It’s been a strange year… arguably the only constant has been the consistency with which myself and other bloggers seem to begin articles with the phrase “It’s been a strange year”… but you know, it has…
I’ve mentioned it before, but part of that strangeness has manifested with me turning to Nintendo’s little-console-that-could, the Switch, as my primary source of gaming. In some ways that in itself has been quite the adventure… not necessarily one I’m going to stick with long term, but for the moment at least it is mostly working for me. It’s been a year of inconsistent blogging; either due to the need to just retreat a little from the online world, or to give myself time to recover from what has been a remarkably busy (and at times stressful) working year in my day-job that shall not be named. So it’s around this time every year that I look back at the list of games that I first played this year and give a top 5 of 2020, and sure enough, I’m going to do this (maybe in a few days?), but before I get to that, I also realised that the list of games not on that list is also well-populated this year. These are the games that I’ve revisited this year, and for some reason revisiting seems to have been a bit of a theme. I’m not sure if that’s because the Switch has a healthy catalogue of ports and re-releases, or if deep down what I really wanted this year was some comfort gaming, but I do know that I’ve replayed lots of games this year that I really enjoyed.
With this all in mind, and in the traditional blogging spirit of listmas, I decided to prologue my ‘Top 5 of 2020’ with a quick look back at those revisits. So anywho, for your reading pleasure, here is the official Hundstrasse: “Top 5 Revisited Games of 2020″
Managing to bring all the fun of boardgaming to a videogame, without the tedium of manual bookkeeping phases, Armello is a superb experience that’s all wrapped up in some great themeing and lore. I originally played it on PC a few years ago and have since used it as a commuting distraction with the mobile version. The switch port was a great way to revisit the this troubled kingdom although gamepad controls aren’t necessarily the most beginner-friendly way to experience this type of game. For my revisiting I treated myself to the ultimate… erm.. complete… erm… definitive?… edition that came bundled with all the DLC packs including the ‘bandit clan’; a group of additional characters, each with their own perks to add a little more diversity to my playstyle. This includes Sylus, a badass otter and my new favourite character, who gets his kicks from slaying the King’s Guard.
It’s tricky to pin down exactly what makes a round of Armello so satisfying to play, could be the pleasing clatter of rolling a virtual handful of dice during combat, or spotting a fiendishly clever way to play cards, or maybe it’s just the interplay between the different win conditions. Whatever it comes down to I’ll be keeping it installed on the Switch ready for a round at a moment’s notice. There are even a few characters I’ve yet to try.
4. Hard West
As a rule, I don’t generally enjoy turn-based combat… if you like it then great, but it’s not really my kind of thing… but of course every rule has exceptions, and for me Hard West is one of those. It’s also one of those games that I’ve rarely heard anyone else mention. I first played it on PC (again, probably the better way to experience given that it’s really designed for a mouse) after being gifted it following a giveaway organised by the superb LaterLevels, and having spotted that it was on sale on the Switch eShop I decided that some lockdown Wild Westing was just what I needed.
Hard West’s core gameplay is (I imagine?) something similar to that X-Com thing that people keep talking about… only with Cowboys. The game takes place in turns, during which you get to spend a certain amount of action points on each of the characters you are controlling with the aim of … well, usually killing all the enemies or getting to a ‘thing’. On top of this there is the obligatory planning and loadout that allows you to best equip your team of ragtag desperadoes before they enter combat with items, equipment, weapons, buffs… heck, just preparing for a mission can take a good 15 mins of weighing up your options. The whole thing is set to a delightfully detailed WildWest theme with supernatural demonic overtones, gritty narration, and a series of chapters that come together to form one satisfying overarching plot. I guess my only complaint would be that the overworld sections which take the form of a kind of ‘pick-your-own-adventure’ sometimes drag on a little and I found myself quickly clicking through windows of exposition to get to the meat of the gameplay towards the end of my revisiting. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it to the point of completing the main game and the additional storyline, although I think the whole experience baffled my wife who would see me settling in for an evening of slowly manoeuvring outlaws through some abandoned ranch or similar over the course of a couple of hours. Definitely a game to take slowly, but the combination of a theme that I particularly like and solid gameplay made it well worth going back to.
3. Call of Juarez: GunSlinger
Oh, spotting a western theme are you? Sure, there’s nothing spectacular about Call of Juarez: Gunslinger, but there’s still a lot to like here. It’s wall-to-wall action fps fun that managed to hold my attention despite being a linear romp through every Wild West cliche going. With events unfolding as told by a grizzled old gun-for-hire, the plot plays fast and loose with reality, but the collectable ‘nuggets of truth’ manage to squeeze a little bit of *whispers*…educational content…*/whispers* to give a more accurate context to the larger than life comic-book portrayals of the notorious figures wheeled out for the player. It also contains a minigame that I would count amongst my favourites in the form of the quickdraw duels.
As far as I could see the Switch port is pretty much identical to the PC version that I first played a few years ago, and looks pretty good whilst holding a consistent, if not blistering, frame rate. I think I hit the sweet revisiting spot with this one with my original playthrough being long enough ago that I’d forgotten the details of the game, but had a good enough memory of it for it to feel like a comfortable hoodie at a time when we were all getting used to doing things very differently.
2. Resident Evil
Shocking twist! I put a Resident Evil game on this list! Not only A Resident Evil game, but the REMake, a game that managed to improve upon the original formula back on the Gamecube and still holds up in the HD remaster so many years later. I first played this on the PC some years ago, but remember a housemate playing it (much to my jealousy at the time) on his GameCube when it was first released. Strangely I hadn’t revisited it again until now but it was exactly the dose of classic fixed camera resi-gameplay that I wanted before everything got over-the-shoulder and weird.
With the Switch port reduced earlier this year (are you spotting a pattern to how I buy Switch games?) I couldn’t resist stepping back in to the Spencer Estate and picking my way through as both Chris and Jill. The port itself doesn’t add much but is mostly solid despite a couple of marginally awkward load times between certain areas. Going back now the rhythm of the route through the mansion did start to come back, although somewhat intermingled with my memories of playing the Director’s Cut of the original a few years ago. This is almost the definition of comfort gaming for me and if you haven’t gone back to it for a while I thoroughly recommend it… heck… even if you’ve never played it then I recommend it as a great way to experience the original resi-type gameplay without having to put up with PS1 era graphics.
1. Bioshock Infinite
So I got a hankering to play Infinite on an idle Friday evening a few weeks ago, picked it up on Switch, and by Sunday lunchtime I’d completed the main game and the Burial at Sea DLC… which is something that never happens with adult responsibilities. Infinite is just a good game and I can’t believe that I’d only completed it once previously back when it was first released. The only problem is that I now want to play the original Bioshock again. Visually the floating dystopia of Columbia is still spectacular and something that the Switch port admirably does justice too whilst holding a solid framerate throughout.
More than this though, the plot is intriguing and goes in some interesting sci-fi directions without losing the human connection or becoming inaccessibly complicated. On top of this the ‘Burial at Sea’ DLC is almost a stand-alone sequel which manages to flesh out the link between Infinite and the original game with some memorable moments that shouldn’t be missed if you enjoyed the main outing. My only disappointment is that now I’ve finished it and I still want more!
So what about you? Have you been revisiting anything this year? Feel free to let me know in comments below.