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Top 10 Games You (Probably) Missed in 2017
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on January 02, 2018   |   Episode 112 (Show Archive)  

   
The Legend of Zelda. Persona 5. Horizon Zero Dawn. These are just a few of the big budget, triple-A games everybody is talking about right now. But you already know how great those games are, so I have a different idea. Instead of repeating the same batch of titles you've seen on countless Game of the Year lists, we're going to count down the Top 10 Games You (Probably) Missed in 2017. These are some of the best games nobody is talking about. So let's change that. Here's what you may have missed.



The Videokid & Dustoff Heli
Rescue 2 (Tie)
This was a good year for voxel recreations of arcade classics. If you're like me and grew up in the 1980s, then chances are you have fond memories of Paperboy. The Videokid is a loving homage to not only that arcade classic, but 1980s movie and pop culture references in general. This is a crazy fun delivery simulator where you have a bag full of VHS tapes and a skateboard for transportation. You'll need to dodge Transformers fighting in the intersection, big bird dancing on the sidewalk, Baywatch lifeguards racing in slow motion, space invaders mocking you, Indiana Jones running from the boulder and Mutant Turtles ushering you down into the sewer. And that's not even scratching the surface of how many great references pop up in just a single 3 minute long session.

Paperboy not your thing? Then perhaps you should check out Dustoff Heli Rescue 2, a Choplifter clone brought to you by voxel graphics. What surprised me about this game is how much content there is. Even now, weeks after I completed my review, I still find myself going back and replaying levels and working towards all the trophies. It takes everything you love about the old arcade game, gives it a fresh coat of paint and, most importantly, finds a lot of ways to improve on the formula in essential ways. Between Dustoff Heli Rescue 2 and The Videokid, I hope to see more developers recreating arcade classics with voxel graphics in 2018. [READ FULL REVIEW]
Alwa's Awakening
Every year there's a great throwback platformer that reminds me of the good of days of the Nintendo Entertainment System. 2017's best neo-retro release was Alwa's Awakening, the debut release from a first-time developer that spent more than two years fine-tuning this adventure. It's a game that is every bit as good as Shovel Knight, and yet it gets a fraction of the attention.

What I like is that we're given three different abilities that take some skill to use. Instead of getting the usual double jumps and dash moves, we're able to create green blocks and large bubbles. I also like how authentic it looks and feels. I get the feeling that this could run on the Nintendo Entertainment System, which isn't always true of these throwback titles. My only knock is that it's occasionally derivative, but that's barely a problem when the rest of the game is this good. [READ FULL REVIEW]
911 Operator
911 Operator is secretly the most intense game of 2017. On paper, it's little more than a simulator that puts you in the seat of a 911 dispatcher. Your job is to answer calls, listen for clues and send the appropriate responders to the scene. But what sounds simple will quickly turn into a juggling act where the wrong call could result in somebody dying.

What I like is that you're jumping from one famous city to another, giving you a flavor of Chicago, San Francisco, Washington D.C. and, of course, New York City. You'll even find some fun movie and TV-related missions, such as some fun Breaking Bad references in the Albuquerque stage. Perhaps the coolest aspect of the game involves playing in the town you live in. Assuming you live in a large enough city, you'll be able to download a local map and pretend you're helping your community. Being a 911 Operator isn't for everybody, but I found the experience invigorating. [READ FULL REVIEW]
Tragedy of Prince Rupert
The year's best 2D shoot 'em up had nothing to do with space battles or world wars, because The Tragedy of Prince Rupert is not like most shooters. This is an arcade-style action game straight out of the 1980s that is heavily inspired by the 1958 film The Fabulous World of Jules Verne. You play a hopeless romantic who shows up with his flying machine in order to marry the beautiful daughter of the Turkish Sultan. Unfortunately, he's going to need to fight off a bunch of other suitors before he can tie the knot.

What makes Rupert's balloon so cool is that it will not only soar high above the earth, but can also dive deep into the water to look for treasure. This is where the game becomes more about exploration and problem solving than shooting down bad guys. Plus, every quest you complete will open up a new page of the story, giving you a slightly better idea of what the prince is going through. It all leads to an addictive little shooter that I had a hard time putting down. Whether you're looking to soar into space or go 20,000 leagues under the sea, Tragedy of Prince Rupert is one shooter you definitely shouldn't miss. [READ FULL REVIEW]
Riptale
The year's best ninja game is Riptale, a stylish new 2D action game with a large hat and long scarf. What I love about Riptale is how it handles combat. I don't mean to shock anybody here, but this is far from the first 2D action game to hit the market. But what sets this game apart is the speed and precision of the combat, especially when it comes to chaining kills together in the most satisfying way possible. Our scarfed hero doesn't just run and jump, he literally lunges at the enemies to exact a one-hit kill. It's fast and furious, the kind of attack where if you blink you'll probably miss it.

I also love the way the game looks and animated. It moves so quickly and smoothly that I just wanted to sit back and marvel at what Super God has been able to accomplish, but I can't, because that would lead to a speedy death. My only real gripe is the game is often too much of a roguelike. It's fun to replay these random stages over and over, but I wish there was a little more progression between runs. But don't let that criticism keep you away from one of the most exciting action games of the year. [READ FULL REVIEW]
Serial Cleaner
Serial Cleaner has been showing up on a lot of systems recently, so I hesitate to call it obscure. Whether you've heard of it or not, one thing is clear -- not enough people are talking about this enchanting action game. That's going to change right now.

Serial Cleaner is basically the reverse Hotline Miami. Instead of going in and causing a lot of death and destruction, you're the guy who cleans everything up after the fact. The trick is to scrub up the blood, dispose of the dead bodies and grab all of the incriminating evidence while the police are investigating the crime scene. It turns out to be an exciting little stealth game with a great story set in the 1970s.

It's the hidden bonus contracts that put this game over the top for me. Some of the best levels are based on classic movie crime scenes, including the asylum from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and the spot of the famous chest-bursting scene in Alien. I've played through the game three times on three different systems and it hasn't gotten old yet. It just recently hit the Switch, but Serial Cleaner is great on every system. [READ FULL REVIEW]
Mainlining
Mainlining is the only 2017 game that starts with the blue screen of death. It's also one of the few games to make a strong point about the normalcy of the security state. You play a guy with access to a spy computer that grants your unprecedented powers to hack into websites, monitor GPS activity, dig through people's computers and dredge up any personal data that is accessible online.

The reason all this works is because it often feels like you're investigating real life. You'll have to dig through an 8-bit version of Twitter and Facebook for clues and then hack into different operating systems to piece everything together. The reason this works is because of the story, which slowly eases you into spying until you realize things have gone way too far. By that time the story has turned dark and left its mark. This is a frightening adventure game that everybody should play. [READ FULL REVIEW]
Missile Cards
Missile Cards is what happens when you take a card combat game and mix it with that old arcade game Missile Command. This is an intoxicatingly fun time-waster where you shuffle through 52 cards in order to take down asteroids and nukes. It's a simple concept that keeps getting better with each new wrinkle. You'll eventually be hacking computers and leveling up your skills in order to win, giving this budget-priced game a lot more depth than you might expect.

What I love about Missile Cards is how much strategy there is in each game. It's not just matching the numbers on the cards, but also knowing the right time to let an object slip by and destroy one of your buildings. The fact that I was constantly gaining experience is what kept me glued to the screen and always wanting to play just one more round. Every time I thought I was done with Missile Cards, I found that I would spend another hour completely addicted to shooting down asteroids. It's that good. [READ FULL REVIEW]
All the Delicate Duplicates
All the Delicate Duplicates was the only game last year to leave me speechless. Imagine, if you will, David Lynch directing a Twilight Zone episode about time travel and children's toys. That goes a long way to explain the general dream-like atmosphere of this all-too-brief first-person adventure, but doesn't really capture what makes this game so special. It's the haunting story and time-bending revelations that have stuck with me ever since its February release.

In case you haven't noticed, I'm talking around what really happens in All the Delicate Duplicates. I went in knowing almost nothing about the game, and I feel that's probably the best way to go. There's a lot to unpack here, but it's better you put the pieces together on your own. What I will say is that I like the thick atmosphere and how the story unravels with each jump in time. It constantly found new ways to surprise me, giving me a science fiction story I didn't want to put down. [READ FULL REVIEW]
Thimbleweed Park
Thimbleweed Park is not only the best game you probably haven't played this year, but it's also my overall Game of the Year. It's the kind of game that lulls you into thinking it's one thing, only to send you for a loop with every expertly crafted twist and turn. This is Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick at their absolute best; two veteran designers coming together at the top of their game.

What starts out like a point and click X-Files game quickly turns into one of the funniest games I've ever played. It's long, twisted and full of surprises. And not just from the secrets found in the quiet town of Thimbleweed Park, but also for a lot of the LucasArts games that defined a whole generation of graphic adventures. This actually makes some of those old games better and gives us one of the most mind-blowing endings I've seen in a long time.

Much like Maniac Mansion and Monkey Island, Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick's newest title will be an experience remembered and celebrated for decades to come. As point and click adventure games go, Thimbleweed Park is near perfection. [READ FULL REVIEW]
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