Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Games of the Year 2015

2015 wasn't as good a year as 2014 for games. Part of that was because in 2014 I was catching up on years and years of backlog, which meant that I managed to get really good games to play. 2015 was more of a mixed bag, but nevertheless still had quite a number of highlights.

Not surprisingly, Sleeping Dogs was easily my game of the year for 2015. It's an old game, but on the PS4 it shines, and manages to break all the stereotypes of an Asian protagonist in a video game, while providing not a single moment of downtime. I've since tried a large number of open world games, and none of them are as well executed as this one. I'd look for more games from this developer.

A close second was Arkham Knight. The game was a victim of unrealistically high expectations, which resulted in lackluster reviews online, as well as a few own goals (due to excessive emphasis on the Batmobile, and of course, a famously blotched PC implementation), but taken as a whole, it's an impressively good game and highly playable. I was surprised by how I dropped practically every other game on the PS4 to play it.

The PS Vita is still a great platform, with many excellent games on it. I really enjoyed Little Big Planet, which was my platformer of the year. Surprisingly enough, another platformer, Murasaki Baby, is closed behind. While Little Big Planet undoubtedly has more replay value and higher production values, Murasaki Baby is one of those quirky games that could only have been executed by the Vita.

Finally, I still managed to use the PS3 for what I consider to be the best game of that genre, Heavy Rain. If you're a fan of Telltale games' episodic adventure stories, I think you owe it to yourself to check out Heavy Rain. It makes those games look like cheaply made children's toys, worlds where actions and decisions have no consequences, and with stories that aren't ambitious. I haven't been able to bring myself to even try any of Telltale's newer products, because I've been spoiled by a game on a platform that's 10 years old. If that doesn't make a strong statement, I don't know what does.

An honorable mention must be made for Monument Valley, the only Android Game I played to completion this year. On a platform marred by crappy puzzle games that never fail to be a complete waste of time, or micro-transaction driven revenue engines, or ad-driven infinite runners, Monument Valley stands out as a game that respects players' time, and a clear labor of love, rather than a money grab. I can't recommend it enough, especially since if you have a smart phone, you have access to this game, and it's an experience worth savoring.

Looking back at it, I'd say that if 2016 was as good as 2015 for games, I wouldn't have much to be disappointed about.

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