Monday, January 15, 2018

Ep. #158 - The Legacy of Meat Boy

An old favorite of 2v1's, Super Meat Boy, is released for Nintendo Switch, but something is missing...

Alex looks for abstract solutions in Prey, Josh falls in love with Nioh and Nick shoots a lot of dudes in another Uncharted jungle.

Also discussed: Dark Souls, Kirby, World Ends With You, Getting Over It and the Overwatch League

Outro from original Super Meat Boy OST "Forest Funk":

Monday, January 8, 2018

Ep. #157 - Junk Assassin

It's Fashion Week in Paris. The crowd is dressed to the nines, champagne but a reach away and gorgeous people are strutting their stuff down the runway. Please disregard the corpse the models are stepping over.

The gang's all here with a continued discussion of Assassin's Creed: Origins and Hitman, roguelikes and disagreements over the End is Nigh.

Also discussed: New Year's Resolutions (or lack thereof), Arcade sticks, Paladins: Battlegrounds and free games.

Outro: The Hollow Howl from Enter the Gungeon OST

Monday, January 1, 2018

Ep. #156 - Happy 2018

Happy New Year!

2v1 rings in 2018 with guest-host AJ to discuss Games of the Year, hangover cures, Nier: Automata, Assassin's Creed: Origins and of course, fighting games.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Alex's Gaming Year in Review: What I Played in 2017

December 29, 2017

Alex’s Year in Gaming - 2017

It's that time of the year again. The time when we reflect on the games we've played for the past 365 days and then assign a subjective order of value to each. This year, I'm dividing my thought catalog into the following sections:

  • Releases in 2017
  • Not 2017
  • Unfinished Business
    • I've put in enough time into these to know they belong on this list, but I've plenty to play still. Because I'm adding them now, they won't show up on my 2018 list.

Make sense? No? Perfect. I'm sure that friend & listener Yody would approve when I say, "I'm an adult, and I can structure my dumb list however I like."

Releases in 2017

8) Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy (Steam)

Until the release of Getting Over It, I never had any intention of doing any gaming with Steam. I'm not anti-PC gaming at all; I'm just a console guy. And then came Getting Over It. One of the strangest love-to-hate and hate-to-love games I'd ever heard of, so I took a leap of faith. A few short downloads and $8.00 USD later, I dove into my first "PC" (Mac) gaming experience. To date, Getting Over It is the only game to which I respond with laughter instead of rage when I screw up and lose progress. That's how I knew it was something special.

7) GWENT [Public Beta] (Xbox One)

I don't even remember the last time I played this game, and yet, it felt wrong not to include it because of how much I played it mid-2017. There was a time where if I wasn't playing Rocket League, I was playing Gwent. Fanatically.

Then, they implemented a huge overhaul on the game a month or two into the public beta, and everything changed. My favorite thing about the original Gwent was how simple it was. It wasn't the "whoever has more cards is going to win" version that you can find in-game with Witcher 3, but it wasn't too complicated, either, and I personally thought that was the beauty of the game. It was so easy to sit and burn through an hour of satisfying and relatively strategic card game fare. After the first BIG update, all of that changed. The beautiful simplicity was no longer there, the game was fundamentally changed, and I quickly fell off after that.

RIP, Gwent. I hardly knew ye.

6) Little Nightmares (Xbox One)

It's lazy and possibly unfair to compare this game to INSIDE.

That said, this game is INSIDE, basically. But that doesn't mean it's a ripoff, per se. It definitely has a more interesting aesthetic, and I would argue that it focuses a little more on horror as opposed to a disturbing dystopian feel, though both games are disturbing to be sure. Regardless, I can't say much without spoiling the experience. It's a 90% competent side-scrolling platformer that will have you on the edge of your seat from time to time. 

5) Fortnite [Battle Royale] (Xbox One)

I played Fortnite almost right when it came out, and refused to complete the endless tutorial, so I have nothing to say about the "actual" game. However, Fortnite added its own Battle Royale mode a la PUBG, and it became an instant hit on consoles. Interestingly, it didn't grab me in beginning - nor did it in the following months. But then PUBG was released on consoles on December 12. I was somewhat excited to play "the real thing," but it was such a disaster on consoles at launch (and isn't much better now) that I decided to revisit Fortnite. Suddenly, a lightbulb went off. I can't put it down, and I love playing match after match in Duos and Squads. I admit, I still don't get anything out of Solo play, so part of it is the social experience and sharing of Victory Royale among friends.

4) Cuphead (Xbox One)

Where the hell did this game come from?

I mean, I know it was announced and we had it on our radar and all, but what a fascinating game to basically come out of left field and onto our TV screens.

Obviously, the coolest thing about Cuphead is the art style. And that living, 1930s-style animation somehow goes so well with the run 'n' gun gameplay that it's just impossible to put down. Once you get started on a boss, unless you've got a job interview or a hot date, there's no way you'll be leaving until you see, "KNOCKOUT!" plastered across the screen. The cherry on top of this fresh gaming experience is its price tag of $20. I implore you to roll the dice and take the Cuphead challenge if you haven't already.

3) Mass Effect: Andromeda (Xbox One)

Nick & Josh are not going to be happy about this one.

Mass Effect: Andromeda sucked in a lot of ways. Nothing happened in the story, "lame" could not describe the new cosmic threat, and the word "Pathfinder" is going to be tainted forever because of this game. Still...I put 40+ hours into it. Once I got fully into it, it didn't feel like a chore, though it was at the beginning. It still had the Mass Effect-y feel to it gameplay-wise, and overall, it's as simple as me saying this: I enjoyed the game, and I don't regret playing it. Of course, it doesn't hold a candle to the original trilogy. Honestly, the whole thing just makes me think about Star Wars: The Last Jedi, which you can hear us talk about in Episode 155 - Divisive. My expectations were managed, I was aware of the nasty developer/publisher/"push this to meet the release date" situation, and I played accordingly. I just hope they do it better next time if there ever is a next time.

2) Metroid: Samus Returns (Nintendo 3DS)

Last year, an unofficial Metroid game was essentially tied for my Game of the Year 2016 pick. Never would I have dreamed in a zillion years that the following year I'd have an official entry into the Metroid franchise in the exact same spot.

As excited as I was for Samus to Return, a tiny part of me was almost anxious because of the art design and gameplay tweaks - but I left it to the developers to do right by the Metroid name. And they did. The added melee component along with a full-3D environment turned out to be cool as hell. It's similar enough to the source (Metroid II: Return of Samus) that it's still a wonderful trip down memory lane, but other than the way the game actually progresses, it might as well be a brand new experience. As I would describe it, there's even a bit of a "post game" to play around with to encourage exploration. But to go into further detail would spoil one of the coolest parts of the game.

1) Resident Evil 7 (Xbox One)

If you've been a 2v1 fan since at least February/March, you definitely knew this was coming.

I have a Resident Evil problem, and that's no secret. The collective amount of hours I've put into the franchise across its many installments is truly staggering. And while they hold a special place in my heart, even a diehard fanboy like me wanted to cut my hands off after playing Resident Evil 6's campaign (Mercs, on the other hand, you've heard me swoon over). When Capcom announced 7 and what it would offer in terms of gameplay, I was skeptical, but I thought, "Well, literally nothing can be worse than 6, so I'm ready to give this a chance."

Resident Evil 7 is what the series needed: A fresh approach with brand new gameplay, puzzles, and scares. Not an over-the-top, guns blazing, mega steaming pile of action-shit like RE6. The story is thin, but at the same time, that's never been what drew me into the series to begin with. I played the hell out of the single player and did everything there was to do, including its infamous Madhouse difficulty. Then, the first wave of DLCs came out (Banned Footage Volumes, for which I actually wrote an in-depth review that you can see below), and they not only delivered, but they sort of blew me away. Some of them provided additional insight into the story/characters, some of them are simply mini/side games you can pick up at any time, but one of my favorite things about the first wave of DLCs, and indeed, RE7 in its totality, is the white-knuckle Ethan Must Die game mode. Learning, mastering, and conquering this mode is to this day one of the most satisfying video game feats I've accomplished. Then, this December, Capcom gave us the rest of RE7's DLC - Not a Hero and End of Zoe. Neither was terrible, but neither was great. And really only the former was "pretty good." It wasn't the revisiting I was holding my breath for, but I was happy to have any reason to play the game again.

Bottom line: RE7 breathed new life into Resident Evil, and I no longer believe the series is doomed. There may still be some greatness yet to be explored in the series that we have to thank for the emergence of survival horror as a gaming genre.

Not 2017

7) The Turing Test (Xbox One)

Bulkhead Interactive did it again for me. In 2015, it was Pneuma: Breath of Life. While The Turing Test first came out in 2016, I just got around to playing this as a Games with Gold freebie this year. Similar to both Pneuma and Portal, you're basically trudging through puzzles at the whims of an overseer while being fed some philosophical and intellectual food for thought at the same time. While Portal is more light-hearted in nature, The Turing Test tells its story from more of an ethics consideration angle. Just what is it that constitutes artificial intelligence, consciousness, life, or a combination of these things? It's not a huge time investment, and it brings up some questions that, while humans have been talking about them for decades, we're going to have to come up with some answers to finally - probably sooner rather than later. 

6) Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin (Nintendo DS)

There are three Castlevanias on the DS, and this one falls neatly in the middle for me. It goes a little something like this:

Dawn of Sorrow > Portrait of Ruin > Order of Ecclesia

Ecclesia isn't a bad game, but it definitely comes up short when compared to this and DoS. PoR takes the ability to swap characters and makes it essential to your success in some parts of the game, but not in an annoying way. It simply encourages you to try different tactics, weapons, and spells so you get a flavor of everything the game has to offer. Plus, the general idea of going in and out of individual portrait "worlds" is just sweet as hell. To top it all off, this one has a particularly memorable battle with the prince of darkness at the end of the game.

5) Hitman (Xbox One)

Like Fortnite Battle Royale, this is another late entry to my list this year.

Hitman is a triumph in terms of video gaming entertainment value. It's the perfect blend of realism and...non-realism, to be frank. I think developers are constantly trying to find the right balance between what's realistic and what's fun, and I've never seen a game nail it like Hitman. In fact, as I went through the game, I captured many of my favorite moments and plan to make a "supercut" of sorts - more to come on that.

In any case, in my humble opinion, there's one way to play this game: On the couch with a friend right next to you with no Googling allowed. Hitman is as much a puzzle game as it is a stealth-action game. The eureka moments combined with some of the game's AI quirks lead to lots of laughs and pure enjoyment. Once you beat a mission, pass it on to your pal to tackle the next one. Plus, you can replay missions with different gear, starting locations, disguises, etc. It adds to the replay value in a way I haven't seen in most games. And then there's the Elusive Targets. I could go on and on, but you just should play it instead.

4) Uncharted 4: A Thief's End (PS4)

There are a lot of good things about Uncharted 4. It tells an engaging story - one that the adventurer in all of us wishes to be a part of, minus the element that's tantamount to mass murder. The gameplay and controls are competent and do what they need to do. The characters are interesting and do a good job of making you hate them or love them. But the best part?

I'm sorry, but it's the graphics. Uncharted 4 is still the best looking game I've ever seen in my life. And while I'm sure there are some games I haven't gotten to yet that give it a run for the money, the interactivity among things in the environment is so impressive that I really just can't believe it. Foliage, shadows, mud's all perfectly done. All of it. Perfectly.

One day, I may make time to play the first three. I almost wonder, though, if that's a bad idea at this point, considering how high the bar's been set by Uncharted 4.

3) Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow (Nintendo DS)

I almost feel guilty even saying this...but if there's a Castlevania out there that I'd put up against Symphony of the Night, it's Dawn of Sorrow. This is about as good as it gets.

It's basically a sequel to Aria of Sorrow with regard to both story and gameplay. But it has its own unique elements that set it apart from and above Aria. Best of all, once you beat the game, you unlock another mode in classic Castlevania fashion, and honestly, it may add the most replay value of any of these post-game modes I've seen. I'm definitely going to come back to it at some point to spend more time with Julius Mode.

2) Axiom Verge (Xbox One)

Speaking of Castlevania...

Axiom Verge perfects the Metroidvania genre in a way such that I'd be okay with them adding a part of it to its genre namesake. It's hard to believe that after all these years, another "pathfinder" as they are now called could come along to redefine what to expect out of a quality Metroidvania (still my favorite way to refer to these games). If you've never played a Metroidvania/pathfinder game, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend Axiom Verge as a starting point. The hand-drawn art design is beautiful, the music effectively bottles up nostalgia for future consumption, and the gameplay is gripping.

Axiom Verge reminded why this really may be my favorite gaming genre.

1) Bloodborne (PS4)

If you remove my silly categories and criteria, and we talk strictly about what game I played this year that I enjoyed the most, it's Bloodborne. Hands down.

You know all about two thirds of 2v1's undying love for the Souls series. Well, my love for the Souls games notwithstanding, I can say that Bloodborne is every bit as good, and in some ways, it's even better. The gameplay is perfectly polished, and nothing beats the Victorian horror setting and aesthetic. It's just sublime. Beasts, blood, and blades abound in this spiritual successor to and natural evolution of the Souls family of games. It's also an easier starting point for those looking to dip their toes into this now famous/infamous genre of gaming. I would say that Bloodborne is (marginally) easier overall. Still, the game is an incredible challenge to surmount no matter how you approach it, and the payoff that comes with its completion is every bit is satisfying. It's worth nothing that I played it all the way through twice back to back, which is something I can't say about any of the Souls games.

Unfinished Business

2) Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus (Xbox One)

I don't want to talk a lot about Wolfenstein 2 because honestly, it was a slog for me to get through at first, and this game is all about specific "moments." The gunplay is so so. The emotional hangups of protagonist BJ in the beginning are unbearable. The story is sort of whatever. At least up until shortly after what you see in the picture above. Suddenly, I was very happy to be playing this game. I got through this game-changing event shortly before leaving my Atlanta abode for the holidays, so it'll be my first order of gaming business when I return to finish it. I hear the ending only gets better.

1) Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Switch)

I know Zelda is basically the undisputed champ of 2017, and I wouldn't argue with that for a second. It's also a borderline embargoed topic on the podcast because we've spent so much time discussing and praising what an outstanding game it is. Weirdly, I'm still waiting for the full-blown addiction phase, but the second half 2017 was unusually busy for me, and I thought it prudent to get through a wider variety of games than to sink 60-80 hours straight into Zelda, so I think that played a part in my not finishing it. It certainly doesn't have anything to do with how beautiful it looks, the soothing sounds and interior of every shrine I visit, or the unfettered ability to explore whatever mountain, river, or structure you see on the horizon.

It's really been an exciting year for 2v1, and Nick, Josh, and I all have you as our listeners and supporters to thank for that. We promise to keep doing what we do, incorporating your feedback as we go, and to continue working on making the podcast, our video & social content, and swag accessibility better every day.

Cheers and good health to you all in 2018!


Thursday, December 28, 2017

Games That Came Out in 2017 That Josh Decided To Make A List For, Ranked

Each year this list gets harder and harder to make, 2017 was absolutely no exception.  I played more games this year than any other year in recent memory, 46 to be exact (of which 28 released this year) - and 2018 is somehow already looking to be just as impressive.  Now, please find for your reading pleasure, the arbitrary list of things I put together below:


Dearest Guilty Gear Xrd Rev2, Undertale, and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe,
                You all should have made my list this year, but due to such an overwhelming amount of applications from 2017, I had to put yours aside.  Remember though, just because you weren’t new releases for the year (technicalities, I know), I still love you all enough to give you a nod and a mention.

Dearest Cuphead,
                You got the short end of the stick on this one, and I apologize.  I like you so, so, so much, but a last minute addition to my top 10 just happened to swoosh in there and knock you off.  #Blame2017.

Dearest Pyre,
                It’s not you, it’s me.  You were easily one of my favorite games of 2017, but the year as a whole was just too damn good.  Tell SuperGiant I’m sorry, and I still hold Transistor in very high regards. 

Dearest Resident Evil 7,
                We had some fun for a bit, but it wasn’t lasting.  Don’t get me wrong, I love what you’ve done with yourself, your whole ‘reinvention,’ and I love our time spent together this year.  It’s just, it wasn’t meant to be.

Dearest Lawbreakers,
                I don’t know what to say.  I’m sorry we drifted, but do you blame me?  You just took too long to catch on, and I know that’s not your fault, but I can only sit in a lobby for so long.  I sincerely hope you get back on your feet in the months to come though.

Dearest Mass Effect Andromeda,

Dearest Destiny 2,
                I like you, I do.  It’s just not the time nor place anymore.  I have more important things to be doing (ie games to be playing).  Sorry?

Dearest Mario Odyssey,
                Im sure I’ll be getting some flak on this one.  Just remember kids, everyone has their own likes and dislikes.  And it’s not that I dislike you, at all really.  On a list of 11 or 12, you’d absolutely place 11 or 12.  You do a lot of things really well, but nothing specifically great (opinion!).  I should stop now. 

Dearest Uncharted Lost Legacy,
                Another example for the amazing year of gaming.  You are absolutely a fantastic entry into the Uncharted franchise, one which any Uncharted fan should immediately dive into. 

Dearest Matterfall,
                You were arguably the most disappointing game of the year for me, and it saddens me to say so.  

Dearest Nioh, Mario & Rabbids, Night in the Woods, and Hollow Knight
                Sorry I didn't get around to you all this year, but I'll see you soon enough.

And without further ado:

10) Dear Wolfenstein 2,
Wow.  Just, wow.  I knew you’d go some places with the fight against the Nazis, but wow did you go some places.  I will say, however, your actual gameplay wasn’t anything to write home about.  Was it bad?  No.  Was it average?  Sure.  But that’s not where my full investment was.  Terror Billy and his squad of resistance hooligans made for a surprisingly well-crafted group of characters, and some of your… moments… I will soon never forget. I don’t really know how Machine Games could top this entry, but let’s not forget who has yet to arrive: Mecha Hitler.

9) Dear Assassins Creed Origins
I’m coining a new term because of you, “Creed Syndrome.”  Definition: An annual, franchised sequel that has a facade of being different from the previous entries but only feels that way because of the extended time from the preceding games launch.  This is, by no means, a bad thing.  You managed to improve on a handful of ideas and concepts from the prior games and make a fantastic “Creed game.”  Bayek is an okay character (that’s a compliment), the gameplay is arguably the best in the series, Egypt is quite possibly my favorite setting yet, and certain missions lead to some entertaining moments.  I hope Ubisoft takes note of what they’ve done with you and hits the breaks again for wherever the assassins next end up. Prediction: Far Cry 5 will also have Creed Syndrome.   

8) Dear The Surge,  
First and foremost, you were quite the surprise.  I approached you with full apprehension, yet became smitten with you for a few weeks.  What you lacked in narrative, you made up for with intense, satisfying combat in a uniquely realized world.  Although the die, progress, die, progress loop wasn’t always my forte, I found myself constantly needing to advance further and further in hopes of finding one of your near perfectly placed shortcut routes.  Which is perhaps what I found most enticing about slashing my way through the CREO facilities - a steady flow of “a-ha!” moments, where I was able to finally let myself breathe again.  I like you.  

7) Dear The End Is Nigh,  
You are a very, very, late addition to my list, and we’re still not anywhere near being done.  For all I know, my opinion could completely change over the course of the next week. But as it currently stands, you are faaaaaaan-fuckin-tastic, and I honestly don’t see that drifting.  From the very opening cutscene to the little spurts of dialogue, I constantly find myself smiling.  The platforming is tight and fair, the level layouts are always interesting, and the difficulty is a perfect blend of masochism.  Are you perfect?  Not really.  A stage select screen, as opposed to world select, would have been nice for backtracking to missed collectibles, but it hasn’t really deterred me quite yet.  Above everything else, however, you consistently accomplish something very few games have done this year – make me work for something, while smiling at every accomplishment.    

6) Dear Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice
You made me uncomfortable.  There were moments through our journey where I genuinely felt uneasy, and anxious, and tense - emotions which aren’t always easily brought forward when playing an interactive story.  But you did it.  Yes, we could go on about your approach towards mental illnesses and how you were able to handle a subject which many may shy away from, and do it successfully, but that would disregard all other aspects of what I loved about you.  Your overall aesthetic - from the pitch-black swamps to the damp caverns to flowery meadows, from the voices echoing through Senua’a head to the popping of flames to the clash of blades amid battle -  I found all of which stunning and unforgettable.  While I still hope Ninja Theory goes back to their typical hack n’ slash in the future, I admire you for what you are.

5) Dear Horizon Zero Dawn,  
At a point where open world games have become a somewhat ‘known quantity,’ you came along and somehow managed to freshen things up.  Despite having a few open world staples, the way you approached them and made gameplay feel more natural was very welcoming.  You created such a likable cast of characters, and the hologram flashbacks of ‘current day’ characters created an intrigue into how the world went through such a drastic transition.  Not to mention you crafted one of the better story-lines of the year, with some fun twists and turns throughout the final chapters, and an out of the blue moment happening fairly early.  In a jam-packed year of releases, you are certainly one that shouldn’t be missed.

4) Dear What Remains of Edith Finch,
I can’t say much about my admiration towards you, or rather I don’t want to say much.  Your little surprises should be left for the player to discover, which there were plenty of - the way you focused your vignettes around unique mechanics (the cannery scene is one of my favorite moments of the year), how you advanced your narrative through different perspectives, how you constantly left a sense of mystery behind your doors (and left some of that mystery ambiguous come the end).  You are perhaps the most surprising game of the year for me, and one that I wholeheartedly wish more people would choose to experience.

3) Dear Nex Machina
You made an addict out of me.  You were an addiction I couldn’t kick, nor wanted to.  You were, and still are, a spectacle in practically every twin-stick/bullet-hell way imaginable.  Dare I say it?  You’re perfect for what you are, and I don’t care what others may say.  You were made for me.  

2)  Dear Zelda: Breath of the Wild,  
You did it, you’ve convinced me.  You made me give Nintendo a chance and I genuinely couldn’t be happier about it.  And even though there’s a high probability we don’t make to Calamity Ganon any time soon, the hours we’ve already spent together have made you something special.  Your sense of adventure and surprise is practically unparalleled, and your lack of player direction is quite relieving.  I constantly find it hard to put you down; you somehow have this “one more ‘thing’ to do” aura surrounding you.  You deserve every accolade you’ve been given this year, and I look forward to continuing our journey for the hours and hours to come.  

1)  Dear NieR:Automata,  
I think about you on an almost weekly basis.  I never want to forget our moments together, both the good and the bad, and will probably be coming back to you annually.  You are a certainly a catch, and had me digging through your background and lore for days after we were through.  You still somehow make me hold back tears when seeing certain online images or videos of your struggles, even months after we experienced them together.  Am I gushing over you?  Absolutely.  You are truly an unforgettable experience, and if these sentiments don’t constitute giving you my game of the year, then, well, what should?

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Nick's Top 10+1 Games of 2017

2017 has been a rough year, both personally and globally. That's not to say there weren't some highlights, but one thing's for sure: it was another wonderful year for games. Once again I managed to play a lot of this year's releases, which made this list quite difficult. I want to thank everyone for their continued support of 2v1 - we'd be nothing without you. And special thanks to all of our recurring guests that jump in at a moment's notice when our schedule's are messy. Let's get started.

11. Hollow Knight

Hollow Knight is a metroidvania (henceforth known as pathfinder) game about a lone bug-knight traversing a weird world of insects who have lost their souls as a once majestic kingdom falls to ruin around them. The art direction is wonderful, with a ton of variety in insect designs as well as beautifully detailed backgrounds and environments. I loved poking around looking for upgrades to help me survive a rather challenging game and like any good pathfinder, thorough exploration was rewarding. Bonus points to this game for building an atmosphere not unlike Dark Souls, where tidbits of world building are done with item descriptions and limited conversations with a large cast of characters. These characters help flesh out a very grim world that is enhanced by the somber soundtrack. Hollow Knight is an excellent experience that I couldn’t leave off of my list. Look out for it on Switch early next year and PS4 sometime down the road.

10. NieR: Automata 

I have issues with Automata’s bland open world and emphasis on repeated plays but the way Nier uses those repeated plays to expand upon and further the story is something I’ve never seen in a game before. The initial pass through 2B and 9S’s quest to save the earth from alien robots is brief and confusing, but the 2nd pass fills in the gaps while adding a nice twist to the hacknslash/bullet hell/shooter gameplay. Repeated plays of a game typically add flavor like new weapons or costumes but Nier goes the route of showing the player alternate perspectives, culminating in the 3rd pass where almost everything is revealed based on prior context. It’s brilliant. The gameplay is thrilling (who’d expect anything less from the Bayonetta devs) and warps expectations by suddenly shifting the camera to make an open world game a sidescroller, or a hacknslash a bullet hell shooter. Boss battles were varied, the RPG systems are worth learning, the characters are relatable and the soundtrack set the mood for one hell of an experience in 2017.

9. PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds 

Hearing footsteps outside a door has never been more terrifying than when experienced in Battlegrounds. Large scale single life battle royale modes may have been kicking around for awhile but something really clicked with PUBG. Diving from a plane armed only with a parachute to scrounge for discarded weapons and survive as long as possible still hasn’t gotten old. A big part of my love for PUBG was trading off attempts with Josh and cataloging our experience. Getting a kill, still, is thrilling because 1. Its hard 2. I never got good at it. After many hours with a shooter, that single aspect continues to feel rewarding. The genius of this game is there’s no investment, you’re not establishing a base and gathering resources for a long haul on a server. Having the matches last only so long by pushing the players to hills keeps the game moving and typically culminates in an intense shootout within a very small area. PUBG managed to release a fun new map this year as well, proving this wasn’t a one trick pony.

8. Cuphead 

One could easily put Cuphead high on a list of Good Games from Year 20XX due to the astounding art and animation alone. But luckily Cuphead manages to also be a really good video game. Cuphead is brutal, tight and varied. The difficulty beat me down many times but not once did I consider giving up. Instead I changed up my loadout of finger guns and charms and dove right back into the fray. Cuphead is dripping with style that translates to the gameplay itself by blending platforming with Contra-style side scrolling bullet hell and I think the difficulty was perfectly tuned. It’s an incredible achievement.

7. Horizon: Zero Dawn 

There’s one aspect of Horizon I appreciated the hell out of: pacing. What first sucked me into Horizon was it’s very weird setting of tribalistic cultures surviving by rubbing sticks together to make fire in a world of highly advanced robots. But it also pulled off a drip feed of world-building over the course of 40 hours. The way the player learns about what really happened with project Zero Dawn is done so well that I couldn't put the game down until I knew it all. I loved Horizon’s story and it had probably my favorite antagonist this year in Helis. The story is primarily a sci fi trope but with a twist that really worked for me. This alone outweighs my issues with the stilted dialogue, messy combat and semi-annoying traversal. The robot animals were exhilarating to fight and the world was absolutely stunning.

6. Night in the Woods 

NITW is a simple adventure game with essentially no puzzle solving that instead focuses on the challenge of handling everyday life and relationships. The story of college drop-out Mae returning to her small working class hometown hit really hard for me. I may not have dropped out of school but anytime I visit my family I witness a similar malaise. Local businesses continuously closing, a friend stuck in a rut, recognizing someone from high school no matter where you go - NITW is so accurate it's scary. I loved the art, the music and even the really weird story wrapped up in a believable setting. The characters are relatable and it even holds minor gameplay twists that were always a treat. NITW is fantastic.

5. Metroid: Samus Returns 

Even though I recently played Metroid 2 for the first time to completion and also enjoyed the excellent AM2R last year, I still couldn't wait to get my hands on a remake of Return of Samus blessed by Nintendo. Mercury Steam did a wonderful job of turning Metroid to 2.5D and refreshing an old title with the new melee/counter gameplay. I couldn’t put this game down. Fighting the mature forms of metroids was thrilling and the animations with Samus literally tackling them was fucking awesome. I still wish this game had been pivoted for the Switch but even the 3D on the 3DS was nice. It gave depth to this previously flat world that I really appreciated. Most importantly this showed that Nintendo really hasn’t forgotten about the series and I can’t wait to hear more about Metroid Prime 4.

4. Nioh 

Did you know I love Dark Souls? Nioh is the exact kind of riff on Souls gameplay I want to see. The feudal Japan setting is a treat and provides a weirdly coherent reason for weapons and demons to litter the environment. Nioh’s brand of souls combat takes the animation dependent attacks and spices it up with high, mid and low stances that changes the moveset for each weapon. The player can switch between these (and weapons) on the fly and chain together huge attacks similar to old school hacknslash games. Paired with the difficulty and corpse runs of Souls, Nioh is a really rewarding game. The constant drip feed of equipment is a little much for my taste since it requires extensive inventory management, but I appreciated the depth of abilities/stats for everything. The levels and enemies were a little repetitive but that didn’t stop me from sinking almost 100 hours in the game - and I’m not done! This game is just damn cool and is packed with plenty of style one would expect from Team Ninja. Nioh is a must play for Souls fans and a sign that there’s plenty of room for innovation within soulslikes. 

3. Super Mario Odyssey 

Surprise, a 3d Mario game is amazing. It should go without saying that a Mario game once again set the standard for the (dead/dying?) 3d platformer genre. Guiding Mario around the small but dense kingdoms feels great and the capture mechanic of stealing enemy souls with Mario’s hat is a delight. The way capturing enemies adds to Mario’s platforming arsenal was just fun and added more options for exploring the kingdoms. It’s easy to look at Odyssey as a simple collectathon for moons, and it is, but because that simple act of exploring is so fun, it doesn’t matter. The kingdom’s are varied and beautiful, you can change Mario’s outfit and the player is rewarded for continued play after the ‘story’ is over with challenging platforming that I adored. I could have used a teensy bit more challenge overall but that’s a small gripe in an incredible experience. I was smiling the whole game (except for that last challenge holy fuck).

2. Fighting Games 

The swath of fighting games I’ve played this year is hard to ignore. Since this summer, I’ve fallen head over heels for a genre that I assumed held nothing for me - all I needed was a consistent friend with which to compete against and chat about mechanics, almost daily. The variety in styles goes so much deeper than I ever imagined. I had always loved Mortal Kombat for it’s weird universe but this was the first time I stopped and appreciated its unique combat which eventually led me to the fantastic Injustice 2 (actually released this year!). I put time into a Tekken for the first time in my life and realized “oh this is why I liked Soul Calibur back in the day.” A previously impenetrable style of fighter, anime, turned out to possibly be one of my all time favorites with Guilty Gear Xrd. Street Fighter V is wonderful and I don’t understand why everyone hates it (and I don’t care).  Marvel vs Capcom is ugly but bonkers. I even attended my first gaming event for the super niche fighting game community in 2017. This genre suddenly means a lot to me and I couldn't be happier.

1. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild 

Getting lost in Hyrule was far and away my favorite pastime this year. After re-visiting Twilight Princess on Wii U and getting bored, I started to think maybe Zelda was done for me. The series needed to be redefined and the direction of a true open world + pieces of the survival game genre blended into something unexpectedly brilliant. Breath of the Wild was an adventure all my own. I spent more than 40 hours just wandering, gathering equipment, solving shrines and taking in the gorgeous landscape before I even considered tackling the main quest. If I had the notion, I could have went straight to the final boss battle immediately.

Breath of the Wild is another sign of Nintendo evolving - incorporating modern open world RPG designs while giving it that special Nintendo twist of simple but enticing. BOTW can be boiled down to a single word: freedom. Freedom to carve my own path and eschew the main quest. Freedom to solve shrines and combat however I saw fit with a multitude of weapon types, arrows and powers. Whenever anything happened as a result of the multiple systems at work instead of by my own hand, I cheered. There were plenty of times where I solved a shrine unsure of whether it was the ‘correct’ way or if I had found a way to take advantage of the compounding physics systems. BOTW was my favorite experience this year and hopefully only the first step for a new Nintendo.

Thanks for reading and again thanks so much for the continued support from our listeners! Here's to 2018!


Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Shoutout to the Games of 2017 Not on Nick's List

I feel the need to acknowledge the games I liked this year that aren't in my top 10 because 2017 was just awesome (for video games) and I don't want my actual post to be too long. Stay tuned for our true lists, starting with mine tomorrow. 


To Shovel Knight: Specter of Torment for being just damn cool and a reminder of how excellent Shovel Knight is.

To The Surge for making a solid effort at riffing on Souls gameplay and creating a unique (but very confusing) world.

To Mario Kart 8 Deluxe for being the best Mario Kart ever.

To Dirt 4 for being a really competent follow up to Dirt Rally that I still sunk a ton of time into but can’t justify in my top 10 because it’s kind of the same game.

To Lawbreakers (RIP) for being very fun to play and boldly (shortsightedly…?) going after a titan like Overwatch with lame character designs.

To Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice for being a fascinating experience that I hated playing.

To Xcom 2: War of the Chosen for drastically improving the already-excellent experience of rebelling against a totalitarian alien regime.

To Mario + Rabbids for surprising virtually All Human Beings on Planet Earth by making rabbids funny and turn based tactical Mario a ton of fun/something I didn't know I wanted.

To Steamworld Dig 2 for taking the very simple concept of digging for gems and crafting an enjoyable pathfinder adventure around it.

To Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus for having an easy mode.

To What Remains of Edith Finch for letting me roll down a hill as a shark (and for being pretty inventive in general).

To Evil Within 2 for being way better than all the people who didn’t buy it expected.

To Pyre’s soundtrack.

To Divinity OS 2 for being dense and beautiful and I’m sorry for not making time for you this year.

And lastly to all the other games this year I didn't have time to play and their developers for working hard to make this industry worth talking about day after day.