Forget December, December is old news. The January newsletter has manifested (sign up if you want to read it):

But there’s nothing wrong with an honest β€œmy year in games” and so here we are: my 2021 in games.

Dear subscribers, if you feel like chatting about anything at all from the newsletter, please speak your mind in the comments here.

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17 thoughts on “Discussion: A Year in Play

  1. Thanks for the mention <3 What a way to end 2021! I'm wishing for a better 2022….. Hope you're feeling better now.

  2. i don’t know why, but i really enjoy reading people’s lists of favourites, as long as i have some sort of relationship with them (yes, even just a newsletter). it’s especially cool when there’s a bunch of games i’m not necessarily interested in so i get to inhabit a different mindset. it was a shock to see saturnalia on this list because i thought i missed the launch!

    i don’t want to pick favourites but here’s a list of what i completed in 2021:

    sorry to hear about covid, that sucks )O: sending rainbows your way.

    i’m curious if you have thought about an ED discord. i will say i love that we’re doing these periodic discussions and i enjoy that anticipation and space between newsletters, so i’m basically neutral on this. and that’s beside the fact that you’ve always got a lot going on.

  3. Kat

    I’m really enjoying putting together Micro Wizards πŸ™‚ Feeling better but all this illness swirling around is making me feel like an old man. I’m still clinging onto my 40s like a dying man clinging to religion.


    Nice choices. I’d love to go back to Dark Souls and get it done. I want to see the rest of the game’s grotesque and fearful delights. I was due to descend into Blighttown…

    On Discord… I’ve always had an aversion to a forum. First, it often seemed like hubris, like I would be assuming I had a community large enough to spin off into its own space – and, surprise, it turns out to be a ghost town. I watched other sites bulge with dead forums during the early Electron Dance years.

    Second, it does become an added responsibility, making sure nothing untoward goes on in there, the terror of anyone who owns a forum, although I suppose it wouldn’t be difficult to find some long-time readers happy to pick up moderator powers.

    I did run a forum here once: The Appendix. It ran for around 7 months; there was a lot of activity initially but it dried up. Considering the pressures on my time and the real possibility of taking on an additional project this year, I think if I did fire up a new forum I would be largely hands-off and wouldn’t be that active there.

  4. Sorry to hear that covid ripped through your family, Joel! Glad to hear you’re now feeling better, and I assume everyone else is too?

    I don’t think I’ve played any of your top picks, although I did buy Death Crown a few days ago. I think Gorogoa was a 2017 release – I had it from a secret santa when I was still in the UK – so I’m glad you finally tried it out.

    I feel similarly squicky about “games of the year” lists. I don’t think I’ve ever voted for any awards for much the same reason, even (especially!) small-scale stuff like BSFA novels, because I’ve never read all the entrants. So how could I possibly judge?

    RIP The Appendix, home of twisty duck penis.

  5. Hello Shaun! Everyone had a couple of bad days except for my wife who endured… a sore throat. I think we’re all back to normal now but my son lost a day to a freakish migraine last week and I find in the mirror this week I permanently look like I just woke up (I really should change out of these pyjamas). Notice it’s only the males, here. Either covid is picking more on men or… we’re just men.

    As you know, I have no qualms about talking up games from previous years. My end of year roundups rarely include something from the current year. I guess I went one step further by including Saturnalia from the future. Maybe I’ll finish Dark Souls this year and put it down as my 2022 #1.

    It’s brilliant that the strongest memory I have of The Appendix is a discussion about twisty duck penis and games as art.

  6. I feel like 2020 or 2021 should have been ‘the year of Blighttown’, but hey, don’t let me dissuade you from returning to Dark Souls! πŸ˜€

  7. @daniel: that’s quite a stack of completed games for the year! Great to see Thief, System Shock and Outer Wilds on there (the Echoes of the Eye DLC is easily my, uh, ‘game’ of the year). I also completed Psychonauts in 2021, for the second time since it was released. I’m hoping to get on to the sequel and Dishonored 2 soon.

    Yeah, I love to hear what folks’ highlights over the year have been as well, particularly if I have similar tastes and they’re praising stuff I might not have heard of. I mean, it’s not like I’m short on things to play but you never know what might be the next big thing to rock your boat!

    I treated myself to a new PC before Christmas but I’m disappointed that I couldn’t work out how to transfer my Yugo Puzzle progress over to it. I’ve asked Qrostar on the Steam forum where the files might be located but nothing so far πŸ™ That’s been such a joyful and elegant puzzler, at least in my relatively limited experience of the genre! I’m keen to know what folks around here make of it. I think after Snakebird, I’m a little intimidated by the likes of Sausage Roll and even Bonfire Peaks πŸ™‚

    Oh, Endhall! I remember you mentioning that and it looks really interesting and I’m also wanting to check out Isolomus with Hai which we picked up after one of your tweets. I’m seeing the triangles of The Void and the colours of Mandy in Black Iris!

    Okay, Slide in the Woods… I just played through that now. Yikes. Thanks Joel.

    Agreed on SNKRX! Ugh. Loved SOLAS 128 but I too ran out of steam towards the end. Saturnalia looks fascinating.

    On Red Flags: I lost it at ‘that way we could save on the catering bill’.

    (I so very nearly bought the new Slipways over Christmas after hearing some buzz about it! And glad to see some love for Invisigun and SSMP!)

  8. God, maybe 2022 is the year of Mass Effect at last πŸ™‚ Either that or parrying in Dark Souls.

    Gregg, I think the YUGO PUZZLE data (I haven’t tested this) is in the registry. Check out the key “Computer\HKEY_CURRENT_USER\SOFTWARE\Qrostar\YUGO PUZZLE”. Bonfire Peaks is tough but I think its friendlier than Sausage Roll. Then again, I’m struggling through Baba is You. I make progress but some levels cause my brain to completely freak out.

    I’m glad you someone else out there gets Red Flags! The similar line “only one mouth to feed” is the one that gets me.

    Hey, the developer of The Black Iris is going to be releasing a new game later this year (definitely going on Crashbook).

  9. A bit of 2021 in review… ha ha I have absolutely no idea what may have come out, or what I may have played, between like January and October 2021. What are years anyway? I remembered this viral video of second grader (= about seven years old) complaining about a girl taking her pencil and thought “ha ha she’s probably in college now” and it was from February 2020, I swear to God.

    OK, well: Bonfire Peaks is really good! I would say it is more approachable than Baba Is You and Sausage Roll. I found the skippability a mixed blessing occasionally, Sausage Roll disciplined me to learn all my lessons, but then I may have been more patient with frustrations when I was playing it. The caveats are mostly superficial–it can be really hard to read the 3D alignment and I thought the attempt to have some meta gameplay in the overworld was Not Successful, sometimes requiring a bunch of stacking and unstacking to return to areas you’d already accessed, and culminating in a part where I got so snarled about reading the 3D in the overworld that I missed a simple overworld puzzle solution and was unable to progress for like a day. Oh God he’s talking about the level select screen again.

    But it’s very good! It has a reasonable number of mechanics–one of the things about Baba Is You is that it has a ton of mechanics, and a lot of the levels are about “What is an edge case that I can perform with this word?” and honestly those are the best levels, as opposed to ones where you have to make an elaborate setup and sometimes the thing you set up didn’t work the way you expected and the cost of experimentation gets very high. The levels that are the most about spatial manipulation can be finicky. For some 2021 stuff, I’ve been playing the Baba Is You expansion, and sometimes I find a lot of the levels to be like this.

    On the other hand the way Bonfire Peaks introduces its mechanics is not like Stephen’s Sausage Roll which has an infamous level that introduces a ton of new mechanics at once and it feels like this. I can’t believe I only just now thought of using that gif for this game.

    OK I should split the post now, the next wall of text will reveal by Death Crown-like Game of the Year which is Rapid Brogue! And why I have a ton of deckbuildingish dungeon crawlers with strict segregation between movement and combat and limited map choice! And a new game from Nifflas! And that Signs of the Sojourner was really good and I feel like I should replay it but I just haven’t been able to dig into narrativey games lately!

    Also 2021 seems like it’s the year of developers saying screw it, I’m not even going to try to deal with Apple, and I can’t say I blame them. A lot of the indie games I get (I define “indie” as “buyable on itch”) require some hacking in the Terminal window to run. Endhall required more than usual.

  10. Oh, thanks for the Yugo Puzzle save game tip! It’s in binary but I’m sure I’ll be able to copy the info over from my old PC. Fingers crossed!

    Yeah, I’m not sure how I noticed it but I saw Arboreta’s new game on Steam the other day!

    Will definitely be checking out Baba (seeing as I own it!) and maybe I’ll give Bonfire Peaks a go too at some point.

  11. Wait Yugo Puzzle is basically Jelly No Puzzle with extra deviltry. Gregg if you have enough progress in Yugo Puzzle to worry about transferring your save file, I don’t know if you ought to be intimidated by any other puzzle game! Now I’m playing it GAH WHAT HAVE YOU DONE (the same thing I did by reminding Joel of Jelly No Puzzle and thus spreading it to the commenters a ways back).

    Deckbuildish dungeon crawls: For some reason I wound up with Slice and Dice (via John Walker’s Buried Treasure), Dicey Dungeons, and Slay The Spire this past year. They all ring changes on getting a random selection from your loadout each term, and having to choose a mostly deterministic plan of attack from that. Slay The Spire and Dicey Dungeons seem like they’re getting a lot of acclaim, but in some ways I like Slice and Dice better, it’s much quicker and the difficulty is better tuned, plus I like that it abstracts the economy and leveling system to “after odd number fights replace one character with a higher-level one, after even number fights get an item.” And it does an amazing job of displaying information about what will happen in a round so you can plan your attacks. It’s kinda like Into The Breach in that way.

    I got Endhall after reading Joel’s roundup and it’s nice but I wish it had more of Into The Breach’s display of what will happen, plus it seems… not that deep? I can pretty much win unless I miscalculate my knockback. I wish it had a save game, I’d play it more if I could break it up in sessions.

    Also Ynglet! New Nifflas game! He calls it a platformer without platforms, it’s kind of like that level of Celeste where you’re dashing through jelly squares that let you renew your dash, but no spikes and no symbol of your insecurities chasing you. You sure can fall off the bottom though. It’s short but I replay it sometimes to chill, though when I turned it up to the “Too Difficult” setting it did not help me chill somehow. (Joel you’ve mentioned the only Nifflas games you’ve played are Knytt Stories and Uurnog, I haven’t played Knytt Stories but Uurnog is the one I’ve bounced off, it seems like he just put in All The Mechanics and it’s very confusing!)

    But Rapid Brogue is Game Of The Year in the Death Crown like way: This is the one I go back to. The story is: Someone took Brogue, the best roguelike, and smushed it so that there were one-fourth as many levels that each had four times as much stuff, and it’s faster and more fun!

    I looked at Death Crown though I’m not sure it’s my kind of thing, but no Mac port. Also I got a chance to try Dark Souls 3 and was able to do nothing against the first boss, and was roundly mocked!

  12. I have a this point tried to write several comments that weren’t just shitposts and basically they all failed, including this one. But happy new year! I’m not sure I played any games in 2021, but things are looking up because in 2002 I’ve already beaten Hero’s Quest BUT I had to look up a guide (as usual) because a) it’s an adventure game and b) it’s a Sierra adventure game so it’s basically an adventure game squared. But apart from a couple of genuinely hateful screens, what a lovely thing it is. So small and intricate and ambitious and satisfying. The sort of game where you go ‘wait but doesn’t this mean we took the wrong trouser?’ and perhaps, yes, we took the wrong trouser. But actually, this trouser was also pretty good. Games are just like that.

  13. So Gregg, you wanted to know what we think of Yugo Puzzle! As I move over confident in my triumph and my jelly block slips one half step or rebounds off the low-hanging ceiling, I would say that it was created by a literal demon from hell. But a demon, we know, is not from hell, but is a prosecuting angel, here to remind we humans of our failings? Do the jelly not obey strict and consistent laws? Is it not our overweening hubris that led us to think we had solved the puzzle as we dragged the jelly along, even though, if we looked within our hearts, we knew how it bounced, and that that bounce would bring us humble in the end? Did the game not warn us of the terrors that awaited, even to the point of kicking us out after level 20? It is we who are torturing ourselves, the game merely handing us the tools with which to do it.

    Anyway, good game! Highly recommended.

  14. Matt, I think you wrote that Bonfire Peaks comment based on our micro-discussion on Twitter recently about skipping levels πŸ™‚ I think you’re right about the unstacking/restacking in the overworld, that was annoying (especially the climb above the waterfall) but I think I was experiencing so much joy I didn’t notice.

    I’ve tried doing Baba again, for all my sins, and finished a few levels. Man, that game is hard. But I still don’t know if it’s a hard I like? However, when I finish a level, I do feel a kind “well fuck you hempuli!!!” every single time. All I’m saying is that I have personal problems.

    Your talk about deckbuildish dugeon crawls make me realise I’ve wanted to try Slay The Spire for awhile. I think I like deckbuilding games but I’ve not played many. I tried Hearthstone on the phone and fuck that game, what a miserable Android experience. I uninstalled after playing my first game. But I have Slay the Spire. I have it! Just like Gregg has Baba is You.

    Matt, you’re right about Endhall not being that deep – it’s a very short and tight thing. I can beat it in my sleep, but I enjoyed the short time I spent with it but I forget, I’m talking to a Cinco Paus expert here. Endhall probably looks like Speak and Spell to you.

    (Man, I can’t find any screenshots of Rapid Brogue. I guess it just looks like Brogue.)

    Gregg- four days late but with Yugo, you should just be able to export to a reg file and then import on the new PC?

    Happy New Year CA. I also blamed my numpad for 66666ing up my text this week.

  15. Matt, regarding Yugo Puzzle: I love how the game starts difficult. There’s no friendly fluff. You get a nice early taste of that delicious satisfaction when you crack a tricky puzzle that ultimately has you coming back for more. I also love how much depth there is hidden in those little jelly blocks. It feels so elegant and manageable, mentally, to me. I think I got to around level 38 before the parts to my new PC arrived.

    I think I’ve heard of Slice and Dice, and heard good things about it too! It may very well be on my wishlist… oh wait, no, that’s Circadian Dice.

    Of Nifflas’ work, I think I’ve only played… Knytt Stories (which I adored) and a bit of NightSky (which I wasn’t so keen on). I merely own Saira though! Ynglet looks lovely.

    Joel, I will try that with the reg file, thanks!

  16. Gregg if you love a game that starts difficult you should definitely check out Stephen’s Sausage Roll! No friendly fluff there.

    Yugo Puzzle… it’s funny, there are all sorts of user-friendlinesses I like in puzzle games that it doesn’t have. You WILL doom yourself on the first move and not be able to tell you have done so. You WILL NOT have an obvious intermediate goal that you can achieve and know you’ve made progress. You WILL have to assemble weird shapes and envision how they move (this is a bit of an idiosyncrasy of mine, piling crates in particular ways, sometimes far from where you’d use them). But I happily submit myself to it. Well, not always so happily. Level 30 is like to end me, I have a clever trick that gets me to an endgame where two blocks are obviously switched around. I also have 37 and 38 open. I worry that I’m not going to learn my lesson here.

    It occurs to me that there are hints I could switch on?

    A thought about the Confounding Calendar is that the one-screen restriction led a lot of people to devise puzzles that were like The Great Tower, overwhelming you with different mechanics where you didn’t have those kindnesses. That’s why I was so fond of Coordinated where I could break it down into steps–I knew I needed to break into the rooms, and that there was one number that would let me accomplish something

    Joel, in a world where Raigan Burns and Jake Eakle exist I wouldn’t dare call myself a Cinco Paus expert! But I do know the positional combat variety of roguelikes a bit. I didn’t mention that I also got Golden Krone Hotel, which is a classic roguelike–played one game, want to return–and Darkest Dungeon, which seems to talk at me a lot and it looks like there are a lot of numbers I might want to understand? And yes, Rapid Brogue just looks like Brogue (it can be found at

    And I wouldn’t force myself through Baba Is You if it’s a drag! A lot of it is riddle vs. puzzle in a way. For instance the solution to Lovely House doesn’t have to work out the way it does, but it makes sense that it does. I sort of want to add Leap Of Faith puzzles to our vocabulary. Like for instance the Hoo Boy mechanic in Bonfire Peaks. You learn the rules in some cases, and then you are confronted with something that is obviously not at all solvable with the rules you’ve learned, and you have to intuit a new rule, sometimes by trying everything that looks like it might conceivable bring a new rule into play.

    I did just solve a couple levels from Baba’s New Adventures that had been bugging me, and it was a rush. (One with a Leap of Faith, one not.) Though the New Adventures have been making me see why some folks don’t like the game.

    Though the reductio for that is something like my Adversity bug; technically we had not learned anything up to that point that determined that that rule did not work in that particular way. The rules are in the code, it’s one of those self-executing contracts the cryptobros are always talking about, but you have to work out what the code is. But then again we could tell that my solution was a bug rather than a real rule, because the rule would’ve made no sense at all. (Ask me how this relates to Wittgenstein!)

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