My Favorite Games of 2018

My love of gaming started early and still burns bright, even if my relationship with it is a little weird right now (feeling pushed out of the AAA scene via boredom). Last year, I kept a quick ranking of every game I touched by enjoyment and thought I’d write a little about my favorites.

Honorable Mentions

Donut County: The game design is a bit simplistic but it’s an ear-to-ear grin inducer from start to finish with wonderful characters, snappy, aware writing, playful graphics, and a soul that exudes joy. And raccoons.

Deltarune: Who would have thought we were going to get a fully functional and super enjoyable first act to a sequel to Undertale out of the blue? Great music, interesting new characters and nostalgic hooks made for a really fulfilling experience and gave way to the excruciating wait for the final product someday, hopefully.

Forza Horizon 4: I’m actually kind of bummed that this didn’t make my top five, but the changes to the world economy and introduction of extremely silly personalization options really took me out of the perfect formula the team crafted for the previous iteration. That aside, the game is still one of the best racing games ever made and a wonderful co-op experience that shouldn’t be missed.

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E3 2018 Music Video

 

Here’s a music video / clip reel of my favorite game announcements, trailers, and gameplay from E3 2018! I used to make a point to make one of these every year but it dropped off many years ago. After a really thrilling set of reveals (and the sad state of world), I decided to dust off the process and take on the simple creative exercise.

The whole process is so enjoyable: finding the game trailers I love, selecting the perfect song for the mood I want to impart, extracting the most thrilling video clips, creating a beat track to align the clips, arranging everything…it feels awesome to feel a clip slide right into place with the music. A couple nights of that and some polish and viola, a little time capsule of my mood, interest and excitement bundled into one hype reel.

Even if these games never live up to the hype (or come out at all), I’ll always love a good E3 trailer. Enjoy!

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Celeste Summit B-Side

One of the best surprises of 2018 so far has been Celeste, a tough-but-encouraging platformer by the developers of Towerfall: Ascension. I bought it after reading reviews on launch day and was enamored by its music, style, gameplay…really everything about it. Get it, play it; you will absolutely love it.

I may have more words on this game later, but check out a little video I put together this weekend on one of the harder levels in the game: the “B-Side” of Chapter 7, “The Summit.” I snapped video of every screen via PS4 capture and stitched them all together showcasing each screen’s first attempt, a death montage, and the screen’s successful attempt. Enjoy!

Riven Retrospective

Join me on a journey back through one of my favorite video game experiences: Riven: The Sequel to Myst! Watch at 1.5x, and don’t miss my previous Myst Retrospective: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zp1jkGEKnCU


Despite being one of my favorite game series ever, I dropped off the Myst train after Myst 3. In an attempt to get back on and get some motivation to see through Myst 4 and 5 (and maybe Uru) before mainlining Obduction, I wanted to revisit Myst, Riven, and Exile and share my thoughts in some form.

The above video is my attempt for Riven, which featured a whole webcam just for my notes! I had a ton of fun with this one; it’s so much harder to related the game through a thorough playthrough (as the puzzles and world are much less modular than Myst). Enjoy!

Myst Retrospective

Join me on a journey back through one of my favorite video game experiences: Myst! I talk about Myst, why I did this video, why Myst is special, and then I skate through all of realMyst: Masterpiece Edition! Save yourself some time and watch at 1.5x.


Despite being one of my favorite game series ever, I dropped off the Myst train after Myst 3. In an attempt to get back on and get some motivation to see through Myst 4 and 5 (and maybe Uru) before mainlining Obduction, I wanted to revisit Myst, Riven, and Exile and share my thoughts in some form. The above video is my attempt for Myst. The Riven video is being edited and is coming soon!

Blood, Sweat, and Pixels

Jason Schreier, 2017, 275 pages (Amazon)


It’s probably no surprise that I’d buy, read, and love a book about video game development war stories, but Blood, Sweat, and Pixels: The Triumphant, Turbulent Stories Behind How Video Games Are Made is a book really anyone with even a passing interest in the art of video games would enjoy (and should pick up).

Jason Schreier (kotaku.com), a veteran of the video game beat, weaves together several historical narratives from primary sources that describe in often-painful detail the difficulties most every game befalls on its way to launch, from the single-man production of Stardew Valley to the large-team blockbuster Uncharted 4.

The writing is approachable for non-enthusiasts but fills in knowledge gaps for even the most well-read fan. The chapter on Destiny is particularly special, building on the success of Kotaku’s excellent reporting to finally bring the details of that game’s late-stage reboot together into one coherent (if maddening) story.

The book left me with a renewed desire to check out The Witcher 3, another reason to dislike George Lucas, and a much healthier respect for the kinds of experiences Kickstarter enabled. Having lived through and managed a number of product launches over the past decade (though none nearly as intense), these chapters stoked memories of ownership conflict, poor management decisions, troublesome tooling, and the intense ups and downs of being a cowboy coder. The common thread of “crunch”, of working yourself to the bone to finish even somewhat on time, was all too familiar, and the picture Schreier paints of it being an almost essential ingredient in game development is simultaneously tragic and human.

It’s not entirely about failure, though. It was likewise a real treat to read about the Diablo 3 team consoling a downtrodden Destiny team after launch woes, showing how common some of these growing pains can be even from teams with radically different pedigrees. These stories, while bleak, are just as much about turning a lonely coder into a multi-millionaire and allowing a team of burned out and bored friends to risk it all and strike gold.

There’s a fairly ubiquitous quote by Shigeru Miyamoto: “A delayed game is eventually good, but a rushed game is forever bad.” Blood, Sweat, and Pixels shows that in today’s industry, any finished game at all is a special thing. Highly recommended.

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I digested a good chunk of this in the shade of a local Chick-fil-A. It’s amazing how quickly things return to normal after a major hurricane. I’ll miss this about Florida one day, I’m sure.

Mini Reviews (Sept 2017)

The games I’ve been playing have been piling up in my “to review” queue, so let’s flush that queue with some mini reviews! This is also a wonderful distraction from our collective impending doom at the hands of Hurricane Irma.

Ratchet and Clank (PS4): Damn near close to a perfect remake. Looks absolutely drop-dead gorgeous (and somehow even better on a PS4 Pro), controls fantastically, has plenty of compelling, fun progression and exploration hooks, and is loaded with diverse, playful weapons and tools. It’s an absolute must-buy for any PS4 owner.

Sly 2: Band of Thieves (HD Collection, PS3): On my continuing quest to be better informed about raccoon video game history, I recently finished the main story in Sly 2. The game, like its predecessor, offers smooth framerates, tight controls, and somewhat-muddy cel-shaded graphics. This iteration adds more playable characters and attempts more one-off mechanics, mini-games, and scenarios, and really doesn’t seem much better for it. Each game world is now an “open” world, which really just adds padding time of having to walk to each mission and little else. There’s still unskippable cutscenes and tutorials, atrocious turret controls, unnecessary upgrades, and the artifact of PS2-era character-driven platformers. It’s sad that these early 3D games that pushed the envelope are going to fall apart over time, but I’m glad the HD collection exists. I know this game is old, and feels like it would have been the best thing out there when it first came out. Recommended for raccoons and video game historians.

Axiom Verge (PS4, Vita, XB1, Wii U, PC): A Metroid clone that is too much Metroid and not enough Super Metroid. The game stands on its own with a decent story, interesting world, and lots of diverse weaponry to track down and utilize, but it leans on too many of the outdated, hardcore mechanics and traditions of the original, NES Metroid. Environments are forgettable, bland, repetitive, and often indistinguishable. Character movement is slow, every enemy encounter can be deadly, but the game requires lots of mindless backtracking and aimless wandering. Death is very painful (and annoying) when traversal isn’t fun. It was more fun on subsequent playthroughs for trophy hunting, but it’s hard to recommend to anyone outside of die-hard retro Metroidvania enthusiasts.

Risk of Rain (PS4, Vita, PC): I was a little late to this party, but thanks to Toya and Riloh, our household got a bit addicted to this marvelous little rogue-like. The pixel-art style is fantastic (it’s still my MacBook’s background). The characters and power-ups offer an exciting and insane amount of customizable and randomized variation (maybe too much). But the music is perhaps the best part and had me humming for days after each hours-long play session (a game is somewhere between 10 and 60 minutes).