The Cooking Mama series has been around since the days of Nintendo DS and Wii. Touchscreen mobile games were burgeoning into a dominant gaming genre for many kids and adults. These days playing a game on the Nintendo 3DS that could be almost entirely replicated on a phone feels quaint.
Cooking Mama: Sweet Shop doesn’t offer enough new gameplay or progression to warrant yet another installment in the franchise.
Sim games tend to either focus on realistic physics and sciences, such as Kerbal Space Program, or a more casual approach, such as Spore.
Birthdays the Beginning is a life sim and god game that successfully straddles the line between the two philosophies. It uses the real-world applications of geology, temperature, and ecosystems to craft a diorama of life. Everything is wrapped within a cute veneer of youthful colors, relaxing music, and playful designs to create an intuitive entry into learning about life’s delicate balance.
We’re supposed to “reach for the moon” in our goals. That way if we fall short we’ll still land among the stars. That doesn’t make a whole lot of sense given that the nearest star is several light-years farther away than our moon. But the point is sound.
Zeboyd Games’ moon is represented by classic, beloved 90s Japanese RPGs such as Chrono Trigger, Suikoden, and Phantasy Star. It’s a big reason I backed the game on Kickstarter several years ago. To take on some of the best RPGs in gaming with an indie budget and two-person development team is a daunting challenge. While Cosmic Star Heroine falls short in some ways, it still lands among the stars as one of the best games I’ve played this year.
Nearly every hugely successful Kickstarter game plays on the nostalgia of gaming yesteryear. Pillars of Eternity and Baldur’s Gate. Torment: Tides of Numenera and Planescape: Torment. Yooka-Laylee and Banjo-Kazooie.
Thimbleweed Park’s campaign aimed its sights at a very distinct game style: classic LucasArts Adventures. The finished product not only succeeds at capturing the humor, gameplay, and essence from the era of Maniac Mansion and The Secret of Monkey Island, but also stands tall with adventure gaming classics as a great game in its own right.
While The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time could be considered the prototype for open-world adventures, the genre really didn’t take off until MMORPGs and RPGs like Bethesda’s Elder Scrolls series embraced giant 3D worlds. These days nearly every big game is an open world adventure, and it’s become more of a rote expectation.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild redefines what it means to be an open-world adventure, creating a vast frontier of possibility. Ocarina of Time remains one of my all time favorite games, and I’m here to tell you that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is the best 3D Zelda game ever made.
Portal, and to a larger extent Portal 2, have inspired a new subgenre of puzzle games that emphasize cooperation with a dash of cheeky humor. Death Squared is a shining example of this cooperative puzzler genre, letting one, two, or four players guide little robot cubes around a series of increasingly challenging deathtraps.
Death Squared features a lengthy Story campaign consisting of 80 levels that can be played with two local players, or a solo player controlling two bots with one controller. For the latter, the single player controls each bot with a different analog stick (or keyboard setup).
That’s a lot of levels, but they’re designed to be bite-sized. Each level should only take a few minutes to complete, and that’s with a lot of trial and error.
The rogue-like genre has absolutely exploded in the last several years thanks to indie developers. FTL. Rogue Legacy. Spelunky. Risk of Rain. Binding of Isaac. Darkest Dungeon. The Flame in the Flood. It’s becoming a well-worn genre that demands more of each new game.
Streets of Rogue, now out on Steam Early Access, distills many of the most successful elements of the games before it with free-form, procedurally generated level designs that promote creative mayhem. And you can do it with friends.