Games, Talk, and Whatever Else

Top 10 of 2016! (Part 1)

Game of the Year 2016 – Charlie Hunter

2016 has been over for a little while now, but I just now got around to writing all of my thoughts of video games in 2016.  So I am posting all of my thoughts in five installments.  This second one is the first half of my top 10.

The Games of 2016 – Top 10, part 1

These are #10 through #6 of my 10 favorite games of the year.

10. Ratchet and Clank

 

Ratchet and Clank is one of my favorite series, so I was very happy to see a new full game and to see an older game get the control features and upgradeable weapon trees from the more recent games.  Unfortunately, the original Ratchet and Clank is one of my least favorite games in the series and I wish they had remade either of the other two (core) PS2 games, even though I know remaking the original makes the most sense.  And the movie tie-ins kind of wreck the story and make the game feel disjointed. But it’s still a blast to play, and it looks fantastic.

9. Zero Time Dilemma

 

This is probably a pretty unpopular opinion, but I like Zero Time Dilemma better than Virtue’s Last Reward.  The puzzles are better and so are the characters (even though a lot of the characters are in both games).  Just like the first two games in the series, Zero Time Dilemma is about nine people trapped in a twisted deadly game by a mysterious masked overseer.  And the story is completely bonkers, in a good way.  That’s the big draw to all of these games: the insane plot and the big twist moments.  One drawback is ZTD does tend to delight a little bit too much in its own grotesque violence, and some of the endings are pretty disturbing.  999 is actually my favorite of the series, though, because it feels a bit more contained, and they reuse some of the plot tricks for the sequels.

8. Song of the Deep

 

Song of the Deep is another Metroid-style game that automatically gets on my good side.  Young lass Merryn spends the game exploring an underwater world in her submarine looking for her father, finding upgrades that open up paths to new areas to explore (and more upgrades!) It’s pretty standard fare for the genre, but that’s just fine by me.  It has a few frustrating puzzles that don’t seem well designed for how the submarine controls, and combat is nothing to write home about.  But the things that really set Song of the Deep apart are the beautiful visuals and music of an enchanting underwater world.  And the Irish accented narrator is absolutely delightful.

7. Dishonored 2

 

The first Dishonored was one of my favorite games the year it came out.  The different options for approaching every target, as well as the political intrigue of the story and a strongly developed alternate history setting with a supernatural twist, elevated Dishonored to some pretty lofty heights. Dishonored 2 is more of Dishonored, and so, naturally, many of those qualities are still there, though they pack less of a punch the second time around.  The biggest stumbling block for Dishonored 2 is that the first 3-4 missions are rather bland in terms of approach options.  Even the Clockwork Mansion that I had heard so much praise for fell flat for me.  But thankfully, the missions pick up significantly after that, including some truly great missions in Dust District and A Crack in the Slab.  One even lets you skip the entire mission (each mission took me about 3 hours) if you solve a word problem (with randomly generated parameters) that opens a lock to the exit, which is placed very close to the start of the mission.  I did it!  It took me an hour and I have a full sheet of paper working it out.  I then went and did all of the stuff in the mission before I opened the exit because I’m crazy.

6. Oxenfree

 

Oxenfree is a spooky teen ghost story that takes place on an abandoned island.  The mystery keeps you on the edge of your seat, and the heartfelt story is layered with themes of friendship, loss, and moving on.  Mechanically, it mostly plays like a 2D adventure with very light point-and-click features.  But the shining gems here are the fantastic characters and very unique take on dialogue.  Every conversation gives Alex, the player character, options for what to say, but also when to say it.  Have you ever had that moment when you thought about saying something, waited for a good moment in the conversation to interject, but by the time the opening came, the moment had passed?  That happens in this game!  Or you can choose to just interrupt and cut someone off.  Sometimes that character will naturally pick back up with what they were saying after the interrupting topic has been explored, or sometimes they won’t.  It is strange at first, and occasionally a little frustrating, but the result is the most natural and engaging dialogue I have ever seen in a video game.  And the teenaged characters that are engaging in that dialogue are written with a respect and thoughtfulness akin to a John Hughes movie.  I really like this game and it deserves to be in the Top 5.  It was a toss-up with the game I gave #5, so let’s just say Oxenfree is #5b of 2016.

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