The 2017 Olives

Every gaming site worth its salt needs an annual awards show, and since I actually played games that came out last year (for once), I would like to cordially welcome you to the first-ever Olive Awards!

Now, you may notice that there are some oddities.  First off, some of the traditional categories like “Best Exclusive” or “Best Action/Adventure Game” are missing.  The short reason?  My show, my rules.  The longer reason?  Some of the categories simply aren’t what I consider to be particularly interesting.  Plus, in a lot of cases, I only got a chance to play one or two games in a given genre this year; not much of a contest if there’s literally only one competitor, right?

Another difference is that many categories have multiple winners.  This is simply because I suck at making decisions, and I’d rather acknowledge a selection of outstanding examples in a particular category than try to choose an ultimate winner.  Besides, that sort of thing just tends to piss people off, so why bother?

Lastly, if the selection of games being discussed seems limited, it’s because I’m only talking about games that I played this year.  Many of them I covered, though there are some exceptions.  Regardless, let me just say that yes, Cuphead is bloody beautiful; yes, Super Mario Odyssey looks really freaking fun; and yes, Divinity Original Sin 2 seems like the kind of game that I could lose myself in for days.  Happy?  Let’s hope so, because the show starts now!


The “Make It Stop” Awards for the Worst/Most Disappointing Games


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Plague Road

Ahhhh, Plague Road.  Perhaps I was fooled due to my infatuation with the works of Jim Sterling and Conrad Zimmerman.  I was willing to overlook your cluttered visuals solely on the basis that the rest of the game promised to be engaging and interesting.  Unfortunately, what I got was a tiresome, repetitive tactics game that even underwhelmed in the departments my idols contributed directly to.  When the only thing I enjoyed about a game was writing a poem tearing it to shreds…well, there’s a serious problem.

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The Long Journey Home

Looking like a cross between No Man’s Sky and FTL: Faster Than Light, The Long Journey Home seemed like it would be a beautiful deep space exploration game.  As it turned out, the comparisons to No Man’s Sky were more than skin-deep, as The Long Journey Home was full of aggravating randomness that turned each run into a dice roll and an incredibly punishing difficulty that effectively hid a singular path to success behind the illusion of multiple options.  Go listen to the soundtrack, but skip the game.

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Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series

I got so bloody sick of writing out that title this year.  Spread across five episodes, this series was the peak of Telltale’s recent mediocrity.  The humour was a shadow of what was present in the movies, the narrative felt bland and uninspired, and despite a few higher points throughout the series, there was really nothing here that wasn’t done better elsewhere by either another Telltale game, or the Guardians films.  Fun fact: a large part of why I gave episode three such a low score was because I was so bloody sick of the series’ tedium by that point.  If things had kept up that way, would I have given episode five a 2/10 or even a 1/10?  Thank goodness I never have to find out.


The “Unofficial Oscar” Awards for the Best Performances/Characters


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Luke Sizemore (Yungtown) as The Snatcher – A Hat in Time

Simply put, the Snatcher made A Hat in Time for me.  Don’t get me wrong, the game was bloody fantastic as a whole, but the amount of ham that the Snatcher brought to the table meant that every scene with him was a treat.  If I’m ever able to scream “FOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOL!!!” half as well as he can…well, I think my life will be complete.

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Xander Mobus as The Conductor – A Hat in Time

A Hat in Time had some fantastically over-the-top characters, and the Conductor was one of the best.  It’s probably a horrid slur in the world of A Hat in Time, but his shrill cries of “PECK NECKS” at his penguin rivals never failed to make me smile.  Perhaps I just have a thing for characters who are great at yelling (see above), but the enraged ranting of the Conductor still sticks in my head months after playing the game.

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Pitchcorp and its Employees – High Hell

“What?  How can you make an entire company one of your favourite characters?” I hear you cry.  Well, first off, who’s writing this article?  That’s right, me, and I can do whatever I want.  But seriously, Pitchcorp (and High Hell in general) is a perfect example of how to make your world a character.  The absurd skits between levels.  The “accidental voyeurism” that occurs when you kick down a door and are faced with a bunch of devil-masked thugs celebrating a birthday party in the moments before you (and they) open fire.  The details in each level, with vending machines, cash counting rooms, storage closets, and even showers (prepare to see some dicks).  Everything about Pitchcorp feels like it’s designed to tell a story without putting a single word on-screen, and it pulls it off with aplomb.  High Hell is one of the most outrageous games I’ve played, and it wouldn’t be half as great if it wasn’t for Pitchcorp and its employees.


The “Endless Head Bobbing” Awards for the Best Soundtracks


Note: A “favourite track” selection for each soundtrack is included for each winner.  For the full experience (and so I can continue to shill my taste in music), it is highly recommended you listen to each song while reading their respective segment.

A Hat in Time

A Hat in Time’s soundtrack almost immediately put me in mind of Super Mario Galaxy, and that’s an absolutely wonderful thing.  It’s majestic, menacing, and magical, and even after finishing the game, I found myself pulling up the five-hour long(!) score to listen to in my free time.  As someone who never even played the mascot platformers of old that it pays homage to, I can safely say that the soundtrack to A Hat in Time is still remarkable on its own, whether you’re playing the game or not.

High Hell

I think that comparing High Hell to Hotline Miami does a disservice to both games, but between the frenetic gunplay and pumping soundtracks of each, I totally see why people do.  While I did often find myself wishing that High Hell’s tracks went on for a bit longer, that’s the kind of complaint that goes to show just how fantastic a soundtrack it is.  Plus, if you want to talk about scores that do a great job of getting you into the mindset of a game, look no further than the tunes of High Hell.

The Sexy Brutale

After hearing only one track from The Sexy Brutale, I was sold.  Everything about it perfectly captured the atmosphere of the game, and the mounting tension of each murder was expertly reflected in the music to create a cohesive, thoroughly engrossing experience.  Full disclosure: having not beaten the game, I don’t know what the rest of the soundtrack is like.  However, the strength of the music in the first few hours was so great that I couldn’t help but mention it here.  If things only get better from there, well, I’m in for a real treat.


The “My Screenshot Button is Broken” Awards for the Best Aesthetics


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OVIVO

OVIVO is a beautiful game while you’re playing through each level, but when the camera zooms out upon completing each to reveal the incredibly detailed artwork you were navigating?  Well, it’s something else entirely.  In a game that’s completely black and white, it would have been very easy to throw in some simplistic artwork and call it “minimalism”.  Yet the approach taken by OVIVO creates artwork that is not only amazing to behold, but also doubles as a game level.  I don’t even want to think about how much work went into creating “multi-tasking art” like that, but OVIVO truly shines because of it.

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EVERSPACE

EVERSPACE is a perfect example of how gorgeous a space game can look when it keeps its scale reasonable *cough* No Man’s Sky *cough*.  The amount of detail packed into each system is phenomenal, and the vistas that result as a sun peeks out from behind a planet are truly marvelous to behold.  There’s a built-in freecam/screenshot mode in EVERSPACE, and you can bet that I was in there nearly every chance I got.  In a year that saw Star Wars Battlefront II topping many “Prettiest Games” lists, I’d like to give a shout-out to EVERSPACE instead for creating a beautiful galaxy to explore without also trying to shoehorn in microtransactions.

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Hollow Knight

I’ve thrown around nearly every adjective in the book to describe Hollow Knight’s visuals in the last month or so, so instead I’ll borrow from Jim Sterling’s description of Dark Souls: “beautifully bleak”.  Such wording describes Hollow Knight to a ‘T’, thanks to its fluid animation and adorable cast that brings life to a world that would otherwise seem devoid of it.  This game literally made me squeal in delight on several occasions (THOSE GRUBS, THOUGH), and it fully deserves a spot on this list for that alone.

Nioh

Nioh: Complete Edition

Technically, I could throw the PS4 version of Nioh here, since it also came out in 2017.  However, I only played it on PC, and let’s just say that I’m really happy my rig is still going strong.  Maxed out, this game looks amazing, and while I’m sure there are more impressive games from a purely technical standpoint, Nioh’s Asian-inspired aesthetic really takes it to the next level.  The monstrous yokai you fight are suitably intimidating, swapping William’s armour is rarely a nuisance because it all looks so cool, and the Kodama are still some of the most adorable things I’ve ever seen in a video game.  If you’ve got the system for it, check it out on PC, but from what I’ve seen, you can still get a suitable taste of Nioh’s beauty on consoles; just watch out for potential framerate drops.

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Little Nightmares

I specifically started playing Little Nightmares before doing this list, because I figured it would make it on somewhere.  Turns out I was right, as Little Nightmares manages to nail its atmosphere in large part thanks to its disturbingly deformed characters and moody environments.  I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention the animations, particularly those of Six, the main character.  Sliding under tables, hunkering down in vents, and even the simple act of lighting a candle is all done in such a wonderful way that it manages to bring a relatively voiceless character to remarkably sympathetic life.


The “What Am I Doing With My Life?” Awards for the Biggest Time Sinks


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Fire Emblem Heroes

This game dominated the first half of my year, and for good reason.  Whether it was leveling up my current team, completing challenges, or just trying to nab the latest seasonal heroes (still salty about not getting Lucina’s bunny girl costume for Easter), there was always a reason to dive back into Fire Emblem Heroes.  Even though I haven’t gotten back to it in a while, it’s still installed on my new phone, and one day, just maybe, I’ll find myself wading back in.  If that day comes…well, let’s just say my productivity may hit an all-time low.

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WWE Supercard

If you told me a few months ago that the game that’d be seeing the most playtime on my phone was the equivalent of a love child between Hearthstone and wrestling, I’d have laughed and asked if you even knew me.  Wrestling?  Me?  Yeah, not happening.  Colour me wrong, though, as (completely ignoring the fact that I was flown to Seattle for a press event for it) WWE Supercard is a game that’s kept its hooks firmly in me as 2017 has ended and 2018 started.  Whether it’s competing in ranked challenges, grinding for cards to level up my superstars, or just refilling stamina gauges, the question isn’t so much if I’ll go back to Supercard as it is when.

Also, I kind of have a big, gay crush on Becky Lynch, which may or may not play a factor in my love for the game.  (∗∕ ∕•̥̥̥̥∕ω∕•̥̥̥̥∕)


The “I’ll Be Back” Awards for the Best Games I Didn’t Get to Finish in 2017


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The Sexy Brutale

Have you ever started playing a game and immediately had it click?  A combined sensation of elation and excitement courses through your body, and you can barely stop a huge grin from spreading across your face?  Well, that was pretty much what happened to me with The Sexy Brutale.  The music had me grooving almost immediately, the gameplay felt refreshing and creative, and the intensely uneasy, yet exciting feeling of watching a murder play out so you can try and stop it later has yet to be matched by anything else from 2017.  I wish I had gotten to The Sexy Brutale sooner, but now that I have, I never want it to be over.

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Little Nightmares

It should be a testament to Little Nightmares’ quality that I still want to go back to it, despite one of my primary reasons for putting it on hold being that I found it thoroughly unsettling and downright disgusting at times.  It’s the perfect kind of horror game for me, where there’s a distinct lack of jump scares and forced edginess.  Instead, the entire experience is permeated by a mounting sense of tension that makes its disturbing moments that much more impactful.  I definitely want to get back to it soon…just not right before (or after) a meal.

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Nioh: Complete Edition

On the one hand, I’m so glad I didn’t have to review Nioh: Complete Edition.  Trying to go through the massive amount of content on offer in a week or two would have been incredibly stressful, and arguably counter to the best way to experience the game.  However, I also wish I had been reviewing it, as it would have gotten me to see it through to the end, instead of forcing me to move on after only putting in a handful of hours.  At the very least, the taste of Nioh I got was superbly delicious, and I can hardly wait to go back for the main course.


The “One You’ve All Been Waiting For” Awards for the Games of the Year


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Mushroom Wars 2

This one’s a very personal pick, but that’s what this is all about, right?  The thing is, Mushroom Wars 2 is special to me not just for its adorable cast of whimsical mushroom people (though that certainly helps), but because it did something I previously thought impossible: it got me invested in a real-time strategy game.  The genre has long since been the bane of my existence, constantly leaving me feeling frustrated and overwhelmed instead of like some almighty commander.  Mushroom Wars 2 changed that, with a difficulty curve that eased me into things at just the right pace before throwing me to the dogs on some fiendishly difficult challenges.  Of course, being able to overcome such adversity only left me feeling more satisfied, and Mushroom Wars 2 was more than willing to give me the necessary tools while also requiring me to develop my skills to succeed.  One of my proudest moments of 2017 was when I realized I was actually in control while playing an RTS, and I couldn’t have done that without Mushroom Wars 2.

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Immortal Redneck

Despite the annoying voice acting of its protagonist (seriously, there’s no shame in turning the voice volume slider down to zero), Immortal Redneck was a fast and furious shooter that only got better the more I played it.  Scratch that, it also got better with time, as the devs continued to update the game following my review, to the point where the game I returned to months later made the release version feel like an (extremely competent) Early Access version.  As a roguelite, Immortal Redneck is well-suited to diving back into every so often, and its incredibly enjoyable gunplay has ensured that I’m more than willing to do that again and again.

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A Hat in Time

I mean, anyone who’s tracked my review scores from the year could have seen this one coming a mile away.  I’ve thrown so much praise at A Hat in Time that it’s hard to tell when I’m repeating myself, so I’ll try to keep this short.  Simply put, it’s a wonderfully charming 3D platformer that has pretty much everything I look for in a great game: entertaining characters; satisfying, fluid platforming; and a non-intrusive narrative that stayed relevant enough to make me smile and nearly tear up as it neared its conclusion.  I know a lot of people have docked A Hat in Time somewhat thanks to the overwhelming level of polish on display in Super Mario Odyssey.  However, I didn’t play Super Mario Odyssey, and honestly, if it would make me love A Hat in Time less, I’m not sure I want to.


If you’ve reached this point, I’d like to thank you ever so much for reading all the way through (or just skipping to the bottom to see my games of the year)!  2017 was an incredible year for my journalism career, and it’s made me even more excited for what 2018 might bring; with all sorts of cool games on the horizon, it’s sure to be a fun time.  So, whether you’ve been here from the start or are just joining now, I hope that I can continue to do my best in all the content that I publish, bringing you pieces that you’ll hopefully enjoy reading just as much as I enjoy writing them!  ❤

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