Thursday, December 5, 2019

Holiday Gift Guide: Games (All Kinds!)

It's the most wonderful time of the year... for people who aren't me. I am basically the Grinch. I hate people feeling like the have to get me something, so Christmas is basically my own personal hell (as is my birthday, which is a closely guarded secret because... I really hate my birthday). But for the rest of you, GIFTS! And I do love giving people gifts, and I love games, so:

Just One by Repos  (Recommended by Mikey)

This has quickly become the party game at my house and it is equally entertaining for both of my kids and all of my adult friends. It is a cooperative word guessing game that forces you to provide one word clues to the active player. The twist is that if multiple people write the same word the active player does not get to see the clue. This game takes about five minutes to teach, 10 minutes to play, and is a hoot. I have yet to complete a round of the game without the group wanting to run it back in order to improve on their score.

Untitled Goose Game (Recommended by Adri)

It will come as a surprise to nobody that Untitled Goose Game is my pick for a video game gift this year. This year's most memeable game, from indie developer House House, combines elaborate stealth-based mechanics with the aesthetics of a rural English village, and puts you in the shoes (well, the webbed feet) of a horrible goose completing a number of tasks to mess with a series of villagers. Featuring four main areas for mischief which open up into an increasingly elaborate world, its a game whose puzzles are satisfying and unrepentantly sadistic, with a great flow through the "level-based" tasks and into more elaborate post-game tests. There's also plenty of fun to be have in tasks which serve no in-game purpose apart from the pure-hearted joy of being a goose, and while this isn't quite Breath of the Wild levels of "exploring the world because its there" content, it's still a diversion that can be returned to even once your goose to-do is all crossed off.

Not only is it one of the best times I've had playing a game ever, the goose game's charm is wide ranging and, despite the rampant sadism, great for all sorts of gamers. Its also an experience that rewards viewers as well as players, meaning that you can give it to somebody you actually intend to spend Christmas day with, knowing that if they decide to play it in your company you'll get a kick out of watching their beautifully-scored slapstick antics. Plus, I cannot think of anything more festive to balance out the capitalist consumerism of Christmas than with the socialist anarchism of the Horrible Goose - especially if you've got one of its friends on your festive menu.

Tiny Towns by Alderac Entertainment Group (AEG) (Recommended by Mikey)

This game might be my current favorite gateway game on the market. In Tiny Towns, you are the mayor of a....wait for it....tiny town. As mayor you are responsible for populating your town on a 4x4 grid in an attempt to make the best town in the world. It plays 1 to 6 players and has zero down time regardless of player count. This is what makes the game so engaging and entertaining. The basic premise is that you will take resource cubes, align them on your grid to match the patterns on various building cards. Once you match a pattern, you clear the cubes off of your board (freeing up space for future cubes) and replacing one spot with the building you completed. Space on your board becomes a valuable commodity as it fills out and the spatial element of this game is extremely well done. When you are the active player you get to dictate what resource will be active for that round granting you a significant advantage as everyone else has to place that resource on their board as well. Do you focus on your town, or try to stick it to one of your opponents by giving them a useless resource? This game plays extremely fast, is quick to learn, and has a wide variety of building card combos giving it a ton of replayability.

Control by Remedy Entertainment (developer) (Recommended by Brian)

Glue together LOST, The X-Files, internet creepypasta, House of Leaves, and Max Payne, and you’ll get something looking like Control. Control is a supernatural third person shooter that puts you in the otherworldly offices of the Federal Bureau of Control. You use your magical weapon (a gun that transforms into other guns) and psychic powers like telekinesis to fight an awful lot of possessed Bureau employees. The action is as fun as you’d expect from the makers of Max Payne, but the game really shines in its setting. Control is jammed full of tons of weird internet horror. It has collectables worth collecting, documents worth reading, and the Remedy signature TV show within the game, The Threshold Kids, is truly creepy. It’s an excellent blend of action game and horror setting.

Control is available on PC, Xbox One, and Playstation 4. 

Observation by No Code (developer) (Recommended by Brian)

It’s been a banner decade for games where you play with security cameras, and Observation may be my favorite of them. You play the whole game from the point of view of an on-board AI on a space station. Something bad happens and you have to help your crew figure out what happened and how do you all survive. Observation is third person horror. Bad things are happening and you’re mostly resigned to watching it. But it’s not completely passive, you do get to manipulate station objects, like opening doors and working with the station’s computer systems. It’s good looking, well-paced, and doesn’t require twitch reflexes to enjoy. 
Observation is available on PC and Playstation 4.

Blood Bowl by Games Workshop (Recommended by Dean)

I gotta tell you... I sort of forgot about Blood Bowl. For years, my local game group had a league and it was a blast and then my life took me away from there, and, well, you know how that song goes. Now established in a new area, with new gaming friends, I found they had never heard of Blood Bowl. I find myself telling you, gentle reader, the same thing I told them: I don't know how to explain it.

It's so stupid.

It's so fun.

It's football.. with fantasy characters. And blood. And you get to level up your team with stupid, awesome upgrades.

Just buy it.

Please Help Me
X-Wing (second edition) (Recommended by Dean)

Did you like how, at the beginning, I was all "I'm not selfish" and then all my picks are for things that benefit TWO people? Does that make me a good person, or bad? Either way, make no mistake: Buying someone this gift is a curse. You have doomed them for life, and the only reason you should do it is if:

A) you really hate that person


B) you already have a crippling X-Wing addiction of your own.

But, yes, buy them the core set. It has an X-wing and TWO TIE fighters, which should allow for many hours of gaming fun! Except, your squad will be better with another X-wing! Or a specialty TIE! OK, yeah, that works, but what your squad REALLY needs is... you see where this is going.

I need more X-Wing stuff, is what I'm saying. Or an intervention.


 Dean is the author of the 3024AD series of science fiction stories. When not holed up in his office tweeting obnoxiously writing, he can be found watching or playing sports, or in his natural habitat of a bookstore