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We“ll be six months into next year before I fully come to terms with the fact that 2016 happened. But here“s a list of cool video games I played — one that slightly differs from my normal protocol, at that. For the first time, I“m going to include a PokÃ©mon game in a prominent spot... if only to make a point. And... instead of ten unique games, I“m really going to start at nine. I hate to say it, but I didn“t put forth my due diligence to play â€œcurrent gamesâ€ in this current year. I“d love to say I could speak highly enough about Miitomo and PokÃ©mon GO to put them on here. But despite spending a ton of time with them, and the latter reigniting a cultural phenomenon... I don“t consider either to be worthy of my personal praise. I mean, it was fun answering questions as part of my morning routine for several months. And I still find redeeming value from Miitomo when I get to... dress up my Mii character in Kirby clothes. But don“t even get me started on GO. I“m still a daily user, but... it“s gotten me outside less and less over time, especially considering the fact that it reduces background audio (like music & Podcasts) by 50% while the dang app is open. What“s up with that, anyway? There are also games I started but didn“t finish that would vie for my #10 spot. I know several people reading will give me flack for not seeing the credits of Tokyo Mirage Sessions â™¯FE. I“m genuinely surprised I didn“t complete Dragon Quest Builders either, despite a fondness for the series. I guess my distaste for Minecraft-style games as a genre was too strong, in the end. Maybe I“ll surprise myself and finish it before the year“s done. And then there“s Oxenfree, a game I grabbed around Thanksgiving. It definitely seems like it“ll impress me, but there“s no way I“d get to the end it in time to give it the consideration it probably deserves. So without further ado, here are the games I feel confident enough giving time to shine: 9) Pocket Card Jockey I have a wild grudge against card games. I just... don“t like them. No, really. So how is it that one ended up being an exception? â€œIt“s because you like Game Freak, and all that glitters from them is gold.â€ I“m not going to sit here and pretend I don“t have a little bias against the company. Honestly, my â€œGame of the Year listsâ€ have started to follow a bit of a pattern. TEMBO made the cut last year. If Giga Wrecker ends up being of a similar quality, it might make the cut in 2017. I might feel like I“m in a daze most of the time, but I“m not too asleep to notice that I truly enjoy Game Freak“s non-PokÃ©mon endeavors. Pocket Card Jockey... one part horse-racing, one part solitaire... makes its mark for its addictive qualities. It“s not a perfect game by any means — you“ve got to breed horses to even stand a chance at higher stakes races, making even perfect solitaire runs useless at times. But even if some races are an exercise in nihilism, I still felt the need to push forward. Maybe I“m motivated by the cute horsies? The models are very simple & easy to love... kind of similar to other things I like. If you don“t mind some minor timed elements tied to your solitaire gaming, you should give it a chance! There“s a demo to sink your teeth into, still, and the price has always been right. 8) BOXBOXBOY Official GP Review Speaking of my yearly lists following a pattern... HAL Laboratory knows how to create a fun, smaller project and keep it that way. There“s even a third game confirmed for next year in Japan! So it“ll be interesting to see if BOXBOXBOXBOY, or whatever they end up calling the third game when it ventures West, appeals to me as one of 2017“s greatest games. With the release of the Switch, Final Fantasy“s 30 Year Anniversary, and tons more coming... it“d have to endure against a lot of competition. The premise behind Qbby“s quests are simple, minimalist fun. Rather than revolutionize the mechanics of the first game, I think HAL just set out to convince everyone that â€œjust more BOXBOYâ€ is never a bad thing. I suppose they achieved their goal of convincing more people than just me, if Qbby“s coming back for one last hurrah! Hopefully they continue to embrace the sentiment behind carrying earned costumes and content from the first game to the second; that really was a nice touch. BOXBOXBOY is a game to remember because it“s consistent fun that“s easy to recommend for everyone. 7) Creepy Castle Official GP Review Not too long ago, I had this bizarre itch to play The Frog For Whom the Bell Tolls. I even went so far as to try and track down a reproduction cart that had the fan translation installed on it! I ended up not going through with it; money“s a little tighter than I“d like right now. Sad times, but at least I still own the Japanese version on my Nintendo 3DS LL. And then came Creepy Castle... the closest possible match to... that game I really wanted to play. To fall on that word I overused in my review, again... goodness, it“s a quirky adventure. It won me over because it happened to scratch an itch I would have never thought possible. But it“s stuck with me because it challenged me without being overly frustrating, it made me giggle at times, and it even taught me something. I“m not sure if Creepy Castle manages to surpass The Frog For Whom the Bell Tolls, if I“m being honest. But it certainly manages to capture the same sense of unique charm, while offering some more modern takes on that game“s philosophy. Definitely give it a try, if quir-- I mean â€œweirdâ€... is a thing that catches your eye. 6) Chronicles of Teddy: Harmony of Exidus Official GP Review The first thing that caught my eye was its aesthetic. Far too many games inhibit their artistic style by aiming to stay consistent with a certain â€œeraâ€... be it 8- or 16-bit. Games like Shovel Knight and Axiom Verge are wonderful examples of design that can break free of these constraints, and Chronicles of Teddy joins them as far as I“m concerned. I contemplated if this game could even be qualified to make the cut, since â€œFinding Teddy 2â€ released on PC a ways back. But hey, I“m going to let Aksys Games have their moment in the sun for pushing it onto consoles with a bit of a rebranding; I“d have never known about it otherwise. Do you like Zelda II: The Adventures of Link? I can“t think of a better game for that crowd released this year. You“ll recognize the lady protagonist“s movements right away; the whole â€œcouch to slash under an enemy“s shieldâ€ is a concept I mentioned in my review verbatim. The developers“ efforts to modernize Zelda II honestly left me with more respect for the NES classic than when I started. For being attracted to the game at first due to purely aesthetic reasons, I came away from it with a deeper knowledge as to what â€œZelda II-likesâ€ were capable of, and what fans of the NES game found appealing about it. I“m even pushed to try other contemporaries like Eliot Quest, now. Considering the absence of Breath of the Wild this year, Chronicles of Teddy ought to scratch a Legend of Zelda itch for you, and then some. 5) Owlboy I miss Disney Interactive. So much of what made their older games for Genesis and SNES resonate with me when I was littler, and the same reason something like the appeals to me now, has to do with how alive their characters feel. â€œImmersionâ€ is a popular buzzword this year, especially with the rise of Virtual Reality. But those games proved to me a long time ago that I don“t need complex headwear, or even the world“s most realistic graphics, to truly connect with what I“m playing. Ori and the Blind Forest is a decent contemporary. Its cast of characters and world are definitely captivating and invoke similar sentiments. I“m even more attached to Otus, and felt more compelled to push forward, because of how out-of-their-way D-pad Studios went to put emphasis on small, otherwise unnoticed moments. When you“re walking past a graveyard for the first time... not only is Otus himself downtrodden, sullen... but your movement is very slow and restricted, to further the meaning behind this unique blend of sadness and respect. So much about what makes Owlboy worth experiencing isn“t in the mechanics, but in its cast and environments. You won“t feel triumphant in the end — it“ll be more like you just watched a really awesome Disney movie. The folks behind Owlboy put so much meticulous care into their work that it took nine years to make. The end result is absolutely worth your own time and attention. 4) PokÃ©mon Sun Official GP Review Honestly, no one“s more shocked than me that the new PokÃ©mon game, with my favorite region in the history of the series, didn“t make my â€œTop 3â€. But, rereading my review from a short while ago, plus thinking critically about how I“ll feel about this game when â€œthe next oneâ€ comes along... I just had too many personal qualms with the compromises made to make Sun what it is. Some encounter rates are ridiculously low, the PokÃ©dex is smaller than I“d like, most people consider the changes to EVs to be a step backwardsâ€¦ What it boils down to is: my remaining three games didn“t have as many parts that either annoyed me or stressed me out. But getting the negative stuff out of the way is easy. Alola is an absolutely, positively phenomenal place. Choosing to construct a brand new â€œIsland Trialâ€ over the conventional four-walled path to the PokÃ©mon League is, hands-down, my new favorite thing. I hope future games in the series abolish the â€œGym Challengeâ€ in favor of making each new region“s trials be... whatever they want to be. Alola“s challenges were versatile; I“ve never had as much fun with a main story in a mainline PokÃ©mon game. The soundtrack is absolutely phenomenal; â€œThe Battle At the Summit!â€ is probably Masuda and his team at their absolute best. Those who know my love of PokÃ©mon music... know I don't say that lightly. Narrative direction? Superior, bested only by Black & White. Music, sounds, and general ambiance? Also top-tier. I may have my personal problems with these games, but Sun & Moon are easy to recommend to first-timers, or lapsed fans. That“s why I“m including it this time, if not to prove I liked a handful of more games this year... better than PokÃ©mon. 3) Mutant Mudds Super Challenge Official GP Review Years after its initial release, I can still confidently say that Mutant Mudds is among my Top 5 favorite games on the Nintendo 3DS. And Max“s newest adventure picks up right where that one left off — in terms of design philosophy, more than anything. It really does feel like Renegade Kid“s take on â€œThe Lost Levelsâ€. Max doesn“t learn any new tricks, but anyone who plays it might have to adapt if they don“t want their death counter above 500. Every once and a while, I“ll pick it up and start a new file, trying for a No Death run. No such luck. Have y“all seen their for the game? Games six through nine on this list were pretty easy to write about and rank. But when you start getting up to the top five, or even top three... it“s been pretty difficult for me to determine what exactly it took for one game to rank above the previous one. What gives Super Challenge that â€œoomphâ€ to best other games here? Here“s the deal: I argued whether or not certain choices that Renegade Kid made were â€œfairâ€ or not in my review. But ultimately, it could go either way. I“ve thought critically about it; I really can“t recall any level in this newest venture where I thought, â€œWell, thank Heavens that“s over.â€ It“s quite the contrary. Even when I was cursing out loud at some cheap shot a Muddy or some friggin“ spikes would take at me... I knew I“d be back. I“m going to play over and over again, whether it“s on Nintendo systems or PlayStation, too. I know Renegade Kid is no more. But I“m genuinely happy that this turned out to be their finest hour as well as their final one. And I“m excited to see what Atooi does next with Mudds, sometime down the line. There is more than one allusion to Xeodrifter in the final levels of MMSC, after all. 2) Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past Official GP Review And here“s a game that“s definitely a â€œsuper challengeâ€ in a completely different way. This tale of quite literal world-building is like no other in the Dragon Quest series: a very long, involved endurance test. It“s not a game I can honestly recommend to everyone; you probably gleaned that from my review. But it“s absolutely a game that I feel is best suited for me, in many ways. It's my new second favorite Dragon Quest, bested only by V (and here“s your disclaimer that I haven“t played VIII before & won“t until January 20th; I“m keeping an open mind). The only real â€œfaultâ€ I“d give my 80+ hour journey was the new encounter system. Besides that, the feelings it elicited when I saved a piece of the world — and the elation that beamed from me when I finally saw the credits, were more rewarding than any Final Fantasy I“ve played through since IX. DQVII isn“t this high up â€œjust because it“s a Dragon Quest gameâ€, while my bias is undeniable. I“m not spoiling anything beyond the first ten or so hours here but... there“s a whole town where every person has been turned into an animal & every animal into a person. I have never bought a weapon from a chicken, who clucked at me just like it was any other written dialect in an RPG... and then moseyed onto my next adventure inside a painting clearly inspired by Salvador Dali with my friend Ruff — the wolf cub who was turned into a boy & spends the entire game on his caretaker wolf“s back, riding it like a horse. Giant run-on sentence or not, I just can“t deny that level of obnoxious charm. It“s not something I can â€œdemand that everyone playâ€, like last year“s runner-up Axiom Verge. I“m not going to be screaming from the rooftops about it for a long time to come. My â€œtop 2â€ are here for very personal reasons. When I saw those credits roll, I definitely felt a sense of personal triumph. The helped. 1) Kirby: Planet Robobot Official GP Review I have not shut up about Robobot for quite some time. So many people could have easily predicted it“d take my #1 spot, months ago. Just take a look. For those keeping score beyond Twitter: I bought the game in both Japanese and English. My Import Review is actually more of a companion piece to an impressions thread, as well. I didn“t just beat the English version, I 100%ed it... which involved toppling the first True Arena I“ve ever toppled in Kirby History. I spent over nine hours of a random Saturday absolutely determined to prove to that game mode I was better than it... and I won, in the end. I have so many freaking stories about this game! It will fuel my love for Kirby well beyond his 25th anniversary; that celebration is already underway. It“s so delightfully over the top. If you dig the modern mechanics of familiar entries like Return to Dream Land or Triple Deluxe, this newest game stacks Robobot Armor... think â€œmechsâ€... on top of it. It“s the natural evolution of the â€œanimal friendsâ€ from Dream Land 2 & 3, and it feels as essential to the evolution of Kirby“s movements and capabilities as the transition from Super Mario 3 to Super Mario World. It“s bigger, better, faster, stronger. And it“s filled with so many fan allusions that I could write a full-on spoiler post. There are so many surprise returns, or twists reminiscent of almost every game in the series. It“s goofy that we“re heading right into the 25th anniversary immediately after the release of a game that I think successfully celebrates everything Kirby is, in almost every way.
Developer: HAL Laboratory Inc. Publisher: Nintendo Platform: 3DS (eShop) Release Date: June 30th, 2015 ESRB: E for Everyone As I watched the credits of BOXBOY! roll, my brain ping-ponged lots of ideas back and forth. The culmination of those ideas are in my review of the game. But, to summarize: I felt BOXBOY! was a little too restrained by its need to make sure newcomers understood the conventions of its puzzles. Entire worlds from the game felt like introductory levels. The training wheels didn“t really come off until its Bonus or Challenge Worlds, in particular. Going into BOXBOXBOY!, its sequel -- I felt as though it could benefit by accommodating returning players, by removing tutorial segments, and offering a greater challenge than what the first game provided before the credits rolled. Still, there“s nothing wrong with a sequel that doesn“t radically change or improve upon formulas established in the game that came before. â€œMore BOXBOY!â€ -- even if it“s not different BOXBOY! -- would likely be perfectly satisfying to a large number of people. Thus, before I even get into my experience with the game -- I think it“s important to address what kind of sequel it is. A good contemporary example that comes to mind for me, personally, would be Mutant Mudds Super Challenge. That game“s basically a heavy metal version of the one that came before it. Someone playing it after the original Mudds won“t have to worry about new mechanics, but they may pick up a few new tricks. Less contemporary, but still relevant: Reflect upon the differences between Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and the game that came before that. The level design is mostly unchanged between the two games, and yet... the spin-dash is introduced, so returning players can rethink conventional Sonic gameplay with added momentum. BOXBOXBOY! is definitely the â€œSonic 2â€ kind of sequel. As the name implies -- Qbby can create two sets of boxes to solve puzzles instead of just one. But ultimately... while â€œit“s just more BOXBOYâ€ is a depressingly dry line to include in a review for the sequel... that“s a fairly accurate assessment, in this case. There are even instances where the player creates two sets of boxes to solve puzzles in the bonus worlds of BOXBOY!. Do realize: beyond a single exception I“ll highlight a little later on, there is nothing else â€œbrand newâ€ introduced in BOXBOXBOY! before the credits roll. The introductory world is a tutorial one, that explains the same exact things you did in the first game. Each world that follows reintroduces old mechanics and enemies from BOXBOY!, but this time you need to use more than one set of boxes to reach your goal. The crowns from the first game return. Costume and music collecting in exchange for currency earned by completing levels also returns. One nice touch I“ll mention that few sequels employ: If you own and have completed the original BOXBOY!, you can use all of your unlocked costumes, including the Bunny Costume that extends Qbby“s jump beyond his natural capabilities -- right from the start of BOXBOXBOY!. But, when describing the overall philosophy and mechanics presented to the player, it“s basically just a series of examples I can point out that were roughly the same in the first game. Levels are a bit more challenging this time, but there was nothing too vexing or new to figure out. Lots of the approaches to puzzle-solving involve timing, too. You'll run into plenty of instances where the boxes you place will activate a switch that opens a door, and you'll have to skitter through it before it closes behind you. All it amounts to are subtle shifts in tone. There“s nothing wrong with the decisions HAL Laboratory made here. But there“s nothing really new about them either. Creating more than one set of boxes to solve puzzles does create instances where the player will have to think a bit harder to reach the goal, though. And BOXBOXBOY! has comics to collect that give its characters a little more personality than BOXBOY! had the opportunity to. The story“s a little odd, though. I“m not really sure if I could tell you what went on, from start to finish, but hey, it was still interesting enough. The few new musical tracks were just as catchy as the older ones, but there“s nothing revolutionary about its arrangements, either. Whether I“m addressing aspects of its presentation or its nuts and bolts on the inside -- â€more of the sameâ€ is universally applicable. Except... ...hey, this game“s Challenge World forces you to complete levels in certain costumes! If you avoided the complexities of some of BOXBOY!“s Bonus World puzzles by putting on the Bunny Costume and extending your natural jump -- this game has an entire set of levels where you play through them in the Bunny Costume. So you“ve got to solve puzzles with a naturally higher jump. In terms of innovation, it“s all found either in the Challenge World, where forced costume changes make you to rethink its conventions a little bit -- or after the credits roll, in the Bonus Worlds. ...I know, even that is a paradigm consistent with the first one. â€œIt“s more of the same thing, with a few subtle or more challenging differencesâ€ is truly the best way to summarize BOXBOXBOY!. But, while my opinion of what the game â€œshould have beenâ€ ultimately clashes with what I was presented with here -- the level design is still competent and fun, and (especially considering you can bring over the costumes from the first game, and other fodder) I still think it“s worth the small asking price. BOXBOXBOY! is the perfect reminder that â€œmore of the sameâ€ isn“t really a bad thing. Pros + If BOXBOXBOY! is the first game you've played of the two, you won't really feel lost going in. Everything is still paced leisurely. Definitely accessible. + Some of the new puzzles offer satisfying design choices that require more skill than some present in the first game. + Any sequel that lets you transfer content over from the first game already has a leg up over some contemporaries. Cons - With the exception of the Challenge World, no concept, enemy or type of puzzle is new to BOXBOXBOY!. Even the idea of using more than one set of boxes was seen in the first game. - Some may feel it's disappointingly lean in comparison to the first. BOXBOY! has 22 Worlds -- BOXBOXBOY! has 17, including the Challenge World. Overall Score: 7.5 (out of 10) Good BOXBOXBOY! is a sequel that chooses not to innovate or reinvent the wheel that started turning in the first game. Sometimes more of something good isn't necessarily a bad thing. Disclosure: This game was reviewed using a copy of the game purchased by the author