Dying Light is a surprisingly long game! In lieu of a timely review amidst a hectic week, I've decided to write a mess of words in response to the first half of the game. Ordinarily I'd quality check my writing to make sure it all flows together and makes sense, but I did none of that for this. That being said, check back for our review later this week - which surely will benefit from both better organization, some semblance of fact-checking, and actually having finished the game.

Dying Light exhibits a dynamic relationship between its systems and the player. Whether or not it swings your way is (sometimes quite literally) the difference between a swift execution and an intolerable mess.

If Dying Light were a language, it would undoubtable be some form of English - but vaguely unfamiliar and slightly uncomfortable. Operating under the guise of realism typically disposes of certain "videogame-y" caveats, which Dying Light doesn't seem to acknowledge. Or, to put it differently, accepting Dying Light means coming to terms with some of its more insane contradictions. Parkour is a major part of the game, and falling too far down is a very real consequence - but it's a penalty that can be mitigated entirely by landing in a blue trash pile or on top any available car. Similar to the (automated) Assassin's Creed hay-dive, the world is basically yours as long as you land in the right place. Dying Light’s visual fidelity may imply that it takes place in a very real world, but it’s thoroughly a goal-oriented and heavily abstracted videogame.


Similarly, Dying Light's cache of zombies are some of the most physically realistic specimens I’ve seen. Most of their time is spent idling in the middle of the street, but they absorb and deal with impact with remarkable fidelity. They'll misstep and tumble over a railing, get tangled up together and collapse into a huge pile, and cascade off buildings with remarkable clumsiness. There's a real sense of weight to everything about Dying Light. When you drop-kick a zombie in the chest they'll fly into groups like a bowling ball. When a limb is severed it hits the ground with a satisfy thing thud. Part of the fun of combat is testing the fidelity of an in-game physics system and watching the results work in your favor. In this regard Dying Light feels like a comfortable medium between the floaty mash of an Unreal Engine 3 ragdoll demonstration and the plodding Euphoria physics that drove Grand Theft Auto IV and V.

Another positive, Dying Light has the darkest, blackest night of any game in recent memory. Games with day and night cycles typically reduce the latter to a blue-light Hollywood special, where visibility is barely hampered in the interest of actually seeing what’s ahead of you. Dying Light goes the other way, adapting principles of a stealth game and forcing the player to use their map safely and effectively. Use of the flashlight or noisy parkour antics will encourage pursuit by nighttime-exclusive Volatiles, who will typically rip the player to shreds if alerted.

Interestingly, there's an entire metagame built around more risky night time player. The experience system that drives the combat and agility skill trees is doubled during night, and the length of time in which one evades an alerted Volatile earns points for the third and final Survival skill tree. It's a tremendous risk/reward, and one that's at its peak when a learned-player is instinctively running on rooftops and playing cat-and-mouse with Volatiles.


Unfortunately it doesn't seem like the depth of Dying Light's challenge is qualified to match the player's progression. When I first started playing Dying Light there were mostly "normal" zombies, Biters, shuffling about the streets. With time came Runners (run fast and pursue relentlessly), Spitters (acid projectiles), Exploders (suicide bombers), and several varieties of thugs (monstrous but slow and powerful). As I keep playing it now seems like Runners are everywhere and its ruining any sensation of travel or exploration. I'm constantly harassed everywhere I go, and the once enjoyable parkour mechanics aren’t enough to successfully evade anything with reasonable accuracy.

The apparent solution seems to be crafting better (or at least more efficient) weapons, but I don't find group-combat all that engaging. Sure, swinging around flaming knife-staff with poison capability or an electrified baseball bat is great for racking up experience points and sort of funny the first time around, but it's boring to find and craft that stuff over and over. One-on-one battles with conscious humans make better use of Dying Light's jump/dodge mechanic, and are much more satisfying. Ideally, with my Level 12 fitness skill tree being far more fleshed out than my Level 8 combat skill tree, running should (usually) be a viable option. Instead it feels like an aimless concession. It's cool to do, but ultimately ineffective.

This was ultimately the problem that crippled Dying Light's spiritual prequel, Dead Island. Toward the end of that game the balance between player and systems strongly started favoring the latter. I was no longer playing the game for enjoyment, but rather to push my way through it solely in the interest of writing a qualified review. I stopped doing sidesquests, I stopped looking around, and I ceased having fun. Abrupt difficulty spikes seemed groomed exclusively for cooperative play, and at one point in Dead Island it was impossible for me to progress without enlisting randoms online. It wasn't a great time.

One particular aspect of Dead Island, significantly penalizing the player upon death, actually makes an appearance in Dying Light. When you die, you actually lose experience points for the Survival skill tree. The survival tree fuels abilities that are all but essential when moving through its systems. Any sort of death, whether it be an unplanned fall or accidental undead homicide, negs points to the tune of 2000 a pop. At Survival Level 10 I need 60000 or so for my next level, but and repeating deaths puts a huge dent in that progress. On one hand I love it when a game says fuck it and plays for keeps, but on the other, well, the focus-group-fueled, overly-controlled content of 2015 has made me soft.

Item durability, a statistic/attribute I typically loathe in games, actually comes out fairly well in Dying Light. Items you craft, either with consumable powerups or forged from loot-fueled blueprints, have a limited lifespan. While I hold my flame sickle precious, for example, I have to understand its use is finite. This sort of bums me out, but it also forces experimentation with new and different types of weapons. If I stuck to the same one or two weapon types I'd probably never learn about the joy slicing off appendages, or how effectively poison can control crowds.

It's also important to recognize the glut of content Dying Light is prepared to offer. At 23 hours I'm only 46% of the way through the story, and I have more sidequests available than I know what to do with. Existing sidequests have felt every bit as fleshed out as the main game, with the concession that they often make use of existing geography (campaign quests, by comparison, tend to break out into their own one-off levels). I've stolen batteries from busses, discovered the horror of a mass suicide, helped a pyromaniac light gas lines, converse with men who think I'm a brainless sycophant, and aided in an imminent pregnancy that was really a company of drunks. There's an incredible amount of content there, and while some of it is your usual open-world collectable filler, most appears to be hand crafted affairs.

To be continued!

WYMT in Hazard, Ky., reported Tuesday that the University of Pikeville (located in Pikeville, in Eastern Kentucky) will become the second college in the United States to make video games an official sport. Pikeville will begin offering at least 20 scholarships for League of Legends gamers in the next academic year.

From the article:

 

This fall the University of Pikeville will become the second team to offer athletic scholarships for eSports.

New Media Director Bruce Parsons said it is something he can smile about.

"It's actually becoming a worldwide trend," Parsons said. "This game is five on five competitive play. It takes skill, practice and a lot of teamwork."

Robert Morris University in Chicago last June became the first school to make eSports a scholarship-sponsored activity.


According to its official news release, UPike plans to compete as a co-ed sport in the Collegiate Star League, an intercollegiate gaming league open to all accreditted colleges and universities. The school will have one team competing at the CSL Division 1 level and three teams, including an all freshman group, at the Division 2 level.


It's nice to see a local university (Digitial Chumps is based in Lexington, about 2.5 hours west of Pikeville) acknowledge eSports' growing popularity among youth by awarding scholarships to those who show exemplary skills. I'm 100% for universities awarding financial aid based on skill-based criteria as long as it has applications for the classroom. And I think eSports embrace such criteria, in some ways more than traditional athletics. Plus, it's one of the few competitive venues in which men and women can compete together without their inherent physical traits providing advantages or disadvantages.

As long as the standards for maintaining a scholarship are in place (and Parsons says later these scholarships will be treated the same as those of student-athletes), I see this as nothing but a positive for the students, the school and the region. Hopefully this is another positive step towards establishing Eastern Kentucky as a technological frontier.

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2013's list was founded on the principle of raw innovation. 2014's thematic tie in-is a bit more fundamental; one cool idea. I can't think of a better way to express 2014’s drive other than games that left a profound impression by the efficiency and execution of a single great idea. In some cases I couldn't believe a game like this hadn't existed before, and others went so far down the rabbit hole of mechanical minutia they could have only been the product of everything that came before it.

If you want to go deeper into my increasingly obtuse criteria, all of these games (and probably all games I really like) somehow reproduced the feeling I experienced when I first picked up a videogame controller. Being born in 1983 and having a fairly normal middle-class white person upbringing, that game was Super Mario Bros. and the feeling was literal disbelief that I had agency over something inside of the television. At 31 I've got a better grasp on the process, but still find myself (occasionally) overwhelmed with my ability to exert some measure of control over it. Then and now, however, the general sentiment remains the same; a great idea is easy to recognize, but invariably more difficult to explain. With that in mind, I did my best to justify ten of 2014's best games.

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NIDHOGG

Messhof

I've always harbored an interest in fighting games, but never was quite good enough to put together any sort of manageable game plan. Memorizing giant command lists in Tekken and Soul Calibur didn't translate into a proper understanding of a fighting system, and even Smash Bros.' shared move-lists offered little guidance in the way of its finer intricacies. It's one thing to remember commands, but another to develop the contextual recognition necessary to properly deploy them.

Nidhogg issued a call for engagement that I responded to on a sort of primal level. Each player shares an identical set of mechanics, the likes of which are extremely limited and yet highly functional. Duel, vanquish, and run for the end is all that you need to understand. What allows Nidhogg to overcome its low-pressure ornamentation is the errant risk inside its objective goals. By managing fallen swords or consciously taking command of variable respawn placements, perceived failure quickly transitions to unassured strategy and grandstanding achievement.

The low-fi aesthetic certainly works in its favor, broadcasting its trappings as an open invitation. Anyone can play this. Give it a try. Through Nidhogg I've had some of the most intense and enduring virtual battles I've ever had with another human being, each of which offering sincere resolution whenever someone finally won. Being an adult and attending normal social situations, the convention of busting out consoles and controllers isn't as accepted as it was in my early 20's. When it happens, though, I'm secretly championing Nidhogg every time. My review

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LUFTRAUSERS

Vlambeer

Luftrausers serves as the model for 2014's surrounding theme; one look and it's easy to recognize as a god damn great idea. Angry Birds likely had nothing to do with Vlambeer's inspiration in building Luftrausers, but both tap in to the same general belief that momentum is attractive, and destroying things with that momentum makes for a great time. Luftrausers adopts this philosophy and literally attaches giant engines and obscene weapons to its general premise, all geared toward increasing the efficiency of personal and unbridled destruction.

The remainder of Luftrausers' ingredients also do well to support its signature killing machines. The eclectic and evocative soundtrack dynamically shifts based on your chosen load-out. The dueling monochromatic aesthetic communicates the game's relative simplicity, directly appealing to a wider range of players. Unconventional ideas like a side-scrolling map, vaguely random enemy arrangements, and variable degrees of terse luck help shape Luftrausers as 2014's ideal arcade experience. That particular label may have lost some of its meaning, but the core that Luftrausers seeks to impress should recognize it — and feel right at home. My review

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TRANSISTOR

Supergiant Games

Plenty of games explore the relationship between narrative and gameplay, but few are reluctant to give all of its finer details away. Transistor does just enough in either category, but leaves a tremendous amount of room to speculation and experimentation. You're given instruction toward its basic functions, but left completely alone with regard to how you're supposed to operate them. Likewise, Transistor's plot and tone are relayed through its transient narrative and wildly imaginative locals, but not enough to fully explain its delicate story. Popular media, especially videogames, is content to slam on the gas and assault every available human sense. Transistor is better content to slow down and let the player find his or her own way.

This was sort of the last thing I expected from a game centered creatively and mechanically on a talking sword. I found Supergiant's previous work, Bastion, to be emotionally affecting but mechanically lacking — the team loved and appreciated beloved games of the 90's without considering how their parts functioned as a whole. Transistor better achieves this concept while obliging a separate style of game, one that's probably more fitting of Supergiant's range of influence. As it turns out, that's exactly what I was looking for, too. My review

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LIGHTNING RETURNS: FINAL FANTASY XIII

Square Enix

Lightning Returns is a mess. This was the thesis of my review eleven months ago, and it’s the same general sentiment that I keep coming back to now. With that in mind, it's the kind of mess that's extremely fun to play around in. What I discovered with Dead Rising and solidified with Lightning Returns is that I greatly enjoy the threat of time set against a massive list of potential activities. The pressure should be unbearable, especially with each game meeting an unfortunate end if its needs aren't met in painstaking detail, but somehow an uncompromising time crunch makes me operate with ruthless efficiency. If I don't figure out how to get this done, then I've just wasted forty or so hours of my life.

In defiance of Square Enix's highly controlled and hilariously deficient modern output, Lightning Returns feels like a gross assemblage of every idea the XIII team was too skittish or unprepared to implement in either of the other XIII games. Quests dependent on the time of day, a job system reminiscent of X-2's Dresspheres, a (more) pure expression of XIII's battle mechanics, an open-ended approach to narrative progression, and mercilessly unloaded statistics all coalesced into Square's craziest game of the last decade. Too weird to live, too rare to die, Lighting Returns is a loaded gun of unconventional ideas and bittersweet execution. My review

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HOHOKUM

Honey Slug + Richard Hogg + Sony Santa Monica

My agitation when someone incorrectly describes Hohokum speaks directly to my passion for its incurious means instruction. Hohokum doesn't fall into the obtuse category of non-games (improperly) shoveled upon Proteus or Dear Esther. Not telling the player what to do isn't the same thing as offering nothing to do, and it's the former where Hohokum stands in defiance. There's an enormous amount of things to discover inside its disparate worlds, and literally poking and prodding at its odds and ends is the fun of the game.

Fly around, see what happens when you interact with stuff, and complete the puzzle demanded by the given context. It's a great idea, and one that I hadn't ever experienced with such consistency. Whether you're combating an elephant pulled out of psychedelic Indian folklore or properly assembling lost pieces of a roller coaster, Hohokum always makes sure you're doing something to further its cause.

Special mention also goes out to Hohokum's eclectic soundtrack, not necessarily by its insistence on reactive shifts in melody, but rather through the meditative quality behind its calm and collected rhythm. Culled exclusively from artists signed to Ghostly International, a record label with a penchant for relaxing electronic exceptionalism, each piece of music falls perfectly in sync with Hohokum's mission. Tycho makes the most significant contribution, with "Coastal Brake," "L," and "A Walk" practically defining Hohokum's lush soundtrack, but poignant offerings from Michna and Shigeto stand out as well. My review

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DARK SOULS II

FromSoftware

Dark Souls II largely gets off on being a slightly different version of Dark Souls. Marginally improving upon an established presence isn't typically enough to warrant a spot on any top ten list, but given the game being improved upon is Dark Souls — and it’s my firm belief that Dark Souls was the most important game of the last generation of hardware — Dark Souls II suits me just fine.

In all fairness, Dark Souls II had plenty going for it. Automatically de-populating Drangleic by vanquishing too many foes was, depending on your interpretation, either a welcomed bit of reprieve or a mark of shame (or, conceivably, a nightmare if you weren't good at racking up souls). Majula's warm embrace is something I'll never forget, even if the larger world lacks the contextual cohesion of its predecessor. Tack together a load of unforgettable moments - the dark stalkers in No Man's Wharf, the forced despair inflicted by The Gutter, the Bell Keepers in Belfry Luna, and the lurching assassins in Huntsman's Copse - and Dark Souls II certainly leaves enough behind to make its own lasting impression.  

Dark Souls II also allowed me the benefit of knowing what I was doing before I went in. I appreciated the process of discovery granted by total ignorance with Dark Souls, but certain bits of foresight, I think, allowed me to enjoy Dark Souls II from the get-go. It didn't help so much when the game twisted and contorted its rules into unrecognizable moments of sheer terror, but such is the inherent risk and reward of playing the game. Reminding myself to breathe typically isn't in my list of conscious functions, but every boss fight in Dark Souls ended with an exasperated sigh of relief; I did it. In the case of Dark Souls II, I did it again. My review 

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KENTUCKY ROUTE ZERO ACT III

Cardboard Computer

In a medium defined by surreal escapism, none have done it with the isolated confidence of Kentucky Route Zero. Of all the ways to interpret its themes — a meditative dive into the plight of a rural culture, a vaguely detached observance of mortality, and a thoughtful rendition of transient relationships among them - what I kept falling back on was gaming's version of Twin Peaks. Alan Wake tried to reproduce Twin Peaks' setting and Deadly Premonition (probably) tried to create an identical copy, but only Kentucky Route Zero invokes a similar sense of wonder. It's not so much about following its plot as it is about sensing its characters.

Act's I and II wrote their own signature on Kentucky Route Zero's evolving mythos, but Act III's contribution came out bolder and brighter. The addition of Johnny and Junebug provided some much needed color to the cast, but with them also came a startling sense of player-authored personality. The Entertainment was the subject of a small sequence set between Acts II and III of Kentucky Route Zero, and seeing its live embrace in the form of Johnny and Junebug's concert sent its ambition soaring over any perceived horizon. Its affecting melancholy set against The Lower Depth's otherworldly aura was a perfect moment in gaming, and certainly my favorite portion of any game I played this year.

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CLOUDBUILT

Coilworks

Cloudbuilt projects a commitment to success only sustainable by games with insanely fine-tuned player mechanics, and levels designed to test those mechanics. Super Meat Boy did this with 2D platformers, and Cloudbuilt does it with—uh, well, fast-paced, 3D third-person parkour with a touch twitch-based shooting. Other games (like Jet Set Radio and Sunset Overdrive) have featured elements of functional parkour and other games (like Mirror's Edge) have used it as a cornerstone for other ideas, but none have made it their absolute concentration. From its beginning until its end, Cloudbuilt is laser-focused on providing the player with options and challenging them to engage those options in the most efficient way allowable.

Like Super Meat Boy, Cloudbuilt is also an exceptionally difficult game. There's a bit more non-linearity to Cloudbuilt, levels aren't trying to be much more than potential venues floating in open space, but it still boils down to two basic means of play; work your way through it piece by piece, or build a route and repeat it until you nail it. The narrative of a comatose and physically mangled heroine didn't do much for me, but Cloudbuilt's vivid imagery — opaque pastels, wild agriculture, and the occasional dark and dreary neon nightmare — works well within its cel-shaded trappings. In its end Cloudbuilt isn't especially easy to wrap your mind around, but there's something to be said for a game that openly declares its mission and doesn't make concessions if you don't agree.

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BAYONETTA 2

Platinum Games

Bayonetta 2 explores the finer points of fucking shit up. This is Platinum Games' modus operandi, and yet somehow there work never stagnates. It can be odd (The Wonderful 101), abrasive (Anarchy Reigns), and overly aggressive (Metal Gear Rising), but it's never boring. Platinum's insistence on internal iteration and only releasing a technically-sound and mechanically complete final product closely follows, of all development studios, Nintendo. In a fall season when almost every major title debuts in some sort mangled or half-broken state, Bayonetta 2 makes a statement by a releasing pitch-perfect product on day one.

On its own, Bayonetta 2 did well to push the boundaries of character-action games. Bayonetta was defined by the intensity of its over the top circumstances and pushing its characters and context harder and harder throughout the game. Bayonetta 2 not only flexes more technical and artistic muscle, but out allows the player a better sense of agency inside of it all. This is something Grasshopper Manufacture and Ninja Theory, whose games are drenched in style, haven't quite learned. Pushing the line is meaningless without a correspondence with player input. Bayonetta 2 responds by not only having the best mechanics in the business, but levels designed to explicitly test and focus their potential. Coming from Platinum, it would have been silly to expect anything else. My review

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EIDOLON

Ice Water Games

In the gaming landscape of 2013, there are plenty of games about exploration and even more games about pure survival. Some make these objectives a sideshow (Far Cry 4) and others feel designed to explicitly test the player's ability to manage their environment alongside their mortality (The Forest, Rust) - but few get by on narrative alone. Gone Home, Dear Esther, and other narrative-focused, non-traditional games have found success in a relatively limited environment, but have done so with a fairly easy to follow and linear story.

Eidolon responds by going against every convention in the book. Its environment, loosely based on a “post-human” Northwest Washington state, is geographically larger than (probably) anything I've played, and yet the only means of locomotion is plodding foot traffic. Its story isn't a single tale over a short period of time, but rather the lives of a myriad of characters spread out of the course of a dozen generations. Its narrative isn't absorbed from discarded audio-logs or sequential text-dumps, but rather an incredible collection of newspaper clippings, personal journals, sketches, portraits, promotional flyers, town records, and photographs. Whatever happened in Eidolon's world is long gone, but scouring its vast expanse in search of clues is an endearing hook that makes it last for hours.

Of all the games in this list, I think Eidolon has the most objective problems. The survival aspects aren't especially well thought out and mechanically irrelevant. Its crude visual construction, while allowing for plenty of sequences that are equally breathtaking and unique, starts to feel a little same-y after a while. Likewise, either stumbling upon narrative bits randomly or obliging its primitive navigation system can infuriate the impatient. Wrapped inside of it all, however, is a game that honestly asks, "What happened here?" and drives the player to answer it with each and every piece of new information. Spacing the information out acts as an informal break, challenging the player to apply it to Eidolon's sweeping narrative until the next bit is discovered. In its end Eidolon could have found a couple of ways to be a better game but, even in its present state, it's the only game of its kind. My review

Past year’s top ten lists: 2006 | 2007 | 2008 | 2009 | 2010 | 2011 | 2012 | 2013

Other games I greatly enjoyed this year:

Sunset Overdrive - The last to be cut off my top ten. The pure joy in navigating Sunset City alongside classic Insomniac combat made it my most surprising AAA title of the year. My review

Jazzpunk - Funniest game of the year, and it also receives The Stanley Parable Award for Advancements in Weird-Ass Narrative.™ My review

The Walking Dead: Season 2 - A familiarity with its systems and operations prevented Season 2 from affecting me the way Season 1 had, but it remains an engaging and, occasionally, intense experience.

Sportsfriends - In a world where Nidhogg didn't exist, Sportsfriends would have made my top ten. Johann Sebastian Joust is one of the best party games ever made, and Hokra, Bara Bari Ball, and Super Poll Riders are excellent companions. My review

Shovel Knight - I didn't think it was possible to simultaneously scratch a Duck Tales, Mega Man, and Zelda II itch, but Shovel Knight nailed it.

P.T. - Though less of a game and more of viral problem solving/marketing phenomenon, P.T. still managed to repeatedly scare the living shit out of me. I have a feeling Silent Hills won't carry its desperate theme or unsettling disposition, but it was worth it if P.T. influenced something else along the way.

Velocity 2X - This would have been fine if it acted as a tidy remake of Velocity alongside its new and inventive horizontal, on-foot segments. The last few levels, however, when Velocity 2X makes good on its literal title, are completely sublime.

The Vanishing of Ethan Carter - It's funny what seeing a game through to its end can do. A narrative I was judging as disappointing and inept revealed its potency in its final moments. It’s probably the best looking game of the year too. My review

Alien: Isolation - I support a commitment to a craft, even when it’s abrasive to the point of being uncomfortable. There's a better seven-hour game somewhere inside Isolation's bloated twenty-hour narrative, but what remains is far from disappointing. If nothing else, it's an exceptional Nostromo-era space exploration simulator. My review

Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and Nintendo 3DS - I bought this game twice and haven't spent more than five hours with either version. When the 3DS Smash came out I couldn't get around its obtuse and imperfect controls, so I waited for the Wii U version. When that came out Nintendo didn't see fit to supply the market with enough any GameCube controller adaptors, further fucking any incentive I had to play it. There's an incredible game here, and one I can't wait to wrap my head around and explore with my friends, I just lack an appropriate means to engage any of it. Steve Schardein's review of the Wii U version, and Greg Schardein’s review of the 3DS version.

Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth - Could have been easy fan-service, which it unapologetically is, but it's also fairly rich and inventive dungeon crawler. My review

Murasaki Baby - In 2014 you can still find high quality, touch-based, and totally unique exclusives for the PlayStation Vita. My review

GAME OF THE YEAR: 420BLAZEIT vs. xxXilluminatiXxx [wow/10 #rekt edition] Montage Parody The Game - Peak internet. Danielle Riendeau covered this neatly over at Polygon

Flash Game It'll Take You Five Minutes Just Play It Game of the Year - The Last Night (and it's being pushed into a complete experience sometime in the future)

Most Disappointing Game of the Year - Infamous: Second Son. Whether it was marketing hype or my own dumb expectations, I thought Second Son was going to be the first "real" videogame to push and define the current generation of consoles. What I received was a slightly better version of a game I loved five years ago, which Sucker Punch already remade once with Infamous 2. A new generation should come equipped with new experiences, not better looking versions of the same things we've been doing for the last decade.

Games I regrettably missed this year: Drakengard 3, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, Fantasy Life, Dragon Age: Inquisition, OlliOlli, The Banner Saga, This War of Mine, 80 Days, A Bird Story, South Park: The Stick of Truth, Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor, Broken Age: Act 1, The Evil Within, Kirby: Triple Deluxe, Lords of the Fallen, Super Time Force, D4.

Total games finished this year (which I keep track of because how else can I hope to assemble this list): 87

2014 games I finished this year: 55

Greatly looking forward to in 2015: Final Fantasy Type-0, Bravely Second, Firewatch, anything VR related, Yakuza 5, No Man's Sky, Bloodborne, Mighty No. 9, Scalebound, Persona 5, Galak-Z, Metal Gear Solid V, Tearaway Unfolded, Severed, Xenoblade Chronicles X, The Witcher 3, Dying Light, Superhot, Just Cause 3, Star Fox, Volume, Yoshi's Woolly World, some playable version of State of Decay, Fallout 4, Hotline Miami 2, Ratchet & Clank. Usually I also list The Last Guardian, Mirror’s Edge 2,  and whatever Square Enix is calling Final Fantasy XV at the time, but I'm finally ready to acknowledge none of those are coming out. Ever.

We recorded a really great episode, which I'm not just saying because our work typically ranges from "man, this is pretty bad," to, "yeah, but why is this three hours long?" Mark Shepherd joined us for the fourth time in Flap Jaw Space's four year reign and first time in 2014! We called upon his tremendous insight and deep-reaching appreciation of the 16-bit era to power rank our favorite ten titles from the Super Nintendo's library. The following games enjoyed considerable discussion:

Act Raiser, Act Raiser 2, Breath of Fire, Breath of Fire II, Captain Commando, Castlevania: Dracula X, Chrono Trigger, Contra III: The Alien Wars, Cool Spot, The SNES' inferior Aladdin game, Donkey Kong Country, Donkey Kong Country 2, Donkey Kong Country 3, EVO: The Search for Eden, Earthbound, Earthworm Jim, Earthworm Jim 2, F-Zero, Fatal Fury 2, Final Fantasy II (IV), Final Fantasy V, Final Fantasy III (VI), Final Fight 2, Hagane: The Final Conflict, Illusion of Gaia, Joe & Mac, Killer Instinct, King of Monsters, Kirby SuperStar, The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening, The Lost Vikings, Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals, Mario Paint, Mega Man 7, Mega Man X, Mega Man X-3, NBA Jam, Ogre Battle, Pit Fighter, Primal Rage, Rock 'n Roll Racing, SimCity, Soul Blazer, Secret of Mana, Sparkster, Maximum Carnage, Star Fox, Star Fox 2, Street Fighter II Turbo, Stunt Race FX, Super Adventure Island, Super Bomberman, Super Castlevania IV, Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts, Super Mario Kart, Super Mario World, Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island, Super Mario RPG, Super Metroid, all of those Super Star Wars games, Super Punch-Out!!, Zombies Ate my Neighbors, and Steve's endearing favorite, Uniracers.

It's important to note that Steve spent like eight hours editing this, specifically injecting contextually appropriate air-raid sirens, along with music from many of these games in the background of their respective discussions. Episode 82 is also mixed in stereo to accommodate the incredible amount of music, so don't just listen with one ear-bud and let Steve's insane work go to waste, you animal.

The thematic current game tie-in for all of this, of course, is Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS, which three of us bought and have played at length. We detail the merit of items versus no items, go over the best and worst stages, DLC speculation, our early favorite characters, the necessity of assist trophies, omega stage satisfaction, how character movement influences and propels the hardcore crowd, and Smash 4's chance at ascending Melee.

NOT DONE YET. We also found time to talk about Persona 4 Arena Ultimax, Nintendo's iterative design process, Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor, Watch Dogs, Unseen 64, A Link Between Worlds, Steve's regret over his dog's extensive mortality, Dark Souls II: Crown of the Ivory King, somehow more Diablo III talk, amiibos, the relationship between politics and sports teams, Ebola, and craigslist videogame collecting. Eric also tried to talk about The Vanishing of Ethan Carter but as that was happening Steve ran up the stairs like an NPC with no modelling or animation for individual steps, which stymied any apparent discussion.

Duration: 3h, 15m. Recorded: October 6th, 2014.

Download this episode from our RSS feed or on iTunes. Download it directly here.

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Welcome, probably. Rather than separate our witless digression from our industry leading talk about videogames, please enjoy this mixed-together text dump detailing Episode 81's marvelous content:

The merits of seersucker pants, the idea of buying children, Chris' love of the Miiverse (and related indoctrination by Mario Kart 8), the weird arcade bar Chris visited in Chicago, Super Mario 3D World, the effect of space robots on recreational drug use, Shovel Knight, Retro City Rampage, Steve verbally orgasming over Diablo III's gem system, Steve repeatedly referencing ten minutes of a Let's Play he saw with Five Nights at Freddy's, our collective ambivalence toward Destiny, the moral objectivity of Nintendo releasing two versions of Super Smash Bros two months apart, Eric's mistrust/misunderstanding of capitalism, Steve's unconscious decent into 80's sitcom dad, the Smash Bros. 3DS demo, Steve confusing Ivan Stewart with Tony Stewart and proposing a violent interpretation of OffroadP.T. + Outlast + Dead Rising 3 and the debate of disturbing versus thrilling videogames, Hohokum, Phoenix Wright vs Professor Layton, unsolicited podcast sponsorships, how shopping at Target and Best Buy is shitty, The Walking Dead Season 2, Murasaki Baby, and Eidolon.

We also Power-Ranked the year 2007 in videogames, including a terse sequence where we agreed to disagree on the impact of Star Fox and how much better Star Fox 2 probably would have been. 

Duration: 2h,10m. Recorded on 09/26/14.

Download this episode from our RSS feed or on iTunes. Download it directly here.

Please direction comments, feedback, and hate to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  or follow us on Twitter.

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