My Five Favorite Games in 2019

As with 2018, I’d like to discuss my top five favorite games that I played in the past year. These are the games that I most enjoyed when I played them in 2019; they weren’t necessarily released in that year.

1. Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice

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The attention to detail and careful research involved in crafting an accurate and unique depiction of the nexus of mental illness, a specific historical setting, and mythology make this game stand apart. But it’s also just short enough, with a simple enough set of moves to master in combat, that you can plow through it in a day. Even on the Switch, it’s a beautiful game. And while progression was linear, I liked that it still managed to feel like a game of exploration–aided greatly by the use of a variety of mind-bending puzzles to solve. For a game intended to feel like a new AAA title, it offered something special rather than derivative, with a memorable protagonist and story.

2. Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu!

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This was like nostalgia come alive. Yes, it was re-exploring Pokémon Yellow yet again, but the new game features and bright, lively graphics made it feel more like a physical manifestation of youthful imaginings of what a Pokémon game was. It was a game aimed squarely at lapsed fans like me, and it delivered an experience that reengaged my interest in the franchise.

3. Batman: The Enemy Within

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This might be my favorite Batman story of all time. It is my favorite Joker story of all time. Even otherwise tired relationships, like that between Bruce and Alfred, feel fresh when you’re the one personally making decisions that impact those relationships. I felt like I had choice throughout the narrative, and I also knew that my choices would often bring painful, unintended consequences. I just had to do what I thought was best, even though an ideal outcome was almost never achievable in the end.

4. Untitled Goose Game

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I didn’t even make it through the opening titles before I fully embraced the persona of a dickish goose. This was a fun sandbox, and I delighted in experimentation and in solving the various challenges. Beautiful, distinctive artwork and pleasant sound and music design were soothing even as I sowed chaos.

5. Desert Child

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This is an incredibly short game. It might turn some people off because of its brevity. But the art style, music, and racing all come together to deliver a cool, stylistic, unique experience. It proudly wears its sci-fi anime influences on its sleeves. It also delivers the sort of experience that plays to the Switch’s unique strengths; I played most of it in handheld mode while awaiting flights in airports over a short trip.

New job, same site, & other news

Surprising even myself, after a few contented years working in an operations administrative support role, I’ve stepped down from my management position to accept a new role in an Indy firm’s Social Security disability department. The transition happened midweek; I left my old job on Wednesday and started my new job on Thursday. But it was about a month in the making. I’m excited and anxious and interested to see how this goes. That’s big enough news in my personal life that I felt it warranted a post. It’s been a year with a lot of big personal events, including the death of our dog, the adoption of two dogs, the purchase of a house, a new volunteer pursuit, and now this. That all said, this site shouldn’t be impacted in any way. I’m already only posting once a week, which has been quite comfortable. While it means that I certainly won’t be increasing the frequency of posts on a regular basis any time soon, I also don’t have any reason to decrease or discontinue posting. I’ve enjoyed writing on this blog, and I fully intend to continue carving out time for it.

I have a few other, much smaller, updates that are more relevant to the focus of this blog, though. I’ve finished Cat Quest. I’ve actually finished it twice now, since it provides a New Game+ mode. That’s taken me a little over 10 hours of game time. I’m a little over level 100. I’ve cleared most dungeons (maybe all, but I wasn’t very diligent in confirming that, and I know I never found all the loot locations in some of the cleared dungeons). I’ve got some high-level themed equipment (a helm of Faith, the armor of Courage, and the weapon of Willpower, resulting in my hero looking like a near-naked enlightened monk). It’s been fun, but I don’t have any particular interest in trying out the other game modes or starting over again. My opinion hasn’t changed on the game, and I’d still say it’s worth the purchase. And compared to my game time spent with Desert Child (just a few hours) or Untitled Goose Game (about five), it’s still been the longest gaming experience among the indies I’ve played lately.

There are altogether too many games available on and coming to the Switch, and I haven’t narrowed down exactly what I’ll play next. That said, Vampyr will be released for the console a couple days before Halloween, so while it may not be the next game I play, it’s certainly one that I’d like to revisit, and the seasonal timing is just perfect.

It’s not much of an announcement, but I’ve realized in retrospect that I sort of gave up on The Clone Wars rewatch. It’s sort of a silly thing to say, because I can of course continue watching or start over whenever I want, but I’ve made no effort to keep up with the official posts for several weeks now. Watching almost any Star Wars film or show will be much easier when it’s consolidated on Disney+ anyway (though it doesn’t appear that the two Endor-based fantasy movies or the Ewoks or Droids shows are dropping there anytime soon). I have been watching other things, though. Sam and I finally finished Adventure Time; that final episode was absolutely fantastic. I’ve started the television version of What We Do In The Shadows, which is fun and tonally fits with the movie, though I’m not far enough along yet to say if it really feels like it’s doing its own thing–that said, I like the introduction of the Energy Vampire concept.

I haven’t watched any particularly memorable movie lately, and my pile of books remains as thick as ever; I keep adding more to read, quicker than I can get through them! Most of my attention is currently on Devil in the Grove by Gilbert King, about Thurgood Marshall’s defense of the “Groveland Boys” in Lake County, Florida.

While I could leave it at a week’s recap post for the week, I’ll still plan on having a more “normal” post tomorrow, though I’m not sure what about just yet. And if it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen. Either way, I’m looking forward to what is sure to be a very exciting, very different week for me.

Review: Untitled Goose Game

Untitled Goose Game (developed by indie studio House House) is a small game wherein you are a goose. As said goose, you do what geese are known to do: act like a total dick to everyone around you. You hurtle yourself through a small town, honking and flapping and smashing and stealing on your way. You make people miserable and sow chaos. You pull pranks and cause mischievous, and sometimes unintentional, petty harms. Your grand goal at the end of the game is to tear down a model village tower just so you can drag a shiny bell back across town to drop in your hoard of shiny bells in your swampy home.

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Untitled Goose Game is an absolute delight. The instrumental music is playful and dynamic. The townspeople’s reactions are amusing to observe. It’s fun to test what exactly you can do in each part of town, to see how different combinations of interactions lead to divergent results. The game is consistent and logical, and while you can’t always predict what will happen, you can count on a consistent result when using the game’s mechanics in a similar situation. It’s part puzzle game (where the puzzles are logical and intuitive and delightful to solve), part stealth game (where getting caught is part of the chaotic fun, and where the worst penalty is simply being chased a bit away by an annoyed villager), part sandbox (where destruction and recombination reign), and part peaceful afternoon jaunt.

It took me a single Saturday to play through the entire game, completing every item on every to-do list, including the bonus challenges, the timed runs, and the claiming and donning of the final prize. I enjoyed virtually every moment of it. There was only one point where I had to look something up, and reading the first sentence of a summary in the search results was enough for me to go, “Oh, DUH! Of COURSE,” and promptly take off to complete the task. Even the timed runs were far more fun than frustrating; whereas most of the game was remixing actions to accomplish tasks, now it was remixing task completions such that the results would blend together to enable a successful sub-six-minute completion of a zone. I had to reset a lot to get the time completions of each zone right (resetting is just a reality of even attempting the in-game speed-run challenges), but resetting just restored order to the clutter and placed me at the starting area of a contained zone. Testing ways to move through a level and complete tasks was some of the most fun and challenging experimentation that I had in this wild waterfowl’s lab.

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Even aside from the tasks, it is so joyful and often truly peaceful to simply explore the town. You can just observe the townsfolk moving about. The colors and shapes and textures are soothing. The townsfolk all have evocative personalities, even with the simple bodies and blank faces that encourage the dickish goose personality. Really, very little encouragement is needed to be a massive ass of a goose. It’s fun to pick things up, to toss them about or run off with them, to honk and flap and run and swim. As an example: after a brief tutorial that gets you out of your home with your small set of moves and across a small pond into the village, you are confronted with a picnic spread on a bench; I immediately grabbed up the sandwich and tossed it into the water, just because I could, and there was an immediate jolt of internal positive feedback–yes, this is good, do more of this, the animal part of my brain said. This is all the more remarkable because I hate playing as bad or evil characters in most games; doing evil things, causing harm to even virtual innocents, makes me uncomfortable. But I delighted in my small, and ultimately harmless, torments of the villagers.

I haven’t had such a relaxing and fun weekend evening in a long while. I highly recommend this game!

Completing objectives

Over the past week, I’ve finally finished On Her Own Ground (the biography of Madam C.J. Walker by A’Lelia Perry Bundles). I really struggled with making progress through that, but the woman and the history surrounding her are equally fascinating.

That said, this post’s primary purpose is to note that I should have some additional video game reviews up over the next couple of days, having dug into a few games from the Switch’s eShop over this weekend. Those games are Desert ChildUntitled Goose Game (which I started and proceeded to complete on this Saturday alone), and Cat Quest. The first two of those games are actually quite short, but my time spent across these titles still reflects a weekend in which I devoted more leisure time to video games than I have in a while.

Outside of that, I also started my first volunteer shift at the Indy Reads Books store. It’s a bookstore in support of the nonprofit organization Indy Reads, which is focused on providing literacy programs in Indianapolis. It’s a cool cause, and the bookstore itself is full of quirky, eclectic titles (in addition to all the new and classic books you’d expect to see in any bookstore). I enjoyed my short time there today, and my biggest challenge so far is that it’s far too easy to buy more books while I’m there. I’d been so good about sticking to library loans! At least I can say that it’s going to a good cause.

I don’t have anything else to add, so I’ll just repeat that I should have reviews for those three games on the site soon.