Ian and I were talking last night about what our GOTY would be. I said Dark Souls III and Bloodborne, neither of which actually came out this year. That got me thinking about what other games I’ve played this year, and while I’ve tried several, the list of games I actually stuck with is depressingly short. I played The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth+ back when it was released, and it was OK, I guess, but I was underwhelmed with it. I loved, loved, loved The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth and have put in an ungodly amount of time into the game. Like, I’m embarrassed to tell you how many hours I’ve poured into Rebirth because it far exceeds the time I’ve put into any other game–and it’s not even close. I was mildly positive about The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth, but when BoI: A+ came out, I was done. It was pure fan service and geared towards the hardcore players who have Fucking Goddamn Real Platinum Godded BOI:R and were looking for another challenge.
One thing I both love and hate about indie games is that when they hit cult status, it becomes a very insular community. Take, for example, Nuclear Throne. It’s one of my favorite games of all times, and it’s a game I never play any longer. I put many, many hours into this game as well, but I only managed to beat The Throne a handful of times. I had it while it was in Early Access, and the devs, Vlambeer, kept adding to the game. They’re wonderful about keeping in touch with their community, and they really worked to incorporate suggestions from their community into the game. This is great! To a point. They started adding things on the loop, really cool things, and I sighed because it’s stuff I would never see. You loop once you beat The Throne, and as I said, I only managed to do it a handful of times. Once they started focusing on the looping part of the game, I quit playing. I knew I would be left out in the cold, and it was time to move on.
It’s the same with BOI:R. Once Edmund McMillen started listening exclusively to the hardcore players, he put the game out of reach for the general populace. Again, I think it’s fantastic that he’s so receptive to the Isaac community, but it means that people who aren’t beating MegaSatan every run aren’t going to be able to jump into the game. I think both Vlambeer and McMillen went too far in the direction of adding content for the sake of the elite players, and I’m not elite enough to enjoy the new content.
Another game I tried and really loved, but was ultimately too hard for me is Hollow Knight. I adored the haunting graphics and my adorable bunny-eared bug knight protagonist and her trusty rusty nail (as her sword). I loved the Souls-like atmosphere and exploring all the different environments. I loved everything about the game except–the platforming. Oh, the platforming. It started out OK, but then it became tedious, quickly followed by nope, can’t do this. It’s the main part of the game, so not being good at it doesn’t bode well for the rest of the game. And so, as much as I love the game, and I love it a great deal, I stopped playing it. I maintain it’s a terrific game, however.