The Caltrops Top 50 Games of 2010-2019: #29-21

We’re counting down the 50 greatest games of the decade, 2010-2019.

Previous entries:

Honorable Mentions: Part One
Entries #50 – 40
Entries #39 – 30

Below are #29 through #21.



#29 – POKEMON GO by Nintendo, 2016
Available on your phone in the app store.

This was a phenomenon. I attribute all the thinking a person does about a game to a game’s entire “rating” when trying to determine how good a game is. I hope that makes sense, I don’t know if it does, so I’ll try to explain. When I was a kid and we had maybe three computer games, I’d spend entire weeks thinking about how to get past certain puzzles in Zork. Not every moment of every week – in my middle school you had to also navigate your way around the future serial killers and other young failures, but those puzzles were on my mind. Similarly, you’re “playing” Pokemon Go from the moment you leave the house and go into the forest and throw balls at the Pokemons to when your parents have to pick you up, or until kids today finish cutting out the paper doll clothes for the guns they’re going to bring into school. Or whatever their days look like, not an anthropologist over here. I’m just a man that noticed that kids and adults alike were showing up late to school and work for this game and I’ve rated it accordingly.



#28- DRAGON’S DOGMA
Capcom

Mischief Maker says, “Shadow of the Colossus meets Dark Souls meets Devil May Cry meets Magic Tower. It’s one of those games that shot for the moon and came close enough to be amazingly unique. With a team of up to 3 AI-controlled “pawns” by your side, fight gigantic mythological monsters ranging from Chimeras to Cyclopses to the titular dragon by climbing all over them and stabbing them in the weak spot. People complain that the AI pawns are dumb, but there’s actually a game system where you “teach” the pawns how to fight enemy types by building up their knowledge bar, and can give it a boost by actually demonstrating the technique (like throwing an explosive barrel into a Hydra’s mouth). Once the bar gets high, they get pretty crafty in a fight. Protip: play as a hybrid class.”



#27 – SHADOWRUN: DRAGONFALL by Harebrained Schemes
Steam Link

Mischief Maker says, “Not only the best Shadowrun videogame of all time, but a serious contender for one of the best plot-heavy CRPGs of all time. It may not examine the human condition very deeply, but when the time comes to throw a moral decision at the player, it always throws a curve ball.”

FABIO says, “I’ve never given a harder “fuck you” to any NPC than Luca.

I have to audition to impress this Chinstrap McGee, who may or may not pay me at the end depending on how hard I make him stroke his soul patch? I did the first mission out of sheer curiosity then told him to get the fuck out of the neighborhood.”



#26 – FIVE NIGHTS AT FREDDY’S by Scott Cawthon
Steam Link

FullofKittens says, “There are four-ish animatronic dummys that are out to kill you.

Two of them (the bunny and the duckling) rove around the building, and will occasionally walk to your office to see if they can get in. If they can (the door is open), then they’ll walk in and kill you. (They technically can only kill you when you put the camera down, so if you have it down when they “walk in” then it seems like your door button is jammed, and then you’ll get killed after you check the camera again.) The only way to stop them is to keep their respective door closed, but of course you can’t leave the door closed because that… wastes power(?). When they walk up to check if you’re available, they’ll hang out in the camera blind spot for a few seconds. If you see them there (by hitting the light), lock the door until they get bored and wander away. They are the most common encounter.

There’s a fox dummy hiding behind the curtain in Pirate Cove. He is picky about how often you check on him with the camera: on some nights, he will come for you if you never check, on some nights it’s if you check too much, and on some nights it’s got to be just right. You can tell he’s starting to think about coming down because he will part the curtain and start looking at the camera. If you check Pirate Cove and he’s not there, he’s coming straight for you: you have several seconds to close the left door. If you look at the hallway between you and him, he starts sprinting towards you and you will probably die, you have like one second to close the door.

Then there’s Freddy, who allegedly adapts to your gameplay, can teleport in past locked doors, and really can only be stopped by keeping him at bay via a combination of watching him watching you from the hallway and keeping the right door closed. Freddy is also the dummy that gets you if you run out of power. He doesn’t really start moving until Night 3 or 4 though.”

It was a phenomenon. The creator made 4 sequels in a year and eventually made a game, “FNaF World” that was unfinished and broken and he had to pull it. Which is a shame, the jump scares and sense of dread was so real in the first one.



#25 – GRAND THEFT AUTO 5 by Rockstar North
Steam Link

There is an unwarranted organizational arrogance in regards to storytelling at Rockstar for the story mode to their Grand Theft Auto games, considering that at best they are a 10th-rate imposter of MAD Magazine and at worst they are a collection of insipid young nerdlings who clearly aspire to make terrible films and Scarface posters. Nobody has ever needed to hear what a GTA game has had to say; they are incapable of saying anything meaningful in single-player mode. It would be forgivable if we could bypass cut scenes but we usually (always?) can’t.

We like these games because we get to rampage in beautiful cities. I tried multiplayer for GTA5, though, and it was one of the most fun experiences I’ve ever had on-line.

Part of this is because my friends are funny, but with all the chaos in a typical GTA5 game you can’t help but sit back and laugh when your friends are enjoying it with you. We went on a couple missions and even just hanging out in one of the character houses, before the mission began, it was great. They have set up a system where it really is just you and your pals, we didn’t have to bother with the miserable screeches of typical on-line players. Our avatars looked ridiculous, I loved it. Multiplayer is setup to allow me, a zero-day, zero-level newb, hang with my more experienced (at GTA5) team mates. A wonderful decision, I was a bit worried that I’d have to “level up” first, but those in charge realized that just because someone is zero-level at GTA5, they juuuuuuuuuuust might have been playing games in general since Combat.

In fact, I can’t recall any of the single-player problems in multiplayer. The missions made sense, had good pacing and were interesting. At one point I was driving a car and a friend was able to set a waypoint for us, which was great as I hadn’t done that on the PS4 before. That was handy! The entire system seems streamlined to allow the four of us to simply HAVE FUN. We only played for a few hours, but it’s a goddamn triumph.

An excellent addition to what has been a franchise that really made you say, “It’s a great game, but” before this. There’s no buts now.

(Christmas GTA5 also gave us this delightfulness.)



#24 – DEAD RISING 2 by Capcom Vancouver
Steam Link

bombMexico says, “Zombies streaming through the doors, whats the first thing you grab? If you said duct tape, you get points for trying. The answer is swordfish.”

(Thanks to IGN for the screenshot.)



#23 – UNDERRAIL by Stygian Software
Steam Link

I knew it was a good game but I had no idea what could be beyond the first couple of hours. Then SsethTzeentach came out with this video. In no order, this is one of the greatest YouTube reviews I’ve ever seen, this instantly sold me on getting the DLC or expansion or whatever for UnderRail, it made me put another few hours into the game and it’s the greatest commercial anyone could ever make for a game. I think the culture of video reviewing is a natural step in game reviews because so many written-word game journalists hate games or the hobby or their readers. This video is bursting with JOY. A vicious joy, sure. A macabre joy… but joy.



#22 – COUNTERFEIT MONKEY by Emily Short
Interactive Fiction Database Link

There was a game once, Leather Goddesses of Phobos, that gave you a T-removing machine. When you use it you can remove the letter “T” from things – a rabbit becomes a rabbi, that sort of thing. Emily Short took that mechanic, introduced a full-alphabet letter remover and seamlessly integrated it into an 8 hour text adventure. There is so much more going on in the game than just a fun text adventure toy to play with, there is real depth to the player character relationship with themselves (sic) and an entirely different world and reality to explore. This game is from an artist at the height of her powers and probably the one I’d give to a veteran adventure game player looking to try a text game for the first time in years.



#21 – WASTELAND 2 by inXile Entertainment
Steam Link

A Kickstarter success story, they screwed up the balance at the beginning for Wasteland 2 and didn’t exactly correct it for the very first patch. It eventually became one of the best RPGs of all-time with the Director’s Cut. One of the best “moving little dudes around the screen” tactic games, Wasteland 2 implemented a game design choice to have the player pick one of two maps or boards to “save” at the beginning of the game, letting the other one rot. That’s a ballsy decision, making it so that some percentage of your game will never be experienced by players on their first playthrough, but what the hell, it was their backers’ money. A worthy sequel to 1986’s original for home computers, there are fun squad-based tactics, decent writing and in-game decisions with consequences.


The Caltrops Top 50 Games of 2010-2019: #39-30

We’re counting down the 50 best games of the decade, as tallied by the readers and posters of the Caltrops forum over the last ten years.

Honorable Mentions: Part One
Entries #50 – 40



#39 – THAUMISTRY: IN CHARM’S WAY by Bob Bates (2017)
Steam Link

Bob Bates made two games under the Infocom label – the Sherlock Holmes and Arthur ones – and then co-founded Legend Entertainment where he worked on games like Spellcasting 101, Eric the Unready, Gateway and Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon. Those are really solid games. Bob didn’t stop thinking about what makes a good text adventure since Infocom broke up though and what Thaumistry is, is a close-up view of a guy that never lost being able to craft a game in a genre that at one time was the best genre in the world. This is a throwback (in terms of author competence) with modern sensibilities so there isn’t a lot of dumb text adventure parser confusion.



#38 – DEVIL DAGGERS by Sorath (2016)
Steam Link

Your mission in Devil Daggers is to stay alive for as long as possible. A good game is, what, 200 seconds of it? I tried everything to get the counter to increase without actually playing the game. I tried to pause the game. I tried to shut the game down via the Task Manager and hop back on, hoping it would pick up where it left off. I tried to lock up all of my computer’s memory and freeze Devil Daggers that way by running two concurrent tabs of Chrome. The game itself – throw daggers at enemies that are trying to kill you – is great, but the game inside the game, which is attempting every maneuver possible to cause the timer to keep ticking while the game is paused – well, that take on the game I can at least mess with for more than 25 seconds per attempt.



#37 – BABA IS YOU by Hempuli Oy (2019)
Steam Link

Pinback says, “Originally a (winning) itch.io Game Jam submission, a much-expanded, full version is now out on Steam.

It’s a Sokoban-y, block-pushing puzzle game, with the following, wonderful twist: Some of the blocks are words, and the rules of the level are spelled out in these words. The three blocks “WALL” “IS” “STOP” all lined up mean that any wall blocks will stop you. But if you push one of those blocks away, WALL is no longer STOP. One of the main rules that the levels begin with is the titular “BABA IS YOU”, but even this most basic rule can also be mutated based on how you push the words around. Every level provides at least one joyful moment of unexpected discovery and clever rule-bending.

It is the most brilliant puzzle game you will play this year, and maybe ever. If you don’t believe me, which you don’t, you can still play the Game Jam version for free here, and then instabuy the Steam version and come back and apologize for doubting me: https://hempuli.itch.io/baba-is-you

Amazing.”



#36 – AKANE by Ludic Studios (2018)
Steam Link

I am always worried that games like Akane are from a genre that I haven’t seen before, so I attribute everything cool about the genre to the first game I played of it. Like if the first shooter you ever played was TekWar. It’d seem pretty revolutionary. I haven’t seen other games like Akane, so if I’m the asshole here, just let me know. The gameplay has you playing a gal with a sword and a gun. Enemies – some ninjas – come out in waves. The easiest thing to do is to hit the mouse buttons to slash them with your sword.

But you get a gun, too. There is a significant cooldown when it comes to the gun, so you can’t use it too much.

The gun is activated by hitting the left shift key. I don’t believe there is a way to remap keys in Akane. When you are hitting left shift … well, if you can still move (via WASD) while doing that you’re superhuman. Therefore, Akane gives you a gun to shoot these clowns in the head, but the specific key used means you have to make a decision as to how much moving you’re doing. And while left shift activates it, you aim with the mouse. I said in my original review that it’s like Defender in so much as the controls are “advanced” and mastery of them is required to get good at the game.



#35 – SHADOW WARRIOR 2 Flying Wild Hog (2016)
Steam Link

Mischief Maker says, “The best yet implementation of the Painkiller-school of FPS design with randomly generated maps chock full of explosive items to blow up in your enemies’ faces. I prefer it to DOOM 2016, the mobility is superior and instead of canned fatality animations, enemy dismemberment is dynamic. It’s also jaw-droppingly gorgeous but surprisingly easy on the hardware requirements. The one ding against the game is the menu for navigating weapon upgrades is a little awkward, but you can beat the game on normal without slotting any upgrades.”

This is ICJ again. I just want to add that Shadow Warrior 2 gets big points from me because the graphics are probably still top-5 for me, in terms of all the games I’ve ever played and it is the only game I’ve ever played that does the checkpoint thing yet has checkpoints often. Shadow Warrior 2 looks nice and wants you to play with it.



#34 – SAINTS ROW 4 by Deep Silver (2013)
Steam Link

I brought up Saints Row 4 to get a screenshot for this piece of the article. It has cloud saves, so I restarted where I last played, which was a couple years and one PC ago. My player character isn’t wearing anything but boots and glasses. There is a giant mascot-like character rampaging in a town and doing Magneto shit like flipping cars around and bringing people up in the air and letting them fall. I start shooting at it, but when I start doing that cops start shooting at me. I get the mascot-monster-thing’s attention and a Brinks truck comes out of nowhere and smashes into it, sending it flying. I take the opportunity to start shooting the shotgun I have at it and then it attacks me some more.

This was INSTANTLY after loading the save game.

Why did I ever stop playing this? Why is this franchise less famous than GTA or Red Dead Redemption or others in the genre? Has there ever been a game more serious about instant carnage, mayhem, fun and craziness than Saints Row 4?



#33 SUPER MARIO ODYSSEY by Nintendo (2017)
Go get the thing at Gamestop I GUESS

Here’s the latest perfect Mario game from the perfect publisher. Just perfect. Everything about the franchise has been absolutely perfect since Donkey Kong 3. Not a single screw up, not a single game that isn’t addictive. Not a Sonic R to be found. SMO is gorgeous, it sold (and sells) Switches, the jumping is right, the movement is right and the new thing – the hats – well of course that’s perfect too. They took the one thing that Tron games had and made it their own. It’s the latest perfect game in the perfect franchise so enjoy, it won’t get better than this until they make the next absolutely perfect Mario game. God, I’d love to fuck up the mascara on this one just once. Just once make Mario raise an eyebrow toward Luigi and say something like, “He’s not really going to leave that Kool-Aid spill for us to clean-a, is he?” as I’m eating cold fried chicken on the (their) couch. Some rebel at Nintendo that leaves work before 9PM: send me an e-mail if we can do Mario in a text adventure.



#32 NHL 16 by EA Canada (2015)
Playstation Store

It’s been a bad decade for sports games, and I am someone that loves sports games. The NFL sold exclusive rights for football to the EA Sports Madden series. My brother has played each one of these non-stop for ten years and beyond and he loathes the franchise. Baseball’s been dogshit since the Hardball, Micro League and MVP series left and the Super Mega Baseball franchise is okay but not good enough that anyone mentioned it for this list. That leaves hockey and basketball and since most people on Caltrops are Canadian, the NHL series got some love. I’m picking NHL 16 because that is the one I played and it has Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel in it and frankly, that’s the bare minimum I need out of these games, at least give me those two guys.

I bought the NHL ‘xx series from EA for almost 15 years and grew to hate them at the end. I was prepared to hate this, but NHL 16 is good in both arcade and “simulation” mode. Additionally, you can just start up a shootout between you and the person next to you. There are no real issues with this game – maaaybe “Normal” mode is too easy and “Advanced” or whatever the top mode is, you need to be perfect, but like we said in Banished this is a GAME, I expect that. I played almost an entire regular season on this, which I haven’t done since EA’s NHL 99. (Which, I learned, doesn’t end after 82 or 84 games, whatever it is, it just let me keep chugging until game 105 with no playoffs when I stopped. I’m sure Roger Goodell’s dick would puncture his slacks if told about that bug.) One more thing – in the screenshot, Eichel is wearing #15. I successfully bought a knock-off jersey from China for twenty five bucks when he was a rookie. I was shocked it arrived and fit a US American. For a second I didn’t even hate the Chinese government. Then Eichel decided he wanted to change to #9 and did so, rendering my jersey a relic. Thanks, Captain Jack. Thanks, Jack and Free Hong Kong.



#31 THE ELDER SCROLLS V: SKYRIM by Bethesda Softworks (2011)
Steam Link

Special thanks to Caltrops poster Tony, who hasn’t been on the forum for 9 years, for the screenshot. I ain’t topping that.



#30 ROAD REDEMPTION by Q-Games, Pixel Dash Studios
Steam Link

I wrote a review of Road Redemption for Caltrops last year.

I don’t have a motorcycle any longer. I was moving and there was a dirt road leading to the new place and it wouldn’t stop snowing in early 2019 and after spending $500 to get it fixed in November of 2018, the thing wouldn’t reliably start in March of 2019. I was just done with it. Additionally, my neighbor twice chased off would-be car thieves for me and was going through a bad turn, so I just gave him the bike. The one thing I needed to communicate to him is that riding a motorcycle without a helmet – well, you figure out why they had to make LAWS in some states forcing you to do it. It’s great, it’s the best thing ever. Zooming around by yourself in April or early October with no helmet? It’s better than most of the games on this list. We’re ranking just human experiences after this and heads-up, after reading the tea leaves on the forum for this one, riding a motorcycle without a helmet is well above anything involving condoms and most experiences featuring dental dams. It’s a crazy, dangerous thing to do to yourself and your loved ones and of course you shouldn’t do it. But if you do do it once you realize why they have to legislate it, that’s all I’m saying.

The Caltrops Top 50 Games of 2010-2019: #50-40

Welcome to the Caltrops list of the 50 best games of the decade, which was from 2010 to 2019. Here is a link to the previous article, which had some honorable mentions. And if you’d like to discuss the list with people, please do! This is the way to the Caltrops forum.

Entries #39-30
Honorable Mentions Part One



#50 – CITIES: SKYLINES by Colossal Order Ltd. (2015)
Steam Link

There was an attempt by Electronic Arts to make an online Sim City game that was online all the time, even in single-player and of course the release was incompetent and they even said themselves it was dumb. Eventually they made an offline mode for this single-player game like they were doing us a favor. The game was awful, the maximum city size was small and it seemed like that was the end of SimCity games.

Then Cities: Skylines was released. Holy shit, it was amazing. This was “all EA had to do” and by that I mean not attempt to go cryptofacsist on their customers, but of course they can’t do that. Cities: Skylines is a beautiful, immersive game that the Caltrops forum spent weeks HGLUAHGLUAHGLUAing over. We all played it and loved it.

“Yeah, but for a Wittgenstein city aren’t you mostly just yelling at all the new citizens to leave? 8)” — Mysterio, 3/11/2015



#49 – XCOM2 by Firxasis (2016)
Steam Link

On one hand, it seems less than ideal to include a game that so frustrated valued forum member FABIO. On the other hand, he came around on it and XCOM2 had lots of advocates. The thing is, XCOM and XCOM2 are always going to be behind the eight ball when they start. X-COM from 1994 is possibly the greatest computer game ever made. XCOM2’s objective is to be better at being an X-COM game than the RoboCop and Total Recall remakes were at being RoboCop and Total Recall. And I think that while XCOM2 makes some odd choices (the 4-troop limit, starting you with pre-made characters, having panic when the troop limit is 4) they are much better at attempting to recapture what the original X-COM game did 25 years ago than most soft reboots and remakes. We have an entire base where the topic is Guess Who Fucked Up X-COM now. The highest praise I can give XCOM2 is that they didn’t.



#48 – Retrobooster by Really Slick (2014)
Steam Link

The first time I played Retrobooster, I just wanted ten minutes of solace. My life is a lot less hectic now, but Retrobooster is so much fun because it’s the next game in the Asteroids -> Asteroids Deluxe -> Choplifter -> Gravitar -> Gravitron 2 lineage. You’re in a gorgeous alien world where your mission is to shoot down enemies and not squash little guys who are on your side. The game’s writing is beautifully integrated within the actual game world while you’re playing. We’ve seen things like the high score table being part of the experience in, say, Omega Race, but I can’t remember ever seeing this effect before. It forces you (at times) to read or shoot. And it looks so good when things are blowing up.



#47 – Mount and Blade: Warband by Taleworlds Entertainment (2010)
Steam Link

Roop says, “I looked through my Most Played Steam List, and it was all just games I ran multiple times with mods, like Skyrim. I wouldn’t call that close to game of the decade, but because of all the creative mods I sure spent a lot more time than I should have with that janky fucking thing. Then there’s Warband. I didn’t ever mod that one but holy crap, I spent so many hundreds of hours on that game and then all over again on each of the two expansions. It’s clearly my most loved game… and it’s almost sad really. Not once did I ever finish a campaign!



#46 – Slay the Spire by Mega Crit Games (2019)
Steam Link

pinback says, “Awesome combination of deckbuilder and roguelike. If you like either of those styles, I find it impossible to think you wouldn’t get into it in a big way.”

Rafiki says, “This game is great and very addictive. The UI is damn near perfect. Cards display how much damage or block they’re going to do, and if you have modifiers that raise or lower the amount it’s automatically reflected on the cards themselves and colored green or red to let you know if you’re doing above or below the base amount. Relics that trigger after certain events, like every 3 turns, 10 attacks, or 6 plays, helpfully have counters attached to them. Each turn, you can see what an enemy plans to do (attack, defend, buff, etc) in a little icon over their head so you can plan accordingly. If you want to know what a buff or debuff is on your or an enemy, just mouse right over it and a clear and concise tooltip will explain it. Whoever designed this UI deserves an award. If I could make a single change, it would be to the damage modifier for vulnerability. Vulnerability makes an enemy take more damage, and to see the damage increase you have to drag a card and hold it over the appropriate enemy to see what the effect will be. I’d love to just be able to mouse over an enemy and have the cards auto-update, although I can see why they did it the way they did since you can sometimes have 10 cards in your hand which crowds out the ability to see the effects of all of them.

The artwork and presentation is simple, but it’s fine. You’re not going to really remember any enemies or attacks, but you’ll be focusing on your hand anyways. The upside is you don’t have to sit through 20 minute Final Fantasy animations. The cards are where the bulk of the artwork went and they look good, and the cards for each character have completely different visual styles, which is really nice. The music is good and doesn’t become grating after repeated playthroughs.”



#45 – Trover Saves the Universe by Squanch Games, Inc. (2019)
Steam Link

This is what Erik Wolpaw said about this game before it was released: “[Jay] Pinkerton and I spent about a month breaking story with Justin Roiland on Trover Saves The Universe. Here’s the trailer, which contains a lot of swearing. And I don’t mean like one or two “damns” 30 seconds in, either. The hardcore swearing starts at second zero and then continues pretty much uninterrupted by words that aren’t swears for about 3 minutes.” Rather than link to that, I will link to this extended ad that came out, which is hilarious and this fake ad by RedLetterMedia. RLM was told to just make something funny even if it had nothing to do with the game itself.

I bought Trover on day one and the game itself is just as funny as the ads are promoting it. Look, video games are usually extremely unfunny. Most games are not even good enough to make you push slightly more air through nostrils than one normally pushes. There are jokes everytime you go to do something in Trover and they always made me laugh. Maybe it’s because I enjoy anything Justin Roiland says, but if you’re looking for the funniest game of the decade, it’s this one.



#44 Banished by Shining Rock Software LLC. (2014)
Steam Link

Billed as a city-building strategy game, inspired pinback to write the following:

These are the main complaints in almost every critical review I’ve read of this game.

1. It’s TOO HARD: Hey genius, that’s why they call it a GAME. A game about SURVIVING with a handful of numbnuts in the middle of nowhere. I’m sorry you keep running out of food and wood. Perhaps click “restart” and try something else? Plenty of people have managed to build thriving towns of hundreds of citizens, even without whining about how hard it was to get there! If you just want to hang out in the woods and have everything go right for you, play fucking Proteus or some shit.

2. The UI SUCKS: This one I truly cannot forgive. The UI is fantastic. How did that one review put it:

“This doesn’t excuse the woeful interface, how it presents itself as prettily minimalist but in fact you need to manually keep open and arranged several, heavily statistical and visually tedious windows throughout.”

LOLOLOL. SEVERAL TEDIOUS WINDOWS. Look: open the little town summary window. Open the job list window. YOU ARE DONE! And they cover about 1/20th of the screen, and give you everything you need to know about everything. I can’t help it if your contacts prescription is off and you can’t read the tiny little numbers and letters, but when you can do and see everything you need to play a game, AND the main screen is still perfectly visible and uncluttered, THAT’S A GOOD INTERFACE.

And how do you “manually keep open” windows? Look, they stay open all by themselves! SCIENCE!?!?

I can’t believe ONE GUY wrote this entire game. It’s the most compelling city-builder I’ve played since SimCity 2000.

Editor: Giggity.



#43 My Friend Pedro by DeadToast Entertainment (2019)
Steam Link

Max Payne crossed with Contra crossed with Hotline Miami. And it looks great and it’s about a bipolar person. Caltrops has a long history of letting bipolar people’s behavior slide, and My Friend Pedro is no different.

The game uses “ballet” in its description, which I first saw used with the original Max Payne game. That took a lot of guts, to go the other way to describe their game using that word at that time when the press turned on Romero for being too manly about his marketing. Max Payne as a franchise has really lost its way and although My Friend Pedro is 2D, it’s a fine successor to making gunplay poetic.



#42 Marvel’s Spider-Man by Insomniac Games (PS4) (2018)
Playstation Store Link

(I’m amused by the fact that after release they tried re-branding this as “Marvel’s Spider-Man.” As someone who bought it on day one I can tell you, quite categorically, that nobody was calling it “Marvel’s Spider-Man.” If you’re going to pretend there aren’t a bunch of other games that have the exact same name because your marketing team is dumb then at least have the balls to stick with that decision and not try to get us all to call it something else later, you cowards.)

There is a guy that cosplays in the area where I work in a Spider-Man costume, and it’s the one from this game. It is my goal to take a photograph of this man, therefore sort of turning me into Peter Parker when he dresses up as Spider-Man. The cosplayer sometimes gets asked to leave the area by security and I think if the place where I work ever gets exploded by the Hobgoblin shortly after security ran off the guy already dressed in the Spider-Man costume, my call to 911 is going to sound a lot like Kevin Cosgrove’s although I’ll be a lot more disappointed and my call will have a lot more sighing.



#41 Hollow Knight by Team Cherry (2017)
Steam Link

Entropy Stew, a programmer, says, “That is the best recommendation I can give to any game, because I just don’t play to the end anymore. I could have been playing Zelda of all things, but this drew me away. It’s the best money I’ve spent on a game since Rocket League.”



#40 Kerbal Space Program by Squad (2015)
Steam Link

Welp, I went through the comments on Caltrops and found this post by skip where he talks about the awful work conditions the developers put their remote workers under and this post by Jsoh Cable where he states that the alpha might turn into something nice after a thousand more updates. None of this really affects the game itself, of course.

It did get a good number of votes and I’ve had multiple jobs where people have talked about how much they love it at work. There’s a thread on their forum where the developers simply ask the question, “What did you do in KSP today?” and it’s got 15,000 replies. And they are still updating it, so I guess it really did get that thousand updates Jsoh was asking for.

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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