Every year I seem to become a little more obsessed with video games. Always searching for something special. Looking back I realise just how many games I’ve played, and that to discover some hidden gems, you have to play some real crap. Well maybe not crap, but certainly games not worth spending time on.

Spec Ops: The line, certainly wasn’t a
disappointment. I’d hear some very positive things about this on YouTube. I
Love first person shooters, However because I’ve been playing them since were
first a genre, they must offer something unique, whether that’s story or game
mechanics, whatever. Spec Ops made me step out of myself as a player and feel
horrified about the things I’d done. Basically the part with the white
phosphorus made me feel like a monster and even though shortly afterward I came
under fire and was required to shoot the enemy, for the first time ever in a
video game I froze. I didn’t want to kill any more, so affected was I by what
had just happened. For a game, that’s powerful. Also it’s worth mentioning that
the twist at the end was very good.

From the good to the disappointing. Spelunky is a
highly rated game and so I thought worth checking out. At first I was charmed
and it looks nice, yet it soon over stayed it’s welcome. I hate time limits.
I’d rather just enjoy the game and this aspect of the game stopped me doing
that. Highly over-rated, if you ask me.

Yet some indie games deserve high recognition and praise.
Such is the case with a gem of a game that is Thomas was Alone. I don’t
always get excited about puzzle games unless it’s called Portal. However Thomas
Was Alone is nothing short of genius. It’s simplicity defies the depths of its
gameplay. You play as a number of different configured blocks, each with a
different capability. One is tall and can reach high places yet is too big to
fit through small gaps. Another can fit through the gaps, however cannot jump
very high. Another can jump really high. Only one can swim. They must work
together to progress. They all have names of people you feel like you know, or
have met once, such as Claire, Laura, James. It’s narrator really draws you into the story and these simplest of drawn characters. The design is perfect. It
all works so well. A simple idea, executed to precision. I cannot recommend it
enough. A shame it is not more well known.

Starcraft 2: Legacy of the void was a worthy end to
Blizzards Starcraft 2 trilogy. However I still prefer the second one for it was
that one which really drew me in and made me feel for the character of
Kerrigan. That being said always a pleasure to play and the final final scene
was beautiful. Made me smile.

Now back to some more disappointments, each for
their own reasons Abyss Odyssey looked promising at first. A nice unique
art style but ultimately clunky to play. Also I’m going to really go against
the grain here and say that Undertale is one of the most over-rated games since
Super Meat Boy. On the positive it had a great sense of humour, loved the two
skeleton characters. But it was like a bad play which I had been forced to watch,
where they were the only good thing about it. Blackguards seemed right
up my street. I try all Genres of games, yet I’m rather partial to turn-based
strategy. I’ve played quite a few, but Blackguards was incredibly difficult and
unforgiving. I tried all my usual strategies of using the environment to maximum
effect, using my range attacks to similar maximum effect, focusing on one of
their characters at a time while marinating the health of my own, so that their
numbers dwindled while my remained a constant. It worked for a while, but the
game just got the better of me. Maybe I’m getting old. Not a bad game. Unless
it is badly designed and not me.

I was excited about playing Trine 3. I absolutely loved the first two. The third instalment is equally pleasing to the eye, however they completely messed it up with two things. Firstly the 3D element is completely unnecessary. Second, not just completing a level is enough you have to collect some crap, I can’t remember what it was, to continue. Which idiot thought of that? How can you make two amazing games and then cock it up? I also didn’t like The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom, Quantum Conundrum, maybe I should stay away from puzzle games. But if I did that I would never have played the amazing Thomas was Alone.

Woolfe: The Red Hood Diaries was a typical ‘Meh’ game. It looked nice, however the gameplay was nothing to write home about. It really is smack there in the middle, okay five out of ten stars, inoffensive, nice to have a go on, nothing worthy of note. Just like The Vanishing of Ethan Carter. An okay game, yet in this case it looks amazing. It’s a bit of a pain having to walk for freaking miles ever where, what is the point of having a game where it hurts to have my middle finger on W for what seems like forever. Maybe some kind of a toggle. I never understand why they do this in games.

Metro: Last light committed another Game design Sin. A great game. A FPS with a good story and atmosphere. I played it for some time and experienced the different camps and characters of this post-apocalyptic world. I wanted to know where it was going with its intriguing plot and I was enjoying the challenging gameplay. Until I went from one stage of the game to the next with next to no oxygen left in my gas mask to protect me from the harsh environment top side. I had about 60 seconds before I was dropped off by a boast trying to find some replacement air while being attacked by the creatures in the area. Impossible. What about going underground. I looked on Youtube. This is what you are supposed to do, but not after defeating a boss. By the time I got to him I had about 10 seconds of air. Again impossible. Maybe I’ll read the book/s the games are based on.

Now I’m confused. Sometimes about a great many things. At the moment I’m still confused as to why I loved playing Euro Truck Simulator 2 .I like to try all kinds of games. So I tried this and I loved it. But why. Why do I love just driving down the autobahn from A to B to deliver some chemicals? Or reversing into the bay and getting a big kick from getting it just right? I do not know. Yet it’s true. Weird.

Now I do know why I completely love Shadowrun: Hong Kong. I played Shadowrun: Dragonfall at the end of last year (2015), and found it to be one of the best games I’d played that year. The same can be said for SHK. I’ve heard that not all Shadowrun games are good, but I’m glad to say this is of the highest quality. There is so much depth to this turn-based strategy game. The story the characters. True there is a lot to read. But if you have patience it pays off for a great experience. A friend of mine saw me playing it and asked what it was. I told him that you control characters that can not only use guns such grenade launchers, sniper rifles and full automatics. But you can have mages who control magic, Shamans who control elementals and then hackers who jack into this games version of the Matrix. I was once involved in a battle where some of my characters were fighting their usual battle in the material world. My hacker was battling in the Matrix. Then some kind of demon dragged me down to the underworld. I couldn’t get her back into the battle in the real world, until she had finished off the demons in the underworld. It was mental! Yes it’s very, very good.

Now for another incredible game. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. Has been hailed as the best game of the year, and rightly so. It is epic in every facet of its design. The size of the world and the amount of quests as well as the quality of said quests. The characters who inhabit this world. The Witcher 3 seems to be the pinnacle of the modern day western RPG. I cannot go in to all the reasons why this is such an amazing game, personally the icing on the cake is the atmosphere. Whoever thought of having those trees blowing in the wind – I don’t know what it is it just draws me into the game. The only thing which disappointed me was the end. I got the crap end. But I did the right thing. Or so I thought. I ended up surrounded by creatures and, though you never see anything, the game suggests you’re going to die. No way! My character was as hard as nails Geralt would have wiped the floor with them. I always get the bad ending.

Very much like the aforementioned Trine series, Ori and the Blind Forest is a lush looking platform game. I did enjoy my time playing this game, however not all games are destined to be finished. I met my end a chunk of a way into the game. I’d just finished a major part of a level, which began to fill with water I had to work my way up a shaft before the water level caught up with me. I tried so many times until I got to the point where I thought ‘this isn’t worth it.’ Never mind…It is an amazing looking game.


As is Elite Dangerous. This game was a long time coming and boy did it deliver. There’s a little bit of a learning curve to begin with, but once you get the knack of it, it is very rewarding. Flying between solar systems and docking with space stations is an adventure in itself. The sense of scale and distance is bang on. Dog fighting is common and intense and not too difficult as long as you stick with it; perseverance pays off. I had to stop playing this eventually as it’s a bit of a time sponge and as much as I was enjoying the experience I wanted to move onto other things. Also the galaxy contains so many stars, planets and space stations it becomes a bit overwhelming. I really wanted to go to Earth or see what a Nebula was like. But everything’s so bloody far away, just as it would be. It’s great to watch YouTube videos of people doing the things I’d like to do, if only I had more time.

Let’s talk about Frozen Synapse, a little known game that I that was a pleasant
surprise. This is why I try all kinds of different games; to find gems such as
this. Frozen Synapse is pure tactics in a way that is truly fundamental. From a
top down perspective you can plan your moves and run it as a simulation before committing
to it. However the enemy doesn’t always do as you expect. Good job really or it
would be much of a challenge. Just play it and see.

It’s always good to get some multiplayer in at some
point during the year. Ark: Survival Of
The Fittest
is a hell of a lot of fun. You and a friend quickly harvest
wood stone and berries to make weapons and shelter. Create weapons and tame
dinosaurs for your final battle with any surviving players. Survival being the
key word here not only do you have other players to worry about, but also the
aforementioned dinosaurs and different kind of extinction events such as acid
rain, heat-wave, famine, that kind of thing. It’s intense. Taming dinosaurs
becomes an achievement and there’s nothing cooler than making your way back for
the final confrontation with your pack of dinosaurs. We never won it. Another
group always had a Spinosaur and a sniper, or something as ridiculous. A bow
and arrow and a low level dinosaur isn’t much good against that. Still it was
very enjoyable. I also played five other fantastic games with others. Helldivers, Rocket league, World of Tanks,
Divinity: Original Sin,
which I still need to pick-up again, and Rayman Legends, which I cannot
understate how well designed and beautiful that game is. It is also one of the
few games I can play with my two little girls.

Who buys a PSP in this day and age? I do. I like to buy stuff that I
missed. Something to play on holiday, so I don’t have withdrawal symptoms, and a
good game such as Daxter should
stand the test of time. I bought a handful of games. Some pretty good, some,
not so good. LocoRoco – Good. Very
good. Never played it. Never even heard of it. What an absolute joy to play.
Utterly charming. A classic. Most of the games were fairly cheap. Yet I splashed
out a little for a copy of Valkyria
Chronicles 2.
The first one is one of my all-time favourite games. This is
still good as it maintains pretty much all the same mechanics. It’s not as good
on a small screen and it’s a bit pulpy; the story and characters aren’t as
solid as its predecessor. Although far better than Sid Meier’s Pirates: Live the life. What is it about Pirate games.
I just don’t like them. Patapon
looked good, but I can only give so much time to a rhythm game.

It was time to go back to Rapture with Bioshock Infinite DLC Burial at Sea. I have to say I was a bit rusty and
got my arse/ass handed to me to begin with. But after a while I got back into
the groove and thoroughly enjoyed its unique play style and atmosphere. Okay I’m
going to admit I don’t what the hell is going on halve the time. This has got
to be one of the most complex pieces of narrative in any video game. But it is
damn good. I guess I’ll just have to watch an explanation on Youtube. The
Bioshock games are still one of the best game series ever made.

Talking of Rapture (nice link) Everybody’s gone to the Rapture was one of the most annoying games
ever. It started out so good. The look and feel of a quaint English village was
superb. However it was my finger hurting on the W key this time but the strain
of my left thumb pushing forward on the PS4 controller for hours. All would
have been forgiven if I would have been allowed to finish the game. Everything
told me I had to go through a door and down into a bunker. But would the door
open for me? No! I was stuck, with no idea of what I had to do to jump the
final hurdle. B******T!

That god for nice surprises. Like Evoland. Nothing amazing, just a
straightforward game. With a simple premise. The game evolves as you play. Beginning
as a Gameboy Zelda look-a-like to 8 bit colour, 16 bit, 24 bit, to 3D and
evolving different kinds of detail as you play. You also discover different
gaming mechanics to expand your gameplay. It’s short and sweet and worth a play
for anyone who likes games in any of its diverse forms.

Betrayer was yet another pleasant surprise for me in 2016.
I don’t know how what other people thought of this game. But personally I loved
it. The mechanics and gameplay are pretty run of the mill; a FPS survival set
in colonial America. But it’s the look and feel of it. The whole thing is in
this high contrast black and white. You can switch between these two worlds.
One is deathly still – the world of the dead and the other is the real world,
where no-one is around except the occasional creatures trying to kill you and
the sound of the wind in the trees. The atmosphere is what does it.

I finally got around to playing Resogun and wow does it deserve the
high praise it receives. I put my headphones on (for a change, and I’m so glad
I did) and Spent an hour in pure gaming heaven being totally blown away. What
else can you say? It’s the old case of – If you’ve played it you know what I’m
talking about, if not…play it.

Now for the big one Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain. Well what can you say? It is
amazing. The game mechanics are first rate. You can expedite your mission
either using stealth or just go in guns blazing. Lie on a hill and use a sniper
rifle or use your dog to draw enemies to you one by one until there’s no-one
left. It really is satisfying to play a game that has such flexibility. A game
that you can play the way you want,
depending on your mood. There are some down sides. It’s a shame you get to see
the same areas again and again. Some of the bosses are ridiculously difficult.
Also, after finally defeating Metal gear. After my hands nearly fell off from
over use, an end cut-scene and credits, I was treated to a kind of trailer
which informed me that I had not in fact finished the game, even though I’d
been playing it for months, that in fact there was a whole second half to the
game. I haven’t picked it up since, despite that the game itself is incredible.

I saw a game for the PS3 called Vanquish, on a top 100 games list, and
thought ‘it can’t be that good.’ Hell yeah! It’s like Halo on speed. I
instantly got its over the top tongue in cheek action and narrative. Sometimes
all you want to do is shoot something. Nuff said.

Her Story is another game I heard so
much about, I knew I would try it sooner or later. I thought ‘I’m either going
to love this or hate it. Luckily all the hype surrounding this games is well
deserved. It’s just you and a bunch of video clips from the mid-nineties of a
woman being interviewed by the police about the murder of her husband. You have
to find more clips by putting in keywords to the search engine and find out
what happened. I was cynical at first. But it became addictive her character
and the narrative is so engaging and it’s you who are driving it. I had a
notepad full of potential keywords to propel me along in the hope that I would
find those clips which finally reveal what happened. It is so rewarding. There
is also an extra twist to the story to give it more weighed. I was suitably
impressed.

So What’s next? A game I’ve been waiting years for. A game which I hope exceeds all expectations…

Welcome back…commander.