It’s good to be blogging again. Sorry, but it’s tough to write a look back over the year without reflecting a little. The best bit is not feeling guilty about not keeping a schedule; posts happen when they happen and sometimes blogging needs to step aside for other stuff to take its place. I’ve also really committed to drawing terrible webcomics about donkeys playing games. Sure nobody really asked for them, and I’m at least 90% sure that I’m the only person who laughs at them. But if something is worth blogging about then it’s also probably worth doodling a 4 panel webcomic involving goofy donkeys and a terrible ‘joke’ about too. Trust me, 2023 is the year that the Gaming Donks rise to influence and notoriety in the gaming community.
2022 was also a year that was pretty rough personally (understatement, definition: the preceding sentence). Gaming has always helped me with some of the tough stuff; given me space to regroup, and makes me smile. By extension, so does blogging about gaming… and by extension so do you. So Thank-You for reading the first two paragraphs of this meandering post.
Gaming in 2022 has been all over the place. I started the year very much on the Switch, but have since moved away because… well, I’ve kind of played everything I want to play on it. Sure, I’ve got a wishlist stuffed full of B-team offerings, but they never seem to get reduced enough for me to give them a punt. I finally carved out a small corner in the house to be my retro-gaming-nook which means I get to have retro consoles setup and connected and playable at a moment’s notice.
If I’m honest this has been a pretty big highpoint of the year.
Since then I’ve been tackling a few ‘always wanted to plays’, ‘never heard of’s, and ‘it was cheap’s off the list of retro offerings. In celebration I also picked up a GameCube which is a console that I’ve wanted to own for a long time. Nintendo make such cute consoles. Mixed in with that was a sudden lurch towards ticking a few more Jurassic Park games off the list, something that I’ve been chipping away at for some time. Special retro mention has to go to Kim & Pete from LaterLevels for their company at the London Gaming Market a few months ago. Looking forward to the next one already!
There’s also Monday evenings that have become a mainstay fixture for weekly online gaming. A small group of us have been embarking on a few different co-op experiences usually some kind of zombie/monster shooting (championed by me), or a more gentle building/crafting thing… which I’m not going to lie, I enjoy mostly for the company rather than the game.
Anyway, I came here to do a job, so here it is. The official “Hundstrasse Top 5 Gaming Experiences of 2022” … as decided by me…
5. Core Keeper (PC)
Core keeper definitely falls in to that category I mentioned earlier; I enjoyed it mostly for the company rather than the game. That’s not to say the game was bad, but it was the online hangout activity it provided that really won me over. That caveat being said, it’s a pretty cute mining/crafting/exploring type of thing that avoids some of the pitfalls of the genre that I’m less fond of. First up, the player retains the items on their toolbelt post fatal injury… to which I breathed a huge sigh of relief. One of my big annoyances with crafting games is the repetition of basic things, so at least being able to hold on to your key items softens the edges there. It also has some clear goals which mostly revolve around ‘find big monster’ and ‘attack big monster’. Then there’s a handful of neat quality of life things that just make the whole crafting thing feel less grind-like. I even leapt into the role of gardener and had some mighty underground crop fields on the go by the time we stopped playing.
Unfortunately we HAD to stop playing because we ran out of stuff to do. Turns out the developer is still making this one, so there’s a good chance that we’ll revisit at some point to mop up the rest of it.
4. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (Switch)
Next up is another non-typical Hundstrasse game, KotOR. Despite being a name that I’d heard, I can’t say that I knew much about this going in, so I was disappointed to discover essentially turn-based combat. My first ten minutes with the game weren’t positive, I felt like a passenger in the combat and quickly switched the game off, but some part of the game must’ve caught my attention as I picked it up again the evening after and actually started to become absorbed in this novel take on the Star Wars Universe.
What won me over ultimately was that it felt open-world, but manageable (something that I wrote about at the time). The story was engaging, but not convoluted, and the gameplay loop quite satisfying. In some ways this became the ideal commute game; both interesting, but easy to pick up and put down .
3. Alien Isolation (Switch)
Alien Isolation is easily the best film tie-in game I can think of. A combined love letter to the Scott and Cameron films, it captures the atmosphere perfectly. Having said that, it wasn’t until my 2022 visit that I finally watched the end credits roll. Anyone who’s played this will probably agree that it could stood to have been a shorted offering; not that any of it is notably weak, but the constant tension makes it exhausting to play. Crossing the finish line felt like a real achievement.
For this successful attempt I decided to take a more ‘fortune favors the brave’ approach to moving and taking the chances where they came. This definitely paid off and I quickly developed a no-lockers-policy of play as getting in to a locker tends to mean getting stuck there for several minutes until you finally decide that it might be safe to leave. If you’re a horror fan, or a fan of the original films and haven’t checked this out then you really should take a look. Plus the Switch port is excellent!
I’ve been having a real Silent Hill few months; revisiting the original, finally acquiring a copy and playing 3, and recently playing through Shattered Memories. I’ve got designs on trying to get hold of 4 too, a game that I did once own, but never completed.
Silent Hill 3 was my star purchase at the London Gaming Market, and I’m pleased to say that it was well worth it. I’d always heard that it was well regarded in the original games, and whilst I would still rate it third in that trilogy, it is still a standout game that delivers a solid Silent Hill experience. Rounding out some plot elements along with revisiting some familiar locations, 3 is really one for fans. It also packs a good whallop of that late 90’s/early00’s survival horror vibe that I crave so much…
1. Tormented Souls (Switch)
… which brings me neatly on to my number 1 gaming experience of the year. The unassuming ‘Tormented Souls’ which I had pre-ordered a physical Switch copy for waaaay back in 2021. Yes, it surprised me too, but looking back on the games I’ve played over the year I couldn’t pick out a better experience that the one I had with this love letter to early survival horror. Taking inspiration from both Resident Evil and Silent Hill, Tormented Souls really delivers on capturing that era of survival horror. There’s a balance between building tension, but also unraveling mystery with combat being functional, but not prohibitive.
.. and without spoilering, there is at least one puzzle that I loved because of how much only people who lived through the 90’s will get.
If you like early survival horror then I thoroughly recommend giving it a go.