And no set of year end reflections would be complete without stewing on some of the experiences that stuck with me for all the wrong reasons. As I said on my favourites of 2019 post, I did away with the numbers and am instead awarding entirely arbitrary awards. Though winning one of these awards isn’t a good thing. Buckle up folks.
As with last year, any game I played in 2019 is eligible and will be listed at the bottom of the post. Also, only those games which were played for the first time in 2019 qualify.
Another disclaimer: being mentioned here does not make any of the games in question inherently bad. This post is based around my own opinions and experiences with games. Hopefully that’ll placate some of you if you find your favourite game(s) listed here.
Contentious Opinion Award
There is no short supply of games that come out each year that receive praise. The ubiquitous love for these games can be seen everywhere: social media, during The Game Awards, and in various top ten lists. However, at least once a year I end up playing one of these games, knowingly or otherwise, and don’t enjoy it that much. That is the purpose of the Contentious Opinion award: to be awarded to a game it is controversial to not enjoy. Last year both Cuphead and Nier: Automata would have met that criteria. This year there is another.
Untitled Goose Game
I’m sorry, but I don’t understand what anyone sees in this game. It’s charming for about as long as terrorizing the gardener lasts, but then devolves into repetition. You’re made to complete a literal checklist of tasks all of which are fairly simple. This doesn’t make the gameplay particularly satisfying. And unlike other adventure games there isn’t an accompanying story to keep you moving forward. You’re just a goose being a bastard.
One thing that can be said about Untitled Goose Game is that you can never truly be sure which games will enjoy success as memes.
Disappointing Sequel – Double Feature
Disappointing sequels are on a completely different level than other games that I don’t enjoy. Neither of the games here are bad by any right, but good lord did they both leave a terrible taste in my mouth. In a vacuum they’re both unremarkable, but with the context of what came before them the following games are made so much worse. I present the disappointing sequel award to not one, but two games!
Valkyria Chronicles 4
Where do I even begin with this one.
Valkyria Chronicles was my game of the year back in 2015. The combat isn’t super deep, but it’s strategic enough to be fun. The story and characters are what helped to carry the game to great heights. Up until the ending chapters, the writing has a mostly serious tone and deals with themes of prejudice very tactfully. Watching the characters grow above their flaws and come together as more than just a squad of militia soldiers was an incredibly compelling experience that I’d still recommend.
Valkyria Chronicles 4 tries to be more of the same, but manages to fumble the execution spectacularly.
Of all the missteps what really gets me is the writing for Forseti. He is a former member of your squad, but defects to the enemy side after learning of the terrible war crimes that his country is committing. These noble intentions quickly become parody levels of stupid as he repeatedly demonstrates willingness to kill his friends and family because they’re fighting on the wrong side of the war. What’s worse is he never explains himself. He’s quite satisfied to sacrifice all of his loved ones because of the moral high ground. Forseti feels more like a Twitter keyboard warrior than he does a complex villain and his presence continually mires the story.
This stands as the single worst example of the writing and I can’t say the rest of the game was much better. This made the whole of Valkyria a boring slog, one that, in hindsight, I wish I’d never given the time of day.
Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair
This one stings. Truly. Danganronpa was my favourite game played in 2018. My disappointment with the second game is immeasurable.
There are a lot of reasons why Danganronpa 2 failed to resonate with me in the same way as the first. Chief among them is the lack of atmosphere. It was unnerving to explore the school in which the first game takes place, which added a lot of tension. I really enjoyed how creepy it was being trapped in a claustrophobic space. That gave Danganronpa tons of horror vibes. Danganronpa 2 taking place on a tropical vacation island just doesn’t have the same effect.
The writing also insists on over-explaining everything. Getting through each class trial was a chore and several elements from the first game that only worked because they were vague receive underwhelming explanations in the second game. Spoiler: Junko also returns as the antagonist, which you will likely already know thanks to how on the nose the foreshadowing is. Monomi being one of the most annoying characters I endured all year didn’t help either.
I will say the character writing is a lot better in the second game, but that alone couldn’t carry the whole of Danganronpa 2 for me.
I Still Can’t Believe I Didn’t Enjoy It Award
Given I run my blog I have the luxury of choosing what to cover. Because of that, I tend to stick to playing games I think I’ll enjoy. However, there are times when I can completely misread a game. I’ll watch a trailer that will catch my eye, read about it, and ultimately determine the game in question is up my alley. After playing through it however, I’ll be in shock that I didn’t enjoy said game because it seemed like a sure fire thing. This is the award for games that I’m still surprised I disliked.
TINY METAL: Full Metal Rumble
This is one of the experiences I enjoyed the least this year and I’m still shocked by that. Everything about TINY METAL screams Advance Wars. I thought for certain it’d be like Wargroove: a blatant copycat, but thoroughly enjoyable. Not so.
The more I’ve reflected on this the more I’ve decided it was the lack of variety that harmed the game most. I replayed some of Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising and Advance Wars: Dual Strike as a bit of research well after I’d put out my review. Even something as small as having some missions play without fog of war would add a bit of variety to which strategies would be optimal.
I’m sure there is a good game buried in TINY METAL. It’s just buried deep.
The Wuppo Award
There are three certainties in life: death, taxes, and that I will inevitably stumble into playing a game I despise every year. I know what I like. However, if I always stuck with games I think I’ll like then I’d never discover many of the weirder games I’ve played. For this reason, I’m constantly pushing myself to try new games I wouldn’t normally play. Unfortunately, this leads to playing games I’ve disliked so much that I didn’t want to write about them. Wuppo was one such game, so I’ve named this award after it.
For those of you who read all of my reviews last year: was there even a doubt? I don’t think I had much of anything kind to say about Grimshade in my review. The game is an honest attempt from first time developers, but lacked polish in a lot of areas. I don’t want to rehash what I wrote, so if you really want to know what I thought of the game you can read my review.
I haven’t spoken much about why I left viewport, but reviewing this game was part of the reason. After playing through half the game I asked if I could write my review. I had such a decidedly dreadful time and couldn’t see the game shifting gears in the latter half. It wouldn’t have righted all that I’d endured up to that point even if it had.
I was told to finish the game. So I did. I wasn’t exactly thrilled by that. None of my opinions changed, so all that finishing the game really accomplished was adding a false sense of validity to my review.
This got me thinking about if I should return to doing my own thing. We already know the result of that conversation as I’m been back to writing for myself. Things ended on good terms though. I was being serious when I said we parted due to creative differences. This was one such kerfuffle. Very mundane stuff, eh?
There we go. Five games and a mountain of salt. It was not easy to pick out my least favourite games from 2019. I spent a fair bit of time debating if a disappointing sequel was better or worse than a game that was so inoffensively bland I’d forgotten I played it. Ultimately I decided to spotlight the former because I had more to say about them than a game I couldn’t even remember playing.
Overall it wasn’t a bad year. I had some really great ones, but also a lot of not so great experiences. I’m hoping there’s more positive in 2020. I’m off to a good start with Yakuza 0 so here’s hoping.
And as promised here is a bullet list of all the games I played this year so you can yell at me some more:
- Detective Grimoire
- Flipping Death
- Valkyria Chronicles 4
- Overcooked 2
- Aegis Defenders
- Ravva and the Cyclops Curse
- Slay the Spire
- Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair
- Tou Hou Luna Nights
- Baba is You
- Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
- The World Next Door
- Retrun of the Obra Dinn
- Katana ZERO
- Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
- Bomb Chicken
- Tekken 7
- World to the West
- SteamWorld Quest: Hand of Giglamech
- Gato Roboto
- Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night
- Total War: Warhammer 2
- Blossum Tales: The Sleeping King
- Brothers: A Tale of 2 Sons
- What Remains of Edith Finch
- TINY METAL: Full Metal Rumble
- Q.U.B.E. Director’s Cut
- A Story About My Uncle
- Knights and Bikes
- Children of Morta
- Fantasy Strike
- Tangle Tower
- Untitled Goose Game
- The Banner Saga 3
- Devil May Cry 5
- Pokemon Sword (& Shield)
- MIGHTY GUNVOLT BURST
- Cadence of Hyrule