Year In ReviewYear In ReviewWe look back at the highs, lows, surprises, and standouts in and around video games this year.

As 2019, comes to a close, Gita Jackson and I decided to talk about the games that helped us chill and the games that stressed us out. Like last year’s collaboration video, I discuss the chill games that helped me get through another year, and Gita picks the one that matched the pain we all felt as we finished out this cursed decade.

Watch the video above or read the transcript below:


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Paul: Islanders

While 2019 may have felt like a turbulent storm on the open seas, Islanders by Grizzly Games lets you wash up on various islands and just colonize— Oh wait. This is weird. Uhh… settle? No, that’s not it. Peacefully build cities by… extracting an island’s natural resources.

Ok, you know what? It’s a city builder. What sets it apart from other builders is its pleasant, minimal art style. Its elegant user interface doesn’t bother with a million details and instead lets you drag and drop things. It’s a wonderfully meditative experience that let me escape the hellish islands that make up my hometown of New York City.


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Gita: Death Stranding

Death Stranding is a game where—no, wait. Let me just, one second. Oh my god you little shit. Okay, okay, I’m all good. Death Stranding is a game about Sam Porter Bridges, a—are you FUCKING kidding me. Right, he’s a delivery man, oh my god! Just stay! Just stay upright! Is that so hard, you asshole! BB you better not start crying. Death Stranding is a video game. Can we come back to this one later?

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Paul: A Short Hike

A Short Hike is about as close as you’re going to get to that weekend cabin trip you told yourself you were going to plan, but never did, Paul. You play as a tiny, adorable penguin named Claire who wanders an island in search of hidden secrets and makes friends along the way.

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It plays like if somebody made a Zelda-style game set in the Animal Crossing universe and then put a cute low resolution filter on it. You run, climb, and most importantly glide your way around an island full of fun puzzles, obstacles and delightful dialogue that will make you cheese so hard, you almost forget about climate change.


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Gita: Pinball Wizard

If there’s one thing my commute doesn’t need, it’s more stress. Remind me why I keep playing Pinball Wizard on the subway again? Pinball Wizard is adorable, but don’t be fooled by its cartoon-y facade. It’s all the stress of pinball with none of the quarters, meaning you can watch yourself lose again… and again…. and, well, you get it.

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You play as a wizard exploring a dungeon, complete with magical powers to defeat monsters, like this spider-thing I hate that makes one of my flippers immobile. Each level is small enough that you can play it during your commute, guaranteeing that you’ll be ten percent angrier by the time you get to work.


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Paul: Sayonara Wild Hearts

I’d been looking forward to Sayonara Wild Hearts since seeing the trailer at last year’s Game Awards. When I finally played it in one sitting, it absolutely exceeded my expectations. Sayonara Wild Hearts is an interactive treasure trove of phenomenal pop music, neon polygons and brilliant simplistic design.

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Sure, some levels zoom past your eyeballs at mach speed, but it’s straightforward enough that your reflexes take over. Sayonara Wild Hearts also tells a beautiful tale that stays with you long after you play it. I know this because, according to Spotify, I listened to Daniel Olsen’s soundtrack the most of any new artist I discovered this year. Wild hearts never die, baby.


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Gita: Pokémon Sword and Shield

Most of Pokémon Sword and Shield is a breeze. There’s one exception, though: catching a Pokémon. I don’t know what happened, but in this game, Pokémon hate going inside of a Poké Ball. They will be at a sliver of health, asleep, and paralyzed, and they won’t budge. Sword and Shield is a pretty easy game, which makes my failure to catch a Yamper all the more irritating.

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Get in the ball, idiot! I’m going to bring you to cockfights and then drop you off at the breeding center to pump out eggs! Why wouldn’t you want that? I really love when Pokémon act like actual animals, with wants and needs of their own. Unfortunately that means they won’t let me capture and control them as easily as they used to. I can’t wait until the sequel to this game, where Scorbunny throws up in your bed because you were out of the apartment for too long.

What are some games that helped you escape and wind down? Or the games that riled you up? Let us know in the comments.

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