Game Pile: 2013 Roundup Part 2!

Welcome back as we continue our run down on the Game Pile posts I’ve made this year. Straight into it!

Games To Share

Man, this was a good year for cooperative experiences. In the list of games I reviewed this year, we had games designed for cooperative multiplayer like Saints Row III & IV, Far Cry 3 and Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light. Yet I also helped a friend coordinate a multiplayer game of Hotline Miami, where players would cycle after each death. I remember complaining about Borderlands because of its weak singleplayer experience and, oh, hey, Spec Ops: The Line has multiplayer too. Don’t worry, though, I’m not setting this category up to just be another chance to talk about Far Cry and Spec Ops. No, now is the Winter of our Discount Intent made glorious manifest, with Steam Sales under way.

This year, I have only once had an instance where I invited all of my friends around to my house and we spent six hours playing a videogame. That game was Monaco, the panicky heist game. Right now, if you want, you can buy four copies of Monaco for nine dollars. It’s absolutely worth it to play this wonderfully fun, charming and stylish game. You can go for ‘perfect’ games, or you can treat the entire game as a sort of panicky sled run, tumbling towards success. I can still remember a call from my living room – “Wait, what did you do THAT for?!” and next to me, hearing Fox, as the Cleaner, growl, “I hold a grudge.”

Monaco can be shared with three friends, but I definitely spent more time this year playing the marvellous Saints Row IV. This is a two-player experience, but as a game in its weight class – a fat, bloated, expansive open-world roam-em-up from the AAA gaming industry – there hasn’t been a shared experience that’s nearly so fun. Satirical and silly, full of character customisation options and a thousand little time-wasting goofinesses, Saints Row IV blends its ridiculous ideas and over-the-top style with a truly fantastic soundtrack and a genuinely satisfying conclusion. This is a game that deliberately aims to be a videogame about videogames, and uses music from the past thirty years as its backing track. Unsurprisingly, it appealed to me greatly, and it let me goof around and enjoy myself with a single friend.

I honestly think that if I was going to buy Saints Row IV, I’d buy two copies. Of course, I wouldn’t, because even discounted the game is forty-five dollars, but good news! Saints Row III can be purchased in pairs for thirty dollars, comes with a ton of DLC, and has just as much laugh-out-loud ridiculousness.

Games To Talk About

You know these games. Surely you do. These are the games that you buy or play just so you can say you took part in them, either because they’re kind of pretentious (Bioshock Infinite) or legitimately super interesting (Analogue) or both (Gone Home). I played a number of these games this year, in part because a number of them were cheap but probably more because Ken Levine Knows One Story came out around the time of my birthday.

One thing that surprises me is that this year, I actually shut up about Hate Plus. I loved this game’s interesting storytelling, its timed-out approach. Essentially a kinetic novel where you can choose the order to read, Hate Plus takes the form of a light novel, and puts it into a magnificent, varied structure. Rather than just let you read chapters one at a time in whatever order you favour, though, the story breaks down its components and also gives you some structure. It’s strange and it’s wonderful and it’s sad and it’s crammed full of wonderful tidbits in the margins like some sort of LGBTQ version of Fermat’s copy of Arithmetica. It’s also a videogame that asks you make a cake, and uses everything down to its Achievement system to teach you things about its story. At the very least, you will have cake.

Thing is, it’s a hard cut for me to decide between Hate Plus and Thomas Was Alone as the game you should play, the game you should buy. There’s no winner here, no runner up – they are both amazing games, they both maximise a minimalist design, and they are both charming. One story is hopeful, one story is sad – play whichever you think you can handle. Or play both. They’re great. They’re lovely. Big loud violent boy who play shooters and swears casually loves these games about feminism, LGBTQ issues, agender romance and geometric objects as superheroes. They’re good. Play them.

Games I Just Plain Out Love

And now, we’re at the finale, where I, after looking at a great big list of the games I’ve played this year, and already spoken about how much I loved some of them, just want to mention some of them and special things about them that I wanted to say. I mean, Ghost Trick was amazing and made me imagine a new, better way for people to make and play adventure games. Gunpoint made me so happy. Just reading this list makes me want to go and reinstall Mirror’s Edge. What about the gorey, violent and utterly nihilistic Hotline Miami? The oppressive psychological gloom of Lone Survivor?

There’s no game of the year bullshit here. There’s just games I enjoyed, and games I think you should try because I enjoyed them. So nyer.

Hope you’ve enjoyed reading this year, people! More games coming in the new year. I may, if asked, generate a sort of negative parallel to this piece, an article where I just spill my spleen about the games that filled me with rage or make me more angry the more time has gone past. We’ll see.

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