Hello! Welcome to the 2019 Game of the Week Retrospective!
If you’ve followed us for a while, then you’ll know I do a weekly gaming roundup every Friday, where I cover the latest news and releases.
Every week, I pick a Game of the Week, the game that I consider to be a highlight of the release schedule that week. This isn’t necessarily something I’ve played, in fact, I’ve played very few of these games due to a limited budget and not enough clout for review copies. Instead, I make the decision based on which game looks the most intriguing, picking out the game that stands out to me the most. The decision is usually built on trailers, early buzz in the press and my own personal tastes.
But there are times when I feel I make the wrong call. News comes out after the fact that taints my view of the game, or I play it and feel disappointed. So, since we’re in a retrospective mood due to the New Year approaching, I decided to look back at all my choices and decide whether it was the right call or not.
A bit of a note before I start: 2019 was the bulk of my first year with Geeky Brummie, so I was still figuring out what I was doing with these Roundups at the start of the year. I’ve only recently become consistent as I settled on the style I wanted. As such, some of the earlier months are a little bit messy and some weeks are missing entirely. But we’ll do what we can!
NEW SUPER MARIO BROS U DELUXE
“It was a fantastic 2D platformer in the tradition of all good Mario games, so it’s worth a look if you likely missed it the first time.”
2019’s first week of releases was a selection of remasters, ports and upgrades, with similar re-releases of Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga and Tales of Vesperia hitting at the same time. As such, I went with the re-release of a game I’d actually played – New Super Mario Bros U.
I’m quite happy with this choice. Not much of a reflection of 2019’s gaming options, as it’s just a remaster of a 2012 game with additional Peachette content, but it’s still a fun Mario game, as Mario games tend to be. Plus that Peachette content led to the internet’s obsession with Bowsette, so it did have a cultural impact, albeit one that was…less than wholesome. So I feel this was a good pick and I stand by it.
YIIK: A POST-MODERN RPG
“I’m pleasantly surprised to see it resurface and be available to buy right now. Highly recommended.”
Hoo boy. So I picked this based on what I’d played at EGX, which presented the game as a grown-up EarthBound. It seemed fun at the time and I was happy to award it Game of the Week.
And then it came out, and was full of terrible writing, particularly in its dialogue, and in places where the writing seemed great, accusations of plagiarism were rife, with some compelling evidence. The more people saw of the game, the less appealing it got. So I kind of regret picking this one, as it turned out to be a fairly bad game based on the critical reception and user reviews.
Problem is, knowing what else I’d pick is a tricky one, as the main games that came out that week were Travis Strikes Again, a No More Heroes spinoff that was panned just as much as YIIK, and Ace Combat 7, a game I’d struggle to talk about due to a lack of knowledge on flight sim type games and an unfamiliarity with the series as a whole. Ace Combat did get good reviews, so it’s the best candidate for a replacement, but it would be a hesitant recommendation.
“Pikuniku looks to be a wonderfully weird experience for anyone who loves odd little indie platformers.”
I’ve only gotten round to playing a bit of Pikiniku over on my YouTube channel, but from what I played, it was an absolute charmer. Silly sense of humour, playful game mechanics and a vibrant graphical style all add up to a game I still feel confident in recommending.
But there’s a whopping great elephant in the room. Pikuniku came out the same week as Resident Evil 2, which has turned out to be one of the greatest games of the year (although I still haven’t got round to playing the full game yet). As such, while I don’t regret picking Pikuniku on its own merits, I do kind of regret picking it over RE2, which is shaping up to be a future classic in every possible way.
Solution? Play both. Pretend they got joint Game of the Week nods, as I did with two other games later on in August. Sorted.
“…this is Advance Wars made by an indie studio, so if you’ve been frustrated by Nintendo’s inability to release a new Wars game, this is for you.”
I loved the look of Wargroove when I first heard about it. I’m only casually interested in tactical RPGs, although I am interested in playing more. Plus this one had a dog! A very good boy leading his armies into noble holy war! Who doesn’t love that?
Well, it turns out, I didn’t love that. I did get round to playing Wargroove and found myself disappointed. The art style was great, the mechanics were sound and the characterisation was brilliant. But the whole experience was marred by an inconsistent difficulty curve, where enemy troops seemed to have all the advantages.
I’m not afraid of a challenge, but in my eyes, there are two kinds of difficulty in a game. One is a fun challenge that allows you to learn from failure and feel determined to continue and rectify your mistakes. The other is the annoying kind of difficulty where the game stacks the odds against you, throwing stuff at your face to an absurd degree. Wargroove is very much the latter. We’re talking troops 3x the size of your army, who can move in faster than you can call in reinforcements. We’re talking stages with a fog of war that doesn’t affect the CPU in the slightest. We’re talking opponents dishing out damage that acts as one-hit kills on your team, but your identical units deal 50% of that in the reverse situation, and no apparent level discrepancies to justify this.
Wargroove ultimately wasn’t fun, and while it had a lot going for it, I can’t recommend it too much after having played it properly.
However, it was another week where the other releases weren’t catching my eye either. Genesis Alpha One was a terrible looking survival game in space, while Kingdom Hearts 3 looked decent enough but to me is the latest in a bloated and convoluted series that was originally supposed to be about Final Fantasy and Disney having a silly crossover. The latter is certainly a candidate for a replacement, but again, it’s a hesitant one.
“If you want something less chaotic, you should check out my Game of the Week, Eastshade”
This was a weird choice and I’m not sure why I went with this one. Reviewing what else came out in the same week, I feel like Degrees of Separation was a much more interesting choice, but instead I went with Eastshade. It’s a decent choice I guess. It’s got a nice visual style to it, and is perfect as a nice chill game, and in a week of mediocrity (Crackdown 3 and Far Cry New Dawn were also out that week) I guess it stood out.
But again, looking back, I feel Degrees of Separation looked a lot more interesting with its split player mechanics and unique premise. Consider that my recommendation now instead.
TOEJAM & EARL: BACK IN THE GROOVE
I never formally awarded this one, which I believe was down to illness that meant I was resting instead of writing about video games (I’m sure you can forgive me!). But it was all set to go, and so I decided to include it here all the same.
And yeah, this is still a fair recommendation. It’s not an earth-shattering title by any means, but it’s a brilliant revival for the classic Mega Drive Toejam and Earl titles. A friend of mine, who is incredibly nostalgic for the original games, has expressed love for this, so feel free to take that as the recommendation here.
DEVIL MAY CRY 5
“…it’s looking like we’re in for another crazy party.”
Do I regret handing one of the year’s highest-rated games a Game of the Week award? What a silly question! I mean, the competition this week was minimal, with a 3DS port of Kirby’s Epic Yarn and the critically-panned and largely forgotten Left Alive also in the running, but considering the reaction to the game, it’s hard to say that Devil May Cry 5 should have been passed over for something else.
This is another title where I want to play it but just haven’t got round to it yet. But everything I’ve seen of this title suggests a classic DMC title with all the theatrics dialled up to 11, and I’m all for that. And it seems that everyone agrees with me, as it’s riding high on Metacritic for both critics and players.
So yeah, I think I’ll keep this choice!
SEKIRO: SHADOWS DIE TWICE
“Reviews coming in are on par with the Resident Evil 2 remake, so it looks like we have a future classic on our hands here.”
Here’s another recommendation that has resulted in a high Metacritic score by the end of the year, for both critics and everyday players, so yet another Game of the Week that it’s hard to regret putting forward. In fact, this and RE2 are the only games I can see that have surpassed a 90 on Metacritic, which is impressive.
I will admit my personal interest in Sekiro is minimal, as it sounds like the kind of game that would stress me out over anything else. But I can’t deny that it looks like a brilliant game, if the punishing difficulty is your jam. It’s another brutal FromSoft game only now with more grappling and a Japanese aesthetic, and people are enjoying the hell out of it.
Plus this week was also lacking competition. The Division 2 and One Piece: World Seeker do nothing for me, while Hypnospace Outlaw was a game that initially passed me by but every time I see it I get more confused. Sekiro is obviously bold and ambitious and a solid experience, so it was the clear choice that week.
YOSHI’S CRAFTED WORLD
“…it’s an adorable adventure that looks a lot of fun.”
I can’t not give the adorable Yoshi craft game the spotlight, can I? Me and Ryan played a little bit of it as Insomnia back in April, shortly after its release, and it’s a very good Yoshi game from what I could tell.
If you liked Woolly World, this seems to have turned out to be more of that, and I have no problems with that. This was a reasonable choice.
“I have been very excited for Pathway since playing it at EGX back in September, not least because I’m always up for some archaeology themed pulp adventure in any media.”
Pathway is a game I’m still very interested in playing, although it’s still just sitting on my Steam wishlist waiting for the day when I jump on it in a sale. So I’ll defer my opinion of whether this was a good choice to the Steam reviews.
And those reviews aren’t entirely positive, sadly. Many players are saying the game lacks tactical depth or doesn’t feature enough content. Which is a shame because what I played at EGX 2018 was promising. It was a tactical RPG where the world is based on Indiana Jones instead of medieval fantasy or sci-fi. Which is still very much up my alley.
Right now, I have no regrets on making this a Game of the Week, and full judgement will need to be reserved for whenever I get round to playing it.
DREAMS (EARLY ACCESS)
“Media Molecule’s latest attempt to get people being creative with video games, and I’m totally on board as I always am with their games.”
I tried out Dreams enthusiastically on launch. I stuck with it, playing around with the various tutorials and then going away to try and build something of my own.
…And then I just…stopped. And it didn’t take me long to just stop either. It’s not that I’m not interested in building stuff – I always had a blast building stuff in LittleBigPlanet and Super Mario Maker is always a good time – but it’s because, at least in its current state, it’s so frustrating to use.
The toolset Media Molecule have provided is so versatile that there are a ton of options, to the point where it’s easy to get overwhelmed, and as such the tutorials become mandatory. And then a bigger problem arrives – the tutorials are awful. They’re long, thanks to elements being overexplained, and delivered by a patronising narrator who sounds like he’s addressing a child. I quickly got bored with the tutorials but couldn’t grasp the tools without them. So I was disappointed.
Do I stand by making it Game of the Week? To a degree, yes, as other options weren’t much better. This was also the week of the World War Z game that no one asked for and Heaven’s Vault, a game I want to like conceptually but whose art style and animation puts me off entirely.
Dreams does at least have the fact that it’s still in Early Access, and chances are I could go back to it on its full release on Valentine’s Day and find it’s massively improved from when I tried it out in April. If so, then consider this a good recommendation, otherwise this is one I regret, but wish I didn’t.
MORTAL KOMBAT 11
“While MK isn’t necessarily my fighting game of choice, it’s hard to deny the fun you can have with Fatalities and having Scorpion make others GET OVER HERE…”
Mortal Kombat is one of a handful of major releases this year with an excellent Metacritic score and a terrible user score. Critic scores sit high in the 80s while users put it down in the 20s and 30s. I did some digging to figure out this huge discrepancy, and it seems that it’s the game’s monetisation.
And yeah, on launch, the game’s currency and rewards systems were skewed heavily towards paid currency being the best method for progression. This has allegedly been fixed, but at its core Mortal Kombat 11 seems to be an excellent game. I’m not a huge fan of the series personally, but it looked solid enough at the time to give it the nod, and I think it was the right decision. But yeah, shame about the grinding.
“I had a lot of fun with it back at EGX, so the full game should be a good time too.”
I reviewed Astrologaster after awarding the Game of the Week award, thanks to review copy sent by the developers. And as I stated in my review, Astrologaster is brilliantly written and got a lot of laughs out of me, but as a game I felt it fell flat. Interactivity was limited and choices were a little too vague for my liking.
But as an experience, Astrologaster was still entertaining enough for the Game of the Week, so I feel it’s worth upholding this one.
“…in honour of Detective Pikachu’s big screen debut, I’m going to show some love to the game that directly inspired it.”
This was an interesting week, as I couldn’t find a single noteworthy new release. However, in movie land, the adaptation of Detective Pikachu hit UK cinemas. So in an absence of actual games, I took the bold step of awarding Detective Pikachu (the game) the nod that week, despite it being released in 2018.
I’m happy with my choice. Detective Pikachu was a pretty good film, if not exactly revolutionary, and it was a good way to inform people that the movie isn’t some weird spin-off set in the Pokémon universe, but in fact an adaptation of a specific game. And that the game is some weird spin-off set in the Pokémon universe. It’s a pretty decent, if simple, game too.
A PLAGUE TALE: INNOCENCE
“I love stealth and more intimate storytelling, so this looks like it’s worth checking out if you also love those things. Not recommended for people who hate swarms of rats though.”
A Plague Tale: Innocence released in a quiet week in May, and largely got the Game of the Week nod by default, as the only other notable title that week was Rage 2, which looked a bit rubbish at the time and has sunk without a trace in the months since.
That said, a busier week could have still awarded this game a nod, due to the fact it looked like a solid game, albeit with some typical Focus Home jankiness. Sadly, I haven’t got round to playing it yet so I can’t pass full judgement myself. But I am eager to.
However, a friend of mine has played the game, and loved it, calling it her game of the year. It’s had staying power too, popping up on Game of the Year and award nominations lists, so I’d say A Plague Tale was absolutely deserving of the nod that week.
“It’s a unique perspective on space-based horror mystery, so it’s definitely the standout for me this week.”
Observation sort of snuck up on in a week that was otherwise fairly dull. Total War: Three Kingdoms was considered excellent by those who know more about Total War than me, but it isn’t my genre and the write-up would have been hollow. The rest of the week wasn’t interesting at all, with a fairly bland WWII shooter and an also-ran MMO.
And then there was Observation, another game I still plan on getting round to playing. It had three things going for it: a unique mechanic, an appealing sci-fi premise, and it was published by Devolver Digital, a company that consistently know how to provide gold.
And it seems it was a good choice. It hasn’t made any major mark on the wider industry, and the reviews aren’t stellar, but it does seem liked by those who played it. It seems to be a flawed but definitely worthwhile experience, so I stand by this choice.
“It’s exactly my sort of game, so enjoy your Game of the Week for a second week in a row, Devolver Digital!”
Gato Roboto definitely snuck up on me. I heard about it the day before writing the roundup, in a week that was otherwise unimpressive to me. Void Bastards looked decent enough (and has been praised endlessly by press) but everything I saw of it put me off for some reason. Draugen had talent from adventure game classic The Longest Journey behind it, but looked boring and vague in its premise. And then there was a VR game. So I was agonising over what should be Game of the Week.
And then, suddenly, here’s Gato Roboto. It’s Metroid, but you’re a cat in a mech suit. And immediately I knew, this was my Game of the Week. As I said at the time, I like Metroid and I like cats, so bringing the two together is a recipe for success. And yet, this is another one I’m hyped to play but haven’t yet gotten round to it (I’m sorry for being terrible, but my budget is low).
But there is an elephant in the room for this week. You see, there was a game that passed me by entirely that week, and it’s a game that’s now being lauded from all corners as one of 2019’s most innovative and exciting games. That’s Outer Wilds, the time-travelling adventure game that every critic in the industry has been fawning over since its release. No, not The Outer Worlds, that came later. Yes, it’s confusing.
And…I kind of wish it hadn’t passed me by, because as much as Gato Roboto is in my wheelhouse, so is Outer Wilds, and it would have been an amazing candidate, especially in retrospect with its industry-wide praise. Let’s pretend I awarded them both the nod that week, shall we?
OCTOPATH TRAVELER (PC)
“While not a brand new game, it’s the most interesting game of the week’s releases in my eyes.”
I wasn’t entirely wrong in that assessment above. Hell Let Loose was military shooter by numbers while Zed looked largely unfinished. Persona Q2 was a contender, but I’ve never had as much interest in the Q spin-offs as much as I love Persona.
So I gave it to the PC release of Octopath, and as much as Octopath is a decent enough game, it’s also highly flawed and I feel uneasy with having handed the nod to a game that came out a full year before on another system.
In retrospect, I think I’d have had a muted nod to Persona Q2, but it was otherwise a bland week.
BLOODSTAINED: RITUAL OF THE NIGHT
“…it’s a shameless Symphony of the Night clone that I’m struggling to put down.”
I mentioned Bloodstained a few times on the podcast when I was playing it, due to a love and excitement for it that inevitably came across at the time I awarded it Game of the Week.
Simply put, Bloodstained is one of my games of the year. I’ll talk about it a bit more next week, but I loved every aspect of this game, and definitely feel it was the best release of its week. And considering one of the other releases was Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, which has gone very quiet in the months since, I think I made the right call.
“I’m a huge fan of the Yakuza series…so naturally, the latest Game of the Week is Judgment.”
Another excellent choice that I’m reluctant to talk about here too much because I’ll be saving it for next week. Judgment is the spin-off to the brilliant Yakuza series where you play a private detective instead of a gangster, and it brought the same playfulness and style with a slick new noir look.
I’ll talk about this one more next week, but needless to say, I stand by this choice. Only other contender of this week was Super Mario Maker 2, but that didn’t feature a side quest involving taking down a team of cartoonish perverts, so it lost out.
SEA OF SOLITUDE
“The game is a metaphorical examination of mental health and loneliness, and it looks set to be an emotional rollercoaster.”
This week was a bit of a quiet one for new releases, with only one game really standing out. That game was Sea of Solitude, the latest of the EA Originals programme that also brought us Unravel and Fe. And as choices go, I stand by this one.
Based on the reviews and muted response it received on release, it’s apparent it wasn’t the greatest game ever made. It was flawed and riddled with significant issues that made the experience less than stellar. But for what it was, I feel it was a worthy choice for Game of the Week. It was an earnest passion project and was focused on building an emotional story and turned out a bit rough around the edges. And I’d prefer a game like that over a polished game with no soul.
“I love a good side scroller and a good city builder, so the two together sounds like a great time.”
Well this was a bad choice.
I picked out SolSeraph for Game of the Week due to a mixed bag of a week. I’ve never been much of a Dragon Quest fan, so Builders 2 wasn’t appealing, and Blazing Chrome’s Contra-heavy aesthetic meant I was similarly reluctant to award that one due to a lack of interest in Contra.
So I went with SolSeraph, a spiritual successor to cult SNES RPG ActRaiser, because the concept sounded interesting. I felt it was a decent choice and submitted it to the roundup.
And then the reviews came out. And oh boy was it panned. The city-building sections played more like tower defence while the platforming sections were decried as lifeless and boring. Not to mention how cheap the whole experience was according to most reviews.
Clearly, I made the wrong call here, and if I was to change it now, I’d have picked Blazing Chrome after all. Regardless of my feelings towards Contra, Blazing Chrome did at least look like it had some energy to it, and the reviews agreed.
“It’s an interesting take on the mystery genre, and for that I think it’s worth a look.”
This one’s an odd one, because basically no one talked about this game. It came out and promptly vanished in amongst everything else that week. Which is a shame, because while it wasn’t an amazing game, it was interesting enough.
Criticisms against the game centred on how the murder mystery at the centre of the whole storyline doesn’t really go anywhere, but the conversations you have as a taxi driver with your customers are genuinely interesting. In retrospect, a game that’s good if you want a relaxed game with a chill story. I stand by my choice.
“Arkane Studios, who’ve reportedly brought their brand of immersive, multiple-solution gameplay to the game, making it a little closer to Dishonored.”
Wolfenstein Youngblood seemed like such a good call. While I haven’t followed the Wolfenstein series much, it has received praise from all corners. The latest game looked set to follow suit, and the involvement of Dishonored devs Arkane got me interested.
And then reviews emerged and it quickly became apparent that Youngblood wasn’t up to the standards set by the previous titles and was riddled with microtransactions that spoiled the experience. Which is a real shame, because on the surface it looked excellent, but turned out to be living proof of not believing the hype.
Instead, I wish I’d awarded this to Fire Emblem: Three Houses, a game that’s been lauded endlessly since its release in July. Now there’s a game winning awards and popping up on Game of the Year lists everywhere, and it would have been a much stronger choice.
THE BLACKOUT CLUB
“One to play with your friends in a dark room, just in time for Halloween…three months early.”
A quiet week where I flipped back and forth between this and The Church in the Darkness, another decent horror-themed game that came out at the same time. And the truth is, I kind of wish I’d gone with the latter instead.
While The Blackout Club looks pretty good, with a group of teens investigating spooky goings-on in their town in a multiplayer co-op fashion, The Church in the Darkness continues to grab my attention (and I still intend to get round to playing it) in a way this doesn’t.
“Gibbous looks like a fun old school adventure game, and the fact that its Lovecraftian horror is coming from a developer based in the actual Transylvania is a bonus.”
This one was a really small release that didn’t garner a lot of attention, but I liked the concept. A throwback point and click heavily inspired by the classic LucasArts adventures, with a talking cat and a goofy Lovecraftian theme. It may not have had much impact, but I still feel it was worthy of the Game of the Week just for its charm and its humour. Not every week needs to be a big hitter.
“If you miss the days of Quake and Duke Nukem 3D, Ion Fury is for you.”
Oh god this one aged almost immediately. It was a tricky week because most releases were fairly bland to me, but I felt this one could take the slot because it felt like the one I had the most to talk about.
And then, before even a week passed after I posted that week’s roundup, some tedious bigoted jokes were found both in-game and from the developers. And immediately I regretted the choice and wished I could have just pulled it. Part of me feels like I should have gone back and changed it.
But what should I have changed it to? The original contender was Dicey Dungeons, a game that I liked the look of but couldn’t really come up with an interesting description of besides “it’s a dungeon crawler where you literally control dice”. I feel like maybe I should have delved into it a little more and made that the Game of the Week instead. But definitely not Ion Fury. Let’s forget that happened.
“The game is dripping with 80s nostalgia and Double Fine’s trademark sense of humour, so all indications point to this game being pretty, uh….rad.”
Another week where I struggled to decide on a good choice. The indie darling of the week was Telling Lies, the latest game from Sam Barlow, so that seemed an obvious choice. Except that I tend to find Sam Barlow’s work a little tedious and pretentious, so I knew I wanted to avoid that. There was also Oninaki, an interesting RPG from Square Enix that I couldn’t shake the feeling was going to be a bit rubbish (it got a Metacritic score of 68 in the end, so I wasn’t far off).
I settled on Rad, the latest game from Double Fine. However, their games tend to be either really exciting or kind of bland, with no in between. Psychonauts 2 is the former for them in upcoming releases, while Rad fell into the latter camp for me. It looked okay, but just like Oninaki I couldn’t shake the feeling of it being a bit rubbish. I chose it because I knew it would at least have Double Fine’s humour, where Oninaki felt it could have gotten a bit too heavy-handed. But it too got middling review scores, so it wasn’t the best choice.
Honestly, in retrospect, I’d have handed this to PS4-based FMV adventure Erica, and the main reason I didn’t is because it snuck out the door the day before and information on it was limited. But I’ve since seen the game in action and it’s a fairly tense thriller with some excellent acting and some tough choices, and I feel it would have been an excellent game to highlight for the week instead.
“And if that sounds delightfully weird, it is…Absolutely worth your time.”
In a week rammed full of releases, many of which were pretty major, I ended up doubling my Game of the Week awards to reflect how absurd the week was.
That said, of the two I awarded, Control would be the one I would pick if I were to narrow it to just one. And you’ll find out more about why next week. That’s all I’m saying. There’s already a glowing review from me on this very site, so maybe that should give you an indication of whether or not I regret awarding this Game of the Week.
KNIGHTS AND BIKES
“This is an adorable little game that perfectly captures the joy and adventure that come with being a child”
That’s not to say the game that shared Game of the Week with Control was lacking though. Knights & Bikes was a lovely little game about childhood and imagination from the guys behind Tearaway. I’ll go into this one in a bit more depth next week, but I’m happy with my decision to let it share the limelight with Control for a week.
CREATURE IN THE WELL
“What makes Creature in the Well look so interesting, however, is that its dungeon crawling has been crossed with ball games like pinball and Breakout.”
Truthfully, I’m not really sure why I ended up picking this one. It wasn’t the original contender, and even now as I look at the releases from that week, I keep feeling more drawn to the game that was. So I really don’t know why I pushed that game out for this. Creature in the Well looks fine, and I’m sure is an excellent game, but it doesn’t quite grab me, you know?
But what was the original contender? It was River City Girls, the WayForward-produced successor to the River City Ransom franchise. Simply because it was a loud, brash, colourful brawler in the fine tradition of its predecessors, only now with the girlfriends of the main heroes taking centre stage instead. It got some rave reviews too. It should have always been Game of the Week but I made an inexplicable 11th hour change that I wish I hadn’t.
“It’s a gory game, and looks set to be punishingly hard, but it gets Game of the Week because it looks to have fluid gameplay crossed with gorgeously horrifying pixel art.”
Now here’s a game that I stand by completely. My first impression of Blasphemous when I heard about it was that it was an unfairly punishing game built in the wake of “git gud scrub” culture emerging from the Dark Souls fandom.
And then I saw the game in action, and I just saw Castlevania with the darkness ramped up, and delivered in some beautifully gruesome meticulous pixel art, and I instantly knew it had to be Game of the Week. I have yet to get around to playing it myself, but there’s something very special about Blasphemous and I’m glad I gave it the nod.
UNTITLED GOOSE GAME
“If you’re not playing this game right this very second, then what the actual hell is wrong with you?!”
HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK
(That’s a yes.)
“It looks like a fun, interesting spin on the Souls formula, and has been getting quite a bit of positive buzz since its release earlier this week”
Last week of September was a weird one, as the releases were generally a bit flat. The only one that stood out was a game I personally don’t have much interest in playing but had the potential to be good – Code Vein.
It’s a Soulslike with an anime aesthetic and a story involving vampire themes, so it was a notably different take on the genre. And it was getting some positive attention by the time it released, so it seemed like a good idea. Weirdly though, it didn’t take off in the way I expected it to, and no one really talks about it three months on.
From all accounts, this was a great game (and subsequently great choice for Game of the Week), but lord knows why it just kind of vanished like it did.
“It looks stylish and intriguing and for that I feel it deserves Game of the Week.”
I was so grateful for the sudden non-Apple Arcade release of Neo Cab in this week, as my options prior to that were atrocious. Only two notable releases, one of which was a fairly cheap looking dungeon crawler from Sony, the other was a Tom Clancy game. Not only would I not award a Tom Clancy game the award under normal circumstances, it was Ghost Recon Breakpoint, a game that swiftly got panned from all sides due to it being pretty much rushed out the door.
With Neo Cab’s announcement, it meant I’d be awarding my second taxi-based narrative game of the year, but apart from that, there was no issue. It’s a simple choice-driven game about interacting with passengers, along with cyberpunk themes that reflected the state of the modern gig economy. I think it was a good choice for a last-minute addition.
JOHN WICK HEX
“…a strategy game that lets you make precise decisions is a perfect choice. It’s got the brilliant Mike Bithell behind it too, which makes the game an even more exciting prospect.”
There were a lot of options in this week and I hopped around them all a lot. Concrete Genie looked pretty. Indivisible had some gorgeous art although I wasn’t 100% clear on its gameplay. The Bradwell Conspiracy was a neat-looking mystery game. Yooka-Laylee & The Impossible Lair looked fun but I was wary after the first game turned out painfully average. Valfaris looked like a blast, albeit not necessarily to my tastes.
I settled on following Keanumania to its logical next step. After Keanu Reeves called everyone breathtaking at E3, it seemed only right to award the 2019 game with his face in it Game of the Week. John Wick Hex is the strategy game that essentially lets you act as Keanu’s stunt coordinator, planning your next moves with tactical accuracy in a turn-based system.
It’s seen some disappointment, but those who got what it was about seemed to have enjoyed it. It’s a bit of a mixed bag really. But I think it was the right choice. While Indivisible and Yooka-Laylee looked a bit rubbish at the time and turned out great, while The Bradwell Conspiracy looked great and turned out rubbish, John Wick Hex looked decent and turned out decent. Right choice at the time, right choice in hindsight.
“It’s a deep, slightly confusing RPG that promises to give a tabletop experience in video game form, and offers up a huge, deep story to explore. This promises to be something special, and definitely worth a look.”
I don’t think I’ve ever been more right about a Game of the Week choice, outside of Untitled Goose Game.
Disco Elysium is a game I’d played at a past EGX and was fascinated by. It came out earlier this year, and the fascination I felt then propelled it straight into the slot. And then it came out, and every critic and player in the land latched onto it and turned into one of the biggest and most exciting games of the year. It won Best Narrative and Best RPG at the Game Awards, for god’s sake, even while up against The Outer Worlds which everyone expected to walk both of those.
So asking if I regret this choice is an absurd question. Disco Elysium turned out to be one of the defining games of the year, and I can’t wait to properly get my hands on it.
“This remake looks like it’s bringing […] a polished-up yet faithful rendition of the classic adventure.”
The Outer Worlds came out this week, and I shoved it aside for a game about a goofy skeleton. And I’d do it again, I tell you!
I have played a bit of MediEvil since its release and it really is a faithful recreation of a classic game. Only problem is, your view on the original isn’t going to be shifted by this remake. If you thought the original game was a clunky mess that deserved to be consigned to the dustbin of history, then you’ll wonder why the hell this remake exists. If you thought the game was charming and wonderful despite its obvious flaws, you’ll be ecstatic with this.
I’m in the latter camp. The original MediEvil was a little clunky but was endearingly rubbish and not just plain rubbish. The remake tidies up a little of the clunkiness to the best of its ability. Jumping sections are easier due to controls being less twitchy, and combat feels less frustrating. And it looks great, making the game look like it did in my head 20 years ago instead of the blocky angular polygon fest it actually was.
Sorry, Outer Worlds. I made the right call for myself here and I don’t regret it in the slightest.
“Oxenfree was already a brilliant game, and Afterparty looks like an equally great follow-up.”
Afterparty is another game I’m still eager to get my hands on, because it still looks fantastic, and the critical reception backed it up. It’s a game where you try and escape hell by challenging Satan to a drinking contest. But underneath that there are frank discussions about subjects like adulthood and what really matters, as so many of the best indie games are prone to do.
I will be honest though, this was a tough week, as there were two other serious contenders. Moons of Madness was a bonkers Cthulu in Space horror adventure and Luigi’s Mansion 3 was…well, Luigi’s Mansion 3. But I’m happy I stuck to my guns and went with Afterparty. It just has that extra something that I feel a Game of the Week recipient should have. And that something is a drinking contest with Satan.
“it looks just the right amount of weird to be an interesting journey at the very least.”
I don’t often like pushing the latest big title into the Game of the Week slot. Usually the big games get the last word in the main release section before a smaller title gets the award. But sometimes, a big release slips in, and Death Stranding, Sony’s big Christmas PS4 title, was one of them.
There were numerous reasons for this. I’m a fan of the Metal Gear series and Death Stranding looks baffling in all the right ways, but also, the other releases that week just weren’t all that interesting. Planet Zoo looked great, but it was hard to justify it beyond “it looks fun” while Mario & Sonic and Need for Speed were significantly less interesting prospects in general.
Fortunately, Death Stranding’s been quite well received. Mostly. It’s a weird one, let’s just put it that way. Critics either fell in love with it or hated it. There was no inbetween. But sometimes those games are the most interesting.
POKÉMON SWORD AND SHIELD
“While it may be missing a bunch of Pokémon and the reasons are being endlessly debated online, Sword/Shield is still shaping up to be a nice Pokémon journey which hopefully has more Cockney accents than usual.”
Oops, it’s another big release. The internet has been up in arms about Pokémon Sword and Shield since before its release due to Pokedexgate or whatever they wanna call it. But honestly, the game still looks fun, and the nitpicky Twitter mob seems like an anomaly against general critical reception. Plus Pokémon Sword and Shield is the best-selling console exclusive of the year, so clearly the complaints didn’t make much of an impact, and presumably all those who complained bought four copies anyway.
I stand by this partly out of spite as a result. But also because it still genuinely looks great. And it has a long Meowth so stop complaining.
And if you still want to complain, pretend I awarded Jedi Fallen Order instead.
“This game looks beautiful, and from trailers and other promotional footage, it looks set to be a relaxed, laid-back experience on top of that.”
And then releases dried up dramatically in the final weeks of the year, with a bunch of small-scale projects but nothing too noteworthy.
That said, Lost Ember stood out. I’d been following the game for much of the year, including that awkward point where it was still listing a summer release in mid-October. But it snuck out towards the end of the year and in a week of Shenmue 3 and Stadia, it felt good to hand the award to something more artful.
Lost Ember probably won’t be one of the most remembered games of the year, but I was more than happy to give it the nod in its release week.
ARISE: A SIMPLE STORY
“It looks like a beautiful and no doubt sad adventure that should be worth your time.”
Oh hey, speaking of artful journey games, I then awarded it to Arise: A Simple Story, which is basically Journey with Vikings and let’s be honest, that sounds great. Also another week full of uninspiring smaller releases, where this stood out. Another success I feel. Plus it’s hard to reflect meaningfully on something I did only two weeks ago.
“It’s complete madness and I’m not even sure if it’ll turn out any good, but Wattam has caught my attention and made me smile enough to award it the final Game of the Week award for 2019.”
The quote above expresses the main concern about awarding this the final Game of the Week award. Not the fact that it actually came out THIS week, but a concern that it may have turned out bad. I just placed all my faith in Wattam because I <3 Katamari and it’s the same director.
Good news! Reviews came out this week and it’s being called charming and bonkers and worth investigating. Which is all I hoped for.
And that’s it for the Games of the Week this year! I made some good calls and some bad calls, and plenty of difficult choices. I’m hoping to improve my Game of the Week process next year, with an aim to try and snag more review copies where possible for better coverage. We’ll see how I do, but for now, this marks an end to 2019’s Games of the Week, and I look forward to seeing what I award in 2020. If you have opinions on my choices, please share them! We’d love to hear from you!
Next week, I’ll be looking at 2019 as a whole, and picking out the most notable, most talked about and most critically acclaimed games in an attempt to decide the most definitive games of the year. Just like I did last year, but this time it won’t be rushed out the door in a matter of days. I’ll also reveal my top 5, so be ready for that. See you then!