January Game Completions: Suck it, Backlog!

tombraider

My backlog is atrocious. Every day I walk by the game shelf that sits next to my TV and wonder if I’ll ever have time to play all of this stuff. Then I turn on my Xbox One, my PS4, or my Vita and feel the same way about the abundance of digital downloads. It’s daunting, that’s for sure.

At the beginning of the year I made a decision to be more conscious and smart about the games I bought, focusing instead on putting a dent in my backlog. Throughout the month of January, I did just that. And it felt awesome.

Over the last 30 days, I’ve managed to complete the following:

  1. Uncharted: Golden Abyss (Vita)
  2. Batman: Arkham Knight (PS4)
  3. Velocity 2X (Vita)
  4. Volume (Vita)
  5. Superbeat XONiC (Vita)
  6. Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture (PS4)
  7. SOMA (PS4)
  8. Actual Sunlight (Vita)
  9. Three-Fourths Home: Extended Edition (Vita)
  10. The Unfinished Swan (Vita)
  11. Rise of the Tomb Raider (Xbox One)

Of all the games I completed this month, none impressed me more than SOMA.

I have little attachment to Frictional Games’ Amnesia series, being a core console gamer and all, but their sci-fi tale about the humanization of artificial intelligence is pretty mind blowing.

Intense stealth segments were spread out far enough so it never felt as stressful as Alien: Isolation, which allowed the haunting environments, moral judgments, and story to take center stage. Just an incredible game overall.

Had I played SOMA in 2015, it would have easily cracked my top 5.

Uncharted: Golden Abyss took me by surprise as well. It was the first game I played on my new handheld, and as someone who normally loathes gimmick controls, I actually enjoyed how intimately it used the Vita’s features. It really is a rock solid action-adventure game, and not just by handheld standards.

Aside from Rocksteady botching a pivotal character’s identity in the costume select screen, Batman: Arkham Knight was pretty flawless. The action was fantastic, and it was good about keeping things fresh throughout. The moment I started getting bored, something new was introduced–be it a massive game of “the floor is lava,” or the arrival of new optional content. I also know I’m one of the few who enjoyed blowing shit up in the Batmobile.

I uninstalled the game before I got around to the Season of Infamy DLC, so I’ll have to revisit it again at some point. DC’s villains are some of my favorites.

Rise of the Tomb Raider improved upon the 2013 reboot in every way imaginable. The gunplay, the action, the exploration, it’s just a phenomenal experience. It’s also one of the most beautiful games I’ve ever seen.

I couldn’t possibly care less about the story, though. It was dull, predictable, and I didn’t feel invested in the characters at all. That didn’t stop me from enjoying it, but the frequent interruption by uninteresting audio diaries was a bit bothersome. Especially after I had already given up on the narrative and wanted to forget it existed just so I could get back to collecting stuff and raiding tombs.

Actual Sunlight was a 60-minute gut punch about depression and suicide. If you have a Vita, an hour, and a couple dollars to spare, I highly recommend giving it a go.

Three-Fourths Home is a visual novel that flew under my radar last year. It has this neat monochromatic 8-bit style, and was a nice (albeit depressing) game to chill out with for an uninterrupted hour or two.

Throughout the game, protagonist Kelly is driving home in the midst of a massive thunderstorm in rural Nebraska. During the drive she receives a phone call from her mother and you choose between different dialogue options, rather than being responsible and asking her to call back later. Sounds simple, sure, but the conversation isn’t going to cheer you up. It’s relatable, sad, and worth every bit of its $5 asking price.

Both narrative games were brought to my attention by Greg Miller and Colin Moriarty at Kinda Funny, whom I trust with any Vita recommendation. Neither disappointed, and if you’re looking for something to play on a short trip, they’re cheap, intriguing, and memorable experiences.

Knocking these games out has been great, and I hope the momentum carries in to February. Every year I take part in Four in February, which I’ll go in-depth with in another post. It’s a yearly thing the gaming community does where you pick 4 games from your backlog and try to take them out before the end of the month. And now I’m out of short games.

Damn.

I’m not sure if this has to do with writing my own blog at my own pace now, or finding the motivation to just sit down and enjoy things, but aside from games I’ve also managed to binge watch all of How to Get Away With Murder, Making a Murderer, Jessica Jones, Daredevil, Master of None, and most of The Flash’s first season this year. On top of going to school full time.

It’s an odd feeling, this “getting shit done.”

 

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