I did it last year so here it is again; a list of games that released over the year of 2013 that I rather enjoyed, and there’s a good chance you may enjoy them too. Most of which are indies, but there’s a bunch of big studio games in the mix too.
In alphabetical order we have…
Like Portal, Antichamber is a first-person puzzle game. But whereas Portal is quite clear with its instructions, Antichamber throws you into a world where you have to work out for yourself what the hell you are doing. Using tricks of the optical kind Antichamber will mess with your head. Not to mention that all the puzzle rooms will randomly reorganise themselves while you play to add to the headache. It’s original, it’s hard, it’s Antichamber — a puzzle game that won’t go easy on you.
Candy Box 2
I played a ton of the original Candy Box (also released in 2013). It’s the game that starts off as a single button. Built with ASCII art the game won me over with its mix of RPG, adventure, and pure curiosity. Candy Box 2 further expands upon that original idea with a huge world map. There are so many things to discover in Candy Box 2. many of which hard to find, I eventually turned to the wiki for guidance. This was a game I always had open in my browser for the good part of a month or more. It was my distraction from the things I really should have been doing. Plus leaving it open generates more candies!
Yes Diablo III was first released on PC in 2012, but this is the console release and the first time I’m getting around to playing it. I grabbed my brother and we hunkered down and played through the first Act. At first the game felt like it had “dumbed down” a lot of the features of Diablo II; auto character stats, no skill trees, but maybe we should’ve chosen a difficulty level higher than Normal (there are harder versions of normal apparently!), as we weren’t finding it overly challenging. But at the end of Act 1 the game feels like it’s ramping up a bit and the streamlining and simplified user interface (arranging equipment into helmets and pants for example) is a welcome addition for an originally mouse heavy PC game. It’s a good old fashioned loot fest with fun-filled monster slaughtering. Without having finished it (not that I finished most of the games on this list) it found a welcome spot. Now we just have to see if it lives up to its predecessors. Topping nostalgia is not an easy thing.
Word of mouth helped this game find it’s way onto screens around the world, including mine. It’s a simple adventure game, well, more of an exploration game really. There isn’t much in the way of puzzles and there aren’t dialogue choices. But what it does have is atmosphere. You walk about a creepy house in the middle of a thunder storm over turning every little piece of information you can find to learn about the occupants and their stories. This is a game where snooping is encouraged!
Grand Theft Auto V
Rockstar have a reputation for their open world games, and GTA V keeps hold of the flag. San Andreas is dutifully recreated as a vast playground of adventures. The main storyline is okay as things go. There are some funny bits such as Michael kicking his kid off his video game console and taking him bike riding for some father son time, but there’s a lot of tedious driving from point A to point B. In a series first you take control of three characters who you can switch between (and sometimes during missions. There needed to be more of this, as it did change up the traditional GTA gameplay). Rockstar can’t be beaten for its realistic open worlds and myself and friends have had many an adventure simply cruising the streets, stealing planes and causing general mayhem. Due to save issues I’m not sure if I feel that compelled to finish the story side of things.
Gunpoint is another indie darling I discovered. Essentially it’s a puzzle platformer. You hack into electrical networks, try not to be seen and make your leave. Oh yeah and you can jump through windows. It’s awesome tackling a guard, crashing through a window, and diving hundreds of metres to the ground, punching him in the face until your mouse clicking hand gets tired. What? It’s therapeutic! Gunpoint’s writing is also clever. Between missions you ring up your contacts and choose between dialogue options which can affect the outcome of the game, or you can use just for fun. You can solve many of the puzzles using the gadgets at your disposal in a variety of ways; electrocuting guards with wall sockets, wiring doors to open on a gun firing, or turning off lights with elevator movement.
The Last of Us
Despite it’s clunky beginnings Last of Us becomes another Naughty Dog special. Set years after a zombie outbreak (sorry, Infected) Joel, a hardened smuggler must travel across a post apocalyptic America with Ellie, a young girl with a secret. The Last of Us is god damn beautiful and my highlight is exploring the dilapidated environments without the constant barrage of enemies. The violence in The Last of Us can be jarring, from choking the breath out of mercenaries to dispatching of Infected with an axe to the head. But it’s gritty violence that suits it’s bleak world. As Joel and Ellie struggled I felt like I struggled with them, or is that… as them?
Papers, Please is an unusual type of game. It’s unusual in the sense it simulates a desk job of an immigration officer working for a communist nation. Yes, for the majority of the game you are scanning documents and passports, checking for discrepancies. Any discrepancy has to be checked and questioned for letting terrorists through can cost you dearly. At the end of each work day you go home to your family (displayed only as text) and choose between spending what little money you have on rent, food, heating, or medicine. If you screw up badly at work your family will pay for it and one by one they will die off. Depressing huh? But it’s an addicting experience that gets increasingly difficult as new elements are introduced.
I turned to Rogue Legacy in hope of another Spelunky type of experience. With it’s random dungeons and it’s extreme difficulty, it certainly tickled that itch. But unlike Spelunky, Rogue Legacy has a sense of progression. What gold you have left on your death gets transferred to your ancestor where you can spend it on new abilities, weapons, magic, and other upgrades (it gets a little hard when the prices increase, money doesn’t tend to carry through when you enter the castle). On each run you can choose between three ancestors, each of which have a class, and varying traits (not always helpful) including colour blindness which turns the game greyscale, and dwarfism which well, lets you play as a dwarf. As of writing I have only defeated one boss. The game is hard yo! It looks like once all the bosses are defeated, the door to the final challenge will open. I live and pray.
The Stanley Parable
The Stanley Parable is a game based on the Half-Life 2 mod of the same name. You star as Stanley, office worker, who one day notices his coworkers are missing and his one job is brought to a halt. As you explore the office, a narrator tells Stanley’s story. The first choice of the game is whether you go down the left door obeying the narrator, or the door on your right. You can play through the game obeying the narrator, but that is only one story/ending of the game. The fun is in disobeying the narrator who will quickly berate you for doing so. There are many, many paths through The Stanley Parable, and many of which will illustrate the illusion of choice in most story driven games.