Game of the Month: January 2014

Considering it’s usually about as barren as December in terms of game releases, January was a surprisingly good month — for indies, at least. Not counting ports, there wasn’t a single retail game even worth mentioning, but there were quite a few digital gems. Whether it was the weirdness that was Octodad: Dadliest Catch or the surprisingly peanut butter and chocolate combination of Tony Hawk Pro Skater and Hotline Miami in OlliOlli, there was something for everybody. Not a bad way to start the year.

Castle Doombad

GotM-Jan14-Castlesomethign

Yes, Castle Doombad is a tower defense game, a genre that was already overcrowded about a decade ago. And yes, Castle Doombad is an iOS title that should appeal more to the casual gamer than savvy gaming veterans. While these sort sof things might not make it sound like the game of this or any month, Adult Swim Games manages to infuse just the right amount of strategy and simplicity to make Castle Doombad endlessly replayable. Setting up the right traps to defend your castle from an onslaught of heroes trying to recapture a princess you rightfully stole away is a lot of fun, and later more challenging levels create this frantic pace that will have you desperately tapping away at the screen to get your setup just right. It is one of the most fun tower defense games since Plants vs. Zombies, and is the perfect sort of title for the iOS. While it might not have the complexity or depth that we’ve come to expect from the genre, that doesn’t make the overall experience any less enjoyable.

Insurgency

GotM-Jan14-Insurgency

With as many multiplayer only first person shooters as there are for gamers to choose from, it’s incredibly hard for new games to stand out. Insurgency certainly wasn’t helped by it’s generic modern military theme and middle eastern setting, but in the end the quality shines through. Featuring satisfying weapon handling, phenomenal sound effects, an array of engaging game modes, and a degree of authenticity and realism you won’t find in most other multiplayer shooters, Insurgency is unique enough, and more importantly good enough to stand ahead of the pack. It’s not for everyone, but those looking for this specific type of FPS experience won’t find much better than Insurgency. In a month that had several notable multiplayer only first person shooters including things like Rekoil and Loadout, Insurgency is the best of the bunch.

OlliOlli

GotM-Jan14-OlliOlli

OlliOlli takes the intimidating world of trick-heavy skating games and breaks it down so they’re easy to execute. As a result, you get a game that doesn’t just have a retro sensibility with its art style, but also one that it’s easy to pick up and play. A lone tutorial is all that’s needed to learn, and with minimal trial and error, you’ll be chaining combos together with jumps and little flourishes like it’s nothing. OlliOlli’s soundtrack is a bit iffy, but turning it off just allows you to soak in the awesome sound effect work done – despite being a portable game, it’s got very realistic effects for grinding, jumping, and landing on every surface. If you grew up with the THPS games and fell out of love with them, give OlliOlli a shot to rekindle your love for the genre.

Broken Age (Act 1)

GotM-Jan14-BrokenAge

Even as I sit writing this blurb, I’m tempted to refer to this game as “Bygone Age” because of all the hype about it reviving the adventure genre. Of course, anyone who’s owned a PC, Tablet, or DS in the last decade can tell you that the genre is far from dead, but that doesn’t stop Broken Age from being a standout. Tim Schafer is in top form, having written some of the medium’s best dialogue for an all-star cast of voice actors. Act 1 of Broken Age is gorgeous, clever, and uproariously funny, and I can’t wait to see what Double Fine is going to pull out for the game’s conclusion.

 


Winner: The Banner Saga (Chapter 1)

GotM-Jan14-BannerSaga

There aren’t many games out there that can actually scratch an epic fantasy itch. Sure there’s plenty of Dragons to slay and spells to cast, but when it comes to Game of Thrones-caliber tales of world-shaking drama and political intrigue, we’re left wanting. Few games have the wealth of lore required to build a truly convincing world, and still fewer manage anything resembling an original premise. In that sense, The Banner Saga is a true gem, and it is in a lot of other senses as well. With beautiful art direction, fantastic music, and one of the deepest, most satisfying combat systems you’ll ever experience, The Banner Saga stands proud as our game of the month.

 

As an added bonus, our editors named their personal favorites:

  • Jeremy: Soul Fjord
  • Lee: Broken Age (Act 1)
  • Jake: Octodad: Dadliest Catch
  • Matt: Insurgency
  • Nikola: Castle Doombad
  • Dermot: Nidhogg
  • Geoff: The Banner Saga (Chapter 1)
  • Bradly: The Banner Saga (Chapter 1)
  • Marcus: Nidhogg