Available for download on: Playstation 3
I played through this game in one sitting, dove back into the challenge modes and higher difficulties, and then had to stop because my neck actually hurt from bobbing my head to the beat the whole time.
Just when you think this game is a pretty bullet hell shooter that banks on its chip tunes and references to Minecraft, Retro/Grade jolts backwards in re-winded time. As it turns out, you have to unfire every laser, rocket, and bullet that the protagonist shot throughout his entire journey, and all to the crisp crunchy cadence of some of the best electro music in a game this year.
Yes, Retro/Grade is a great rhythm game that doesn’t seem to care about the supposed “death” of the genre. What’s more, it provides a fresh, approachable, and technically flawless take on music games. Also, the game looks beautiful and can be played with a guitar, if that’s your thing.
Retro/Grade came out quietly in the fall of this year as the sole release of developer 24 Caret Games. It also grabbed a perfect 5/5 review from us. Don’t let this game go unplayed.
Available for download on: PC, Xbox 360, Playstation 3
I’ve tried out demos of some puzzle games and gleefully excelled at them, only to purchase the full version and become crushed to the point of losing my motivation to finish them; this is definitely not the case with Pid. Developer Might and Delight, composed of much of the team known for the excellent Bionic Commando Rearmed, have crafted a rare gem of a puzzle platformer that strikes a great balance between difficulty, freedom, and atmosphere.
Where most puzzle games have a very clear singular solution. Pid’s simple tools of a thrown gravity emitting ball (two can be active at once), a slingshot, and a couple other doohickeys interact with each other in a way that makes it feel like many solutions to a puzzle are present at once. Sometimes this can make it feel like you’re cheating or breaking the game, while other experiments can have you gliding past enemies, spikes, and lasers on your beam of gravity with inches to spare. A local co-op mode allows two players to combine their gravity beams and tools, creating a new mix of possibilities.
Beyond all of the tight controls and environmental puzzles, it’s the musical, artistic, and subtle narrative style of Pid that pushes it into the cadre of games with perfect Vagary.TV scores this year. From the wordless slideshow cut-scene and elegant piano and drum lullaby that paints the introduction of the game, all the way through the despondent color commentary of the characters in the world, Pid surprised me with it’s pervasive yet carefully minimalistic atmosphere. It’s a delightful game that I recommend to anyone.
Available for download on: Playstation 3
I see some odd looks on people’s faces when I describe this game. “No, really, it’s cool,” I’ll say. “It’s a post apocalyptic game where you play as an animal in an irradiated Tokyo. It’s like what would happen at the end of the world if only animals were left. Well, house pets, zoo animals, and dinosaurs.” They just don’t get it.
Believe me, I’ve been there. I’ve been the leader of a pack of sheep hiding in the subways and tunnels of Tokyo, scrounging for food while avoiding predators and radiation. I remember the time when the only place left in the city that had food was on the other side of town. Upon creeping into the daylight, I saw Pterodactyls dive-bombing Hippos before I watched my pack of sun-visor wearing sheep (it gave a defense bonus, you see) get picked off one by one by larger cousins of the Velociraptor.
The combat is solid, the random elements in the game add a huge amount of variety, and the local co-op is ridiculous enough to be entertaining in its own right. Now, if only developer Sony Japan would add in an online version or some Playstation Vita functionality…
Available for download on: PC
They Bleed Pixels, developed by Spooky Squid Games Inc, is unapologetically gory and difficult while somehow finding a way to use H.P. Lovecraftian words like Eldritch without making it feel quirky and undeserved.
After finding a demonic book not unlike the Necronomicon in the Evil Dead movies, the young protagonist is transformed into a spiked-handed monster slayer and set forth into the first of many dungeons. After some quick tutorials and many likely deaths at the hands of spikes, moving saw blades, or the sometimes surprisingly quick enemies, you’ll realize that the game doesn’t hold your hand at all. Even checkpoints, the saving grace (sorry) of many a difficult game, are given out as a sort of reward for good performance, allowing you to set your own save point where you please.
I’m normally not a fan of one button combat, but They Bleed Pixels intelligently designs its fighting system into a very simple balance of strikes, juggles, and launchers. After just a few minutes of practice, it never felt awkward or as if I would inevitably use the wrong attack at the wrong time and end up dying a quick death – which is kind of important in a game that so readily demands the best of its players.
Oh, and the soundtrack is pretty cool, too. Just listen to it
Available for download on: PC
I feel like I’ve already written so much about this game, but it can’t be said enough: Hotline Miami is incredibly brutal, stylish, and a joy to play. That sounds like hyperbole, but developer Devolver Digital has crafted something of such a pedigree that makes the accolades we’ve given it feel deserved.
Blending the cocaine addled post-disco motif of the movie Drive with a sort of pseudo 16 bit aesthetic replete with gore, the atmosphere is something I personally haven’t seen in a game before. Toss in the soundtrack that ranges from hazy and leisurely to crunchy chiptune disco-techno, and Hotline Miami gets even weirder; well, just a little more weird than a game that initially seems to be about a hitman who puts on rubber animal masks before killing buildings full of Russian mobsters.
Though the on-again, off-again controller support is incredibly frustrating, the mouse and keyboard controls will still help you clear rooms with ease after a fair bit of practice. As swift and precise as the controls can be when you want to barge into a room, guns blazing, fists flying, and knives/bats/drills sailing through the air, quick deaths at the hands of the quick-to-react enemies will have you planning a bit more carefully. Oh, and what a joy it is to successfully pull off one of those plans; there’s nothing quite like flattening a mobster against the wall with the door you just opened, tossing a pair of scissors at one thug, beating another to death with your hands, and then finishing off the first with his own weapon. Now try taking turns at that sort of scenario with a friend or two over a pizza and some beverages. Seriously, that’s pretty much how I reviewed the game. You should play it.