Tom's 2017 in Games
What a year eh? Here's a bunch of the stuff I played and what I thought about it. Hopefully you find something here you haven't tried. If I missed something awesome let me know on Twitter so I can check it out next year!
Personally, I released two PICO-8 games this year for game jams: Apple Town and Barrier Blast. I made prototypes for a platformer about a mud man, a puzzle-box platformer sequel to Remains of El Dorado, a networked pacman game. I also prototyped an iPhone app for deciding what to eat. None of these projects got to a stage where I really felt like I wanted to see them through! Right now I'm working on a networked scavenger hunt game, if upcoming play tests go well and the idea is actually fun then it looks like that will be the next project to see release.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
BotW features an idea from classic roguelikes which I really love. Every action you can take is available to you from the start. You have all your actions available to you after you finish the Plateau. As you play you get stronger by figuring out how to use all the abilities you have, how the enemies behave, and by getting cool loot on the ground or from defeated enemies. You can use clever tricks to beat enemies you're not "supposed to" be able to defeat yet.
The climbing system is amazing. You never end up weirdly hopping sideways up a mountain like in Skyrim. In an open world like this there's always that temptation to cheat to get somewhere you can't quite reach normally. But all the movement options in Zelda seem to encourage clever tricks, and they never feel like unrealistic glitches. Except for that spaceship thing where you stick two minecarts together hehehehehe.
And the big thing that ruined this game for a lot of people didn't bother me at all. I didn't really mind my weapons breaking… It rewards you for being prepared and forces you to use a variety of weapons.
The only thing I really didn't like: the dungeons are pretty lame. Here's hoping the next Zelda game takes all the good ideas from this one and then brings back the great puzzle box dungeons from the older games.
Super Mario Odyssey
Odyssey is just incredibly fun. Running around is fun. Jumping is fun. Rolling is fun. Turning into enemies is fun. Finding moons is fun. The levels are super dense, so almost everywhere you look there's something to do and a moon to reward you for doing it. So many times I thought I must only have a couple moons left on this level, and then I check the list and find that there are a couple dozen moons left to find.
Even the boss fights were fun, and I usually don't like Mario bosses
This is where the list becomes heavily influenced by what I actually played this year. You poke and prod at this pile of cards, undoing and redoing trying to find out how to sort out this mess enough to win. It's very satisfying discovering how to solve each deal as you get stuck, rewind, and try different branches. The game design definitely hits a sweet spot, and the game is very polished.
A Hat in Time
This game was well worth the wait. Really solid and fun platformer. I especially enjoyed the characters in this game. I was a little worried after Yooka Laylee was so heavily criticized that this game would fall into a lot of the same traps, but it did not. If you're a fan of 3D platformers this is a must play.
I initially bounced off STRAFE, because it felt really punishing in a way that wasn't fun to me. I came back to it after they added the EZ zone, and I'm really glad I did. The easy zone is a great training ground to figure out how to deal with the enemies and get used to the feel of the game. Coming back to the normal mode after getting used to the game a bit more, it no longer felt overly punishing and felt well balanced. It's a mashup of DOOM and Spelunky so how could I not love it?
Splatoon 2: I really like the quick matches in Splatoon. I really really like Salmon Run. If more of my buddies had this I probably would have played it a ton.
Tumbleseed: This game is just a bit too hard for me to get into but it is so clever and well designed. Some day I will defeat the mountain!
Dank Tomb: I didn't keep up with the PICO-8 community as much as I would have liked, but this game was impossible to miss. It's a huge technical achievement and also a very fun puzzler.
Spaceman 8: My other PICO-8 favorite for the year. Super polished and fun gameplay.
Wilmot's Warehouse: A cute humble monthly game about organizing things. Playing it is very zen. I keep coming back to it and I'm curious if at some point I will find myself running around the warehouse in a panic or if it will always be nice and chill.
Hearthstone: The Kobolds and Catacombs expansion pulled me back in with its single player Dungeon Run mode. I still love/hate this game. Dungeon runs are super cool though and I 100% recommend checking it out since it's free.
Getting Over It: Another humble monthly one. Bennett Foddy is the master of fun frustration.
Inside: This came out last year but I played it this year. This game didn't really click with me. The atmosphere, animations, and pacing are great. Not a fan of getting killed and then puzzling out how to not die.
Fortnite: Got it when the early access first released, because we thought it would be a good multplayer game for our group to play. We got bored of it pretty quickly though. Battle royale saved it, and I really like it as a less-buggy and faster paced PUBG replacement.
PLAYERUNKNOWN's Battlgrounds: Like most people, I played a lot of PUBG this year. When the action is good, this is one of the best games of the year. Sometimes it's a jogging simulator though. I like the faster pace of Fortnite better overall.
Flinthook: Flinthook is a super fun space pirate roguelite platformer. Extremely polished, extremely fun. I wish I'd played this more. Definitely need to revisit this one and give it the time it deserves.
Destiny 2: I just checked out the free trial at the end of the year. The best feeling FPS I've played in a long time, and I never played Destiny 1 so the multiplayer mechanics blew my mind. Not sure if I'll invest in playing the full version though.
Opus Magnum: The best Zachtronics game yet. Highly recommended.