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Saturday 7 January 2017

TOP 10 GAMES OF 2016

I've not played many current games this year. That's party down to time and expense, but also due to the fact that very few have interested me. Thank goodness the Collection Chamber primarily deals with old games. Follow the jump to get my view on the past year of gaming...

Like movies,  games have been swamped in controversy this year. And that's mainly due to one game: No Man's Sky. I'll give you my views on that a little later. This year also saw the introduction of VR as a viable piece of tech for the home market. It's way, way too expensive for something that could be considered a fad five years from now but from what little I've played it's pretty decent. Derren Brown even used the HTC Vive in his new Ghost Train ride at Thorpe Park. And it's all the better for it.

And talking of theme parks. this year saw the return of the park management sim after a decade on hiatus. Before this year I would dust of Rollercoaster Tycoon 3 for a bit of fun and now the long-awaited full-blown sequel is here as well as a major competitor (see below for my thoughts).

Anyway, on to number 10. And if any of them take your fancy, click on the images to head over and buy them.

I love No Man's Sky, despite the naysayers. It offers a technically stunning open world with a plethora of interesting environments to explore. It's taken hours out of my life and the new expansion has only made it better. I can't wait for more. Honestly.

Wadjet Eye Games have a stunning catalogue of excellent adventures and Shardlight is no different. Their calling cards of stunning pixel art, impeccable retro game design and compelling story are all present. You play as Amy Weller, a mechanic in the post-apocalyptic future who's unfortunately stricken with a nasty disease. The class divide is much larger now, so when she's denied the cure she joins the rebels to strike back at the ruling elite and end equality. It's beautiful, brutal and brilliant. A must have for any adventure game lover.

<a rel="nofollow" href="https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B01EOA7Y1O/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1634&creative=6738&creativeASIN=B01EOA7Y1O&linkCode=as2&tag=thecollcham-21">Avalon Hill HASC01410000 Betrayal at House on The Widow's Walk Expansion Base Game</a><img src="http://ir-uk.amazon-adsystem.com/e/ir?t=thecollcham-21&l=as2&o=2&a=B01EOA7Y1O" width="1" height="1" border="0" alt="" style="border:none !important; margin:0px !important;" />

Okay, I'm cheating a bit here, but it's a game though. A board game. Betrayal at House on the Hill released a few years ago and has quickly become a favourite for me and my friends. You and your friends explore a spooky mansion room by room Scooby-Doo style gathering items, spells and hopefully some other useful knick-knacks. At one point, a 'haunt' happens where one of you is randomly revealed to be the betrayer who has lured you all there for some nefarious reason. It changes each time you play making for great replay value. Widow's Walk is the latest expansion that adds an extra 50 official possible plot-lines, some written by famous authors. Pendleton Ward, the creator of Adventure Time, has contributed a bizarrely humorous scenario. It certainly beats Monopoly at Christmas that's for sure.

<a rel="nofollow" href="https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B015H8GRHO/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1634&creative=6738&creativeASIN=B015H8GRHO&linkCode=as2&tag=thecollcham-21">King's Quest Adventures Of Graham (PC DVD)</a><img src="http://ir-uk.amazon-adsystem.com/e/ir?t=thecollcham-21&l=as2&o=2&a=B015H8GRHO" width="1" height="1" border="0" alt="" style="border:none !important; margin:0px !important;" />
It was so much fun to revisit Daventry in a whole new King's Quest game. The decision to make it episodic meant it felt rather disjointed between episodes, but if that's the only way it could be greenlit, I'll take it. The graphics are very decent as well, surpassing those seen in Telltale's games, even their most recent ones. It's also a lot easier than what has come before. Deaths are still very much a part of the game (though the choice to make much of it a recollection makes it a little weird), but you're not punished if you haven't saved your game. You are simply put back mere seconds before your fatal decision. As I'm more of a LucasArts fan than a Sierra one, I liked this change, but I can understand if hard-core Sierraphiles don't.

The Witness is a weird one to explain. I originally thought it would be something like a Myst game - a mysterious story wrapped up in some interesting puzzles. And in a lot of ways it is, but it is perhaps best described solely as a puzzle game. There is only one puzzle throughout - a grid-based logic puzzle that gets more complicated as the game progresses. But that puzzle is very well executed and adaptable enough to keep it interesting right up until the end (or until you get stumped - it's a hard game after all). Unless you want something with a little more plot, I highly recommend it.

This is closer to what I thought The Witness was going to be - an excellent Myst clone. And it should be too because Cyan, the creators of Myst also made this game. Obduction, named after an actual scientific term about tectonic plates, has the same mysterious beginning as Myst in that you have no idea what the hell is going on. And like that venerable classic, you'll probably be telling yourself that at the end too. Nothing is spelled out, but the world is so rich that there's still a compelling if esoteric story somewhere in there. There's been a welcome resurgence of the point-and-click adventure these past few years, but the once popular first person perspective (then known as Myst clones) hasn't seen much of a comeback. Hopefully this will change that.

Day of the Tentacle is one of my favourite games of all time, so it has to be on this list. If you haven't played it yet, what the hell are you doing? Play it now! Few games have surpassed the writing, humour and puzzles that adorn this LucasArts classic and Double Fine has done a decent job in updating it for modern PCs. The update is not perfect though. Much like The Secret of Monkey Island Special Editions, not much has been done to improve the animations. What we have is a great looking game in stills, but one that moves jerkily. They've essentially re-drawn the sprites to a higher resolution but kept almost everything else the same. That doesn't make it any less of a must buy though, especially when priced for less than a tenner.

<a rel="nofollow" href="https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00ZG1RYQ6/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1634&creative=6738&creativeASIN=B00ZG1RYQ6&linkCode=as2&tag=thecollcham-21">The Last Guardian</a><img src="http://ir-uk.amazon-adsystem.com/e/ir?t=thecollcham-21&l=as2&o=2&a=B00ZG1RYQ6" width="1" height="1" border="0" alt="" style="border:none !important; margin:0px !important;" />
After 10 years is development, it's finally here. The Last Guardian continues Fumito Uedo's design philosophy to create something truly transcendent. Like Ico and Shadow of Colossus before it, you truly have a deep emotional connection to the world, the events and the characters that populate his world. The griffin-like Trico is a marvel of design and artificial intelligence. His character is at once that of a cat, a dog, a bird and a lion with animations and behaviours that flawlessly support it. It's not without it's downfalls though. So much effort has gone into making Trico work (and if he doesn't, the game doesn't either) that other elements have been a little neglected. The level design has too few sparks of interesting moments, with a similar look running all through the short running time. There's an obtrusive hud that rears it's head to take you out of the immersion if the slightly wonky controls themselves haven't done it for you. There's also a disappointing amount of graphical bugs too. Even when you factor in the negative, it's still hard to argue that it's not one of the best games of the year.

<a rel="nofollow" href="https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00KW6W8VQ/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1634&creative=6738&creativeASIN=B00KW6W8VQ&linkCode=as2&tag=thecollcham-21">Uncharted 4: A Thief's End (PS4)</a><img src="http://ir-uk.amazon-adsystem.com/e/ir?t=thecollcham-21&l=as2&o=2&a=B00KW6W8VQ" width="1" height="1" border="0" alt="" style="border:none !important; margin:0px !important;" />
After the excellent Uncharted 3, I thought Naughty Dog were done with the franchise so when the fourth instalment was announced, I wasn't so sure. It felt like they were milking the franchise and I wanted it to go out on a high. I couldn't have been more wrong. Uncharted 4 surpasses their last effort as well as bringing a satisfying close to Nathan Drake's story arc.

The top spot was pretty much decided upon when I bought the alpha build of Planet Coaster way back in April. Even then it blew my mind of what it was attempting to do. Since then, Frontier have gone from strength to strength. The animations given to the guest are astounding, the improvements to the building mechanics allow for some stunning architecture. Everything about it is high quality. I could spent days building a mansion to house my customised rollercoaster. That's really the only downfall - it eats your time like nothing else. At least you have something to show for it at the end. The community is welcoming and enthusiastic so even if you don't want to tackle the minutiae of building a park piece by piece, you can always download custom blueprints. It's also designed in such a way that many things can be added or improved by the developers themselves, ensuring it will have a long lifespan. Frontier's Rollercoaster Tycoon 3 had as much and I can't wait to see what they'll do with this in the years to come.

A great underwater adventure in the same abstract vein as Journey or Flower.

The Telltale formula is getting a little stale for me, and their writing hasn't been on point as it used to be. That being said - BATMAN!

There's some great level design in here, but the poor excuse for a plot gave me little reason to continue playing.

Considering I'm not a fan of the FPS, Doom was a lot of fun. The story is again so-so but the visceral game-play is so much fun.

I've not played this yet, but I hear it's something of a return to form for the series. XIII put me off though, so I'll probably wait for the inevitable GOTY edition.

Another atmospheric platformer from the guys who gave us Limbo. It's easier than that game but I actually enjoyed it a little more.

Originally released on the Wii some years ago, this strategy title got a long-awaited PC port this year. It plays a lot like Pikmin, but has a charm all of its own.

Mirror's Edge: Catalyst
2016 saw a lot of long-gestating games see the light of day. I loved the original Mirror's Edge, which still holds up today, but the same negatives still remain - primarily the gunplay. And the unwise sections that rely on it drag it down. You could play the first without firing a single bullet, but you'd be incredibly hard pushed to do the same here.

Did you know this gem which was once an exclusive title for the original XBox had an HD re-release on the PC this year? Well it was, and if you've played any of the Oddworld games, you'll know that each and every one of them are a must-play.

Animata Design has made some stunning games with the likes of Machinarium and Botanicula being some of the best of their kind. Their latest release takes them back to their roots with the third game in the once flash-based series. The art and imagination are still there, but I can't help thinking it's a step back in game design for them.

The pseudo sequel to The Whispered World looks just as stunning as its predecessor, but it also has the same flaws. The pacing seems off and the puzzles bland with a script and story that hasn't had nearly as much attention given to it as the art. I'm a sucker for that art though.


I hate No Man's Sky, despite its defenders. It offers very little to do in such a huge open world even if there's a plethora of planets to explore. It's taken hours out of my life and the new expansion does little to compensate for this. I truly hope future updates will improve on it. Seriously.

I struggle to find where I stand on No Man's Sky. I know it's incredibly disappointing, but there's also a great game in there somewhere. We know Hello Games will give us free expansions throughout its lifetime (if it lasts much longer), but part of me thinks they saving the best parts for them. It was released unfinished, but I have to acknowledge the hours of genuine enjoyment I got out of it - I was in awe for the first couple of hours. I also have to acknowledge that it quicky delved into hours and hours wasting time with repetitive and mundane tasks. I can't say I have faith, but I have hope that the developers will eventually make this a game truly worthy of playing.

The Metroid series has had a tough time of late. The people at Nintendo don't know what to do with the property so instead of listening to the fans who were pleading for a return to the 2D platforming of old, they made a co-op shooter on the 3DS. The style is now all cutesy and generic but the biggest disappointment is the bland gameplay. Avoid.

It looks like we'll never get another good Mega Man. Mighty No. 9 was supposed to be that in all but name and the hugely successful Kickstarter proved people wanted it. What we got instead was akin to a bad knockoff. Mega Man games are known for their challenging levels, but here the difficulty is simply unfair. The levels are linear with no need to change weapons or tactics which make the whole experience frustrating, boring and highly disappointing.

It doesn't work. Even when it does, it doesn't. The only reason why it's popular is the addictive 'gotta catch 'em all' nature of the series that's made Nintendo millions. Either that or I just can't be bothered to walk for miles to catch a yet another bloody Pidgey.

Everything that Planet Coaster did right, Rollercoaster Tycoon World did wrong. The final released game looks far worse that even the earliest alpha of Frontier's effort. The only thing going for it is name recognition, but with this and the money grabbing RCT4 on mobile, I think they've sullied that name beyond repair.

1 comment:

  1. Happy New Year, Biffman 101! I hope you started well into the new year - may your days in 2017 be full of joy!

    Bye for now,