Game of the Year 2013.67 Intro
Even later in the year than 2012’s comes the Press X to Jayson GotY 2013 posts. Yes, I’m using these as a comfortable path back into publishing regularly. No, these won’t be as involved as prior years. These are a means to an end, but I do still care about these games and their positions on this list (at least 1-10). Given I’m two thirds of a year late, I’ll embrace my perspective rather than awkwardly ignoring it. I’ve completed a few of the games on these lists after 2013 came to a close; I’m playing one of them right now!
While I loved all the games in these posts, the following five I loved a *little* less. Here are the leftovers in no particular order!
The Swapper – In setup, The Swapper feels a lot like Dead Space, but that’s not a bad thing. Earth has reached its limits, humans reach out to the stars, encounter mysterious alien rocks, these relics also begin interacting with humans, new technology emerges. The Swapper has its own hooks, though. A unique stop-motion-esque art style, loads of abandoned space station atmosphere, and devious puzzles come together to make this 2D platformer into one of the most overlooked games of 2013. While I had to tap out on a few puzzles, the majority of them clicked for me and those “A-ha!” moments justified some of the more frustratingly specific puzzles. Like some of the best clone sci-fi, The Swapper deals with themes of self and what that means, however, game mechanics distract from these subjects until the narrative starts to take over toward the end. Paired with sprawling puzzles and a “heavy” final choice, The Swapper leaves an excellent lasting impression.
Antichamber – When I first got a look at Antichamber, it seemed too plain for its own good. What I found was a dizzying breadth of puzzles that made clever use of visual trickery and a unique set of logic to propel me through 10 hours of satisfying gameplay. With the help of a trusty map/quick travel system, no obstacle felt too great: I always had other options if scaling a tower was too much or if I kept making the same wrong turn in a series of repeating hallways. Antichamber’s mechanics also feel pretty exploitable as you come to grips with the physics and how your gun effects the environments. The result is a sense of cleverness on my part that I’ve only ever earned in Portal and FEZ. That’s some pretty impressive company.
The Stanley Parable – Stanley is a chump and his interactive parable is too hard. Or maybe I’m the chump and everything is easy. Maybe I’m Stanley. Every way I approached the scenarios in this game felt like saving yourself at the end of the test portion of Portal. Then, inevitably, things would get super weird. Once I’d solved what felt like a respectable number of puzzles, I checked online and laughed at the absurdity of my delusions. The solutions in this game are finite, but achieving them on your own will test your mettle, your resolve, your patience, and every other facility you possess. Most of the payoffs are worth it, but a few required too much of me. The true star of The Stanley Parable is the narrator and his ability to prod at modern game design and narrative. Irreverence for player expectation often feels unimpressive, but the game’s intricately connected moving parts instead feel like someone reinvented the watch.
Gunpoint! – As you can tell, indie puzzle games became a hobby for me this year. Unlike the prior games on this list, Gunpoint doesn’t mask its puzzle mechanics with obtuse systems, improbable physics, or deceptive design. Instead it lays them bare, allowing you to play, fail, and restart without hurting your head. At its core, the game asks for swiftness and wit in equal measures while treating you to a seductive, jazzy soundtrack. The whole experience is tied together by a sense of humor that can only come from a game that is comfortable with what it does and how it does it.
Proteus – There’s so little to Proteus as a “game” that it’s hard to speak in those terms. It’s easier to explain as a 45 minute vacation with a magical camera. Proteus makes exceptional use of its screen cap function, allowing you to relive moments from your brief strange island vacation whenever you choose. The moments I remember from my first trip stay with me. I felt true wonder as I explored; excitement as I chased animals; calm as the sun set each day; I felt like I was floating as my trip concluded. There’s not much on the island, but what’s there is more evocative than a majority of the games on these lists.