The Big List ’17: Best of the bunch

This year I kept a list of every video game I played or went on to finish, which I creatively called The Big List. In this post, I am going to talk a little about the five games that I enjoyed the most. For the sake of variety, I have ruled out the games that made it onto The Bulb’s Game of the Year list, whi.

As I wrote in the aforementioned Game of the Year list, for me, 2017 was dominated by one game: Breath of the Wild. This means that I haven’t even finished a few of the games I most enjoyed playing this year, but I will get round to finishing them. A game doesn’t have to be completed to be appreciated though, so without further ado, I’m going to talk a little about five of the games I enjoyed most this year.

1. A Normal Lost Phone

One morning when I groggily flicked open Twitter, to see what kind of madness had happened while I slept, there was a little buzz about a game I hadn’t heard of before then. I can’t actually remember who it was that recommended it, but whoever you were I am eternally grateful. Not only did you introduce me to a beautiful little game, but a whole genre I never knew existed – the phone simulator.

A Normal Lost Phone places you in the shoes of someone who has just found a strangers phone, you must delve into this person’s private messages, emails, etc., to answer one question; who is Sam?

Accidental Queens, the French developer of this game, have done such an absolutely brilliant job of turning your phone into Sam’s that when playing I felt so uneasy throughout the entire experience. It felt like I was actually invading someone’s privacy such was the excellence of the design and believability of its characters. I don’t want to ruin the story, but I will say that I think this is one that has to be experienced.

2. Tacoma

The audio diary/log has been a staple of how video game developers will give you information or tell you their story, and it is one that Fullbright used to significant effect in their last game Gone Home. If Gone Home is top of the pack for audio diaries, what Tacoma does is take that style of storytelling to a whole new level.

Space AR is colourful.

Upon docking with space station Tacoma you get patched into its AR system through station AI, Oden. This then allows you to play back, scrub through and rewatch, events in almost every room you enter, allowing you to find out what happened to the crew. This audio/visual way of storytelling mixed with a masterclass in environmental storytelling had me gripped from beginning to end. It makes the space station feel like a tangible, lived in place, and while the game is linear and only takes a few hours to complete, it left me totally satisfied.

3. Pokémon Go

The wax and the wane of Pokémon Go have both been very well documented, at release it was nothing short of a phenomenon, and while a large part of that initial player base has dropped off, Niantic Inc. has done plenty since launch to keep those players who stayed active and even win back players.

With the introduction of Pokémon from both the Johto and, more recently, the Hoenn region, a revamped Gym system and an all-new weather system, Pokémon Go has got me back playing regularly, and I’ve enjoyed getting out and about, hunting for Pocket Monsters and battling in gyms. Now that January is here and my better half and I have promised ourselves we’ll go on a health kick I’m sure I’ll begin to enjoy this excellent little AR game all the more.

4. Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin

The internet as a whole takes great pleasure in telling us that Dark Souls II is not a good game, after playing the Scholar of the First Sin edition, what I would say to you is to give it a chance and make up your own mind. What I found was an enjoyable game that explores the madness that comes from the gradual process of losing your mind through “hollowing” in really fascinating and thought-provoking ways.

And I always heard this game was ugly.

Full of the mystery, open-ended story and deep lore that the series is renowned for, I was not disappointed at all in what I found. Yes, the combat feels a little less responsive than the first game, and at times a lot of enemies are thrown at you at the one time rather than smart placement or design. This can lead to frustration, but as a whole a thoroughly enjoyed my time with this game and would definitely recommend the Scholar of the First Sin edition as the DLCs are included, and these involve some of the best Dark Souls the series has to offer.

5. Prey

If I had to describe Prey in one word, I would choose paranoia. The second game on this list to include a space station is much tenser and often a terrifying affair. There is an alien presence on Talos I, the space station, that can transform into anything. Yes, anything.

That means that every coffee cup, shoe or piece of crumpled up paper lying on the ground could be out to get you. That is where the paranoia comes in. By the time I had spent a few hours on Talos I, my mind was mush, not knowing where the next treat was coming from. Second, guessing everything. Reading a god damn email on a computer screen became the most terrifying thing because that stapler on the desk, yeah, that might want to kill you.

Talos I is a terrifying playground in which the player lets you explore and figure out without much help from the game. There are multiple ways to do almost everything, and with a wide range of toys and powers to play with, there is a sense of freedom that makes the experience, tense as it is, feel less oppressive. Yes, everything can kill you, but after a few hours of mastering the toolset, you will feel equipped enough to be able to adapt to whatever is thrown at you.

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