The TEN best GAMES of 2021 – NekoJonez Edition

What a year, 2021 was. While I haven’t been able to write as much as I wanted to, I still had an amazing eventful year. A lot of incredible things happened, like the Pokémon collab, me blogging for 11 years, my start in speedrunning, and a lot more. Besides that, my personal life was quite eventful and in all the chaos of 2021, I did have a stunning year. I was able to realize a lot of projects and achieve a lot of my goals. I’m enjoying life more and more, and I’m personally quite excited for 2022 since I have various personal things to look forward to. But it’s high time that I make that incredibly difficult to make list at the end of the year. Which 10 games were my favorite games of 2021? And if this is your first time reading one of these end-of-the-year lists of mine, let me fill you in on what puts my list apart from the others. On this list, only the games that I have started playing in the past year count. The release year doesn’t matter. If I started playing this year and I thought it was amazing, it’s going to deserve a spot on this list. So, are you ready? Since it’s high time to get listing!

Editorial note: some of these games are multi-platform, but the platform between brackets is the platform I played the game on.

#10 – Age Of Empires IV (PC – October 2021)

It’s here and it’s a great game. After years and years of improving the original trilogy, expanding the originals with new DLC… We got Age Of Empires IV. But, I wish I was able to place this game higher on my list.

It does so much for the RTS genre, but there is one thing that frustrates me with this game. There aren’t enough unique mechanics for this game to stand out. It almost feels like a well-balanced mix between Age of Empires 2 and 3.

But, that is what 2022 is going to be for. There is new content coming for this game in 2022, and maybe it will make this game stand out a bit more. Now, don’t get me wrong. This isn’t a bad game by any stretch. This game is amazing, and I can’t wait to play even more. If only I didn’t get too distracted by the other games on this list.

#9 – World’s End Club (Nintendo Switch – September 2020)

My review

I have to admit, I didn’t get what I expected from this game. I expected a death game, but I got a mediocre platformer with hints of horror.

But, the atmosphere of this game is what made me fall in love with this game. I’m so glad that the game doesn’t take itself too seriously and goes overboard with being silly. This game has its flaws, for sure, but the great moments hold this game together quite well.

Just thinking about this game while writing this section of the article, I was smiling. Because of the joyful memories that were returning from this game. If only the game was polished a bit more and the game went a bit more in-depth with its mechanics, this game would be so much better.

But still, I enjoyed my time with this game enough to give it a well-deserved spot in my top 10 games list of 2021.

#8 – Lenna’s Inception (PC – January 2020)

My first impression

At certain moments, I just know what a certain game is going to end up on my top 10 games of the year list. While I don’t know on which spot yet, I do know it’s a runner-up.

While playing Lenna’s Inception, I was hooked right away. It scratched that itch of playing a new 2D Zelda-style game perfectly. This indie game did so many great things, like randomizing dungeons, co-op, and various other things. Since I got this game for free in an Itch.io bundle and I enjoyed this game so much, I decided to buy a copy on Steam, so I could support the developers.

And the developer is already working on their next game called Cassette Beasts, and it looks like it’s going to be even bigger and better than this game. So, I have my eyes on this indie studio for sure! And ByttenStudio, thank you for bringing this amazing top-down Zelda game to the table!

#7 – Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl (Nintendo Switch, November 2021)

My article on the originals

Back in 2019, I wondered if we ever would see a remake of the 4th gen Pokémon games. A generation that has a lot of nostalgic memories for me.

The first time I played the game was on a family trip. I brought Pokémon Ruby with me, and another kid I met there brought Pokémon Pearl. He always wanted to play Ruby and I wanted to play Pearl. So, we agreed to meet in the lounge each evening and play each other’s games for the whole night. Which led to the creation of a Gameboy club. Before I ramble on about this for too much, I highly recommend you to read that story I linked there.

Anyway, I also remember buying this game and giving the rest of my Christmas money to my sister, so we could buy Nintendogs together. I could go on for hours and hours about my memories with the originals. So, I had high hopes for the remakes.

I think I’ll go more in-depth about the remakes in a future article, but I have to say that even when it’s a bit clunky sometimes, the remakes are amazing! I so love playing through the adventure of the 4th generation again.

#6 – Persona 5 Strikers (Nintendo Switch, February 2021)

Look, my article is linked here!

At first, I was afraid that this game was going to be another Dynasty Warriors spin-off game, but I’m so glad that it’s not. This game is just like all other Persona games, but when you enter combat… Then it’s a Dynasty Warriors-ish kind of gameplay.

I found the mix and cross-over of these two gameplay styles amazing. While I still have to beat this game, I know that I’m going to enjoy it. This game just made me fall in love with the Persona series even more.

I still have to beat this game. Currently, I’m over the midway point. I recently picked the game up again after being distracted by other games, and I still had so much fun. So, I know that I’ll spend those boring train rides to work with Joker and his friends fighting crime.

#5 – Prey (PC, May 2017)

This isn’t a link… wait, it is. To my article.

One of my favorite atmospheric shooters series is Bioshock. I just had so much fun playing through that trilogy. Now, this year I gave Prey (2017) a try, and I was brought back right away to that amazing feeling of exploring a destroyed world with special powers.

And not only that, anything could be an enemy. The number of times, I jumped from my chair by a mimic suddenly appearing. It isn’t even funny anymore. I was so glad that I could play this game throughout my summer break. Now, I just hope that the rumors of a sequel are true since I would love to play through even more of this concept, this style of gameplay. Oh, I cross my fingers.

I just love the atmosphere in this game. You never knew you were safe or not until it was, sometimes, too late. And the limited amount of ammo and resources made me always feel on edge. The only thing I didn’t really like was how there were a bit too many quests going on at once, and it was a bit hard to keep track of which ones you are doing. Oh well, pen and paper are handy in those cases.

#4 – The Survivalist (PC, October 2020)

This game came out of nowhere. Seriously, only yesterday I decided to claim all my Humble Bundle games from my subscription and I decided to give this game a go.

Well, I’m not ashamed in saying that I already played this game for close to 14 hours already. And because of games like these, I always wait until one of the last days of the year to finalize this list.

This game will get its own full article but let me tell you, this game hits all the right notes for me. While playing this game, I get so nostalgic for The Sims 2 – Castaway on the DS. (On which I still have to write an article.) Throw a few bits of Minecraft and Terreria in there and mix it with the unique monkey mechanic, and you have this game.

If you like survival games or adventure games which are a bit more slow-paced, give this game a shot. It’s really well-made, and I can’t wait for what will come of this game. Full article to come.

#3 – The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles (Nintendo Switch, July 2021)

I’m really holding myself back in trying to not go too in-depth about this game in this article. Since Adventure Rules and I are working on something special.

A special article about this game. An article where we shall explain how we feel about this game. But, that’s all I’ll reveal for now… We are currently aiming to finish that article somewhere in January – February. But, it will all depend on our schedules. It was supposed to be finished somewhere this year, but my personal life just got too busy and I got focused on too many other projects. Anyway, all I’ll reveal for now is that there are some reasons why I don’t put this game as number 1 and why it’s so high on the list.

For those who don’t really know me, I’m a huge fan of visual novel games that have gameplay and puzzle elements like the Ace Attorney series, but also like the Zero Escape series or Death Mark. But, there are two games that topped this game, which was going to be my number 1 until I played the following two games.

#2 – SuperLiminal (Nintendo Switch, November 2019)

Don’t have to resize this article link

Man, this game took me by surprise. This rather short game with amazing visual puzzles took me on a trip.

Not only did the ending make me cry and made me think about certain things, but it also made me happy that there is a game that dares to ask those questions.

If PillowCastle or the developers read this article by any chance… Please, make more content or a sequel to this game. The concept, the story, and the ideas presented in this game are just… The potential is through the roof. If you want to know more about my thoughts and opinions on this game, please read my article about it.

Honorable mentions

These are the games that just didn’t make my top 10 list. But still, I want to mention them.

Haven (Nintendo Switch), Going Under (PC), Blue Dragon (XBOX 360), The Ship – Single Player (PC), Mystik Belle (Nintendo Switch), Neutopia (Wii U – Virtual Console), Pokémon XD Gale of Darkness (Gamecube), We Happy Few (PC), There Is No Game (Nintendo Switch), Super Metroid (SNES), L.A. Noire (XBOX 360).

And let me tell you, it was a hard list to put together. I had re-arranged this list MULTIPLE times. Each game is amazing in its own right. And believe me, I’m certain that if you ask me to make this list at a later date, it’s quite possible that this whole list has another ranking. (Apart from a few titles)

So, yeah. Let’s just say that if you haven’t given these games a chance, you don’t know what you are missing out on. And I’m also sorry for the various amount of games I haven’t included in my honorable mentions list because I haven’t played them enough or just forgot that I started to play them this year…

But enough stalling, let’s talk about my number 1 of 2021.

#1 – Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc (Nintendo Switch, December 2021)

It’s no secret that I love adventure mystery games like Ace Attorney, Zero Escape, Corpse Party, Bioshock… And when I saw in a Nintendo Direct, that Danganronpa was coming to the Nintendo Switch in December, I didn’t hesitate twice.

As soon as I had the budget, I bought the three games, and I’m currently playing the final two cases of the second one. At this moment, it’s kind of hard to decide if I should put the original or the sequel here on the number one spot since they both deserve it.

After I finished Zero Time Dilemma way back in 2016, I always wanted to play another trilogy with just the same amount of amazing twists, well-written characters, and amazing gameplay. And this series delivers that in spades. I honestly don’t want to finish this series, since I’m enjoying it that much. I want it to continue. But then again, the saying: “Don’t cry because it’s over, slime because it happened” applies here.

So, I’m so going to enjoy the final parts of the Danganronpa series and for my full thoughts and opinions, you’ll have to wait for the full article next year on these games. But, these games provide everything I’m looking for in a mystery adventure game and hits all the right beats. So, yeah. I would be ashamed if I didn’t place this game/series at my number 1 spot.

Wrapping up 2021

Sadly, due to me writing less and also focusing on other projects like contributing to open-source software, speedrunning and such… I have seen a drop in the number of visitors to my blog. I actually halved the number of visitors this year compared to 2020. But, I’m not sad about that.

When I look at the data, it turns out that I have more returning visitors and that my articles are performing better compared to last year. Also, I broke various milestones this year, like beating my day record twice AND breaking the 100k views barrier. I can’t thank you, my readers, enough for that.

I want to thank everybody who made my 2021 such an amazing year. I find it mind-blowing that people take time out of their day to read my articles, where I just talk about what I think about the games I play. And also talk to me about it, ask advice or questions. Looking back at what I wrote in the past 11 years, I think I created something to be proud of.

So, thank you for making 2021 amazing for me. I can’t wait to see what 2022 will bring. There are a few things I know that are going to happen in my personal life, which makes me even more excited to start 2022. And with that, I want to thank you for reading this article, and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article! But until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!

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First Impressions: Lenna’s Inception (PC – Itch.io) ~ Glitching The Zelda Formula

Lennas-Inception-Free-DownloadItch.ioSteam

If you have read my blog in the past, you might know that I highly enjoy the Zelda series. It’s one of my favorite series ever created. My favorite games are the Oracle games because it’s one of the first Zelda games I played and I just feel in love with the formula, the world, the setting, the mechanics… Now, since A Link Between Worlds we didn’t got a new top down Zelda game. Thankfully, indie game developers pick up that banner and create new games heavily inspired by the formula. Today, I want to talk about Lenna’s Inception, a game I played through the Itch.io page of the developers. Is it any good, does it scratch my Zelda itch or should we skip this game and look at another game? Let’s find out while I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article.

Editorial note: I have played multiple versions of this game but I played v1.1.5 for this article.

Glitching the Zelda formula

6EtbsPIn this game, you take control of Lenna. As long as you don’t rename her that is. Lenna is a teacher at a local school and as soon as she steps out, she notices that her whole school is glitched out and you are unable to enter it. So, it doesn’t take long before you meet Link, I mean Lance. He is the actual hero in the story and Lenna guides him towards the first dungeon to help Lenna save her students. 

Now, as you would expect, Lance meets a terrible fate and actually dies. Now, it’s up to Lenna to save the world before it corrupts even more. During the story you meet several characters and interact with the world. The writing contains a whole load of puns and references to other games and pop-culture. It’s quite enjoyable. 

Something I want to praise the developers for is that they managed to up the replay value in a lot of unique and interesting ways. First of all, let me tell you that there are a lot of gameplay modes besides the story mode. There are various challenge modes with leaderboards that actually invite speedrunners to make them categories. 

On top of that, there is a sort of “Spoiler Log” in the story mode. I haven’t beaten the game, so I don’t know what it exactly is, but I have seen in the changelog for v1.1 that it has to do with speedrunning the story mode.

Speedrunning this game will be quite tricky, since this game world is completely randomized. You can set a seed to know where you need to go, but the lay-out of the land and the locations of various things are random in every save file. So that means that no playthroughs are exactly the same. 

I have to say that I rather enjoyed the story and the setting of this game. There are various 4th wall breaks and self referential humor which makes the story much more enjoyable. Too bad that one playthrough of this game is rather short, if you know what you are doing, you can beat this game in 4-ish hours. Add 10 hours on top if you want to complete everything. But, again, it’s not a bad thing that this game is short since the randomly generated content makes this game so replayable. I’m quite sure that after I have beaten this game, I’ll be playing this game again during holiday breaks.

Throwback Styling

UntitledThis game makes it’s throwback to the old school top down Zelda-style complete with a 8-bit and 32-bit visual style. You can choose in the main menu if you want to use the 8-bit or 32-bit visuals for the game. In most of my playthrough, I have used the 32-bit style since I felt that style looked better. But, for this article, I booted up the 8-bit style and I was blown away. 

Seriously, it looks as good as the 32-bit style. Obviously, the 32-bit style has more details and looks better by modern standards, but the 8-bit visual style took me back to the days that I played the port of the original Zelda game on my Gameboy Advance. 

The visuals of this game are really polished, apart from one thing I don’t have any complaints. The visuals really give an amazing atmosphere and add to the story and the setting of the game. It really sells a fantasy world that is alive and that the main character of the game is actually living in it. 

Now, the lay-out of the land depends on your seed, which is nicely displayed in the load menu. I choose “Arpegi” as my seed, because why not? It’s sort of my brand name after all. When I checked out the Discord of the game, I noticed that there were snowy area’s that looked cool and I have them barely in my seed. So, I think I’m going to replay the game with another seed to try and see new things. 

The visual presentation has one flaw and that’s that the glitch effect can be a trigger for people who are epileptic. It does add a lot to the story and setting of the game but I think they might trigger some people. Something that can also trigger people are the flashing screens when the game is doing it’s randomizing magic. You can change this through the options menu, but I think you should get a warning screen to turn these off before they happen. This might be in the game, but I’m not 100% sure since I can’t remember and I don’t want to delete my save files to test it.

Yes, save files! There are multiple save slots. Well, this is partially true. You can have multiple runs but you have one save file per run. Also, this game doesn’t use an autosave! You have to save manually. So, don’t forget to save whenever you have beaten a dungeon or got a heartpiece.  

A game can have amazing visual presentation but what is the presentation of a game without it’s sound effects and music? This game delivers an amazing soundtrack and amazing sound work. While I would have loved a bit more ambient sound effects, the music is still amazing. Oh, the attention to detail in this game is top notch as well. I mean, this game even makes the soundtrack and sound effects 8-bit if you use the 8-bit visual style. 

Exploration distraction

dfgdfIf I didn’t get distracted by all the side quests you can do, I think I might have beaten this game for the first time. Yet, in this game there are several optional side quests that you can do to upgrade your gear, increase your health and even complete a whole trading sequence. 

In terms of gameplay, this game works the exact same as a top down Zelda game. You have to complete dungeons gather new items and unlock more of the story. Some mechanics are more in-depth than in the Zelda games. For example, there are way more potions and tunics in this game than in any Zelda game. In addition to that, you can even use these potions on enemies. I discovered that by accidentally shooting a healing potion into one of the dungeon bosses. 

Unlike Zelda, you can have a companion in this game. While a NPC attacking nearby enemies can be quite helpful, I found that they sometimes got stuck in dungeons on doors and they don’t help you in boss fights. Each companion NPC has it’s own health bar that’s displayed in green above your health bar. When an NPC picks up a heart, you and the NPC get healed. 

I’m not going to reveal the items you can gather in this game since it’s part a spoiler and I want to leave that a surprise to you if you decide to play this game. But, I do highly advise you to learn all the mechanics of the items since they can be helpful. Overall, the difficulty of this game isn’t that high but that might also be seed-related, I don’t know. But, I rarely had trouble with the story mode. I also never had to use a guide to progress in this game. But, I do have to say that some puzzles especially in the castle are expertly crafted and quiz you on the possible uses of certain items. 

To be quite honest, I have a lot of trouble finding negatives about this game. The only negative I could say is that the default keyboard controls are a bit awkward to use. But hey, nothing that changing the keyboard bindings can’t fix. But, then I tried out my controller on this game and I felt that the game worked even better. I could nitpick and say that I find it a bit disappointing that the options menu doesn’t have an overview of the controller controls but hey, that’s nitpicking. 

Something that I didn’t saw coming is that this game has a local multiplayer option. Yes, you can play through this adventure with a friend. Sadly enough, only local play. If you play through this game with a friend, know that it’s best with a keyboard / controller combo and that only the “non-shadow” player can move the screen. Yes, this game works with screens that can scroll like the old school Zelda games. 

While I was doing research about this game, I learned in the press kit that the developers of this game worked on titles like Stardew Valley, Starbound and WarGroove. No wonder that the quality of this game is so high. This game has been created by veterans in the indie game industry. 

So, overall, what do I think about this game? I think that this game is one that every adventure game fan/Zelda fan/indie game fan should play. This game is only 8€ and the game is worth every cent. I would even pay more, to be honest. The only things I didn’t like where the short length of the game and the default keyboard controls. But both can be solved easily. The issue with the awkward keyboard controls was easily solved by rebinding then and the short length is solved by a randomly generated adventure that differs from playthrough to playthrough. 

Visually, this game looks and sounds amazing. It also changes depending on the visual style you choose. The game does scratch that top down Zelda itch. I wanted to play more game in that style and this game delivers that in spades. I even have a hard time finding mistakes in this game. So, Lenna. Shall we go on another epic adventure and save the world again?

With that said, I have said everything I wanted to say about this game. I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care. Also, happy first birthday to the game. The game has been released for over a year now.