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Gamer’s Thoughts: Top 10 Games of 2020 – NekoJonez’s List

NekoJonez176p_(long)It’s that time of the year again. It’s time to list the best games of the year. So, which games did I enjoy in 2020? Before you roll your eyes and think: “Urgh, another list of games the big titles that released in 2020 in another order.”… Well, I have a special surprise for you. My top 10 list doesn’t work that way. On my top 10 games of the year list, I order the games I have started playing in that year, no matter when they were released. So, every game I played for the first time in 2020 is fair game, even when I picked it up in a garage sale or retro game store. So, which games were my favorites in 2020? Let’s check them out while I invite you to leave a comment with your top 10 list and/or your opinion on my personal list.

#10 – Abyss Of The Sacrifice (Switch, December 2020)

capsule_616x353The number 10 of this year literally came out of nowhere for me. I just started to play this game last week and I’m in love with it. Abyss Of The Sacrifice is an enhanced port of a Japanese PSP game from 2010 called “Misshitsu no Sacrifice”. This game was also ported to Steam.

If you have read my blog in the past, you might know that I love the Zero Escape series and games that put you in a situation where you need to solve puzzles to escape meanwhile a tense story is unfolding with betrayals, psychological horror, multiple endings… And does this game deliver that in spades.

When I started to play this game, I was taken back to the joyful memories of first playing the Zero Escape series. Currently, I have solved the first few puzzles but I can’t wait to see what other things this game has in store for me and if I was justified in my decision putting this game in 10th place or if I should replace this game with another game. But, so far… I’m quite certain that this game deserves a spot on this list since it was an amazing surprise to close off this year.

#9 – Baba Is You (Switch, 2019)

Baba is YouFirst impressions of this game.

So, number 10 on my list was the big surprise that closed off my year… And number 9 is the amazing surprise that started my year.

This puzzle game looks extremely charming but looks are deceiving. This game isn’t easy at all. It requires you to think out of the box and really think outside of the box.

I find it still so surprising that this game was first created for a Game Jam and than the developer just started to expand on it. I seriously tip my hat to you good sir, Arvi Teikari. You blew me away with an amazing game that I still need to finish since I want to beat those puzzles that keep stomping me for months now. And yes, I refuse to look at walkthroughs.

#8 – Persona 4 Golden (PC, July 2020 – Original release: PS2, 2008)

persona4

I do have to say that I would have put this game higher on my list if I didn’t get distracted by other games.

The concept and setting of Persona 4 is something that tickles my fancy quite a lot. Earlier in the article, I explained that I have a weak spot for escape games that have a deep story with psychological horror elements. While this game isn’t an escape room game, it still hits my same weak spot with an amazing RPG-adventure dungeon crawler that reminds me of my love of the Etrian Odyssey games.

In this game, your biggest fears come to live to haunt you. And if you don’t face or defeat your biggest fears, they will not only haunt you but kill you. Meanwhile, you can use a sort of alter ego, your Persona to fight for you while you are saving others that are being haunted by their fears. To avoid spoiling things, I have overly simplified the story here, but if you enjoy in-depth RPG’s/adventure games/dungeon crawlers … I highly advise you to check out this game since it’s totally worth your time.

#7 – Death Come True (Multiplatform, June 2020)

death-come-true-switch-heroIf you ever wanted to play a game that was actually a movie where you decided on the major actions of the main character, this is the game for you. And not only that, this game is also written and directed by Kazutaka Kodaka. He is known for his work on Danganronpa.

The biggest negative of this game is it’s length. This game is way to short. I was able to finish this game in one afternoon. But, those three hours of gameplay were well worth it. Since this game is so sort and it’s so easily to spoil parts of the game, I decided against reviewing the game AND writing too much about this game in this article.

If you enjoyed games like the Zero Escape series or Danganronpa, I highly advise you to play this game as blind as possible. Since that makes the game way more fun and the twists all the more fun. Also, I’m so glad that all the bonus and behind the scenes material has been translated and subtitled since that wasn’t the case at release.

#6 – DooM (Multiplatform, 2016)

doom-2016My review of the game.

Oh yes, here we go. DooM 2016 on number 6 instead of DooM Eternal. I haven’t played DooM Eternal simply because my PC isn’t strong enough to run the game. But here is the funny thing about that, my PC hits the minimum specs without an issue… Yet, the game crashes to the desktop when I launch the game. Oh well, maybe in 2021.

But, DooM 2016. What an amazing breath of fresh air in the shooter genre. The unique combat mechanics and the exploration are just two things I love to bits in this game. The reason I haven’t placed this game higher is because there were a few things that hold the game back in my opinion. I think you should read my review because since otherwise I would start repeating myself.

Yet, I still play this game once or twice when I have some downtime and I have to say that this game is still as much fun as it was when I first started playing it. So, it would be a shame if I didn’t include it in this list.

#5 – Blood (PC, May 1997)

Blood_logoI do love myself a good old school 3D shooter once in a while. Now, Blood is a game that I have tried out a lot in the past but only played the first level and left it at that. You could say that I’m breaking my rule of “first started playing in 2020” but I can explain.

I first started to play this game seriously in 2020. And now that I have beaten this game on the easier difficulty, I have to say that this shooter is just extremely well made and was one of the best when it got released. Now, I don’t really dare to touch the sequel since it isn’t the best and I think it might have killed the franchise.

I’m not going to in-depth on my opinions in this article since I’m planning to write about this game in the near future. I find it very surprising that I haven’t written an article on this game yet, since it’s prime review material for my blog. Anyways, keep your eyes peeled for an article about Blood in 2021 here on my blog. That way I can explain myself why I have put this game on the number 5 spot in this list.

#4 – Paper Mario – The Origami King (Switch, July 2020)

origami king boxMy review of the game

As a big fan of retro games, I follow a lot of retro game reviewers on YouTube and I follow a lot of retro game blogs. Whenever they talk about Mario RPG’s and especially about Paper Mario, they fondly remember the N64 and GameCube entries. But then, Sticker Star and Color Splash came.

A lot of people felt that the series was going down hill since it strayed too far away from what made the Paper Mario games so enjoyable to play. While I haven’t played too much Paper Mario games myself, I have to admit that I found Sticker Star and too a lesser extend Color Splash difficult to really get into.

When Paper Mario – The Origami King got announced, I was highly skeptical since I was afraid that it would be another game that let the fanbase down and may destroy the series for good. The biggest issue was the clunky battle system of the past two games and man, did that battle system make a 180.

This game is a huge step in the right direction in my eyes. I enjoyed myself from start to finish with this game and I now understand why people are so fond of the original games. The charm, the characters, the plot and setting… It all makes a lot of sense. Meanwhile, Nintendo was able to find the right balance of the old school playstyle and mixing them with the newer mechanics like repairing the world. So, good job Nintendo! Please, more of this!

#3 – Hyrule Warriors – Age of Calamity (Switch, November 2020)

518x840Together with all the other Zelda fans, I’m waiting for the sequel to Breath of the Wild. But, Nintendo surprised us this year with another game in the Breath of the Wild universe. And I mean what I say with “surprised us”. This game isn’t what you would typically describe as a Zelda game. Yet, it’s canon and tells the story that took place 100 years before Breath of the Wild happened.

I’m on my way to finish this game in the near future and I’m going to write an article about it. All I’m willing to say now is that this game is a well made Warrior’s game that took me back into the Breath of the Wild universe and gave some characters way more screen time, backstory, lore and gave even more live to that universe.

If you love hack-and-slash games and/or if you are a Legend of Zelda fan, I highly advise you to pick up this game and give it a play. It’s even more enjoyable than the first Hyrule Warriors game and it rightfully deserves the 3th place in my list here.

#2 – Fatal Frame 3 – The Tormented (PS2, July 2005)

66263_frontBack in April, I wanted to play some more Fatal Frame. I wasn’t able to find my copy of Fatal Frame 2 to finish that game, so I decided to start playing Fatal Frame 3. I think it’s quite clear what my opinion is on this game.

I think that the Fatal Frame series is slowly convincing me that horror games can be amazing and fun to play. And that they aren’t “difficult to scare the player”. My negative bias towards horror games is changing into a positive one since I started playing games like Corpse Party, Zero Escape, Resident Evil and now Fatal Frame (or Project Zero).

Yes, I’m still planning to write an article about this game so I won’t go too in-depth in this article. But, the fact that you are exploring a grand mystery that’s taking place inside dreams that’s unfolding with 3 different characters and in the same dream mansion, it’s just amazing how well it works together. I even take the time to read every journal entry and listen to every radio stone. The game pulled me that much into it’s world and I’m already afraid of the empty feeling I will have when I have beaten the game. That’s how I currently feel about the game. But, for more information and opinions, I think you should wait until I take an in-depth look to the game in 2021.

Honorable mentions

Before I get to number 1, my game of 2020, I want to mention a few other games that didn’t make this list but were highly enjoyable this year. While there are a lot more games I have played this year, I want to remind you about the rule of this list… I had to have started playing the game in 2020 in order for it to count.

Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics (Switch, June 2020): this game almost made it on the list but then I found out about the number 10 I decided to put on the list this year.

SuperMash (Mutliplatform, December 2019): a game where you mash together two genres to have a randomly generated game with elements of both genres and unique goals? Sign me up!

Corpse Party 2 – Dead Patient: I’m sorry, but I felt that the fact that only the first chapter has been released and no further news… It made me decide to not place this game on this list but give it an honorable mention.

Jake Hunter – Detective Story: Ghost Of The Dusk: so close to a spot on this list, I can’t lie about that. Yet, there were a few games that I enjoyed more this year.

And let’s quick fire some honorable mentions:

Dragon Quest XI S (Switch), Coffee Talk (Multiplatform), Wrath: Age of Aeon (PC), Dusk (Multiplatform), Amid Evil (Switch/PC), ReTurn – One Way Trip (Multiplatform), Prodeus (PC), Hellbound (PC), Haedon (PC), The Touryst (Mutliplatform), SpeedLimit (PC).

#1 – Nightmare Reaper (PC, July 2019)

nightmare reaperMy article about this game

I have a few good reasons why I wanted to place Nightmare Reaper on the number one spot this year. But before I do that, I do have an update on my article about the game. Since my article of this game, the second chapter got released with new mechanics and levels. The game also got a visual overhaul, more music, more weapons… It’s just mind blowing how much the second chapter added and changed. And all for the better, with a totally new grappling hook mechanic and the fact you can choose the order of the levels through a hub, amazing stuff!

Now, why is this game my game of the year. First of all, because of the story and setting of this game. This game is about an abused child/teenager that’s fighting her demons and the abuse through her nightmares. She is reaping through them, as the title suggests. The writing and atmosphere really makes me want to help her overcome her demons and be able to move on.

Secondly, the replay value of this game is through the roof. With the randomly generated levels and weapons, each playthrough is extremely different. I have started a second file when the second chapter was released and let me tell you, it felt quite different from my first playthrough.

Thirdly, this game has that “just one more round” that’s so addictive to play through. Some bosses are a bit too challenging to beat in my opinion, but I always wanted to give it one more try to try and finally beat the boss and move on to the next level or area of this game.

The 4th reason why I think this game is my game of the year is because I just enjoyed this game to bits. When I was writing my article in August, I had a lot of trouble finding negatives or things that the developer should improve and since the release of the second chapter and the patches polished the game even more.

And the 5th reason is that this game is still getting more content and even a new game plus and mod support. So, I’ll be able to enjoy this game even more in 2021. What do you need more?

Final words

So, that’s my list. I have to say that it was quite tricky to put this list together. Especially since so many things happened this year, I didn’t keep great records of the games I had played in 2020. Also, due to the lockdown, I played a lot more games in 2020 compared to the previous years.

Also, I started to complete the games I started in the past and never finished. So, I had to take a good look at my list to make sure I didn’t start playing one of these games in the past.

I also know what to do in the upcoming weeks in terms of writing. I noticed that a lot of games I have played in 2020 haven’t gotten an article yet. So, I think that’s something I will need to fix in 2021.

Now, with 2020 almost coming to an end, I want to thank everybody so much for reading and enjoying my blog. While I only got 12k readers this year, I felt that my articles did better this year compared to all other years. Also, I recently broke the 100k visitors milestone on my blog and I’m nearing the 1k subscribers.

While I know that other blogs hit these numbers faster and easier, I’m blown away that there are so many people interested in reading my opinion on games and I don’t even focus on the big budget titles and the latest and greatest that comes out on the market. While it’s so extremely cliché, I want to thank you all so much for the amazing interactions I had in 2020 and I hope I’ll be able to entertain and/or inform you in 2021.

With that said, I want to really 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!

Review: Paper Mario – The Origami King (Switch) ~ Fold And Turn

Official websiteWikipedia entry

2020 is quite a strange year. Back in May, we got a trailer for this game and to everybody’s surprise, the game dropped a few weeks later. The game has been out for around a month now and I have finished the game a few days ago. So, I want to talk about this game. Especially, since some people are quite curious how this game holds up compared to the previous entries in the series. The two previous entries in the series weren’t that well received, so will this game “save the series” or will it divide the fanbase even further like Color Splash? Let’s take a look at the game while I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article. 

Fold The World

So, the story starts a bit similar to Sticker Star. A festival is held in the (paper) Mushroom Kingdom and something goes horribly wrong. In this case, the princess is converted to origami and suddenly, you meet an evil origami character called Olly that wants to fold the whole world to origami.

In your journey to save Princess Peach and save the Mushroom Kingdom from certain destruction, you team up with the sister of the evil origami character called Oliva. She is able to grant you special powers that aid Mario in his quest.

To avoid spoiling the whole game or sections of it, I’m going to try to keep story explanations to a minimum. But, I do want to give my honest opinion of the story. The writing and the dialogues are pretty good, the pacing is excellent as well. I barely felt that any sections were filler or padding. But, the story isn’t thrilling at all.

The structure of the story is somewhat like the Pokémon anime series. Just replace the gym badges with the streamers and you have the structure of the story in this game. Barely any of the characters, apart from the main duo, of course, go from one section to another.

The next point I want to bring up with the story is that it’s a bit too predictable in my eyes. I can’t pinpoint exactly why but I felt that I experienced this whole story somewhere before or that I had seen the arcs. I think that the main issue with this game is that it barely does anything creative story-wise.

Does this game have a bad story? Well, yes and no. Apart from the predictability and the “safeness” of the whole story, the charm of the story is so great. I have a few ideas that could have improved the story. The first thing is the world-building, I felt that wasn’t done enough. For example, you have an area called “Picnic Road”. Why o why are there no picnic benches? I mean, one of the previous areas had a whole barbeque setup…

The second suggestion I have is that there could have been a bit more side stories. A great example is with Luigi. Side-arcs, side quests, or just things to explore on the side. I know that you can free toads, fill in Not-Bottomless Holes but in most cases, those don’t affect the story that much.

It almost feels that the developers just cut out several sections to improve the flow or the pacing but with that, they also cut out too much. Sometimes a bit of padding or filler doesn’t hurt.

Oh, and before I go to the next section, I usually talk about the voice acting and voice work right after the story. And I can finish my opinion quite fast. That’s something where I think they could have done more but on the other hand, the animations are so good during dialogues that the very little voice work is “replaced” if that makes sense.

Turn Your Way To Victory

One of the biggest criticisms of the previous two entries in the Paper Mario series was the battle system. The games before those had an RPG style battle system. Then in Sticker Star and Color Splash, we got more of a sort of puzzle system.

I think it would make this review too long if I start to analyze the flaws of the two previous battle systems. For the sake of going forward, let’s focus on the battle system of this game. There is no real RPG-style battle system in this game. But, something that does return somewhat is the buddies from previous games. Now, before you get too excited, the buddies just provide a chance of an attack after you finished yours. And that’s it.

Before I talk about the puzzle battle system, I do want to mention a huge improvement compared to the previous two titles. At certain moments, you can find a health improvement. Besides having more HP, these improvements have other implications on the mechanics of the game. For example, after a few upgrades, I was able to just jump or hit these Goomba’s with my hammer and I didn’t have to go into battle. The only downside is that you don’t get all your coins like you would have defeated them in the puzzle battle. But, it does save your weapons for each little encounter.

Speaking about weapons, I barely had any problem with those. At the start of the game, I just stocked up on weapons and healing items and I do have to say, I barely had to go to the shops in the game to stock up on items. The game is quite generous with items to use in battle. A bit too generous for my liking.

The game is a bit too easy. Apart from some scripted sequences, I barely saw the ‘game over’ screen. Also, quite rarely, I felt challenged during the battles. Even when I was unable to solve the puzzle in front of me, I was almost always able to beat the enemies with relative ease.

Now, what is this “puzzle battle” I’m talking about? Well, if you look at the screenshot a bit higher, you might notice that Mario is in a battle area with four rings. Your goal is to line up the enemies in a line or in a group of 2 by 2. You can do that by either rotating a ring or move planed vertically.

In order for you to solve the puzzle, you have a limited amount of moves and time. But, here is where some amazing game design shines through. During the adventure, you can buy various items that give you more time, health and defense during battles. You can enable or disable all of these items in the pause menu. On top of that, you can invest your coins in more time or cheering. Now, what is cheering? Well, that means you can invite the Toads you have rescued during the adventure to aid you in healing or solving the puzzle in front of you. The only moment where the Toads don’t solve the puzzle is during the boss battles. But more on that in a minute. So, if you find the game too easy, you can challenge yourself more by disabling all these support items and not cheering or buying more time during battles.

So, do you HAVE to solve the puzzles to be able to attack the enemies? Oh no, you don’t have to. It just gives you an attack bonus that can one-shot most enemies. Otherwise, you have to rely on your partner or block the attacks and try again. Also, just like the previous games, when you time your button press correctly during the attack, you do more damage to your enemies.

I could talk more in-depth about the battle system but I want to avoid that this review gets too long. So, I’m going to link you to an interesting article of a great blogging buddy of mine Adventure Rules, who talks a bit more in-depth on the battle system on his blog. Be warned, there are some spoilers in his article. (And yes, I know that he is going to read this article… And no, the fact that I’m shouting him out here has nothing to do with it… Maybe… Maybe not. 😉 )

Now, let’s talk boss battles. These battles are the highlight of the game for me. The sheer creativity in these battles is just amazing. Each boss throws a unique challenge your way that changes up the battlefield or the way you have to solve the puzzle. It’s really amazing stuff. I’m not going to talk more in-depth about it to avoid spoilers but I found myself saying out loud, several times, “wow, this is creative and unique.”.

Speaking about creativity, I’m still surprised at the huge amount of different puzzles in this game. Rarely I had similar or the same puzzle during the game and if there were, I barely noticed. I always had to think about how to line up those enemies to win.

Stardance

This review is getting quite long and I have only talked about the story and the battle mechanics. There is still so much to talk about in this rather enjoyable game. For starters, let’s talk about the Starman Theme in this game. I’m just blown away by the amazing remix that has heavy metal influences and electronic influences.

And the rest of the soundtrack, my lord. These tracks are just amazing. I think that this game might have my favorite soundtrack of 2020. If the soundtrack ever comes out on CD, you can be sure that I’ll add that to my collection. The soundtrack is even part of my playlist when I’m writing or games like Minecraft. Now, the sound design of this game is equally as well done as the soundtrack.

Overall, this game is visually quite impressive. In very rare cases, I found that some textures weren’t the best or that the scene had a tad bit too much lighting, but I think that most players won’t notice the moments that I noticed as a hobbyist critic.

The theming of the areas are quite well done as well. So yes, the visual presentation of this game is something to enjoy. It really shows the power of the Nintendo Switch in my opinion. The art style is also quite consistent, vibrant, and colorful. Couple that with great animations and you have a great and smooth running game. Speaking of smoothness, the only time I noticed some slowdown was during the loading of some battles.

The UI of this game is extremely well done. The only minor complaint I have is that you can’t change your weapons during a battle, but that isn’t such a big issue because you just need to remember to swap your weapons after a battle.

One thing I loved in this game is the mechanics in place to help players who have trouble with the game. The electronic manual is quite easily accessible and on top of that, there is a training area for when you need to practice your timings to hit enemies and such.

In most of this review, I have been praising this game and pointing out some minor flaws. To end off this review, let me talk about some things that I didn’t really like. The first thing is the overall running speed, I found that a tad bit too slow. After seeing how fast you can go to the Boot Car or on the ship, I found it a shame that there was no run button. That’s the biggest complaint I have about the controls.

The other issue I have with the controls is that it sometimes was a bit too tricky to hit some enemies with the hammer. But I think that the issue is that you are unable to interrupt the animation and most of the time I wished that I was faster with my hammer because I barely missed the enemy.

A nitpick I have about filling the Not-Bottomless Pits, I found that sometimes it was a bit too tricky to get in the right position to fully cover the hole with confetti. Thankfully, this problem occurred maybe two or three times in the whole game.

One of the biggest irritations in this game is how the bells work. You can buy three bells, one for hidden Toads, one for treasure, and one for hidden blocks. They ring when one of those is close, but I can’t tell the radius of those rings. Especially now when I’m trying to find some parts I have missed during my main playthrough.

But my biggest disappointment is the lack of a completion reward and post-game content. There is barely any post-game content to find and the completion reward is just a 5-second extended ending that changes barely anything. Oh, yes. You get a gold star instead of a silver star on your profile.

And with that said, I have said almost everything I wanted to say about this game. I did leave certain things out of this review because I wanted you to have some surprises when you play this game. So yeah, it’s time for the conclusion.

Wrapping up

The bad:

-The bells can be a bit irritating.

-There is no post-game/completion reward.

-The walking speed can be a bit slow.

-Overall, the game is too easy. You have to create the challenge yourself.

The good:

+ Charming story (even when there was more that could have been done with it)

+ Amazing soundtrack.

+ Creative puzzles and battle mechanics.

+ …

Final thoughts:

It’s quite possible that you will see this game on my top 10 games of 2020 list. This game came out of nowhere and really blew me away. I was expecting an “okay” or a fine game but I was blown away. I can understand that Paper Mario veterans expected more out of this game, but I don’t think we are going to get an RPG Paper Mario in the near future.

I think that this game took major steps in the right direction of an enjoyable adventure game. I enjoyed my time with this game and I can recommend this game to everybody who enjoys adventure and/or puzzle games.

The biggest flaw of the game is that there is just a major lack of depth. There is so much more that could have been done and the game is over after 20-25 hours of gameplay. But, these 20-25 hours are quite enjoyable.

But this game gives me high hopes for the next Paper Mario game. Since if this is the direction that they are taking with the series, I’m carefully optimistic about the series again. While there is a very vocal veteran fanbase that wants the old school style of Paper Mario back, I think that is better suited for the Mario & Luigi series. I think that Paper Mario is better suited for games like this. But, that might be just me, I still have to beat the original Paper Mario trilogy.

But, I’m trying to see this game apart from the whole series that it originated from. And when I look at this game as a standalone game, I’m quite impressed with the game. Compared to the two previous games, this game makes a ton of improvements that make the game more enjoyable and entertaining to play.

Any with that said, 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.

Score: 85/100