It’s that time of year again, where we look back at the year that was, and pick our top three games across a host of categories! As with years past we’ll reveal one award winner per day, and this year we’ve got a massive 17 different awards to share out. It was a difficult process to choose the winners this year! While 2019 might not have had quite as many spectacularly big blockbuster releases as years past, the quality of games that were released with far less fanfare than they deserves is truly incredible.
Mobile gaming got a much-needed shot in the arm this year, after Apple announced and released its Apple Arcade – a subscription service designed to break the back of the free to play, overly monetised content-driven games, and give players something genuine to play on their mobile devices. It has worked, by all accounts, and between the stuff on Apple Arcade, and the occasional premium game that still makes its way to the mobile storefronts, we’ve been using our mobile devices as gaming platforms all over again this year.
Sam Barlow really invented the whole “found phone” genre, and while there aren’t that many games in it, Telling Lies is perhaps the best example of it. Carefully going through the accumulated wealth of information on a device to slowly piece together information feels like real, modern detective work, and when the underlying story is this riveting, it’s very hard to put down indeed. Telling Lies is creative and intelligent, and very much worth your time.
Minimalism isn’t easy to do. If the underlying experience is too simple, to go with the simple visuals, then the game becomes dull in short order. Mini Motorways’ strength, much like its predecessor, is that while it looks simple, the underlying principles at work are maddingly complex. This is an arcade-like simulator where you’ll always know you can do better with each game over, and this will encourage you to start a new game over, and over, and over again. Best of all, it can explain how to play to players within about 30 seconds, showing that complexity does not always result in the most rewarding gameplay.
Shantae and the Seven Sirens
By now, WayForward has hit a real groove with Shantae. It’s hard to believe that the long-haired half genie has been kicking around since back on the Game Boy Color, but after many years of really struggling to get the series to kick off, the development team are now regularly producing super-high quality non-linear platform experiences with a delightful “Arabian Nights” twist. Amazingly, they also tend to work really well on the button-less mobile experience. When the Apple Arcade launched there were a lot of games that had us really hooked, but Shantae and the Seven Sirens is perhaps our favourite of all. It’s also one we actually didn’t review, in and among everything else we were playing at the time. Naughty us. We’re recommending it now, though!
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