Yesterday we took the opportunity to look back on 2016 once more, but to highlight the games that we enjoyed in spite of their flaws, the games that didn’t get the recognition from us they deserved, and the oddities that stuck with us. We carry that on today with the second half of our list.
When it comes to arcade shooters, Housemarque are probably the best in the business, and yet Alienation oddly flew under the radar. A spiritual sequel to Dead Nation, it upped the ante with four player coop, bigger explosions, larger, less linear environments and better reasons to play through time and again with better and more powerful gear drops – I’ll always fondly remember my pistol that fired boomerangs.
Perhaps it was the lack of local coop at launch – since added in a patch – the change in setting or simply not a big enough marketing push, but it didn’t sell terribly well. Here’s hoping Nex Machina and Matterfall get the attention they deserve.
RIVE is a game that I’ve had a link with for the past couple of years. My first experience was at EGX 2014. I previewed the frantic side scroller then and jumped on any piece of news I could find about it. Last year the RIVE finally released, the last new game from Two Tribes, and I reviewed it. In my review I did reward the game a 7/10 but did state that the areas that had fast action were really well put together. RIVE is a proper tough nut to crack at times and it could get frustrating but for me it is still one of the better action platformers to release in 2016. It combined shoot em’ up and platformer really well, and even now it goes strong with challenges. If you enjoyed something like Velocity 2X then this may scratch the itch that that left behind.
Thumper truly lives up it’s rhythm-violence billing, but despite its claustrophobic atmosphere and cruel difficulty it certainly isn’t an experience you should shy away from. Careening down a singular track as a metallic beetle, the set-up seems a little sparse at first, but soon enough there’s far too much happening for you to consider anything else.
Playing the game in VR turns everything up to eleven, and there’s few titles that have such a compelling singular vision. It’s worth noting that Thumper’s brutal soundtrack is a crucial part of that vision, and absolutely tops off the experience.
Having been caught in limbo for so long, The Last Guardian became somewhat of a running joke in the build-up to any Sony press event. Right before launch, there were concerns surrounding Team Ico’s finished product, considering how the final release didn’t look all too different from footage shown several years ago.
It was well worth the wait, however, The Last Guardian being one of the most truly emotive, unique games on PlayStation 4. Sure, Trico’s unpredictable behaviour can lead to some frustrating moments, though these do little to mar such an immersive adventure. There’s something to be said about Team Ico and its dedication to bringing us unconventional games that can often feel more akin to works of art.
Last year we praised Kingdom for bringing something new to kingdom management titles, so it’s only fair that we give similar recognition to Reigns this year. Its interface, swiping cards left or right in a manner reminiscent of Tinder, is much simpler than Kingdom, or most other games, and yet it manages to build a complex, compelling experience from this simple base.
Of course, it’s using Tinder’s swiping to very different effect. Do you want to let your army invade a country to the South? Oh dear, they’ve become emboldened and overthrown you. What about expanding your marketplace? Well now the Church isn’t too happy and you’re on your way to being declared a heretic. Keeping these various, competing elements in check is a solid game in itself, but it’s the small stories and other gameplay elements that really make Reigns shine. Follow the correct path through the cards and you can find yourself in a dungeon crawler, trying to trick the devil or duelling your own son, all controlled by simply swiping to the left or right.
Until I actually played it, my excitement level for Watch Dogs 2 was at zero. This is coming from someone who actually enjoyed the original, despite being looked back on as the most overhyped games ever.
Looking at everything, from its hackable open world to the fresh cast of characters, Ubisoft clearly had fun sculpting this sequel. It’s way, way less serious than the original even though it touches on some pressing real-world issues. A particular highlight for me was the return of Watch Dogs’ multiplayer invasions. These hide and seek scenarios are brilliantly tense and rewarding, the expanded set of hacking tools allowing you to screw with your opponent in strategic, often humorous ways.
Overcooked is still my favourite local multiplayer game of 2016, hands down. Since reviewing it last summer, I quickly went back to clean up three stars on every stage, hungry for more. Sadly, The Lost Morsel was more of a bite size snack rather than a meaty side dish, adding little to the overall package, while The Festive Seasoning felt more fleshed out despite being a free add-on. That said, it was here that I encountered several bugs forcing me to restart every time one occurred. Their pervasiveness meant that I couldn’t enjoy Overcooked to its fullest during the Christmas break, though it remains one of the finest co-op games in recent times.
I think we’re probably all tapped out for 2016 retrospectives for now, but if you haven’t already, you’re more than welcome to comment below on what games stood out for you but didn’t get the recognition you feel they deserved. Maybe it’s just a game that you kept going back to, but aren’t entirely sure why?