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The Games (I Sort Of Played) of the Year Awards
An alternative end of year awards
Do I even like games? I seem to have been asking myself this question a lot recently. Over the summer I was in a complete gaming rut, struggling to attach myself to anything for more than an hour long period and not enjoying much of what I had played. Whilst we’ve been quiet for a number of personal reasons for the last few months, it’s kind of hard to write about games when I am not even really playing any, well not properly at least.
If you’ve never been in a rut with games, I envy you. There’s no satisfaction in wanting to start a new story game, staring at the menu screen of your chosen console and then ultimately booting up a year old FIFA because you can’t make your mind up. It’s a lot like putting Netflix on, browsing for ages and then deciding to watch the wrestling episode of It’s Always Sunny for the 573rd time. Except, somehow, it’s much more depressing when you’re several seasons into career mode and completely bored of winning the quadruple with Wrexham, again.
So in honour of all the games I didn’t play, or games I didn’t play properly, this year here is my alternative awards ceremony. A catalogue of games I wish I had the time to play, or games that I only got round to trying this year. This is the definitive award ceremony for all my fellow Casual Gamers who wish they could spend more time gaming.
Best game I’ve spent less than 3 hours on- Resident Evil 2 (Remake)
A few games nearly got this award, with the fantastic Legend of Zelda inspired Tunic being my second choice, and a few other games I picked up through PC Game Pass like Dead Cells also coming close. However, the spectacular remake of Resident Evil 2 beat them all as I do intend to get through this (at some point in the next decade at least).
I bought the RE2/3 Remake pack in a sale for a ridiculously low price for two games. Typically, I haven’t had a chance to play RE3, but the limited amount of time spent with RE2 has been great fun. Having only previously played the original PS2 version of RE4, my knowledge on the series has been limited to that game and playing as Jill Valentine in Marvel vs Capcom 2, so I’d had my eye on this for a while.
The game doesn’t disappoint, keeping an old school structure but with modern control and graphics in a style that works very well. Whilst I haven’t played the original, it seems like this is the absolute perfect example of a remake done well. Time has been lacking since the Black Friday sales, but I am looking forward to spending more time with this during the Christmas hols.
Best game I watched someone else play- Stray
When the news about Stray coming out as a day one release for PS+ Essential I was very hyped. A story driven platforming game about a cat? Sign me up! When I told my girlfriend about it, she decided she wanted to check it out and sensing an opportunity to do some Friday night backseat gaming I thought it would be enough to just watch her play it instead. Turns out it’s actually the
purrfect perfect game to do this for too. Although it looked like an enjoyable game, the platforming wasn’t breaking any boundaries and was just as satisfying to watch as it would have been to play. This game is a must for cat lovers as you’ll recognise all the strangely accurate noises and movements the stray makes in game. Even our cat Rocky was intrigued by seeing a cat run around on screen.
Best game I revisited instead of playing something new- Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater (1+2)
Another game that perfectly demonstrates a remake done well is the THPS(1+2) combo (I guess it’s technically a packaged remaster, but who cares about semantics). I’d originally played this when it first came out, but didn’t own it, so when I saw that it was on PS+ not long after seeing the video above, I felt like I had to jump back in and give it a go. Granted, we don’t always have to play games right on release, but I did give this a try initially and played the THPS2 to death when it first came out. Giving it another bash wasn’t on the cards until Tony Hawk singing Superman with a cover band
That moment in itself captures a big part of the beauty of the THPS series; the feel good factor. Skateboarding became a phenomenon in the 60’s, but many 90’s British pre-teens like myself hadn’t had much exposure to the sport (other than through Bart Simpson) until the seminal games came out, becoming our entry point to an entirely new culture. With skaters from all over the world, crazy tricks, colourful decks, cool clothes and banging music; THPS made me, and countless others, want to be a skateboarder. The series encapsulated everything that was great about the late 90’s and early 00’s, and provided an experience that struck a chord with many.
What this game does a great job of is updating the aesthetics to the modern era, adding new content to the old. Modern songs, cosmetics and skaters are thrown into the mix it adds a really a complimentary touch to the revamped graphics. This, coupled with combining all of the levels of the original two games into one neat package, creates an experience that not only lives up to the originals, it enhances them. Taking a little nostalgia trip through THPS1+2 was oddly fascinating, and felt like something a bit more than just playing a game. If this was your era and you haven’t managed to play this yet, I highly recommend giving it a go.
Game I wish I’d played instead of FIFA- God of War
Ever had FIFA regret? That sinking feeling I mentioned earlier when you want to play something new, yet the effort of starting a new story campaign just feels too hard so you boot up FIFA instead? Maybe you have a different go-to-game like one of the Call of Duty’s or GTA5, but the sentiment is still the same. Times are hard, people are skint and overworked, so it’s never a bad thing to fall back on a casual classic. Sometimes though, it does feel a bit futile, especially when you have a list of backlogged games longer than a Tory’s expenses sheet.
This year I spent a lot of time daydreaming about playing God of War, particularly when the sequel was around the corner and I wanted to catch up. Alas, I started a save, enjoyed about an hour’s worth of game play and never went back. Maybe by 2032 I might have managed to complete this one and move on to Ragnarok, or, let’s be honest, I will probably be playing EA Sports FC 2033 instead.
Best game I sort of played of the year- Elden Ring
Perhaps the most prestigous of titles in this list, I actually did play and enjoy this game. At the start of the summer I played around 15 hours of Elden Ring. I realise that 15 hours is actually the size of some game’s campaigns, but it doesn’t even scratch the surface of the content in this humongous masterpiece. On top of that, a good chunk of that time was spent dying rather than exploring the massive open world.
I’m generally averse to playing games that are overly difficult, but I was in dire need of a fresh challenge and had several people tell me that this was the game to pick up. They were right, as the game is up there with some of the best open worlds ever created. The level of detail, immersion and craft that has gone into making it really is beyond anything that I’ve ever played. Having never tried a FromSoftware game before I didn’t know what to expect, but this game felt like Skyrim on steroids and I loved it.
Despite almost every aspect of the game being incredibly impressive, I just didn’t have the head space to be grinding a tough RPG. After smashing it during the first week or so, I found myself playing the game a lot less (I am a casual gamer after all), and keeping track of the story, quests and side missions I was working on became almost impossible. I’ll come back to it eventually, as the time I spent on it doesn’t do this game any justice.
Game I understood the least- Arcade Paradise
Around the time of playing Elden Ring, I felt like I may have needed something different, a game that was a bit easier to manage and with a more light-hearted tone, so I gave Arcade Paradise a go. For those who haven’t played it, the tl;dr summary is that you are in charge of a laundrette and you’re trying to make a profit. The establishment has some arcade machines in one of the back room. Your aim is to slowly buildup the popularity of these machines to convince your character’s dad that he should turn it into a full blown arcade.
It’s an intriguing concept, and it’s also surprisingly deep, with the arcade machines acting as playable mini-games inspired by old school classics in one way or another. However, at the risk of sounding harsh, I found it incredibly tedious.
The story is a light touch, giving you enough detail to pique your interest but not enough to bog you down with too much to follow. Arcade Paradise is clearly a game you are meant to grow into, but at the beginning you’re meant to complete menial tasks to make sure the business earns money and doesn’t go into disrepute, while you slyly build up your collection of machines with what you earn.
I found having to wash clothes, clear up rubbish, get rid of chewing gum and unplug toilets too much like work, and as a chronically unorganised 30-something-year old, doing some virtual tidying does not have any appeal at all. Especially when I’m playing games to escape the chores, rather than do them. So after a while I had to contemplate my life choices, stop playing and actually tidy up my own house.
In fairness I would recommend it to any body who likes simulator games, particularly Two Point Hospital, as it’s pretty well made. The depth was surprising and at £15 it’s definitely worth a go, it just wasn’t for me.
Thanks for reading! If there’s anything that stands out for you from 2022 then drop into the comments section and let us know. Keep an eye out for next week’s issue where I go through some of my most anticipated games of 2023, and another future issue where I take a look at which backlog games I’m hoping to get through at some point.
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