Going through the list was a lot more work than I originally thought. I didn’t have a thing written down most of these games and I only started taking screenshots quite recently, so I had to go back to some of the titles just for that. And then I didn’t even have savegames for all of them. Well, these shots should give some kind of idea anyway.
The whole top10 ended up being rather traditional adventures, visual novels or hybrids of them. I did play some other type of games too but I’m not sure I finished any (not that they were bad, they’re just longer). I can’t really anticipate what my top10 for 2015 would look like but at the current rate it’s probably going to have even more visual novels.
My top5 or 2014:
Memoria is a sequel to The Dark Eye: Chains of Satinav, and then again it’s not really. It’s kind of a prequel but not quite that either. Basically the story from Chains of Satinav continues, but the majority of the game the player is living a story that happened ages ago, only getting back to the current events now and then. Because of the parts that continue the plot from the first game, I would not recommend playing this title first, as the ending of Chains of Satinav will be spoiled by it. Though if one is not really interested in playing CoS in the first place, it is not a must by any means. Mostly it will just create a better emotional connection to a couple of characters.
The game is very much similar to the predecessor, except that it’s even better. The setting is the same medievalish fantasy world where great danger is shadowing the everyday life. The story itself is amazing; it’s an epic adventure with great twists and a wonderful ending. The continuation of the plot of CoS has a couple of different outcomes, but to be honest, I almost lost interest in Geron’s doings, even though initially I was very eager to know what happened after the events of the previous game. This new story is just that much better.
Memoria has multiple protagonists (quite obviously since it’s separated into different timelines). In the present the player controls Geron from the first game, and in the past the protagonist is a kick-ass princess with a great companion. These new characters are also better than Geron and Nuri, which were not bad themselves. Game play consists of plenty of old school adventure puzzles, which are definitely on the better side of the scale. Like in CoS, there are magical gimmicks that make the puzzles more interesting, and the “sidekicks” in this game are used well.
This game is probably not quite in my top10 adventures of all time but it’s very close to it.
The Journey Down was 2014’s black horse. I had admired the interesting graphics in several occasions and I don’t know how long I had the first chapter just laying forgotten in my Steam library, but I picked it up last year because of the buzz the second chapter made. While playing many people make a connection to Grim Fandango. The unique art style that was adapted from a less common culture (in video games at least) as well as the strong musical scheme and humorous plot with a great story behind it are similar, though TJD definitely does not copy Grim Fandango by any means. Its style comes from Africa and Caribbean, mixed up with some noir, and all this happens in a ‘kind of a fantasy setting’ that’s very similar to real world.
I obviously love the art, and the music is awesome too. In the first chapter it’s pretty heavy on reggae and on the second one it’s more jazzy. The best thing about the game is the protagonist Bwana though, I love him. He’s a complete “loser” like many adventure protagonists but he is overwhelmingly positive. He and his brother Kito just waltz through all the troubles while smiling and cracking some jokes. These guys think pretty much everything is awesome and their attitude is very contagious.
In the story the adoptive father of Bwana and Kito has disappeared already years ago, but now suddenly people are looking for him, and his book ‘The Journey Down’. The book is supposed to lead people to Underland, a place that has been off limits for years. There’s a femme fatale, goons and corrupt police officers etc. like in any noir thriller. The first chapter is pretty much just a prelude getting the guys to leave for the journey. On the second chapter they hang around in a city and the third and last chapter will be in another location again.
The puzzles are pretty common point and click adventure stuff. They’re not too hard and they’re logical (at least in the game world) and often very funny. I’m actually not a huge fan of comedic adventures, I almost never intentionally seek them out, but when they’re well done I definitely enjoy the humour. I’m looking forward to the last chapter and hoping it will complete the story in a satisfying way, so that I might be able to rise the score still.
DRAMAtical Murder is the Nitro+Chiral BL title. It created a lot of buzz, got many new fans to the genre and of course created some “that’s too popular” attitude among some older fans. “I liked BL VNs before DMMd”. Well, I’m rather newbie on BL genre myself and I’m rather glad DMMd was as high profile as it was, so I managed to notice it too. It has definitely been one of my most enjoyable games in the recent years, I’ve actually already replayed some routes (I’m sorry, someone). Re:Connect is a “sequel” or rather just a fandisc with longer endings and some extra materials. I admit it, most of it is just x-rated fan service, but I’m a fan, and I like to be serviced.
Anyway, the story of DMMd takes place in the near future, in a fictional Japanese island. The main character is this blue haired cute guy called Aoba with his ‘allmate’ pet Ren. Aoba lives in the poor part of the island where there are several gangs (several of his friends belong to some of them). In addition to the brawling (Rib), there are also cyber matches (Rhyme). Suddenly gang members start to disappear and Aoba gets weird e-mails as well as encounters some new weird dudes. It doesn’t take long to be in the middle of a full fledged conspiracy.
I am a fan of these kinds of sci-fi stories. I think I would have been very pleased with the game even without any BL action (which mostly happens in the end parts of the game anyway). I also really liked all the characters, they’re amazing and sweet and funny (there aren’t many women, but at least Granny is awesome). The art is incredible, it’s just to my tastes. When I started playing the game I was just amazed by the look and feel of the game, it was just so much better than any visual novel I had touched before. I also needed to wipe off some drool now and then, the combination of the art and voice acting on all of those romance-able characters seriously gets my knees weak.
The overall mood in this story is a lot more upbeat than in Togainu no Chi or Sweet Pool. If the player manages to finish the game without picking one particularly violent route or encountering a bad ending, it’s possible that they didn’t experience anything terribly disturbing (there is still violence in the game). But, and honestly is a big but, perhaps just because the game is so much sweeter than the others, the bad endings really sting. They are rather short but very disturbing glimpses in the original game, and then much longer and pretty sadistic in re:connect.
The game splits into two parts: the common route and the special route. I think I probably have a favourite route and it would be Clear (he’s the gas mask dude), which is rather interesting revelation to myself, since I never was a huge sucker for the sweet type – though he is not only sweet, he is also weird, which is a bit closer to my tastes. It’s just the combination of the story arc itself, the sweetness of the character, the emotional connection between the protagonist and probably also how horribly disturbing the bad ending is. But I really enjoyed all the routes and characters, though I think a couple of them could have been more connected to the main story. This game doesn’t really have one of those crazy villains that I love (it surely has villains but I guess they are not so much to my tastes, which is fine because all of the heroes are), except for one, but naming it would be a spoiler, I’ll just say that it’s the ‘other one’ (and perhaps some of the bad endings show some “intriguing” sides of some of the characters). The true route is… interesting. If one starts to think about all the weird stuff in it, it can give off a same kind of feeling that analyzing time travel plots sometimes does.
Some people hate Telltale, especially the direction they have taken in the last few years. I don’t mind these types of games at all, basically they’re interactive movies as they seriously lack gameplay elements, but as a big fan of visual novels, that’s hardly anything new to me. Many people rank The Wolf Among Us lower than The Walking Dead and I kinda can see where they’re coming from, but I disagree nonetheless. TWAU is simply amazing, and while TWD was great enough to let me get past the whole zombie survival part (which is not my favourite plotline), it’s not even in the same league in my book.
So what makes The Wolf Among Us so great? Simply, almost everything. Well, if I want to elaborate more, I’d put it under the setting. This rather bleak, kinda noirish part of town where all the fairy tale has-beens live and try to adapt living in the human world is already right up my alley. And I even get to play the big bad wolf, can it get any greater? Well, it can, because the graphics and the audio of the game suit the setting perfectly. I honestly would “play” a game that had just Bigby chatting with the other characters while sipping some whiskey. Seriously, nothing would have to happen. But in this game we have a gruesome murder mystery with some very interesting villains and twists, as well as lots of cool, creepy shit.
After I played the first episode I quite instantly went and read a few dozen of those comic book chapters the game was based on. The comics are great, but in my opinion Telltale does it even better. I love the world and I definitely love Bigby, I can’t really think of that many protagonists I’ve loved this much. I have compared the game to Discworld Noir and I think the score of TWAU would go over the scale if Bigby would do similar detective work as Lewton does in Noir. As it is, this game hardly has any puzzles, it has some dialogue options that alter the story a bit and those QTE fights, that are a bit of hit and miss. At certain moments it adds to the panicky feeling but most of the time button smashing is not the optimal control scheme for me.
The Blackwell Epiphany is the 5th and final game in the series (for some reason I keep saying it’s the 6th, happened this time too. I wish there was a 6th). Unfortunately (though I don’t really see it that way) one should play the previous titles to really understand what’s going on, not to mention to get the emotional payback from the incredible events that are happening and making this series really go out with a bang. Not only I gave this game a full score, I’ve been half-jokingly giving it an extra point over the actual scale. In my opinion Blackwell Epiphany is one of the best adventure games out there, one that can easily compete with classic titles like the Gabriel Knight trilogy for example. It has done everything right.
The whole series stars with The Blackwell Legacy, where one of the protagonists, Rosangela, is still completely clueless about the supernatural. The first game is very easy and short but still an enjoyable introduction to the series. From there the titles become longer, more complex and better. It is a joy to see how the series improves game by game (though I personally have a soft spot for the second title ‘Blackwell Unbound’).
The heart of the game is in the interaction between the main duo. They are both wonderful characters the player will end up caring for. The story is also excellent, unless one seriously hates everything about ghosts and mediums. Each title throws around some hints about the ‘bigger plot’ and the story finally closes in Epiphany, though each and every game has many connections to the previous ones. I replayed all the earlier titles when I got this one and felt it was totally worth it to remind myself about everything that had happened so far.
Blackwell games are one of these new retro pixel art ones, I think they look rather nice, I like the style. The voice acting is also good. But in addition to the great characters and story, the game really excels in actual game play. The old school point & click scheme is executed perfectly in the series, making it very enjoyable to play. The puzzles are logical and on the easier side, but not overly simple. The puzzles also become more complex when the series advances – the first game is not a very good example of the game play in the whole series. Mostly the player is doing different kinds of detective work in the game, and what’s so fun about it is the player controlling both of the protagonists (and sometimes other characters) to dig out the necessary clues, as well as using the conversation trees, combining notes and doing searches and various other things with computers and cell phones.
The games don’t seem to have any kind of age limit to them, but I don’t really consider them suitable for kids. Quite obvious to the subject of ghosts, they handle death and murder majority of the play time, including also child victims. Other rather depressing and recurring issue is mental illness.
The Blackwell series really gives the player one emotional ride through an exciting supernatural mystery. I am a fan of Wadjet Eye Games in general, but this is my absolute favourite game from them, and one of my favourite games across all genres.