Kenna's 2021 Challenge Post

Even though I haven’t ‘beaten’ the challenge in past years, it’s a fun way to track my gaming and pick which game to play next, so I’m at it again!

Link to my Challenge Spreadsheet!

I’m starting with easy and just trying to fill down the Tier 1 column to begin with, to keep things simple for myself. I’ve also got a Bingo card that I made for myself and a friend, which I’ll be filling out on the side. In case anyone else is interested, here’s the blank:


January update:

Cat Quest (RPG) - bought on Nintendo’s indie new year sale. A super cute game, if a little tedious. Enough of a hack ‘n’ slash that I could play while listening to podcasts or watching Twitch streams, which means I probably missed a bit of story details, but there WAS an interesting story which surprised me. I might even buy the sequel!

Oxenfree (Platformer) - who knows what ‘platformer’ means anymore? Not me. It’s a sidescroller and there’s, like… platforms. Anyway, this was fun and interesting, and definitely one I’d recommend, but I was told to play it twice through and it’s just slightly too tedious to make multiple playthroughs worthwhile for me, personally. I should have played once through collecting none of the collectables, and again collecting them all. Ah, well. I probably WILL replay this again in a few years, it’s just the kinda creepy my scaredy-cat brain likes.

A Good Snowman is Hard to Build (Puzzle) - I’m counting this as completed even though i only did the ‘normal’ puzzles and not the ‘dream’ puzzles. Literally just a puzzle game, nice little challenge and the art was cute, but eh.

And then for my Bingo Card:


February Update:

Outer Wilds (Non-Existing Creature) - A friend of mine was bugging me to play this about all of 2020, said I would love it, so during the New Years sales I finally grabbed it on Epic and I decided to try it out the beginning of this month.

I’m still recovering from it. I couldn’t play anything for a week after and every game I looked at had to be emotionally lite because I knew a) I wouldn’t be able to handle another emotionally heavy story anytime soon, and b) literally nothing I played would stand up to Outer Wilds and so I didn’t want to play anything that even tried. It’s so weird knowing I’ve already played my Game of the Year and it was only February.

This game has Themes and Messages galore and I’ve already tried and failed to express the emotions this one made me feel on my video game blog so I’m not gonna try again. I can’t stop thinking about it. I won’t ever be able to stop thinking about it. Different people will have different reactions obviously but for me this was a perfect fit.

Magical Otoge Ciel (Visual Novel) - The aforementioned emotionally lite game I finally decided to play next, a free-to-play dating sim I found on Steam years ago and just never got around to caring to play. The writing is actually decent, and the art and characters were cute.

Hiveswap Act 2 (Point and Click) - I backed the Kickstarter years ago and still only just got around to playing Act 2, which came out late last year. I never played the Friendsim game and I realized I probably wouldn’t get around to it for a while longer, so I finally decided to get the main title knocked out. I have… some issues with it, but mostly it was enjoyable and I’m still looking forward to Act 3 (in another 3 years probably).

And, once again, the updated Bingo card:


March Update:

Thief: Gold (Stealth) - Another instance of me cheating on this list a bit; I actually just watched a Let’s Play for this one. I got through most of the first mission before deciding I hated the controls, couldn’t see anything on my screen anyways, and found the mechanics too difficult to dive into anyways. I like stealth, but I guess I’m too babied by the modern stealth genre. That’s fine with me.

This title has that fun 80s/90s bonkers fantasy vibe that doesn’t make sense but you just go with it. I was planning on going through this whole series this year (including the reboot) so I’ll see if I can make it through those titles.

RiME (Child) - Would have been a very great game if I wasn’t wrung out on grief stories already. Puzzles were fun, art was pretty, mechanics were good, it’s honestly a solid game. If only I’d played it before my GotY… It also felt a bit like someone mashing ICO and Journey together, oddly? I wonder if it’s just a common vibe of artsy indies.

Super Mario Odyssey (2017) - Finally proving once and for all that Mario is not for me. I learned about Assist Mode literally right before the final boss battle; I probably would have enjoyed this a lot more if I hadn’t been forcing myself through a 3-heart challenge. Also, why did everyone call this a ‘semi open world’? Do I just misunderstand what open worlds are? Anyway, most of the easy puzzles were fun to figure out. I just wish I’d realized Assist Mode was there, honestly.

The World Next Door (2019) - Alas, the game that Pyre wanted to be, and still ultimately a disappointing experience. The gameplay, I should say, is perfect. Love the VN-meets-combat style that Pyre failed on, I found Assist Mode right away so I could just focus on having fun instead of replaying scenes over and over, and the little story feels very YA-fantasy (appropriate, distributed by VIZ). It’s just a shame they never DO anything with the worldbuilding, characters, or plot. Reminded me a lot of a AAA game that ends before the plot does, forcing you to buy DLCs to finish the story… but there’s no DLCs (>glances at Mass Effect).

And the updated Bingo card:


April update:

Cattails (Real Life Animal) - This is the only game I was able to get to during a… weird and heavy and otherwise extremely busy month for me. As I’m writing this I technically haven’t even finished it yet, but it’s like Stardew Valley in that I could play the game forever if I don’t give myself a jumping-off point, and the previous goal of ‘until I finish this arbitrary quest’ has shifted to ‘until I pick up Pokemon Snap after work today’.

It’s actually a fun game though. Warrior Cats meets farming sim. You play a cat, expand your clan’s territory, hunt wild animals, mine gems for some reason, and so on. I was craving a farming sim that I wouldn’t feel guilty about dropping after ten hours or so and I think I’ve put at least twenty into this one.

Obligatory Bingo card:

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May Update:

New Pokemon Snap (Shooter) - It’s a rail shooter so I’m counting it! The first new release this year that I’ve been waiting for, and it did not disappoint. Fun gameplay, bit of a puzzle-solving element as you try to figure out how to get certain pictures, plenty to do for hours and hours. I’ve seen some people complain that the game is very handholdy and the dialogue scenes ARE a bit too lengthy, but… it’s just safari simulator. There’s not much to be holding your hand for!

Kingdom Classic (Strategy) - This was free on Steam a while back. I never beat it, though I did play several hours. It’s deceptively difficult; with practically zero hand-holding or explanation of what’s going on, you’re left to figure out how the world works through multiple attempts. The side-scrolling design is a really cool take on the strategy genre but it also got really difficult to navigate once the kingdom grew over a certain size. I could spend a whole game-day just going from one border to the other. I might try the sequels, but I’m not sure.

Night in the Woods (Everyman) - It’s been over a week and I’m still not sure how I feel about this game. I mostly enjoyed it, though the pacing felt very slow, and I was often sleepy while trying to play more than an hour. The characters were fun to get to know and I wish I could go back and explore all the scenes I didn’t manage to find in my first playthrough, but with how long this took to play (I don’t know exactly, but it felt like at least 13 hours) I know I’m not gonna have the attention to devote to a second run. I’m also being nitpicky when I say I wish some of the more vague worldbuilding elements were more clear.

Return of the Obra Dinn (2018) - Oooohhh man, probably the best puzzle-solving game I’m gonna play this year. The graphics are weird and amazing, I’ve been talking about the musical choices non-stop for days, and the way that the clues to the puzzle reveal themselves organically is both frustrating and immensely satisfying to uncover. I will confess to looking up further hints on where to find those clues on the internet, but only so I could properly beat the game in two sittings.

What Remains of Edith Finch (Walking Sim) - I… eh. This game has so many 5-star reviews that I feel bad feeling meh about it - maybe I just played it at the wrong time? This is not the year for me and grief stories. It reminded me a little too much of Dear Esther for comfort (a game I wanted to love but was ultimately very let-down by). At least this one wasn’t intentionally nonsensical, but the stories this game told didn’t fill me with any sort of cathartic emotion on the meaning of life and death or whatever. I just felt like this wasn’t a very healthy (mentally, or to each other) family.

And the Bingo card:


June Update:

Abzu (2016) - Got this from Sony’s free Play at Home thing this year. I’ve been wanting to check it out for a while and it’s… interesting and pretty for sure, but I couldn’t really feel it. It felt too much like a water copy of Journey, and the controls were pretty awkward for me. Just another check off my list, then.

Hades (Brawler) - I have mixed feelings on this overall. Supergiant’s previous game was a big flop for me so I was very anxious going in, then the first ten hours or so were massively fun, totally worth it, and I was so relieved. But after about 20 hours of the repetition I was getting a bit tired of not progressing through the story, and finally turned on God Mode, and it still took me until about 35 hours to beat (dad)Hades… at which point I learned I’d have to do it nine more times to actually beat (the game)Hades, and I turned it off. I eventually just watched through the dialogue scenes on YouTube to find out what happened in the story (spoilers, it turning out that the entire conflict was caused by Hades and Persephone just not wanting to talk to their family?? Felt a little… not worth the time commitment. Especially considering that it gets ‘fixed’ so easily).

I appreciated this game having a ‘God Mode’ but I wish it had had a straight-up Easy Mode for people like me who love Supergiant’s writing, and felt legitimately good solving the puzzles of the combat scenarios… but are just bad at fighting games. I can’t spend another 30 hours learning to ‘git gud’ because if your game takes that long to be playable, I’m dropping it.

That said, though, while I enjoyed it I did really enjoy it. Supergiant’s writing/coding is always delightful and finally managing to beat each boss was exhilarating.

Also, Hades finally finishes out the Genre challenge group for me!

Dream Daddy (Custom Character) - Came here looking for something light and silly and I was well rewarded. I realized how little time I had left in the month, and that I’d only played two games, so I played through exactly one route of this before marking it complete. I probably won’t go back to play the others? It’s a silly cute game and the minigames are either fun or aggravating, but I can also just watch the other route on YouTube, probably.

Democratic Socialism Simulator (Unnamed General Perspective) - Itch bundle, fun title, 30-minute playtime (approximately). It’s pretty simplistic but the music was fun, and I totally ‘won’ in my first playthrough so I will pat myself on the back for being such an amazing 2D politician for the rest of the day

And the Bingo card, now with three bingo’s! I might have to double up on this card soon:


July Update:

Control (To the future!) - so I probably just played a different game from everyone else who rated this so highly? I think that makes the most sense.

I actually bought Control a couple weeks before it went for free on Edge, and I think it was still worth the Steam sale price I got it at but it was a bit of a disappointment. Part of the problem is my new PC’s CPU is several years old, and I had to turn down the graphical settings to get it to run without stuttering. I wasn’t here for the ‘amazing’ graphics but I gotta assume that’s what made everyone overlook the lackluster story. It took me weeks to force my way through it, which is why it’s the only game I technically played this month.

Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune (2012 or older) - I bought the entire Nathan Drake collection years ago, on sale at a GameStop, thinking I’d finally get around to it someday, and then last month my brother borrowed my PlayStation and started playing it, and the bit of it I watched made me realize I was never going to play these games. So I watched the Gamer’s Little Playground ‘Game Movies’ on YouTube instead. I’m counting it because it’s my spreadsheet and I can do what I want, and also video games are about having fun and I definitely had fun.

It’s hilarious to see that all the bad reviews on this title are about the bad gameplay and mechanics when that’s the part I got to skip entirely. So I can’t give it a fair star rating, but the story’s fun, if a bit ‘generic charming action hero’-y.

Uncharted: Among Thieves (Contemporary setting) - Same thing, watched the game movie instead. Nathan Drake is a bisexual action hero in this one and I feel like the obsessive fans should be talking about that more. I also had to physically stop myself from complaining about weird situational inconsistencies - why did no one ever find the lost city if you can easily see it from the sky? Why are we murdering all these natives? Couldn’t Drake have just destroyed the dagger at the beginning, thereby destroying any way for Mr. Villain to follow the clues (unless he decided to give the island a single flyover I guess)??

Best not to think too seriously about these things. At least the girls and boys are pretty.

And the traditional bingo card, with SEVEN bingos (I counted right this time) and ONE doubleup

1 Like

August update! Life has been chaotic and busy all summer so here’s more ‘watching video games counts as video games right??’ updates:

Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception (Desert) - I was watching this one the end of last month and the beginning of this month which was already so long ago that I can’t remember much about this game, except that it’s my least favorite of the series. Nathan Drake spends an entire twenty minute sequence (in the ‘movie’) climbing into an airplane as it’s taking off, getting attacked by minions in the airplane, accidentally causing a horrific plane crash which he miraculously survives, then he wanders away from the wreckage into the wild desert with literally zero supplies. I can excuse a needlessly complicated shootout that takes down an entire airplane but I draw the line at wandering around the desert with nothing but the clothes on your back! If that’s the kind of survivalist he is then the only way Nathan Drake survived so long is literal and repeated divine intervention.

Also Elena was right and Nathan just shrugging her off (in this game and the next) bugs me. I don’t understand why the game ended with them being happy together (no I do it’s male fantasy) - if I was her I woulda been all ‘Oh I’m so glad you survived! Because here’s the divorce papers. I can’t be around the next time you put your life on the line.’

Uncharted 4: Thief’s End (Oceans Rivers and Lakes) - Basically what I’m getting at here is the Uncharted series isn’t for me. I find the puzzles interesting and the gameplay looks fun, but I can’t get into the whole ‘spirit of adventure’ mood I think is what makes this series click for everyone? Which is sad cause I really do enjoy these games on a pure gameplay level but like… Nathan please stop trying to get yourself killed.

Cube Escape Collection (Morally Ambiguous) - I downloaded this on my phone thinking it’d be a fun idle game and realized quickly that’s not what it was. This is a series of 9 horror-themed escape room games (show me an escape room game that isn’t horror theme. For real. I’d love to play some), which loosely tells a story or… something…? Anyway, the puzzles were interested and I looked up a lot of walkthroughs, lol. There’s more games in this series but I’m probably not gonna play them.

Obligatory Bingo card!


September update! Late because life is kicking me in the butt!

Gris (Space) - This is a very beautiful game with very cool mechanics and I do not like it. This keeps getting included on lists of ‘emotional’ indie games and the most emotion I felt was a visceral hatred for the sexy naked crying girl statues being littered around to make us feel sad for hot girls who are sad. At one point you have to climb up one of these statues and of course the entry point is her (naked) butt so you know this was made by a straight man with something other than healing on his mind. I’m dealing with my own grief this year and seeing themes of grief badly handled (and with a ‘pain is beautiful’ message tacked on, even!) just makes me angry.

Kena: Bridge of Spirits (2021) - I’ve been waiting for years for this game, because the protag’s name is pretty similar to mine, and it’s finally here! I actually had mixed, but mostly positive, thoughts. Initially the controls were kinda janky, which felt like a fun artifact of a studio’s first video game. They did some improvements over the first week, but then I realized the problem might actually have been my PS4 controller? I also noticed that, despite looking like a cutesy game for kids and newbie gamers, it actually relies on a lot of video game standards that are intuitive for gamers, but maybe not so much for newbies? For example, the ‘climbable ledges are white’ mechanic that we see every studio use nowadays. Also, some of the combat sequences and puzzles are actually pretty difficult, and require precise timing. Easy Mode only turns down enemy damage, so good luck on those timed jump scenes if your controller is having issues!

Overall I really enjoyed this game. All of the collectables were really fun but I didn’t feel I missed out by not finding them all, and the game encouraged some out-of-the-box thinking. I loved the story, but it felt like there were threads they set up but never resolved? (Unless I missed/forgot some scenes - I don’t remember Kena’s hand wound ever being explained, nor why she was looking for the Mountain Shrine to begin with.)

Outer Wilds: Echoes of the Eye (Gothic) - I’m counting this even though it’s technically a DLC because both the base game and EotE took me roughly a week to play. I’m also throwing it in the gothic setting because all the other categories I should have used were taken, and googling Gothic fiction seems to fit very well.

There’s really nothing I can say about Echoes of the Eye that hasn’t already been said. It felt like getting to play Outer Wilds for the first time all over again. I went in terrified about the ‘fright’ warning and I’m a scaredy-cat, so every little spooky thing spooked me out, but I kept pushing through because I trusted the developers to show me something worth discovering. I watched a guy on YouTube play through the stealth parts because I was too scared to figure it out myself. I saw what the hidden archives had to say and I cried. I opened the locked vault and saw what was inside and cried like a baby. I braved Dark Bramble again for the first time in months and died for real for the first time ever in this game (lol). I saw the updated true ending and I’m still crying.

If you want a game that actually explores the concept of grief well, this is it.

Also, honestly, as a person who struggles with fear, the way this expansion explores fear as a theme was really cool. I’m still afraid of the stealth portions, but this is the only time a work of fiction (specifically a video game) has ever said ‘it’s OK to be afraid, but you have to work past it’ and I respect that so much.

Obligatory bingo card, I’ve got to seriously work on finishing this up:

1 Like

Oct/Nov update: I’m not dead! I’m still occasionally on the internet! Once in a while I sometimes play a video game!

Spiritfarer (2020) - I’d been sitting on this for so long and finally I just needed to play a Switch game. It wasn’t as great as I was expecting, but part of that is definitely because I was binging a podcast while playing - the split attention meant I skimmed through some of the spirits’ stories, which I normally hate doing. Definitely more of a management game than an emotional exploration on the concept of death, and I felt like the ‘‘reveal’’ of the end could have been done better - actually, there were several smaller elements that detracted from the gameplay - but overall I liked it. The boat management was satisfying, and the characters were fun.

Into the Breach (Protagonist: Object) - Another one I finally got around to. I only played as much to save the day once, but if I wasn’t pushing myself to work through my backlog I could definitely see myself getting sucked into this one. Solving a particularly complicated mission is sooo satisfying.

This Bingo card is basically a joke now but I started it and by golly am I gonna keep pretending I’m working on it:


a bit late but did you really put new pokemon snap under shooter?