The 2017 Kratzen Arbitrary Game Awards!
They were all shit. Go home.
Nah, I’m just playing with you. What the buck is up everypony, it’s your boy Froge here, coming in for you LIVE from the comfort my own comfy chair, giving you all these great opinions about video games on this here socialist propaganda platform. We got the good games. We got the bad games. We got the games that will make you cry, and those games that will make you want to go fuck yourself because of how motherfucking awful they really were. One thing I’ve learned after twenty – one years: you never know WHAT’S going to come through that door. That’s why I carry a gun.
Now, you know I had to do it to ’em. Make an awards show at the end of the year? Me? What? But really, I always appreciate when my favourite Internet Funnymen, my favourite YouTubers, and my favourite online games critics are willing to go the extra mile, compile all their thoughts into one big video, and showcase what they consider to be the greatest games that were released last year, so I can make fun of them and continue to wonder why in the world I even follow them at all. Like The Jimquisition giving Super Mario Odyssey a spot? Come on, Odyssey was just boneless Galaxy.
It’s easy enough to talk shit about the year while we’re still living in it, being subjected to the hype as it comes, being manipulated by the marketing machines and the ravenous cults — I mean amazing fans — that throw us into a cultural whirlpool and make us pretend to like things for the sake of putting up appearances and not getting insulted by some random twenty – year – old males on the Internet who have accomplished nothing in their own lives and so feel the need to harass those who are accomplished over something as trivial as… video games.
So when we can see the year at arm’s length and be a healthy, healthy distance away from all that marketing and cultural indictment, we can finally call it like it is and say that Super Mario Odyssey, instead of being one of the best games of all time because some neckbeards say it is, was actually just okay. Not that I’ve played the thing. Because, Nintendo. The Joy – Cons? They’re fucked – up. They are fucked up. Now you fucked up. You have fucked up now. No, I’m not salty because I predicted the Switch would fail.
Also, I just want to point out we live in a world where it’s legal to infest each other’s brains through a never – ending, constant stream of 24/7 propaganda, advertising, current events, and cultural pollution and force hundreds of millions of people around the world to watch this prolefeed, but thanks to the Copyright Monopoly, we’re not allowed to actually make use of any of this copyrighted bullshit for our own purposes, despite it being totally legal to be subjected to it every minute of every day. Even if it was produced by our government and paid for with our own taxes. Because fuck you.
Alright, alright, you know how it is. Actually you don’t, which is why I have to introduce this git. The Kratzen Arbitrary Game Awards is a celebration of all the best and worst things to come out in the past year, which I’m calling things because I’m not sure if some of these even qualify as games, even though none of you have ever heard of any of these bitches until yours truly ambushed them in the streets and dragged them over to the Town Square and hung them from the public – access noose. Unless they happened to be good little boys, then I give them a mock execution to teach them the value of appreciating what you have, just like kidnapping your best friend for YouTube money!
Because this is my website and my opinions are the only correct opinions about games that nobody cared about before I took a look at them and gave even less of a toss about afterwards, I’m only giving out awards to the games I’ve covered and reviewed this year, almost none of which actually came out in 2017, but I have ascended beyond mortal reconciliations of this entropic flux we call “time”, so it all evens out. None of the awards ultimately matter, much like nothing in our universe matters when you’re educated enough to realise the predictable banalities of it all, but if it makes you developers feel better you can throw these awards on your Itch.io pages and print out a little certificate for your tree house. Who am I kidding? None of you read this shit!
The categories were made up on the spot like eight weeks ago and I don’t even remember what games I had in mind for any of these categories, so already it’s apparent that this awards show is a complete sham and really puts the rest of the site to shame, and by extension, yours truly. You would think I would have improved as a writer and a human being since the last shitscram I did for Froghand. Because really, once I gave Bioshock Infinite the Stephen Harper award for world’s slowest trainwreck? You can never go higher once you’ve already reached the peak. Seriously, just read this:
“Bioshock Infinite [was] a highly – recommended game promising fun, adventure, historical commentary, and a promising partnership, only to shit the bed with a nonsense story, an idiot plot, themes that aren’t used for anything but set dressing, tedious gameplay, and an ending that makes you want to open a tear to Ken Levine’s office and throw his desktop out the window so he never again looks at the failed abortion that was the Bioshock Infinite screenplay. The game shows a constant disrespect for the medium by throwing out interactivity in favour of story, creating gameplay whose difficulty is artificially increased by the lack of comprehension of what is happening on the screen, and by reducing the complexity of your abilities from the original Bioshock to the point where gameplay deviates towards picking a standard loadout that works and never deviating from it, otherwise you’ll die. There is very little to redeem this overwritten, overdrawn, under – developed piece of trite, and I feel bad for whoever had the misfortune to play it.”
Holy fuck. Ken got dabbed on so hard he ended up making Skyrim for the Switch.
Okay now for the real shit
That’s it, it’s time for the Froge’s Frogsona Most Furry Game of 2017, and that’s how you know we’re not FUCKING around with this show. And there is no other candidate but First Kiss at a Spooky Soiree, which I was originally going to disqualify because I couldn’t spell “Soiree”, but fuck it, I may be racist, but at least I know how to speak French! Or at least three words. With this visual novel, NomNomNami has held onto the throne of a gal who has told me to go FUCK myself if I’m not gonna fuck a moth. And you know what? I will fuck the moth. I will very much fuck the moth.
Coming on from the other end of the Degenerate Spectrum we got the Froge’s Frog Friend Most Weeb Game, of 2017, and though I may be an Anime Gamer, I have neglected so many anime games that, honestly, it shames me to even live. But fuck it, this one goes to Tobu Tobu Girl for being able to play as the girl, being able to play as the cat, and for featuring that particular type of art style that hides just how FUCKED up the gameplay really is. I gave this game thirty bucks just to exist, and fuck it, that was money well spent for the sadomasochistic fantasy that this Game Boy homebrew provides.
Now, this one’s for the Gamers out there, so if you aren’t a Gamer, don’t even look at the Gamer’s Most Gamer’s Game of the Game of the Year Award Award, because only Gamers understand just how much Game there is to game with GAME OF THE YEAR: 420BLAZEIT vs xxXilluminatiXxx [wow/10 #rekt edition] — Montage Parody The Game. You got your Gamer Guns, you got your Mountain Dew, and at the end of it all, you got that really great meme, you got Shrek in there, you know, you know you gotta have Shrek in there. It’s really great. It’s really SNHRRRKHH
I’m not allowed to have fun on this one. It’s a very serious award, because we’re all very serious people here at Kratzen. Well, there’s only one of me so — no! No jokes allowed here. This one is the Mark Zuckerberg Most Normie Game award, and this one goes to “Where To?”. All you do for this game is drive a taxi and have a nice conversation with a nice woman as you take her to where she needs to go. There’s nothing sexual, there’s no implication of anything deeper, it’s just a nice, ordinary simulation of our lives. Also everyone’s a furry. OH DEAR.
These ones messed me up
Starting off those games which played with my emotions comes the Lisa’s Substitute award for Game That Made Me Cry, and though my tear ducts don’t work quite right due to me being a Man who doesn’t need no girly crap like emotions, I gotta give props to Starlit Flowers for making me come the closest. It’s a really sweet story about a bunch of girls, a bit of a slice – of – life if I may say so, but for its execution, its beautiful soundtrack and art style, and for building a somewhat realistic relationship in the short time it had with me, there’s no better candidate for this arbitrary bullshit award that I wrote down on a sticky note and had to fetch from my termite – infested basement after the house goblin stole it for his cage bedding.
But why even feel when we have the opportunity to think? That’s why the Pickle Rick Game That Made Me Think goes to Things that Aren’t Real, which was a right piece of shit and caused me to pontificate a philosophy of art and Æsthetics that fits more at home in a college dissertation rather than a stupid website written by a furry — I mean My Nam Pickle Jeff SchezWubbalubba dab dab. But seriously, please don’t make work like this. Modern art? Not even once. Arthouse games? More like go fuck yourself games. Yeah, really earning that critics’ pass, aren’t I?
You know what, sometimes I need to get really pissed off for no real reason, because I’m a productive member of society and not a teenager engaging in manufactured controversy that exists solely to gain advertising revenue for the manufacturer. That’s why when I give out the Conservative Party Game That Made Me Pissed award to Pixel Dungeon, you know that this game is just some bullshit, just like every other roguelike title out there. Although it didn’t make me the most pissed – off this year, every other game which did was better suited to another category, and there’s no double – dipping in this here awards show! Because that would be wrong.
But the worst thing you can do for any piece of art is make the audience just not care. That’s why the Soundcloud Rap award for the Game That Made Me Bored goes to none other than one of the most popular games on Itch.io — Raft! If you need more proof that popularity has next to no correlation with the quality of a work, you need look no further than this pedestrian experience, where all you do is gather materials, build some stuff on a metre – long boat that doesn’t even move, and stave off the obligatory hunger and thirst bars, because of course you do. Special shout – outs for being one of the only games to give me an actual, physical headache. Thanks for that.
Be surprised by these guys
Alright, I ripped these ones off from Zero Punctuation. But screw it: the Sonic Mania award for Most Surprisingly Good Game goes to Cynical 7! Now, I did not know what to expect from this experience. If anything, I thought based on its art style it would be a complete piece of shit just thrown on Itch.io just to get it off the developer’s hard drive. But with a seriously sincere and heartfelt story, with well – written characters and jokes that are actually funny, in a comedy game no less, Cynical 7 was actually one of the best indie games that I’ve played this year, and I’m really anticipating what the full game will turn out to be like! Mostly because you left off on a cliffhanger. You fucker.
At the opposite end of the spectrum comes the Sonic Forces Least Surprisingly Bad Game award, which comes to us courtesy of a survival – crafting – zombie – voxel – sandbox – base – management – let’s – hesitate – to – call – it – a – game thing: “Don’t Bite me Bro!”. If you’re looking at the description and the title and you’re thinking “wow, this game looks like complete and utter horseshit”, then you’re right! It is complete and utter horseshit! And the developers know it, too: they deleted my review from their forums. You know, it’s one thing to be a team of creatively – dead hacks with less originality in their entire body than someone like me has in their pinkie finger. A lot of guys are hacks! But it’s another thing to be a team of creatively – dead dickheads who can’t take honest criticism of your shitty games. So congratulations on your newfound social status, and I wish you all the worse in the future.
As a fresh escape from this nonsense we have the Sonic 3 & Knuckles Least Surprisingly Good Game, which goes to the up – and – coming indie darling: Underhero! Because of course it does. Because this is an unsurprising award. Because it had good graphics and had a competently put – together page and developers who are competent at their jobs and who actually put up with my bullshit and being nice and polite. As a matter of policy I no longer post my reviews on Itch.io pages because having to justify my opinion over and over again when I already did that in my initial review is just too exhausting for me to care. But I will gladly state that Underhero, as unexciting as the demo can be at times, is still a good demo, and I once again await the full release.
And coming in hot and heavy for the Sonic Boom Most Surprisingly Bad Game award is none other than… FTL: Faster Than Light! Given how much this game has been shilled to me by many reputable gentlemen, and given how much I enjoyed its concept of a space – faring ass – kicking adventure, I was extremely disappointed to find it was little more than a virtual slot machine where your progress is determined solely by the random dice rolls of an idiot random number generator who decided that you don’t get to have any fun because you didn’t get enough of the arbitrary in – game powerups that you need to stand a chance. Also they pull the old “final boss is 80% dead, runs away and heals up” bullshit, and for that it will be thrown into Gaming Hell forever, or for three days, whichever comes first.
These awards are fake. You can skip ’em
I’m running out of ways to introduce these increasingly bad categories, so I’ll cut the crap and give the Ground Zeroes award for Shortest Game With The Greatest Enjoyment to Karate Basketball! Holy shit, this game is fun. All it has is one attack, one level, and one game mode that lasts all of two minutes. But for those two minutes, all you do is kick ass against the idiot computers every which way you can, giving them one long, protracted nae – nae as you figure out how to manipulate them best to get the sickest slam jams you can. It’s a one – trick pony, and you’ve pretty much mastered it after ten minutes. But even so, I had a hell of a lot more fun with this game than the long – ass ones which do nothing but stagnate and abuse my time. Knowing when to stop, you see, is a virtue unsung.
Of course, we wouldn’t be complete without the Final Fantasy 13 award for Longest Game With The Least Enjoyment, to a very special candidate, much beloved, which also drives me to drink at night: Oblige! I’ve very deliberately avoided turning this game — actually, it’s probably the world’s first 2D walking simulator instead of a game — into a meme on this website just because of the negative response I’ve gotten towards my review of it, obviously from some very thick people who have deluded themselves into thinking that an experience consisting entirely of doing menial chores is considered good design. I already have Undertale as the Meme in Residence, and Oblige, frankly, doesn’t deserve it. I don’t know how long this thing is, but it felt like it went on forever, and I fucking hated it for being a total waste of my time. Nothing else to say but that.
Let’s lighten things up a bit with the Touhou award for Worst Idea With The Best Execution to The Difference Between Us! If I were to tell you that this was a visual novel about two Friendship is Magic characters trying to be in lesbians with eachother and figure how out best to make each other comfortable on a single date, you would probably say that sounds like a fucking cringeworthy idea bordering on the type of vaguely fetishistic fan wankery that fuels the infinite hatred inside your soul. Given how this horse novel was one of the smartest and most mature things I’ve read all year, I think everyone who passed this up deserves to take a good look at themselves and wonder why they turned into such cynical human beings who know no joy in this mortal coil.
And we’re going back into Heck with the Bioshock Infinite award for the Best Idea With The Worst Execution for none other than a game that has some very nice screenshots, but with gameplay more similar to those “101 Marble Maze Puzzles!” CDs you would find for $10 in the checkout aisle of your local Walmart. FIGHT KNIGHT promised a rip – roaring go – fuck – yourself good time with bombastic combat and fisticuffs so badass it would be like Fist of the North Star by way of RuneScape. Sadly FIGHT KNIGHT failed to realise that having level design that consists of generic and muddled underground labyrinths with the occasional random encounter with some goblins does not make for an exciting beat – em – up adventure. It’s like the shittiest parts of Pokémon Blue but without the yiff.
Alright, time for the BIG BOYS
All that nonsense aside, you can’t have an end – of – the – year special — well, more a limping beginning – of – the – year hastily – constructed roundup — without taking a good, hard look at all the games that were so amazing they made us who we are today, and without suffering for our naïve optimism that the indie games market is magically less shit than the rest of the games industry.
There really weren’t any indie games on Itch that I discovered that I could showcase to all of my friends, yell at them, and tell them that games can totally be art if you were just as talented as these blokes, and basically you’re a fucking idiot for doing nothing with your lives when you could be making work as tits – up amazing at this. Even the four – star work inspires in me a more personal satisfaction that causes me to be at peace with the world, rather than anything like Hotline Miami where I would spit my drink out if I knew someone who didn’t enjoy all it set out to accomplish.
It’s part of the nature of indie games, and not the big – shots like Cuphead and Hollow Knight who are really just sub – AAA developers masquerading as the poor, innocent indie developers you should give all your money to despite being composed of newly – minted multi – millionaires who will never make another game and will never have to work another day in their lives as long as they live. You can’t really recommend a work as obscure as, say, Gun Godz because there’s just no frame of reference for it. It is a good game, sure. But if all you have to say with it is that “it is a DOOM clone”, then good luck giving it attention amongst the billion other DOOM clones out there.
It’s not like the popular games like Cuphead where you’ve already seen the footage and the trailers and heard the hype about it and can make an informed decision about whether or not it’s something that would pique your interest. It’s the type of game you just discover on Itch.io, or as part of a Mystery Games tournament or a speedrun video on Reddit. It’s something that you have to come to instead of coming to it.
Without a platform for the best indie games, like Gun Godz, to get known and be discoverable, then all that’s left is to wait until someone you trust, like yours truly, recommends it to the masses. The big – shot critics like Jim Sterling, videogamedunkey, and Zero Punctuation are all too massive to bother with slumming around the indie annals, instead choosing to cover what’s hot and popular for the sake of getting those sweet, sweet YouTube dollars. And it’s really a shame that those men, with such intelligent opinions, are the ones who can most bring benefit to the indie scene, and yet choose not to for the sake of popularity. And for someone like me who doesn’t aim for popularity or even advertises his work? I can offer great opinions, but if nobody is around to hear it, does it really matter?
So the awards for this year may not matter to those recipients who have earned them, but at the same time, I appreciate having the privilege to give them out all the same, and I hope they are a small consolation that one of the Internet’s best critics deemed these games to be worthy of your time and attention, and are demonstrably not bullshit. Except for the following three, obviously:
2017’s worst and least good
I wrote myself into a corner with this awards show because I ran out of games to throw on here and had to really stretch the definitions of “bad” in order to avoid double – dipping and making the list redundant. So while you can rest assured that games like Oblige, Raft, and Don’t Bite Me Bro! are all utter tosh that deserve to be shitcanned as viciously as you can be arsed to do, it would be silly to re – name them one of the worst of 2017 when I already said they are that fucking bad. So the following games are slightly less bad, but let’s be real: they’re still stinkers.
The least bad of the bad games on this list goes to a game that I actually enjoyed somewhat: Streets of Rogue. Although it comes packed with content even in the demo build on Itch.io before they became a class traitor and graduated to the digital – restrictions – mechanisms shithole that is Steam, this game also comes with so many petty frustrations, dodgy design choices, finicky fundamental mechanics, an incomprehensibly dense AI system that means they will never do anything you expect them to, and a good old overreliance on lucky shop items and getting the right level – up traits. This is one of the better roguelikes I’ve ever played, and that’s really fucking sad.
I’m going to betray my roots here as a proud member of the Furry Persuasion by including this title, and long – time fans may be perplexed by the addition of it as number two when I’ve given praise to the series as an example of our current zeitgeist multiple times, but fuck it. Night in the Woods: Lost Constellation has one of the most nonsensical plots I’ve ever read in a video game, up there with Bioshock Infinite (no, I’m not turning Bioshock Infinite into a meme), which is really bizarre given how damn mundane Lost Constellation really is. Nothing important happens, we learn nothing by the end, and the only thing good about it is its now – famous and much – replicated art style. I was wondering whether I should put this in the bland games list instead, but given how I keep coming back to it as an example of how not to write an interactive story, I think it deserves this place.
And finally, you know I had to do it to ’em yet again: the Heartbound demo is, out of all the games I’ve played this year, the single worst one that I have experienced, that has caused me so much vitriol and head – shaking due to how fundamentally awful its writing is, and despite how decent it appears at first glance, there is so much about this title that rubs me the wrong way that I just cannot think back to when I played it and not cringe a little over how fucking amateur, and yet how blatantly it attempts to pander to the Undertale hype train, the execution of this video game is. If they somehow, miraculously, manage to turn this slipshod piece of shit, this insult to my intelligence, into something worth playing by the time it comes out? Well, I may not have tits. But if I did, they would be blown right the fuck off, and you can take that to the bank.
2017’s blandest crème de la crap
There were a lot of games that, if I had not read their titles in the 2017 archives, I would have forgotten I had played entirely. The majority of titles that I play push no boundaries, do nothing that I can take inspiration from, or even be something that I could recommend to my best friend as something that she would honestly enjoy experiencing. A game like Momodora 2 (seriously, fuck Roman numerals) is neither offensively bad or really appreciably good, instead sitting in the middle like the personal pet project it probably is. It just sort of exists, and though it may be a good game by the definitions of my star system, it’s nothing that I can say I was really glad to have experienced as a piece of art.
When I say that the following games are the blandest of the bland, I don’t mean that they didn’t raise my dander, or that they’re games you quickly forget about because of how unremarkable they are. These games are those that actively avoid any notion of fun, those that are the blank void where an entertaining experience should be, and those that you commit to memory as an error within your consciousness as opposed to a cohesive experience that you can recall having played as a human being. These games, in essence, are bad. But they’re bad in a most sinister way:
Number three of the third blandest game of this year of 2017 is Ravenfield, which is basically what happens when you let a bunch of twelve – year – olds decide what Itch.io games deserve to be popular. This is such a milquetoast first – person – shooter experience with so little content within its walls that I wonder why I spent all that time way back when continuing to speedrun the game even after I finished the review. The shooting mechanics are bog – standard and comes stock with AI that’s about as challenging as committing a school shooting, and combine that with level design where it takes ages to even get to the next objective, you have less of a game and more of a template where one should be.
You can already tell that few things piss me off like an idiot story told poorly. Fortunately A Good Gardener sidesteps this issue by not actually having a story: just pretending for a bit until everyone gets set on fire and dies. You perform the menial task of gardening with mechanics that are only a shallow resemblance of actual gardening, and you do this with the hope that the story’s glacial pacing will end up resulting in something that makes the bother all worthwhile. Despite my really wanting to like this short little experience, I found myself instead very dumb and very disappointed in myself for believing that my efforts would have ever paid off. The idiot, you see, was me all along.
And though there are a heck of a lot of games that put up a front about being a banal, boring, unchallenging and pedestrian experience, none does it quite so blatantly as DMCA’s Sky, which advertises right in its title that the game is going to be just as fun as the real No Man’s Sky. Which is to say: none. None whatsoever. This is more like a tech demo than a game: there’s fucking nothing to do here! You walk around some random – ass planets, encounter some token enemies that might as well not even be there, and collect some items that do, to my knowledge, not a fucking thing whatsoever. I usually don’t make fun of jam games because the conditions under which they are made are more like giving birth than a deliberate artistic endeavour, but given how you had the capability to re – upload this with graphics censored by Nintendo’s corporate band of lawyerly cunts, there is no excuse for the shame you have brought upon this website by making me review such an awful, awful experience.
2017’s games that inspire me to live
I originally got into the indie scene because I thought that mainstream titles were becoming nothing more than the same cookie – cutter, addiction – inducing, whale – farming experiences that seek to manipulate and control the bottom 10% of human beings who care more about getting imaginary cosmetics for whatever Overwatch character they want to bone more than they do about paying their bills on time and saving up for retirement so they don’t have to work at McDonald’s until they’re sixty – five. And after ten months, I can safely say: HAH. HAH. FUCKING. HAH. But seriously, fuck Blizzard.
I also thought that indie games were this magical bastion of never – ending original ideas and great entertainment experiences that allow us to find beauty in the world anew, and make us appreciate just how much the human mind can accomplish when it’s not being held down under the gritty waters of corporate malpractice and apathetic, amoral greed as what you have found in the AAA sector for the past seven years. And while that certainly is true, at least 14% of the time, for every good indie game that we can hold up and idolise to the point of making them the dominatrix in an unhealthy master – pet fetishistic relationship, there’s three or four smelly bums that we wouldn’t even make lick our feet if they were the last foot fetishist on Earth.
So while 90% of everything is crap, or at least 43% of it based on the data available on Kratzen, there still remains a great deal of heart and art to be found in the indie slums, even if they have to contend with the eleventy billion different trend – chasers that are trying to rip off whatever popular thing has sold tens of millions of copies, say your Minecrafts or your DayZs. The sad thing is more often than not they’re usually successful. Ah, the magic of pandering to twelve – year – old boys. But let’s get away from that nonsense and appreciate the following three titles for being really good:
Ciel Fledge (Alpha) was one of those games that I enjoyed an unnecessary amount of and will gladly shill as a game that I liked more than I should have, despite it being very rough around the edges and having more ideas than could fit into its already jam – packed, hours – worth – of – tutorials alpha build. Its premise may be bizarre, but it’s just what you would expect from the minds of an indie studio that’s determined to make the best work they can possibly create, profits and marketability be damned. It’s part life sim, part visual novel, part child – rearing – simulation – thing, part Orwellian horror, and all of this combines to make an experience, though contingent on your tolerance for an awful translation, that’s unlike anything you’ll ever quite play in your life.
Coming in at number two for the best game of 2017, which actually came out in 2017 as opposed to all the other stuff which just kind of showed up whenever, is Electric Highways, an environmental simulator and – or interactive series of music videos that is far from a traditional gaming experience, but is so æsthetically beautiful in its faux – 90s construction and so effective in its emotion – jerking premise that I’m not ashamed to admit the gameplay is just finding a key and finding the exit to get to the next level. It’s got a banging soundtrack, it has a look and feel that games could really use more of, and it’s effective in bringing out the whole spectrum of human emotion just by presenting some levels, no words needed. It’s a minimalist masterwork, and for that, I appreciate it.
And, you know how it is ladies and gentlemen, there’s no surprises with this one. The best game of 2017, which came out in 2006 but WHATEVER, is none other but one of the best browser games ever created, one of the best space shooters ever made, and one of the greatest arcade games you can ever set your fingers and eyes upon to play: GAMMA BROS, BAYBEEE. Words can only describe a facsimile of how you feel when you’re playing this title, for it’s so simple in its construction, so instantly – intuitive in how it’s played, that it washes over you as one of those video games that you know is fun, you know is a damn good title, and yet struggle to describe what’s so damn appealing about it. Every mechanic is fine – tuned to perfection, every piece of the game’s design has weight and impact to it, and even though you can finish this game in an hour, it’s so difficult and so engaging that even when you get your shit kicked in by the final boss, you’re going to want to replay it again and again and again. This is one of the best games I’ve ever had the privilege of experiencing, and there’s only one word that I can say whenever I’m thinking about it: damn. Just “damn”.
Froge’s Special Runoff Honourees!
None of these games were worth giving my highest praises to or disparaging like some of the crap you’ve seen above, nor did they fit into any of the arbitrary award categories whose inclusion into which is more the luck of the draw than anything approaching an important accolade. But rather than leave some of the other titles I enjoyed or dispassionately hated in the dustbin of history, I’ve decided to throw a few of them in this special runoff section, which doesn’t mean they’re worthy of inclusion in the Froge Hall of Fame, but does mean I can give the honourees a fist bump and call them a cool dude. And, really, isn’t that what we all want out of life?
But first, the shitty titles. Mobs, Inc. was the winner of Ludum Dare number 1,392,383, which makes me think the past million or so competitions had nothing much going on either. It’s functional enough, but given how its gameplay has some finicky bollocks going on that would have taken less than an hour to fix, it is unforgiven. Momodora (the first one) similarly suffers from flawed design, but on a more fundamental level, where so much of the game seems to be included to meet a minimum arbitrary shittiness quota rather than be an enjoyable experience. At least the developer admits it was an old and unpolished game, especially against the sequels, so lessons learned there! And finally we have 100sec Action Hero, which is so hilariously and amateurishly so – bad – its – good that sometimes I just think about it and laugh my ass off. Seriously, thank you “NoraPerika”. You’ve done so much good with how bad your English is.
These games were so mediocre that I didn’t even bother to give them the designated mediocrity award. Mermaid Splash! Passion Festival is the video game equivalent of eating a big bag of carnival cotton candy: it looks like, it’s nice and light and fluffy, but before you’re even ten percent finished you already realise there’s nothing of substance in there, and you feel kind of sick for indulging in it. Aground was a decent – looking 2D Minecraft – Terraria – every – other – fucking – block – crafting – game thing, and to be fair it could have turned out a hell of a lot worse given its premise. But on the whole, I just look back on the hour or so I’ve spent seeing everything there is to see with that game, and I just feel numb for having played it. And finally there’s Princess Nom Nom, which was yet ANOTHER clicker game, only this time so sickeningly twee that I felt like the developers were hiding something sinister under the covers, like there was a secret code for a human trafficking ring buried embedded into its graphics. No such luck, but really, this game was just forgettable. Ironically this makes it easy to remember.
And these titles are also pretty good, but were sadly outshined by even better work, so bad luck, boys! Essence Hunt was a hecking gay yaoi visual novel that featured a really simple story written competently and with an art style that was inoffensively plain, but I still keep thinking about the characters within it and appreciate having read it, so it can’t be all bad, there. And then we have the Jack and Casie demo that’s full of personality and a great – looking art style that’s actually well – written, though with an inventory management gimmick that’s more akin to a micromanagement panic attack than a main mechanic. But it’s still filled to the brim with good ideas and surprising variety, and even though those selfish fucks on the dev team deleted my review, I still remember this one fondly. And then there’s Butterfly Soup, which dropped the ball on all its themes and had a dodgy and rushed plot structure, but it’s still got a hell of a lot of good jokes, some ideas that I can chew on, and characters that I ended up really liking at the end, so it might as well be the best of the run – offs and worthy of Froge’s most bumping fist bump. But don’t let it go to your head; novels like these never survive past the first year.
If your favourite video game did not make it into this article, it’s because I either didn’t consider them bad, bland, or good enough to show off in a special event, I didn’t have an arbitrary award to slot them into (or they were usurped by an even more fitting candidate), or they left so little of a lasting impact on me — good or bad — that I didn’t want to dignify them with a spotlight, even if I originally gave them a glowing review. There were many games that I would have liked to talk about, but given the nature and variety of some of them (being art games, tech demos, or just plain experiments), it was inevitable that they would be left out.
Well, it’s been fun putting up a slapdash imitation of an actual awards show of any importance, even though I half – assed the metaphor and used it instead as a platform for my bad opinions, but all of these are very real awards and every one of you deserve the lavish praise I have heaped upon you. Except for Gamma Bros, which was a piece of shit, and you know, you know what? I don’t even know why I put it in there. I’m stripping your award, I’m taking it away, and I’m giving it to the only indie game in this entire motherhecking industry that’s worth giving two heckies about: Super Mario Odyssey, congratulations on being the New Best Indie Game of 2017 And Also Fuck Gamma Bros!
Jokes aside, I want to emphasise that all of the good games on here are really solid titles, and that you can’t go wrong if you decide to play any one of them: even Momodora 2 and Gun Godz, which I just mentioned in passing, are still worth your time. Same for most of the three and four – star games that I’ve thrown up on the 2017 archives in my time. While I appreciate you looking at the review as opposed to the Itch.io page and determining whether they’re the type of game you’d like before you try them out, the star system is here for a reason, and even though I may have been too generous with some of my early ratings as I tried to be “nice” to those developers (also a reason why I no longer post my reviews on their pages: to avoid positive bias), you can know that if I gave these games and visual novels three stars or above, then at least I liked them. And if you’re like me, you might like them, too.
But we have to look towards 2018, and though I’m not much of a futurist because of most predictions being chalked up to blind luck rather any skill or clairvoyance, one of the most reliable trends is that whatever popular thing that came out last year is going to have imitators and inspirees coming out of the sewers for the next two years. The Dark Souls hype train is still high and mighty, Super Mario Odyssey and Breath of the Wild fucked with some heads, the Switch came out and told the entire industry to go fuck itself, and we’re still huffing fumes off the nostalgia – jerking train, even if Yooka – Laylee came out and ripped its own dick off.
So I expect to see a lot more “wild” and “wacky” 3D platformers like A Hat in Time and Odyssey come out, we’ll still keep seeing queer visual novels, the Itch.io blog will keep shilling games that aren’t actually games and bore me to tears, we’re going to keep getting games inspired by Dark Souls (which is pretty much its own microgenre by this point), we’re going to see more bullet – hell action games like Nier: Automata and Furi, we’re going to see more games focused on boss fights like Cuphead, and the indie scene, like its broodmothers Night in the Woods and Undertale, is going to suffer from a massive influx of sincerity and good, old – fashioned fun. It’s going to be a more innocent year, we’re going to try to escape The Cunt, and although none of us is going to say it, we’re also going to hope he gets the good old Abe Lincoln treatment and fucking die already.
If you ask me if I’m excited for such a zeitgeist, I will say that the time I most felt at home was in the Hotline Miami, Cyberpunk, Vapourwave, and Outrun scene of 2011 – 2015. Games like Payday 2 and Hotline Miami were my shit, and when the world got a little more weird back in those days, everything felt like a magical land of infinite wonder, until 2016 came along and became one of the worst years in modern history, even though I was mostly chilling and didn’t care about anything that happened in it. After a year like that rocked the world, it’s only natural our false nostalgia kicks in and hearkens back to the early 2000s — a time which is so far past that it might as well now be called “retro” — and try to replicate some of that whinging glee that the newly – minted game devs of the world grew up with, with cheery and bubbly art styles to match.
I’ve heard a lot of YouTubers and online commentators say that we’re living in one of the best times to be a gamer, and though I’m too cynical and learned of a man to get lost in that sort of optimism, I can’t disagree that for the majority of people, things have never been better, and their options have never been wider. Every year we stay alive, and every year The Scene keeps cracking the newest releases, our options just keep increasing, and we have the privilege to enjoy everything that has ever been produced in the world at no cost to us. The idea that anybody would ever want to limit the spread of this free and unlimited resource, and arbitrarily censor the greatest repository of information, knowledge, and culture that has ever existed, for the sake of some arbitrary notion of what’s right and wrong? I just can’t agree with that. That’s just fucking selfish to me.
As for me personally? Well, it’s business as usual for Kratzen, I’m going to keep on playing and reviewing indie games that get my attention — even if they aren’t the newest or the most popular — and I’m going to continue to be the Internet’s most honest, most readable, and most insightful critic that I can possibly be. I may not be perfect, and I may not always reach these ideals, but I’m always trying my hardest to be as knowledgeable and experienced in this medium that I love so much. And one day, when my time comes? I’m going to give back to it in a dynamite sucker – punch that will make all those armchair developers, and all those actual developers, take a look at me, and think: “Damn. I wish I was that guy”.
It’ll take a long time, a lot of work and struggle, but one day, you’re gonna see me up there with the big boys. And if I die before that happens? Well… it was a good life anyway. And I’m proud to have lived it.