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Astro Bot Rescue Mission

John’s Best of 2018

Full of joy and laziness

This year, the Doublejump Management decided to use Game of the Year time to allow each of its writers to shine individually by producing a short article containing their Game of the Year selection for 2018 along with up to two honourable mentions and up to five things that they’re looking forward to seeing in gaming in 2019. As always, we more than welcome your thoughts and opinions as well; head on over to our Discord server or our newly-created Facebook Group to discuss gaming’s past year with our team and our community!

My Game of the Year: PlayStation VR & Astro Bot: Rescue Mission

After years of just reading about it, I finally entered virtual reality in 2018. With the PSVR, I finally learned just how groundbreaking it is.

I’m sure there are many reasons why, but for gaming at least, virtual reality is a chance to be awed again. Watching my little sister laugh and scream as she threw burgers at zombie customers in Dead Hungry, or my Mum using an actual game controller for over an hour on Astro Bot: Rescue Mission – something I haven’t seen since I was six – showed me that virtual reality isn’t just the next platform for gaming innovation but a chance to revitalize the joy and wonder of gaming in the mainstream.

2018’s Astro Bot: Rescue Mission (which I reviewed earlier in the year) exemplified all of this in one phenomenally cute package and gave us a chance to show those on the outside how and why this medium is so special. Threading virtual reality through the DNA of a straightforward 3D platformer, Astro Bot manages to connect with players in a way few games can without a heavy dose of rose-tinted nostalgia. Just the act of moving your head forward to peek around a corner, watching your little robot waddle ahead to safety, is almost unreal to witness after years of ‘flat’ gaming.

Astro Bot: Rescue Mission was an unforgettable experience that reminded me of just how incredible gaming can still be.

Honourable mention: Into the Breach

A late entry (I started playing in December) but Into the Breach is exactly what I want out of Tactical RPG’s in every way. The mecha help with that (as they do absolutely anything) but the chess-like foreshadowing, looping the player in on almost every consequence of theirs and the enemy’s actions, turns the combat into puzzles instead of an exercise in herding chaos. As a result, Into the Breach is one of the most genuinely rewarding games I’ve played in a while.

Honourable mention: Prey (2017)

One of the older games I bought and actually ended up playing in 2018, Prey (2017) is shockingly good to receive such a muted response (no doubt in part to Bethesda’s review policy). A sleek and silver concoction of Looking Glass Studios’ DNA, System Shock and Bioshock, Prey will likely be one of the few genuine immersive sims we see this generation — we definitely didn’t see any in 2018.

At least Prey will see some love in 2019 with its VR multiplayer mode and support for the roguelike expansion Mooncrash. God knows it deserves it.

What I’m Looking Forward to in 2019:

A New Wave of Character-Action: While Bayonetta 3 might not release in 2019 (though my hopes are dangerously high), the dramatic fan-centric release of Devil May Cry V and FROM Software’s Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice signals exciting things for the character-action genre. So far, Devil May Cry V looks to live up to the fans’ increasingly high expectations and Sekiro looks like the gothic, gritty ninja-samurai thing I never knew I needed so bad. If Bayonetta 3 actually releases in 2019, I’ll probably overdose.

Obsidian Entertainment’s Outer Worlds: After finally playing Fallout 4 for the first time about a month ago and being just as disappointed as I thought I would be, the announcement of Outer Worlds is exactly what I needed. Perhaps the last Obsidian RPG to release on a Sony console, I’ll be savouring the heck out of Outer Worlds’ comedy-heavy sci-fi-western frontier and its delicious Fallout: New Vegas vibes, even if it’s a little smaller this time.

Animal Crossing for the Nintendo Switch: Without knowing much about it, I’d hoped Stardew Valley would fill the Isabelle-shaped hole in my Switch, but it didn’t, and neither did Pocket Camp. My Switch is screaming for something perfectly chill and relaxing to sink into. Something where I don’t have to fight or manage or worry about anything and I can just laze around collecting apples and fish while paying off my loan shark (loan raccoon?) Tom Nook. Only a new Animal Crossing fits the bill.

Deeper into the Dungeon(s and Dragons): I’ve played video games for most of my life but tabletop gaming has always been that thing I saw on TV and never anything else, so finally playing one opened up gaming in a big way for me in 2018. My group is actually playing the far simpler Dungeon World, so it’s not quite the same as proper Dungeons & Dragons, but our first three sessions have all been exciting, unique experiences (and stressful because I’m also the DM).

2019 means a brand new campaign with new characters and places and mechanics and maps and GAH just a crazy amount of time and effort – and the most fun I’ve had creatively in a good while.

The Year of the Backlog: After years of penniless #unilife, 2018 was the year I bought every game I missed out on – and proceeded to play almost none of them (Prey was one of the very few). Because of this, I’m looking forward to being a more active (read: less lazy) gamer this year. Instead of just buying them, I want to actually play the games I’m interested in, the ones that take some more concentration and attention on my part and stop wasting so much time on all these endless timesinks. I want to finally play Inside, Pyre, Return of the Obra Dinn, Her Story, Undertale, Shenmue and so, so many more and I’ll be making a concerted effort to do in 2019.

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