Best Game - Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon
1st Runner Up - Yoshi's Crafted World
2nd Runner Up - The Hex
2019 didn't have anything like Return of the Obra Dinn, Undertale, or even Final Fantasy X, where I was still hyped about it weeks or months after finishing it. Pony Island or The Hex had the makings of such a game, but I'm not sure if making them longer would have elevated them to that state, or made them outstay their welcomes.
Worst Game - LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy
1st Runner Up - X-Men Destiny
2nd Runner Up - King's Quest I and II
And with this, I hope to die happy never playing another fucking LEGO [Franchise] game again.
Prettiest Game - Owlboy
1st Runner Up - Guacamelee 2
2nd Runner Up - The Dark Eye: Chains of Satinav
I considered the Freddi Fish and Pajama Sam series over Chains of Satinav because of the latter's stiff animations, but lumping multiple games from two series together, even if they are from the same makers, felt like a copout.
"Wait, didn't you just say your third worst game was King's Quest I *and* II?"
Yeah, but they're practically two chapters of one game ala Ys Book 1 and 2.
Best Soundtrack - The Hex
1st Runner Up - Owlboy
2nd Runner Up - Hypnospace Outlaw
Technically the best soundtrack of the year was Smash Bros. Ultimate, but I disqualified it for being half songs from other games and half remixes of songs from other games. So I dug through the archives, picked out some games with soundtracks I could even vaguely remember, and listened to those for a bit. And even then, all these soundtracks work better in-game.
Funniest Game - The Hex
1st Runner Up - Pony Island
2d Runner Up - Leisure Suit Larry Series
Yet another category that didn't have any real blowouts. The Hex had the best comedy bits, but it and Pony Island are weird blends of dark humor, meta jokes, horror, and mindfuckery. How funny you find the Leisure Suit Larry games depends on your tolerance for unapologetic perviness.
And for what it's worth, Gato Roboto was cute, but I wouldn't call it "funny."
Most Pleasant Surprise (Games) - Yoshi's Crafted World
1st Runner Up - Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
2nd Runner Up - Pajama Sam
The most surprising thing about Smash Bros was I actually played it hurr hurr.
Biggest Disappointment (Games) - Guacamelee 2
1st Runner Up - Gato Roboto
2nd Runner Up - The Dark Eye: Chains of Satinav
None of these are bad games, the worst being Chains of Satinav which was at worst apathetic. Guacamalee 2 might have fine been in a bubble, but it's a sequel to a great game that does little to justify its existence.
Gato Roboto showing up here was not its fault, although I'd like to see the controls tightened up. But seeing Holy shit, Blaster Master with a cat! was the first twinge of real excitement I'd had since *that* game killed my ability to feel hype, and "rekindle my heart after *that* game" was a bar it could never hope to achieve.
(To clarify, I can still feel "curiosity" and "intrigue" for new games, but excitement and the feeling of "I NEED THIS!"? Broken. I couldn't even hype myself for Cosmic Star Heroine.)
Most Satisfying to Finally Finish After Tormenting Me For Years - The King's Quest Series, I guess
As a fan of LucasArts and TellTale adventures games, I was curious to see what came before with Sierra's "classic" King's Quest. Or maybe I was just morbidly curious to see how incoherent the puzzles were. Either way, after sating that curiosity, I'm happy to give them a hearty "fuck you."
Best Humongous Series - Pajama Sam
1st Runner Up - Spy Fox
2nd Runner Up - Freddi Fish
I might have been overly aggressive with Humongous at first because the ones I started with, Fatty Bear, Putt-Putt, and the first Freddi Fish were the weakest ones (and by fuck, I wanted one of the sharks to eat Luther so much). Putt-Putt especially, with its lawnmower minigame and writing that kind of talks down to the player. Later games did improve, or maybe Pajama Sam being legitimately cute mellowed me out on the franchise.
Speaking of which, I replayed Dark Outside for this roundup and found the pickaxe (dunno how I missed it before, unless its location is randomized and I didn't go down the cart track it was on), but the gold only unlocks a tic-tac-toe minigame and changes a line in the ending. Sam's missing items were all in the same places as the first time and I started to wonder, does the game change on different plays? And if not, what's the point of the dancing furniture? Then while trying to find information on the sock locations (answer: they're randomized each game), I saw a screenshot of the mask in the room with the dancing furniture. Both times I got it from that carrot that talks like a Ninja Turtle.
Game That I Put A Decent Amount of Effort Into, But Never Got Around to Finishing of the Year - Baba is You
For the Steam Awards 2019, Baba is You got nominated for something like "Most Original Gameplay." But when I was filling out my entry form, I nominated it for "Best Game You Suck At." I like the idea of pushing word blocks together to change the rules of the puzzle, but I just could not wrap my head around this game and all its "You can do that?" moments. The game opens in forks so you'll generally have three or four puzzles you can work on and only need to clear so many, but I eventually hit a wall of puzzles I couldn't solve. I wish games like this had some sort of hint system so you could get a nudge without spoiling the entire puzzle.
Not-so-honorable mention goes to Aliens: Colonial Marines which I thought I'd knock out to see how bad it really was. Except I had recently gone through X-Men Destiny, Blood of the Werewolf, and half the Dominic Deegan archives, and just couldn't take it at that point.
Game That I Put A Decent Amount of Effort Into, But Decided Could Go Fuck Itself of the Year - Drakengard 2
Being a fan of NIER and sort of fond of Drakengard I sat down to finally see the game that came between them. And ten hours later, I had enough. I had enough of the obtuse combo system where I couldn't tell when the next button was supposed to be pressed so I just mashed the attack button. I had enough of those ogre enemies where you have to peck at their ankles for two seconds, dodge their swing, peck at their ankles for another two seconds, dodge again, over and over until they finally fall, peck at them for the two it takes them to get back up, over and over and over to finally kill them. I had enough of the dragon dogfights where fast moving planes pelt you from offscreen. I had enough of how fucking ugly the game was, with its washed out browns and uninspired textures on boxy architecture, populated by bad origami enemies.
My ragequit moment was the mission where a merchant asks you to retrieve a sword from some ruins. The layout is confusing, it goes on forever, and if you die you have to start the whole fucking thing over. After my third half-hour attempt ended with me entering a room full of skeletons that resist all attacks except those from a character who isn't available at that point, and being ripped apart while getting stuck on graves littering the room I thought, no, fuck you, Drakengard 2.
Dishonorable mention goes to Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze on the Switch. I enjoyed it at first, but as it went on the controls started to bug me more and more. Then I hit the water area where DK seems to interpret the direction of the analog stick as a suggestion, then water dashes at whatever angle he feels like. I made it to the boss of the area, and after the fifth time I died because DK water-dashed into the spikes lining the floor or ceiling when I was holding left or right, I was done.
Best Movie - Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
1st Runner Up - Who Framed Roger Rabbit
2nd Runner Up - Aquaman
For the lighthearted and doofy DC movie, I liked Aquaman a little more than Shazam. For one, some of the angry kid moments in Shazam got on my nerves. I also preferred Aquaman's "Let's try communicating instead of fighting for a change" moral to Shazam's "Family isn't about blood."
Worst Movie - Ralph Wrecks the Internet
1st Runner Up - Justice League
2nd Runner Up - Solo
Ralph Wrecks the Internet was the only movie this year that genuinely pissed me off. Justice League and Solo (and Captain Marvel while we're at it) were just boring.
Best Book/Comic - Howard the Duck
1st Runner Up - The Fifth Elephant
I'm lumping all written material together, be it novels or comics. Bit of a running theme of absurdist satire here.
Worst Book/Comic - Dominic Deegan
Admittedly I didn't read very much this year, and most of what I did read was either fine or harmless. Except for this. It might be unfair to heap so much disdain on some amateur webcomic from the mid-aughts, except as well as (somehow) being one of the most popular webcomics at one point, Terracciano has put out physical editions of this bullcorn and is working on another.
Best TV DVD - Samurai Jack Season Three
1st Runner Up - Batman: The Brave and the Bold Season Two
I kept going back and forth on these: Brave and the Bold has more strong stories than Samurai Jack, but also more weak ones. Samurai Jack didn't have anything as underwhelming as the Starro "epic" or the boring car race, but only had one full story in Aku's origin. It's like choosing between two wavelengths of different amplitudes.
Biggest Non-Game WTF - Archon: Battle of the Dragon (Kindle eBook)
This is a comic about a single father getting a job at a casino owned by a dragon and staffed by fantasy races pretending to be in costume. You also have a Dungeons and Dragons knockoff that's really based on a magic war from millenia ago, a police department that keeps tabs on the magic world, tainted mana being used as a drug, and a Dark Lord whose return is prophesized to bring a thousand years of darkness to the world. Yeah, the setup's pretty generic, but a good writer could do something interesting with it and the art's spiffy.
The volume ends on a major plot twist, and that's all there is. This was published in 2016 and I have not been able to find any information on more issues, with Action Labs' page on the book only listing the six issues included here (if anyone reading this happens to know where the rest of the comic is, by all means contact me). Nothing comes anywhere close to resolved, just a bunch of rising action and a middle finger. I guess the book was canceled before, you know, anything could actually happen in it.
I Liked These But Couldn't Figure Out How to Review Them, and Nobody Needs Me To Tell Them About This Stuff Anyway:
The Restaurant At the End of the Universe
In July I flew back out to western New York where the only available Internet was satellite. If you're not familiar with satellite Internet, it's slow, has a tiny bandwidth cap (depending on the plan, HughesNet allows you 250 MB a day, or 5 gigs a month before the speed gets throttled to be somehow even slower), and only one computer can be connected to it. I tried playing WoW in the off hours, but the latency was so bad I was getting hit by attacks I was nowhere near on my screen and abilities kept failing to cast. I took a two month hiatus which was easily my most productive part of the year, eventually resubbed to work on reputations and other things that didn't need fast reflexes, and was hoping that whenever Spectrum finally got their shit together I could come back to it with a healthier balance. That didn't work out.
A bit of background: Battle for Azeroth introduced a brontosaurus mount called the Mighty Caravan Brutosaur but everyone calls it the "longboi." This majestic bastard costs a whopping five million gold and is just one of several goldsink mounts in BfA along with a trio of frogs that cost 333k each, a white triceratops for 500k, and a spaceship for something like 450k with reputation discount. I somehow amassed the money to buy all three of the frogs within a couple months of their release, but five million felt like something I wouldn't achieve until the next expansion came out.
Well, data miners discovered the longboi would no longer be sold when Shadowlands drops, and Blizzard confirmed it shortly afterward. This caught everyone by surprise because you can still buy the goldsink mounts from previous expansions, like the 100k yak from Mists of Pandaria and the two-million spider from Legion. Shadowlands doesn't have a release date yet, although a recent investor call put it at Q4 2020, and there's a tie-in novel coming out in July so it'd be safe to have it by then. Unfortunately the server I chose is one of the deadest in the game so making money on the auction house is a joke, and I'm nowhere skilled enough to charge for carries (not that I'd want to anyway), so I have to farm raw gold from various solo content. At time of writing I'm just over 3.4 million and if I had held off on buying the frogs (or picked one and waited on the others) I'd be in the home stretch. Part of me feels it'd be healthier to pace myself, while the other part wants to get the grind over with as soon as possible.
But hey, at least I finally got the gold quilen I talked about last year... through the salvage crates introduced in 8.3.