PSNStores 2015 Game of the Year Awards: Eric’s Top 5 of 2015
Once again, it has been an eventful year. I switched career paths (teaching to game-making), underwent a couple of major surgeries, got married, and even made a few games that may be worth playing! I can’t help but be optimistic about the year that was and the years that will be. As is tradition, allow me to share with you some of my favorite PSN games from 2015. I would love it if you wanted to discuss. Use the comments section of this post, send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org), or get at me on Twitter. We can chop it up, even if you completely disagree with everything on this list. Without further ado…
Top 5, no particular order:
Once or twice a year, I play a game that reminds me why I play games at all. It could be gameplay mechanics, as was the case for 2011’s Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes; sound design, as in 2012’s Sound Shapes; controls, like 2013’s Guacamelee!; or some magical combination of varying genres a la 2014’s Velocity 2X. This year, I was shocked by Nova-111, which seemed to come out of nowhere from Funktronic Labs. The elegant blend of real-time and turn-based gameplay yielded several of this year’s a-ha moments for me. Of all the games I played in 2015, this is the one I would recommend without a caveat to anyone, regardless of gaming skill or lack thereof. Do yourself a favor and play through this modestly sized indie hit.
2D platforming has a new king. The physics-based controls, the minimalist aesthetic, the trancey soundtrack, and the tonnage of content all roll together to make a platformer that may very well last you the lifetime of the PS4. I have spent countless mornings trying to perfect levels that only the most skilled players can even dream of beating. I’m currently working my way through the expert row of single player levels, but there is a whole side of N++ that I haven’t had the opportunity to really delve into – the local multiplayer. All levels can be played with up to four people, and there are specific puzzle stages that test the cooperation and coordination between you and a buddy. I’m going to be playing this game well into the new year, which I can’t say for many other games that released in 2015.
I’m a big fan of shmups and an even bigger fan of local multiplayer. Jamestown+ combines these two flavors into one totally excellent treat. The campaign is a bit stunted, but the dozens of challenges are tough enough to keep hardcore players interested for a long while. I’m always looking for a friend to help blow up aliens in a 1619 martian colony. Friend me if you’d want to Share Play it!
Oh, Grow Home. I really enjoyed this game because it encouraged me to discover its crevices. Most games have an explicitly linear path that the player is strung along. Some games make the path implicit, while others struggle with gimmicks to make the player’s experience seemingly unique. Grow Home has an objective: get back to your ship; to your MOTHER. That’s not what the game is all about, though. It’s about climbing around a lush world full of fantastical flora and fauna, finding your way as a simple droid. This is one of the few games I played this year where you can’t kill/shoot anything. I’m glad about that.
Pneuma: Breath of Life
Making a puzzle game is tough. There’s a balance that designers have to meet in order to make the game challenging, rewarding, and playable. Pneuma: Breath of Life achieves such a balance. It’s a beautiful piece that explores the philosophical implications of playing video games and of life in general. Think the construct scene in The Matrix, then lengthen that to about three hours of interactive gameplay. Give it a go if you’re in a pensive mood.
Paperbound – Part VVVVVV, part fast-paced arena brawler, all fun.
Starwhal – Oozing with style, a badass soundtrack, and simultaneously hilarious, confusing, and skillful gameplay.
Kromaia – A wonderful abstract 3D shooter with a great control scheme.
Toto Temple Deluxe – Wildly fun with four players, and a negative feedback loop that keeps most games close and exciting.
Life is Strange – I don’t like adventure games. I liked Life is Strange quite a bit.
BlazeRush – Oldschool isometric racing on speed, and maybe some other drugs as well.
Woah Dave! – Simple arcade highscore game with a straightforward ecosystem building mechanic. Also, two player mode!
Rollers of the Realm – RPG pinball done right. Great gameplay with fun and varied character classes that keep the experience fresh throughout.
Xeodrifter – Bite-sized Metroidvania that turns all the right knobs. (Is that an expression? Did I just invent it?)
Submerged – A beautiful-looking game with a complete lack of violence. Discovery and world-building on a digestible scale.
Whispering Willows – Features a curious female protagonist who unravels an anti-Eurocentristic view of the past. Also, ghosts.
Lost Orbit – One of my favorite narratives of the year. Also one of my favorite speedrunning games of the year. Don’t ask me how they succeeded in both of those areas.
Skulls of the Shogun: Bone-A-Fide Edition – A rock-solid turn-(but not grid!)based strategy game. I’m almost always willing to boot it up and play.
Nom Nom Galaxy – Despite its multiplayer networking issues, this is the best soup-factory simulator I’ve ever played. An engrossing run-arounder.