CHENNAI: It’s hard not to look at gaming in 2022 and fail to notice the sheer number of sequels and console ports of existing fan favorite games. The widely acknowledged hits of these franchise types were Spider-man, God of War Ragnarök, Pokemon Legends: Arceus, and Horizon Forbidden West. If nothing else, this reveals the loyalty of gamers to their fandoms; our unfaltering willingness to spend hours, maybe years, playing more of a very similar type of videogame. But this has not stopped us from prodding our numb, overworked fingers on the download button of fresh stand-alone releases. Here’s a list of some of the games I enjoyed playing this year, with a focus on games from independent developers.
Roguelike - Nobody Saves the World
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One/Series S/X, PlayStation 4/5
Despite releasing bright and early in January in a year filled with several action-RPG games, I still have strong memories of Nobody Saves the World. In this dungeon-crawler, we work through the game’s gradually unfolding map as it shows us more complex monsters to defeat, while uncovering a ridiculously fun tale of a lost wizard and his insecure assistant.
We are “Nobody”, and we develop an ability to shape-shift through the game, allowing us to inherit the powers of various silly creatures. Developed by DrinkBox studios, the best part of the game is that it also allows for co-operative multiplayer, so we can cause twice the amount of damage on enemies with a friend! Also a special mention here to “Cult of the Lamb” and “Children of Morta”, both great indie games which fall under this category.
Puzzle/Casual - Dorfromantik
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, Microsoft Windows
It’s incredibly satisfying to hear the pop when you add your hexagonal terrain tiles, building out your own little world. A world that’s ridiculous and improbable in real life, but beautiful and unique — an island in a lake surrounded by a forest, train tracks in grasslands that lead to nowhere, or a windmill inside a forest with tall trees. While there are puzzle modes in the game, with structure and rewards for building surfaces in the right order and frequency, the true fun in the game is its creative modes that encourage you to build anything you want. Dorfromantik would be the kind of game that can calm you after a stressful day.
Cat Adventure – Stray
Platforms: Playstation 4/5, Microsoft Windows
This award-winning title is known for its realistic experience of playing as a convincingly cute and nimble protagonist. What I liked more was the excellent sci-fi story that accompanies our journey with the cat. We sprint around a huge city where humans no longer exist, and robots preserve human memories by emoting and behaving like humans. The city is locked away from the great “Outside”, the sky blocked out by an endless metal cage. This might seem bleak, but you can always knock over some books or hide in a box.
Beat ‘em up – Sifu
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4/5, Xbox One/Series S/X, Microsoft Windows
The story is this – a child witnesses the assassination of her father, a martial arts master or Sifu. She makes it her life’s aim to exact revenge. The gameplay makes us realise the punishing amount of skill and time required to perfect a martial art. The game adds an interesting mechanic to a typical beat-‘em-up: as opposed to dying and respawning, the protagonist merely ages every time the enemy empties her health bar. While this gives us a false sense of security – this mechanic makes the game that much more difficult. I was sprightly for an 80-year-old when I faced my first in-game boss, but it did not stop him from slicing me down in a single move.
Action-Adventure – A Plague Tale: Requiem
Sure, Elden Ring is a great award-winning game with a painstakingly detailed world, but it was just not for me. I did, however, play both games in the Plague Tale series this year, and loved them. The dark and grimy world covered with rats, with fire being the only way out, all of it immediately appealed to me. Games with primarily stealth-based combat and environmental puzzles are always fun, and Plague Tale has both. However, “Requiem”, which released in October, went a little rogue with the protagonist Amicia, who now had to reach for her catapult a bit too often. I liked it all the same, because I enjoyed the fiercer rats, tougher soldiers, and the evolving relationship between Amicia and her toddler brother Hugo.
Narrative - Pentiment
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, Xbox One/Series S/X
The game is short, the stylised artwork immediately sets an interesting tone, and the idea of a renaissance-era murder mystery was particularly thrilling. The charming Bavarian village of Tassing, where the murder takes place, seemed to have no shortage of residents with a sense of humour and great gossip. Allowing me to experience an established world and have meaningful interactions with well-developed characters is perhaps the only way to make me read otherwise boring social and political commentary from an era long gone!