A game by Fabraz for PC, Mac, Linux, PS4, Xbox One, and Switch, originally released in 2017.
In Slime-san, you take on the role of a simple green slime who is swallowed up by a giant worm while he is wandering through the forest. Once within the worm’s gullet, Slime-san jumps, dashes, and slimes his way through hundreds of 5-color pixelated platforming environments that are set in different parts of the worm’s long body. Starting at the worm’s hind end and working his way forward, Slime-san must outrun walls of constantly-rising stomach acid as he fights to find a way out.
The game’s premise is a bit odd – although it is certainly in line with some of the strange stories of the 8- and 16-bit days – which lends itself to some absurd situations. For instance, the slime encounters numerous other characters within the worm who have been similarly swallowed up, as well as an entire town located within the worm’s intestines. And, while many classic games feature boss fights against oversized body parts, few see the player attempting to take down a giant fully-engorged worm penis.
A game by Videocult for PC and PS4, originally released in 2017.
Rain World is an open world action adventure starring a little creature known as a slugcat. One day, a family of slugcats is wandering through the forest, and they stop occasionally to grab some bat-like creatures out of the sky and munch on them to fill their tummies. But when the rain comes, the family scrambles to seek shelter, and one young slugcat falls and becomes separated from the rest. Alone in a hostile and unforgiving world, the slugcat must traverse the landscape, hunting for food and avoiding being eaten himself, as he tries to find his family once more.
The game’s design focuses strongly on its atmosphere and ecosystem. The world is dark and filled with mysterious architecture and ancient machinery, and danger lurks around every corner. The soft (and possibly tasty) little slugcat occupies the lower end of the food chain, and must therefore be constantly wary of predators, most of which can kill him in a matter of seconds. As such, players must take advantage of the slugcat’s small size to slink around and hide, and remain watchful of predators’ behaviors to determine when it is best to sneak past.
A game by Elden Pixels for PC, Mac, and Linux, originally released in 2017.
Alwa’s Awakening is a grand metroidvania adventure inspired by the classics of the NES era. The game stars Zoe, a girl summoned from another world to help the people of Alwa wrest themselves from the grip of an evil being known as Vicar. Vicar and his agents have enslaved the people and plunged the land into an age of despair that has lasted for hundreds of years. Only Zoe, equipped with a magical staff, can brave the dungeons, fight back this evil, and restore peace.
Alwa’s Awakening fully embraces its NES inspirations with a chiptune soundtrack, limited color palette, low sprite count, a small number of game mechanics that are slowly permuted upon, a steady growth in difficulty, and a general lack of handholding throughout the experience. The player has access to a map that outlines the basic structure of the game world - along with the locations of Vicar’s four agents - and there are a handful of NPC’s that offer general guidance, but overall, the player is left on his own to push to the edges of the known world, plunge into uncharted depths to overcome challenges and acquire powerups, and ultimately bring an end to Vicar’s reign.
A game by Conatus Creative for PC, Mac, and Linux, originally released in 2017.
Technos brawlers have seen a resurgence lately, with the release of River City: Tokyo Rumble and Double Dragon IV in 2016, both presented in the graphical style of the NES games upon which they were based. River City Ransom: Underground, on the other hand, takes a step forward in the technology department with a game that retains a chunky retro style but also offers more detailed artwork, brighter colors, increased onscreen enemy counts, and a dazzling variety of character sprite animations.
It’s worth noting that this game arrived on the market shortly after Natsume released River City: Tokyo Rumble in the US (originally released in Japan in 2013). Both games are proper entries in the Kunio-kun series, which dates back more than 30 years. While the game and its spinoffs were quite popular in Japan, few of these games ever arrived in the US, with Renegade, River City Ransom, and Super Dodge Ball standing as the notable exceptions.
A game by Super Awesome Hyper Dimensional Mega Team for PC and Xbox One, originally released in 2017.
Rise & Shine is a shooter starring a young boy named Rise and his legendary talking pistol named… you guessed it: Shine. The adventure takes place on Gamearth, a planet built entirely around video games, with non-copyright-infringing caricatures of popular figures appearing throughout, including numerous Nintendo-owned characters and some representatives from the early arcade era. Gamearth has come under attack by Space Grunts from planet Nexgen who have begun wreaking destruction upon the city.
Rise is out at the local shopping mall when a pair of warriors tumbles through the ceiling, battling it out before his eyes. One is a Space Grunt, and the other is a stand-in for Link from The Legend of Zelda, except that he is wearing a blue tunic and wielding a giant handgun. The Hylian champion and the Space Grunt fire their weapons at the same time, with the grunt’s head being blown into a spray of gore, while the Hero of Time takes one in the gut. As he lay dying, not-Link hands the gun to Rise and explains that he needs to use it to save the world… and it also grants him infinite respawns.
A game by Team Cherry for PC, Mac, and Switch, originally released in 2017.
Hollow Knight is a metroidvania that offers a vast subterranean landscape to explore, filled with mysteries, powerful enemies, and deadly traps, presented with an atmospheric soundtrack and a dark but bold art style. The player is given very little information about the world as he sets out on his quest, armed with only a nail. Leaving the town of Dirtmouth, the he enters a deep well with paths branching off to the left and right, with a large area immediately accessible and no map to track his progress.
This lack of direction is core to the design of the game, which offers a deliberately-paced experience in a dangerous and unknown land. While there are several NPC’s to interact with and etched monoliths to uncover, these offer a narrow window into the game’s minimal underlying narrative, essentially leaving the player on his own in terms of where to go next.
END OF YEAR AWARDS
We're back with a look at all of the best 2D games that came out in 2016! Get ready to grip your seats as a bearded man and a freshly-washed horse recount all of the finest 2D gaming achievements of the preceding year, condensed into a solid nugget of pure awardey goodness. We talk the best of each genre, the most innovative and ambitious, the most disappointing, and of course, our numero uno pick for Game of the Year.
If that sounds like the kind of excitement you just can't miss, be sure to check out the video below:
A game by Ludo Land for PC, Mac and PS4, originally released in 2016.
Four Sided Fantasy is a puzzle platformer featuring a man and a woman looking for one another across a world linked by the four sides of the screen. The game explores screen warping as the characters move off one side of the screen to appear on the other, alternating between the male and female protagonists with each warp. The game is largely a concept piece, with chunks of the game world occasionally rising up into existence for the sheer sake of expressing a new aspect of the game’s primary mechanic, and occasionally altering the rules of this mechanic so that passing through screen transitions reverses gravity or shifts between light and dark planes.
The stylish game world is presented in simple textured shapes, often with subdued colors, offering a number of generally relaxing areas accompanied by a similarly soothing soundtrack. Beyond this, level layouts are simple, offering only straight lines to establish an entirely gameplay-centric environment. Players are able to run and jump, and lock the screen at any time to run off of one side and appear on the other, with the effect presented as a video camera recording.
A game by Arc System Works for PC and PS4, originally released in 2017.
Occasionally, a new entry in a series requires a bit of explanation in terms of its numbering sequence. These days, creators seem content to create new projects and give them the exact same title as the originals, often demarking a reintroduction or reimagining of the series, with examples including Tomb Raider, DOOM, and Sonic the Hedgehog. Occasionally, a new entry into a series introduces problems of numbering, such as Super Contra IV being renamed to Contra III: The Alien Wars, officially excising Contra Force from the series canon. And sometimes no number is used, even when a project is part of an existing series, because creators don’t want consumers to feel as though they need to have experienced the original(s) in order to enjoy the new entry. For example the movie The Thing is a prequel to the original movie also called The Thing, and Superman Returns is a direct sequel to Superman II, ignoring any continuity arising from the third and fourth installments.
Double Dragon IV is the sequel to the NES series of Double Dragon games, which consists of Double Dragon, Double Dragon II: The Revenge, and Double Dragon III: The Sacred Stones, and the new game ignores the unnumbered SNES sequel Super Double Dragon and its unrelated (and awful) follow-up, Double Dragon V: The Shadow Falls. This also separates it from the original arcade series on which the NES games were based (sometimes only loosely), and the game narratively follows the events of Double Dragon II, after Billy and Jimmy defeat the Shadow Warriors.
A game by Square Enix for PS4 and Xbox One, originally released in 2016.
A King's Tale: Final Fantasy XV is a short strategic beat ‘em up that was originally released as a preorder bonus for Final Fantasy XV but was made available as a free download a few months later. The game is something of a fairytale adventure based on events in King Regis’ life – narratively preceding the events in the main game – which are told to his son Noctis as a bedtime story in lieu of the stories he has heard so many times before. Chapters are bookended with the king sitting at the end of his son’s bed recounting his admittedly embellished tales while his son wonders which bits are true and which are fantasy… and even taking a pause to reference the storytelling delivery in The Princess Bride.
In all, the story isn’t meant to be taken seriously, and much of the in-game narration is set up to establish new enemy types or simply play out as offhand comments between father and son… some of which are painfully punful. And when Regis is killed during gameplay, the king comments that it’s not how the events actually unfolded (e.g., just seeing if his son was paying attention). The overall story tells of the appearance of mysterious crystals, one of which has caught the attention of a shadowy baddie who speaks without being seen until the game’s final encounter.
A game by Bootdisk Revolution for PC, Mac, and Linux, originally released in 2017.
In the original Bleed, a young woman named Wryn has grown tired of the world’s old heroes. No new heroes have risen, and the old heroes have made no new contributions, content to simply bask in their former glory. And so she decides to kill them all and take over as the world’s one true hero. In Bleed 2, having completed her hero murdering spree, Wryn is hanging out playing video games when a new villainess – named Valentine – attacks the city. Wasting no time, Wryn grabs her dual pistols and katana, and dashes into the fray.
Players who enjoyed the original game will find much familiar territory here, with similar gameplay mechanics and a number of returning enemies and bosses, and even Wryn’s old rival. But everything in the sequel has been redesigned and tightened, giving the player a fresh take on the fast and frenetic gameplay, with plenty of new challenges on offer to put his skills to the test.
A game by StarBlade for PC, originally released in 2017.
Nefarious is an action game that puts you in the role of the villain rather than the hero. Instead of rescuing the princess, you are capturing princesses so that you can use them as an energy source to power a huge weapon that will allow you to take over the world. Instead of entering arenas and taking on bosses in mechanized contraptions, you are piloting said contraptions to smash the heroes of each land, each of whom is trying to put a stop to your, er… nefarious plans.
The villain of the tale is Crow, who comes from a long line of bird-named villains, and he narrates his own introduction as he blasts onto the scene on the back of a speeding truck with a pink-clad princess slung over his shoulder. Then he begins smashing his way through police cars, police robots, and the police themselves on the way back to his airship.