10. Persona 4: Golden (PSVita)
In a year when I rediscovered my voracious appetite for insane Japanese games in time for the releases of THE LAST GUARDIAN and FINAL FANTASY XV, as usual, Sony have been able to more than satisfy that particular hunger with mid-year sale on PSN of all kinds of oddities along with some stone cold classics. I managed to grab KILLER IS DEAD, ICO, SHADOW OF THE COLOSSUS, AKIBA’S TRIP and TALES OF SYMPHONIA, all of which contain some dazzling experiences, but none are as mind bending as PERSONA 4: Golden.
On the surface of it, a straightforward JRPG with all the dungeon trappings that are part and parcel of the genre. What distinguishes this from the rest of the crowd is the split in realities of the day and night worlds your character inhabits. By day you’re trying to make it through high school life, trying to network as much as you can being the new kid in town whilst trying to get to the bottom of some mysterious disappearances and grisly murder scenes.
It’s a bit of an oddity not only for the game itself, but for the format that it’s available on. It’s a PSVita exclusive, a format that Sony pretty much forgot about the day after it was released. If you have a taste for a game that can take in excess of a hundred and forty hours to complete (I’m nowhere near that yet) this can offer you a very rewarding time.
9. Mini Metro (iOS / Android / PC)
A beautifully simple puzzle game based on a wonderfully obvious visual concept. Imagine having the London Underground map (among many others) open to you to completely re-imagine and create a network of nodes, lines, interchanges, tunnels and rolling stock on the fly. The gentle, un-intrusive audio using basic tones is an elegant and relaxed counterpoint to the chaos that can ensue on screen as you feverishly realise that you’ve got one line that’s become unbelievably overcrowded and you’re running out of options very rapidly.
A logic problem that appears to defy logic. Wonderful.
8. The Wolf Among Us (Just about every format)
This is my introduction to the world of TellTale Games, and after hearing the other guys on our team talk about the somewhat uneven output of this studio while we discussed this very title, I’m still itching to give them a go. A very satisfying game that ties itself up without demanding too much of you over the perfectly paced few hours it runs for.
7. Aux B (Android / iOS)
I blame fellow LGR alumni Stuart Neill for this. Then he’s responsible for introducing a lot of people to a lot of quirky, intriguing flat out fun games. This is especially the case when it comes to the mobile platforms which, for the most part, I’m completely ignorant of. As a musician who’s spent the last thirty plus years surrounded by patch cables for one thing or another, this fiendish little puzzler unleashed the (not so) inner geek in me to full effect. Routing your input through ever more complex and myriad connections to your final output has never been such a joy.
6. Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens (PS4 / XB1 / PS3 / 360)
2016 has provided some great gaming experiences and pretty much par for the course, there’s the arrival of yet another Lego game. For most franchises, the arrival of another in a lengthy sixty plus list would be enough to make you vomit bricks, but somehow Travellers Tales’ take on all things Lego seem to know exactly how far to go as far as playing with the tried and tested formula with new twists without upsetting the immense fan base. With this entry, the emphasis is focused more on action than it’s ever been, but while this is ramped up, the problem solving and puzzle aspects have also been toughened up with the inclusion of multiple kit build options for each situation.
It really pains me to see this great example of the Lego series narrowly miss my top five of the year, but like I said, 2016 has proven itself to be a fine vintage of a year in gaming.