Last year was not just good for the music world, but also for games. With the “next-gen” consoles now hitting their stride, there were a ton of new releases in 2016. Sorting through the pile of games may seem like an impossible task, but here’s a few we think might be of interest to you if you’re looking for something a little unique.
“Journey” art director Matt Nava wanted to make a game that was a bit less lonely than his earlier game, but with essentially the same spiritual experience. He more than succeeded with his newest creation named, “Abzû.” He and his team created something that is teeming with life, while also managing to keep it the same stoic epic-adventure that made “Journey” so incredible.
Also similar to “Journey” is the way the backstory is told in “Abzû.” Most of what we learn about the world we are swimming through is told to us by means of murals on walls we pass by, and what we do see requires us to pause, think and try to sort through the images. I loved this way of presentation. It made me feel like this was really a place. When a game has things like pop-up texts that tell you what to do outright, it’s efficient, but some of the effect is lost.
Set in an underwater world both like and unlike the one we know, “Abzū” takes the player deeper and deeper through its levels in a unique way. While the creatures we encounter are entirely real, it all seems like science-fiction surreality when paired with the surroundings. While we see familiar orcas and great white sharks, there are underwater ruins and high-tech facilities to find as well — not to mention all of this is passing by us as we swim through with seamlessly fluid animation and control.
If you have an experience similar to mine, the game’s scenery and storytelling will stick with you long after you complete the game. If not, well then I’m not sure what to tell you … maybe reconsider who you are as a person.
The Deadly Tower of Monsters
The ascending-tower-of-enemies format for video games is one I find myself enjoying time and time again, but it can still be done poorly. “Deadly Tower of Monsters” was, to my surprise, definitely not done poorly. Where I expected a generic experience, I got something unique and nostalgic.
The game is original and play-worthy mainly for its atmosphere and choices of presentation. Portrayed as a cheesy ’50s sci-fi flick, “Deadly Tower of Monsters” is narrated by the “film’s” director Dan Smith who doubles as a tutorial for the player as they explore the “set.” What results is an immersive relationship, slightly aggravating, between the player and the director as he walks us through fingerprinted lens-flares and stop-motion crab-monsters as though they are truly part of a real movie that this man created decades ago.
“Deadly Tower of Monsters” is an easy play with plenty of funny moments. We think it’s worth a try.
“Until Dawn” saw some really good reception in both reviews and sales, but there are still a lot of people hesitant of it due to its minimal amount of gameplay elements. Without the fast pace of games like “Grand Theft Auto” or “Call of Duty,” “Until Dawn” had to be great for other reasons.
The graphics are the most noticeable strength of this game. “Until Dawn” was a next-gen release and had to be pretty enough to show off at E3 and other events. Mostly made possible by the lack of heavy-CPU gameplay or explosions, the game has beautiful, dynamic environments like you’ve never seen. Even though all you really do as a player is walk along paths and through houses, it’s an incredibly haunting thing to do. Did I mention it’s a horror game?
This game’s primary selling point is its inclusion of the “butterfly effect,” or the potential of a small thing to alter the rest of the story. This is what really got me to come back to the game for additional playthroughs. It’s possible to get many endings and storylines instead of just one, and it’s simply done by making a different decision at a specific point. Although the actual variation for the second half of the story is pretty narrow, it’s better than most other games who promised multiple endings but failed. “Mass Effect,” I’m looking at you — and I’m still butt-hurt about it.
In conclusion, it’s spooky, interesting and pretty … and it doesn’t let you down like “Mass Effect.”
Just Cause 3
Much different than “Until Dawn,” “Just Cause 3” is more of that good ol’ mindless, exciting fun. If you’re a fan of “Grand Theft Auto,” but found yourself thinking, “Hey, this game is great, but I need to be able to ride a missile while firing an RPG,” then maybe you should give “Just Cause 3” a try.
In a car-thieving sandbox form very similar to the “Grand Theft Auto” games, “Just Cause” takes things to another level by adding in a batman-like hookshot, reusable parachute and wingsuit. Instead of having to look around and find a car or look up cheat codes, the player can simply aim at the ground, shoot out the hook shot, reel in, open the parachute and start flying. This gameplay element is how this franchise excels apart from “GTA.” It also allows the game to be much more rural and spread out, and the results are worth it.
“Inside” is from the studio that made “Limbo,” a successful indie game from back in 2010. If you’re familiar with their previous game, you’ll recognize a lot of things that it and “Inside” have in common — things that make it enjoyable and unlike anything else. The short version is that “Limbo” and “Inside” are both minimalistic platformers with beautiful scenery and clever puzzle layouts. When I say beautiful, I mean breathtakingly so. With just a tad of dull color and an immense attention to detail and space, each screen that the player passes is memorable due to its careful design.
Another thing this game did well was the animations of the character and his interactions with puzzle objects. It’s a rare thing to see the kind of detail placed in movement and fluidity like there is in this game, and it’s pleasant to move through it.
“Inside” is an emotional experience. It’s as deeply affecting as it is fun to play.
Dark Souls III
“Dark Souls” is my favorite franchise for a lot of reasons. Since “Demon’s Souls” came out in 2009, I’ve been slaying my way through the difficult, yet rewarding bosses and intricate pathways of these games without an hour regretted. I’ll try to keep this one short, but know there’s a lot more to praise about these games.
Hideo Miyazaki, director of every installment besides “Dark Souls II,” has made it a point to keep a few key things consistent in the franchise, like ambiguous plot lines, vaguely connected sequels and a complex world that is available for explanation to those who search for it. The newest sequel, while absolutely a Souls’ game, did a few things differently. While the world is still hazy and deeply intricate, there are many more connections to the previous games. When the second “Dark Souls” had only one character cross over, there are multiple references and direct connections to other Souls games in “Dark Souls III.” This change was welcomed by myself, though, because it was not only furthering the old stories, but giving me a nostalgic homage to the older games I loved playing.
Every boss fight and enemy is well-designed, difficult and fair. Every environment looks like it took a team of artists months to create and every character the player encounters will either break their heart or make them curse out loud.