40. No Man’s Sky
Talk about a tale of redemption. I stayed clear of this initially as some warning signs were going off in my head. It promised so much and then came out as a mess of a game and broken promises.
Over time, though, Hello Games have worked to bring all the promised features and more. It’s now a great exploration game in a colossal universe, where you can fly and land on any part of the billions and billions of planets, encountering randomly generated animals and a good range of different kinds of planets.
There’s a main story that utilises the procedurally generated objects, and is cleverly done so the game is never missing anything vital in your starting area (which is different in every area). It’s possible to encounter places discovered by other players, but even now it’s a rarity unless you visit featured locations and bases – of which you can build your own vast structures.
39: Yoshi’s Woolly World
An incredibly charming platforming game, Yoshi’s Woolly World is just a joy to look at and play from start to finish. Everything is made out of wool (or wool-related haberdashery stuff), creating for a very unique style, even if Kirby did it first.
Levels have a pretty balanced difficulty curve, getting more difficult (but not extremely difficult) as the game progresses, with the bigger challenge being in finding all the collectables in each level. Some levels can be fast and frantic while others are slower paced and more about exploration and puzzle solving.
The accessibility options for making it easier are also great, my nephew was able to play the whole game alongside me without getting frustrated.
38: A Way Out
A game that can only be played in split-screen co-op (either locally or online), telling a story of two prisoners trying to escape and get revenge on those who had them end up in there. The game is a 3rd person action game, focusing more on stealth and puzzles early on and shooting towards the end.
Surprisingly, it’s not as confusing as I initially feared to both have different conversations on the same screen. Most of the game has you working together but the true delight is when you get separated and have your own unique sections.
Some highlights of the game are early on in the prison, where you have to set up your plan for escaping and have to work out how to get items past guards. These sections seem a bit more open and flexible to your approach.
37: Planet Zoo
Similar on how Two Point Hospital took inspiration from Theme Hospital, Planet Zoo is like a modern Zoo Tycoon. However, instead of just being a new version of the original, Planet Zoo feels like its own game, with the main focus being on the animals themselves.
The animals all look amazing, they move and act extremely well, have babies, grow up and (sadly die). They can get ill if you’re not keeping their habitat clean, and keeping them happy is a major important point. While you can just plonk down the requirements of the animal and some basic fences, it’s also possible to create some amazingly elaborate habitats with the building tools in the game – or just download bluepirnts that others have made.
For a management sim, the rain and snow also look very impressive, with attention to detail regarding places that would be sheltered. The campaign mode is also well done, with lots of options for creating your own from scratch, to a sandbox mode with unlimited funds.
36: Super Mario Maker
This is a strange one for me. I’m personally not a big fan of 2D Mario games, yet I absolutely adored Super Mario Maker. It felt like a really friendly and happy game, a celebration of Mario and a game with a great feeling of community spirit.
Using the Wii U gamepad, you could design levels on the touch screen while being able to look up for a better view of it on the TV. For playing levels, you could play random levels, follow creators or search for levels – there was also a website that you could use to send levels to your Wii U, allowing for people to easily share their creations and create collections of levels.
The Miiverse was also integrated into the game extremely well, letting people comment on levels, some of which even show up inside the levels themselves. The Amiibo outfits were also a ton of fun and there were lots of little secrets that added to the charm.
35: Fallout 4
Returning to the post nuclear apocalyptic universe of Fallout, Fallout 4 sets itself in Boston. You start of in the a future inspired by ideas of what the 1950s saw the future as – a vision which gives Fallout its unique look and charm, seeing robots alongside ancient looking TVs, it creates for an interesting world and the catchy 1930s music adds to the fun of it.
The gameplay in terms of combat has been much improved, managing to feel like a fully fledged shooter. VATS is still a thing and is handy in some instances, but it no longer feels like you need to use it all the time – that said, the melee perk that lets you use VATS to warp to enemies is a ton of fun to use.
Settlements are a large part of this game, allowing for you to build elaborate structures and providing food and security to attract new people. You can set up merchants here as well, along with caravan routes between the many (possibly too many) settlements you can start.
I wasn’t expecting much from Watch_Dogs, I got it for free at some point but didn’t get round to playing it until much later. I found myself rather impressed with it, even if it does have some flaws.
The driving and car chases in Watch_Dogs are thrilling and highly entertaining, possibly the best I’ve seen in this kind of game. The hacking while driving also adds to this, as the system is simple enough to use efficiently, even at high speeds. Escaping from the police also feels a bit more natural than games like GTA, encouraging hiding rather than escaping a circle (unless you abuse boats, that is).
The profiler is great to use. The “crime predictor” is fun to have as a side thing, even if its a bit of the same thing repeatedly, it’s just nice to be able to save random people. Listening in on people’s texts, calls and video feeds is also a satisfying thing to do.
33: New Super Lucky’s Tale
While it doesn’t bring anything new to the table, New Super Lucky’s Tale is a very solid platformer that borrows various platforming styles from games like Mario, Crash Bandicoot, Spyro and Sonic (with a dash of Billy Hatcher for some levels) and provides a varies experience that is fun throughout.
Each level has four objectives to unlock “pages” (the main collectable), one for finishing the level, one hidden somewhere in the level, one for finding the letters that spell “LUCKY” and one for collecting 300 coins. Typically, these can be done the first time in the level, apart from the 2D autorun levels that feel a bit like a modern Sonic segment.
The variety does help mix things up. You’ll get some levels that focus one exploring the area, some A-to-B levels (3D and 2D), a few maze levels and some more objective-based levels. All of these, while feeling familiar from other games, are very well made and makes it a solid game.
From Playtonic Games, a company made partially of Rare staff that worked on Banjo-Kazooie, comes a spiritual sequel to Banjo-Kazooie, with a similar platforming style, name and humour.
Yooka-Laylee is comprised of five levels, which start off small and expand as you collect more pagies. You will unlock more moves and find new transformations in each level, although one segment in particular doesn’t telegraph very well that you’ll need a move from a later level and lets you traverse a maze before encountering something you can’t pass at the end.
That said, the platforming is very challenging, with some good puzzles. Bosses are mostly fun – although the first was frustrating until the camera was fixed in a later update. Yooka’s kind words and Laylee’s rude sassiness are both charming to read, with the classic Banjo-style “grunt voices”.
31: Infamous: Second Son
Continuing on from the Infamous games on the PS3, Second Son puts us in the hands of a new character. Delsin Rowe discovers that he is a “conduit” when he encounters someone with Smoke abilities only to discover his own ability: he can copy the abilities of other conduits.
As you progress through the game, you will unlock more powers, all feel quite different and you can switch between them by draining a related power source (which is needed to fill the power bar for the abilities). Smoke has a lot of jumping around, and can potentially be very aggressive (although there are abilities designed to subdue rather than kill).
The neon ability is an absolute joy. It’s the closest you’ll get to great gameplay as a “speedster” type superhero (such as The Flash), running at great speeds and shooting light. It’s really satisfying just moving around Seattle with this power.