some of it single player, but the joy of this game comes from having a solid and consistent team of four players. Play as dwarves mining a giant asteroid planet, complete missions for salvaging machinery and digging up ore, all the while fending off endless hordes of aliens. The premise is simple, but the game is deep. All four classes of character are unique, capable on their own, but synergize together even better. The graphics are cartoonish, but extremely dark and atmospheric as you delve into the tunnels and caverns of the planet.
It is a whole lot of fun, and has a lot of support from its developers constantly. Recommended.
Ghost of Tsushima (Playstation 4)
Another third-person stealth action game, but this one was perhaps the most beautiful yet. Ghost of Tsushima follows Jin Sakai, a samurai set on a single goal: to defeat the invading Mongol armies and liberate the island of Tsushima.
This game features a mode called “Kurosawa Mode”, in appreciate of acclaimed film director Akira Kurosawa (Seven Samurai, Hidden Fortress) and that had my attention immediately.
While that mode adds a black and white film-grain filter over the game, the game played regularly is a spectacular sight; almost every moment of this game is beautiful. With swirling wind directing you forward, leaves and flower petals fluttering around you, adventuring on the island of Tsushima is transportive and gorgeous. Combat is bloody and visceral, while the in-game camera mode can be used at any point, allowing you to capture your own cinematic moments with filters, even changing the time of day and wind speed.
The story is fairly predictable, following tropes of epic cinema features, however there are some real gut-punches and pulls to the heartstrings. I enjoyed it all enough to get the Platinum Trophy.
Not what you expected, huh?
PikuNiku is a colourful side-scrolling puzzle-platformer. You play as Piku, and are initially dubbed to be “The Beast”, that had been locked away. However, these colourful characters you meet realize that you aren’t so bad after all, and you set about saving them from a capitalist called Mr Sunshine, who is set about controlling everyone’s lives!
It is a silly game, and it isn’t very long. But it has a charm that is quite inescapable.
Super Mario Odyssey (Nintendo Switch)
I have to be careful what I say here.
Having not grown up with a NES, or a SNES, but playing a lot of Super Mario 64 and the subsequent games, Odyssey was appealing to me. Especially after the excellent Mario Galaxy series.
But there’s something about Mario Odyssey that just didn’t agree with me… Perhaps it is how I’ve finished the game, and have collected over 780 power moons and I still haven’t “finished”.
A Mario game should never feel like a chore, but Odyssey manages it. While there are happy nostalgic nods to the franchise throughout, having played 90% of the game now I cannot say it was especially challenging. When it was challenging, it was because of a sudden jump in difficulty; thanks to the game not expressly training you beforehand. Oh, you didn’t know Yoshi can do a little backflip onto a platform if you latch onto the wall at a very specific height? Well, now you do, I suppose.
Padded to hell with literally one thousand collectables, requiring further thousands of collectables to get those, Mario Odyssey is a test of patience.
Play Mario Galaxy instead. It is prettier, with better gameplay and makes you feel skilled towards the final difficult stages.