What a 2016, eh? While real life has been hectic for everyone this year, one pleasing element of consistency has been good ol’ videogames. There’s been some good ones this year. Here they are. Along with a few missteps. Stay tuned to this post through the month of December as we reveal the best and worst of 2016!

 

 

Surprise of the Year: World of Final Fantasy

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One of the greatest E3 trolls there was, when Adam Boyes stood on stage in 2015 and announced the latest Final Fantasy project, getting everyone’s hopes up for the rumored FFVII remake only to show off a trailer showing bobble-headed chibis and cutesy animals floated about fairytale landscapes. As weird as it was, it was quickly forgotten when the real Remake trailer came just afterwards. For months, WoFF was dismissed as “just a kids game”, even by our members. But when we finally got our hands on it, it was clear that there was some depth to it. Not only is the game absolutely beautiful (if you can get past the idea of playing as chibi characters), but it’s filled with quirky, charming humor, has any number of nostalgic touches done well, and comes with a surprisingly complex battle system that can be difficult but rewarding to master.

Runner-up: Titanfall 2

While running around on foot is immensely rewarding, there aren't many things more fun than setting things on fire and trampling enemies underfoot.

The original Titanfall certainly left its mark on the gaming community, but failed to achieve true greatness due to poor AI, small selection of multiplayer modes and a complete absence of a single-player campaign. Fast-forward to 2016 and Titanfall 2. Sure, it looked nice and promised a campaign, but EA made a conscious choice to sandwich it between Battlefield and Call of Duty, basically ensuring that it would flounder on the market, leading many to suspect it wasn’t that good to begin with. Turns out that wasn’t true. The game amped up the action to level 11 and even included mechanics and characters in its campaign that definitely made it worth the price of admission. EA’s poor planning still means that ticket sales are low, but this one definitely surpassed expectations.



 

Letdown of the Year: Mighty Number 9

Dull, dreary level design really drags down the fun gameplay.

A good number of people look back with fond memories of the Mega Man series, whether it be for the overall challenge, the unique bosses, the openness of being able to play stages in any order, etc. As of 2017 it will be 30 years since Mega Man first arrived in the world of video games, and Keiji Inafune has been a big influence in shaping the design of the series. When he announced Mighty Number 9, an obvious MM clone but changed just enough to get around sticky legal issues, people jumped at the chance to support him. Numerous delays (even for a Kickstarter project) already hinted that a disappointment was in the works, followed by several lackluster screenshots, videos, and demos and the fact that Inafune began seeking funds for two other projects before releasing his first. The final product was an absolute mess of boring stages, uninspired design choices, and awful voice acting, and it certainly didn’t help when the development team seemed like they didn’t care much about the criticism.

 

Runner-up: No Man’s Sky

Giant mushrooms, for one.

Oh, the puzzle that is No Man’s Sky. There’s definitely a game here that people can enjoy, as noted by our Best Worst award below. The Kaiju crew has spent several hours exploring the vast reaches of space to find that there’s really very little difference between one planet and another aside from a few small variables, thus earning it the Worst Best award. Unfortunately, even if it provides a decent amount of enjoyment, it’s a far sight from everything that was promised – though base-building was finally tossed in, we never got to see the truly diverse variations of fauna, the ability to form and join factions, or any number of other things. It certainly didn’t help that Hello Games went radio silent for months after release instead of trying to explain anything.



Hokiest Script: Titanfall 2

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There’s plenty of bad writing in video games every year, but hokey takes talent. There’s a charm to hokey, a character in being self aware, and heart in putting. The tongue in the cheek. Doom did it this year, but Titanfall 2 did it best in the shooter space. When an early boss starts quoting Cool Hand Luke, you know you’re in for a certain kind of script. Through some cheesy human/robot relationship building and more off the wall bosses, Respawn certainly deliver that. As sharp a cheddar as you could get in a game this year.

Runner-up: World of Final Fantasy

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WoFF’s script is much like its visual style; too saccharin at first, and too cutesy in building vocal ticks into characters. Get further in though, and the ticks become endearing, and the dialogue falls in line with what the game is meant to be- a fan service filled love letter to the three decade history of the franchise.



Best Moment: Effect and Cause (Titanfall 2)

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CAUTION: this award recap contains spoilers. If you don’t fancy that, jump to the next big bold headline. If you’re ok, hop over this handy blank space and keep reading.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Titanfall 2 is going altogether smoothly and enjoyably before you head to a research center where the powerful Ark weapon is being created. Here you start encountering time vortexes that pop you back into the past where a disaster besets the lab where the device is being worked on. Not far in, you find a way to control this time distortion.
So far, so familiar. You’ll come across stairs broken in the present that were there in the past, that kind of thing. When guns start firing though, it takes on a different edge. Suddenly you’re taking part in two firefights in the same space but different points in time. Warping back to the past gets you out of trouble in the future but new enemies to avoid in the past. Circle round, jump back to the future and now you have the edge on enemies that wonder where you disappeared to.

The mechanic has a positive effect on locomotion as well. Yes, there are those stairs and obstacles avoided by moving back and forth through time, but combined with the game’s balletic wall runs and double jumps and you’re on your way to fast and fierce first person platforming.

Then, at the end of the one hour or so stage, the device you used to time hop breaks for no real reason, and you’re back to the regularly scheduled Titanfall 2, a game that like time, waits for no man and never outstays its welcome. Marvelous.

Runner-up: The Witness’ Final Challenges

Welcome to the island

Welcome to the island

The Witness had a tough challenge ahead of it when it came to year end awards, appearing as it did so early in 2016. Yet its final challenges resonated with us all year long. After a largely laid back, contemplative experience, they demanded full application of knowledge provided throughout, and demanded it against a strict time limit. The joy brought in beating them was better even than the weird fmv it unlocked.



Best Skewmorphia in Games: Oxenfree

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This creepy adventure toyed with nostalgia in presenting its cast of teen protagonists and the familiar drama they brought, and used visual filters and audio effects to take the player back to their own high school days. What made Oxenfree’s use of radio static or VHS style tracking and visual elements so memorable was how they were baked into play itself, having players consider the nature of time as screens were cast, in whole or part into a patchy monochrome film.

Runner-up: Deadly Tower of Monsters

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Despite an interesting level structure hook built around the titular tower, Deadly Tower of Monsters isn’t all that interesting of a beat ’em up. Presentationally though, it’s undeniably memorable. Built around the conceit of having a hack director provide DVD commentary on a ’50s B movie, the game really doubles down on the presentation. Occasionally jumpy film and 50s cinema visual filters? Expected. Visible strings on flying enemies, dodgy looking costumes, and dinosaurs that move in jerky stop motion? Inspired.



Value for Money Award: Overwatch

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Shooters come and shooters go, but Overwatch came barreling out of the gates to a strong position and doesn’t show any signs of falling off a precipice just yet. What really sets it apart is just how appealing the game is not just for fans of class-based shooting combat, but even those who generally don’t enjoy competetive multiplayer. With plenty of characters to mess around with and seasonal events offering incentives to play, there’s plenty to keep players coming back for dozens of hours. Definitely worth the price of admission.

 

Runner-up: Darkest Dungeon

Stress can sometimes be much more dangerous than physical attacks. Best kill the madmen quickly.

There’s no shortage of roguelikes in the world of vidya games. Some of them offer brief distractions while others drag you in for the “just-one-more” fix. Darkest Dungeon isn’t the most high-octane dungeon crawler out there, but it’s still one of the most exciting. The sanity system keeps you worrying not only about making sure your troops are healthy, but that their spirits haven’t broken. Growing an army to conquer the deepest depths will take dozens of treks into the caves, the marshes, and other foul places, and it’s a thrill each time you’re able to come back alive.

 



 

 

Worst Best Game: No Man’s Sky

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As winner of the Best Worst award, No Man’s Sky may seem like a surprising choice to take this, and in fact it’s the first time a title has won both. Taken from afar, No Man’s Sky looks amazing. The first time players take off and see the planet from above, and then the vast sea of stars, it’s an impressive feel. The fact that everything is compltely procedurally generated is absolutely astounding on a technical level. But it soon becomes clear that there’s nothing to actually do. The planets, lifeforms, flora, encountered ships…it’s all gives the impression that if you’ve seen it once, you’ve seen it all. Impressive on a tech level, but dull everywhere else.

 

Runner-up: Mirror’s Edge Catalyst

The city is your playground.

Mirror’s Edge was definitely a genre-changer in its day, and its influence has obviously reached a number of games even today, from Titanfall to Dying Light. But it was certainly not without its own flaws. Catalyst, the prequel/reboot promised to focus on the running by tossing out guns and opening up spaces to really flex those parkour skills. Unfortunately, an open world just resulted in a bunch of boring rooftops filled with tedious tasks like delivery missions that required unforgivably accurate timing and collectibles that slowed down the running in favor of slowly poking about looking for small items. It was certainly pretty, and sounded nice, but none of that helped.

 



 

Best Worst Game: No Man’s Sky

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Think about NMS for more than a few seconds and it falls apart. These supposedly diverse planets aren’t really all that diverse, the tasks and mechanics are uniform and repetitive, and the wonder of setting forth across the galaxy very quickly wears off. Yet we found Hello Games’ ‘bit off more than they could chew’ episode to be curiously addictive. As a slow life game, something to switch on digitally and switch off mentally, with a podcast in the background, it was almost soothing. Deathly boring but soothing.

Demetrios: The Deeply Cynical Adventure

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This little indie adventure game made precisely zero splash on Vita this month. For decent reason too- its full of tired scatalogical humour, it’s an adventure game tediously reliant on hunting for tiny pixel wide items, it’s on the Vita for crying out loud. Still, there’s a charm to its writing and a self awareness to it all that secretly makes it a decent Vita pick in spite of itself.

Best Sound: Overwatch

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This award doesn’t simply recognise catchy soundtracks, but general sound design as well, which is a highlight of Blizzard’s shooter. From different footstep sounds, to gunfire sounds, to taunts, you’re instantly able to recognise exactly who on the map is doing exactly what. The best players keep their ears as well as their eyes open, and are well rewarded for doing so.

Runner-up: Thumper

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Music based games usually have soundtracks that are full of catchy toe tappers. Thumper was pounding, aggressive industrial nightmare fuel that while hard to listen to, felt great to play. The music drove you through its hellscapes, but from your terrifying rollercoaster rail, it felt that you likewise were driving the sound onward, slicing through turns and leaping over obstacles to provide sharp strings and percussive jabs.



Best Combat: Dark Souls 3

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From Software put out a game this year, which means they win best combat. After the more aggressive, forward facing approach of Bloodborne, it could have felt strange to go back to the defensive, sword and board of Souls. With the addition of weapon arts adding a special move specific to each implement of doom though, it felt like slipping into a familiar glove with a new twist.

Runner-up: Titanfall 2

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Everything, everything in TF2 feels good. Yes, those robots feel as meaty as the chinks of human that fly when squished underfoot. Yet its the pilots that still manage to shine, flickering in and out of cloaked view as they wall run, double jump, pivot in mid air, slide on their knees and deliver mighty shotgun blasts. You’d be hard pressed to find another FPS with quite this much style.



Better Late than Never Award for Old Game We Finally Got Around to Playing: The Banner Saga

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One of the most successful Kickstarter stories, The Banner Saga was intriguing from day one for its use of an artistic style reminiscent of Don Bluth of Disney and Dragon’s Lair fame. The striking characters were not only drawn by hand, but their animations were done the same way. Vikings and giants meeting on strategic battlegrounds never looked so good. But that wouldn’t mean much if there wasn’t a solid foundation of actual gameplay. No problem – the tactical combat is solid, deep, and incredibly tense at all times. In and out of battle, your decisions affect who lives and dies, whether they be major characters or just one of the hundreds of people in your caravan as it travels in search of a safe haven. There’s a painstaking amount of detail and care given to crafting this title, earning it a well-earned spot in our libraries.

Runner-up: Crypt of the Necrodancer

Given many PC games take quite a while to come to consoles, thus finally making them playable to most of our Crew, this award can often overlap with the Porty award, where you can read more about this runner-up. Crypt of the Necrodancer is a grand title, both fun and challenging, and we’re glad to have finally had a chance to lay our hands on it.

 



 

Piles Award for Most Absorbing Handheld Game: Zero Escape: Zero Time Dilemma

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Zero Time Dilemma is the conclusion(?) to the Zero Escape series which began with 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors. It’s been an incredible journey through a visual novel series that touches on nearly every sci-fi trope from cybernetics to cryogenics. There’s a lot of heady stuff that gets wrapped around an intricate murder mystery. Zero Time Dilemma can’t be played through from start to finish, though. It has story “fragments” that follow one of three three-man teams trapped in an underground shelter. In order to escape, they must kill the others, but only playing through fragments means the entire story is never quite clear. Finish one fragment and a new one appears, and then another. In a way, this makes it reminiscent of last year’s winner of this award, Her Stroy. On and on, each story segment asks a question that simply MUST be answered. It’s a puzzle that’s incredibly had to put down once everything is set in motion.

Runner-up: Monster Hunter Generations

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50 minutes – the length of time given for the average mission in most Monster Hunter titles. Of course, you’ll rarely ever spend that long on a hunt, but 30 minutes is not at all uncommon, especially for solo runs against the more difficult creatures. Then there’s the carving, the foraging, the cooking, the crafting. Not to mention hunting for gems, creating and equipping new armor sets, discovering new monsters and earning new quests. Oh, and the hundreds of different weapons available, with over 10 different types to learn. Generations also added in weapon styles, which can drastically change how each weapon is handled. There’s so much to do in Monster Hunter Generations that it can seem overwhelming, but let it sink its hooks in you and you’ll easily be putting hundreds of hours into this world.

 



 

Most Significant News 2016: SAG AFTRA Go On Strike

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It doesn’t seem like such a big deal for a strike from voice actors; short term it won’t influence games coming out in the immediate future. In the medium run, well it might mean some performers are replaced but the strike won’t affect every developer and publisher.

Yet in the long run, a successful strike could change a notoriously dodgy industry, not just for voice actors but more significantly, developers. If the strike inspires those in the development trenches to unionise, it might mean less ridiculous hours, and greater job security than ‘congratulations on finishing your game, here’s your severance package’.

Runner-up: VR

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The potential is there to change how we interact with games. The fear is that this is motion controls part two. We await being proved wrong, but in the meantime, it’s incredible to see virtual reality in the hands of consumers at an almost affordable price point.

 



 

 

The Most Promising Kickstarter Award: System Shock Remake

Back in the early 90s, before there was even a word for first-person shooters, Doom came along and blew people away. Soon there were Doom clones following along behind it, as well as the sequel, Doom 2. High-octane, action-focused shooters were hot. Doom’s legacy remains to this day (not least of all because of the franchise’s reboot), but in the same week that Doom 2 came out, another legacy title was released: System Shock. Though perhaps far less prominent in the minds of the public, its influences can be felt in everything from Deus Ex, Bioshock, and a litany of other titles. Stealth, horror, a story-driven narrative, and emergent gameplay – this had it all. And now it’s coming back with the help of Night Dive Studios, who have a pedigree for remastering old titles as it is. They’re also bringing in help from Chris Avellone and a number of others who had a hand in building Fallout: New Vegas. Set to release in Q2 2018, this is definitely one to watch out for.

Runner-up: Prey for the Gods

Oh Shadow of the Colossus, how we’ve missed you. You had extremely clunky gameplay but no one could deny the sense of presence and life that the lumbering beasts had in your world. Modern titles like Monster Hunter and Dragon’s Dogma serve as supplemental substitutes for our desire to conquer monsters much larger than our characters, but it’s been far too long since the monster itself really became part of the battlefield itself. Prey for the Gods is a project by newly-formed No Matter Studios that seeks to bring back that magic. There’s no doubt it’s an ambitious goal, given that it’s a small team of 3 developers, but videos  of early gameplay are already welling up those old feelings, and there’s the promise of making the experience more immersive by adding in elements of survival like crafting weapons in the field and using them to hunt for food before inclement weather means freezing to death. Check this one out.

 



 

 

Best Buds-The Best Co-op Award: Dark Souls 3

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The Kaiju Crew are not exactly the competitive sorts when it comes to the vidya games. There are the exceptions, from Jason’s love of Hearthstone to Chad’s surprising interest in Overwatch, but for the most part we like knowing that any other player in your game is there to have your back. Also, you were hopefully the one to invite them in. Dark Souls has one of the greatest systems for this – if you need help, just touch one of the dozens of glowing names on the ground and call them over for a bit of the old jolly co-op. Beat the boss and they leave you to tackle the next area by your lonesome. It’s simple, yet wonderful. Dark Souls 3 continues this tradition and, though there’s always the possibility of getting invaded by dark phantoms, it’s also possible to summon help automatically through a certain covenant. Just grand.

Runner-up: Monster Hunter Generations

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Monster Hunter is a game that involves quite a bit of grinding. If you want the best armor and weapons, it’s going to take multiple runs of the same hunt in order to break off parts and collect the right monster pieces to make it. That can be a real slog when fighting a monster solo can take 15-20 minutes, and that’s just for your average monster. The toughest beasts can take take more than 40 minutes to fell, leading to nail-biting scenarios where you wonder if you’ll be the hunt before the 50 minutes is up and the quest is failed. So get online, put out a call for allies, and beat the tar out of those monsters in a fraction of the time! Given that everyone is looking for monster parts just like you, and that the typical “3 strikes and your out policy” applies to the group and not each individual hunter, you can be sure they’re all going to be on point. Happy hunting!

 



 

 

Worst Moment In Games: Knee Jerk Reactions To No Man’s Sky

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Hey, look, we get it. A game you looked forward to got delayed. We get it, we do. After that delay it turned out said game didn’t deliver on the vague promises it’s marketing suggested. We appreciate that. Some would say No Man’s Sky wasn’t a very good game, at least on release and maybe not now. That’s life though. It doesn’t mean that sending death threats to Sean Murray and the Hello Games team is an appropriate response. There are starving children in Africa who would be over the moon with a copy of No Man’s Sky. Get it down you. Oh yeah, and stop being hateful pricks.

Runner-up: Palmer Luckey As Right Wing Shitposter

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If you were a political image consultant, you’d suggest to Mr. Luckey that perhaps he needed a little massaging after an incredibly embarrassing Time magazine cover. Perhaps have him don a leather jacket and sunglasses, hop out of a helicopter Bitmap Brothers style. Being behind a company that engineered and encouraged the production of some pretty shitty memes, and the spreading of general hate that the world’s had to deal with this year? Perhaps it’s getting with the zeitgeist but not cool, per se. Mind you, it helped make Trump person of the year. Time again. The plot thickens.

 



 

 

Flat Out Worst Game: Trials of the Blood Dragon

On foot sections look woefully amateurish, and handle spectacularly poorly.

How? How does this happen? The 80s future referential humour of Far Cry Blood Dragon might not have been to everyone’s tastes, but it had a huge number of fans. The demanding nature of the Trials games, again, not to everyone’s tastes but again deserving of the following it has. How then did Trials of the Blood Dragon get the appeal of both its inspirations so crushingly desperately wrong? How were its biking stages so uninspired, its jokes so flat, its platforming and shooting so actively offensive? As a result of being cobbled together in a couple of weeks on a shoestring budget and the Trials Fusion level editor? Yeah, probably.

Runner-Up: Lithium

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The most aesthetically unappealing (and not in a cool horror way) protagonist in games this year. The teenage angst ridden story, poorly translated and riddled with typos. The abysmal camera and controls that sent you careening to your doom. The cheap deaths every five seconds to disguise the fact the asylum you explored was largely empty. A recipe for the second worst game of the year, wethinks.

 



 

 

Game of 2016 You Should Wait To Get In 2017: No Man’s Sky

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Expectations were all over the star map for No Man’s Sky, but even those who really weren’t expecting too much of the game were disappointed by the launch product. Yes, this massive universe was propped up by paper thin gameplay. We could have told you that long before release. Yet paper thin gameplay underpinned by dreadful usability issues and bugs all felt a bit gross.

Yet whether Hello Games really deserved the kicking it received, they did tuck themselves away to fix issues and then, finally emerge with a roadmap for the game moving forward. The foundation update was a significant, free chunk of content that, as the name suggested, could possibly lead to a NMS at year’s end 2017 that’s significantly different to the game that launched. With that in mind, snapping up one of the retail discs clogging up stores in January sales seems like a sound investment.

Runner-up: Watchdogs 2

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Ubisoft’ slate year open world games are often contenders for this award, providing solid and likable if not always ground shaking action that’s usually a bit too long form or just not quite remarkable enough to make it into our game of the year lists. In Watchdogs 2’s case, we have a game that seemingly rights many of the wrongs of a po faced predecessor. By doubling down on fun and enjoyable characters, Ubi presented us with a far more likable game, and one we’d be happy to get in Christmas stockings or January sales.

 



 

 

Best Non Game Gaming Thing: Sony Japan’s PlayStation ads

Video game marketing in the west is either sickeningly ‘lifestyle oriented’ with models sitting in oddly massive and well lit living rooms, aggressively serious or even just gross (Battlefield Onesies, Doritos, *shudder* ‘squad goals’). Here in Japan though, PlayStation ads have been delightful this year. We saw Ichiyo Higuchi, the poet depicted on the 5000 Yen note, sing a glorious ballad about the PS4’s price cut, and how well it goes with a copy of Persona 5. We saw a tongue in cheek series of akira about game stores preparing for The Last Guardian’s release, digging out dusty tomes of pre-orders from seven years ago. We’ll even forgive the Tofu Beats rap laden sizzle reel that included the line ‘wa wa wiki wiki World War One’, because it was all in a spirit of (potentially offensive) fun. Rather than feel dirty after watching these TV spots, we felt good about our hobby, and that’s a big achievement.

Runner-up: Virtual Reality

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This is a hesitant pick, because honestly, there’s a long way to go for VR to take an industry changing spot in gaming consciousness. With high price tags and lacking software, this is no fast revolution. Yet this year finally saw consumer headsets released, and consumers and developers alike take their first steps in a new medium. If things take off for Oculus, Steam/HTC and Sony as planned, well, we’re in for a heck of a ride. It’s a big ‘if’ though.

 



 

 

The Porty Award for Best PC-to-Console Port: Crypt of the Necrodancer

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While one would certainly not expect a trip into deep tombs filled with skeletons and ancient beasts wouldn’t pair well with a dance club aesthetic, Crypt of the Necrodancer defied those expectations. With everything from movement to combat to item usage relying heavily on not only understanding the rhythm but how everything reacts to it, Brace Yourself Games managed to make a music game that was deep, difficult, and yet never completely frustrating. The console port worked beautifully, which can be a concern given how important it is that everything works with the music. In addition, it added a new soundtrack by Shovel Knight’s virt to add just that extra bit of frosting to the cake. Though it’s unlikely any of the Kaiju Crew made it to the deepest parts of the crypt, it certainly was fun to try.

Runner-up: Invisible Inc.

The isometric view can occasionally obscure things, especially as the camera only moves in four increments and not smoothly. It's rarely a problem though.

Creating procedurally-generated dungeons for a hack-n-slash or a rhythm combat game is one thing, but it’s quite another to do the same with a stealth title. There are so many elements that can make a stealth game crumble – poor enemy placement, confusing layouts, etc. So the fact that Klei managed to pull it off with Invisible Inc was an impressive feat, especially given that players had so many characters to choose from and could build them in so many ways. The challenge of making it through a stage mixed well with the sense of urgency brought on by the fact that the final mission begins after 72 hours, so there is only a limited time to build up each character. The console port brought with it the Contingency Plan DLC, meaning even more options were added to an already-loaded table that, ensuring that each adventure would bring something new

 



 

 

The Best Game to Play on the Toilet Award: Hearthstone – Mean Streets of Gadgetzan

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While it may be true that there’s only one member of the Kaiju Crew that plays Hearthstone, we can’t deny that the game does have drawing power and the ability to adapt. Each new expansion in the game adds a fresh way to design decks and alter the meta. The latest, Mean Streets of Gadgetzan, introduces the new Tri-class cards which can be used across different classes belonging to different factions. It also seems to be a farmore lighthearted expansion, with a story focusing on rival criminal clans. The main gameplay remains unchanged, so it’s still going to lead to quick head-to-head clashes that can be taken care of while hanging out on the crapper.

Runner-up: Darkest Dungeon

Can I go home now?

The idea behind the toilet award is that it should ideally be an experience that can be finished before the legs go numb while sitting on the porcelain throne. Released on the Vita this year, Darkest Dungeon might cut it close on occasion, but each dive into the haunted crypts or the murky swamps can be finished in relatively short order, whether that be in victory for your team or in cowardice as you flee the dungeons. There’s a simplistic design in every map that allows for quickly clearing out the rooms. Battles are brief, but incredibly thrilling. As the party lingers in the shadowy depths, it’s not just their health but their sanity that’s put in danger. The last boss of each stage is often a true struggle and one that’s as intense as it is rewarding once finished. 15 minutes may not sound like enough for a dungeon crawl, but the devs made an excellent job of packing everything in to each mission.

 



 

 

Platform Inclusivity Award For Game We Wish We All Could Play: Superhot

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The bite sized shooting puzzler seems resolutely locked to Xbox 1 and PC for the time being. Its fourth wall poking presentation though, and central mechanic still unique after a long development time, makes it all too attractive for those without a Microsoft device. Maybe with Superhot VR?

Runner-up: Forza Horizon 3

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The Forza Horizon games have gradually evolved into the spiritual Project Gotham Racing successors we wanted for so, so long. The series seems to have grown into its open world skin, and its automotive chaos has become more visually stunning with every successive installment.

 



 

 

The Rainy Weekender Short Game Award: Inside

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Playdead might have been in a challenging ‘second game’ spot, but having took their time with the follow-up to Limbo managed to create magic for a second time. Masterful artwork, story pacing and dark humour were hold overs from its predecessor. It’s novel and memorable series of mechanics were all new, and cemented the developers as masters of the form.

Runner-Up: Final Station

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Final Station, appropriately enough, owes much to Limbo when it comes to presentational style. It’s a wonderful adoption of survival horror mechanics into an overused pixel aesthetic though, that’s absolutely compelling for duration of the short play time. Despite its brevity, it takes its time to convey its wonderfully oppressive atmosphere, and its major story beats are told with rare restraint and wonderful impact.

 



 

 

Best Family/Kid’s Game: Trackmania Turbo

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The appeal to a young child of slamming particularly fast cars down physically improbable tracks here is instantly evident of course, but for the very young, Trackmania Turbo’s handling and physics are slightly too nuanced and complex. Yet as a construction set, this consolized version of a hardcore PC classic absolutely shines. Yes, the more capable families can tinker with a powerful creation tool, but it’s basic creation settings still allow creativity to shine in tiny tykes. Placing a piece on the map generates a small list of other track elements to connect to it, and that’s really all there is to worry about. It’s very much like putting together toy train track pieces, and a wonderful bonding experience to make and play. In making a very in depth game more accessible, Nadeo have created 2016’s best family experience.

Runner-Up: Ladybird: I’m Ready… For Phonics!

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Ladybird manages to bring the endearing characters and sense of fun of their graded readers to an app here. Its minigames feel varied, its list of goals achievable and satisfying, and there’s a great feeling of accomplishment and persistence here. Getting kids to read a sound aloud is nice, but recording it for reference later is a real motivator for the very young.

SPOILER ALERT: Our last two awards involve spoilers, and in one case, for a game that isn’t out in the west yet. If that doesn’t float your boat, click away. Fair warning? Yep.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



Best Friends.. and More? Award for Character Relationships: Firewatch

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Firewatch was a somewhat grander example of the ‘walking simulator’ than, say, Gone Home (certainly in terms of acreage) but Firewatch had a similar flair for the mundane. Like Gone Home, its spaces were wholly believable and the players convincing. Yet Gone Home brought credibility in the form of common household detritus, its house occupied by things that made it feel like a home. Firewatch’ believability, in a largely empty national park, came through dialogue. Frank and Delilah’s conversations were so well written, so well directly and for a good deal of the game so ordinary that it was impossible not to relate to the two. Whether you played a stoic silent Frank or an open and honest one, it was impossible not to be intrigued by the pairs friendship, or the possibility of romantic tension. That ultimately there was no payoff to the two’s affair, and Delilah is never seen seems oddly appropriate, leading to wistful contemplation of what might have been.

Runner-up: Final Fantasy XV

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What’s better than a game that’s just about a bunch of guys being dudes? The road trip premise behind the bulk of FF XV far outstripped the overarching narrative of a kingdom overthrown. No, far better was camping under the stars, looking at diff photos and a surprising amount of randomly pulled banter. Cheeky Nando’s sadly not included.



What the? I don’t even Award For Weirdest/Creepiest Moment: Hot For Teacher (Persona 5)

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Persona 5 deals with some pretty heavy duty material, and in tackling emotional and sexual abuse among teens with surprising maturity, deserves a ton of plaudits. But when a student finds one of their teachers moonlights as a somewhat saucy maid, who is ultimately then romanceable if you respond to her question of liking older women, it becomes even more uncomfortable.

Runner-up: Soylent’s people? (Last Guardian)

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Trico sure likes barrels. You find them all over the place in TLG, and while sometimes necessary to spur his empty tummy into action, they’re mainly a harmless collectible, fun to find, and nice to treat your colossal buddy with. Except when you find out that at the end of the game, they’ve been full of the gooey insides and life essence of people that have gone missing in nearby towns. Eeeeww.