My 100 Favourite Games of All Time (20-11)

Welcome back to my 100 favourite games of all time series! Top 20 time! This is where the games hit that upper rung of being genuinely incredible, I hope you enjoy entries 20 through 11!

If you haven’t read the previous instalment in this series, please do so here, and here’s the first entry if you want to start from the entry 100.

SPOILER WARNING!

Just a heads up that there will be full SPOILERS for every game I’m going to talk about in this series, so be careful if I talk about something you don’t want spoiled.

Let’s not waste any more time!

20 – Super Mario Odyssey

Release Date: 27th October 2017
Developer: Nintendo Entertainment Planning & Development
Publisher: Nintendo
Platforms: Nintendo Switch
Metacritic Average: 97%

It’s a game about throwing your hat and possessing creatures to complete platforming challenges.

As you’ve probably guessed by this point on the list, I didn’t grow up playing the Mario games. I had one on the Gameboy, but I didn’t really get much out of it at the time, much preferring Wario Land instead. So when people would talk about games like Mario 64 being the greatest of all time, I never quite got it. I could understand the appeal, but I didn’t see what put in the upper-echelon of gaming. Then, Super Mario Odyssey was released, and I decided this was finally the time I’d sit down with a Mario game and see what makes them so great.

Literally everything. That’s what makes them so great.

Nintendo’s design philosophy is one that I wish we would see more of the gaming industry today. Every time Nintendo start to make a new game for one of there core franchises, they sit down and work out amongst themselves what they can do that’s new and interesting. They don’t see the point in making another game that’s like Mario 64, because they’ve already done it…what would be the point in doing it again? I love that way of thinking because that’s almost exactly what I strive for in my creative endeavours. Naturally, it doesn’t always work, there are always going to be some stumbling blocks (looking at you, WiiU), but it also means that we get absolutely incredible unique titles like this one.

If you want a more in-depth look into Cappy’s mechanics in SMO, then I highly recommend checking out Mark Brown’s video on the subject, but I’ll just say that it made platforming in that game completely different some any other 3D platformer I’ve ever played, in the best possible way. I usually prefer my platformers to be 2D, because I’m not very good at 3D platforming. However, every mechanic in SMO is designed in such a way that it makes the platforming easier, while still being fun and interesting.

Combine that with some of the most creative mechanic, world and creature design I’ve ever seen, and you’ve got yourself an adventure that never stops being fun and is always ready to throw something new your way to keep you hooked. It’s got so much death and quite literally several hundred different challenges for you to try your hand at. As far as I’m concerned, this is the game that exemplifies what makes Nintendo the world’s best game developer.

19 – Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag

Release Date: 29th October 2019
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal, Ubisoft Milan, Ubisoft Kiev
Publisher: Ubisoft
Platforms: Playstation 4, Playstation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Nintendo Switch, Nintendo WiiU, Windows
Metacritic Average: 88%

It’s a game about pirates.

(From my Every Main Series Assassin’s Creed Game Ranked article)

Remember that one time, when Ubisoft just thought “fuck it” and made a pirate game for no reason? Good times.

Counting Black Flag in a list of best Assassin’s Creed games almost feels like cheating, because let’s face it, it’s an Assassin’s Creed game in name alone; that doesn’t mean it isn’t brilliant though.

I don’t think I’m alone when I say that my favourite part of Assassin’s Creed III was the sea battles. The team at Ubisoft clearly thought the same because the next game, Black Flag, was entirely about the sea battles. They stumbled upon an entertaining style of gameplay, and to their credit, they leaned all the way into it, to make an absolutely fantastic game.

Every battle you got into with the boats felt like an all-out war. The scale of it all combined, with the vibrant colours of the Caribbean, and the extremely well-designed soundscape made every single encounter feel like a chaotic and epic fight. Pile on top of that, extreme weather conditions, a wide variety of weapons at your disposal, and the ability to board your opponent’s ships – which causes a massive battle in quite a confined space – and you’ve got yourself a formula that never ceases to be fun to play.

The world was also exceptionally well designed, with the towns being bright and colourful, but not so big as to feel too big and also having enough variety in the environment, so all of them felt distinct. The random islands and plantations were also great additions, with things continually sidetracking you (in a good way) when you’re poncing about on the open seas.

Black Flag, has a relatively big open world, but by no means too big, and the game is very carefully designed for touring you through it at a very steady pace. As such, you never feel overwhelmed at the amount of stuff there is available to you. Speaking of stuff, unlike most of the other open worlds in this franchise, Black Flag’s world is very densely packed with a great variety of stuff to do. Be that hunting down collectables, hunting animals for crafting, playing board games, throwing harpoons at sharks or firing on every British ship you see. There’s never a dull moment when traversing the world; and even if you do get bored, you can make your crew sing sea shanties to keep you entertained.

Once again, the story was perfectly fine. It doesn’t stand out to me as any kind of exceptional storytelling, but it also never did anything to piss me off or turn me against the characters which, in a game like the Assassin’s Creed series, is all I really want.

In a way, I’m quite glad this ended up being a one-off for the franchise because I honestly don’t see many ways in which this formula could’ve been improved, as the boat-based mechanics in subsequent games in the franchise have proven. Black Flag was a rare instance of a game I can honestly describe as unique in its gameplay, and at the end of the day, it’s just an absolute blast to play.

18 – Celeste

Release Date: 25th January 2018
Developer: Matt Makes Games
Publisher: Matt Makes Games
Platforms: Playstation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Windows, Mac, Linux
Metacritic Average: 94%

It’s a game about climbing a mountain while dealing with anxiety.

(From my Favourite Old Games I Played for the First Time in 2019 article)

Celeste is an absolute master of controlling the difficulty. It’s undeniably a hard game, and that’s part of what initially put me off. However, it’s when you push through that difficulty and carry on in spite of everything that the game is throwing at you that you come to see Celeste for what it is: The most perfectly paced game in history.

Every room in Celeste is designed so that you can almost see the extensive amount of play-testing and tweaking that went into every jump. Every challenge feels so carefully crafted to give you the exact right amount of hope and despair as you throw yourself into it over and over again and their own, every single room is a masterclass in level design. However, the real magic of Celeste comes from stepping back and looking at how the game is threaded together.

Every single room prepares you with the skills you need for the next, it’ll teach you a technique or idea, and you’ll spend multiple attempts getting through it. Then, when you come to the room immediately after, the game asks you to take what you just learned and re-learn it slightly differently to solve a new challenge. This persists chapter to chapter as well, with each chapter giving you a new mechanic to play about with and understand as you go.

The way each level is designed forces you into the mentality of pushing forward despite hardship, which is so incredibly clever when you consider the themes and ideas behind the game’s narrative. The way this tale is told of living with and overcoming, anxiety is so beautifully and thoughtfully done, because it’s so low-key and yet feels entirely heartfelt, while insightfully addressing a severe mental health condition.

When you combine the overarching themes with the incredibly colourful and engrossing visual style and the absolutely mindblowing soundtrack, the game can take control of your mental state and align it with exactly how Madaline feels in the story using its level design as the primary tool.

Not only is Celeste one of the most mechanically sounds and fun games I’ve ever played, but it goes above and beyond to say something meaningful using those mechanics, something which has stuck with me ever since I finished it.

17 – Descenders

Release Date: 7th May 2019
Developer: RageSquid
Publisher: No More Robots
Platforms: Xbox One, Windows, Mac, Linux
Metacritic Average: 78%

It’s a game about riding a bike downhill very fast before wrapping yourself around a tree.

(From my Game of the Year 2019 article)

First available on Steam Early Access in February 2018 and I picked it up a couple of months later, and since then it’s become my 2nd most played game on Steam at 604 hours, beaten out by only Skyrim and the weird thing is, I’m not even entirely sure why I play it so much. I certainly wouldn’t describe it as an addictive game, but what I think is it’s a straightforward game to play.

By “easy to play” I don’t mean the difficulty of the game itself, I mean it’s a game that I’m never “not in the mood” to play. In the way that I play it (very casually), I don’t really have to put much thought into it, so it’s become what I play when I don’t want to play anything. I’m someone who finds it very hard to just sit and watch something for example, so what I will often do is put on something I want to watch on my 2nd screen and then play Descenders, almost in the background, while I watch it.

That’s not all Descenders is good for, because it hits that sweet spot that PopCap games were always brilliant for, where you can play it casually and do reasonably well, but also you can spend time honing your skills and mastering the game to pull off some incredible feats of skill that I could never even dream of. The procedurally generated nature of the levels means I’m never just “going through the motions” when I play. I can’t just rely on muscle memory to get me through each level I have to learn to adapt to the terrain that’s currently in front of me, so I don’t wrap my body around several trees at several hundred kilometres per hour.

It’s a game that has complete mastery over its movement, the bikes feel light and nippy while manoeuvring it in the air and on the ground feels forceful and satisfying. The way you glide down the hillsides, doing jumps and flips and spins the whole gives this incredible feeling of flow that gives you such a rush as your performance in the environments becomes more fluid and streamlined.

Descenders is a game that came together in a way I honestly never would’ve expected to make it a game that I’m going to be playing on-and-off for a very long time.

16 – Terraria

Release Date: 16th May 2011
Developer: Re-Logic
Publisher: 505 Games
Platforms: Playstation 4, Playstation 3, Playstation Vita, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Nintendo Switch, Nintendo WiiU, Nintendo 3DS, Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android
Metacritic Average: 85%

It’s a game about adventuring and building.

It’s hard to accurately define precisely what Terraria is in a single sentence. It’s a bit sandbox, it’s a bit builder, it’s a bit RPG, and it’s a bit adventure. On the surface, if someone were to describe a game to me like that, I’d expect it to be a bit of a mess, but somehow Terraria manages to mash all of its ideas together really cleanly. I originally wasn’t all that interested in it. I think it had to contend a lot with the perception from many critics that it was just ‘Minecraft but 2D’. However, over the years, through several major content updates, Terraria has proved itself to be something entirely different from that and something rather unique when you look at any of the genres it fits into.

Unlike most sandbox games, Terraria has a distinct sense of progression as you play in your world and you won’t even realise it at first. I had the wonderful privilege of going into the game almost completely blind, so the feeling of accomplishment throughout every milestone was so great. Every time I thought that I’d reached the limit of what the game had to offer, I’d find out that I’d barely scratched the surface. Oh, you defeated the Eye of Cthulu? Congratulations on completing step one of 300. Ah, so now you’ve gone to hell and defeated the Wall of Flesh? That’s nice, but you’re not even halfway, mate, come back when you’ve killed the horrific being that is literally the God of the Moon.

I was always exploring and discovering new things, and all of it was paced in such a way that there were never any dull points that had me just grinding away at resources in the hope that I’d uncover something new. While I never quite got into the building mechanics like I did with Minecraft, I still can’t deny the complexity and variety that is on offer for those that want to go down that route; I’ve seen some gorgeous creations in the community.

15 – Thomas Was Alone

Release Date: 30th June 2012
Developer: Mike Bithell
Publisher: Mike Bithell
Platforms: Playstation 4, Playstation 3, Playstation Vita, Xbox One, Nintendo WiiU, Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android
Metacritic Average: 88%

It’s a game about friendship and jumping…and also a little bit about the nature of self-aware AI.

Told you I’d be talking about Mike Bithell again.

Although the story told in this game isn’t as complex as in either of the “Circular” games, there’s a whole bunch of other factors that put Thomas Was Alone above its descendants. Namely how every single mechanic is designed to feed right back into the nature of the story.

First up is the fact that this game isn’t just a load of text boxes that you click your way through, there are real game-mechanics here, and they’re executed suberbly. None of the game’s puzzles are particularly difficult, but I don’t think they’re supposed to be. Instead, they’re a tool for seeing these characters relying on each other’s abilities to feel their bonds growing as they help each other to reach the end of each level. Even the designs of the characters are so perfect, they’re literally just coloured rectangles, and yet it’s able to perfectly capture the personality of all of them.

Personalities that are fleshed out through some genuinely fantastic narration that happens throughout every level. Read by the wonderful Danny Wallace, the whole story has this warm feeling to it, like you’re being told a sweet bedtime story. Even when the story is touching on some more tragic or serious elements, it’s told in such a way that you never have any reason to question your protagonists and their bonds change and grow.

Thomas Was Alone is what I would argue to be the second-greatest story ever told in a video game (more on the best in the finale). It has total control over the tone of the plot, the characters and the player’s emotions at every moment, and I always take joy in revisiting it.

14 – Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood

Release Date: 16th November 2010
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Publisher: Ubisoft
Platforms: Playstation 4, Playstation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Windows, Mac
Metacritic Average: 90%

It’s a game about stealthy stabbing.

(From my Every Main Series Assassin’s Creed Game Ranked article)

It’s got a little bit of everything without having too much of anything.

I’ve talked a lot throughout this article about the “formula” of Assassin’s Creed, which is the general: Viewpoints, 5 different types of collectables and about 100 of each one, way too many weapons and vague stealth mechanics, (this would later become almost every Ubisoft game as well, but that’s a discussion for another day). I generally view this formula as a bad thing, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun. While too much can be a bore, the right amount of small tasks dotted all over the open world can make for an extremely compelling game for a habitual completionist like me, and Brotherhood is the closest thing I’ve found to a perfect version of that formula.

The open world is big enough to have plenty of variety to it, but not so expansive that it feels bloated and pointless. Traversal of the world feels fun and fluid, with parkour mechanics that Assassin’s Creed have always been good at, but it mainly feels like the world was handcrafted to make running around Rome’s rooftops extra fun. Even when you wandered out into the outskirts of the city, the vast plains felt like a breath of fresh air and galloping about the place on horseback was just as fun.

There was a considerable mission variety, not just in the main story, but with side missions too. Each of the three guilds had different styles of missions, which were solid enough to flesh out the relevant characters while staying pretty brief and not overstay their welcome. Leonardo’s missions are also great fun, playing with all the weird toys, including a tank, so I don’t have anything bad to say about that. However, best were the Lairs of Romulus which were a series of levels almost entirely based around fun parkouring challenges, with impressive scenery and a great variety in the mini-stories surrounding them, they’re my favourite set of side quests in the whole franchise.

The visual design is excellent, with every section of the colour palette being used in one place or another in the game. Ezio’s red and white outfit from Brotherhood is far and away from my favourite protagonist outfit, and every other character had colours and styles that seemed to perfectly match their personality. Speaking of characters and story, it’s still nothing overly special, but it’s definitely the best the franchise has done. Cesare is the best villain from this series as far as I’m concerned, and Ezio is also the best protagonist because he’s the only one I don’t hate at least a little bit.

Brotherhood is simply where all of the features and styles that make the Assassin’s Creed formula what it is come together in just the right way. I firmly believe that if you took all that was good about Assassin’s Creed and refine it to a point, you’d end up with something that looked pretty similar to Brotherhood. It’s the game that I will always go to when I need reminding of why I actually love this franchise deep down.

13 – Moonlighter

Release Date: 29th May 2018
Developer: Digital Sun
Publisher: 11 bit Studios
Platforms: Playstation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Windows, MacLinux
Metacritic Average: 84%

It’s a game about murdering monsters by night and then selling their loot by day.

Have you ever wondered how, in RPGs and the like, the shopkeepers around the world are able to get ahold of incredibly rare and powerful loot that you, the adventurer, often struggle to find? Well, as it turns out, they’re just as bad-ass at cave-diving as you are, and Moonlighter proves it.

As I’ve said previously in this series, for me to take an interest in a roguelike/roguelite, it has to do something special, and I’d argue none are more special than Moonlighter. On the one side, there are the dungeon-crawling elements of the game, which are excellently done. The combat feels weighty while remaining very fluid and every dungeon has its own host of unique and interesting looking enemies that make me want to press on just to see what new things are around the next corner. Although, what I’m really interested in is the stuff they leave behind when I slice them up because that is the stuff I can use for the other side of the game, the shopkeeping.

This is where I went from enjoying Moonlighter, to loving it. When you’re running your shop, it isn’t as simple as setting out your goods and waiting for people to come and throw money at you. Instead, you have to use your knowledge of various other items in the game to assign an appropriate value to each item. You then must watch for your customer’s reactions to your prices, to determine if they’re too low/high and adjust accordingly. Each day in the shop doesn’t last all that long, so it doesn’t drag on, but you’ll be constantly occupied as you split your attention between making sure your shelves are always stocked and watching your customer’s faces to find the perfect prices for your goods.

On top of this, Moonlighter avoids the trap that puts me off so many other roguelikes, which is that it doesn’t overwhelm you with an infinite amount of content. There are four dungeons (each unlocked by beating the previous one), and each dungeon had three floors before a boss fight. On top of that, your end goal is staring you in the face the whole time, the final dungeon holding some ancient secret, which will only be unlocked after beating the four other dungeons. Moonlighter sets you up right away so that you know why you’re doing everything which keeps me motivated to push forwards, instead of getting bored of the ‘infinite’ nature of things, something I wish more games in the genre would strive for.

12 – Pokemon Sword & Shield

Release Date: 15th November 2019
Developer: Game Freak
Publisher: Nintendo
Platforms: Nintendo Switch
Metacritic Average: 80%

It’s a game about becoming the world champion of rural England.

(From my Game of the Year 2019 article)

Firstly, when it comes to the towns and routes in the game, I thought they were absolutely beautiful and captured a lot of different feelings from phases in British culture. There’s Motostoke, the industrial, victorian town; Wyndon the modern-day metropolis that we all know and (kind of) love today and then there were towns like Ballonlea that felt like something out of an old fairy tale. The visuals in this game were bright, colourful, and an absolute joy to behold.

As for the Pokemon, while I certainly wouldn’t rank it among the best new roster we’ve received for a generation, It’s most certainly nowhere near the worst. I’ve already talked about the Pokemon I loved the most, but there were a whole host of other new Pokemon added in this game that I really love the look and feel of.

While the story itself was nothing special by Pokemon standards, it was paced quite nicely, and I thought the climax was quite a cool sequence, not Ultra Necrozma levels of cool, but cool nonetheless. I enjoyed my interactions with any character not named Hop or Leon. I also thought the difficulty was rather nicely done, I didn’t exactly struggle at any point, but there were several points in the big battles that I felt were a bit touch-and-go, and I was forced to think about what I was doing a bit harder than I usually have to in Pokemon games.

I’m undoubtedly biased towards Pokemon as a franchise, but that doesn’t change the fact that I had loads of fun with this addition to the series. It was a Pokemon game that ticked all the boxes in terms what I need to have fun from a Pokemon game and in terms of visual spectacle, I think it’s the best we’ve seen so far. If the lack of a national dex was the only thing keeping you away then implore you to reconsider because this is still just as brilliant of an experience as Pokemon always has been.

Pokemon Sword & Shield have certainly become more controversial entries into the franchise than most, especially amongst the online fanbase, however, I think it’s a perfect encapsulation of everything I love from the modern era of Pokemon games. While Sun & Mon was a lot more visually interesting, I think the pace of the gameplay and the sheer force of personality and character on display in Sword & Shield is exactly what I adore from the franchise in the modern-day.

11 – Black and White 2

Release Date: 4th October 2005
Developer: Lionhead Studios, Robosoft Technologies
Publisher: EA, Feral Interactive
Platforms: Windows, Mac
Metacritic Average: 75%

It’s a game where you play as God and throw bunnies around with your giant God-hand.

All aboard the nostalgia train! Black & White 2 is the first game that I remember truly loving. I’m sure my parents will attest to the fact that when I was younger, I would play it non-stop. There was a short period where we didn’t have it installed on our family computer because it was playing up and I wouldn’t stop bugging my parents about getting it back on there so I could play it again. Even to this day, I make sure that I play through it at least once a year, and I have so much fun doing so.

I don’t usually like city-building games very much, and I’m not the biggest fan of real-time strategy, yet this game is a mix of those two things. If I had to guess, I think it’s the free-form nature of the game. There are minimal restrictions as to how you build up your cities or what tactics you want to use to conquer your enemies. There’s something about the freedom of playing as the literal hand of God and planning out these grand cities full of a variety of buildings that all have a unique charm to them that I just can’t get enough of. Also squishing tiny men with rocks and feeding their corpses to my giant pet cow is pretty fun.

That’s the thing with this game, it’s got so much charm and character that fills me with warm feelings of happiness. The way your people react to every action you make, or the personality that’s poured into every animation of your creature. Pour on top of that the overwhelming waves of nostalgia I get from playing it, and we’ve got a game that I’ll never get tired of, no matter how many times I play it.

And there you have it! Thank you very much for taking the time to read this post, just ten games left to go! Please, let me know what you think of these games, either in the comments below or on Twitter @10ryawoo. Finally, make sure to come back here this weekend, where I’ll be covering WWE Summerslam!

Game of the Year 2019

2019 has been a bit of an odd year for games. There have been several high-profile releases scattered throughout the year like there always are, but I think that when we look back at gaming in 2019, it will be remembered as the year that set up all the super-hyped releases in 2020.

Despite that – as I mentioned in my favourite old games article – I played more games in 2019 than I ever had in a single year and that is just as true for new releases. While there might not have been much on a massive scale like Cyberpunk or Animal Crossing promises to be next year, there are undoubtedly some all-time favourites for me that came out this year.

Just to clarify, Early Access games will not be included on this list as I don’t think it’s fair to judge an unfinished game, I will instead consider them for “Game of the Year” in whatever year they leave early access. Also, I’d like to make a quick disclaimer that there are some games that I think look brilliant, but never found the time to play. Games like Baba is You and Superliminal are ones that I want to play as soon as possible, so will likely be showing up on my “old games” list at the end of next year.

So join me as I talk about the best of what the world of gaming had to offer in 2019.

SPOILER WARNING

As you probably expected, there will be major spoilers for most, if not all, of the games in this list. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

11 – Cricket 19

Release Date: 8th May
Developer: 
Big Ant Studios
Publisher: 
Big Ant Studios
Platforms: Playstation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Windows
Metacritic Average: 73%

It’s ok Americans, you’re excused from this one.

So this one’s probably not one anyone expected to make this list (myself included), but I really wanted to feature it on this list because cricket is a sport that has almost never had a competently made game for it. I had a brief discussion about this with my dad (an avid cricket fan) and we came to the conclusion that the best cricket game up until this point was Stick Game’s Stick Cricket which was a free browser & mobile game made over a decade ago.

While I certainly wouldn’t consider myself a fan of cricket, there are many sports I can’t stand watching that I enjoy playing virtual versions of, so when I saw that the reviews for this game didn’t call it a total crock of shit I was eager to try it out. The first thing that struck me was the sheer level of detail that went into how you approach every match in the game. If you’re in batting then you have to not only consider the basic stuff like the type of shoot you’ll do and where it’ll go but also the little details like where you’re going to position your feet and how you’re going to step towards the ball and it’s a very similar situation on the bowling side.

This year’s world cup final aside, I’ve never enjoyed watching cricket, I don’t find most sports very entertaining, but cricket especially bores me to tears whenever I try and watch it, so imagine my surprise when I found myself reacting with all the vim and vigour you’d expect from a match-day pub crowd while playing a match in this game. Every ball became a nail-biting affair, whether I was batting or bowling and all of that is thanks to the fact that the detailing has allowed for both a realistic and more exciting adaptation of the national sport of these fair isles.

Unlike many of the previous attempts at cricket games, it’s obvious that Cricket 19 had a lot of love poured into it from people who knew a lot about cricket and while there are rough patches that need to be ironed out, this is the first time that I can say there’s a cricket game out there that does the sport justice.

Now we just need a competently made Rugby game and we’ll be set.

10 – Hot Lava

Release Date: 19th September
Developer: 
Klei Entertainment
Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux

Hot Lava is a game that knew exactly what it’s audience wanted from it and leaned into it entirely.

The Floor Is Lava was always the ultimate game to play when you were a kid, it combined the rush of doing something you’re not supposed to with the endless desire to concuss yourself that plagues all children of primary school age, but it had a problem, you were never really allowed to have much fun with it. There was only so much jumping between the sofas you could do before your mum came downstairs with a look of horror as to what you were doing to her lovely living room, and playing it during the 5 second moments when the teachers weren’t looking your way on the playground just wasn’t the same. I always dreamt of being able to play the game across the whole size of the playground, I imagined the amazing courses I could set up for me and my friends before I would inevitably slip on the first jump, gently graze my elbow and cry my way home.

Hot Lava is essentially that fantasy…only without that wimpy prick ruining it for everyone.

Mechanically, it’s a fairly simple game. It’s got all the features you’d expect a parkour game to have, where it really shines is in its level designs. The school setting makes for a great feel for the game as you’re bouncing around all over the place, but each level is finely crafted to make the most of its mechanics at every turn. Even levels that focus in on a specific gimmick are able to keep things varied throughout, slowly turning up the difficulty so the game scales perfectly with the player’s skill level. Then, once you’re done with the official levels, there is an ever-increasing number of community-made maps out there which range from the impressively creative to the frustratingly difficult.

I had so much fun leaping from table to chair in Hot Lava, it was able to properly capture that feeling that you always wanted to get from playing The Floor is Lava as a kid.

9 – Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince

Release Date: 8th October
Developer:
Frozenbyte
Publisher:
Modus Games
Platforms: Playstation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Windows
Metacritic Average: 81%

As I mentioned when I spoke about my most anticipated games for Q4 2019, I talked a bit how I love the Trine series and while Trine 3 was somewhat disappointing, I was still hopeful for the new entry into the series. So now I’ve played it, I can safely say that the series is still going strong.

Ditching the 3D side of the game was definitely the right way to go, as it just didn’t quite work, especially when the potential for level design in 2D was far from exhausted, as this game proved. The level design here was just as good as it always has been, every level feels like a logical progression of mechanics, following the same design philosophies that the 2D Mario games do, only this game plays around with some more complex mechanics that make each level last for about 30 minutes instead of 5, but all 30 of those minutes are engrossing stuff.

The pacing in each level has been notably improved, the team seem to have really nailed the balance that needs to be struck between puzzle-platforming and combat. The game’s combat system is extremely basic, which is why it’s used so sparingly through the levels, which is the perfect way to break up the flow of gameplay, so the whole thing feels more like an adventure and less of an endless series of puzzle rooms.

Speaking of the puzzles, they were as spot-on as always, the game didn’t go overboard with new mechanics this time which allowed for a big variety of puzzles that combine features I was already familiar with, with the new ones that got introduced in a very well-paced manner, so I never felt overwhelmed. The puzzles themselves were fantastically designed, I would never breeze through a puzzle, but I also wouldn’t be stuck on it for ages, most puzzles are designed in such a way to make you think about the mechanics you’ve been given in an abstract way. All of the elements in play react to each other differently, so after playing around with any given puzzle for a bit, that “eureka” moment will finally strike and you’ll be able to progress.

As always, the game looks absolutely gorgeous. Trine understands it’s visual style flawlessly and is able to make just about any environment look absolutely beautiful. Not only do the environments look good, but there’s such a wonderful variety of places that you explore as well, which is a big improvement on the older games of the series, where a lot of the environments could feel a tad samey.

Trine 4 is able to look at its predecessors and remove the flaws while keeping what made it great to begin with, which is such a difficult task, but one that the people behind this game were clearly up to.

8 – Slay The Spire

Release Date: January 23rd
Developer:
MegaCrit
Publisher:
Humble Bundle
Platforms: Playstation 4, Nintendo Switch, Windows, Mac, Linux
Metacritic Average: 89%

The Roguelike/Roguelite genre is one that I have become truly and thoroughly burnt-out on over the past couple of years. There are so many around the place now that it’s a formula I’m tired of seeing, so it takes something pretty damn special from the genre to make me take notice, enter Slay The Spire.

Slay The Spire looked at the standard Roguelike formula and distilled it down to it’s most basic elements, the rooms you encounter are all very simple, they’re either a fight, a treasure, a quick event, or a shop then it decided that the best course of action would be to slap a deckbuilding, turn-based strategy on the top of it and see what comes out. The result? The most engaging Roguelike game I’ve played in years.

Every battle in Slay the Spire feels tense and to the wire, not because the game is necessarily harsh, but because you’re always reliant on the cards that come your way. It strikes the perfect balance between getting you to think a few steps ahead, while still forcing you to take chances, chances that don’t always pay off. I remember countless times where I’d come up with a plan, but it would rely on drawing the right card at the right time and when it didn’t work it was heartbreaking, but succeeding made me feel like a tactical genius.

The three different decks in the game are also brilliant for allowing you to adjust your play style, without massively overturning the formula of the game. Each character has it’s own unique mechanic that is open to massive amounts of experimentation,  which is something I had great fun with. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t consider myself to be very good at most games, but Slay the Spire had such a smooth learning curve that I felt like I was improving with every single victory.

Slay the Spire is a game that took a genre that I love, combine it with a genre I’m tired of and make something that feels new, exciting and tonnes of fun to play, this is the kind of innovation that I’ve been looking for in the roguelike genre for ages and I desperately hope we see more of it in the years to come.

7 – Katana ZERO

Release Date: April 18th
Developer:
Askiisoft
Publisher:
Devolver Digital
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, Windows, Mac
Metacritic Average: 83%

One of my favourite things a game can accomplish is to be one specific thing while disguising itself as something else. To explain what I mean by that, let’s take a look at Katana ZERO.

When you star Katana ZERO, the impression I got from it is that it was going to be a fast-paced hack and slash, where you slice your way through waves of enemies feeling like a katana-wielding action hero and while the second part of that statement is true, Katana ZERO is in fact not a hack and slash, but a very clever and high-octane puzzle game.

The goal of each room is to introduce every enemy in the general vicinity to your Katana, usually by separating them from most of their limbs in the process, but if you go charging madly into every room, you’ll most certainly fail almost instantly. Instead, every room in the game is cleverly designed to be “solvable”, with a distinct order and pattern in which you need to show everyone their own spleen before removing their head in what can only be described as a “flourish” of blood. Every time I entered a room, I would instantly scour the whole place looking for the one weak spot where I could start my slicing rampage, running through a mental checklist every time I failed and restarted a room, which gave incredibly satisfying feeling when my master plan was executed to perfection.

What makes Katana ZERO stands out though, is the fact that it has that element of chaos to it. I could make the most ingenious plans ever, but that doesn’t mean I was good enough to pull them off perfectly all the time and that was where the game was at its most fun; when plans went wrong. Once a plan went wrong, it would be easy to just take the death and try again, but I think doing that takes out a huge element of the sheer joy that this game brings you when you improvise. Admittedly, my improvised plans very rarely bore fruit, but that didn’t stop it being an absolute blast when I missed my second strike, which sent me sailing into a room of armoured guards, causing me to panic, throw a firebomb which killed the armoured guards but alerted everyone within a 5-mile radius to my presence, at which point I went on a killing spree, slicing every neck I could lay my eyes on before finally being gunned down.

In addition to that…well…clusterfuck, the game has simplistic but masterfully styled visuals with great uses of colours and effect to create a depressingly beautiful cyberpunk dystopia, a feeling only helped by the brilliant choices that were made with the music, which helped elevate the already fantastically designed boss-fights to epic clashes and nail-biting encounters.

Katana ZERO is a game that strikes that perfect balance between careful & tactical planning and total chaos that makes for an incredibly focused and fun game, all tied together with a clever story that keeps you interested and invested in the world all the way to the credits.

6 – Unheard

Release Date: 29th March
Developer:
NEXT Studios
Publisher:
NEXT Studios, Bilibili
Platforms: Playstation 4, Windows, Mac
Metacritic Average: 72%

Out of all the games on this list, this is the one that I’d imagine the fewest people have heard of, because this almost passed me by too, so let me explain.

At its most basic level, it’s a mystery-solving game, however, the method by which you solve these mysteries is what makes this an absolutely exceptional game in my view. Instead of searching the scene and interviewing witnesses after the fact, you get to see the 5-15 minutes in which the crime happened, except you don’t get to actually see the details. What you get is a floor-plan view of the building in which the crime took place which you can wander around as you play through the events of the scene and the only tool you have to work out what happened is sound.

You can see the outline of where everyone is at any moment, but you can’t actually see their form, you can only hear their voices. Using this information you must work out who everyone is, and answer specific questions about the crime. I can’t really be more specific without giving away partial solutions to some of the puzzles, but the way in which the game gets you to hear every conversation in a level to slowly fill in all the blanks is so very innovative and clever.

The game typically starts you off in each scenario listening to one conversation that will give a rough outline of what’s going on, but naturally, there are other conversations going on all over the scene at the exact same time and each conversation slowly fills in all of the blanks. In every conversation, you listen to you’ll learn something new about the scenario that slowly allows you to draw everything together and hit that euphoria of the “eureka” moment when you nail your target.

The game makes sure to give you just the right amount of information so that everything you need to know is there, but without explicitly giving you all of the solutions. I found myself taking notes on every level, creating a list of suspects and slowly ruling them out as I went along until the true culprit reveals themselves.

The mysteries themselves are very well thought out, for example, you’ll have to locate a stolen painting and work out who stole it, but there are also a number of fakes that other people have stolen, thinking they’re the real deal and it’s your job to use the conversations around the scene to piece together a chronology of who committed the first theft in order to determine who holds the real painting.

At £5 the game is absolutely worth it for the 5 puzzles (plus 1 as free DLC) that total to about 4 hours of game time. This is one of the most enthralling and unique puzzle games I’ve played ever and it perfectly captures the feeling on solving a mystery, so if you’re into that sort of thing, this game is a must-have.

5 – Beat Saber

Release Date: 21st May
Developer:
Jaroslav Beck
Publisher:
Jaroslav Beck
Platforms: Playstation 4, Oculus Quest, HTC Vive
Metacritic Average: 93%

I’ve loved VR for a long time and Beat Saber is probably my favourite VR game I’ve ever played. The concept is so simple as it’s just like any other rhythm game, except you’ve got to move your arms to hit the blocks instead of just pressing buttons in time with some music.

This game as a mastery of its sound design, making sure that every slice of a block has an extremely satisfying sound to it, helping to create this cool factor as you slice left, right and centre, even when you know that to anyone watching outside of the headset, you just look to be flailing around wildly. Even the sounds and music on the menus create an intense sense of atmosphere as you stand in what seems to be the most neon warehouse to ever exist.

A lot of VR games that I enjoy are games that I think would still work fairly well without the VR component. While games like Job Simulator and Budget Cuts would need some tweaking, I don’t think the VR element is specifically what makes them as good as they are. Beat Saber is very much the opposite, I’ve never particularly cared for rhythm games, nor am I all that good at them, but when you take that concept and put it into VR suddenly it becomes one of the most all-out fun experiences I’ve ever had.

I don’t know what part of how my brain works causes this, but I am so much better at Beat Saber than I am any other rhythm game I’ve ever played. I’m miles away from being among the best of course, but I can play on the higher speeds and difficulties and not struggle massively as I play and I think the sense of pure fun the game as injected into it is a big part of that.

On top of all of that, it works as an exercise game, but it doesn’t frame it as one. I’ve never got along with games like Ring Fit Adventure or Wii Fit because they make sure to let you know you’re doing exercise the whole way through, but in Beat Saber you just start flailing your arms and suddenly you’re drenched in sweat and have lost about 20 pounds without even realising it.

Beat Saber is a game that realised the massive potential that an existing genre of games could have in VR and made sure to tailor the experience perfectly so that it couldn’t possibly work without it and that is fundamentally what I believe makes a good VR game.

4 – Descenders

Release Date:  7th May
Developer:
RageSquid
Publisher:
No More Robots
Platforms: Xbox One, Windows, Mac, Linux
Metacritic Average: 78%

I’ve talked about Descenders a couple of times already this year and it’s safe to say that my love for it has not diminished in the slightest.

It was first available on Steam Early Access in February 2018 and I picked it up a couple of months later and since then it’s become my 2nd most played game on Steam at 539 hours, beaten out by only Skyrim and the weird thing is, I’m not even entirely sure why I play it so much. I certainly wouldn’t describe it as an addictive game, but what I think is it’s a very easy game to play.

By “easy to play” I don’t mean the difficulty of the game itself, I mean it’s a game that I’m never “not in the mood” to play. In the way that I play it (very casually), I don’t really have to put much thought into it, so it’s become what I play when I don’t want to play anything. I’m someone who finds it very hard to just sit and watch something for example, so what I will often do is put on something I want to watch on my 2nd screen and then play Descenders, almost in the background, while I watch it.

That’s not all Descenders is good for, because it hits that sweet spot that PopCap games were always brilliant for, where you can play it casually and do fairly well, but also you can spend time honing your skills and mastering the game in order to pull off some incredible feats of skill that I could never even dream of. The procedurally generated nature of the levels means I’m never just “going through the motions” when I play, I can’t just rely on muscle memory to get me through each level I have to learn to adapt to the terrain that’s currently in front of me so I don’t wrap my body around several trees at several hundred kilometres per hour.

It’s a game that has complete mastery over its movement, the bikes feel light and nippy while manoeuvring it in the air and on the ground feels forceful and satisfying. The way you glide down the hillsides, doing jumps and flips and spins the whole gives this incredible feeling of flow that gives you such a rush as your performance in the environments becomes more fluid and streamlined.

Descenders is a game that came together in a way I honestly never would’ve expected in order to make it a game that I’m going to be playing on-and-off for a very long time.

3 – Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night

Release Date: 18th June
Developer:
ArtPlay
Publisher:
505 Games
Platforms: Playstation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Windows
Metacritic Average: 84%

I’d never got around to playing a Castlevania game before, but they always seemed right up my street, so when I heard there was a game coming out made by the original creator of Castlevania in the style of Castlevania (but not officially called Castlevania because Konami doesn’t like using the historic franchises they own) I knew I had to check it out and I was absolutely blown away by what I found.

Bloodstained constantly keeps you on a journey of discovery. The items, enemies and powers it’s possible to acquire/encounter mean you’re always going to be finding something new and the map itself is packed with an almost overwhelming amount of variety. Every area feels extremely different to the ones that surround it and they’re all just the right size so that once you get comfortable in an area, you’re thrown right into a new one.

The combat system is wonderfully designed, it took a little getting used to, but once I got the pacing of when I should be striking and dodging I had so much fun with it. Every room presented a great challenge and I had a lot of fun trying to work out how best to tackle each combination of enemies that got thrown my way. It nails that balance of enemy design, where every enemy is easy on its own, but when a bunch of different ones are thrown together, it creates a great challenge.

That was also a game that reminded me how amazing boss fights can be, because not since NieR Automata have I had so much fun fighting bosses in a game. They follow that ethos that so many, typically old games do in that every boss has clear and recognisable patterns that are easy to dodge/counter and the skill comes from being able to react to them in time in order to deal out the damage. It’s a game that makes sure that every single failure and death I experienced was because I wasn’t skilful enough in order to pull it off, not because I got unlucky.

Bloodstained makes sure that every room and every enemy teaches you something, not necessarily something about the mechanics, but about what is the most optimal way to fight. This sense of pushing forward and constantly getting to experience new stuff is what pushed me towards achieving 100% completion without even realising I was doing it until suddenly I was 95% there and had to get that last little bit.

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is a game that is constantly pushing you deeper into it using its world & enemy design along with its combat system to enthral you in its world and give you the best Metroidvania experience I’ve had in many years.

2 – Pokemon Sword & Shield

Release Date: 15th November
Developer:
Game Freak
Publisher:
Nintendo
Platforms: Nintendo Switch
Metacritic Average: 80%

If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time then you were probably expecting to see this on the list somewhere and here you go, number two, it’s becoming a bit of a tradition for Pokemon games actually.

I was very excited for these games more or less all year, I can’t deny that the lack of the national dex was a tad disappointing, but once I had the game in my hands and was playing it, that fact becomes little more than a tiny annoyance that I barely ever thought about.

Firstly, when it comes to the towns and routes in the game, I thought they were absolutely beautiful and captured a lot of different feelings from phases in British culture. There’s Motostoke, the industrial, victorian town; Wyndon the modern-day metropolis that we all know and (kind of) love today and then there were towns like Ballonlea that felt like something out of an old fairy tale. The visuals in this game were bright, colourful and an absolute joy to behold.

As for the Pokemon, while I certainly wouldn’t rank it among the best new roster we’ve received for a generation, It’s most certainly nowhere near the worst. I’ve already talked about the Pokemon I loved the most, but there were a whole host of other new Pokemon added in this game that I really love the look and feel of.

While the story itself was nothing special by Pokemon standards, it was paced quite nicely and I thought the climax was quite a cool sequence, not Ultra Necrozma levels of cool, but cool nonetheless; and I enjoyed my interactions with any character not named Hop or Leon. I also thought the difficulty was rather nicely done, I didn’t exactly struggle at any point, but there were several points in the big battles that I felt were a bit touch-and-go and I was forced to think about what I was doing a bit harder than I usually have to in Pokemon games.

I’m undoubtedly biased towards Pokemon as a franchise, but that doesn’t change the fact that I had loads of fun with this addition to the series. It was a Pokemon game that ticked all the boxes in terms what I need to have fun from a Pokemon game and in terms of visual spectacle, I think it’s the best we’ve seen so far. If the lack of a national dex was the only thing keeping you away then implore you to reconsider because this is still just as brilliant of an experience as Pokemon always has been.

1 – Fire Emblem: Three Houses

Release Date: 26th July
Developer:
Intelligent System, Koei Tecmo
Publisher:
Nintendo
Platforms: Nintendo Switch
Metacritic Average: 89%

I’d never played a Fire Emblem game before Three Houses and I didn’t even have any intensions to buy it until I did so on a whim in early September and I am so glad I didn’t miss out on this absolutely joyous gaming experience.

The Turn-Based Strategy combat in this game is extremely refined and taps into that part of my brain that games like XCOM and Civilization created that loves deep strategic thinking in games. The usage of middle-aged weaponry (and magic) gives the battles a very different type of strategy to what I’m used to, I usually tend to play quite defensively in turn-based strategies but the need to get up close and personal with your opponents means you’re not afforded that luxury and it leads to some very tense situations that require a deep level of strategic thought to resolve.

Weaponry and classes each unit has access to gives a nice level of variety too, with each melee weapon allowing for slightly different possibilities in combat, alongside the ranged and magic weapons/abilities meaning each unit has to be treated very differently in battle in order to get the optimum performance out of them.

That’s not what made this game so special to me though. That’s not the reason that, as of the time of writing, I’m currently about to reach the conclusion of my 4th playthrough of this 45-hour game. What makes Fire Emblem: Three Houses such a wonderful game to play are its characters.

You play as a professor at an academy where the various future lords, nobles & knights of the land learn their craft, this naturally means you have students and you get to know these students so incredibly well throughout the course of the game. Every single part of every character is dripping in personality and while it’s true that many of the characters are a bit one-note, when there’s so many of them and they’re all constantly interacting and bouncing off of each other, then you don’t even notice.

Over the course of the game, I grew to understand all of the characters and how they operate in the same way that any teacher does when they have the same class for an extended period of time, you get to see them grow and develop as people and I genuinely care about all of them and their progress. This feeds back into the gameplay and combat because it’s not just faceless armies that you’re sending into danger, it’s your students that you’ve bonded with and have a whole future ahead of them and when one of them dies, that failure – YOUR failure – weighs on you.

The game’s branching narrative is brilliantly set up, forcing you to choose your house less than an hour into the game, with only a base-level understanding of the students you’ll be taking under your wing. It was what pushed me to dive right into my 2nd, 3rd & 4th playthroughs because I had to know what happened to all of these characters that I’ve grown to love.

The feature characters for each line in the narrative are very well-developed as well and there are some genuinely brilliantly written scenes in every path. This was a game that understood that the emotional weight of its story came not from the events happening, but how those events affect the characters. Every scene is written in such a way to draw you into the lives of its characters and that level of investment bleeds over into every other part of the game, whether you’re teaching them on their skills or sending them into battle.

Fire Emblem: Three Houses is that perfect mix that captures exactly what made me fall in love with Octopath Traveler last year. Its characters are flowing with personality that never fails to make me smile and the gameplay has a deep level of strategy that I just can’t keep away from and it’s absolutely the best gaming experience I’ve had in 2019.

So that’s it! Those were my favourite games in 2019! Thank you very much for taking the time to read this, please, let me know what games you loved this year either in the comments below or on Twitter @10ryawoo. Finally, make sure to join me back here on Saturday, where I’ll be talking about my favourite comedy shows!

Triple Threat Review: Absolver, Descenders, Tiltagon

It’s back! New! Improved! Well not really, it’s pretty much the same.

You can check out my older reviews here, but for those of you who don’t know, over the past few years I’ve accumulated a lot of games on my Steam account that I’ve never even heard of thanks to Humble Bundles and giveaways and such like and I’m terrible at getting around to playing any of them, so they just keep building up.

So, I came up with a solution, where every fortnight I would pick 3 of these games at random and play them for an hour or two until I felt I’d got a good idea of how the games play, then I write a review for each of them. I also score the games, but I don’t use the traditional system of ranking games out of 10 or 100, instead, I rank them out of 3.

A 1 means that I didn’t like the game and don’t recommend it; A 2 means I thought the game was ok and I would recommend it if it looked like your thing and finally a 3 means I thought the game was great and definitely recommend it. Maybe one day I’ll find a game so bad I want to give it a zero, but that hasn’t happened yet.

So now we’ve got the concept down, let’s get to the games.

Absolver

Developer: Sloclap
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Released: 29th August 2017
Steam Reviews: Mixed
Price: £24.99/$29.99/€29.99

Absolver is quite an interesting game which seems to draw inspiration from many places. It’s a game focusing all on hand to hand martial arts combat, with systems that allow you to customise your moveset and an RPG like progression system.

The combat at the base level is pretty fun, I didn’t get too heavily into customising my movesets, but I experimented a bit and found some success with what I came across. Each strike both for and against you feels very weighty, and the blocking and parry systems create a great feel for every combat encounter. Every fight feels like a proper challenge, and the visual and sound design of the combat system, along with the meat of it, means that no two fights feel the same.

I also quite like the way the game takes you through its early stages, it takes you through one linear level during the tutorial and then throws you into a sprawling world with various branches that you can go through in any order you like. It’s quite sudden and a tad confusing at first, but once you get your barings, it’s quite a nice world to explore.

It’s also at this point in the game that you realise it’s an online game, which is good and bad. The good thing is the world feels a bit more lively, even though you don’t see many people, the realisation that you’re not on your own can add to the experience a little bit. The main problem I have is the that the online isn’t optional, which would be fine except for the fact that, more people there are in an area, the more enemies spawn in packs, including the mini-boss fights. I understand it from a balance perspective and it encourages co-operation between players, unfortunately some of these areas can be rather big and in my experience it was quite hard to get anyone to help you out, you instead had to stand just outside the boss arena and wait for someone else to come along, otherwise you’re going up against 3 tough enemies on your own and it’s damn near impossible when you’re new at the game.

This brings me to the biggest issue I had with the game – a problem I have with a lot of Soulslike games – is that it’s extremely unfriendly to new players. The learning curve in this game gets extremely steep very fast to the point where after lucking my way through the first mini-boss fight because someone else showed up to help me at the last second, I could barely touch the second. The game gives you the barest explanations of how it’s systems works and then just shoves you into the world to work it out.

Doing that to some extent is fine, I wouldn’t want a game that holds my hand the entire time either, but there’s got to be some middle ground that doesn’t leave me frustrated because I feel like I haven’t been taught enough to face the challenges in front of me. Even Dark Souls holds your hand a little more than this and that’s mostly thanks to its pretty linear path, which is something I think this game could’ve benefitted more from.

If you’re looking for a game that you can really sink your teeth into and are prepared for a challenge, then you’ll probably get loads of out of this, but if you’re looking for a more casual experience, then you’re not going to have a nice time in this one.

Score: 2/3 – OK

Descenders

Developer: Rage Squid
Publisher: No More Robots
Released: 7th May 2019
Steam Reviews: Very Positive
Price: £19.49/$24.99/€22.99

So, as anyone who checks my Steam account will know, I’m cheating the rules ever so slightly with this one, as I’ve actually played Descenders for over 400 hours. However, it came out of early access recently and it’s not getting nearly as much attention as it deserves, so here I am.

Descenders is a game where you ride your bike downhill through increasingly extreme environments, and you can do all of the tricks you’d expect from a biking game such as this. That’s the whole game.

When I first picked up Descenders, I really thought it would be one of those games that I play on and off for about a week and then completely forget about it, but I never did. Instead, it became my game to play when I don’t feel like playing anything, to the point where I play it for around an hour almost daily. So what keeps pulling me back into it and avoid boredom?

Well first of all, this game was made by the same people who developed Action Henk, which was a game based all around momentum and timing, trying to nail jumps and tricks at the perfect moment to get through the level as fast as possible and it’s safe to say that the philosophy of Action Henk very much carried over to Descenders. The feeling of speed and momentum as you speed down the extreme hills that this game presents to you is so satisfying to play. As I fling myself off the end of a ramp at a speed that is clearly way too fast, it gets this pure sense of joy out of me that I find almost addictive in how much fun it is.

There’s also a suitable level of challenge since in every run of the game you start of with 4 lives if you come off your bike you lose one, and you can gain more by completing bonus objectives (such as doing certain tricks or completing the level quickly etc). This means that if you’re looking for more of a challenge then this game has you covered, but at the same time, if you just want to ride casually, then there are modes for that too.

Each of the 9 environments that the game gives you provide a very different style of play, but it’s very subtle. If you go into each environment with the same mentality you’ll find yourself burning through your lives very quickly. To use the standard career environments as an example: In Highlands you can pretty much just go at your own pace, cutting across the fields of grass with little risk of disaster; Then you move into Forest, with lots of tight corners and precise tricks and obstacles, you go off the track you’ll quickly find yourself wrapped around the tree, so you have to focus on the precision of your riding; Following that is Canyon, which is a bit of a mix of the first two environments, it’s got some very fun, wide-open paths to roll down, and if you go off the path, you’ll find some very fun challenges come your way that you can just about manage if you’re skillful enough; Finally there is Peaks, with very step paths and long drops if you come off, this environment is about finding the balance between careful riding, and the speed required to send you flying over the most over the top tricks in the game.

Descenders really fit into that niche for me of what a good casual game should be, in that it lets people of any skill level do reasonably well at it while allowing those people who are really good at it to do incredibly skilful things. You don’t have to dig very far to find video clips of people doing some insane tricks that someone of my skill level could never even dream off pulling off.

Ultimately, if you’re looking for a game to occupy a bit of your time every now and then, this will be a great game for you and if you’re looking for a game that you can really sink your teeth into and hone your skills to become a master, then you’ll be very satisfied with what Descenders can offer as well.

Score: 3/3 – Great

Tilatgon

Developer & Publisher: Kiemura Ltd
Released: 29th March 2016
Steam Reviews: Positive
Price: £1.99/$2.99/€2.99

When it comes to cheap games on Steam, the one genre that is almost entirely contained within it is the Reflex game. A genre mastered by games like One Finger Death Punch and Super Hexagon, that style of easy to learn, impossible to master is one that I find very enthralling and I love to see so many different game’s take on it.

Tiltagon’s gimmick is rolling a ball around on a variety of different hexagons, that contain various obstacles for you to overcome as you roll around each level. As I’ve mentioned before in this series, I judge these games on three main factors: Movement, Difficulty curve and Death. So let’s jump right into them.

First up is movement, which in Tiltagon is very strange and I’m honestly not entirely sure how it works. The name of the game implies that you move Super Monkey Ball style by tilting the level and dealing with the momentum of the ball and that also appears to be what visually happens when you move your controller around, as the level will tilt slightly in the direction you’re rolling the ball. However, as I was experimenting with the controls, it seems like the tilting of the level is purely visual, and you actually control the rolling of the ball directly with the analogue stick.

Personally, I think it’s to the game’s benefit that you control the ball directly given some of the platforms you’re faced with, however, the tilting can create this weird disconnect between what you expect the ball to do and what it actually does, which can take a little bit of getting used to. That said, once you do get use to it, I think the movement is very smooth and I had fun rolling around the levels.

Next up is the difficulty curve and this one’s a little difficult to tackle given with how this game presents itself. There are set levels, 10 of them and from as far as I got (level 5) before getting stuck, it seemed to progress very well. Each level provided you with one or two new obstacles to throw at you, and every level after that mixes all of the mechanics together in a really nice way to create a good challenge.

There are slanted hexes, moving hexes, hexes with holes in the middle, blocks and sweepers that spin around to knock you off and every combination thereof are just a handful of the obstacles I came across during my time with the game. There’s a nice variety in what’s being thrown at you, so no section in each level feels the same and they’re plotted out in such a way that makes for a well-scaled challenge, instead of just feeling randomly plonked down.

The other mode in the game (and seemingly the main one the game is centred around) is the endless mode. Where hexes will generate one at a time and you have to grab a cube somewhere on each hex to generate the next one. I found this mode is a lot faster paced than the levels and that’s generally to it’s benefit. This game seems to be at it’s best when it’s forcing you to take risks and play just a little bit faster than you’re comfortable with.

Finally, death. Death in this game is pretty standard for the genre, the death animation doesn’t take very long and restarts are pretty much instant, which is great to avoid frustration. For the most part, it felt like every death was my fault too, although there were a couple instances where I could’ve sworn I pushed the stick in the opposite direction to where the ball went, those were quite rare, so I’m willing to give the benefit of the doubt.

While not every death felt like a learning experience, I never got frustrated when I died, partly because I was having plenty of fun as it was, but also because it honestly never felt like the game was screwing me over. Everything’s perfectly completable, I just wasn’t good enough. This added to the satisfaction of finally completing levels.

Ultimately, Tiltagon is a good addition to the reflex genre and if you’re into that style of game then I’d definitely recommend picking it up, even if you’re not, it’s so cheap that it’s worth giving it a go and seeing if it can’t win you over.

Score: 3/3 – Great

That’s Triple Threat Review! Thank you very much for taking the time to read, I’d love to know what your thoughts are on this format either in comments below or on Twitter @10ryawoo! Also, make sure you come back next weekend as I’ll be ranking every Wrestlemania of this decade!