Alec: Ah, I’m so glad this made it onto the calendar. Almost no other bugger on staff played it, to my knowledge, and maybe that’s because they’re all cruel and heartless fools, or maybe it’s because its simple stick figures and mugging to camera makes it seem too throwaway. Maybe it is. Maybe A Guaranteed Nice Time is just not enough in this age of constant shiny new or delectably experimental things.
But! Everyone should play West Of Loathing, because A Guaranteed Nice Time is also a very rare thing in this age of constant shiny new things all thumping their chests and selling us lootboxes and telling us ponderous, cutscene-heavy stories about how war is bad but now go shoot everyone. West Of Loathing, a halfway house between point and click adventure and low-maintenance RPG, is so warm-hearted that I want to hug it forever, even though one thing it never, ever is is even faintly mawkish. Its tone, its constant humour, its message is Have A Good Time. It is a game, and a very silly world of cowboys and magic, in which almost everyone is enjoying themselves. Even when they’re shooting each other.
The temptation to make trite observations about the dark world of 2017 is very strong here, so I shall sidestep that particular issue by saying: a game as straightforwardly joyful and funny and companionable as WoL is such a valuable thing right now. Hell, even the very medium of videogames is often a hideous battleground; WoL reminds me that games, at the end of it all, are about having a jolly good time. It is full of characters and throwaway gags and callbacks and silly walks and crazy items and tiny hidden features that are all, each and every one of them, designed to coax a smile from our weary faces. And: those simple stick figures and their silly walks have a thousand times more personality than even the most impeccably-rendered photoreal megabucks game character, I assure you.
I don’t think there’s even a single Christmas reference in West of Loathing, but nonetheless, it is by far the most Christmassy game on this list.
Adam: I played it, Alec! If crackers contained jokes even half as good as the worst gag in West of Loathing, they’d be very precious things indeed. It’s not just a game with occasional jokes, it’s a game constructed entirely using jokes as a raw material. The atoms that make up its very being are jokes.
What’s really striking is that I don’t remember anything cruel. Some comedy punches up, some comedy punches down. West of Loathing just tips its hat at everyone and invites them to a party.
Graham: I played it, too! Though admittedly only after you’d written this, Alec. I’m only a half hour in which means I’m only equipped to say that it is fun even in the first half hour, a claim so few games can make. I think I was wholly sold on it the moment it let me stick my hand elbow-deep into a spit bucket just to see what was inside.