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Sunday 21 January 2024

TOP 10 GAMES OF 2023

Finally, it's time to rank the recent games I've played this year. And boy, has it been a good one. There's been so many big release that I'm sure there are many to catch up on. Funnily enough, the best game of the year according to many publications is not mine. And it's not like I don't think that modern classic is terrible by any stretch of the imagination. It's just so massive I don't think I've yet to get a grasp on it (those who know which game I'm on about will know). So, read on to find out what I consider to be the cream of the crop of interactive media in 2023...

So, I'm gonna spoil my list for those of you who haven't paged-down to my ranking; Baldur's Gate III is not at my number one spot. "Blasphemous!" I hear you cry, especially coming from those who know how much I got into D&D as a dungeon master over the last few years. I'll go on to detail why, but for now I'd like to comment on how much of a success it was financially and culturally. It veritably knocked off all those triple-A developers from their perch by gleefully denying us micro-transactions, graphical bugs and - if you choose to visit every minutiae of the game world or explore every side-quest - our lives. It was such a massive breath of fresh air that the latest Assassin Creed or Call of Duty barely made a blip on the gaming landscape. And the least said about Starfield's overpromised gameplay the better.

That being said, another incredible game that offered the same attention to detail didn't get the sales numbers it deserves. I'm talking about Alan Wake II. The first didn't set the world alight when it creeped onto the XBox 360 over a decade ago, but its reputation has only grown since. There are a couple of things to note about its release that may explain these figures despite its near-universal perfect review scores. Not only was it a digital-only title, but on PC it was exclusive to the Epic game store. As annoying as they are, I'm not against a viable competitor to Steam and although Epic's attempt is a little featureless, it works well enough. Regardless, I'd still rather stick with one or the other or - if I had the current consoles - the option to buy a physical disc. It's a portentous sign of what's to come, and I think we may be getting there sooner than many would want.

Talking about consoles, the only one I really play nowadays is my trusty old switch. And they're still releasing bangers for it. I do get a sense that the system is winding down with copious amounts of remakes joining its envious library. Some are even on my Top-10, which goes to show the pedigree of Nintendo's back catalogue even if they've not been quite as featureful as I'd hoped. Rumour has it we'll get news on the Switch 2 in the coming months which I am excited for, but part of me will be very disappointed if my current library will become obsolete along with it. I still don't have a PlayStation 5, which makes this the first generation where I haven't wanted one. The only true exclusives I would want to play on it are Final Fantasy XVI and Spider-Man 2 but I've no doubt their PC ports will grace my Steam library before the year is out. As such, you'd probably likely see these anticipated titles on next year's rundown.

Anyway, let's get to why you're here; games! And my incredibly biased (and brief) opinions on them...


Despite having the word "Roleplaying" in the title, Stray Gods: The Roleplaying Musical () is in fact more of a consequence-driven adventure. On the verge of dropping out of university, Grace finds herself embroiled in a murder. Not any murder, but that of the Greek god Calliope, the last muse. And she's the prime suspect. Rules apparently state that she is to take on the role - and musical powers -  of the deceased but the rest of the pantheon would rather she be hanged for murder than join them on Mount Olympus. Completely batty in the best possible way with some stunning musical numbers that shift many ways depending on your choices, it's an entertaining ride from start to finish.


In the same vein as Little Nightmares, Bramble: The Mountain King () is a linear cinematic platformer with a great art style and some seriously unnerving set pieces. You play as little Olle who has been transported to a fantastical forest world in search of his runaway elder sister. What follows isn't quite as pleasant as the magical gnomes and fairies you encounter in the early moments. Fearsome trolls, evil witches and all kinds of devilish fey of Scandinavian legend turn the idyllic place into pure nightmare fuel. It does drag a little in the latter half, but with some entertainingly challenging boss battles and a some stunningly realised graphics, Bramble isn't one to miss.


It's funny to think the Bethesda's self-published massive RPG wasn't their best game to release this past year. That honour goes to Tango Gameworks' Hi-Fi Rush () which they put out back in January. I played it when I got myself a few months of PC GamePass and it turned out to be the best thing I played on it. In a dystopian future, rock-star wannabe Chai somehow gets his MP3 player infused into his body. This cybernetic enhancement gives him the beat, seeing rhythm in everything around him. It's a handy way to defeat robots with his club-like guitar and topple the evil corporation that's governing the city with an iron fist. Gameplay-wise, it turns this highly entertaining brawler into an incredibly satisfying rhythm-based combo-fest. I got GamePass for the Monkey Island addon to Sea of Thieves. I kept it longer than intended for this.


Is the Nintendo Switch really winding down? The amount of remakes would suggest so, but almost half of my Top-10 are exclusive to it. Mario got some good outings with Super Mario Wonder () being an inventive entry to the 2D side-scroller side while the Super Mario RPG (★★) remake took care of the role-playing side. After a series of copycats that were the New Super Mario Bros series, Wonder marks a chaotic change in direction that's entirely welcome. In some ways, it's a similar direction to Mickey Mouse with Disney's newest shorts giving their famed mascot some manic energy. Mario, with his trippy powerups and new elephant transformation, can now go to some surprising places while still keeping the tight platforming the series is known for. I wouldn't say it's quite as revelatory as Odyssey's shake-up of the 3D games, but it's exceptional nonetheless.

With Super Mario RPG, the UK finally gets a physical version of their classic SquareSoft team up. Previously, the SNES game only saw an appearance on the Virtual Console, but for me its absence on our shores was one of the reasons why I got into emulation as a teen in the early 2000s. Other than the graphics, nothing too drastic has changed on its transition to the Switch. The same story plays out just as it did, and the isometric playfield remains as immovably static as it ever was (a disappointment in my view). What it does add is a save system that automatically saves whenever you enter a new screen, making those save pads redundant. It also adds Chrono Trigger-style team attacks in battle which makes them way easier than before. Mario RPG as always an easy game, but it was never less than captivating being one of the first instances to give personality to the characters of the Mushroom Kingdom. Nothing has has been diminished here, and even though I don't think there's enough new to warrant the full price tag, I'm super happy to have Super Mario RPG on my Switch.


While Super Mario RPG had an inexplicably expensive price tag for such a bare-bones remake, Metroid Prime Remastered (★★) with its £34.99 RRP was perfectly priced. It was arguably the best game on the Nintendo GameCube and it hasn't lost any of its greatness in its transition to the Switch. In fact, this is perhaps the definitive way to play it and I'm not just talking about the impressive graphical overhaul. It now supports what has become the traditional control scheme for a first-person shooter which, in my book, makes it infinitely more playable. I hope they do this for the next two games in the trilogy, as for years I've been using the Dolphin emulator to play them in this way - removing Prime 3's waggle controls being the ultimate benefit. Metroid Prime 1 remains the best of the three and is still a bona fide classic.


Apparently, if rumour is to believed, Pikmin 4 (★★) was pretty much complete and ready to ship in the early days of the Switch. Miyamoto even said it was "very close to completion" in September of 2015. For some reason, Nintendo chose to hold it back instead re-releasing the Wii-U's Pikmin 3 first in 2020 and bundling the first two games together one month before this one in June 2023. I honestly believe that this newest entry into Nintendo's puzzle strategy game is their best yet. The inclusion of Moss, the dog-like creature handily allows you to control all pikmin as one unit instead of a platoon of many. It may seem like a simple convenience at first, but you will soon come to find he's necessary when navigating the more enclosed spaces of the newly introduced indoor sections. If you thought digging up random batteries or GameBoys were cool little Easter eggs, imagine the objects on display in an entirely explorable and fully furnished home. Add the new abilities and puzzle opportunities allowed by the Ice and Glow pikmin and you've got yourself a winner.


I wasn't so sure Resident Evil 4 (★★) needed the remake treatment. The original GameCube title was such a classic that it has been re-released and reissued countless times on almost all platforms out there. Including the Ouya. And the Amico!?! Plus, I thought Code Veronica could've used it more. I should've known Capcom, with their current impressive run with the series, would've brought the gold and I was hooked on the game just like I was back in 2005. You don't need reminding that it's a visually impressive game, and it played like a dream on my PC. The rejigging of plot points and level design meant that some memorable events from the original game were missing, and others left out to provide paid DLC, but I at least got the same visceral thrill as if I was playing it for the first time again. They're doing RE5 next which if they amp up the horror roots and tone down the call for the Call of Duty crowd, it would be a more worthy update than this one. Nevertheless, this fourth entry is still an absolute classic. 


The truly exceptional additions to The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom (★★) are the reasons why I couldn't jive with this latest entry as much as I wanted to. Don't get me wrong, I was absorbed in the story far quicker than in Breath of the Wild but the building mechanics and other busy work just got too tedious for me. Much like the cooking, which returns almost unchanged, it feels more like work than play. What's even more aggravating, is that there's an obvious workaround for those who don't want to waste time fiddling with machine parts or ingredients; blueprints and recipes. If you could just buy a blueprint from a shop, or otherwise find them in the game world, you'd instantly have what you want instead of forcing you to create them yourselves. The same with recipes; they are diegetically found in random books and message boards but you can't add them until you've made them. And when you do have a recipe, you still have to manually add each ingredient in your hand and watch that annoying cooking animation each and every time. The Ultrahand's Fuse mechanic does go someway to solve my biggest issue regarding breakable weapons and the return of actual dungeons (more or less) are very welcome but it's these fiddly elements that mar an otherwise perfect game. In my eyes at least.


I didn't put Baldur's Gate III (★★) on my top spot like every other outlet for one reason; it's massive. So massive I still don't think I've got a good grasp on it even after many hours of play. Quite frankly, with all of the great games that've come out this past year I simply didn't have the time to dedicate the hours I wanted to put into it. What I do know with my limited time in Larian's rendition of Faerun is that the scope is insane. It is the closest a game has felt to being like an actual tabletop RPG. Everything you can think of can seemingly be done, and all the fan-favourite spells, magical items and character classes are here in full. I do feel like the learning curve is a little too steep, with many ways to get trapped in a death loop in the opening area. I did this with my first party, falling through the roof of a ruined building only to be confronted with so many bandits that I couldn't overcome with the two low-level characters I had control over. And the autosave meant I couldn't go back and head down a different route. At this early stage, exploration is punished and any game that requires copious amounts of quick saves and loads is missing something in my view. Thankfully, once you gain enough experience to be around level five, you're strong enough to get through these challenging moments. This is about where I stopped, and I'm stoked to keep coming back to it for years to come but in all honesty the type of game that I ranked Number 1 is more my thing.


I've been looking forward to Alan Wake II (★★) ever since the first game blew me away back in 2010. That action-heavy survival horror with some heavy Stephen King vibes turned out to be one of the best things on the X-Box 360. And now, being exclusive to Epic on PCs, its sequel is the best thing on that store. Forget the weekly games they offer up, this is the reason to keep their app installed. 

In many ways, Alan Wake II is more of a sequel to Control than it is the original. Not only does it share plot points like the Federal Bureau of Control but also artistic design choices. Hallucinogenic projections play out on walls or in mid air while combat can end in a trippy flash. It's quit the experience.

Remedy have made great pains to make this more than an action game. There are puzzles to solve and murderers to unmask. The main character is FBI agent Saga Anderson, who with her partner Alex Casey (modelled after game writer and Max Payne persona Sam Lake) is investigating a murder at Cauldron Lake. It soon becomes apparent that a cult worshipping the writings of missing horror author Alan Wake are involved, and when he's finally found the story just gets weirder and weirder. 

Part Resident Evil, part Twin Peaks, part Stephen King, Alan Wake II manages to be something truly special making it my pick for Game of the Year.


Sometimes you just want fluff. And Agatha Christie: Murder on the Orient Express (★☆) is just that. Ostensibly an adventure game, you will be tasked with solving some Professor Layton-style logic puzzles in order to uncover the many mysteries the expanded plot throws at you. Piece together clues found in a budget version of a polygonal real world to come to the conclusion of whatever plot you'll be investigating. Do it correctly, and you'll be greeted with Poirot giving a proverbial thumbs up. It's an easy enough play through - especially when every Christie fan knows who the killer is immediately (though expect some twists) - but it still has a breezy charm that's forgettable but not entirely unpleasant.

With its beautiful sketchbook aesthetics and contemplative tone, Blanc (★★) is a wistful platform adventure that has you control both a deer faun and a wolf cub at the same time. Much like that perennial indie classic Brothers, you control one with the left stick and the other with the right. If you have a friend willing to be a deer, you could also play online or couch co-op which makes for a calming and pleasant playthrough. As you navigate though the black and white snow scape, you do get a feeling of melancholy and loneliness as the two beasts are the only living creatures you'll see throughout much of its runtime. Even the human houses, roof-deep in snow, show little to no signs of life. There is a deeper story hinted at, but the central core about reuniting the youthful leads with their families is a simple yet impactful one.

Part RPG, part point-and-click adventure, part escape room, Bookwalker: Thief of Tales (★★) is an interesting mix. It's a dystopian future where not everything is explained outright. Books have special abilities for some reason and there is a law put upon its writers. Our protagonist is one such scribe and has been placed under a 30-year ban due to him skirting these rules. In order to wrangle  some illegal shenanigans to lift it, he is tasked with venturing into a number of literary classics to retrieve some famous items found inside.

Within these books, a fairly limited isometric world is beautifully designed 
to take into account both cause-and-effect adventure game mechanics (think a less in-depth Disco Elysium), inventory puzzles and turn-based RPG battles. Outside these books is a first-person escape room of sorts mostly set in a grim apartment where you can gather useful items to take back in to world of fiction. It's insanely original, veering towards insanity, but overall it's a great small-scale indie-RPG with big, heady ideas.

A crappy free game on GOG that I played to pass thirty minutes of my time. Cats Hidden in Paris () is basically Where's Wally with less character and features. You're given a large line drawing depicting a cartoonish version of the French capital and hidden within the black and white image are some cats. Click on all 100 of them and you're done. That's it. There is something calming about a game like this, but I wouldn't want to pay the 99p for each subsequent addition which changes the setting to Bali, Italy or elsewhere. Best to find something similar for free on whatever store you have on your mobile device.

Gaming legends, Ken and Roberta Williams, come out of their long retirement to return to making games. Adventure games! Colossal Cave Adventure was one of their earliest titles, originally being a text adventure in the 1980s, but now they've rejigged it into a first-person adventure. The charm and trappings of interactive fiction has been lost, but in its place is something new and arguably better. An omnipresent narrator charismatically interjects with descriptions and clues almost verbatim from the original. He helps in easing some of the more obtuse moments, of which there are many. The overall story, on the other hand, really shows its age. It is simple, generic and not memorable in the slightest. Thankfully the beautiful locations and fiendish puzzles within are. No classic, but if you're an adventure gamer, Colossal Cave () is worth a play. I look forward to the next rejuvenated Sierra project. Unfortunately the VR version, which is where it would shine the most, costs extra.

Set in the titular village in the south west of France, Dordogne (★★) is a pleasant  holiday of a game. In this charming adventure, you play as Mimi who, as a young adult, revisits her grandmother Nora's house uncovering memories of her youth. That doesn't sound too exciting, but the emotional experience plays like the warmest of warm hugs keeping me raptured during the whole three hours it took to complete. Along with the beautiful water-colour inspired art style and pleasant orchestral score, Dordogne earns the highest of recommendations from me.

Being an indie point-and-click adventure with some nice pixel art is enough to entice me to a game. Being inspired by the works of H.P. Lovecraft does even more so. Combine the two and it's an insta-purchase. Dreams in the Witch House () was high up on my must-play list as soon as I heard  about it but despite my high expectations I was sadly left a little disappointed. Unfortunately, there are some game mechanics outside the verb icons and inventory puzzles that I simply don't enjoy. You see, university student Walter Gilman has some needs that need satiating. He gets hungry, he gets tired, he gets fevered, cold, wet and bruised. And all of these need to be monitored. Do odd jobs to earn money to buy food. Go to sleep in your rented bedsit to rest up when the ever-ticking in-game clock edges closer to night time. These RPG mechanics - which include stats such as health and sanity - take away from the adventure trappings, making what would be an involving and spooky adventure into a rather dull and monotonous one.

The classic Final Fantasies come back to Nintendo by earning a full release on the Switch. I'm a little mixed on these Final Fantasy: Pixel Remasters (★★). It contains some of my favourite games of all time - particularly the three that originally came out on the Super Nintendo / Famicom - but there's something about the new art style and presentation that seems a little off. On the SNES, the world within these games felt rich and lived in. Despite not much changing at its core, it feels flippant and cheap here. Perhaps that's my nostalgia goggles acting up but I believe the best way for these games to be updated is with the same HD-2D engine Square-Enix deployed in their Live-A-Live remake and their upcoming revisits to Dragon Quest. Glad I have it in my collection, but I'll likely replay the emulated SNES version for the umpteenth time if I ever get the itch.

Moving onto another SNES SquareSoft remake, Front Mission 1st: Remake () at least comes from a game that never left Japan (though eager fans of SquareSoft's 16-bit era may have played the fan-translation that's long been floating around the rom-hacking scene). Despite Square-Enix having seemingly nothing to do with this game, I reckon it does a better job of remaking a classic game than the Pixel Remasters. It looks nice enough, staying true to the original art design though it won't push many a graphics card. The strategy-RPG gameplay remains untouched from its 90s heyday which as far as I can tell includes all of the extra features found in the PlayStation-only re-release (also Japanese only; no fan translation). Not bad if you're into it and unlike the Final Fantasy pixel remasters, I'd say it's an upgrade that might just make that patched Super Famicom ROM obsolete.

The creators of Myst are back again with Firmament (★★), a first-person adventure filled with fiendishly entertaining puzzles and an unfathomably esoteric plot. Its creepily empty world is detailed and inviting with brain-bending moments that occasionally sit uneasily within it. The big gimmick here is how you interact with everything. You have a gun-like gadget that can attach to any circular control panel with an energy beam, giving you access to its functions as long as you're within reach. I don't know why this is the case when hands and buttons would surely suffice, but it makes it a little more entertaining. Must be a bugger had this been a real world contraption, though. Thankfully, it's just a game. And a very good one at that.

Flashback 2 () is a legacy sequel that had promise and good ideas but lacks the polish to make it truly worthwhile. Combat plays as if it wants to be a twin stick shooter, but the enemy AI acts in a way to make that type of gameplay almost impossible. It's hard to aim, dodge or do much of anything when in combat. Many an unfair death ensues which is a shame, considering I liked the adventure side of things and the overall cyberpunk aesthetic. A disappointment.

Unfairly dismissed at the beginning of the year, perhaps due to the glut of quality titles surrounding it and its rather inflated price tag, Forspoken (★★) is quickly becoming something of a hidden gem. The open-world isn't as large or as open compared to something like Elden Ring or Tears of the Kingdom, but it is focussed. The combat isn't as deep or rewarding as Spider-Man or Immortals: Fenyx Rising, but it is still a lot of fun. Frey Holland, our delinquent New Yorker with no family, a tough attitude and a heart of gold makes for good company on her journey through the rabbit hole to a fantasy world terrorised by a magical affliction dubbed The Break. Not many seem to agree with me, but I found her and her performance to be full of personality, if you can get past some baffling story decisions in the opening moments.

Once you step through the looking glass away from the real-world streets of New York, you'll find yourself in a simple good-versus-evil plot Square-Enix has revisited time and again. Their occasionally awkward editing and scripting most prominently found in their modern Final Fantasies or Kingdom Hearts do crop up here and there - another bone of contention from critics - and the turn towards the realistic makes it all the more present. It's not devoid of quality, however, and certainly no where near the worst game of the year. Having spent far less than the asking price, I rather enjoyed it.

I'm a firm believer in the death of the author. When someone produces art, its interpretation is no longer theirs but the consumer of that art. They are free to read into it however they please and whatever they get out of it is entirely correct and bespoke to them. Despite J.K. Rowling's ignorant beliefs when it comes to trans rights, there is still a fair amount of the Harry Potter universe that members of that community can latch onto. And their reading is entirely valid. When it comes to Hogwart's Legacy (★★), many more creatives beyond Rowling worked hard to create a satisfying role-playing adventure and they did a very good job at it too. Combat is tight and inventive, the story is absorbing and magical and the worldbuilding is second to none. It's no wonder it became the best-selling game of the year, and a far more worthy one than the whatever the latest Call of Duty spat out.

A pretty good walking simulator with a great story. The Invincible (★★) tells of a group of interstellar scientists who get into trouble when they discover strange metal structures and lifeforms on a supposedly barren alien planet. An enemy military faction is also conducting research, but when human life disappears it's up to Yasna, the resident biologist (and player character) to investigate. The Invincible does everything a good walking simulator should do; tell an engaging story while exploring a beautifully realised location in the company of some well-written and acted characters. One of the best of its type I've played in a long time.

Jusant (★★), which translates from the French word meaning a receding tide, is a platformer like no other. In a desolate post-apocalyptic desert-scape - a dried up sea bed to be precise - our mute hero has to navigate to the top of a sheer mountainside, it's crooks and crevasses hosting the abandoned remains of a lost civilization. Equipped only with a sturdy climbing rope and a gelatinous animal companion with mystical abilities, it makes for a compelling game despite the lack of anything to do other than climb.

With visuals that makes up for the lack of detail with an awe-inducing art design (which reminds me of Panzer Dragoon or famed French comic artist Moebius), the folks at Life is Strange and Tell Me Why developers Don't Nod have created yet another quirky and original game to add to their stellar back catalogue.

I played Lies of P () while I had GamePass for a couple of months so I could play the Monkey Island Sea of Thieves add on. I thought I could get into this more linear SoulsBorne alike after enjoying the open world of Elden Ring quite a bit. Despite the twisted take on a classic children's tale which very much taps into my tastes, I just couldn't muster up the patience to get into the punishing gameplay. It is a little easier than other entries in this sub-genre, but despite the great premise, inviting steampunk setting and polished presentation, I'll just have to resign to the fact that these games just aren't for me. 

Oh my precious, how could they fuck this up so badly. A stealth-action game featuring the fantasy series' most interesting character, The Lord of the Rings: Gollum () is such a fascinating idea. It's certainly one that caught my attention when it was announced. Alas, either due to budget, time or incompetence the final product is entirely misjudged, not to mention borderline broken. This is not a stealth-action game. This is a boring Uncharted clone which just doesn't work in any aspect. Avoid.

A unique point-and-click adventure that truly tests your moral limits. You play as Loretta (★★), an undervalued housewife in dustbowl America in the mid 20th century. Right from the very beginning, you know that she will murder her husband, but how and if she gets away with it is yet to be revealed. The story can branch wildly, offering up two modes of play; the easier Normal mode or the black-and-white Noir mode which leans into the psychological thriller trappings by removing any prompts or handholding. A single playthrough won't last longer than a film, but there's multiple movies worth or gameplay should you replay it going down different paths. The pixel art does ooze a foreboding charm, but the flat, single-plain gameplay style does take me out of the story somewhat. I'd like to see a similar concept with more focus on immersion, but this is still a minor nit-pick in an otherwise exceptional indie adventure.

Orten Was The Case (★★) was on my radar even before it became a freebie for Amazon Prime members when it dropped in November. I reckon a lot of folks are unaware of the copious amount of stuff offered via Prime Gaming which anyone with Amazon's subscription service can take advantage of (it gave us Deathloop in December which was a nice Christmas present for those of us who haven't played it). Anyway, with its distinctive look and a puzzle-heavy adventure storyline, Orten shares some creatives from the 2021 Game Awards' Game of the Year It Takes Two so this debut indie game from Woodhill Interactive isn't entirely an unknown entity. The dour yet distinctive visuals could be off-putting to some, as can the often depressing aura that surrounds the urban setting, but don't let that dissuade you from giving it a go. This time-looping world-saving adventure is a grand time.

No, I'm not late to the Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart (★★) party. I just don't have a PlayStation 5. And as a lot of its best exclusives are coming to PC eventually, I don't think I ever will have one. Steam started selling this game in July, and it provided everything I wanted in a game like this; bombastic combat, inventive weaponry and perfect platforming. It was once a game that would entice me to buy a console, but no longer. It seems I'm finally a proud member of the PC master race! :)

Do you remember Gone Home? It was one of the first games to be dubbed a 'walking simulator' and it captured the gaming market for a while. What really wowed me when I first played it was how you had to piece together the visual clues yourself to get any idea of what was going on with the plot. Now, what if you had a quiz at the end of it to see if your deductions were correct? That is what Scene Investigators () offers up. You are given a number of crime scenes, from a basic breaking and entering to full on murder, and you are to investigate the location to answer specific questions. It's not all so obvious, as connections have to be made by using your brain via real-world intuition and common sense to deduce a correct answer. It is here where this incredibly intriguing premise leaves me, as the means to decipher each scene isn't always that clear. It also doesn't tell you that some scenes are linked, meaning information gathered previously is to be called upon to answer something later on. If you're into such games like I am, it makes for a great if uneven time, but make sure you take specific notes on everything. The game won't for you. Being a very low budget indie game, I look forward to a more focussed and refined follow up.

Sea of Thieves: Monkey Island () was the reason I got a few months of GamePass. It just so happened to happily coincide with some other games I was tentatively interested in such as Starfield and Lies of P so putting down a couple of quid to try it was a no-brainer. Me and a couple of my friends played through the stand alone campaign and while I did enjoy myself somewhat, it did cement in my mind why I don't like MMOs. I want to get invested with story, worldbuilding and puzzle solving which is quite hard to do when you're distracted by an ally drunkenly vomiting in your face while another jumps around to the tune of Happy Birthday. It's a decent enough addon but I think I would've enjoyed this more playing solo. A slight replacement for the real thing, if you're new to the franchise play the original point-and-click adventures instead.

I'm not the biggest fan of Bethesda's game design which I feel can be unfocused at the expense of providing "huge worlds". Starfield () doesn't break the mould, being at once ambitious for the company yet surprisingly stale. The story isn't particularly compelling for me, especially when the similarly themed Mass Effect has taken me on three spectacular journeys. It also shares some mechanics with that game too, being an interplanetary RPG heavy on the gunplay. The expanse of the world also brings to mind No Man's Sky which, even in its early days when it was at its buggiest, handles space travel far more thrillingly.

So, despite its high production value and inflated budget, it feels like little more than a poor man's Mass Effect mixed with No Man's Sky. It's also very unstable on my PC at least. It might improve gameplay-wise in the later moments or run better when the patches come but having tried it on GamePass, I have no intention of buying the full game now that I've cancelled it.

Two remarkable fun old-school platformers with some great pixel art going on that I can't recommend enough. Super Catboy (★★) is more of a run and gun that sees you play as a cat fighting back against his canine captors. His move set increases as you progress in the adventure thanks to a random human girl that pops up every now and then. Not only will she give you that gun you'll be aiming at many an enemy, but she'll also provide you with some shoes that give you a brief run up. It all controls super well too, making it the perfect throwback to something you might find on the Super Nintendo or NeoGeo. It's also very short, but with its budget price I'd say it's a fair deal.

If you're begging for more, then Tiny Thor (★★) will get you covered. It's another throwback platformer with exceptional pixel art, but this time there's more of a puzzle element going on. Thor can throw his hammer and have it return to him at any time in much the same way Kratos can in the God of War games, except in a 2D sidescroller. It will bounce of any surface an exceptional number of times and it's incredibly satisfying if you can take out an entire room of enemies in this way. It began life in 2012 as a random concept in a 48-hour game jam, with the final game taking its sweet time to hit the market. Going by the final product, it was very much worth it. Now that Asylum Square have proven themselves, here's hoping their next game won't take ten years. I know I'm looking forward to it.

The System Shock Remake (★★) updates the somewhat aging 1994 original to the modern era with aplomb. It, and its sequel, will forever be absolute classics in my mind but I do think the limited environments - even in updated form - show their age. Nightdive Studios have made great pains to polish the visuals, controls and user interface while still keeping a decidedly retro feel. The visuals have a slight pixel edge to them that evokes old-school pizzazz instead of tired old-age. It makes playing through it again a joy.

There's something intrinsically charming about Tchia (★★), Awaceb's personal love story to the small Pacific nation of New Caledonia where the company's founders are from. You play as the titular little girl who, on her twelfth birthday, learns that she has the power to transfer her soul into pretty much anything. Inhabiting rocks and drinks cans can make you use theme as decent projectiles while animals and birds allow you to navigate the beautiful locations in fun and exciting ways. It reminded me of classic 3D Zelda in a good, Wind Waker in particular, and when you truly get into the game it keeps you hooked on its charm and entertaining gameplay. A worthy gem that's destined for cult classic status.

Thirsty Suiters (★★) is a colourful RPG that harks back to the primary-coloured insanity of the DreamCast era. Indian outcast Jala returns to her hometown where she's beset with a number of evil exes - the Thirsty Suiters of the title - but could she possibly rebuild those burnt bridges of her past? The plot is an alternative Indian-American take on Scott Pilgrim, but the turn-based gameplay isn't as deep as its engagingly bizarre concept. When you defeat opponents by performing hyper-active taunts or cringe-inducing flirts, you know this is one journey you cannot forget.

Like this? Try These...

https://collectionchamber.blogspot.com/2024/01/top-10-tv-shows-of-2023.html  https://collectionchamber.blogspot.com/2023/01/top-10-games-of-2022.html  https://collectionchamber.blogspot.com/2017/01/top-10-games-of-2016.html


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  2. Just to correct you.. Its Ken and Roberta Williams.. not John.. John Williams is from the London Symphony Orchestra.. lol.. Great picks though, regardless.. I have to 100% agree with you on Alan Wake 2.. That was my choice for Game Of The Year as well.. It was a masterpiece of art, music, writing and gameplay..! I've finished it and New Game Plus mode multiple times and never get bored of it!.. I can't wait for the upcoming DLCs which promise to not only add to the story but also add entirely new side content with characters like Sheriff Breaker..

    1. Damn my stream of consciousness! I'll correct it now.

      I haven't New Game Plussed Alan Wake II yet, and probably won't for at least a few years. Too many games, not enough time.

    2. Completely understandable! If you ever do.. just realize that Alan Wake 2's New Game Plus is a lot different than other games as it adds cut content and additional pages/scenes that you never experienced in the first playthrough... It adds a new element to this already massive masterpiece.

  3. Thank you for reminding me of the system shock remake, this year had so many great games that the ones with less marketing fell by the wayside like it and master detective archives: rain code.

    1. I admit I forgot about that one too. I must say I'm getting a bit bored of that generic Manga aesthetic but I remember the trailer peaking my interest. That and Decapolice from Level-5.

  4. Out of curiosity, as a Terry Pratchett fan, have you read his recent biography by Rob Wilkins? A very compelling and at times heartbreaking reading.

    1. I haven't but I will. Added it to my basket.

      I did read the recent interview with Gregg Barnett at Time Extension about the Discworld games. It's a good read from the man who designed the games in close collaboration.


  5. Did you not play Robocop : Rogue City ? That game was phenomenal ! Definitely deserves a mention here. Personally I've played through it 5 times and that was before the latest New Game+ just added in a update within the last couple of days. I bought it on a whim and was so pleasantly surprised. I can't believe you ignored it.

    1. I have to second this comment.. Rogue City was an incredible work of art done by indie Polish game designer Teyon Interactive whose previous work was on the games Terminator: Resistance and Rambo: The Video Game..

    2. I've heard good things from friends, but haven't picked it up yet. It was an insane year for great games.

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  7. While BG3 was my GotY, Alan Wake II was a close second. I waited 13 years for it, and it was worth every single day of that wait. I cast Marvel Spider-man 2 aside like yesterday’s news to return to Bright Falls. The original game is one of my favorites of the Xbox 360/PS3/Wii generation. I have one of the promotional posters for it framed and hung in my gaming room. Alan Wake II is even better.

    That said, BG3 edges it out because it’s so open-ended and freeing for the player. The amount of ways you can accomplish things in the game is as close as you can get to having a real DM reacting to some crazy suggestion the players have like “let me stack up 100 crates and climb them to get over this wall.” This will always be a limitation of D&D video games, but there’s so much strategy involved in planning encounters and solving quests, I just found it pure joy for well over 100 hours. Even after hitting the level cap, I was still completing side quests because I wanted to experience everything - and I know I still missed a bunch from conversations with friends.

    Lastly, I also vouch for RoboCop: Rogue City, with the caveat that you have to be a fan of the original (and probably should be familiar with the abominable sequel). Since I think the first film is one of the greatest ever made, the game was an absolute blast.

    1. You just made me consider grabbing BG3 now.. I had no idea that it was that much open-ended.. Wow..

    2. BG3 is insane in its scope and is a must play in a year of must plays. I just haven't spent as must time as I'd like with it because there's been so many must plays to juggle with my real life. I've forbidden myself to buy any new ones for a while until I've completed it so RoboCop may be a while away. I've heard some good things from friends though.

  8. hey Biffman, it's Austin. Hope you've been okay. I haven't been able to get ahold of you on Facebook for a while now.

    1. I think that's related to the Facebook hack from a while ago. email at collectionchamber101@outlook.com instead.

    2. Oh gotcha. I emailed you. Let me know if you go it.

  9. Is it "Dreams in the Witch House" or "Dreams of the Witch House". Certainly the first is a H P Lovecraft story not a Poe one. So inspired by Poe or inspired by Lovecraft?

    1. The thills of rushing a review. I wrote it around the time as the review for Netflix's House of Usher show even though I had their Cabinet of Curiosities firmly in my mind. Bit of a braindead moment it seems. I've changed it now.

  10. "I'm a firm believer in the death of the author. When someone produces art, its interpretation is no longer theirs but the consumer of that art. They are free to read into it however they please and whatever they get out of it is entirely correct and bespoke to them. Despite J.K. Rowling's ignorant beliefs when it comes to trans rights, there is still a fair amount of the Harry Potter universe that members of that community can latch onto."

    You're comment has been reported to the relevant authorities

    1. **Your ..

      Your comment has been reported to the grammar police.. Expect immediate and swift rehabilitation.

    2. There is a reason why Potter comes out of the closet to live his best life...

    3. biffman you are so right

  11. I'm glad to see you have such a detailed and enthusiastic review of the games from 2023! Your rankings and insights are very interesting, and it's clear you're a true gaming enthusiast. Your appreciation and comments on various types of games are insightful. I also enjoy seeing your unique insights into various games, especially your recommendations for some hidden gems and niche titles. Here's to hoping you continue to enjoy more fantastic games in 2024!