I probably went a bit overboard in 2018
, but I like the idea of looking back at the games I played last year and discussing them to steer others in better directions. You don't need to go the way I've gone.
As part of that blog last year, I identified three terrible games I completed in 2018 and three that I completed that were really good, with dis/honorable mentions. So maybe this year if I just focus on that I can handle 5 on each side?
I played a lot of bad games again this year. And I completed a lot of them too. Here are the worst of the worst.
#5 Bouncy Bullets
Garish colors are just the first offense to the eyes.
I played a lot of Ratalaika games in 2019, but they weren't all bad. This one was. A part of this dislike I have I admit stems from the type of gamer I am. I knew going in I wasn't going to like this one. First person shooter mechanics? Blegh. But what pushes this onto the list anyway is that the game, despite being quick and "easy" GS and played for that purpose, wasn't quite easy enough or short enough for me to find tolerable. Those awful colors sear into your retinas, particularly if you have to replay levels frequently, which I did. I got through it, but the experience was not fun, it was painful. I'd happy rate this game even worse, but I will do it some justice and acknowledge that my personal biases are pushing it too far.
#4 Bird Game +
The kindest thing to be said is that there isn't much there. But what keeps it on the list is that even what was there didn't work right.
I mentioned Bird Game + already in another blog
as one of the worst games I've played/completed this year, so it's no surprise here. There's not much to add. The game could have been OK. The concept isn't broken, but the gameplay loop is just bad.
#3 RIOT - Civil Unrest
Attention to detail is easier when the detailing is low-res. Theoretically.
I was "fortunate" enough to get a review code for Riot. I was excited, this game should have been in my wheelhouse. Riot is a Strategy/RTS game with a premise around controlling the environment of protests. Violent political change was a concentration of mine when I earned one of my degrees. This game should have been like catnip.
And, in truth, I did enjoy parts of it. The developers, to their credit spent a lot of time looking to build factual event accuracy into their game. But they messed up somewhere. The game is frequently punishingly difficult and provides no useful feedback about what you did wrong if you do fail. The control scheme is poorly thought out--RTS on controllers is always awkward, but the PC version has the same problems! The graphics are kept low key so as to enhance the abstract concepts on the game and reduce processing requirements (and development costs), and I can live with that, but this can lead to confusion about what is or isn't happening at points. In the end, Riot is a game for hardcore RTS fans who happen to also be political science nerds. And even then it's a weak offering.
#2 One Leaves
Your lungs will be as brown as the game, if you smoke.
One Leaves is, of course, the anti-smoking game manufactured by the companies that sell you cigarettes. It's the latest in the ongoing effort to stamp out teen smoking. Someone somewhere said, "teenagers like video games, make them make an anti-smoking video game." So they did. And it plays like a public service announcement as a video game would. The developers, clearly just working a contract, pushed out a functional, but uninspiring game and it appeared on the marketplace for free, with GamerScore. So of course we all jumped on it. The game is bad, but achievement hunters get the worst of it because to complete the achievements you have to win the game 20 times, once per cigarette in a standard pack. Winning isn't hard, and winning 20 times is just mildly time consuming, but the process of actually playing 20+ games of One Leaves left many gamers threatening to start smoking.
#1 The worst game I completed in 2019 - Jeopardy!
If you think this image is generic, just wait.
I love Jeopardy! I'm a fan of trivia games and the TV show is still being watched to this day in my parent's home. I grew up on Alex Trebek reading me a question and trying to come up with the answer. It is really hard to get me to say that any game called Jeopardy! is a bad game, let alone the worst I completed in any given year. What brings this ire?
First, the game is shoddily made. It is fully functional, but only barely. You paid for the license to the name and IP, but you can't bother to spend more money to get Alex, or an impersonator? The questions are read, when they're read, by a random disembodied voice. The game reeks of cash grab. Don't spend more money than absolutely needed on this game, the Jeopardy! fans will buy it anyway.
But those lapses are far from the worst. The game has a remarkably small question set and the design means that new questions are opened after playing games. This should have kept the games feeling fresh, but the actual result is that I was getting repeat questions in the second game and had repeat questions in every single game ever played.
Achievement hunters get to be upset too because the game makes you play those same questions over and over again so that you can buzz in the requisite 2000 times for the final achievement.
For being a soulless, poorly designed rip off of a classic, Jeopardy! earns my "worst of 2019" award.
These games may not have been the absolute best around, but they were the best I had time to complete last year, when I was busy scoring lots of easy GS.
#5 - Rock of Ages
Monty Python meets action/strategy.
Rock of Ages is a game where the demo actually did the job. I played the demo and then happily bought the game. I earned my first achievement in December of 2011, after having had the game for a bit unstarted. Even then I didn't complete it until 2019, making it the longest gap this year. That gap is due to the game being reasonably difficult. There are challenging bosses, challenging collectibles, and challenging multiplayer because the game lobbies are empty. It's an old game and it wasn't super popular to start with.
I did the multiplayer late 2018 with Tropan
to get him his completion, so I knew it was time for me. In the beginning of the year I gritted it out and rolled on home to the completion. Now, onto the sequels.
#4 - The Fall
Dark and atmospheric. Religious imagry for unknown reasons. A sci-fi plot that pushes some boundaries. Let's go.
The Fall is a clever game of exploration and fairly light combat where you progress through a story to save a human life, and as you do, you are simultaneously ending one robot apocalypse by starting another. Maybe. The game is impressively openended with the story telling that is always strong. The gameplay mechanics could be tighter, particularly on a controller--this very much feels like an awkward port, but the total package is a good game that was a lot of fun to get through, even if it took me a lot longer than the time estimates here. Most people look at it and see quick and easy GS. Give the game a fair shake, though. It's worth it.
#3 - Circuits
Circuits is a puzzle game where you listen to a piece of music and then recreate it from the notes and instruments given to you in the form of buttons and loops. It looks simple but has some interesting complexity to it. It's a fun enough game just to mess around in, and the music is good without being great. For achievement hunters, the problems can come from a slightly challenging list because it does require getting the puzzles right without relying on the in-game hint system, and those who are tone-deaf will have a hard time.
#2 - The MISSING: J.J. Macfield and the Island of Memories
Jumping through the church!
The Missing is a game that is hard to describe without giving spoilers, so I'm going to do my best but I expect this will be insufficient to really do the game justice. It is primarily a story-driven puzzle-platformer where you solve the puzzles by damaging your protagonist. This required a complete change in gameplay nature for me because we spend so much time trying for perfect runs where we take no damage at all, but in this game, a perfect run is about taking the right level of damage at the right time.
The story is the part of the game that will get the most attention, done by White Owls (SWERY) you can expect a lot of Japanese craziness. The Missing goes further and tackles some tough subjects and the horror elements that the game presents are sometimes a little more true to life than people would want or can handle.
The complaints I had in playing the game is that the platforming a is a little too floaty for the kind of precision occasionally required, and that the audio tracks are too limited for the length of the game, which isn't hugely long. But 10-12 hours of hearing the same anguished screams as you continually injure your protagonist to try to solve a puzzle gets old. Obviously, you'll hear it more if you're trying to solve those puzzles yourself.
#1 - Hand of the Gods: SMITE Tactics
This amazing game is no more.
Hand of the Gods is a SMITE spin-off game that ultimately did poorly and recieved no support. The F2P model couldn't support it and they shut it down at the end of 2019, which is a real shame. The game itself was fantastic. I was stunned at how well a CCG/grid-based combat strategy/war game could work. The came out of the gate with a well designed impressively balanced and fun game that hit far too many of my game likes.
The game had problems, too, of course. A server system that even from the start had trouble matchmaking. A lack of ongoing support, new cards, and the like. The achievements were also grindy and tough for casual support of the game. For for a brief period of time, this was the best F2P game around.