What does a 3D platformer look like in 2015, an age where crafting, creativity and survival are so commonplace in gaming? Ubisoft (of all people) answered that question with Grow Home, a small game with a big heart. Players control an adorable robot named B.U.D., who is on a mission to grow a plant so big it can breathe life back into his home planet. Right off the bat, B.U.D.'s controls set themselves apart -- instead of swiping Super Mario 64's control scheme like every other game in the genre, Grow Home gives you control over each of B.U.D.'s individual limbs to climb and clamber over the simplisticl polygonal world. It ends up playing a bit like 3D QWOP, albeit with a jetpack.
When you've dicked around with your floppy robot long enough, the real joy of the game begins. Though most players will follow the same general trajectory towards their goal, every person's Star Plant will spawl through the sky in a different way. Super Mario Maker has a host of amazing tools for users to create all kinds of chaos, but Grow Home makes you a level designer without you ever realizing it. -- Tristan Cooper
Ever look at a gathering of friends and see that they're all on their phones? Well now, you can make SURE that happens but still get them to play games with you by playing Quiplash! Quiplash is a game that plays off of one "host" computer and everyone goes to the browser on their phones and types in the room code from the host computer and a name and the game is underway. Everyone gets two random questions on their phones that matches with only one other person playing that they can answer in any way you want. Then, the question goes up on the screen with the two answers that whatever people answered with. The game is easy enough to set up that anyone and their grandparents can play (no really, I've done it).
Quiplash gives you a really nice array of questions so you're always bound to get good ones... unless your friends are bad and not funny. Then get new friends. The game is nice enough where you can play with your friends or your family members (just remember that you have to stop writing "penis" for every question when you start playing against your parents).
Quiplash can be bought on its own or in the Jackbox Party Pack which is filled with more awesome party games. -- Julia Lepetit
The age old dilemma: we all loathe teenagers and wish we could make every last one of them die without mercy or dignity, but we're too afraid that if we were put in prison even more teenagers might pop up and we'd be powerless to rend the flesh from the horrible bones! Well, Until Dawn does an admirable job as a stopgap when you gotta Feed the Need to Kill Some Teens. Under the guise of a "Horror Game," Until Dawn is a murder simulator that lets you walk eight hapless, awful teens straight into the jaws of your infinite desolation. Like a cat playing with a mouse, you can offer them the illusion of hope and tempt them with the lie of salvation- and just as they think they're free, you can pop their heads off like a champagne cork and drink the blood to celebrate. Until Dawn rules. Please don't tell the police I said any of this. -- Tony Wilson
Now that I'm an adult with a job (if you can consider what I do a "job", which my dad absolutely does not), I'm starting to appreciate things I never did in the past, like broccoli, cardigans, and SHORT VIDEOGAMES. Short videogames in particular, because - as much as I love massive RPGs that take 100 hours just to scratch the surface of the game - no one has the time for that shit. Luckily, the rise of indie games on platforms like Steam has seen a bevy of quick, fun, interesting games drop as of late, and my favorite amongst them is WESTERADO: DOUBLE-BARRELED. I understand the original Westerado was a browser-based game from a few years back, but I wasn't aware of that so let's just stick to Double-Barreled.
It's got all the indie game features we've come to expect and love - a great soundtrack, delightful pixel graphics, and a very specific sense of humor about itself (particularly the life-giving nature of hats). But mostly, it was just a beautiful game to get lost in - the aesthetic is oddly calming and majestic, making the moments of violence and bloodshed all the more exciting and pulse-pounding. Between this and Red Dead Redemption, it's a mystery to me why more games aren't set in the old west.
But mostly, it's a game that'll take you about 4-5 hours to finish, and that's the important part. -- Andrew Bridgman
Of all the games I've played this year, nothing has managed to elicit the same emotional response from me that Bloodborne has. Most of the time, the emotion I'm responding with is "pants-shitting terror," because the world of Bloodborne is one that wants to murder you to death and it will succeed at doing so over and over and over again. The instant that you lull yourself into a false sense of security will be the same instant that you get bitten in half by a giant boar covered in eyeballs, and you won't be able to stop yourself from immediately respawning and trying again.
Undoubtedly Bloodborne is one of the most demanding games of the year, and I don't just mean that in the gameplay sense. This is an experience that demands your full attention in all respects. The story is broken up into small lore bits that, if you're attentive enough, you can discover in item descriptions, environmental clues, and even in the designs of enemies themselves. This natural discovery of new information that isn't spoonfed to the player grants the cursed city of Yarnham and its surrounding areas a sense of place and reality that other games sorely lack. You feel like you're in an actual world that expands beyond the boundaries of your experience. This gives dedicated players so much to sink their teeth into and, if you're willing to invest the time, you'll be hard-pressed to find a more ultimately rewarding gaming experience this year.
Most importantly though, it's a game that lets you dress up as a beautiful fancy-man and beat werewolves to death with a cane that turns into a whip. What more could you ask for? -- Jacob Andrews
Indie games (if you can call Life Is Strange an indie game seeing as it's backed by Square Enix) are known for pushing the boundaries and exploring new territories in videogames. Life is Strange did exactly that with its time travel controlling protagonist living in Washington state who seems to be involved in more teenage drama than Peter Parker. On top of suddenly having time powers and teenage drama, a mystery starts to unfold as Max, the games main character, gets involved looking for her best friend's new best friend who has gone missing without a trace. It starts off seemingly like she's just a teenage runaway but as time goes on, it seems less and less likely.
The game has some really pretty visuals, a lot of sad acoustic guitar music if you're into that kind of thing, and some real nice heart wrenching decision making. It really is a game that will make you sit back and think long and hard about what you've just done. Other decisions you make, meanwhile, you just wonder what the hell will have to do with anything. Did you water Lisa too much? You monster. How could you.
Really, I loved this game but then again I'm a sucker for feeling god awful for choices I make that don't actually matter in the real world. -- Julia Lepetit
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