Same as last year, Iím intentionally breaking the proper format and having the normal list at the very bottom.
X. Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker
| Wii U
While playing through Super Mario 3D World, it was hard to not have your attention grabbed by the levels that put you in control of Toad, set in diorama-esque levels levitating in the middle of the sky. Being a twist on standard Mario gameplay, Toad is unable to jump, which makes these all their own little puzzles on how to progress through the obstacles ahead and grab the star. They were a cute concept and a break from the norm, and itís only natural that a dedicated game was made taking the concept further in every way.
IX. Super Smash Bros. for Wii U
The biggest initial change is that, while generally defenseless against enemies, Toad can pick up turnips along with a pickaxe powerup that gives him a few options for thinning out hordesóassuming the level provides any, that is. The cherry powerup from 3D World also makes a few appearances, doubling Toad and adding more each time you grab another, which naturally gets pretty fun to work with. Along with this are three hidden gems in every level, and an optional objective to go after.
While still a smaller package of a game, Nintendo still ends up putting in a lot of effort into the production. Going for a book theme in the menu, handfuls of illustrations can be seen as you page your way through the levels, completing each episode and moving onto another book. Itís cute and fits the game well.
Throughout all the levels, there are a lot of constantly engaging ideas and frequent mixups of scenery that Nintendo games all seem to excel at lately. A moving train pushing through a snowstorm, giant slides, beach levels, desert levels, and much more are just a small amount of the locales youíll see. Levels generally only take a handful of minutes making it easy to pick up and play for a short session, and despite not being all that long it manages to cram a lot of gameplay scenarios to toy around with.
What holds the game back for me is what I can only describe as ignorant forcing of the gamepad in ways that you have no options to change. The game at times feels like a 2006 DS title as you will touch the screen to move platforms, blow into the mic, and most annoyingly have the camera constantly controlled by the wii u gamepad gyro. The right stick also works, yet you cannot disable the gyro, making it a pulling force on the camera if you dare move your wrists at all. Itís generally not a huge deal if you can sit stillÖbut why in the unholy fuck should I have to consciously and continuously do that? Why canít you just add a simple option to disable the gyro, as I never want to use this? When do more options ever hurt? Why. Why. Whyyyyyyy.
Iím glad after the small taste of this style of gameplay we got in 3D world that they decided to make this, as it just works damn well in an expanded format. I was ready for adventure, and Captain Toad was happy to oblige.
| Wii U
When I initially booted Smash Bros., I wanted to immediately go into Classic mode and try out one of the new characters. I got lost in the menu for a bit before realizing they shoved it a small submenu called Games & More. This confusion will be a continuous thing I feel about many parts of this game.
VIII. D4: Dark Dreams Donít Die
Starting off positively, coming off the back of Brawl I really enjoyed the general feel of the characters. Even old veterans I never really touched like Bowser and Mario have been incredibly fun for me to play, and the gameplay loop is as fun as ever. Great sound design with punchy hits, additional effects that both serve to empower blows further and inform the player that youíre nearly guaranteed to KO off of this hit, all at a blistering 60fps despite putting out 1080p and up to 8 players in a stage. Online being improved from Brawl would be one hell of a backhanded compliment, so instead Iíll just say it actually works well. Iíve played in 4 player rooms with gaffers and it managed to be perfectly playable throughout, and itís rare to get a choppy game while venturing against randoms. Many of the new roster additions are bursting with character, with picks like Wii Fit Trainer and Duck Hunt Dog being particularly inspired and well animated. Really, those reasons are enough to get a spot on my list, as I had a lot of great times with the game already.
But frustratingly enough, for nearly every element I can praise there is some niggling issue. Most pressing is the custom moves and equipment and the mindboggling implementation of them. Custom moves are cool! Pretty nice variants of moves that actually seem balanced as they have drawbacks and advantages over the standard moves instead of being flat out better versions of them. Each slot has 2 extra moves per character, so everyone has 8 custom moves to get. Equipment, however, is not at all like this and is generally just used to make an unstoppable character to rip through the AI. Oh, and both of these are grouped under the same setting of ďcustom charactersĒ so you canít just play with the custom moves, it will have both on, so in the case of making buffed up characters with equipment you need a separate slot and make sure to only put on the custom moves. You also have no actual way to specifically obtain custom moves and given the sheer amount of everything you will get tons of barely varying equipment that isnít even easy to cycle through, as specific types may only work for characters in the Mario franchise, or the fire emblem franchise, etc.. And you can get duplicates of equipment and custom moves. And you can only use custom moves online with friends. I played for well over 60 hours before getting my first pop up in game saying I have obtained all of the moves for ONE character, which was R.O.B., who I never play with, so the game doesnít even try to weigh the moves more towards characters you use a lot. There are something like 45+ more characters to get all of these moves for and I still get duplicate moves for R.O.B. during this. Basically shooting the potential in the foot and wasting a whole bunch of time on a feature that is now bullshit. Beyond that, Smash has great music! But some franchises just have strange choices; hope you enjoy around seven different Island Swing remixes, with some Mute City sprinkled on top. While the multiplayer works well, itís impossible to play the 2v2 for glory mode with an online friend, which feels archaic as hell. I could pretty much make a bullet list of things like this but instead would rather hit broader targets.
The single player is pretty poor in this game. Classic mode has been pretty much revamped to showcase the 6-8 player capability constantly. Even if you try to pick fights with smaller amounts of people, the bigger rewards tend to always be in the big fights (which ties into equipment being a pain in the ass to collect). I enjoy the insanity these large fights put out, but itís mainly a mode for friends to play as against AI that donít have to worry about being lost in the screen, along with having an amazing tendency to gang up on you, they get old very fast. It doesnít help that youíll end up on the same handful of stages that are selectable for this playercount, some of them like Yoshiís Island being so incredibly small and ill-fit for this many people that it almost feels like luck at times to make it past. As a special addition to the wii u version of the game, we have Master Fortress. Going through this quickly reminded me on why Subspace Emissary was cut; pairing a gameplay style of smash that has no actual healthbar relies entirely on the camera to lock in place to put in a condition for the kill you. Without that, like in the Master Fortress, they basically toss acid pits around that you can ping around in and instantly die after 100%. The layout is the same, but ends up being the antithesis of fun while using slow characters or someone like little mac who can barely complete the jumps needed for this. All Star is another slog, moreso because you fight the stages more than the characters. The best addition to the game for single player are the Master/Crazy orders, which embark you on a series of challenges for rewards. For Crazy in particular itís a survival with a 10 minute timer to keep going and see how many levels you can get through. Naturally, for this game, it has some oversights like when the later stages make team battles or FFAs loaded with characters on the entry ticket, it blocks out being able to really see what stage youíre playing on. Great times when you get placed on a MASSIVE stage like Palutenaís Temple because of this, as it kills your run right there. Still, I do enjoy these modes and would like to see them return in the future.
On the plus side, the above options are all simply in Games & More, so maybe Iím just overly harsh. The clear meat here must be Smash Tour, since itís on the main menu outside of this, right? Get some friends over and roll up into that mode! Within five minutes you will retreat out, never to touch it again, as I genuinely have no idea who that is meant to appeal to. Shown as a board game mode, it could have potentialÖbut moves at a blistering place that is highly unclear to properly follow, tossing you into many gimmicky fights where it will hail bombs, toss battering items everywhere, etc. capped at one minute. Players obtain characters that will swap all over the place and the game itself never lets you select which one you want to use when it rolls around for a fight, which is intended but unclear. Basically, the fights arenít satisfying, the mode moves too quickly, and while there are actual strategies to potentially learn and use itís too much of a blur to really get people into it when Smash is being played to actually fight, meaning people will just go right there instead. When Smash 5 comes out, I foresee this never getting mentioned again until someone makes a LTTP thread and everyone is reminded at the same time that Smash Tour was a thing.
Thatís a pretty negative tangent for a game that still made it on my GotY list, but it mostly serves to show that the base game of Smash Bros. is fun enough to still make it here. It just frustrates me that it feels like a confused jumbled mess that didnít know who or what to cater to, with head scratching decisions all over. It ultimately feels like it could and should be much better than it is, even if itís still good enough to offer a lot of great times regardless.
Deadly Premonition is one of the more interesting games Iíve ever played, and while that was more of a game I liked in spite of itself due to some truly horrendous gunplay, I really admired SWERYís wacky ideas. One of the clearest things I took away just after a few minutes of D4 is that he still has it, and if anything is even more insane than before. Luckily, instead of spending the bulk of the time playing like a janky third person shooter, D4 plays it smarter and is a point and click game. This allows the story and characters stand front and center, which works much better for his style. The general premise is that you are David Young, a private investigator whose wife was murdered, but he canít remember the events surrounding it. So, naturally, he has the ability to dive through time to try and figure it out. The game is setup somewhat like a TV show and currently only season 1 is out, but thereís a lot of potential with the idea that he can essentially jump into any environment and get to know a different cast of characters. To fully set up the mood, the intro is so incredibly on point to push this idea in further, as this plays at the start of the multiple episodes within the season. That intro immediately put a smile on my face, and that never waned throughout playing. The game is loaded with quirky humor through cutscenes, and even while you pan your cursor around to highlight objects in the environment as little pop ups show up and expand into a handful of details about anything you could possibly think of.
VII. Wolfenstein: The New Order
While the meat of the game takes place while Ďdivingí into an area(season 1 mainly being an airplane), Davidís apartment serves as a hub and has a lot of little things to see and find. The biggest here are optional weird ass scenes where everyone has dinner and talks about a myriad of topics, but you can also talk to a girl who thinks sheís a cat who serves as the gameís merchant to buy clothes, food, or CD tracks to listen to the soundtrack in the apartment. Which you will probably want to do, as the OST in this game is really damn good. It takes on a quasi-open approach as despite having clear trigger points on moving forward, you can dive back to the apartment whenever you want, and there are a slew of sidequests to do for the colorful cast.
Initially being Kinect-only and opting to add controller support, I only played this with a controller. You have no direct control over David and instead have foot circles to click on when you want to move forward, and in each section you stand you can turn in each direction to see more of the level. Interacting with objects consumes stamina that can be refilled with food when you get low, and beyond that thereís not much to it. A handful of action scenes are spruced about which ultimately are like a big QTE, though, again, the main appeal is just to actually see the wackiness of these scenes on the screen itself.
D4 was a really enjoyable and charming game that manages to be silly and over the top just as much as it can be endlessly thought proving. I seriously hope more seasons come out; it would be a damn shame if this small chunk is the last we saw of it.
| XB1, 360, PS4, PS3, PC
There once was a time where it felt like game developers sat around thinking ďwhat should we do with our new shooter?Ē and just went ďfuck it, nazisĒ. Funny enough, once we finally strayed away from that era, we entered the new MP focused one that generally gave a hit to the proper campaigns. Wolfenstein unabashedly returns to the old focus, bringing along a lengthy SP campaign where many Nazis get killed real good. Continued here
Plopping the player down in the shoes of BJ Blazkowicz in an alternate WW2 timeline, the game follows his efforts working along a small group of rebels to overthrow the nazi regime. Surprisingly well done, it treads the line on being on over the top adventure while still having a sincerity and down to earth feeling from the characters. It works on enough levels to make you want to really root for the protagonists, on top of a few scenes that make your enemies easy to hate. A small wrinkle included early on is a moral choice that has some additional changes with characters youíll encounter, and minor changes in progression as it gives BJ a different mechanic to play with regarding picking locks or hot wiring electrical boxes, along with getting different health or armor upgrades.
On more than one occasion the gameís progressions reminded me of Half Life 2, which is to say this game has some damn fine pacing. It hits the roughest spot right at the beginning as it tosses you into some weird janky rail shooter plane sequence, but after that itís smooth sailing. Knowing when to slow down the action or go balls to the wall, Wolfenstein doesnít wear out its welcome over its ~12+ hours with great usage of setting mixups--going anywhere from a concentration camp to the literal moon.
Shooting itself worked out well, letting you dual wield anything your heart desires, even if itís as clunky as a sniper rifle in both hands. More great picturesque moments happen on the fly when you do something like slide past a corner with a shotgun in each hand, never letting go until ammo fully depletes and you see nothing but a painting of smeared blood and chipped walls all about. Entire hallways can be absolutely destroyed andÖwell, it just feels good. Sadly something was a bit off with the sound design as instead of appropriate chunky feedback it mostly pitters out, and the music was frequently drowned out for me.
Stealth is another big part of the game, frequently being a possible route instead of going guns blazing. However, instead of feeling tightly designed to accommodate both, it hinges more towards the path of AI being pretty dumb to your most basic of stealth abilities. The silenced pistol in this game is an absolute monster and can make easy work of a lot of fights, to the point where I would sometimes hold back just to force it into a bloody gunfight. Because who needs stealth when you have an automatic shotgun in each hand?
Wolfenstein ended up being one of those games that comes out of nowhere and really impresses you by the time the credits roll. If youíre the type of person who enjoys FPS games and is sick of MP being shoehorned into everything, and donít have a copy of Wolfenstein sitting next to youÖya fucked up, and in the words of BJ Blazkowicz, I'm coming for you, you Nazi fuckin' spaceman.