Dunkey’s Best of 2018
If 2017 was Nintendo’s year, then 2018 was certainly Sony’s with the PlayStation 4. Carving out its reputation as “The Console” for narratively driven games. I got a huge amount of mileage out of Odyssey’s, Luigi balloon mode and I’m also the only person I know who still plays Overwatch.
Toby Fox’s Deltarune demo proved again that JRPGs can actually be good, Black Ops 4 proved that a multiplayer game doesn’t have to be good to be fun, Fortnite proved that a game doesn’t have to be fun to be a massive hit and Bethesda discovered that people don’t play Western RPGs for the sloppy combat. (Orchestral Music plays) (Music stops) “Monolith” is a deceptive game. You have this bouncy, playful music; you have this little hub with a talking dog, then you go through here and everything starts to kill you. It’s very unapologetic about throwing you into a tiny room filled with a million bad guys and giving you one second, to figure out what you have to do. With enough practice though, you’ll find yourself kiting around hordes of ghosts while building up your score mutitiplier which grants you more money, the longer you can go without getting hit.
While Monolith can be technically beaten in twenty minutes, it’ll take around 10 hours of losing to overcome the first final boss. Who has three phases… And can do this. Thi- this is the first one. Jackbox games are pretty unique in that the gameplay revolves, almost entirely, around trying to make your friends laugh. Sometimes that means creating a new slogan for Olive Garden, sometimes it means designing a T-shirt and other times, it means writing a rap song. – [Jesse] ♪ Please vote for me ♪ (Female Text to Speech voice) ♪ I don’t want to lose against Gene ♪ – [Jesse] O- Okaaay… – [Gene] (Laughs) – [Dunk] One of the coolest parts about these is that only one person needs a copy of the game installed and then everyone else can join through a browser on their computer or a phone.
It’s a very social experience that is less about the game itself and more about the people you play it with. In “Downwell”… you go down a well. For nearly its entire duration your guy is falling and you have to keep him airborne by chaining together these huge Tony Hawk Goomba stomping combos, bouncing from one enemy’s head to the next.
You can also propel yourself by firing your gun boots, which will reload, every time you jump on a guy. It’s a simple and effective concept where every design choice feeds into the next “Devil May Cry”, “Bayonetta”, “God of War” These games are all about juggling enemies and dispatching them with huge double-digit combos But for my money, you can never beat the satisfying simplicity of that one-shot kill. You know, that: “PAH!” “Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon” is all about that.
It takes every element about the NES Castlevania games that worked, refines them and introduces some new ideas. Like being able to swap characters with the press of a button Look at this bow and arrow guy! If you try to go after him with the whip lady, Boom! You dead. Amateur move. But then you swap to the old man… and you realize that the old man just does not give a fuck about this guy.
You can fight this rock monster the old fashioned way. You know, evade his attacks and then strike when you see an opening, or you can swap to the old man, who takes the rock monster and he says: “No! You are an ice cube!” Really, this whole game is about swapping to the old man and kicking everythings’ ass. “Monster Hunter” is a game when you will hit a guy for 40 minutes and then he’ll smack you once and you’ll die. It’s got a lot of rough edges and irritating quirks, but at the end of the day… You’re fighting dinosaurs with a sword!
The game delivers in spades on its ridiculous premise. The first guy you fight, Great Jagras. Introduces himself by swallowing this thing whole Toby Kenobi jumps from tree to tree (Tobi-Kadachi) before pouncing on you with his electricity feet.
Rub-A-Dub hedgehog rolls around the map (Radobaan) covering himself with bones. Tornado Johnson (Kushala Daora, Dragon of Steel) just shoots fucking tornadoes at you. Then there’s Beetlejuice (Bazelgeuse) Then there’s a T-Rex with built-in fire breath, (Anjanath) just in case you thought you could win. Though you can just repeatedly ram your head into them, like a dumb fucking caveman, until they die. “Monster Hunter” is more about rewarding methodical players who learn everything about a specific monster and then spend hours acquiring the proper gear and items to fight it.
From what I understand, the ultimate goal is to build all of these armor sets for your cat. I mean, look at the stuff! You can have it be a ladybug. What is this?
Buzz Lightyear? Ooh! Now, look at this. Ooh.
You’re seeing this? This is a good game. “Lumines” is a very dangerous kind of game where you will boot it up and an hour will just disappear. All you do is match the blocks up with ones of the same color then the screen will wipe and clear away the matching groups and occasionally, you’ll get special blocks that clear everything they’re connected to. Anyone can pick this up and start having fun, but only trully dedicated players will be able to reach the doggy level which is called… “Take A Dog Out A Walk” It’s addicting, it’s hypnotic, it’s the best puzzle game since Tetris.
Sometimes, when a game is too artistically brazen, it’s impossible to tell if it’s genius or stupid. “Uncharted 4” is in fact, a work of genius. Henry Avery’s descent into madness is cleverly juxtaposed with Nathan Drake’s own tale of an obsessive treasure hunt, as the game moves you from one richly realized locale to the next.
The shootouts are flashy, the platforming is exciting, the climbing… the puzzles are skillfully interlaced with the narrative. What I’ve really come around to though, again… …is the story. On the surface, “A Thief’s End” is just another Indiana Jones style blockbuster, but underneath, it’s actually a love story. One of few that you can actually learn something from. Sam and Nate are relatably selfish and self-destructive and are ultimately only redeemed, not by themselves, but by the people who love them.
It’s the first game I’ve played where the princess saves you and you’re just kind of an asshole. “Super Smash Brothers Ultimate” is Smash And Smash… is Smash! Do you really need me to explain to you why this is awesome?
That- Jus- If you do. Fuck you! Just get outta of here-! Real quick.
Let’s do an experiment… Now I just showed you 3 levels from Donkey Kong versus 1 from Mario. Right? Right?!
WRONG! (Cackling) You’ve fallen for my biggest trap yet. That was 3 Mario levels and only 1 from Tropical Freeze. Now. Don’t you feel stupid, Gerald?
The reason why my trap was so effective is because these stages are so uniform. Same music, same tiles, same background. But in “Tropical Freeze”, nearly every level tells a little story.
It’s like comparing Disneyland to Six Flags. You look at New Mario Bros. and the enemies and platforms don’t really make any sense beyond the context of: “It’s a platforming video game”, but here in “Tropical Freeze” it feels like Donkey Kong actually lives inside of the cartridge. In this level, where you’re ascending up these owl shaped mountains, the platforms are actually hot-air balloons. Here, it’s a turtle swimming in a pool.
Here, it’s a section of an airplane that’s precariously suspended on a tree. It’s this attention to detail that ignites your curiosity to see what’s next. Of course, the presentation is only the tip of the iceberg if you can even understand that level of comedy. “Enter the Gungeon” is the biggest celebration of video games inside of a video game since Smash Bros. and a title that I poured too much time into. It’s a shooting game happening on such an intense level that it makes a “Doom” look tame, with a seemingly endless supply of creative weapons and enemies.
If you’re really willing to dig deep and conquer this soul-crushingly hard game, somehow, in the end, “Gungeon” is worth it. “Zero Ranger” is easily the most criminally overlooked game, this year. Like the best shoot-’em-ups, it’s a ballet of robots and laser, where the music is just as important as the choreography of the attacking spaceships. Giant Mechs spew hundreds of bullets at you while you gracefully swerve through the cracks and return fire. Enemies and obstacles swarm you from every side of the screen, rarely ever allowing for one-dimensional, screen hugging gameplay- You know what, Paulie?
Just play the music! (Epic music from “Zero Ranger” plays) (Music stops) “Into the Breach” achieved something I thought was impossible by making turn-based combat exciting. Each scenario is about defeating waves of giant bugs, while at the same time, protecting the civilian buildings which are caught in the crossfire.
Every turn, the game will put you into a desperate checkmate scenario where your options seem limited and it’s on you, to come up with a clever way to turn the tide and stay one step ahead. Unlike many tactical games, there is almost zero ambiguity about what the enemy is going to do and what they’re capable of. “Into the Breach” communicates so effectively to the player. Who is attacking what and when and what the consequences of that attack are. Giving you more than enough information to make strategic decisions consistently.
You can trick bugs into attacking each other, knock ’em into a landmine, bust open a dam and wash ’em away. There’s so many badass stunts to pull off and they always feel earned. Creating a 2D platformer is a nearly suicidal endeavor You’re coming up against some of the greatest games of all time and saying: “Hey guys, look at me!”
“This is worth playing.” What’s crazy, is that Celeste actually is with ultra precise controls, exciting mechanics, a beautiful soundtrack and so much inspired platforming, it doesn’t even know where to put it all. It’s very much in the vein of these games where the side content is indistinguishable in quality from the main game. (drum roll) “God of War” is a rare example of a triple-A studio putting out a game of actual triple-A quality. It tells an absorbing story, without skimping out on gameplay.
It’s funny, without robbing the narrative of its dramatic tension. It’s the result of more than 270 developers and yet, comes across as a distinctly personal project where the passion of everyone involved shines through.