All the video games I played in 2018, in order of appearance. * designates a meaningful re-play.
Mushroom 11 - I finally finished this game. I really wanted to like it and while it held the same weird and mildly interesting note the whole time I played it, I was hoping the note would rise in some way. And the end of the game is so frustratingly hard, leaving a bad taste at the end. Really conflicted on whether I can even give this game a thumbs-up or a thumbs-down...
Subsurface Circular - Intriguing. Neat focus system for separating world-building from getting important information.
Firewatch - Finally finished this game and I am still flabergasted. It's so incredibly immersive. The best audio commentary I've ever experienced. It's so refreshing to be so exposed to so much care being poured into a video game. I treated a friend to an "easter egg run", showing all of the special moments while picking the options they wanted to see the most. "I'm looking at you" takes my breath away.
* Alto's Adventure (mobile) - Absence makes the heart grow fonder.
Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception - Naughty Dog Studios knows how to make an amazing game, but they may not be able to control this powerful knowledge. Uncharted excels with it's cinematic setpieces, elaborate chases, and incredible narrative and falls hard when it places gun-toting enemies between you and the exit. So the choice to make the entire second act and the majority of the third act increasingly ridiculous gun battles makes little sense to me. How they saw fit to put a masterpiece horseback assault that is the best thing I've done in an action game in the same product as a gun battle in a sandstorm against an army of snipers and rocket launchers is beyond me. At the end, the rage from the frustrating gun-slinging carried over the better pieces in the conclusion. PS. Let me do stealth if I want to, but to insist I try stealth and set it up for failure as a prelude to a gun battle is not fun. Don't let me be seen from across the map while doing a stealth takedown. Don't save a checkpoint the second I'm spotted preventing me from trying again. Come on.
Hitman - The first time I played the new Hitman, I was frustrated by the wall of complexity. The second time I played, I threw a friend and a beer into the mix with the goal of just being ridiculous. That's when I fell in love with Sapienza, which is truly a feat of modern and emergent game design.
Uncharted 4: A Thief's End - At risk at repeating myself, Naughty Dog Studios knows how to make an amazing game. Uncharted 4 fixes so much of what was frustrating in the previous games. They implemented a full stealth system that makes it clear when to sneak and when to shoot. The rope, the piton, and other improvements to the climbing make the experience of fighting gravity more varied and enjoyable. The interface is so beautifully clean. It definitely set the bar for games like Hitman after it.\n\nThe only consist problem I had was with way-finding. I often found myself doing things in Uncharted 4, the right things even, without really knowing what the big picture was. I often found myself half-way into a stealth section suddenly asking, "where am I going?". Often the goal of a stealth moment is to remove a sniper, but it took me several stealth sections to realize this.
Celeste - Got to play for only an hour but I thoroughly love this game. The moment is happened was right after I got through the first area and there was a beautiful and compelling moment of playful rest. There were some broken platforms about the camp site with little details and lots of care and it was so endearing and considerate. Considerate is a rare word to describe a game and it's awesome to be able to. It was also my first time alone with a Switch, curled up on the couch, and that was... far more luxurious than expected.
supertype (mobile) - Really clever idea that was fun for an hour but didn't deliver lasting satisfaction the way Zip-Zap did.
Tomb Raider: Rise of the Tomb Raider - I liked the hunting and map progression and loved the temples but I got lost between literally every chapter. The thought of returning to the navigational mess that is the mountain hub has kept me away from this game for months.
Return of the Obra Dinn - This is just amazing on every level. The story and the mystery are so brilliant and tightly-woven. It takes real problem solving to figure out everything that happened on the Obra Dinn. Gave Nicole and I a wonderful week of evenings puzzling it all out and left us talking about it months later. The graphics are beautiful and intriguiging but make some details hard to discern; sometimes intentionally, sometimes not.
Jackbox Party Pack 5 - I'm always excited for these and while I like the changes to YDKJ the only game I can imagine actually playing is Patently Stupid, which is strictly hysterical (with a good enough tutorial).
Tomb of the Mask (mobile) - A fun mobile game made better when playing in Airplane mode! Fun to play with good game and level design.
Backflip Trickster (mobile) - A silly physics game that I quite enjoyed. Best on Airplane mode because it crams in more ads than the Las Vegas strip.
7 Billion Humans - An incredibly well-conceived sequel. I want to make it my puzzle game of the year, but it would feel like I'm rewarding HUman Resource Machine twice. We'll see how I feel when I finish it.
Donut County - An enjoyable and short experience. Clearly made with love and joy. The achievements might help me warm up to this but I don't feel the GOTY hype for this one.
Gardenscapes (mobile) - Finally caved to Nicole and started playing. They do some clever things with the match-3 mechanic. The overworld story and theme is very detailed and charming (almost too much so). I hit a level that I can only describe as a great filter. The whales will pay to win but it's too hard for everyone else to get past.