Holy moly, it’s already the end of 2022. I just got in the habit of writing the correct year down whenever I sign something!
At the end of every year I write a series of paragraph-long reviews of the rest of the games I played this year. It’s not that I think these games aren’t good, it’s just that, for some reason or another, they never made it into full feature-length blog posts. I have ten games lined up for you today. Let’s get started!
1. Doom (1993, Switch)
No, you don’t need to get your eyes checked. I played the original Doom for the first time ever as an adult in their 30s. I was a sheltered kid, okay? Being one of the first 3D games ever made, Doom (1993) could’ve aged much worse. I did not expect your character to move and turn so quickly. In a way, it’s actually more responsive than some modern shooter games. However, for a game whose reputation revolves around its brutal combat, I’m pretty sure that you actually spend more time wandering around the labyrinthine levels looking for levers and keys. No one prepared me for that. Everyone talks about the run and gun fights with pixelated demons; no one talks about how you almost get a prototype of Metroid Prime‘s exploration. I can see why everyone imitated this game back in the ’90s.
2. Halo Infinite (PC)
I went from Doom, one of the first First-Person Shooter (FPS) games ever made, to Halo Infinite, one of the industry’s most recent. I played through the campaign of Halo Infinite on PC Game Pass after I binged through Halo: the Master Chief Collection. I know that there are many open world FPS games like the Borderlands series and the Far Cry series, but Halo Infinite is the first one I’ve ever played.
I really enjoyed it. At least, I really enjoyed the gameplay. The game offers an impressive variety of weapons and abilities, though none are as fun to use as Master Chief’s new hookshot. I loved pulling myself around a corner to surprise an enemy, or attaching myself to a vehicle, or grabbing a nearby fuel container to chuck at an enemy squad. The game balances linear set pieces while still offering you freedom to explore within those sets. It’s not as massive an open world as Skyrim of Breath of the Wild, and I think that’s to the game’s benefit. You get a steady stream of new challenges while still having the option to chip away at side quests to your heart’s content. The story, though, was less impressive. Halo Infinite simultaneously dumbed down past Halo plots to just beating an army of cartoon goons while also surrounding you with rocket science buzzwords for lore. I played 6 out of the 7 mainline games before this point and still had no clue what exactly was going on.
3. Forza Horizon 5 (PC)
I honestly did not expect to enjoy Forza Horizon 5 as much as I did. On paper, simply driving around in a big world didn’t sound all that fun, but the game proved me wrong. Forza Horizon 5 gives you have the power fantasy of making donuts in the Mexican desert while driving a Bugatti, and not feel guilty about smothering its pristine paint job in dirt and broken cactus pieces. The graphics are the best I’ve ever seen on my PC; it’s pushing my poor laptop to its limit. I’m used to the futuristic racers (aka Wipeout and F-Zero), and those games abide by a different set of physics than Forza’s more realistic movement. It took a few hours to get used to it, but once I got my bearings, I found the controls surprisingly intuitive. I liked switching between the focused sets of races, with its ridiculous set pieces, and the side quests. One minute you’re searching the jungle for an abandoned shack that’s supposedly hiding a classic car, the next moment you’re in a “luchador” fight with 3 other vehicles over who can do the best car tricks. It is my favorite exclusive game on the Xbox platform at this moment, though I say that without having played Psychonauts 2 yet.
4. Titanfall 2 (PC)
Titanfall 2 is arguably even better than the Halo series. The campaign puts you in the shoes of a cadet from a freedom fighter group where certain soldiers can pilot giant mechs. After a tragic mix-up, you become stranded on an enemy planet and put in charge of one of these mechs. The movement and gunplay of Titanfall 2 is unparalleled. It’s better than Halo Infinite and better than Destiny 2. The way you can effortlessly zip across surfaces and run along walls makes it feel like a Sonic the Hedgehog game in first person. Every level creates unique challenges, and you are constantly finding new mechanics to experiment with. And of course, you can pilot the mechs in tense showdowns against other giant mechs. Titanfall 2 is a roller coaster of a video game. I was actually quite sad when I saw the credits roll, because I know the developers Respawn are busy with their free-to-play battle royale Apex Legends. So the chances of getting another masterpiece like this a single-player campaign are slim.
5. Kirby’s Dream Buffet (Switch)
They say Gluttony is one of the Seven Deadly Sins. Whoever said that, though, never told Kirby. In Kirby’s Dream Buffet, whoever eats the most strawberries and becomes the roundest boi wins. You do that by rolling across gorgeous food-themed obstacle courses and knocking opponents out in Mario Party-like minigames. It’s a hoot. It also has awful connection problems, making online matches a Russian Roulette for the framerate. Some races went by smoothly, others had everyone pausing for a full 2 seconds, then start, then pause again, as if we were playing an involuntary game of Red Light Green Light. The game shines the best for local couch multiplayer, but that feature is becoming rarer and rarer these days. Matches against the computer are fine, but it’s not the same as beating real people online. HAL Laboratory had a fantastic proof of concept, they even made a fun set of unlockable goodies to keep me engaged, they just need someone to beef up that online code.
6. Kirby’s Blowout Blast (Nintendo 3DS)
Before I played one of my top games of 2022, Kirby and the Forgotten Land, I played a plucky little Kirby spinoff called Kirby’s Blowout Blast. This game is essentially a fleshed-out prototype. Think of it as Kirby’s Dream Land back on the Game Boy, with its cute aesthetic and simple gameplay, but translated into 3D. It’s almost like a remake of sorts. Kirby can suck up enemies and spit them back out, but he does not have any copy abilities. It’s a rather easy game, most of the challenge is aiming your shots just right so that you get a high enough score and get the best rank in each level. It’s a short experience but it’s well-polished. It reminds me of how older console games borrowed much of their design from the arcades. It’s cute. It’s Kirby. It’s fun. It’s a download-only title on the 3DS eShop, and I recommend buying it before it’s lost forever to the eShop’s closure.
7. Pupperazzi (PC)
Imagine Pokemon Snap but for dogs. In Pupperazzi you’re tasked with getting specific photos of dogs doing silly things in small sandbox-like environments. It has low polygons and cheap animations, but high amounts of laughs. It’s exactly the kind of wholesome game that you can finish within a few hours and you just enjoy yourself. I dare not spoil any of the jokes or gags; best for you to discover them on your own.
8. Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion (PC)
The Legend of Zelda but everyone is a vegetable. Like the game Minit that I played in 2020, Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion is a microcosm of everything I adore about Zelda games packaged with a hilariously dopey cast of characters. In a way, the ability to write silly spoofs without feeling too close to the subject material must require quite a bit of talent, and I commend that. Also, I love just watching Turnip Boy’s walk cycle — or rather, waddle cycle. You won’t regret the small number of hours it takes to finish it.
9. Attack of the Friday Monsters (Nintendo 3DS)
Attack of the Friday Monsters is a rare breed of video game — it’s a nonviolent game that’s one-third walking simulator, one-third open sandbox, and one-third visual novel. Attack of the Friday Monsters attempts to capture those wistful childhood summer afternoons. You know, the ones that you never thought would end… and yet somehow I find myself decades into the future wondering how all that time has vanished. This game confidently tells a wholesome mystery, and it submerges you completely in its romantic countryside nostalgia. It took me on vacation to Rural Japan. Luckily for us, the developers Millennium Kitchen made an entire series of games in this style called Boku no Natsuyasumi, as well as the 2022 Nintendo Switch sleeper hit Shin chan: Me and the Professor on Summer Vacation. You bet your bottom trading card that I’ll be looking more into these games. I also recommend you get this 3DS eShop exclusive before the store closes down forever.
10. Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars (Nintendo 3DS)
Think Fire Emblem but with guns. Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars was actually a launch game for the Nintendo 3DS back in 2011. It flew under the radar for many people, myself included, but I’m here to right that wrong. Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars puts you in charge of a squad of elite soldiers as they go from dangerous mission to dangerous mission. The strategy RPG gameplay is satisfying to puzzle through, with all of the different loadouts you can give your teammates and ways to tackle the map objectives. It doesn’t have as many options as Fire Emblem, and the story is mostly Cold War drivel we’ve heard about before. However, it’s a solid recommendation for anyone who likes Strategy RPGs. Fun fact: the producer and design lead of this game, Julian Gollop, is also the same person who made the original X-COM games. Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars convinced me that I should check out his most recent game released independently in 2019 called Phoenix Point.
And that’s the end of another year’s Mini Review Marathon, and the end of another year. As is tradition, I will take a break for a few weeks before starting back up with my personal game awards for the year. After that, we’re going to go back to our History of the Emblem series. Wishing you a Happy New Year! See you in 2023! Golly 2023, where is the time going…