Here it is. Challenge time for 2020. Already started working on titles but it’s time to make this official
Tier 3 - Group 6 (History of Game Consoles/Platforms) - Game Designed for Arcade Machine
Sly Spy (via Nintendo Switch)
I’d like to think of this as Data East’s answer to both the desire to have a James Bond-type game and a competitor to Namco’s Rolling Thunder. Aside from being the debonair spy, you’ve got a few levels of shooting underwater and even a motorcycle chase. For its time period it isn’t exactly a memorable experience but the game is enjoyable. One thing to look out for is that the game seems to have at least two endings as my first run through the game indicated that I didn’t complete every objective. Overall, enjoyable especially for something you want to knock out in a little over an hour.
Tier 1 - Group 1 (The Genre) - Brawler
Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn (PC)
I am a firm believer that sometimes you need to play something bad in order to appreciate the good games out there. This is a poster child for a bad game, one that took a bad joke way too far. Combat is actually fine but the game has a habit of throwing so many enemies at you at one time that you never get to enjoy the brawling. These segments go on for way too long and since you’re always going at it solo, it gets boring rather quickly. It also doesn’t help that none of the humor connects in any way so you’re getting already outdated references with no real punchline. The only comfort you’ll get out of this is that you can beat it in about 3 hours so it’s fine if you want to pad your numbers as far as finished games go but that’s about it.
Tier 2 - Group 3 (Newspaper Headlines) - Art & Fashion
This is an art game in that the point of it is you creating stuff. Admittedly, you aren’t going to create much since over half of the stuff you can put in the world are things like stars and black holes and spinning tops that go off and do their own thing instead of just staying in place to create something artistic. It doesn’t help that the game doesn’t really give you an endless canvas to work with as the more objects you place in the world, the higher the chance that your old stuff will just up and disappear. In short, this is pretty terrible as it would have been better served as a demo included with any PSVR purchase.
As an aside, you can still beat the game as getting all of the Trophies takes less than 30 minutes to do and Trophy Hunters will appreciate that this even has a Platinum attached to it.
Tier 3 - Group 7 (Diversity) - Female Main Character
Stela (Xbox One)
The most succinct way to describe this is that it is a title that borrows quite a bit from both Limbo and Inside but without a bit of story to care about. The graphics borrow the style of Limbo with limited tones being capable of creating something atmospheric while it takes the horror aspect from Inside and blends it together with some good but not difficult puzzles. The experience itself lasts roughly a little over 2 hours and the secrets are minimal but it is enjoyable. The issue is that there’s no real story to gleam from here so while you’ll finish the game with a nice visual, you aren’t exactly going to remember much about the game by the time end end credits finish rolling. Overall, not bad but it certainly feels like a game better off for a subscription service rather than something to showcase in your digital library.
Tier 3 - Group 7 (Diversity) - Main character With A disability (Visible or invisible)
Weakless (Xbox One)
You play as a duo of plant folk. One is blind and the other is deaf. It is a bit on the nose to have those be their names as well but that’s on the devs.
I wanted to like this game due to the more nature based setting and the fact that this was a short enough 3D puzzle platformer. Unfortunately, those puzzles were way too easy and the story come to an unsatisfying end. It certainly doesn’t help that this is a very rough platformer with lots of bugs like your partner failing to catch up to you at crucial moments and even a crash when restarting a level. At this point, it might be worth checking out if it ever hits Xbox Game Pass.
Tier 2 - Group 3 (Newspaper Headlines) - Politics & Economics
Super Bernie World (PC)
You play as Bernie Sanders fighting against the likes of Ted Cruz and Mitch McConnell, for example. I think this is political enough.
It makes for a decent Super Mario Bros. clone so long as you ignore things like the fireballs not hurting the Republican bosses or no breaking of bricks. Tons of reused sprites for bosses so you can magically beat a Ted Cruz without the sprite looking like him at all. At least its short and inoffensive otherwise. Good for a challenge like this since its free but nothing special otherwise.
*Tier 2 - Group 6 (Life) - Living in a Utopia *
Animal Crossing: New Horizons (Nintendo Switch)
There’s not much else to say about the game that hasn’t been said already. Despite the stay at home orders supposedly giving people an opportunity to work on their backlogs, this game has arrived to suck away any free time and people like myself are all to happy to ignore everything else just to spend a huge chunk of time in an idyllic deserted island with the rest of their animal friends. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
As for how it can be considered beaten, getting the 3 star rating for the island and getting K.K. Slider to come and perform triggers a credits sequence. That’s good enough for me though by no means does it mean I’m moving on. In fact, I can safely predict that the number of games I’ll complete this year gets thoroughly hosed because I’m trying to catch every fish, bug, fossil, work of art, and stamp card possible. I can’t be saved
*Tier 3 - Group 3 (Kill not the goose that lays the golden egg) - Sequel *
Streets of Rage 4 (PC)
If you’re a beat em up fan in the 1980’s and early 1990’s you were living the dream as there were a ton of games catering to your genre. If you owned a Sega Genesis, you were no doubt playing a Streets of Rage game, considered by some to be masterpieces in the genre. Despite the long wait time, we’ve finally gotten ourselves a new game in the series and thanks to the efforts of the Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap devs, this one was not only gorgeous but an absolute blast to play from start to end.
What got me here was that I tried this out as the host for a Steam Remote Play session and despite a disconnection issue, it came off without a hitch. Playing the game in 4 player co-op is the best way to experience this and seeing the tech to emulate local play online come off without a hitch is wonderful to see.
*Tier 1 - Group 2 (THE PROTAGONIST) - Real Life Animal *
You often fight sharks but very few games actually let you become the shark. This not only did that but did it very well as it is essentially a power fantasy about you going from a vulnerable pup to the overpowered juggernaut of sea creatures. It goes away from realism as you can equip your shark with things like the ability to produce electric waves and arm yourself with an exoskeleton but it all does this in the name of fun, something you’ll constantly have even if the missions become repetitive throughout the campaign.
*Tier 3 - Group 1 (DEVELOPER/PUBLISHER) - Debut of Developer *
The idea behind this one isn’t bad. A first person shooter mixed in with strategy elements taking place in the far future and you essentially have a robot Ghost Recon or Rainbow Six. Unfortunately, the execution is pretty bad as the airship you always ride on is slow and you feel restricted since you always need to have your other allies do the basics like hitting switches or opening crates. it doesn’t help that your allies are mostly brain dead in theirs of having good AI and the story itself is rather poor all around. I’d avoid this one but if you have to play it, drop the difficulty to easy if you don’t want to suffer from cheap deaths.
*Tier 3 - Group 2 (GAMES BY COUNTRY OF DEVELOPER) - China, India, South America *
The developer is located in Brazil.
Not a bad attempt at mimicking a game that’s supposed to come from the Game Boy era. Its short and your abilities are limited and while it is annoying that you have to replay the whole game if you miss one thing needed to get the real ending, it is fun if you crave something old school. it also helps that the game is cheap so the investment feels worthwhile.
*Tier 1 - Group 7 (THE TITLE - Contains:) - One Word *
The arcade game by Atari based on the 1989 film of the same name.
It gets most of the things you’d want from a licensed title right. It has stills and audio clips from the movie. You’re playing some of the more iconic sequences from there and, thanks to its arcade nature, it doesn’t run for too long. Despite this, it isn’t exactly fun. The driving and flying sequences are great but the side scrolling combat is bad and the same goes for the platforming. Not really something you’d want to play unless, of course, you’re trying to fill up a list like this.
*Tier 2 - Group 5 (The Seven Basic Plots) - …and there’s no plot *
Devolverland Expo (PC)
It is a piece of marketing when you break it down and it is short and, ultimately, pointless when you can see all of those videos online. Yet the idea of you trying to infiltrate a convention center and shoot down sentry bots just so you can see this stuff in a virtual recreation of the Los Angeles Convention Center works so damn well. At least, it worked well enough for me to get all of the achievements for it. It’s free so well worth checking out.
*Tier 2 - Group 6 (LIFE) - To the future! (sci-fi game, not set in space) *
Beyond A Steel Sky (PC)
A pretty difficult game to rate. On one hand, the adventure itself is great and being able to play in a future that isn’t crumbling to bits is awesome. The puzzles make sense and the story is quite good. On the other hand, this is quite buggy to the point where potential fans of the original should probably wait to see if those things get ironed out. Overall, I enjoyed it but it is one of those games where I’d say approach with caution or play it on Apple Arcade if you want to check it out for cheap.
*Tier 2 - Group 2 (SKILLS & THINGS WE WANT TO POSSESS IN REAL LIFE) - Ninja / Parkour skill *
Charlie Ninja (Arcade)
Barely qualifies in this list since you are playing a ninja, though you can hide yourself with a sheet to avoid enemy contact. For the most part, the game is decent enough for a quarter muncher though the game’s final boss is a pain due to the number of pits thrown into the level, something that’s only introduced here. Doesn’t take long to beat so long as you’ve got a decent amount of quarters (virtual or otherwise) to throw at it but I wouldn’t exactly go seeking this out as a hidden gem of any sort.
Tier 2 - Group 6 (LIFE) - To The Arcade (arcade game)
64th Street (Arcade)
At this point, if I really want to start stacking the list in my favor, I should just concentrate on arcade games. By their nature, they’re short affairs so knocking a few out at short intervals shouldn’t be too difficult
This is a brawler released back in 1991 so there’s some Final Fight influences here with the move to using big characters and finding power-ups in crates and tire stacks. There’s nothing remarkable about it save for the fact that you’ve got an odd floaty jump in your arsenal. One thing that does stand out as being cool is that you can throw enemies into the background and they actually affect it, producing large dents in walls and breaking glass while some more power-ups get produced as a result. A good time waster but nothing that can really be considered a classic overall.
Tier 1 - Group 5 (THE MECHANIC) - Procedural Generation
This is a walking simulator but one with a twist as every level you enter is procedurally generated. It has a beginning where you find a door to go to another world and you can keep doing this for as long as you want just to see what kind of land you’ll end up in next. There isn’t much of a point to it but if you keep walking, you’ll eventually get anecdotes from the developer of how the game came to be. It is interesting in an experimental way but not necessarily something you should seek out unless you like art-house style material.
Tier 3 - Group 7 (DIVERSITY) - LGBT / Queer main character
Tell Me Why (PC/Xbox One)
I’m convinced that Dontnod is the next Telltale Games, though they do have a few advantages such as the fact that they do more than narrative adventures and all of their stuff isn’t licensed.
The game tells the tale of twins, one of whom transitioned into a male, returning to their childhood home in Alaska in order to sell their old home. The experience is traumatic as, 10 years ago, their mother tried to kill one of them and the return to the town brings up more questions that need answering. Without spoiling anything, the tale is absolutely riveting and the characters are all believable enough that you truly care about what they’re going through. It is a well done tale that doesn’t suffer from a long wait since the episodes were released a week apart from one another and the whole thing is only three episodes long. It also helps that the game is on Xbox Game Pass so the barrier of entry is rather low. Certainly with a check if you miss that old Telltale adventure style.
Tier 1 - Group 7 (THE TITLE - Contains:) - Articles “the” or “of”
The Astyanax (Arcade)
Fun Fact: This qualifies for this category twice. If you go for the Japanese title, it reads as The Lord of King.
If you’re more familiar with the NES game then you’ll find this to be a different enough experience. This came out a year before in arcades and it has the strength meter of the NES game but this is follows more of that arcade slant with short yet difficult levels designed to eat quarters. Story is very different and it has co-op which is always appreciated in these kind of games. Not a bad title if you just wanted a quick bit of fun but you should be warned that the game’s final level goes off the rails quickly as far as theme goes.