2015 was a year of many challenges. GIMMGP Headquarters was moved not once, but twice. Laura and I both started new jobs in addition to our full-time careers. We encountered heartbreaking losses, massive setbacks, and general frustrations as we tried to maneuver our way through the last 365 days.
But as with every year, the key to overcoming such challenges is to focus on the good moments, taking the time to appreciate and improve your situation.
2015 was a big year in creative accomplishments for us both at GIMMGP. Laura became a full-time freelance artist, launching both her professional website and a print storefront on Inprnt. I launched a new blog that focuses on The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, and I achieved a major life goal of publishing a video game magazine with my friends.
2015 was also an exciting time for the U-Pick Video Game Marathon for Charity. The U-Pick Crew started running weekly streams every Sunday at 4pm EST. We also successfully raised over $8000 across two charity marathons, and 100% of this money will be used for clean water projects in the developing world.
2015 was an odd year of gaming for GIMMGP. Laura and I both played fewer new games than in previous years; focusing on wonderful co-op experiences and delightful retro darlings. In spite of playing less new titles than usual, I enjoyed some excellent games over the last year, which are highlighted below.
As always, thank you so much for following GIMMGP in 2015. We look forward to playing more games and sharing more posts with you in 2016!
Shovel Knight: Plague of Shadows
My initial pick may seem like a redux from last year’s list. At first glance, Plague of Shadows looks like a rather basic expansion to Shovel Knight. Instead of adding new levels or challenges for the titular hero, Yacht Club games simply took one of the bosses from the main questline and turned him into a playable character. “How boring and predictable,” some might say. The same folks may consider Plague of Shadows a shallow cop-out from Yacht Club Games. Well, these people are utter fools.
Plague of Shadows plays like a completely different experience from Shovel Knight. In the original game, players relied on masterfully executed shovel bounces and melee strikes in the vein of classic games like DuckTales and Castlevania. The action was about planning your movements and well-timed jumps. For the expansion, Plague Knight throws caution to the wind, focusing on frantic projectile attacks and wild platforming skills. A world that once seemed dangerous and fraught with peril has become a speed-runner’s playground. Enemies that were once potent roadblocks in Shovel Knight’s path are turned into just another thing to explode in Plague of Shadows.
In addition to the changed gameplay style, Plague of Shadows features a new story built around megalomania, alchemy, and love. The adorable and maniacal Plague Knight’s tale is filled with even more puns and jokes than his digging adversary. The expansion also features some new and fantastic music from Jake Kaufman.
All of these additions are given the same level of care and polish from Yacht Club Games, which results in a wonderfully fun experience that is included at no extra cost to the player. This impressive DLC is provided for free with Shovel Knight, which makes it one of the best gaming experiences and values of 2015.
Yoshi’s Woolly World
How do you follow up on an amazing game like Yoshi’s Island? Do you try to make the game more accessible, leaning into the cuteness factor and toning down the difficulty? Do you take the existing formula and aesthetic, only add more playable characters? How about simply including new functions based on whatever fresh technology is available? Over the last twenty years, Nintendo has tried each of these methods to make five different Yoshi games as successful as their forebear. Yet every one of these games released with underwhelming results; none of them could match the fun and polish of Yoshi’s Island.
For the latest Yoshi game, Nintendo finally took my constant advice for improving on an beloved classic: add some fantastic couch co-op.
Woolly World is the game I have wanted for nearly two decades: a multiplayer version of Yoshi’s Island. With two Yoshis on the screen, this game became an exercise in breaking the rules and going off the rails. Instead of relying on environmental cues and features to acquire hidden items and get to secret areas, my friends and I would use clever jumping and frantic egg-bouncing to carve our own path. Woolly World does not limit or punish such behavior. This game welcomes all sorts of monkey business. There is a wealth of secrets and collectibles to be found in this game. While all of these are available to a single player, they are much easier (read: more fun) to acquire with a pair of goofy dinosaurs.
Woolly World also provides a new aesthetic of a craft-maker’s world, built out of yarn, felt, and so many other items that one would find at a Michaels store. Matched with an incredible soundtrack, this game pays homage to the coloring book world of the original Yoshi’s Island, while providing a unique and heartwarming visual style.
When Laura and I first launched this blog in 2011, I made a list of potential games to share with her for our official GIMMGP posts. On this list, at least half of the titles were role-playing games from the 16-bit era. These games were the cornerstone of my childhood. I have so many heartfelt memories of playing games like EarthBound and the Final Fantasy VI with my siblings. I wanted to share these emotions and moments with my wife.
Unfortunately, there is a high barrier of entry for role-playing games from the Super Nintendo era. The mandatory grinding necessary for so many 16-bit RPGs means that Laura will likely never enjoy these titles in the same way that a kid with nigh-unlimited time would. The stories and characters to which I was so attached are locked behind 30+ hours of unnecessary grinding and static battle menus. Fortunately, the indie darling Undertale serves as an ideal surrogate for the warm RPG fuzzies of my youth.
Undertale manages to capture the essence of classic RPGs without all of the fluff. Instead of loads of generic enemies and boring grinding, every battle is filled with unique interactions and interesting dialogue. The typical menu driven combat is upgraded with elements from shoot ’em-up games and dialogue puzzles. In one encounter, you may have to play fetch with a massive Pomeranian, while another battle will revolve around a date with a skeleton knight. All of these delightful encounters manage to showcase great variety and don’t overstay their welcome, as the main questline typically takes roughly 5 hours to complete.
Undertale also features an earnest and heartwarming story that has plenty of surprises, both humorous and shocking along the way (Protip: Avoid ANY spoilers before playing Undertale. You will be glad you did). Players have the option of going through the game without killing a single creature along the way, no matter how hostile the monster may seem. Depending on how you approach the game, Undertale’s story will change drastically, without any sort of commentary on which path is truly the “right” one.
It has been years since I have encountered a game that I enjoyed from start-to-finish like Undertale. This game has such earnest story with well-written characters that filled my heart with laughter and tears. The unique battle system and in-game humor made Undertale easy to pick up and share with my loved ones. The soundtrack also stands out as one the the best of 2015, with a great mix of styles and songs to suit every story beat. Please check out this fantastic game.