Because I’m unreasonably meticulous, I keep a list of every game I buy that includes their price and my final thoughts on them. I purchased 20 games in 2015, ranging across many different systems, years, and prices. Five of these sport a solid 5 out of 5 on the list, so here are those games and why I enjoyed them so much.
#5: FLOATING POINT
“Purchase” is technically incorrect here, because Floating Point is free! I discovered Floating Point at the perfect time. As spring was winding down and turning into summer, I was frayed at the edges as I made the final arrangements for my college graduation and began desperately looking for jobs. My OCD and anxieties peaked and I found the “real world” to be terrifying and impossible to deal with. In a desperate attempt to calm myself down, I searched for “relaxing” on Steam and came across Floating Point. Floating Point is very simple: you are a dot with the ability to shoot lines and swing on them. Your goal is to build up some good swinging momentum and hurl yourself into all of the red bars jutting out from the floating blocks. This takes a little bit to get used to, but once you understand how shooting lines works and how to build momentum, it becomes a wonderful zen experience. Floating Point prevented me from having a nervous breakdown, so if you happen to find yourself on the verge of breaking, go download Floating Point and forget your worries for a while. It’s on Steam and it’s totally free.
#4: 3D OUT RUN
3D Out Run is a 3DS port of the arcade version of Out Run originally released in 1986. 3D Out Run is an excellent port of the original, running at a silky smooth framerate and quickly rendering all of the sprites that zip by your car. This port actually runs even more smoothly than the arcade original and adds some extras, such as new songs to drive to and tune-ups you can apply to your car. I was thrilled to see an excellent arcade port of Out Run made available on the 3DS – this classic, pure arcade driving experience is still magical 30 years later. Now if they release a 3DS port of Outrunners I’ll crap my pants and buy ten copies.
#3: FRAN BOW
I’ve always loved the idea of point-and-click adventure games but had trouble getting into them. The term “Adventure game” usually makes me think of Myst with its myriad mysterious devices and levers, or Sam and Max Hit the Road with its daunting number of locations and items. I’m easily scared off by large point-and-click-em-ups, so I’m very thankful that a game like Fran Bow came along to give me the most enjoyable adventure game experience I’ve had yet. Fran Bow is a psychological trip through the mind of the young and mysterious Fran, who’s taking strange pills and looking to find the truth about her parents’ murder. I don’t want to say much more than that – basically the game is full of magic, murder, and imagination.
The writing is superb and the design is on-point. I wasn’t scared off by Fran Bow‘s items and puzzles because everything is presented to the player in easily-manageable pieces. You won’t pick up 30 items and have no idea what to do with any of them – you’ll get a few, figure out how to use them to progress, and then get a few more. You will have to get creative at times, but nothing is outlandish or beyond the realm of logic. At least, not beyond Fran’s childish magic logic. It’s…. just play it.
#2: GURUMIN: A MONSTROUS ADVENTURE
I’ve actually written a full review of Gurumin, but I can sum it up here. Basically, Gurumin: A Monstrous Adventure is a 3D action RPG platformer starring an adorable little girl named Parin who wields a giant power drill. Using a wide array of drill skills and various hats and accessories, you must battle an army of Phantoms and save Monster Village. Gurumin oozes charm and reminds me of the good old days of gaming. It’s innocent, cutesy, and fun, and it’s not trying to be anything other than that. Combat is surprisingly deep as you must battle many different types of enemies by using different types of moves. The platforming gets tough at times but the game is very forgiving, as there are no instant deaths and each room is a checkpoint. The game rates you on your performance, however, and gives you nice bonuses and unlockables for doing well, so the real challenge comes from maximizing your performance and finding all of the secrets. I thoroughly enjoyed playing through it, and I still have a lot to unlock. Gurumin made me feel like a kid again.
#1: HATSUNE MIKU: PROJECT MIRAI DX
I had a hunch this would happen. Somewhere in the back of my mind I always knew that someday I would “get” the whole Vocaloid thing and become a huge fan of Hatsune Miku and her wonderful singing friends. Well, it happened. On the whim-est of whims, I purchased Project Mirai DX just to see what it was. What it was was the most adorable rhythm game I could have possibly imagined.
As a… ahem… “musician”… I have a fondness for rhythm games. Learning cool songs and perfecting your rhythm is almost always a neat and satisfying experience. Project Mirai is jam-packed with almost 50 songs to play, and the tracklist is excellent. I’ve discovered a ton of great music by playing this game, and anything that increases my music library is a winner in my book. The rhythm mechanics are solid and interesting: the game offers two different play modes, tap (with the touch screen) and button (with the… you know). By tapping or pressing the right buttons to the beat, you can clear a song and unlock the next one. It’s simple and satisfying, and, as I said earlier, the tracklist is superb. What really makes Project Mirai so good, however, is all the fluff.
This game is cute. I mean really cute. Upon starting the game you must choose a Vocaloid to be your “partner” – the character you hang out with. You can watch your partner amble around and do cute things, interact with them to see some silly animations, buy them food, play Othello with them, customize their outfits with a huge selection of clothes, buy them furniture and watch them interact with it… all this boils down to a shamelessly adorable experience that leaves you smiling constantly. There’s a dance studio where you can create your own choreography for the Vocaloids to act out, an AR mode where you can scan cards and watch projections of the Vocaloids do dances, a little music tool you can use to create melodies – they even included a freaking Puyo Puyo game. Just because!
All this adds up to an unbelievably charming experience that made me want to just immerse myself in the Vocaloid community. I dressed up as Gumi for Halloween. I bought music and made a Youtube playlist of my favorite songs. I clapped and giggled like a baby as I watched the AR card projection of Rin hop around on my kitchen counter. All of the games I listed today are excellent, but Project Mirai DX had such a significant impact on my life that I had to save it for last. If any of this cutesy Japanese sweetness sounds appealing to you at all, Project Mirai DX is sure to make you hug yourself and squee.