It's a place all right.

December 31, 2021 (Originally posted on Neocities)

Games I Beat in 2021, But Ranked

Another year, another multiple games. It sure was a year. I got really into VR socializing for the most part while I did intend to play other VR games, but got sidetracked. Also since I got an Xbone this year, I discovered Game Pass, so most entries on this list ended up being from that as I found random shorter games to check out and so on. Ended up finding some interesting games because of the whole exposure thing I guess. So while the industry seems like it’s on the edge of getting better or crashing entirely, or maybe it’ll just stay where it is for a bit longer since everything’s being delayed and hardware is tightly controlled by some operation, I did find more things to play while not really going to a lot of places outside of VR.

Once again, counting down to the top spot in what I liked the most from what I beat this year, not just what I played.

  1. What Remains of Edith Finch (XB1, Game Pass)
    This is about as “walking simulator” genre-defining as it gets without being Gone Home, though it is kinda like Gone Home in that it involves exploring a house to tell a story. While it’s low on this list, it’s not like I disliked it though. I did also enjoy Gone Home way back, mainly for the idea of going through people’s stuff to figure out how they live. This story however is about death and possibly a curse that involves other members of the family in the story dying in various ways, shown in various minigames that also embellish the details in some fantasy plot. My favorite scene out of the bunch ended up being one that involved multitasking a menial job while controlling a daydream, since I’m somehow pretty good at that. My practice in menial job simulators must have helped. It eventually just kinda ends though.
  2. Genesis Noir (PC, Game Pass)
    I went into this not really knowing what to expect because it was just weird in all the trailers that showcased it as a cartoon of sorts but a game somehow. Even playing the demo I wasn’t entirely sure. It turns out it’s mainly an adventure game with the occasional segment having a bit of a different take on it, but it’s mostly pointing and clicking. I sometimes ran into an issue where the mouse cursor became a tiny dot and very difficult to use by picking out on the screen, but pushed through regardless. The style is where the substance of this game lies, the overarching jazz soundtrack and design. Then it gets very weird and plays even more like a fever dream. Overall, this game was okay, and maybe there was more fun in not really knowing what it was, like many would say about Death Stranding, something I’ve been meaning to get back to. Still, a neat enough shorter experience.
  3. Carto (XB1, Game Pass)
    This is a fairly short but cute puzzle game involving rearranging the map to cause different things to happen, depending on the part of the game being remapped. I didn’t find it too difficult to mess with things as the controls made sense and logic eventually showed up in how things worked. Not a whole lot to say about it, pretty wholesome experience.
  4. Control (XB1, Game Pass)
    A weird game that I probably wouldn’t have played if it didn’t happen to be on Game Pass when I had it before, due to circumstances involving publishing. While I wasn’t really sold on Alan Wake, I did want to like it. The setting seemed right, I just didn’t like how the game played, because it was like an action game when it felt like it should have been survival horror. Unfortunately I probably won’t be checking out the sequel, unless I get a chance through Game Pass again. Stupid publishing circumstances. Anyway, this Control game is interesting, the story seemed neat enough to check out, but I am grateful assists exist in games where the combat gets annoying. Sure, another word for those could just be cheats, but now there’s the open idea where people really want to play a game for the experience but may have a disability or maybe are someone who just doesn’t want to deal with missteps in design, or maybe they just suck at games. I’m a mix of the latter two I think. However, tweaking the difficulty did let me essentially spec everything into flying around and throwing things, essentially turning the player character into some kind of anime god. The story did keep me going in this one, because the combat was mostly just fight these guys with increasing amounts of health in staged arenas, and if the game itself wasn’t interesting outside of it I’d have dropped it early on. Two stand-out things were dealing with the janitor’s tasks which involved cleaning things up with a supernatural twist and the fridge monster who acted like an actual boss battle instead of being a combat arena full of enemies. However the game seems to be slightly broken on the Xbone as it would just pop up a generic error and crash afterward once the game was played for a while.
  5. Pokémon Sword (Switch)
    Each subsequent Pokémon game seems more divisive as more fans seem to want change in the main series. We’ll just have to see how that Arceus game turns out, and I bet it’ll also be divisive. I just wonder if I’ll enjoy it when I get a chance to borrow a copy, like I did with Sword. I initially played through most of the game a couple years back, even streaming the initial parts, and finally got around to beating the main story through the ending tournament thingy. I have to say that it was a Pokémon game. Yes, there’s certainly shortcomings. It’s also very similar to other Pokémon games. There’s also that whole “all Pokémon get equal power boosts, but some Pokémon are more ‘equal’ than others” thing in terms of Dynamax versus Gigantamax, as before with Z-Moves in the last generation games. I did end up using that mechanic throughout the game, but some eligible opponents were easy enough without it given type matchups and having some levels on the competition. The story sure was a Pokémon story that eventually became saving the world because some weird thing happened out of nowhere. I ended up not being exactly hyped up enough to take on the postgame though. I was fine being able to eventually bring in a Dunsparce to take on the end of the tournament, since the game had been patched to include more monsters than at launch, but still not all, as that seems like it’ll be the case from now on unless management decides otherwise. At least the music has good moments. Like Sonic games do. The monster designs in this one had some strong hits and misses with me as I’ve mentioned before when reviewing the monsters from this generation, something I’ll revisit for the new designs since then by the time the next generation happens.
  6. Phogs (XB1, Game Pass)
    A co-op game that can also be played with one, as I played. Essentially two dogs stuck together as one, effectively being a two-headed snake dog, have to go through various platform puzzle worlds to build up their home with the things dogs like, which are food, play, and sleep. Makes sense. A whole lot of weirdness happens in those levels, each seems to have some gimmick attached alongside the mechanics tied to each world, and the iterative design for puzzles is a good way to go. Even the final world that unlocks has its own weird twist on things. It was a neat experience all the way through, and of course being able to spam two bark buttons, one for each head, was a plus. It felt about the right length, regardless of how long a two-headed dog snake can stretch.
  7. Observation (XB1, Game Pass)
    Back on the subject of weird games I wouldn’t have played if not for being present on Game Pass due to publishing circumstances, this is another. I did play the previous game by the developers, Stories Untold, and found that interesting enough, so I did want to check this out since I had the chance. It’s a fairly linear story game, taking place aboard some spacecraft or station, where the player controls an AI that manages the station, which involves going through a bunch of menus to set up subsystems and core memory and whatnot, also somehow line-of-sight hacking like Watch Dogs. It’s a sci-fi thing. The AI’s task is to keep the remaining crew safe as increasingly weird twists develop. The AI also gets the ability to float around in a pod to visit different areas, which is necessary for completing more tasks through the line-of-sight hacking mechanics. Also there’s a weird Simon Says game in there sometimes. Long story short, very weird, as mentioned many times.
  8. Eastshade (XB1, Game Pass)
    I tried this game not really knowing what it was except there were owls and maybe it was a walking simulator about life and nature. It ended up being actually pretty interesting and more than just a walking simulator. It felt a bit like an indie mini version of Oblivion or something like it with a few small houses or settlements populated by a selection of animal people species, but instead of slapping things with swords the main mechanic ends up being painting. Painting is treated like photography in how the gameplay works, as it involves capturing a scene on a canvas. There’s a number of side quests and mysteries to solve as well so that kept me involved, plus finding new ways to get to places to accomplish painting tasks. However playing this on the Xbone may not be the most ideal experience, as I encountered a bunch of issues in that specific version that might not be a problem in the PC version for all I know. Sometimes paintings would glitch and become rainbow static, which made one particular instance where a painting became a poster pretty strange, some character graphics looked a bit low-res at times when up close to them, and the occasional weird crash where the game would freeze and have incredibly loud crowd noises, including a certain spot at some “cursed” ruins, as described in-game. Despite those issues, I found the game pretty neat.
  9. Portal Reloaded (Steam)
    A Portal 2 mod that adds another layer to the puzzles by involving timelines, and I’m counting it as its own game here. As much as I’ve enjoyed the Portal series, I like seeing new takes on the puzzles, provided they don’t get too obtuse. I feel like it was borderline here, but interesting enough to keep going and push through. Essentially this game adds a third portal, a time portal that crosses between a “present” and “future” timeline, and doing things in the present dimension affects the future one, even minor incidents like slightly bumping a “present” cube, which can work for or against the player. It’s an interesting take and I vaguely remember seeing test footage some time ago about the time portal so this was a while in the works. It’s pretty polished, though the ending seems a bit just there to be an ending, but the puzzles are where the game is at.

Out of everything, it felt overall fine once again, with nothing that made me rethink everything significantly, but there were some good moments in there. I did have a bit of contesting in ordering things in how much I enjoyed playing, since some games were about tied in some aspects, but this is the order I came up with after working on two year-end lists at once. I’m looking to beat some major things I’ve been working on occasionally in this upcoming year though, so provided I actually do that, next year’s list could end up looking a fair bit more interesting. I’m even looking to rejoin Game Pass for some time to look into some of the latest or the occasional obscure things while I go through the library I have that I’m not renting. However also looking to put more emphasis on the latter so it’s not just a list of Game Pass games like this almost was.

(Back to blog index)