Last year, I did a sort of year in review post which began with an explanation of the difficulty in creating such a post. I don’t tend to consume a lot of media as it comes out, and… 2019 was even worse in that regard. I think my escapism was fairly concentrated this year in two media: video games and comics. Hopefully I’ll do a second post on the latter after sorting out what all actually came out
this last year. But for now: VIDEO GAMES.
Slay the Spire
I feel like I’ve played several years worth of this game, I’m honestly… shocked that this came out in 2019. I don’t want to say that this is my favorite of the games on this list (I don’t want to rank them at all, frankly), but it is almost certainly the game I have put the most time into. I have already bought it twice, on Switch and Steam, and will snag a physical Switch copy as well at some point. It’s a deckbuilding
dungeon spire crawl with a huge set of cards that leads to a lot of depth in build strategy. It’s often referred to as having roguelike elements, which like… the spire is mostly randomized, and there’s permadeath, but… I don’t know, we’re really stretching the definition of roguelike these days.
Aside from the standard mode, the game itself comes with a bunch of modified modes that lead to some really wild builds. On top of that, on the computer, there’s a considerable mod scene coming up with new playable characters and the like (Sailor Moon, for instance. YES!). But even without any of that, the base game has wonderful replayability. Games are short enough to pick up and play casually or as a filler, and every advancement autosaves. All of this makes for a game that I have sunk countless hours into this past year. And with a new official character coming (which I’ve seen played in beta, it’s neat), I’m looking forward to countless hours more in 2020.
The World Next Door
By all accounts, this launched March 2019, though it feels like something I played through in 2018. I guess this year just felt that long. This game is kind of hard to pin down. It’s RPGish with visual novel narrative components. Battles are based on a realtime match puzzle system. It mashes a lot of stuff together in a way that is occasionally inelegant, but largely works very well. Also, it is extremely gay.
Back to that occasional inelegance, my only real gripe with the game is combat. The match puzzle thing is clever, but you play it by actually moving your character around on the puzzle board. In realtime. With the enemy doing same. And it often feels… cramped. This was never so bad that I didn’t want to hop back in and give it another go, nor did it in any way detract from how gay the game was. It just felt like something that could have been slightly better refined.
But, a great narrative with charming characters and an overall interesting system. The light VN elements were a cute touch. I look forward to playing this again, and would die for a sequel. Did I mention how wonderfully gay it was?
I played this one fairly early in the year, and don’t remember a great deal about it beyond its comical noodle leg physics. The narrative, if I recall, has a sort of anti-capitalist, destroy the robbers of the resources vibe to it; right up my alley of course. The characters are all quite charming, and (again, if memory serves) you have to kind of work with them at times to help overthrow The Man. I should… play this again so I remember it better. I know I loved it though.
This game reminded me a lot of Wandersong, which I wrote about in my 2018 media retrospective. It’s not just that they’re both rhythm platformers, but as in Wandersong, the rhythm aspects don’t matter. They add to the musicality of the game, but if you are terrible at rhythm games (points to self), you’ll be fine. Botching the rhythm sections seemingly does not affect the game one tiny bit.
Much like Wandersong as well, the protagonist is just this sort of misunderstood bird (close enough to bard, right?) trying to find answers and make friends. The basic premise is that you’re going around to all these different bird communities, trying to figure out what sort of bird you are. It’s a compelling and emotional narrative backed up with an excellent platforming experience. I found the rhythm bits far more complicated and difficult than in Wandersong, but again… it doesn’t matter! The music is really catchy as well, and furthers the narrative by keeping beat with a bouncing ball sing-along sort of display.
I wrote about Tetris 99 already. Since then, they’ve released two bits of DLC. There’s now a bunch of local stuff, which is welcome, including a standard marathon mode (which is deeply flawed, lacking an endless mode1). There’s also an online team battle mode, which is neat but… kind of silly when you don’t know any of the people on your team? I guess if you had a large online community, you could do team mode in a private room, which would be fun. There’s also a mode that’s just regular Tetris 99 mode, except only players who have placed first at some point in a Tetris 99 game can join. This is theoretically very cool, playing against only more practiced and/or elite players. But in practice, only about 30 players ever show up, the other 692 slots filled with CPU players. This is far from ideal, and I’d honestly just prefer a battle royale with fewer players at that point.
But, everything else that I wrote last February holds true. There’s still a large player base, and I’m still having a ton of fun with it. I’m also still routinely placing in the top three, so there hasn’t been a runaway effect of the player base just becoming too good for folks who only play off and on or the like. I’ll likely buy the cartridge when my Switch Online membership is about to dry up. Apparently there’s a battle royale Tetris game coming to mobile as well, which is exciting.
My next post will be about Tetris, if you’re here for that good Tetris content.
Untitled Goose Game
I also have already written about Untitled Goose Game. I’m just going to pull a quote from that post:
[E]ven when I was trapped in a weird rotational loop with the farmer, annoyed that it felt like I was playing a hastily-coded shareware title from the late ‘90s, I didn’t want to stop. All was forgiven, I just wanted more goose. I beat the game, which prompts you with a handful of additional tasks. I thought, I’ll do these here and there amid other games. The next day, I wanted more goose, and promptly powered through these tasks. I watched some streamers do these additional tasks despite just having done them, because, more goose.
I still crave more goose. If there’s goose DLC, I will buy more goose. And I will frantically seek out fanart of that goose. And I will watch people play that goose. I love the goose.
Baba Is You
Crap, this came out in 2019? This list is getting long. A genius puzzle game that I briefly talked about when it was proven that Baba is You is Turing-complete. The core premise of the game is that you push around items on a grid-based field, Sokoban-like. But some of those items are… linguistic? And forming statements with them fundamentally changes the puzzle. If you change the statement ‘Baba is you’ to ‘Grass is you’, suddenly you’re in control of every piece of grass on the field. Manipulating what you are, what the goal is, what is dangerous, etc. is the meat of the puzzle, and it is some very deep meat. Ew. Anyway, highly recommend; I heard a level editor is coming soon?
And, to finish, Pokémon Shield is another game I already wrote about. Which, yeah I’ve been writing about video games a lot lately, and as I mentioned… I consumed a lot of video games in 2019, it just was a rough year and… they’ve been helpful. I think finally breaking into Pokémon proper was sort of the peak of that helpfulness. Shield was an adorable game that gave me something to bond with a friend over, and allowed me to absorb the warmth of players online through their fanart and struggles to catch ‘em all. I feel like I don’t really need to go into the game much, since I am the last human to experience this franchise, but… I’m glad this is a Thing I got into in 2019. It really meant a lot to me.
- I get that purists don’t like Endless. I get that 150 is the classic Marathon, and the only type required by the Guideline. But how much effort does it take to put in the Endless mode for those of us who wish to play that way? Worse, instead of Endless, Tetris 99 has 999-line mode. Which, of course, I beat the first time I played and felt the exact crushing disappointment I anticipated feeling. 999 lines is when I’m really getting into the groove, what a waste to be dropped out right then and there. If they ever change this, it won’t be preserved in the cartridges. At least Puyo Puyo Tetris has Endless, even if it’s buried. ↩︎
- Nice. ↩︎