The Norwood Suite has the advantage of being recently released and fresh in my mind, but I’ve been in love with this universe since Off-Peak so it felt like coming home. Well okay, not my home. More like visiting the home of a musical, wordplay-loving friend who is much cooler than I am. They are saddled with labels like ‘weird’ or ‘surreal’, but to me these games seem heartfelt, and never weird for weird’s sake.

Games about exploring physical space, like Gone Home, have helped inspire a focus on objects and possessions. There’s something compelling about simply being able to open cupboards and see what’s inside. In The Norwood Suite, every object practically hums with potential meaning. A thousand questions just about why someone has a grappling hook and a cheese wheel in their car boot, or why there are so many skulls all over the place.


Cha's Games of the Year 2015. RymdResa

Posted by Cha

RymdResa (literally just space travel in Swedish) is one of the smaller, less well known games to make an impression on me this year, and probably one of the most flawed. But it fits into a category I'm particularly fascinated with. That is, games using roguelike and related mechanics for less typical genres or to create different moods.

I love roguelikes, or at least am fascinated with them, but even with the broader range of roguelites and roguelike-likes, they remain heavily associated with dungeon crawls and specific kinds of tension. The third genre label I could throw in there is "procedural death labyrinth", after all. That's clear enough. I want to see other kinds of stories here.


Cha's Games of the Year 2015. Her Story

Posted by Cha

I'm a tragic fan of FMV games, and you've no idea how excited I was to see a new example other people actually seem to like.

Her Story is a beautiful example of small scope – it knows exactly what it is and isn't. A lot hangs on the performance of a single actress, but she pulls it off. Looking through this character's old interview tapes it at times touching, or chilling, or most often faintly unsettling without necessarily being able to pin down why.

I spent years working as a research assistant, and became good at digging through information. Coming up with appropriate keywords was a significant part of my job. It's an aspect of research that's become more difficult over time, as databases keep expanding. Internet searches in particular are huge and never as smart as I need them to be. I have faith in my Google skills, and ability to trawl an ocean of data using a fishing net full of holes. It's genuinely hard-won expertise.

By contrast, Her Story's database feels rather cute and accessible, despite being presented as a broken '90s relic. Perfect transcripts allow keyword searching, but the timestamps are missing and it's only possible to bring up the first five hits for common words. The limitations are contrived, but make the mystery satisfying to chip away at. The story assembles gradually like a jigsaw instead of following a linear progression.

I'm starting with the obvious choice. It's difficult for anything else to compete with this for me. And not just because I have a Geralt-crush, although maybe that too.

I'll admit I was worried about how The Witcher 3 was going to turn out. I loved the first two Witcher games, but was sceptical about expanding it to such a huge open world. Big-budget games are full of the constant need to be bigger and better, and cram more stuff into each iteration of a series. Coolness tends to trump things like remaining coherent and supporting interesting themes.