If you haven’t already seen my Year 2019 in Review post, check it out here. Since writing and publishing it, I had a little extra time off, and managed to finish two more games: Sayonara Wild Hearts and Celeste.
Sayonara Wild Hearts (Switch, 2019)
Sayonara Wild Hearts is a difficult game to classify. Rather than pick a genre, I’ll just say it is an on-rails high score generator set to a great pop soundtrack. More importantly, despite finishing the game in roughly an hour, I immediately bought it for a family member, and forced the wife to give it a try when she got home from work.
Even now, I kind of want to play it again. It was an absolute blast. I thought the mechanics would get old, but each series of levels varies things up just enough to keep me engaged.
Plus, I loved how accessible a game it was. I can certainly player harder, so called “core” games, but Sayonara was an instant re-buy and recommend for me because it doesn’t require the player to master the game. If you die enough times, the game asks if you want to skip the section. If don’t skip it, then dying never cost me more than a second or two to retry where I failed.
There is the aforementioned “high score generator” but it is solely for fun, not gating. You can complete the entire game, whether you suck or excel at it. Not every game needs to be so straight-forward, but it’s a great kind of experience to have for people just getting or relearning their love of videogames.
I am slotting Sayonara Wild Hearts in at #5, tied with Ghost Giant.
Celeste (Switch, 2018)
I have wanted to play Celeste for quite some time now. I bought it a few months ago but didn’t immediately get into it. After fooling around in Shovel Knight again recently, I had the urge to play a platformer, and I decided to play around with Celeste some more.
Unlike Sayonara Wild Hearts, Celeste is a difficult game. Long-time readers may not associate me with these kinds of games, but when the game is good and well-designed, the difficulty stops mattering as much. Celeste is nearly perfect.
Celeste is a straightforward platformer, where you play as Madeline, a girl battling her own depression (literally at times) who feels compelled to climb Mt. Celeste for reasons.
My favorite thing about Celeste, and the main reason I didn’t give it up, was its design. Though frustratingly challenging at times, the game never tries to cheat or punish you. Each screen plays out as its own stage, and its easy to figure out what you need to do long before your fingers can pull it off. I never felt stuck and dying always put me where I needed to be to immediately try again.
To me, that kind of design makes me feel respected as a player. I still feel challenged, but unlike classic NES games, I’m not stuck with a game over and restart for my efforts just because I haven’t gotten “it” yet.
On top of a well-designed and lovingly crafted game, I found myself quickly pulled into the narrative of Celeste. As someone who has battled depression before (not severe, thankfully), I like when video games are written as elaborate metaphors for coping and self-growth. Its an excellent medium for exploration of these topics, especially done respectfully and with the appropriate intention. I wanted Madeline to succeed, both because her success was my own (me nailing that hard series of jumps) but also because her success meant she, as a character, was approaching a more stable point in her life.
Celeste is on par with Hollow Knight, another platformer that I found intensely enjoyable despite the challenge. I wanted to slot it in at #4, tied with Astro Bot Rescue Mission, but since that game was also a platformer and I found Celeste a more compelling representation of the genre, I am giving it the #4 spot all too itself.
My Final List for 2019
- Alliance Alive HD (PS4, 2019)
- Forager (PC, 2019)
- Snipperclips: Cut it out, together! (Switch, 2017)
- Horizon Zero Dawn: The Frozen Wilds (PS4, 2017)
- SEVERED (Switch, 2017)
- Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night (PS4, 2019)
- Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End (PS4, 2016)
- TIE FOR 10TH – The Outer Worlds (PC, 2019)
- TIE FOR 10TH – Pokemon Shield (Switch, 2019)
- Hades (PC, 2019)
- Pyre (PS4, 2017)
- TIE FOR 6TH – Sayonara Wild Hearts (Switch, 2019)
- TIE FOR 6TH – Ghost Giant (PSVR, 2019)
- Astro Bot Rescue Mission (PSVR, 2018)
- Celeste (Switch, 2018)
- Slay the Spire (PC, 2018)
- Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers (PC, 2019) – My Best Game of 2019
- Golf Story (Switch, 2017) – My Game (I Played In) of the Year 2019