As per normal, the awards are based on games that I played this year, rather than ones that were released this year – so don’t complain about anything released before 2021, alright?
There are ten awards in total, encompassing five miscellaneous categories at first, and then moving onto the five main ones. All ten are very worthy of praise though, as I have played a lot of games this year. Competition this year was much fiercer than normal!
Let the show begin!
WEIRDEST GAME: TUX AND FANNY
(runner up: Fatum Betula)
I’ve played a surprisingly large number of weird games this year. It wasn’t intentional, they just happened to fall on my lap. Just when I thought I couldn’t find a stranger game, along came Tux and Fanny out of nowhere to take the crown.
On the surface it looks like a bog standard point and click adventure game, but the more you play, the crazier things become. With minigames and secrets literally everywhere, it won’t be long before you stumble across something tucked away. There’s so much to find, and it’s all quality content too – which is surprising considering the majority of it is completely optional. From dodging bird crap as a car with buff legs, to creating a puppet theatre, the game surprises you at every turn. To top everything off, the game is damn fun to boot.
Tux and Fanny is an easy title to miss, but it’s an unmissable experience.
Rather than cover the best storyline, instead I opted for the game that made me laugh the most. It’s a very different type of game that can legitimately make you laugh as you play. The Rock of Ages series and The Procession to Calvary succeed in their Monty Python stylings, but UnMetal goes for something far more interesting: it tries to be the Naked Gun of videogames – and it knocks it out of the park! I don’t think I’ve ever had a game try to crack jokes every minute, and succeed the majority of the time. A lot of it is down to the fantastic voice acting, but the script is also top notch.
If you like silly humour that parodies action games and films, you should have a whale of a time with UnMetal. And if you don’t? Well, the game is so fun anyway that it’s worth playing regardless!
Having a game that makes you feel like a badass can be a tough thing to do. Make it too easy, and it feels boring; make it too hard, and it’ll make you feel pathetic. The trick is to have a tough game with cool mechanics that reward you for playing well, whilst being lenient enough to make you forget all those failures. Ghostrunner achieves that perfectly. Playing like a cross between Mirror’s Edge and Ninja Gaiden, you have to traverse areas parkour style whilst slicing and dicing the opposition with your blade. It’s really tough, but checkpoints are extremely frequent and the exhilarating melee action makes the whole thing immensely rewarding.
Later they added harder and easier difficulties, and neither lessen that feeling you get as you wallrun, slice, and dice your way through the levels. It’s a shame the Switch is unlikely to see the sequel, but hopefully we at least get to experience the expansion. Ghostrunner is a blast and a fantastic way to blow off steam. Whilst it missed out on being reviewed due to timing, it’s one that I will cover in 2022 – likely the start if we end up getting the Project Hel content!
Last year, I awarded a GOTY award to the game with the best visuals. This year, I’m tweaking it slightly to award the best art direction. Not all games need to be super beautiful, as simply having a great art direction can be enough to make a game very aesthetically pleasing.
And no other game this year deserves it more than Paradise Killer. There have been other titles with a great visual style, but this game is quite unique with its vaporwave aesthetic. The world is a blend of colourful utopian imagery, blended with some seedier and darker areas as you probe the island further. Add to that the 2D characters with their ridiculous costumes and personalities and you have a world that begs to be explored. Leaving the island after the investigation was a very sad experience as I had become addicted to this mad, mad, world. It’s like a drug. And that drug is acid.
I’ve had quite a few games surprise me this year, but the one that caught me off guard was a free game that came with my pre-order of Dusk – Dusk ’82. This demake of sorts takes some of the general themes of the main game and translates it to something that resembles a title from the Amiga era. Considering most of those game feel pretty dated these days, I was in no rush to get around to it. I was sure that Dusk ’82 would be a neat novelty, but no more.
Boy, how wrong I was.
Dusk ’82 isn’t quite the action game you’d expect it to be. In fact, it’s more like an action puzzle title where you need to work out how best to take out the enemy and reach the exit. There’s a move limit of sorts, but it’s nothing to worry about. After only a few levels, I was completely hooked. The art style is fitting for the era it imitates, and the music is absolutely fecking awesome; however, it’s the levels themselves that really make the game shine. It’s a shame you can only get it by preordering, or by purchasing a physical copy, as this is one game I think all Switch owners need to play at some point.
Not only did I play a lot of games this year, but I also played quite a few DLC packs and free updates. There were a number of notable ones, but Baba is You ended up being the most exciting. This great puzzle game has been awaiting the level creator update for quite some time now, and it really is worth it. It may be a little fiddly with some of the button combinations, but it’s still quite simple to use and has a lot of depth to it, meaning that people smarter than me are able to do great things with it.
It didn’t end there though, with curated content and two huge level packs full of great levels, this update will give Baba players of al levels plenty to keep them busy. And all for free!
The Metroid franchise has been dormant for a very long time now, and this was the opportunity to show Nintendo that people care about the series. I am so glad that MercurySteam didn’t mess this one up – in fact, they knocked it out of the park. Some quibbles aside, this is a perfect return to form that stands alongside the best 2D entries.
They’ve crafted a rich world that ties together wonderfully, and coupled it with a smooth as butter control scheme and some fantastic action and exploration. It truly is well-deserving of being the long waited Metroid 5. Judging by the reception and sales figures, this may also have revived the series. I doubt we will need to wait much longer for many more entries.
Good work, MercurySteam!
Ever since the DOOM series got ported to switch, I’ve been pining for Bethesda to release the Quake games too. I love the DOOM titles, but the original Quake holds a very special place in my heart. With its Lovecraftian horror theming, this game felt far more unsettling than any of the DOOM games, whilst still retaining lots of frantic action … along with rocket jumping!
The 25th anniversary came around, and lo and behold, but they released a remaster of the original complete with a careful facelift, new episodes, and even crossplay multiplayer. Priced at €9.99, there’s a hell of a lot on offer here and the gameplay still holds up extremely well today. Going back to it feels just as good as it ever did, and it puts a lot of more modern titles to shame.
They’ve since added a neat horde mode and a short but sweet(ish) expansion for free, and I’m sure these free updates will continue in the future too. It’s offers the best value proposition on the Switch at the moment, and I hope we see more Quake titles come to the Switch in the future.
With only the big two titles left, it’s time to bring out the big guns. Literally! Despite enjoying DOOM 2016 a lot, I didn’t jump on Eternal straight away for whatever reason. That, as I later learned, was a mistake.
Ditching the grounded realism of the previous game, Eternal shifts to a more arcade-like experience. Levels are wildly varied and consist of some really amazing arenas for you to slog it out in, and tied together with some interesting platforming and exploration sections for you to hone your movement skills.
And that’s the key to this game: movement. With climbing, dashing, melee, meathooking, and the like, this game feels faster than any of the games before it. With a really balanced selection of weapons that encourage you to mix and max your stuff, the game just feels so good to play. This arcade style may put off fans of the previous title with its unsettling atmosphere, but those who click with the game find it difficult to return to DOOM 2016.
DOOM Eternal is not only my AAA GOTY, but also my favourite DOOM game and one of my favourite shooters. I shall certainly be playing this for years to come.
And now for the final award. The important one. Best indie game of the year. And there can only be one clear winner: Dicey Dungeons.
Whilst the game consists of many gameplay elements I don’t care for (roguelike, RNG, turn-based battling, deckbuilding, etc), the sum of its parts creates something truly special. With six truly different characters to choose from, and 40 unique scenarios to choose from (including the free add on), there’s a lot of fantastic content here to choose from – and the randomisation of the content makes it infinitely replayable.
What’s more, the game is dirt cheap for the sheer amount of content you’ll find here. I’ve clocked in over 100 hours so far, and I’ll likely clock in another 100 by the end of 2022. This game is truly special and something that every Switch player should experience. Don’t miss out..