Tuesday, January 19

The video games that you may have missed in 2020 | Games


By Lewis Packwood, Matthew Castle, Laura Hudson, Jay Castello, James McMahon, Lewis Gordon, Keza MacDonald, Edwin Evans-Thirlwell, Tom Regan, Stacey Henley, Nic Reuben, Rick Lane, and Patrick Lum

13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim

PS4; Vanilla / Atlus
You’d think a game with 13 leads would be a bloated mess, but this is the opposite. With a complex and wonderfully rewarding story to rebuild and mind-blowing, time-bending revelations around every corner, this visual novel and tower defense game combination is a must. PL

One hand with many fingers

PC; Cholestia
Forget Call of Duty: Black Ops – this is the CIA conspiracy thriller you’re looking for. Immersed deep within a federal archive, he gathers evidence and deductions on a cork board. The twist is, this isn’t just a detective puzzle – the more you discover, the scarier your surroundings become. EAT

CIA conspiracy thriller ... One hand with many fingers.
CIA conspiracy thriller … One hand with many fingers. Photography: Colestia

A short walk

PC, Mac, Nintendo Switch; Adamgryu
This wonderful little Zelda-inspired hiking adventure came out for PC last year, but you might have missed it on Switch this year. It drives into such evocative hours, with beautiful natural colors filtered through its retro art style. A short hike is not so much about climbing the mountain as it is about enjoying it. KM

Alba: a wildlife adventure

PS4, PC, Xbox, Mac, iPhone / iPad; ustwo games
Visiting his grandparents on a Spanish island during the summer, he discovers that there are plans to build a luxury hotel in the nature reserve and decides to stop it. Alba conjures up childhood vacation memories as you skip taking photos of local birds, picking up trash, and having conservation adventures. KM

Web browsers; The Game Band
Fantasy baseball teams play in your browser, but with about a hundred spins. The combination of the randomness of the simulation, the insane additions from the developers (such as the peanut-loving squid gods and the weather that changes players’ teams) and the incredible creativity of the fan community make it unpredictable and cheerful. You have to be a part of it to believe it. JC

Techno-thriller ... Cloudpunk.
Techno-thriller … Cloudpunk. Photography: Ion Lands

Cloudpunk

Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox, PC; Ion Lands
It’s your first day as a deliveryman in the cyberpunk metropolis of Nivalis, and while there’s a techno-thriller story woven into the vans and deliveries you make in your flying car (which is also your dog, long story), Cloudpunk’s true joy You are navigating the neon voxel skyscrapers of a gleaming, decaying city about to collapse into the sea. LH

Nintendo Switch, Xbox, PS4, PC, Mac; Toge Productions
In future Seattle, you are a barista who listens to people’s problems when they come for a late-night coffee at your late-night cafe. But there are also elves, orcs, succubi, and other fantasy-inspired characters, all with very modern problems. In our reduced times, there is something relaxing about just making drinks and listening to gossip. KM

Going under

PS4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox, PC; Aggro Crab / Team17
Hell is an open, forward-thinking plan and comes with a competitive benefits package. A highly coveted unpaid marketing internship is all yours – you’ll just have to fight your way through the monster-filled ruins of failed tech companies first. Come for the liveliest and most spirited combat, stay with the hulking troll who wields an industrial cafeteria and scolds goblins for unacceptably long bathroom breaks. Going Under’s workplace satire is smiling, sharp, and genuinely funny. NO

Wonderfully meticulous ... In other waters.
Wonderfully meticulous … In other waters. Photo: Nintendo Switch In Other Waters -03 developed by the game Jump Over The Age

PC, Mac, Nintendo Switch; Jump over age / travel companion
Here’s a game that turns the show upside down, don’t say a maxim when you talk about things you can’t see. Like an AI wired to xenobiologist Dr. Ellery Vas’s wetsuit, your understanding of the alien ocean around you is based entirely on his wonderfully meticulous descriptions. LP

Necrobarista

Nintendo Switch, PS4, PC, Mac; Route 59
A deeply elegant visual novel set in a cafe that gives the dead 24 hours to accept the march. Following a cast of fantastic characters who are doing their best, Necrobarista tackles big questions through writing that is both funny and poignant. JC

Witch

PERSONAL COMPUTER; Nolla Games
It features one of the most reactive virtual worlds, and every substance in Noita’s procedurally generated realm behaves realistically. Fire and acid can consume entire levels, while conflagrations can be doused with anything from water to potions that turn enemies into sheep. Combine this with a complex and deadly powerful spellcasting system, and you’ve got one of the most delightfully chaotic games of this year. RL

Othercide

PC, PS4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One; Light bulb crew
They’re no more grim than this monochrome mix of XCOM and Bloodborne. A lone warrior sends clones of herself to fight Gothic projections of abuse. Always outnumbered, you must time your movements carefully to thwart attacks. A haunting gem marred a bit by an interface that puts style before usability. EAT

Country music detective game ... Rivals.
Country music detective game … Rivals. Photography: Owl_Skip Enterprises

Rivals

PERSONAL COMPUTER; Tim Sheinman / Owl_Skip Enterprises
In this country music detective game, you play a music biographer who reconstructs the moving story of Josh and Luke, two fictional country rivals, by examining notes and listening to compelling interviews. There’s even a surprise cameo from Toploader guitarist Julian Deane. LP

Nintendo Switch, PC, Mac; Echodog Games
Explore the world in a caravan of merchants and chat with the locals through card games. Choose trinkets to sell at home and adapt to the people you know. Fantastic writing evokes all the sensory pleasure of traveling to new places and what forces you to leave behind. JC

Lack of time

PC, Mac, Android; Niila Games
Like a Lars von Trier remake of 2018’s poignant Florence, this bleak and surreal tale moves between poignant and haunting. Deprived of color and light, Stilstand is certainly not for everyone. Yet despite its brevity, this prophetically isolating account remains in mind. TR

Demolish

PERSONAL COMPUTER; Tuxedo Labs
Equal parts heist simulator and antics comedy, Teardown uses its highly destructible levels as the basis for creating absurd robbery puzzles. Rather than breaking safes by hand, for example, he wholesale rips them out of the building they are in using excavators and cranes. The premise is silly, but each level is meticulously designed, making Teardown an excellent 3D puzzle. RL

PERSONAL COMPUTER; Draw me a pixel
Some games break the fourth wall. This asks you to demolish it. A narrator insists that there is no game to play, forcing you to hijack the title screen to prove him wrong. As the combative tone intensifies and you are beaten between genre parodies, what emerges is the weirdest of things: a genuinely funny video game. MC

Timely ... Reduce Generation.
Timely … Reduce Generation. Photography: Origame Digital

Umurangi generation

PC, Nintendo Switch; Origame Digital / Playismo
While Umurangi Generation may not win any Game of the Year awards, it is the game with the most games of 2020. On the surface, it is a simple photography game. But with a story covering global disaster, the rise of fascism, and the ethics of photography during a police brutality protest, it is tremendously necessary and timely. SH

Until the end

PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC; 2 ton studies
With their sudden deaths and grim tone, Unto The End could be mistaken for Limbo with the sword game. But it hides great depths. In fact, he hides it all: even the most basic survival techniques must be pulled from his world without words. Mastering its dark rules and tough duels is uncompromising pleasure. MC

Expensive

PC, PS4, Xbox One; SadSquare Studios
It’s been six years since Hideo Kojima’s horror show, PT, and still horror fans are looking for a game to scare them like the hallway did. Finally, the void has been filled. Visage, the haunted house simulator from SadSquare Studio, redefined digital horror in 2020. It made Outlast feel like Bubble Bobble. JM

Strange and unique ... Welcome to Elk.
Strange and unique … Welcome to Elk. Photography: Triple Topping

Welcome to elk

PC, Xbox, Mac; Triple coverage
Weird, unique, warm and fun, Welcome to Elk features a crocheted weft of real-life stories obtained by the development team, with the themes of the stories sometimes breaking the fourth wall. The music is great, the aesthetics are fiery, and the minigames are rivals to everything found at Mario’s annual parties. JM

Wide Ocean Big Jacket

Nintendo Switch, Mac, PC; Turnfollow Games / Tender Claws
In this self-contained drama set on a weekend camping trip, you primarily control the camera rather than the characters, and dictate when the cuts arrive in scenes that would be at home in a Richard Linklater coming-of-age movie. In addition to excellent writing, the simple hand-drawn graphics enhance the intimate atmosphere of this low-key but unforgettable game. LG

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