Justin Last

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I want to like Moebius: Empire Rising, because it has some interesting things going for it. Malachi Rector is an interesting mix of Indiana Jones, Nicolas Cage’s character in National Treasure and Sherlock Holmes. I want to see him on the big screen played by Robert Downey, Jr. or depicted in a comic book, in which low-quality models and animation won’t trample on the atmosphere. And most of all, I want to experience the story and hear Rector’s internal thoughts, without having to sit through an underwhelming set of mechanics to do it. READ MORE

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Mercenary Kings has a lot going for it. The list of features is exhaustive, the number of weapon combinations available is immense and the pixel art is nothing short of jaw-droppingly gorgeous. Mercenary Kings is channeling Metal Slug hard, and it works. The chunky aesthetic fits the military motif very well, but while there are more than enough missions to go on, I wish there was more variety in visited locales to show off the art even more. READ MORE

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The Secret of Monkey Island‘s insult sword fighting. The Walking Dead‘s zombie apocalypse. Myst‘s linking books. All are simple concepts at the center of great adventure games. 1954: Alcatraz adds “escape from Alcatraz” to that list. It manages to draw the player in, not only because a prison escape is impressive, but because escaping from Alcatraz is especially daunting. It’s not all cinderblock walls, corrections officers and time in solitary confinement, though. While Joe is working to break out, his wife Christine is doing her part around San Francisco to unravel the mystery of Joe’s armored truck heist and aid his escape in any way possible. READ MORE

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Card City Nights is exactly what I never knew I wanted: Pokemon crossed with Triple Triad from Final Fantasy VIII, wrapped up in a cute, hand-drawn visual style. You start out as the new kid in town, taking part in card battles until you get the eight legendary cards and challenge the Card King for a huge cash prize. READ MORE

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Echo Prime is what I’m going to call a good “installation game.” On the iPhone it would be a good “toilet game,” but I very seldom take my PC to the bathroom. I do, however, install things on it regularly, and while I’m doing that, running a few missions in Echo Prime is a fun experience that doesn’t overstay its welcome. READ MORE

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Daedalic is great at telling a story. Its impressive adventure game catalog contains entries like Deponia and Edna & Harvey, so you should come into Blackguards expecting a well-written tale. What you might not expect is challenging tactical combat, deep character creation and customization, and and a 40-hour campaign in which player choice changes quest completion and narrative flow. READ MORE

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The Banner Saga is astoundingly beautiful. The art evokes classic animation like Don Bluth’s An American Tail and Disney’s Sleeping Beauty in a way that I’ve never seen in a game. The battlegrounds look amazing, and characters look alive in a way that can only be attained through hand-drawn animation. Final Fantasy Tactics looks nice, but The Banner Saga is simply breathtaking. READ MORE

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Puzzle games are some of the most satisfying to play. Why? Because when you successfully complete a level, you know that it isn’t because you were just fast enough, or that your opponent’s connection isn’t great, or that you found the right power-ups. You won because you examined the situation, formed a plan and carried it out. It doesn’t hurt that Tiny Thief is easy to play and oozing charm. READ MORE

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In the first season of Telltale’s The Walking Dead, the characters felt real, the interactions felt genuine and and the adventure felt personal. You didn’t save the world, but you mattered immensely to Clementine and shaped the person she has become in the second season. Lee doesn’t make the return trip for season two, and instead of giving Clementine another caretaker, Telltale has taken the gutsy move of making a young girl the player character. READ MORE

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This year was one of singular experiences for me. Games can take upwards of 30 hours to complete, but most of my favorites have a standout moment that cemented the experience as a good one for me. XCOM: Enemy Within offers substantially more than MEC troopers, but when I saw my first one run off the ramp, I knew I was playing something special. 40 hours later, I still do. That MEC trooper died long ago (I’m not very good at XCOM), but every time I see one come down the ramp or jump down from the Skyranger without a rappelling line, I’m reminded of ‘Bolts’ in his bright pink MEC chassis and the first time he punched a Thin Man so hard that it died.

10. Guacamelee!

Traversal is not usually fun. In Guacamelee!, it is. Combat abilities and traversal abilities are the same, and it never gets old to use an uppercut instead of a super-jump. Crossing from the light world to the dark world is used for combat and traversal as well. Oh, and every handy move you have is taught by a goat. It’s ridiculous and fun and dumb in all the best ways that only games and cartoons can be. READ MORE