Bet you weren’t expecting me to actually write this any earlier than last year, huh? 😉
Last year was a time of change for me in many ways. Whilst the most significant of which has nothing to do with my game of the year (read: having a little ankle biter around the house now) I found myself not enjoying the same genres and types of games that I used to. That doesn’t mean there wasn’t anything to enjoy, far from it, just that it seems that with the passage of time either the genres are changing in ways I don’t like or it is I whose tastes have changed and no longer align to what those genres seek to deliver.
Or perhaps it was just an artefact of playing more titles in a year than I have in a long, long time, managing to play through a record (well, I think it is) 50 titles over the 2019 year. Granted quite a few of those were shorter titles that were plugging in gaps that I would’ve left bare in previous years but at least this time around I was finding the spare hour or two every week to sit down and play through something. I have to admit to also going back to some old classics to pass the time, like Battlefront 2, just because I didn’t feel like investing the time I had in anything that was out of the time. There was also the spectre of the Epic store, something which I avoided for a long, long time before I relented due to a couple of my must-play games appearing on there as exclusives. I’ve well and truly broken my rule against buying on there now so there’s nothing stopping me from playing through games on there that I would’ve otherwise left fallow.
As always here’s last year’s list in chronological order, this time around coming with the added benefit of having their scores as well:
Most years I take a rather awful delight in handing out the wooden spoon for the year but this time around I feel bad about naming AMID EVIL as this year’s last place, scoring a (admittedly far from the worse score I’ve given) low 5.0/10. I say that because, looking back over them, Discolored and Epitasis are probably worse games but they managed to get another 0.5 and so just barely missed out on being tied for worst game of the year. I think at the time I was particularly annoyed at the attempt to revive the “classic” FPS experience which, time and time again, has proven to be a place we left behind for a reason.
The honourable mentions list this year is long with no less than 5 games making the cut. The Division 2 was a pretty great experience whilst it lasted although once I ran out of story related missions the want to grind for end-game gear (and the associated annoyance of not having a matchmaking system for said end game) I ended up leaving it behind. Resident Evil 2 showed that you can do a remake without it being a shameless cash grab, bringing with it equal parts nostalgia and upgraded game play. Katana Zero was just straight up good in all respects, all it’s differing elements blending together just so to make something that’s truly one of 2019’s more memorable experiences. A Plague Tale: Innocence was a surprise hit for me, starting off as some weird medieval fantasy romp but quickly turned into a great experience once the story found its feet. Finally A Short Hike is just a nice, light game to play, never asking too much of you but giving so much in return.
So with all that out of the way my game of the year for 2019 is:
Now I’m no Kojima fan but I certainly know of the man by reputation. The initial cinematic teaser videos he posted really hooked me in, even though I had zero idea what the resulting game would be about. Over the years the few details I allowed myself to consume about it just fed into that initial interest and before I knew it I was fully bought in. The experience, whilst admittedly slow for the first 8 hours, sucked me right in and soon I found myself revelling in the shared world and wanting to make it a better place for all players. The story, which I admit in no small part hit me right in the feels because I’m a new father, even with all its faults is still something that I found incredibly enjoyable. So Death Stranding takes out 2019’s game of the year and the highest score at 9.5.
The runners up are Apex Legends and Untitled Goose Game. At its peak I was playing a good lot of Apex Legends with a rotating roster of my mates, something which we hadn’t done in a good long time. Of course it was Apex Legend’s mass appeal which is what led us to do that as none of the preceding battle royal games had managed to get more than a couple of us interested at one time. Finally Untitled Goose Game is just plain fun and honestly, in this age where games too often get wrapped their axles in trying to be novel or be something greater than just a game, something that’s just irreverent and a good chuckle is really refreshing.
2019 saw a lot of the titles I was looking forward to pushed back to this year so there’s dozens of games that I’m very eagerly awaiting the release of. If this year is going to be anything like the last then I have high hopes I’ll get to them all and, if I do, what a year it’ll be.
At this point I don’t think this game really needs any introduction…however…
I, like many innocent children, was the victim of a goose attack. Now the fact that I may have been antagonizing it with a friend of mine is largely beside the point, the fact still remains that a creature almost the same size as me chased me out of its territory with a series of loud honks and small nips at any part of my body in reach. Thus I came to the conclusion that geese are terrible, terrible animals and so when I saw a game that allowed you to be terrible as a goose I was immediately sold on the premise. So began an almost year long wait for it to come out and, whilst I was somewhat disappointed that it came out on the Epic Store first, I wasn’t going to let that stop me from tormenting others in the same way I had.
It is a lovely day in town and you are a horrible goose, set out to ruin everyone’s day. You have a mission, although that won’t be revealed to you until some time later, which in order to complete you have to make your way through the town proper. However it’s clear that this isn’t the first time you’ve been through here and the town is decidedly unfriendly to geese. From wary shopkeepers who watch your every move to barkeeps who won’t even let you in the door it’s clear that you’re going to have to do your geesely worst in order to get what you want.
Untitled Goose Game utilises a low-poly, low texture visual style that’s still all the rage with indie devs these days. The benefits of doing so are numerous: texturing is easier, the game will run on anything built in the last 10 years and you can hide a lot of mistakes and other mischief when you’ve got a bunch of solid colours lavishing everything. The animations, for everything except the goose, are decidedly low fidelity and are most likely hand animated. For a game whose main premise is all about mischief and mayhem the cartoonish art style fits in well.
Every level in Untitled Goose Game has a set of tasks for you to complete, the culmination of which will then allow you to move onto the next one. They start of pretty straight forward, mostly requiring you to get an item from A to B but the later levels require you to trigger certain behaviours which can be done in a variety of ways. This gives the game a kind of Hitman-esque feel to it as there’s always an obvious solution but every so often you’ll complete a puzzle in a really weird way and that will get you thinking about what you possibly get away with. The answer to that question is, surprisingly, quite a lot as the speed runners and glitchers have aptly demonstrated.
None of the puzzles are particularly challenging however, the most difficult of them mostly just amounting to needing to do something several times over or needing to wait for someone to path into the right spot so you can complete it. Unlike Hitman though none of the cycles are particularly long so you’re not going to be waiting around for ages in order to pull something off. For a casual game like this though I think that’s appropriate since anything too difficult would get in the way of the fun of Untitled Goose Game and there’s certainly enough of that to be had.
The game does have a few rough edges though, mostly stemming from the game’s level construction. Invisible walls abound everywhere and some interactions with the NPCs can see you get stuck behind or around them. It’s also possible to lose certain key items thanks to janky physics interactions although, thankfully, they’re all restored quickly upon a restart. The game could also be a little better at indicating when you’ve figured something out correctly but aren’t timing well, like with the old man in the pub with the dart board. I tried honking at what I thought was the right time multiple times over only to have it not work for some unknown reason. It finally worked on the third try though, oddly enough.
Really there’s not much more to say about Untitled Goose Game other than I think it’s just good fun. It’s not often that you come across a game that does so many things well, especially from a small indie studio with only a single other game under their belt. Untitled Goose Game also doesn’t overstay its welcome either, clocking in at a mere 2 hours for a first play through. In all honesty this is a game I’d love to see on Steam with Steamworks integration as I think the community could have an absolute field day with building custom levels for it. Hopefully that comes in the future as I really haven’t had my fill of being a terrible creature in a sleepy Australian town.
Untitled Goose Game is available on PC and Nintendo Switch right now for $19.99. Game was played on the PC with a total of 2 hours play time.