Hello! Welcome to the latest special edition of the Geeky Brummie Gaming Roundup!
This week, it’s a special Game of the Week retrospective to mark the closing of the year!
If you’ve been following along, you’ll know that every week, one new release gets awarded Game of the Week. My choice for this is entirely arbitrary, and based on whatever game catches my attention the most. I also rarely play every game, down to limited time and money, but I am up front about this and my choice is always plainly about how well the marketing works on me.
Which is why, as we’re reaching the end of the year, I look back at all my choices for each week and decide, was that really a good choice? With critical and commercial response to each game now available, along with a personal effort to play through as many of these as possible this time around, I decide if the choices should be revised or if I stand by them. So without further ado, let’s look back at every Game of the Week for 2020.
The White Door – 10th January
(Second Maze, Rusty Lake / PC, Mobile)
“it’s an interesting premise with a cool minimalist art direction and intriguing premise.”
Early January is always an awkward time for game releases, and as such making a strong case for a game released in this window when you largely only have scraps to work with is difficult.
Which is the case with The White Door, a short, minimalist puzzle game that doesn’t offer a lot of challenge and features a fairly barebones story. But when the other options were a cheap-looking horror game or Dr Kawashima’s Brain Training, you do your best.
I played through the game and thought it was decent enough but suffered by keeping most of its story hidden away in an ARG outside the game. I stand by my choice in the context I made it, but it’s certainly not one of the most interesting titles from this year.
Lenna’s Inception – 17th January
(Bytten Studio / PC)
“Lenna’s Inception wears its influence on its sleeve, while also providing a few twists of its own with its glitchy, corrupted world, and an excellent sense of humour.”
I wrote a full review of this shortly after awarding it Game of the Week, where I made it clear that I enjoyed it despite some significant problems in its dungeon design. Lenna’s Inception is a game heavily inspired by Link’s Awakening, which I was playing around the same time, and for the most part it remains as fun as its inspiration. It does have some problems with procedural generation that make its world feel less interesting, but there are still flashes of inspiration that make up for it.
After writing that review, do I stand by my decision to make it Game of the Week? The answer is yes, definitely. It’s a decent little Zelda clone with some fun ideas, from its premise that the “real” hero has died in an incompetent way, to the glitchy corruption that plagues the land. It’s worth a look.
Coffee Talk – 31st January
(Toge Productions / PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox One)
“It’s a virtual café with interesting stories that perfectly captures that contemplative late-night chill vibe. […] It’s not mind-blowing or showy, but it is the perfect game to wind down a tough day with.”
Coffee Talk is not a game I’d recommend to everyone, but I will recommend it with caveats to the right people. It is, put simply, a visual novel. This means a focus on story and not a lot of interactivity. You have to make customers’ orders correctly every so often, but otherwise you’re mainly clicking through story beats.
That said, it is an incredibly relaxing title. It does an excellent job of creating a chill café vibe, where people from all walks of life come to socialise and relax with a latte. And for that I would recommend it. I also wrote a full review of this at the time which expresses this view in more depth.
That said, this was the first competitive week for game releases, and games like Journey to the Savage Planet, Kentucky Route Zero and Temtem were vying for the position too. Part of me does feel that I should perhaps have given it to Kentucky Route Zero, as that’s an intriguing looking adventure title, but I also don’t regret the relaxed choice I went with.
Scourge Bringer – 7th February
(Dear Villagers, Flying Oak Games / PC, Switch, Xbox One)
“ScourgeBringer looks a hell of a lot of fun. […] It has the same gravity-defying dashes and jumps of [Celeste], only now with more swords, and what appears to be some very fluid movement mechanics built off your attacks.”
So, let’s talk about this choice, because it’s one I regretted almost immediately. I decided to play this and see what it was like immediately after release, and quickly became aware that it was a genre that’s popular despite me absolutely hating it. It’s a roguelike, and all the problems that I typically have with the genre are front and centre. The repetition, the unfair deaths, the samey art direction as procedural generation creates a series of rooms that are just the same set of tiles rearranged in different combinations. While the actual combat mechanics were somewhat fun, the whole package quickly became tedious.
In retrospect, I had a much better option for Game of the Week at this time. Kunai, a Metroidvania starring a ninja tablet, is an immensely enjoyable game with great art design and a great sense of humour, that proved itself to be one of my favourite games of the year. So in retrospect, let’s pretend I awarded this one Game of the Week instead.
Luna: The Shadow Dust – 14th February
(Application Systems, Lantern Studio / PC, Switch)
“I adore […] this gorgeous, cute and inventive little point-and-click”
Luna: The Shadow Dust is a little-discussed point and click that released earlier this year, and the lack of discussion around it is a real shame because it’s great. It’s a short experience, but one so full of charm and joy it’s hard to feel bad about its length. The visuals are very Ghibli in their tone, with a small boy and his tiny orb cat friend navigating a tower full of puzzles, while telling a story with no dialogue that manages to be endearing and emotional in equal measure.
I stand by this choice, and I recommend you go back and give it the attention it deserves.
World of Horror – 21st February
(Ysbryd Games, panstasz / PC (Early Access))
“It’s part RPG, part text adventure, and full of gruesome horrors beyond human comprehension. So in other words, it looks excellent and right up my street.”
World of Horror is a game that’s still in Early Access that features Lovecraftian horror crossed with the gruesome imagery of Junji Ito, combined into a text-based adventure with RPG mechanics.
It’s also one of my favourite games of the year, so I absolutely stand by making it Game of the Week. It’s maddening and satisfying in equal measure, and evokes a constant sense of creeping dread and an addictive gameplay loop that makes you think “maybe I’ll beat it this time”. In fact, let’s not waste time prattling on about it here when you can watch my video explaining why it’s rad (https://youtu.be/uJwyq3Rwt8s).
Bloodroots – 28th February
(Paper Cult / PC, PS4, Switch)
“Ever wanted to beat a man with a carrot? This is the game for you!”
Bloodroots is one of my least enthusiastic picks of the year, largely because nothing particularly stood out in this week. Other games included a fairly generic card battler, a World War II game of some variety, and a Bandai Namco anime fighter. I picked Bloodroots because of its bold art style and because it seemed to be the least serious game that week in its tone.
But it’s a choice I stand by. Bloodroots is the first game on this list I never got round to playing but the reviews for it are generally on the positive side. And looking back at it again, it still looks like a fun time in the vein of Hotline Miami, with a focus on fast brutal combos and using improvised weapons including giant carrots to murder those who have wronged you.
It’s not a widely discussed game, but there’s a lot to like here all the same.
Yes, Your Grace – 6th March
(No More Robots, Brave at Night / PC, Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series X)
“It looks like a complex web of difficult choices and a narrative with smart writing, along with some excellent pixel art.”
Another one I never got around to playing, but still looks like an excellent time. There weren’t that many alternate options I’d prefer picking from this week, so let’s stick with the indie game about ruling a kingdom and trying to decide who best to listen to from the many advisors and subjects who come seeking counsel. It’s a cool concept and that alone makes it worthwhile.
Ori & The Will of the Wisps – 13th March
(Xbox Game Studios, Moon Studios / PC, Xbox One, Switch, Xbox Series X)
“The devs have promised the game is bigger and full of even more depth than the first game. I adored the original game, […] and early reviews of the sequel are promising […] I can’t wait to get my hands on this one.”
Ori and the Will of the Wisps is one of my favourite games of the year. Blind Forest was an excellent game, but Will of the Wisps just built on everything and made the world feel even more vibrant and wonderful. Ori’s movement feels refined, the locations are prettier, and the presence of allies make the world feel more lived in and worth protecting.
My time with Ori was a joy from start to finish, so I absolutely do not regret making it Game of the Week, as it’s a contender for Game of the Year, and I’ll discuss it more next week.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons & Doom Eternal – 20th March
(Nintendo / Switch) / (Bethesda, id Software / PC, PS4, Xbox One)
“This week is a very special event, where in this time of social distancing, you can find a way to be sociable with a whole bunch of new animal friends, and then go off and rip and tear until it is done.”
I doubled up on these two big releases because it felt like the right thing to do. Aside from excitement being high for both games, the memes doing the rounds showing Animal Crossing’s beloved secretary Isabelle pairing up with Doomguy were an even better excuse to pair the games up for Game of the Week.
And if I’m honest, if I had to make the choice now, I would have dropped one of these. I have played both, but I found Doom Eternal to be a massive disappointment. A ton of new mechanics had been added and they often felt like they all got in the way of each other. Rather than the more playful 2016 Doom which let me play with different weapon combos, Eternal felt like a slog, where every enemy had a specific method to be defeated and all other strategies were next to useless, and then having to repeat those strategies over and over while hoping other enemies didn’t run in the way.
I never even finished it, despite pushing gleefully to 2016’s finale. I found it too obnoxious to continue with, which is a real shame.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons, however, is one of the most important games of the year. I’ll discuss this more next week, but it’s been a warm hug in a year full of negativity and social distancing. A game that would go on to be one of the year’s more important games from a social perspective was easily deserving of Game of the Week, and I stand by this decision and wish I’d let it take the spotlight solo.
Iron Danger – 27th March
(Daedelic, Action Squad / PC)
“It’s a really fascinating mechanic that I think makes this game really stand out from other fantasy RPG and strategy titles.”
Bit of a weird one this one. The week this released in had a few games that looked a little average, along with Half-Life: Alyx, a game I knew was going to be loved, but would also suffer a lack of attention than usual due to it being a VR exclusive.
Iron Danger was a choice made based on my ability to sell it on a single mechanic, something some of its rivals lacked. But it wasn’t generally a game I found all that interesting. It’s a medieval fantasy strategy game, and the industry is hardly lacking in those.
In retrospect, I feel like I should have made Good Job, Nintendo’s chaotic job simulator, Game of the Week instead, as that’s a game that caught my attention with its humour and charm, but sadly it was one of those games Nintendo announced on its release date and it got rushed into the Roundup at the last minute as a result. Oh well.
Persona 5 Royal – 3rd April
(Atlus / PS4)
“If you missed out on the original game, I highly recommend you pick up Royal, which released this week for PS4. You can thank me later.”
Persona 5 was my favourite game of the 2010s. It’s my favourite JRPG. Persona 5 Royal is Persona 5 with extra stuff in it.
I rest my case.
Final Fantasy VII Remake – 10th April
(Square Enix / PS4)
“You know the drill. Cloud, SOLDIER 1st Class. Teams up with some ecoterrorists, blows up a reactor. Next thing you know, world is under threat by a meteor as well as parasitic capitalism. Standard RPG fare, obviously. Only now we get to see Cloud actually become the most beautiful girl in the room instead of just imagining it because his polygons vaguely look like a dress. Perfection indeed.”
I picked this because it was one of the most anticipated releases of the year, and because of my love for the original Final Fantasy VII. It’s also one of the few AAA games I played this year, so I can offer a comprehensive opinion on it.
Final Fantasy VII Remake is excellent. It takes an already great game and modernises it a lot of really cool ways. The battle system, now in real time, is fun and surprisingly tactical, and I can’t imagine going back to the original turn-based system at this point. A lot more battles had me adapting tactics to the enemy and figuring out strategies than in the original, where I mostly just attacked normally and saved spells for boss fights.
It’s also gorgeous, and makes Midgar feel like a huge lived-in megacity in a way the original could only dream of doing. And the characters feel alive, with the visuals and voice acting both elevating them above the Playmobil models of the original. Plus the Wall Market sequence where Cloud has to dress like a girl (it’s the only way!) is even campier and ludicrous and I couldn’t be happier.
The game does have some issues with some massive filler chapters (did we really need to go underground late in the game?) but overall it’s a great experience. And with some of its later segments that take things in an unexpected direction, it’s going to be interesting to see how the rest of the game is going to be remade going forward.
Cloudpunk – 24th April
(Ion Lands / PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox One)
“This game looks gorgeous with its neon cityscape in the clouds, and you get to explore it fully as you make your deliveries. I’m really fascinated by the prospect of this game, so I just had to make it Game of the Week.”
Cyberpunk is in this year. Here’s a game that proves it.
Cloudpunk is a game about driving from point A to point B repeatedly and occasionally getting out and wandering round in a way that evokes the terrible out-of-car sections from Driver 2 back on the PS1. It has a whole bunch of things that should work against it, and yet it’s a great experience.
The overall experience of Cloudpunk is enhanced by its atmosphere, generated by a voxel-based graphical style that enhances its cyberpunk setting. The limited visuals look like a Lego dystopia of neon billboards and impossible skyscrapers and the writing tells a moody story of corporate segregation, senile AIs and sinister criminal activity, delivered with superb voice acting.
It’s a chill story-driven experience with a lot to love, and considering it released in a week of games that got poor reviews across the board, I clearly made the right pick.
Streets of Rage 4 – 1st May
(Dotemu, Lizardcube, Guard Crush, Sega / PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox One)
“I loved the first two Streets of Rage games, and this looks set to elevate the formula to the modern era. It even has a suitably rave-like soundtrack to retain that classic 90s vibe. 100% on board with this return.”
I have a fondness for the first two Streets of Rage games (not the third, sadly), and this revival looked like a return to form from a team that specialise in reviving old franchises. Seems like it could have been kinda neat.
Then I played it, and it exceeded my expectations to become one of my favourite games of the year. At first it’s a simple beat em up throwing back to a simpler time, but the more I played the more depth revealed itself to me. It’s a simple to pick up, hard to master kind of game, and it’s also just a blast to play through. Absolutely the best choice for that week.
Someday You’ll Return – 8th May
(CBE Software / PC)
“Using stealth elements and a dose of Czech mythology, Someday You’ll Return looks like a very interesting horror title.”
A bit of a slow week when this came out, with only a few mediocre releases sharing the spotlight – a Jay and Silent Bob game no one asked for, an Early Access survival game that seemed to vanish as soon as it released, and a mediocre puzzle/rhythm game that I wasn’t too impressed with when I’d played it at EGX a few years back.
Someday You’ll Return was the best of a bad bunch. It was hard to write about, because nothing about its blurb really stood out from the crowd. Its reviews weren’t brilliant, although not terrible either. Possibly the best choice for its awkward week, but it’s a bit odd looking back at it now.
VirtuaVerse – 15th May
(Blood Music, Theta Division / PC)
“VirtuaVerse is a gorgeous-looking point and click adventure evoking the spirit of the genre’s heyday, promising an intricate storyline and fiendish puzzles. This may fill the gap I have in my soul waiting for the Beneath a Steel Sky sequel, honestly.”
Cyberpunk is in this year. Here’s further proof of this.
A point and click adventure in a moody cyberpunk world, this was the standout in a week that was, again, kind of bland, but at least this is a choice I’m willing to stand by. Haven’t gotten round to playing this one but the reviews have been decent and everything I’ve seen of it looks great.
The only possible contender instead of this one was Huntdown, a game that did get a bunch of critical acclaim, even if initially I wasn’t sure about it. It has a very silly trailer though, so it has that going for it. Either game is a good option, I’d say.
Maneater – 22nd May
(Tripwire Entertainment / PC, PS4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, PS5)
“Maneater looks like it’s walking the line between serious and completely ridiculous and I’m here for this nonsense. If they’ve licensed Hall & Oates for the end credits song, then it’s Game of the Year for sure.”
It’s a game where you play as a shark doing shark things. And you can upgrade the shark to be an even more effective shark. On ideas alone I cannot regret making this Game of the Week. The fact it got good reviews on top of that is even better.
However, it did not feature the 80s hit by Hall & Oates so it falls just short of greatness in my opinion.
Those Who Remain – 29th May
(Wired Productions, Camel 101 / PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch)
“It looks to be a spooky time which will present consequences for your actions.”
So this got really bad reviews.
Sometimes you get a week where you don’t really like anything so you just grab the horror game and say “that’ll do”. And then the horror game gets universally panned. This is one of those weeks.
A better choice? Probably Wildfire? An indie sidescroller with stealth elements and environment trickery that was much better received seems like the better option in hindsight, but here we are.
Liberated – 5th June
(Walkabout, Atomic Wolf / Switch, PC)
“With its gorgeously grim art style and comic book stylings, Liberated looks like an excellent and unique game that should be worth picking up.”
This also got mixed reviews, but as someone who isn’t into esports (which is why Mat covers all that for me!) I didn’t want to make Valorant Game of the Week, and the only other game was Nintendo’s Club House Games collection, and that would have felt kind of wrong to me personally.
Liberated isn’t bad though, although admittedly my only experience with it so far personally is attempting to play the demo on my old laptop. It was not a fun experience, but that was my laptop’s fault, not the game’s, so not a fair assessment.
Beyond Blue – 12th June
(E-Line Media / PC, PS4, Xbox One)
“Whether you’re here to dodge sharks or learn more about the effects of pollution on the world around us, Beyond Blue looks like something that needs to be experienced.”
Beyond Blue is a game that I feel got a little too overlooked for what it was trying to do. An open world sea exploration game, with built in education on the effects of climate change on our oceans, this feels like an important title and yet it barely got discussed.
It got decent reviews though, and I can see this gaining a second life in classrooms or aquariums as an aid to education, even if it didn’t quite win over the general public. I stand by my choice.
The Last of Us Pt 2 – 19th June
(PlayStation Studios, Naughty Dog / PS4)
“I’m really excited for this one, […] and I’m interested to see how they continue the story after its predecessor’s superb ending.”
My feelings on this particular story continuation are mixed. As are everyone else’s, apparently.
The Last of Us 2 is a daring game. It’s a game that tells an uncomfortable, sometimes tedious story, but in a way where everything feels like it’s where it should be. Parts of the game feel like an intentional slog, designed to make you feel the exhaustion of the game’s playable characters. The story is profoundly nihilistic and miserable, but that’s exactly what it set out to be. You’re pushed to spend time with extremely unsympathetic characters and urged to feel sympathetic for them.
By the end of the game, I felt miserable, tired and just wanted to move onto something else. And that’s exactly what Neil Druckmann and the rest of the Naughty Dog team wanted me to feel. As an experience, I hated it, but as a piece of artful storytelling, it’s excellent.
I don’t think I’ve ever felt this conflicted about a game before. I highly respect it but I also never want to play it again. The Requiem for a Dream of video games.
But I stand by my choice. It has been one of the most discussed and argued about games within the whole year. It stood out. And let’s be honest, that’s all a Game of the Week really needs to do.
The Almost Gone – 26th June
(Playdigious, Happy Volcano / PC, Switch, Mobile)
“There’s a surprisingly dark tone to it, with talk of something following the protagonist as they progress. It’s a unique title that brings to mind Monument Valley crossed with a good escape room game. Ideal for playing on the go, I reckon.”
The Almost Gone is another one of those choices where I wasn’t too impressed with anything on offer so I picked the one that looked closest to a game I liked, in this case a game that looked like Monument Valley.
But where Monument Valley had some challenge and a gorgeous art design, The Almost Gone is just kind of…there. Some really unintuitive puzzles and a story that feels unresolved, I’m glad I only played a tiny amount of the mobile version to follow up on my choices.
Perhaps Mr Driller: DrillLand should have been Game of the Week, for the daring creative decision of having a title with three consecutive L’s in it, if nothing else.
Townscaper – 3rd July
(Oskar Stalberg / PC)
“While it’s not really going to compete against the big hitter games this year, it does look like a fun little thing to play around with if you’re looking for something chill to entertain yourself with.”
A bizarre week with basically nothing on show. The other games I found this week were Iron Man VR, which was a glorified VR tech demo with a largely squandered Marvel license, and Trackmania, a half-hearted slapdash racing game designed so Ubisoft could still claim the rights to the IP.
So that brings us to Townscaper, a game that’s not really a game but an interactive toy where you build little houses and see them grow into towns and, if you’re ambitious enough, cities. It’s a shallow affair with not a lot to do but it was a more interesting concept than the more cynical efforts it released alongside.
But it certainly wasn’t going to compete with the big hitters. I played around with it for about half an hour and haven’t touched it again since. Not really one I look back on fondly, but at the same time, there was nothing else to pick.
Deadly Premonition 2 – 10th July
(Rising Star Games, Toybox, White Owls / Switch)
“The first Deadly Premonition was a polarising game because of its low budget nature but intriguing story filled with charm and delightful weirdness, and this long-awaited second game promises more of this.”
This certainly was more Deadly Premonition.
Didn’t get round to playing this myself (I’ll get there!) but a friend of mine did, and said it was everything that made the first game terrible yet endearing all over again. It did court some controversy over some writing decisions, which do kind of spoil the experience, but for the most part fans of the original have been all over this one.
A good choice, I feel. Bloodstained’s surprise 8-bit sequel was also a contender, but I stick by this one.
Paper Mario: The Origami King – 17th July
(Nintendo, Intelligent Systems / Switch)
“The Origami King promises more of the funny, charming and engaging fun the series is known for, even if it isn’t quite the full-blown JRPG that Thousand-Year Door fans are eager to play.”
A double bill this week, with two major console exclusives sharing the Game of the Week spot. The first of these was Paper Mario: The Origami King for the Switch.
Another one I haven’t got chance to play personally yet, but there are more than enough reviews to help me decide if this was a worthwhile choice or not. And for the most part those reviews are positive, with a high Metacritic rating that suggests this edition has skipped some of the gimmicky stuff that spoiled the previous two entries in the series.
On the flipside, there are more than enough Nintendo fans who hate this game, simply for not being exactly like The Thousand-Year Door. And if they’re the only ones who are unhappy, then this was a good choice, as those guys are always unhappy.
Ghost of Tsushima – 17th July
(PlayStation Studios, Sucker Punch / PS4)
“It’s generally being considered the feudal Japan Assassin’s Creed that so many have been after for so long, and it looks stunning.”
And then there was Ghost of Tsushima, the PS4’s big exclusive in the same week. And while I also haven’t played this one, it’s even easier to spot it being a good choice for Game of the Week, as for many this is Game of the Year material.
Nominated for a ton of awards, Metacritic score in the 90s, and nothing but praise from everywhere I’ve seen it. I’m still really eager to play this one so I’d say it still holds up as a good choice.
Roki – 24th July
(United Label, Polygon Treehouse / PC, Switch)
“I’ve been enamoured with Roki since I first heard it was in development, so I’m really happy to see it’s finally out. It looks set to be an excellent traditional adventure game that I’m looking forward to getting my hands on.”
This was a tough week, and one where I debated doubling up again, as both Röki and Carrion were prominent on my radar at the time. I’ve also played both of them now, and looking back, I totally should have doubled up.
Röki is a gorgeous little adventure game with lots of charming animations, a series of fun puzzles to solve, and a story that I found deeply touching. Carrion is a glorious rampage of a game where you steadily absorb a whole facility of scientists into your fleshy alien mass. Tonally they’re on opposite ends of the spectrum, but they’re both among my favourite games of the year.
So really, in retrospective, they’re both Game of the Week, and if you’re trying to decide which of these to play, it depends if you’re feeling lawfully good or chaotically evil. There we go.
Othercide – 31st July
(Focus Home Interactive, Lightbulb Crew / PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch)
“The art style for this one is brutally gorgeous, and I’ve been interested in it since its announcement a few months ago. Reviews for this are looking excellent, so definitely one for those who want a really dark XCOM style title.”
Yet another game I have not gotten around to playing, and also one that didn’t get a lot of discussion. That said, it did get quite a few decent-to-good reviews, and I still remain impressed by the initial trailer that got me excited for it in the first place, so I’d say this was a good choice.
Fall Guys – 7th August
(Devolver Digital, Mediatonic / PC, PS4)
“It’s intensely frustrating and unfair due to the physics engine, and it’s far too easy to find yourself eliminated and yet…I want to keep playing it. It’s compelling and stupid fun, and sometimes that’s all you need.”
Fall Guys released in a mediocre week but even if it didn’t, I’d stand by this choice. It helps that I had actually played it prior to posting the roundup, as it was free on PlayStation Plus. It remains one of the most enjoyable games I’ve played this year and still hop in occasionally to play around with it.
But even beyond my own opinion of it, the popularity of Fall Guys is enough to justify its Game of the Week position. It’s one of the few successful live service games this year because of its unique gameplay and solid community management, and was one of the most discussed games on its release (although Among Us swelled in popularity and stole its thunder mere weeks later). One of my strongest choices this year, I feel.
Metamorphosis – 14th August
(All In! Games, Ovid Works / PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox One)
“It’s such a unique setting with really interesting visuals, so I have to make it Game of the Week.”
A game that I picked on its unique premise and general weirdness, Metamorphosis is definitely one of the least recognised titles in my picks this year. Sadly, reviews suggest it might also be one of the worst, hovering around the 50s and 60s on Metacritic. From what I’ve read, the final game was intriguing but poorly implemented, and that’s a real shame.
Makes me wonder if I should have picked Dreamscaper instead, a trippy roguelike that I surprisingly liked when I played its demo.
Inmost – 21st August
(Chucklefish, Hidden Layer Games / PC, Switch)
“I played it back at EGX a couple of years ago, where it impressed me with its style and brutal puzzle gameplay. I’m looking forward to playing the full thing at last, and I recommend that you all check it out if it looks like your jam too.”
Another one that both media and the community seemed to be fairly quiet about, despite Inmost being considered excellent from those who did notice it. It did release in a busy week, with Microsoft Flight Simulator, Spiritfarer and Rogue Legacy 2’s Early Access launch taking up most of people’s attention.
I still stand by this choice as I did enjoy playing the demo at EGX, and it looks like the game holds up to that limited experience.
No Straight Roads – 28th August
(Sold Out, Metronomik / PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox One)
“It’s an action platformer with rhythm elements and a killer soundtrack, and if I didn’t give this Game of the Week then you’d know I’ve been taken and replaced with a clone. I’ve played a little bit of it and destroyed a Hatsune Miku analogue, so it’s off to a strong start.”
Last year, a game came out in the last week of August and caught my attention so starkly that I pre-ordered it. That game was Control, which went on to become my Game of the Year because it backed up a premise that appealed directly to me with a consistent quality that ended up exceeding my expectations at every turn.
This year, that looked like it might have happened again. No Straight Roads was that game. It laid out a strong vision that I was 100% on board for. Two scrappy rock musicians decide to take on The Man with The Power of Rock, bringing down an electronic music empire that’s ruling over their city with an iron fist. It was camp, ridiculous and had an excellent art style and soundtrack.
But unlike Control, No Straight Roads has definitely not become my Game of the Year.
The problem is, the final game is style over substance. The art, the writing and the music are all brilliant, exactly what I wanted out of the game. But the actual GAME portion of it feels like an afterthought. The game is painfully short, presenting a boss rush that lives up to the term “rush”, while the mechanics of the game, which promised to blend high action with rhythm games, did not live up to its promise. Fiddly combat controls coupled with a rhythm element that never worked 90% of the time, my experience with No Straight Roads was disappointing.
I don’t regret picking this, but I feel that perhaps Tell Me Why, the latest game from Life is Strange devs Dontnod, would have been a better choice, as that was a more consistent experience that lived up to its promises.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 – 4th September
(Activision, Vicarious Visions / PC, PS4, Xbox One)
“As someone who was hooked on the second game at 14 just seeing the plane hangar in glorious HD brings a nostalgic tear my eye, and I’m eager to get my hands on this.”
Have not yet got my hands on this, but the critical reception to this unexpected remake of every millennial boy’s teenage years has been high praise indeed. From all accounts, it’s as good as we remember and yet also a little bit better, as twenty years of polish have modernised it and made the game even better than it used to be.
I still desperately want to play this, but I will say, shout out to Crusader Kings 3, which came out in the same week. I played it for my Advent Calendar this month, and then proceeded to play even more of it on my own time, and that is some bonkers joy that I highly recommend. Paradise Killer was also a strong contender for Game of the Week looking back now, so basically this was a strong week for games all round.
Not you though, Marvel’s Avengers. You don’t get to join this party.
Hotshot Racing & Inertial Drift – 11th September
(Curve Digital, Lucky Mountain, Sumo Digital / PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox One)
(PQube, Level 91 / PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox One)
“It’s essentially the spiritual successor to games like Sega Rally and Daytona USA. Fast-paced, drift-heavy racing with bold colours and timed checkpoints. I’ve played a little bit of this and it’s a lot of fun.”
“While the left stick steers, the right stick drifts, giving you greater control over drifting and allowing you to pretend you’re in Initial D or something.”
Doubling up again because two separate racing games got released in one week, so it felt right to pair them up. I’ve gone into a little more depth on both of these in a feature that went up about a month or so ago, but here is a summary of my thoughts.
Of the two, Inertial Drift is definitely the most interesting, as its built around a unique drifting mechanic, and it’s mainly a game about figuring out each car’s specific handling quirks to lead to victory. It’s a lot of fun, and there’s a lot more complexity than you’d initially expect.
Hotshot Racing is a little more straightforward, and doesn’t have quite as strong a unique hook as Inertial Drift, although it is still a lot of fun. Of the two, it excels more as a multiplayer game than a single player.
I’d still recommend both though. If you want a fun, simple arcade racer to play with friends, Hotshot Racing is for you, while Inertial Drift is for those who want something to get their teeth into alone.
BPM: Bullets Per Minute – 18th September
(Awe Interactive / PC)
“I’ve played a little bit of it and so far it’s shaping up to be a lot of raucous fun that gets really fun as its unique mechanics get its hooks in you.”
You know when you find a really fun concept that you think, man, that game seems amazing, and then you play it and the fun concept is all it has?
Welcome to BPM: Bullets Per Minute, a game that lives and dies on its concept of being Doom crossed with Parappa the Rapper. All your shots are on the beat, including reloads and dodges, and that’s cool right up until the game becomes a repetitive slog. The game takes place in a series of randomised rooms, which you clear of enemies before repeating the process. Sometimes you get upgrades. Sometimes you die horribly and have to start from the beginning all over again.
That’s right. It’s a bloody roguelike. Which is a genre I detest with the power of a thousand suns.
Which also makes picking a replacement hard because it shared its release week with…Hades and Spelunky 2. Both of which are, you guessed it, roguelikes. Admittedly, one of them is considered in many circles to be THE best game of the year, and an excellent game for those who dislike roguelikes, but I remain unconvinced.
Going Under – 25th September
(Team17, AggroCrab / PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox One)
“Going Under is so full of playfulness and parody that I can’t help but enjoy its whole deal. It’s Binding of Isaac crossed with the worst job you’ve ever had.”
Okay, so hear me out. I know I just ripped into roguelikes in the previous entry, but I also picked this as Game of the Week knowing full well it is also a roguelike. But listen, my opinion is this.
Going Under looks very silly. I have a distinct feeling that if I play this, the part of me that would giggle at the sight of a giant stapler would override the part of me that melts into the floor whenever I realise a game has procedural generation. And…that’s it. The silliness won me over. Sue me.
To rectify this discrepancy though, let’s say I made highly praised anime mechs vs kaiju game 13 Sentinels Game of the Week instead. Or maybe Art of Rally, therefore completing the circle of retro throwback racers started with Hotshot Racing and Inertial Drift. Take your pick.
Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time – 2nd October
(Activision, Toys for Bob / PS4, Xbox One)
“I’ve not been excited to see a new Crash game since 2000’s Crash Bash but I’m excited for this one.”
I’m still excited for this one, as I haven’t played it yet, but it has been so widely praised that I’m vibrating with anticipation for possibly getting it as a Christmas present.
But even if you weren’t satisfied with this pick and think something else should have taken the nod that week, you also have Star Wars Squadrons and Genshin Impact as the entire release library for the week. Spoiler alert: all three of these are on the wider Games of the Year roundup next week, so that should tell you something.
Ikenfell – 9th October
(Humble Games, Happy Ray Games / PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox One)
“I’ve played a little bit of this as it’s been released on Game Pass, and so far it’s a charming little RPG with a cute visual style, some potentially interesting combat that uses spacing and positioning along with Mario RPG style timed hits, and most importantly, the save points are cats.”
Ikenfell is a charming yet clumsy RPG set in a magic school. And when I say clumsy I mean in that awkward teenage way that’s cringeworthy to witness and yet utterly nostalgic for that time in their life where they were this awkward and cringeworthy.
I absolutely stand by this choice, as it’s an underrated gem that I urge others to go and try out. It’s on Game Pass (where I played it) so if you’re subscribed to that and want to witness some LGBT witches save the world while also dealing with their own personal drama, Ikenfell is worth your time.
Re:Turn – One Way Trip – 16th October
(Green Man Gaming, Red Ego Games / PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox One)
“It’s a short one, but it’s so engaging and interesting in both atmosphere and storyline that I recommend checking it out.”
Wrote a full review on this one, but here’s a summary of my feelings on this one. It’s a solid point and click adventure with some fiendish puzzles and some excellent writing that got me hooked. However it does have some issues with tedious backtracking and, without spoiling it, the ending is immensely unsatisfying.
Do I stand by the choice though? Definitely. It was a small, low budget effort but one that I feel deserves a little more attention.
Pumpkin Jack – 23rd October
(Headup Games, Nicolas Meyssonnier / PC, Switch, Xbox One)
“A perfect game for Halloween, as this looks like the developer got sick of Sony not making a MediEvil sequel and decided to make one themselves.”
A game that didn’t get a lot of attention, this is a game choice I stand by because it was the right game for its week. It was late October! And this is one of the most Halloweeny games in existence! And if the MediEvil remake got to be a Halloween Game of the Week last year, then by law this has to be as well, since you’d believe it was a spinoff if it wasn’t for the fact that the PS4 is the only system it HASN’T released on (as opposed to MediEvil’s PS exclusivity).
But was it any good? According to reviews, it’s not the greatest game ever made and probably won’t be considered game of the year by anyone, but it is entertaining enough. It’s a good 3D platformer made even more impressive by it being made by a solo developer. Definitely a good choice for Halloween.
Ghostrunner – 30th October
(505 Games, All In Games, One More Level, 3D Realms, Slipgate Ironworks / PC, PS4, Xbox One)
“Basically, if you thought Mirror’s Edge wasn’t dystopian enough and felt the addition of a katana would have improved things, Ghostrunner is exactly the game you were asking for.”
Cyberpunk is in this year. No really, here’s another game to prove it.
Ghostrunner is also one of the finest examples of that cyberpunk aesthetic being used to great effect. A mixture of Mirror’s Edge and Katana Zero, Ghostrunner is a bastard-hard free runner with style and finesse. And for that I had to award it Game of the Week, and I absolutely do not regret it. Reviews were great, and there has been praise from all corners for it. You’ll probably see more of this next week, in fact…
(Handy Games, The Wild Gentlemen / PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox One)
“The whole thing looks very silly and a suitably weird addition to the adventure genre, so I reckon it’ll be worth checking out.”
Chicken Police is a game that’s largely gone ignored by the industry at large, releasing at the unfortunate point right before the next-gen console launches and Cyberpunk, meaning it got lost in the shuffle.
Which is a shame because for those who did play it appeared to have loved it. It’s not exactly a ground-breaking game, seeing as it’s a noir detective mystery point and click, but it does look like a story well-told. And for that I feel it was a good choice for Game of the Week. Give it a look if you’re into the genre, because all the reviews say it’s worth it.
Yakuza: Like a Dragon
(Sega / PC, PS4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S)
“Fortunately, most of the stuff that made Yakuza so great appears to be retained. A serious crime drama wrapped in silliness and karaoke, only now you can recruit a homeless man to throw pigeons at your opponents.”
I will never regret giving a Yakuza game the title of Game of the Week. The series is consistently one of my personal favourites due to its delicate balance of serious crime drama and bizarre Japanese life simulator. Like a Dragon, the series’ first major overhaul since its inception, switches up its protagonist and makes the battles turn-based.
The game has been getting praise from all corners, and in a lackluster launch line-up for the Xbox Series X, it stood out in a big way. Again, I will never regret giving anything from this series Game of the Week.
(Young Horses / PC, PS4, PS5)
“Bugsnax promises to be a fun time that doesn’t take itself seriously and may also be hiding some horror behind its cutesy exterior and goofy naming conventions. Totally my jam.”
One of the weirder games of the year for sure, Bugsnax attracted a lot of attention at the PS5 reveal and initially I didn’t have plans to make it Game of the Week.
Then all the games I decided to make Game of the Week slowly fell off until I was left with just the UK PS5 launch line-up (which technically had all come out the week before on other systems), and Bugsnax took the crown.
I definitely feel it was a good choice. After it had become a meme after its announcement, the chorus of “wait, it’s actually a good game?” rang out across the internet, so it seems like I made the right choice here. Plus its goddamn theme song will not leave my head.
Empire of Sin
(Paradox Interactive, Romero Games / PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox One)
“It looks like a lot of fun, if a little rough around the edges at the moment, and it’s definitely caught my attention.”
It’s very rare for me to look at a recent Game of the Week in these retrospectives (like this isn’t only the second on I’ve ever done…) and feel some regret for a game I gave the nod to only two weeks ago. But here we are.
It’s wrong to say that I shouldn’t have given this Game of the Week, as I still want to give this a try. But as soon as reviews started coming in, I was suddenly concerned. There were a lot of negative reviews flying around, with bugs, limited design choices and other issues plaguing the game’s release. Some of these things appear patchable, others do not, and it’s hard to know whether or not this was a good choice.
Which is a shame because the core game idea seems great, and I stick by the choice for that reason, but it does seem like a safer bet would have been giving this to Haven, which I did consider but backed down from.
(CD Projekt Red / PC, PS4, Xbox One, Stadia)
“It’s arguably the biggest game of the year, so it only seems reasonable to award it the final Game of the Week of 2020. But you don’t care, you’re probably already playing it.”
Cyberpunk is in this year. And here is where it was always going to culminate. And of course I was going to make it Game of the Week.
And while it’s not had the best launch, particularly on console, it’s hard to deny Cyberpunk 2077 has made an impact. It’s a solid RPG with a lot of great storylines running through it, and an immersive and visually striking world worth losing yourself in. If you play on PC.
And that’s good enough to be Game of the Week, in my opinion. And a suitable way to close out the year. Plus I made that decision a week ago, I’m not likely to change it now.
And that’s it! Thank you for joining me in this look back at the past year of Game of the Week choices, but we’re not done with video game retrospectives for 2020! Next week, on the slightly earlier date of the 23rd, I will be bringing you the 50 most notable games of the year. Hope to see you soon with that.