As you didn’t notice, I’ve been away for the last three months, to focus on helping raise the child which will one day destroy the universe. In between prising the crushed, partially-chewed remains of smaller star systems from her tiny, iron grip, I managed to play a few videogames. Some for a while, but most only for a couple of hours. Despite myself, it was difficult not to have opinions about them, and to want to write those opinions on some manner of ‘web’ ‘site.’ I bided my time. I waited. And now here I am, able to force you to listen to my single-sentence opinions on 13 recent videogames – the likes of Saints Row IV, Gone Home, The Bureau, Papers Please and even that car-stealing thing on console. For the first time on RPS, I have even included a rating for each game.
Papers, Please (3909)
I had so much outstanding paperwork, my ancient nemesis, which I unwisely avoiding doing while away, but I so eagerly and compulsively did similar in this harrowingly well-observed simulation of nightmare bureaucracy.
Gone Home (The Fullbright Company)
Despite this detail-rich tale thematically being the polar opposite – a celebration of self rather than a demand to subsume it – of Papers, Please, to my mind they’re this year’s great rivals in terms of emotional clout.
Godus (22 Cans)
Well, it might improve later, but currently this is a strong candidate for the most abysmal game I’ll play this year – the tedium of its inchoate mechanics made it come across like the cashgrab without a design we’ve all worried it was.
Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs (The Chinese Room)
Unlike some, I really dug the move to less interactivity and more atmosphere and story; despite reliance on any number on horror tropes, it made me pause for long moments before each and every new door.
Shadowrun Returns (Harebrained Schemes)
Most excellent theme, RPG mechanics and tools but the campaign it launched with made surprisingly muted use of it – I hope and suspect we’ll see something far more thoughtful come out of the community.
Saints Row IV (Volition)
It’s dead funny and some of the unexpected segues – particularly the 50s housewife skit – are the refreshing sign of a developer with both budget and creative freedom, but as a game it bored me too soon; damned ugly too.
Shadow Warrior (Flying Wild Hog)
And here’s SR4’s opposite – the humour made me want to claw my eyes out with shuriken, but the elaborate-yet-slick combat systems and deluge of cartoon carnage was just what Mr First Person’s knackered old reticule needed.
Rayman Legumes (Ubisoft)
Effortlessly charming, endlessly ingenious, the latest Rayman put thoroughly to bed any concern that predecessor Oranges had exhausted the formula – and made old man Mario look very unimaginative indeed.
The Bureau: XCOM Declassified (2K Marin)
Mostly, the long, fixed walks through disproportionately impressive period environments in this airless, characterless squad shooter made me mourn for the more brave and flexible game the realtime XCOM was once intended to be.
Brothers: A Tale Of Two Sons (Starbreeze)
This gently clever one-player co-op puzzle game from an unlikely source blends charm and sadness, light and dark in equal measure – a buddy game free from everything that might usually suggest, and one I strongly suggest you seek out.
The balance of this unassuming masterpiece, so many elements and so many potential outcomes to juggle, yet it feels so controlled despite its infinite nature – rarely is a videogame so fully-formed, so elegant, so timeless and so darkly hilarious.
NOT PLAYED ON PC SORRY PLEASE HAVE ME EXECUTED FORTHWITH
Persona 4: Golden (Atlus; played PS Vita)
I’d essentially sworn off JRPGs for life until I broke in my shiny new toy (a present to myself to aid recuperation from a minor operation) with Atlus’ extraordinary, mammoth cocktail of teen angst, Japan noir and tactical fantasy combat; oh, for a PC port of this thoroughly modern anti-epic.
Grand Theft Auto V (Rockstar; played on PS3)
Sad but unsurprising to see this controversy-hungry developer’s storytelling, characterisation and humour escalate to more repugnant, arrogant, hollow and incoherent than ever, but I simply won’t hear a word said against the mighty environment, distractions and spectacle on offer here.