Ughhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, I don’t think I can handle another one of these kind of years.

Unlike 2020, where we faced many of the same challenges, we didn’t have the respite in the absolute banger of year when it came to games. 2021 instead represented a big fat meh from basically everyone, with hotly anticipated titles failing to deliver and the evergreen lands of the indie world seemingly barren of titles that usually get me all kinds of excited. This seemed to be the norm when I spoke to my mates about it as well, most of them able to say something about a handful of games they enjoyed but none really feeling like any of them hit the dizzying highs of their previous GOTY winners.

For me it was a trying year to even get to playing games, let alone writing about them. All in all I managed to get to a total of 42 games and for the most part they’re all hitting very middle of the road numbers. Whilst there’s still a total of 7 games eligible for honourable mentions it’s really only 6 since one of them is the same game twice, just different DLC. It was always going to be a monumental task holding up to last year but bugger me, I was expecting a little bit more than a few morsels to get me through.

As is tradition, below is a list of the games I’ve reviewed in chronological order with the scores:

Oh boy, the wooden spoon this year, League of Enthusiastic Losers, deserves its place. I’m usually a little more reserved with my opinions on the games that make it here, often because I feel like the terrible game quality is born out of inexperience more than anything, but this one felt extremely deliberate in the way it marketed itself and then failed to deliver on any of its promises. It also doesn’t help that the narrative fails to earn any of its major plot points, eschewing any sense of reality or justifying the reasons why characters acted the way they did. The only redeeming thing about this game is the one song and it’s thankfully short play time.

The honourable mention list this year is short and sharp, something which last year certainly wasn’t:

  • Sunlight: This game came at the right time for me. I was in need of something to quiet down my rampaging monkey brain and none of the games I was exploring at the time was really doing it for me. Whilst I only ever did the one playthrough it felt like enough to recenter myself and my expectations for what I wanted to get out of gaming. Looking back at the scores I can kind of see why I needed something like this: it’d been quite a run of shitty titles up until then.
  • Hitman 3: I mean, it’s the same game again right? To be sure the levels and their construction are new and unique, but at its core the game is still very much the same. Yeah I mean, I get it, IOI does an amazing job of making each of those experiences unique but, much like the next title I’ll mention, it’s kind of hard to say that a game like this was your GOTY when you’d already played the game…mostly.
  • Destiny 2: If not for a friend wanting to come back to Destiny 2 for a bit I might never have actually gotten back into this. At the time I was glad I did as, honestly, I just needed something reliable that I could go, play and enjoy. I am somewhat excited for the next expansion now because of this and am slowly coming to grips with the idea that I might never raid again. Although I do still keep a tab open with a guild that’s recruiting, and there’s that lovely LFG discord I’m a part of….

So, without further ado, my Game of the Year for 2021 is:

A game I had no idea about nor had any real intention to play, especially when I had first heard about its gimmick mechanic. Imagine my surprise then as I’m rooted to my chair, eyes tightly shut, tears streaming down my cheeks, not wanting to open them again as I couldn’t bear the pain of what was being presented to me on screen. Once again, bravo to the developers for engineering a mechanic and story that when used together make for an emotional impact the likes of which I haven’t felt in a long, long time. I am truly thankful that I got to play Before Your Eyes because otherwise I’d be having a really hard time picking what my game of the year was.

Mindscanners comes in second, mostly due to how successful it was in forcing me to play the game’s final couple hours through to completion in one intense sitting. I honestly thought the weird and strange mechanics were going to be a put off for me but it didn’t take long for me to work out my strategy which saw me blast through cases like nothing else. I’ve tried a handful of similar games ever since I enjoyed Papers, Please but none of them really gripped me in the same way. Kudos.

Lastly The Artful Escape was an unexpected pleasure, even if it was somewhat bereft of actual gameplay. The crazy visuals, completely out there story and the amazing rock opera backing track just made for one of those truly unique experiences that you don’t get too often these days. It’s certainly not a game for everyone, but there’s enough things in there that I think more people would appreciate it than you might first think.

Once again I turn to my review queue list to see what the future for this year looks like and, to be honest, there’s a couple of GOTY potentials staring me down there. This is contingent on them all releasing of course, as a number of those are delayed titles that still don’t have release dates attached to them. However there’s a decent handful of them on there that are giving me hope we might not have a repeat of the year just gone by. We can only hope that the world’s situation follows a similar trend as I’m sure we’re all ready to see the backside of this pandemic.

About the Author

David Klemke

David is an avid gamer and technology enthusiast in Australia. He got his first taste for both of those passions when his father, a radio engineer from the University of Melbourne, gave him an old DOS box to play games on.

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