After a rocky start to 2014, the two of us at GIMMGP HQ can relax and take a moment to reflect on the passing of another year. 2013 was an interesting time for Games I Made My Girlfriend Play. Laura and I started the year with a visit to MAGFest, where we played a pile of rhythm games and watched fantastic performances by The Protomen and VGO. Most of our spring and early summer were spent on little trips in the immediate area and playing triple-A releases on our home consoles. Towards the end of the warmer months, Laura and I fought over control for the 3DS in order to play the onslaught of amazing handheld titles released in 2013. After a late trip to the west coast, we returned to GIMMGP Headquarters in the winter where our iPad surprisingly became the primary gaming device through the end of the year.
Looking back over all of the new games Laura and I played during the year, it is rather difficult to choose just three titles that I consider the best I encountered. But since it seems to be all the rage to make lists at the start of the year (whether to look back or plan ahead), here are my Favorite Games of 2013. Just a reminder, not all of these titles may have released last year, but I certainly played each of them for the first time in 2013.
I feel like Fez is the game I have been waiting to play for years. This statement isn’t meant to be some sort of grand compliment to the game, implying it is the legendary title for which I have longed. Fez simply took its sweet time to get to my home console. Not to say that the game did not languish in development hell; the story of Phil Fish and Polytron have become things of gaming tabloids thanks to angry internet mobs and Indie Game: The Movie. But in spite of all the vitriol and backlash surrounding this game and its creator, Fez was a fantastic game in which I became deeply immersed. The colorful world that seemed so bright and cheery in screenshots was actually quite serene, filled with moments of mystery and deep reflection. On the surface, I was simply collecting little geometric shapes in order to repair a giant, golden hexahedron. But as I continued to search this vast land, I felt like I had become only a tiny part of a grand experience that existed ages before me. Combined with a soundtrack that is filled with haunting prog-rock styled melodies, Fez was one of the most engaging entertainment experiences I had all year.
As a fun aside, I first played Fez at the Penny Arcade Expo featured in Indie Game: The Movie. When Laura and I watched the film, I kept expecting to show up as one of the people at the demo kiosk, particularly because I was too tall to stand, so I had to kneel before the machine to play. Alas, I had no fifteen seconds of fame in 2013.
I can sell this game with one sentence: Play as a Pomeranian who is trying to survive and make a family of puppies on the post-apocalyptic streets of Tokyo, which is inhabited exclusively by animals of all shapes and sizes. Okay, so it’s a bit of a run-on, but you get the point. I knew I would love Tokyo Jungle from the outset, but I had no idea that its arcade-style survival mode would be what kept me playing for weeks on end. The challenge of trying to win against the forces of nature as all sorts of realistic wildlife makes for a super-fun game. The map may be rather limited, but random generation of animals and environmental effects kept Tokyo Jungle fresh time and time again. Top it all off with local co-op and unlockable costumes for every creature, and I am still getting mileage off of this PS3 gem.
Pro-tip: When playing co-op, have one player pick a grazer and another player pick a predator. That way, the herbivore can kill unsuspecting prey for their carnivore friend to consume! Isn’t the food chain amazing?
Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
As a yearly tradition around November, Laura and I trade Christmas lists to get gift ideas for one another. Thanks to the release of a certain 3DS game, my list was rather short this year. The only must-have item on my list (and my favorite game of 2013), was none other than Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds.
When I first heard about this direct sequel to the beloved SNES Zelda, I actually scoffed at the notion. “Nintendo must be pretty desperate to cash in on nostalgia for a 22-year old game,” I remarked. “Did they think we forgot Skyward Sword was such a letdown?” Fortunately, it seems all of the issues that plagued the latest Wii Zelda were directly addressed in A Link Between Worlds. The tight linear path that often restricts the feeling of adventure in Link’s quests was abandoned, allowing the player to tackle the dungeons in any order. The option of renting items and upgrading each one as a side-quest made the game seem more personal, since I could pick and choose just which tools to keep at my disposal. The soundtrack was a blend of classic Zelda tunes put to a more folk/medieval sound, which was a joy to hear. Best of all, the new “wall-painting” mechanic added an entirely different sort of thinking to the game; breaking the usual “lock and key” mold of Zelda puzzles and challenging the player in new ways. All of these elements were combined in one well-polished package that was wonderful to play and immensely fun.