The Caltrops Top 50 Games of 2010-2019 Part One: Honorable Mentions

It’s time for the Caltrops list of the best games of the decade. How was this list made? By discussion on the Caltrops forum over the last ten years, voting e-mails written to the admin, outright voting in one of our threads and interpersonal discussions the admin had with regulars. Some of the voters who voted for the list are friends with some of the developers whose games made it onto this list. And I have been informed that forum member Commander TDARCOS had sex with the Victor Vran team. I assume. The notes given to me just says he made them gag. With that, here are exactly zero of the top 50 games, but instead the HONORABLE MENTIONS!

MARVEL PUZZLE QUEST by Demiurge Studios (2013)
Steam Link
Thoughts by Caltrops Senior Writer Jerry Whoreback:
I just finished Marvel Puzzle Quest. Not as good as the original Puzzle Quest, much better than Puzzle Quest 2, it was fine. I think I would’ve liked it more if it was harder and if I didn’t have to level anyone up or unlock anything. I liked that I could have Storm on my team from the beginning. I didn’t like that unlockable Mohawk Storm was treated as a different character, so none of the special moves I unlocked for regular Storm would carry over. I like mohawks more than most, but I’m not going from a Storm with all the special moves to a Storm with none of the special moves. I’m not stupid.

There wasn’t a whole lot of Marvel artwork, probably one drawing of each hero at rest, one of them attacking, and a profile bust for the status bar. No animation to speak of. There were dozens of heroes, but most of them were unlocked without any special moves, and unlocking special moves was a random grinding thing that took forever. I finally got She-Hulk near the end and added her to my team for the final battles, despite her being completely useless without any moves. Even carrying a full one-third of my team as dead weight it was still too easy – not only did I never lose, I was never even in danger of losing. And I’m not some Bejeweled master, always thinking three turns ahead; I’m mostly thinking about what She-Hulk’s bum would look like if I could turn her picture around.

I can tell I liked Marvel Puzzle Quest well enough because I’m just bursting with suggestions for how to make it better, and fluids to spray all over the back of She-Hulk’s picture. I don’t have any idea how you could make Limbo better except to make it a different game.


FROG FRACTIONS by TwinBeard Studios (2012)
Link to play

There is a fun bit in the Wikipedia entry for Frog Fractions. “[Developer Jim] Crawford released Frog Fractions earlier than he wanted, when he sent an incomplete version to the 2013 Independent Games Festival as a ‘Main Competition Entrant’ but was told that he needed to increase the game’s popularity before it would be accepted.” More detail is in the original source: “[Crawford] had submitted an unfinished version for review at the Independent Games Festival, but was told he needed to build more buzz around the title. The irony, he says, is that building buzz is why he submitted the game in the first place.” It is very, very nice of Jim to use the word “irony” because reading about this for the first time this week, I would characterize what the IGF said as “abject stupidity.” Imagine holding tryouts for your baseball team and then telling the most promising walk-on that you’ll sign him if only he increases his follower count on the Gram. I’m sure not every one of these festivals or jams are staffed by idiots but it sure seems that way.



PREY by Arkane Studios (2017)
Steam Link
Thoughts by Worm:
Prey (2006) will forever reign as having the best opening of any FPS ever. You play arcade games in a bar and then two guys try to fight you so you beat them to death with a wrench and your girlfriend screams at you. Little does that twat know there’s an alien invasion and your recent manslaughter won’t even matter.

Alternatively, Prey (2017) had a cool idea but decided to just give you a tutorial and have everything go to hell, just like every FPS ever, except the ones that start with things already gone to hell.

Altogether this is the Skyrim space station game, it’s fun and feels seriously influenced by System Shock to a point where it’s the actual System Shock 3 you wanted BioShock to be. You walk around and have quests and find people’s bodies, shit pops out and scares you and whatever it’s a good time.



WORTHY by Pixelglass Games (2018)
Purchase Link

Worthy is a brand new Amiga game that was released in 2018. The premise of the game is that you’re a “fearless boy” collecting all the diamonds on a particular level to prove to the gal in the game that you are (wait for it) Worthy. Each level has like 50 diamonds and the boy has to navigate traps and things trying to kill him. When I last bought a diamond ring all I had to navigate was the fact that carriers stole half the packages sent to our house in downtown Denver and literally not a single thing was done by the complete wastes of space at the postal office servicing our area. It’s not that Worthy teaches us that there are monsters when it comes to delivery of packages containing priceless gems, what Worthy teaches us is that those monsters can be defeated.

(The post office that used to be ours eventually closed.)



LEGEND OF GRIMROCK by Almost Human Games (2012)
Steam Link
jeep says, “It’s just like Eye of the Beholder, but now your computer is fast enough that you can maneuver around the enemies. if you can even remember the Eye of the Beholder games you have a big advantage because the walls and stuff have secret buttons in the same spots.”

The amazing thing that Almost Human Games did is create a grid-based CRPG crawler – a “blobber” if you will, on their own. As opposed to what inXile did, which was scam thousands of their fans out of one and a half million dollars based on blobber nostalgia and then just make some unfinished … thing that had absolutely nothing to do with CRPG blobbers in any way. (When reading the word “thing” there, I mean to be mentally heard in the same way that Hans Gruber, who helped us bridge the gap between the original Nazis and neo-Nazis when we needed something in between the most, might show contempt toward Sergeant Al Powell when he learns that Al is impotent when it comes to blowing people away with machine guns during his – Gruber’s – lifetime.)

Din’s Legacy (PC)

No Man’s Sky has recently released yet another disappointing update that adds a fresh coat of paint to its lifeless Potemkin Village of a galaxy, but fails to deliver the living world promised by the infamous E3 trailers where I could join in, I could take sides. Defenders of No Man’s Sky say that delivering a living world is unrealistic, it’d take 50 years and $500 million to produce a game like that, “you ask the impossible!” But then, like Yoda lifting Luke’s X-Wing out of the swamp, indie developer Soldak not only creates procedurally generated worlds far more alive than even NMS’s wildest promises, it’s been making them for more than a decade.

Din’s Legacy is Soldak’s latest “living world” ARPG. While the game is as straightforward to play as Torchlight, the procedural world building, event generating, and player character mutation approaches Rimworld levels of procedural anarchy. All the more crazy because Din’s Legacy gobbled up all the innovations of its four preceding games.

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Dead Rising 2 And The Lack of Rebindable Controls


Dead Rising 2's 'Controls' Menu
This is it, this is Dead Rising 2’s complete ‘Controls’ menu. Complete and unedited, which you can totally tell, because I would not let an edited version keep Uncanny Katie around.

Looking at the review averages for this game, it’s pegged at about 77%. HOW? It lacks one of those most basic interface options in PC gaming, rendering it unplayable. “Hmm, if you don’t like the default controls, the game is unplayable. I give it………………….77 PERCENT!” Jesus Christ, did no one notice this? Did anyone think it was important enough to bring up?

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American Fugitive (PC)

So this is 2D GTA, I figured why not. I’m using keyboard and mouse, but I have a feeling a controller would be better. The camera is excellent, zooms in and out as it needs to, here it pulled back and to the right a bit as I sped up in that white car. It saves anywhere, no safehouse (yet anyway). Steam link.


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Short Review: DARQ (PC)


Well, I WAS playing it. Now I’m not, because it’s over. If you’re the type who think 2 hours for a $20 game is too much, this MIGHT change your mind, but maybe not. The puzzles are relatively straightforward, only a handful of times straying from “go everywhere, find everything, try to use everything on everything”. However, “going everywhere” is not quite as straightforward as your average graphic adventure, due to the rule/gravity-breaking nature of the game’s mechanics.

But none of that is what gives the game its value. It’s purely presentation that puts this over the top. Amazing, AMAZING to look at, during every single moment of those two hours.

If you’re in the mood for a little creepy surreality mixed with light puzzles and phenomenal production values, I think it’s definitely worth the $20, and I say this as someone who was gifted it.

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Katana Zero (PC)

I’ve become somewhat notorious over the years for my dislike of art games, specifically games that use their artistic pretensions as an excuse for crappy-to-nonexistent gameplay. But let me be clear, if someone made a God Hand 2 with the same quality gameplay wedded to a woke storyline, wonderful! By all means, bring your SJW politics into my videogames, as long as it plays well.

Katana Zero (Steam)seems to be a developer’s intentional attempt to stretch my art game philosophy to the breaking point. Because Katana Zero has really good gameplay, but its arthouse pretentions threaten to smother that completely.


Fast-paced action swordplay!

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Frostpunk (PC)

I bought this on the cheap from a disreputable Steam key seller, and haven’t done much else since other than my job and taking care of my family and shoveling the snow and oh god somebody kill me please


It’s a challenging, tight survival/city-builder set in a frozen crater. The limited, confined terrain doesn’t leave much room for creativity in terms of layout, but the constant threat of freezing/dying/mutiny/BABIES BEING SACRIFICED FOR HEAT keeps the action tense. Everything requires heat, which radiates out from a generator at the center of the map. Key tech upgrades allow cranking up the level and range of the heat provided by the generator, which become more and more crucial as the temperature continues to drop.

Besides that you’ll spend most of your time trying to bring in more resources and research more tech to allow you to support more people so you can bring in more resources and more tech so you can support more people so you can, etc., etc. Then there’s the occasional story point where decisions can be made and laws can be passed, each of which affects the game’s systems, usually in both good and bad ways, so the tradeoffs all need to be considered.

You’re also able to send scouts out to explore the larger world, which consists of a map with thumbtacks on it, which, once you reach them, offer some variety of reward (or usually multiple rewards that you must choose from), reveal more locations to explore, and generally move the story along.

Meanwhile, you’re treated to one of the more gorgeous/well-made city builders you’ll ever seen. Everything looks great, everything sounds great, the writing is strong, everything is spelled correctly. It just screams quality from top to bottom. And it feels cold.

Criticisms (and relatively low average hour-count on the Steam reviews) speak to one possible drawback, that being that once the “main storyline” is complete (which if you succeed, I’m told takes about a dozen hours?) there’s no reason to go back. However, since then, 11bit has added an endless mode, more scenarios, more maps, and have promised even more in the coming year, so there should be plenty to do if you end up digging it. Of course, it may take several tries to complete the main game. It’s pretty tough! I’ve already had to restart a few times, but it’s a compelling enough experience that I don’t mind hitting the “New Game” button again.

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Mischief Maker’s Top 7 GOG Winter Sale Recommendations

Overload

With all this talk about the lost greatness of 90s FPS games, let’s not forget that there is a game that accurately recreates and improves on the gameplay of the classic Descent, by the original Descent team, that’s already out and already awesome. I’m more than a little worried the upcoming game named “Descent” not by the original team is gonna steal this game’s thunder/totally suck.

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Road Redemption (PC)

There is a quote by Shigeru Miyamoto that idiots use because it doesn’t apply any longer. The quote is, “A delayed game is eventually good, but a rushed game is forever bad.” This was true when Nintendo was putting games on cartridges long after everyone else did. It doesn’t apply any longer unless you’re making 2600 games for the Atari Age Store, I guess. Road Redemption is one of those games that has overcome extinction events that destroy other games and continually gotten better.



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Madden NFL 19 (Xbox One)

You cannot get an honest review of Madden anywhere. Any notable review site is either too afraid of losing access and early copies, or will rubber stamp an elite rating while not mentioning anything positive about this years edition. I will try my best.The greatest trick Madden pulls is to add “new” features that have either been in previous editions and taken away or were available in games made 20 years ago and EA is just catching on.

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