High Scores 2016
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High Scores: The Best Videogames of 2016 – 16 to 13

This is part of Kill Screen’s list of the best videogames of 2016. To see the rest of the list, check out all the other parts. /// 16. Abzû Abzû is an underwater opera about the precious cadence of ecosystems. Its ocean world feels like a fantasy as you swim downstream with dolphins and weave between the tropical leaves of aquatic plants. But for the most part it is not. The game only takes what beauty already exists (or once did) in the seas and attaches a full-blown orchestra to it. In a year when scientists have announced the human impact…

High Scores 2016
Feature

High Scores: The Best Videogames of 2016 – 20 to 17

This is part of Kill Screen’s list of the best videogames of 2016. To see the rest of the list, check out all the other parts. /// 20. Darkest Dungeon Darkest Dungeon will punish you. The “dungeon,” a dusty and generic RPG fixture, is twisted into a locus of psychological torment and trauma. Relentlessly grim voiceover and inky Mike Mignola-esque art drive home the game’s hammer-blunt central message: violence takes its toll. There is no happy ending, no glory as you sentence yet another band of recruits to the serpentine catacombs coiling beneath your ancestral estate. They return—if they return at…

Final Fantasy XV
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Final Fantasy XV wants to be the next great road trip but can’t shut up

There are five central characters in Final Fantasy XV. The first four are young men with impeccable hairdos and absurd names: Noctis, Gladiolus, Ignis, and Prompto. The fifth is a sleek black convertible stately enough to be named the Regalia. Like every other Final Fantasy game, XV is about a long, dangerous journey across a fantastic landscape. Unlike the rest of the series, though, it doesn’t hang its story on the stuffy conventions of a Lord of the Rings-style cross-country wilderness hike, but through a road trip. The car, in Final Fantasy XV, is a central character. The Regalia is…

Mirror of Spirits
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The independent studio behind some of Lara Croft GO’s best levels

Lara Croft GO came out for PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita on December 3rd this year and brought with it a time-exclusive set of levels. Called “Mirror of Spirits,” these levels take the grid-based puzzles of the game’s dioramas in a radically new direction than the main levels and the first expansion, “The Shard of Life.” Whereas before Lara was dodge-rolling through jungle and underground caverns, concerned with the paths of rolling boulders and pursuing lizards, in “Mirror of Spirits” she enters a new reality through the titular mirror, where a completely new set of rules change the makeup of…

News

Find delight in the scrappy videogames of Bamboo EP

The Sokpop Collective, a group of four like-minded Dutch game makers, is releasing the Bamboo EP today. The obvious question for me to ask was: why bamboo? “Bamboo is strong, yet flexible and makes an amazing sound,” I’m told. “On top of that, bamboo makes for a good aesthetic. It’s such a unique plant with such distinctive properties.” A great thing to base a videogame album on then, I suppose. I’m not sure whether it’s Rubna, Aran Koning, Tijmen Tio, or Tom van den Boogaart—the four members of Sokpop—who is answering my questions via email. And so I submit to the idea that it’s the…

KAMI 2
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KAMI 2 will let you create your own origami puzzles in 2017

State of Play is known for creating videogames out of physical materials. Their biggest to date is Lumino City (2014), an adventure game set across a mechanical metropolis that the team actually constructed out of paper, card, wood, miniature lights, and motors. Outside of that are smaller titles like INKS, which turns pinball into a form of painting, and KAMI (2013), a puzzle game made out of origami squares. The next game from State of Play is going to be KAMI 2, which once again is built from tiny pieces of colored paper, scalpels, and glue. Patience was also a crucial ingredient that went…

Toryanse
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Toryansé and the storytelling advantages of short games

Nick Preston decided to call his upcoming series of short adventure games Toryansé after the Japanese folk song of the same name. The song is traditionally sung as part of a children’s game—Warabe uta, which is very similar to the English nursery rhyme game Oranges and Lemons—but has surprisingly dark lyrics thought to relate to a period of high infant mortality in Japan’s history. But it wasn’t only the song’s background that appealed to Preston, it was also the fact that it’s often played at Japanese traffic lights to indicate when it’s safe for pedestrians to cross. “I loved the idea…

Feature

Watch Dogs 2 is a love letter to a San Francisco I no longer recognize

I’m playing as Marcus Holloway in Watch Dogs 2, traipsing around a digital recreation of San Francisco. Angry at the system, Marcus has embarked on a romanticized hacking-heavy quest for revenge on nefarious corporations. In Watch Dogs 2, they’re evil personified within the Blume Corporation and ctOS 2.0, the operating system that runs the city. As Marcus awakens in a hungover daze across the bay in Marin County near the start of the game, he finds himself overlooking San Francisco, no signature Karl The Fog in sight. It’s a beautiful city, if a bit unrealistic. There’s always fog, and maybe…

It's a Beautiful Day
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Videogames about self-care are exactly what we need right now

In the days following the results of the American election, programmer and game maker Jessica Hayley considered running a “Fuck Trump Game Jam” in order to “channel [her] anger into something that felt productive.” But upon reflection, she realized that the games that would come out of such a move would likely be something she wouldn’t want to contribute to. “I still wanted to do something, but I didn’t want the outcome to be a bunch of hateful games,” Hayley told me. “So I decided to turn the idea on its head and make a jam where the goal is…