Yes, dear readers, I am still alive; it’s just that I changed careers half way through the year and haven’t had any time to write. Or maybe it’s that there’s been nothing for me to write about? I’ve not been to the cinema for months (although I do still stupidly pay for my Unlimited Card), there’s been no Doctor Who to watch, Dundee United are doing well…very little has ignited the creative spark in me and made me think “I need to write about this”.
And so ironically, it’s that lack of spark that has motivated me to write this article; specifically, how uninspiring and humdrum gaming has been in 2019.
I was sitting playing Middle Earth: Shadow of War yesterday morning and the thought “Why am I playing this?” came over me. It’s not that the game is bad – although to be fair, there’s no skill, difficulty or variety in it; you just hammer X and Triangle in relentless Orc fights – it’s just that it is absolutely no different to its predecessor, Shadow of Mordor. And I’ve played that already quite recently. I just felt so bored.
And that’s not the only game that’s made me feel that way this year.
So with 2019 drawing to a close, I went through my Nintendo and Playstation accounts to see what I’ve bought and played throughout the year, and thought I’d write a few lines on each of them.
See if you agree or disagree?
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey: I played this for around 59 hours in January and I think it might be part of the reason I became exhausted with certain types of games. It was my first AC game and I enjoyed it, but it went on too long; far, far too long. I started skipping cut scenes halfway through and it got to a point where I just wanted it to end. It did, and I’m not sure if I’d ever need to play any sequels in the future. I certainly got my money’s worth though.
Borderlands – The Handsome Collection: This was a free PS Plus game, and it was essentially just Borderlands 2 redone. Because I’ve played that extensively, there was no desire on my part to keep going. What I would say though is that it was a decent game to play online with friends.
Celeste: Superb game. It was challenging, it had sensible controls, each level felt suitably different and it even had a story that engaged me…and that never happens. Highly recommended.
Far Cry New Dawn: It’s another Far Cry game. Do we need more of them? Well I stupidly keep buying them I suppose. The problem is that none of the newer releases are anywhere near as good as 3 or 4, and they have this tendency to remove the parts of the game that I want to play and keep the parts I don’t. This just felt like Far Cry 5 with a lick of paint, but that shouldn’t come as a surprise as that’s exactly what it was.
Guacamelee 2: It’s yet another rehash of an existing game. What I would say is that it was long enough between me playing the first one and the sequel for me not to notice that too much. What also worked in its favour was that it didn’t last as long as the Ubisoft style games, and so when I finished it I felt satisfied rather than relieved.
Lumines Remastered: It was my first time playing a Lumines game, but I didn’t get the hype. At all. This was one puzzle game I didn’t connect with and so it didn’t get much play time.
Mega Man 11: It’s 2019; games should have smooth controls. Mega Man 11 didn’t. They were unresponsive meaning that the game frustrated rather than challenged, and so with a relatively cheap price tag, I didn’t feel at all bad taking it out of my console, knowing I’d never play it again.
Overcooked 2: Here’s a sequel to a game that improves massively on the first, rather than just repeating it. Overcooked 2 is fantastic and is something I play online with friends regularly. A contender for my favourite game of 2019. Challenging, charming and genuinely fun.
Super Bomberman R: It’s just Bomberman again, but since it was on sale and I don’t have one for this generation of consoles, I bought it. Incredibly though, despite it costing more than it did on Xbox Live Arcade on the 360 more than 10 years ago, Bomberman R is significantly worse than its predecessor. Crappy online connectivity, no bots, fewer game modes…it was a massive disappointment. There’s no excuse for releasing a game that is worse than its last iteration.
Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz HD: I stupidly paid full price for this on release day because I was excited about a return of one of my all time favourite games. Previews boasted about online play and a return of Monkey Target, which should have been fantastic. What we got was Online Play…but not with friends (how moronic is that?), a crap version of Monkey Target, and a single play version of the game that had no work put into it whatsoever. Probably the most disappointing game of the decade, rather than just the year.
The Division 2: My brother nagged me to buy this so we could play it co-operatively online, and then never played it with me. Thanks Steven. And because The Division 2 is just The Division with no changes to it that I could see, I lost interest fairly quickly. Another sequel with no effort put in.
Wipeout: Didn’t like it on the Playstation, don’t like it on the PS4. At least it was a free PS Plus game.
X-Com 2: This is the part where people criticise my judgement probably. I liked X-Com 2, but not nearly as much as I liked Mario & Rabbids Kingdom Battle. It took itself too seriously and didn’t connect with me at all. I played it up until I went on holiday and then when I came back I realised I had no desire to start playing it again.
911 Operator: This was ok, but having had a couple of hours on it, the fun wore off quickly. But it cost £1, so I’m not going to complain.
Ape Out: Another cheap game, this time from the makers of Hotline Miami. Ape Out lasted me one day, but I enjoyed the hell out of it as I completed it. Had I paid its full price (£15 i think) rather than the £3 I nabbed it for in the sale, I’d probably be mildly annoyed, but if you can get it cheap, I’d heartily recommend it.
Civilization 6: I have this on the PC but thought it would be nice to be able to play it on the couch or on the move. Unfortunately, it’s not really a game for a console in my opinion, so I just went back to the PC version. Well…Civilization IV if I’m honest.
Future Grind: Another £1 Switch sale game. It’s a bit like Unirally on the SNES meets Trials HD. It was ok.
Golf Story: This is one game I actually wrote a review on earlier in the year. Like I said at the time, it was decent enough and at least felt a bit different to the other games on this list, but it went on a bit and had rather over-simplified controls.
Heave Ho: This was a game I bought on a whim to play with friends on holiday, but it’s without doubt the funniest and most challenging game on the list. And it certainly hurts the hands after a while. I don’t think it would work in single player, and if you’re going to attempt multiplayer your friends have to know their way around a controller, but if you’re looking for couch co-op action, this is an underrated gem.
Mario Tennis Aces: It took me a while to get to grips with the unnecessary block function in this tennis game, and I’d argue that it’s not as good as previous Mario Tennis games (again, what’s up with that? Why aren’t games improving upon previous iterations?) but it’s still decent game
New Star Soccer: While it’s pretty shallow, and actually fairly easy, New Star Soccer is the sort of game that will consume your life until it just…doesn’t anymore. I was absorbed with it for a while, playing long session after long session and then just realised I’d had enough. And that was fine; it definitely paid for itself. Will I ever go back to it? Probably.
One Night Stand: Much like Heave Ho, this was bought for a laugh to take with us on a trip away with friends. Considering it’s yet another game that cost less than a pint of lemonade at a bar, it was worth it. The storyline was fine for a chuckle but it got old pretty fast
Picross S and Picross S 2: Maybe I’m getting old, maybe I just don’t have much time to play games or maybe it’s a combination of both, but I loved Picross S. When you’re just wanting to chill, or only have a few minutes free time, a Picross puzzle is a terrific game to play. Both that and its sequel have provided me with hours of entertainment, though I’m reliably informed by Mhairi that the incidental music playing on a loop is incredibly irritating when she’s trying to watch TV next door. Bonus!
Quest For The Golden Duck: Cost a quid, played it once, got bored. Hey ho.
Super Mario Maker 2: I’m not a creative type, so I have little interest in making my own levels, but I’ve enjoyed playing through the ones available online. The story mode was also solid. It’s the one game on the list that I definitely feel I need to go back to more often than I do.
Tetris 99: It’s technically a free game (although you need a subscription to Nintendo Online to play it) and it is just Tetris, but it’s a decent take on it and something you can play any time. The only problem with it – and this a problem with most online games – is that you’ll always be playing against the sort of weirdo who has already clocked up 10,000 hours of play and therefore you can never win.
Untitled Goose Game: Credit where it’s due, Untitled Goose Game deserved the attention it got. It was amusing, it controlled well and it was actually different, which is such a rarity these days. I thought it was fun but there was no reply value in it whatsoever. But at least it was a challenge.
Windjammers: This game gets so much praise, but I think it probably needs a second player who is of an equal skill level to you to appreciate it. It’s another game I need to go back to.
Zelda – Link’s Awakening: Remastered games are always a fun idea in principle, but they should never be full priced AAA titles. I liked this, but it played like it is; an old game. There have been a number of Zelda games released since Link’s Awakening, and I have to say I enjoyed them more than this. If it only cost £20 it would have been worth it, but it cost more than double, so it ranks as a disappointment.
So there you have it; in 2019 there were a lot more misses than hits for me.
A few things clearly stand out though.
1 – Sequels often don’t improve upon originals, and there is no excuse for that with video games. If anything they should get better.
2 – There are too many sequels. The rare occasion where there is a new game on the list, it’s stood out ahead of them. Maybe games developers should consider that?
3 – I’ve found I’ve enjoyed playing the cheaper games more than the AAA ones. Maybe that’s just where I am now.
But what say you, dear readers? What games have you enjoyed this year, and more importantly, what would you recommend?
I await your responses on here, Facebook or Twitter (@sgmilne)