Several games have attempted the Groundhog Day format, to varying degrees of success. What tends to be the biggest stumbling block is also what makes the premise so interesting: you’re repeating the same day over and over. From a narrative perspective, this allows the story to focus on the same events from different points of view, or see how minor changes can impact the final outcome. However, it’s a lot harder to incorporate those subtle variations into gameplay, meaning that it’s easy to find yourself going through the same actions ad nauseum, simply to get from one story beat to another.
The first time I played through Journey, I cried. It was – without a doubt – one of the most emotionally moving gaming experiences I had had up to that point, and it’s held a special place in my heart ever since. However, when I mentioned to my friend Matt that it might find its way onto my “favourite games of all time” list, he made an interesting remark: “Have you replayed it?”
Challenging games are a pain to review, and not just for the obvious reasons. Sure, it can be difficult (and often frustrating) to throw yourself against the same obstacle repeatedly, solely because you want to see as much of a game as possible before reviewing it. What I find to be far more stressful, however, is when that challenge becomes insurmountable. With the recent controversies surrounding games like Cuphead, the notion of saying that a game is “unfairly difficult” is frequently regarded as taboo. It’s not that the game is hard; it’s just that you need to “git gud”.
I’ve been hinting and casually mentioning it for a while, so it’s time to come clean: I got a full-time job. For those of you who are curious, it’s a software engineering position at Getty Images! Like, the stock photo company?
Yeah, I’m, like, kind of a big deal now.
“Walking simulators” have become a notoriously divisive genre over the years, garnering both love for their way of telling an interactive story, and criticism for the general lack of purpose said interaction tends to involve. Branching off this, I like to consider Debris a “swimming simulator”; sure, you have the added ability to move vertically, but the gameplay still very much consists of, “Keep moving forward while being fed assorted storytelling bits”. This is by no means a bad thing, as ABZÛ – one of my favourite games in recent memory – arguably also falls into this category. Unfortunately, whereas ABZÛ was a consistently wondrous experience that left me practically begging for more, Debris is…well, we’ll get into that.
“I’m sorry, what?”
That was my first reaction upon receiving a press email about de Blob 2’s release on current-gen consoles. The inaugural title was a Wii exclusive which – while attention-grabbing to my 13-year-old mind at the time – ended up becoming little more than another bargain basement platformer in the Wii’s sea of them. Hell, I was pleasantly surprised when it got a multiplatform sequel in 2011. Yet when not a peep was heard about the franchise afterwards (following publisher THQ’s closure in 2013), I had pretty much accepted that it was all over for Blob and friends.
Myths and legends are frequently the basis for elements of games, be it their plotline, characters, setting, or some mix. However, these are usually components cherry-picked from a larger narrative, serving less as a means of introducing the audience to the original piece, and more as scaffolding to support the world created by the developers. In contrast, nearly every element of Mulaka feels like it was designed to honour and bring attention to the traditions and culture of the Tarahumara people. Yet rather than being little more than an elaborate Wikipedia page, Mulaka sucks you in with its vibrant world, and does everything it can to keep your attention until after the credits have finished rolling.
To say that Black Mirror is the video game equivalent of Tommy Wiseau’s The Room feels like it may be a slightly overexaggerated claim. And yet, I’m hard-pressed to think of another recent title that created such utter hilarity out of situations that were meant to be dramatic and horrifying. Scenes that tried to focus on familial interactions and supernatural occurrences had me snickering at technical missteps. An intense scene of someone getting stabbed in the neck did little more than make me laugh hysterically. Thankfully, this meant that it wasn’t an experience devoid of enjoyment, and yet it’s still far and away from being a good game in any capacity.
Believe it or not, the PlayStation 4 celebrated its 4th birthday last year, which meant Killzone Shadow Fall – a launch title for the console – did as well. The hype has come and gone. Guerrilla Games went on to create Horizon: Zero Dawn: a game that is not only widely considered better than Shadow Fall, but was hailed as one of the best titles of 2017. Yet here I am, writing about this practically ancient game as though anyone still cares what some pundit thinks about Shadow Fall at this point. Then again, there are still people playing its multiplayer, so obviously there’s some interest in the title. Plus, I just got a PS4, and this was one of the titles I traded my pack-in copy of Star Wars Battlefront II for. Sue me for having an urge to talk about it.
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!