Review: Video games 2020-2021

The past couple years have been a great time to play video games.


Me in 2020 (and 2021).

Of course, it’s always been a great time to play video games, but I’ve never written about them before. Here are some of my favourite games from the past couple of years (in rough ranked order in each of the two categories).

Puzzles etc

Disco Elysium (mystery)

No gameplay to speak of, only a few pre-rendered backgrounds, and lots of clicking and reading text. And yet, a great game, unlike anything else I have played. I was totally engrossed by the storyline, and the most I have enjoyed an ending in a while. I didn’t want it to end.

Disco Elysium screenshot
If you do play the game, make sure you do the bit where he dances in the church. And the cryptids. (Disco Elysium)

Inscryption (puzzles/cards)

I love a game that takes its premise almost too seriously, and also reinvents itself in surprising ways. The card part is very fun, and although it’s definitely best in the first act when you’re still getting used to it, enough new mechanics are introduced to keep it interesting. I really liked all of the additional gameplay and story added around the core concept, and it altogether made for something really quite new. In some ways this reminded me of the (great) Universal Paperclips.

Inscryption screenshot
Is it just me or is that card looking less and less like a stoat? (Inscryption)

Return of the Obra Dinn (mystery)

I played this with my partner: both sat down with a piece of paper, doing a chapter at a time. I’ve not really had the at-home collaborative gaming experience since going round to friends’ houses to watch each other die on PS1 games, so that was nice. Very satisfying to work it all out, but I wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much on my own, especially going through scenes multiple times to get the harder clues.

Return of the Obra Dinn screenshot
Don’t you just hate it when you’re trying to swashbuckle and all of a sudden a kraken appears to turn your voyage into a classic case of misadventure and misfortune (Return of the Obra Dinn).

Also I played it at the same time as The Terror was on iPlayer, and a close knowledge of positions on a ship really came in handy there too. (And also a period of watching Below Deck, although all I learnt for that was Bosun = Boatswain).

Slay the Spire (cards)

I wasn’t sure whether to put this one on the list as I ended up finding myself in a bit of a toxic relationship with it for a while. I don’t really like doing the (imo) more boring first levels over-and-over. It feels like it’s best played faster than I like, and it’s a bit too addictive, but it’s definitely very carefully thought out.

Slay the spire screenshot
I have seen this whale too many times (Slay the Spire).

Action etc

Ori and the Will of the Wisps (platformer)

A really fun platformer with good controls (it’s most similar to the Metroid series I believe), a pretty good levelling/ability system, and a storyline that really sucked me in and made me very sad. More than the sum of its parts.

Ori and the Will of The Wisps screenshot
A charming and surprisingly sad game (Ori and the Will of the Wisps).

Loop Hero (RPG/auto-battler)

Partly great because of the music and graphics, but the setting was also unusual, and it mostly plays itself.

Loop Hero screenshot
So much time to be spent in menus (Loop Hero).

Super Mario 3D World (platformer)

Less memorable than Odyssey, but lots of new mechanics. Maybe a bit too easy? But there’s no such thing as a bad Super Mario game, and I enjoyed every minute. (I was also surprised how much I enjoyed the short bundled game Bowser’s Fury)

Bowser’s fury screenshot
Another good thing about this game is that, for reasons I don’t understand, everything is a cat (Bowser’s Fury).

Dishonored 2 (action)

Completely forgettable storyline, but great level design and ultimately really fun to play.

Dishonored 2 screenshot
One of the few games on my list with ‘good’ graphics (Dishonored 2).

Call of Duty Warzone (FPS)

I really came to hate this game and also I suck at it so hard, but it kept me in touch with my friends through the worst of lockdown and for a while was endlessly playable.

Call of Duty Warzone screenshot
Hands shaking as I get my best score (4), I forget how to take a screenshot (Call of Duty Warzone).