It is very rare that you come across a game that’s special enough to make you feel like you could play it anytime, anywhere for the rest of your life. Let me give you a couple of examples:

Road Rash 2 is rather simple. It’s a motorbike racing game for the Megadrive. In addition to having revolutionary controls for the time, it has the added bonus of being able to attack other riders with chains and baseball bats etc. Plus if you’re not careful you can get busted by the cops. The sense of speed and fun in every track resonates over 20 years later. At the other end of the spectrum, Full Throttle is Tim Schaefer’s first solo adventure game and it’s a masterpiece of writing, characters and story. The quasi-futuristic world it creates is magical. I could hang out in those bars and trailer parks all day long. The concept of a second Full Throttle tattoo is never far from my mind.

These games are the ones I turn to when the vision of a post-apocalyptic world comes up. It wouldn’t matter if every other game in existence was reduced to dust because I would be happy to play these two for 100 years. Again and again. I never get sick of everything they offer. So I was never sure if a third game would ever enter this highly exclusive group. Perhaps these titles from the 1990’s were so influential to me simply because I was a younger man. Maybe that part of me had grown up and moved on.

Olli Olli is, without a doubt, that third game. It locked itself into position only after a few hours of playing it. It is perfect. It stands tall as one of those mythical ‘desert island’ games. The kind that you could lose yourself in for hours no matter what. Everything else just fades into the background. Nothing else is of consequence while playing Olli Olli. It’s like you’re wired into the singular purpose for which it was designed. Phone ringing? Olli Olli. Dishes piling up? Olli Olli. Need to go out and run some errands and maybe pay some bills before they come knocking on your door with a court summons? Olli Olli. Olli Olli. Olli Olli.

But hold on a minute. This is just a 2D skateboarding game we’re talking about. Each course can be finished in about a minute and once you’ve figured out the double-tap ollie controls, you’re all set. On the surface, this is practically a phone game right? I’m afraid not. Olli Olli picks its battles very carefully when it comes to razor-sharp game design. Not only is the gameplay staggeringly addictive, it is as deep as an ocean trench. This tiny skateboarding sprite of a man in a red cap has an insane collection of tricks and skills in his arsenal. Much like EA’s Skate series, they’re all there for the taking from the start rather than prizes to be unlocked. You just have to get as good as the game convinces you that you can be. It pulls you along each course with exciting, unrelenting momentum. It never wants to let you go and never allows to think that you can’t do better.


The platform of choice also mattered. Olli Olli was released first on the Vita in January. There, it was great. It felt like it belonged. It fit alongside such unique experiences like Hotline Miami and TxK that made Sony’s handheld such a compelling system for incredible, ‘one-more-go’ games. But then, in August, it came to the PlayStation 4. Unexpectedly, the upgrade to the DualShock 4 controller made a significant impact. To put it another way: on the Vita, nothing was wrong but on the PS4, everything was right. If there was a controller + game combination that seemed like they were made for each other, it’s these two. Using the touchpad to restart the course is a stroke of simple genius.

Olli Olli is the most difficult game I played this year. The positive aspect to this was I never felt frustrated. Every mistake I made was mine and mine alone. At no point did I feel like the London-based developer, Roll7, was punishing me. On the contrary, I felt like they wanted me to succeed. They charmed me into continuing whereas lesser games might get deleted from my library. Whatever dark magic they injected into their game to balance that line between elation and despair, it worked. It’s a stunning game on all fronts. I can’t wait for the sequel.

Oh, and the soundtrack is consistently amazing.



Watch Dogs is the best game Ubisoft has released in years. It has the most interesting and well realised open-world ever created. The combat and multiplayer are downright revolutionary. The story goes to dark corners of the human psyche that most developers would never dare to touch. It reinvents police chases to make them perpetually thrilling and unpredictable instead of a bog-standard annoyance. It contains side-missions that are endlessly addictive, some of the most realistically creepy villains in a video game and a quality story in downloadable content which I ravenously played to completion.

Considering how this game was received, those previous statements may sound insane to some people. I completely understand why. Nobody saw this game for what it was. Just for what they thought it should be. It should have been the spearhead for next-generation consoles. It should have been the game that paved the way for stunning visuals, groundbreaking gameplay and anything else you wished your new PS4 or Xbox One could deliver. And you know what? It’s a damn shame. A shame that nobody realised that Watch Dogs is all that and more.


When I load up my completed save of Watch Dogs, I wait until the dead of night and then walk the streets of Chicago. I breathe in the alleyways. I stroll past dive bars and newsstands. Occasionally, a crime happens and I decide to shut it down before it gets out of control. Then I continue walking. Maybe catch a train or admire some architecture.

The point is, I’m still attached to this world. This world where the Blume Corporation were overconfident with their automated city-wide operating system. Where the Chicago South Club engaged in crimes that no human being should ever be exposed to. Where Maurice Vega waited so long to die and Aiden Pearce is a fugitive whose name is now spoken only in whispers. Long after the story was over, Chicago still felt alive. I still felt unfinished with every street and every building. That’s why walking around at night feels right. There’s a constant underlying menace in Watch Dogs that is still present.

The only reliable company I have on these dark streets is Brian Reitzell’s thrilling score. His electronic melodies filled with tension and sadness reflects Watch Dogs’ present-day cyberpunk. It is an eerie, consistent collection of tracks. Without Reitzell’s work, this game wouldn’t have the final shine that gives Chicago that extra edge.


Details make up the solid foundation of everything here. Like how Aiden runs with his pistol slightly behind his back. Or the way Lucky Quinn looks at people with disgust. Whereas some Ubisoft products seem like a big mess with no sense of cohesion, Watch Dogs feels like a deliberate world. It’s littered with attention to the most ignored corners of itself. Nobody needed to write interesting, funny and disturbing stories when Aiden spies on people’s apartments. But those stories are there.

Ironically, it was the marketing of Watch Dogs that sold it short. Without that nine minute presentation at E2 2012, the response to it would have been very different. Instead of combing through every frame of footage to see how the light reflected off park benches, people may have allowed the tale of Aiden Pearce and his dead niece to stand on its own merits. Because when I did that, I discovered a thrilling open-world that I never wanted to leave.

GAME OF THE YEAR 2014 – (4) P.T.


If there’s one long-standing frustration in video games, it’s being a fan of Silent Hill. In recent years, that name has become synonymous with disappointment. Even the most dedicated fans will admit there are more mediocre or bad games than good ones. It’s a sad feeling because there’s magic within the alleyways of that foggy mountain town. But it has been overshadowed by poor stories, clunky gameplay and two bloody awful movies. I wouldn’t go so far as to say Silent Hill was dead and buried but it had almost become a joke within the video game community. Konami was just happy with keeping the series’ head just barely above water and not injecting new life into it. The popular opinion was Silent Hill needed to move on and evolve if it wanted to survive. The only stronger opinion was that it was probably too late for such a colossal resurrection to even be attempted.

If marketing dollars didn’t rule so many decisions in big-budget video games, more games would arrive in the same fashion as P.T.. A short confusing teaser during the GamesCom press conference in Germany told viewers that this strange vision of horror was already available for download on the PlayStation Network. When I started playing it, nobody knew what it was all about but it quickly blew my mind. Not only did the lighting and atmosphere feel so advanced, the whole package felt effortless. Like the mad geniuses behind this experience knew something we didn’t when it came to making games in 2014.

The fact that it came out of nowhere certainly helped its impact but it was how it expertly captured the unfettered fear of the unknown that had people sitting up and taking notice. From the opening seconds, it was clear something VERY wrong had occurred in this house. The radio reports of domestic homicide was a disturbing omen and the rainstorm outside the single barred-up window enveloped the house in endless claustrophobia.

I had very real difficulties moving forward. I was legitimately scared. With no idea what to expect, a flurry of cockroaches or knock on a door would have me terrified. I made sure to play it in the dead of night with headphones and despite my constant hesitation, it was the only way to experience what this ‘interactive teaser’ had to offer. There’s one moment in particular I want to mention. Walking the hallway for what must have been the third or fourth time, I started to hear the sound of weeping. Not the “Oh dear, someone is sad, I better cheer them up” kind of weeping but rather the “Oh dear god, what is that, let me out of this house, I will punch my way through this wall if I have to oh god oh god oh god” kind. Creeping forward, I turned a corner and saw this:


Up until this point, I had not seen anybody in this house. But this “person” was just standing there, lit only by a single light. I was frozen to the spot. There were no music cues to signify their arrival, no predictable jump-scare clanging on the soundtrack. Just utter silence. That’s what made it incredibly creepy. What was this mysterious figure going to do? Was there any more of them? This was the moment that I knew P.T. was something very special. I must have stared at this figure for a least a minute or two before taking a few steps forward. The lights went out and they were gone. It was an amazing encounter that stands as my favourite “moment” of 2014. I have tremendous respect for every miniscule design decision that resulted in this event. I’m still in awe.

Before long, it was revealed that P.T. was a ‘playable teaser’ for a new Silent Hill game designed by Hideo Kojima and Guillermo Del Toro. This was an absolute revelation. You’re telling me this unprecedented style of horror gameplay will be part of a series that everybody thought was lost to mediocrity and apathy? Unbelievable. This information coupled with how P.T. was delivered towered above the majority of video game announcements in 2014. It was incredibly bold and breathed life into something I thought to be long dead. A further cinematic (non-playable) teaser was released soon after that featured headless ghosts, creepy toys and a massive giant chasing the player through hallways and into the depths of a dark basement. It displayed the same sensibilities as P.T. and as such, gave me tremendous hope that whatever ‘Silent Hills’ will be, it will hold true to what this original vision contained.

P.T. hit like a knife through the ribs and was unlike anything else this year. Even though I could barely move, I loved everything about it. It both terrified me as a horror fan and filled me with hope as devotee of Silent Hill. I sincerely hope other game publishers take note of the way it was released. I understand how the marketing machine works but P.T. arriving with no fanfare whatsoever made so much more impact than any number of developer diaries or character trailers. It was just the cherry on top that it turned out to be the finest horror game this year.


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Alright, picture this: it’s a bone-chillingly cold night and you’re searching everywhere for something to keep your feet warm. You search drawers and cupboards for anything until finally, you come across a clean and woolly pair of socks. You know the kind. They’re like wearing scarves on your toes. You sit on the edge of the bed and put them on and it’s a fantastic feeling and small victory for yourself. Now, take that feeling, amplify it by about 1,000 percent, surround yourself by potential blizzards, endless snow and ice, ravenous wolves and the occasional frozen corpse.

That’s the central theme of The Long Dark: small, quiet victories. Trapped alone, cold and hungry in the Canadian wilderness, you are left to your own devices to survive with a bare minimum of supplies. I have no map or sense of what lies beyond the trees in front of me. I can hear a wolf howling from somewhere over a hill. My stomach is grumbling and I sorely need rest. But my main priority is to find someplace warm so I don’t freeze to death. So when I find enough matches, fuel and newspaper to light a small pot-belly stove in an abandoned ice-fishing shack, it feels like a massive triumph.

The concept and elation of discovery is something that video games excel at. In The Long Dark’s sandbox world, stumbling across areas and items that you can put to good use in order to stay alive is executed perfectly. It borders on an addiction, as all good discovery does. But it’s not all easy times. Seeing a house on the horizon is incredibly exciting but you must make sure you can survive the trek over there. Wolves are very dangerous creatures in this wilderness and visibility reduces to almost nothing if a heavy blizzard descends upon you.


There’s nothing as predictable as zombies in The Long Dark. An electrical storm has knocked out the power and you’re totally alone. You versus nature. Which makes for a very solitary experience. But once you manage to find (or create) warm clothes, food and water, the desire to search the nearby forest or snow-covered railway car becomes too strong to ignore. It’s a great feeling to set up a base in somebody’s dimly lit lounge room but you can’t linger for long. You’re probably running low on food.

The Long Dark is still in an Alpha stage and all the modes are not present. It’s currently an endless sandbox game with three difficulties and two massive areas. Still to come is a story mode and more features. Hinterland Studios have taken risks to design a game where unusual aspects such as windchill, fragile tools and sickness play a huge part. The adverse effects of the outdoors are highly detailed and need to be managed with care if you hope to survive more than a couple of days. Some developers might be nervous to commit to such a realistic simulation but frankly, it’s a relief to play.

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Not nearly enough games allow the player room to breathe. Standing in the deathly quiet control room of a dam while you set up a bedroll by the light of a single match is oddly satisfying. You can take your time to achieve your goals. I don’t just mean that it’s an open-world game and you can do whatever you want. The world created by Hinterland Studios feels ancient and stoic. It will be there long after you run out of water or get killed by a wolf so you might as well think about your actions long before taking them. The only reason to rush is to avoid dying alone, cold and hungry.

I’ve always wanted to visit Canada and while I’m aware this isn’t a fully accurate portrayal of what it has to offer, I’m still excited more than ever before to find out. Liberties have obviously been taken (killer wolves and no need to dig latrines) but there’s a tranquility in The Long Dark that few games possess. A sense of being at peace. I can momentarily enjoy that before heading out into the snow for another hike of discovery and wonder. And hopefully, a can opener.


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Horror games need to balance a very fine line. Too slight and it makes little impact. Too many jump scares and the intended vibe is lost. But when some of them get it just right, they can instill a sense of dread like no other media can provide. Even then, they can branch off again. Some of them drench the player in so much foreboding it can be difficult to continue moving forward. Fortunately, a good story can help with that.

That’s where Neverending Nightmares hits the axe on the head. It’s one of the most compelling games I’ve played in years. Filled with disturbing imagery and fascinating mystery, this incredible-looking experience pulled me along with very little reason to slow down. I had to keep playing to peel back all the layers about a man named Thomas and his (maybe) sister Gabrielle.

Like the title says, Thomas continues to wake up from an endless series of nightmares that increase in despair, body-horror and regret. The developer, Matt Gilgenbach, has battled depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder and this was his attempt to convey his sense of hopelessness into a video game. He has succeeded by leaps and bounds. The darkness is constant and is bristling with the unknown. The one time I saw a door marked EXIT, I thanked my lucky stars. But as expected, it only led to more terror.

There are two towering heads of Neverending Nightmares. Firstly, the distinctive art style. Using a pencil-drawn look, the splashes of colour leap out from the screen. Not only is it used to direct the player to interact with objects, it also highlights some of the more haunting imagery in the game. A dusty portrait, broken doll’s face or the results of self-harm in a padded cell. Conversely, the darkness is just as powerful. A deep hallway or shifting figures in the corner of your eye sprinkle just the correct amount of chills along your spine. It is tremendously original.

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Secondly, Skyler McGlothlin’s unsettling soundtrack is one of my favourites of the year. With track titles like “Impending Doom” and “Screaming Darkness”, you’d think it could risk being too intrusive to the gameplay experience but it’s not the case. For the most part, it emerges under your skin without your knowledge. Creeping, crawling and sometimes even pounding towards the next inevitable horrible vision within Thomas’ mind. The sonic mindscapes of McGlothlin’s work must have required him to go to some dark places while creating every note but the results are superb.

There’s never any sense of tangible reality throughout every area. Rooms change locations, doors disappear and reappear elsewhere. Almost every painting on the wall reflects some twisted view of Thomas’ memory. The creatures that roam the halls and rooms of his fears seem equally terrifying and filled with sadness. Except for one. There’s an enemy late in the game that has laid dormant for most of Thomas’ nightmares but comes to life in a truly horrible fashion. And its gruesome actions make me want to run for my life. Whatever controls that particular creature doesn’t have a hint of sadness. Just evil.

Whatever depression Gilgenbach has dealt with (and no doubt is still dealing with), I imagine it’s the kind that commands his every waking hour. Pushing it aside as best he can just so he can feel human. It is the worst feeling in the world and affects not only yourself but your loved ones. He created a game born of these emotions. Its endless sense of the macabre is constant and never allows Thomas a moment of respite. As all good horror games should.

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2014 was a year that made gigantic strides forward in the horror genre. People seem to be embracing this type of game with open arms like never before. Thankfully, this is translating into more developers taking risks and reaching outside their comfort zones to create amazing new games. This game feels like it came from a very dark and grisly place but also a supremely personal one. It exists because of one single person’s life experiences and as such, defines the very essence of a unique game. This isn’t a game created to satisfy shareholders or meet financial quarters. For every step of the way, it is refreshing and horrible in equal measure. But more importantly, and especially in light of the ending I got, Neverending Nightmares is hauntingly beautiful.



Bungie’s first-person shooter RPG always-online multiplayer loot-driven uphill grindfest is without a doubt the weirdest game I played this year. And I’m still playing it.

I’m at level 23 and got my eye on a sweet hand-cannon that Xur is selling. But in order to buy it, I’ll need to get a lot more Strange Coins and a ton of glimmer. Then I need to buy an Exotic weapon and destroy it so I can retrieve an Exotic shard so I can…wait. Even if I work my fingers to the bone to earn this gun, what I’m going to do with it? Shoot more enemies? I must have killed thousands of them by now. Anyway, I need to do this raid and see the new story content because there might something cool in there. Not to mention I need to complete those bounties and then finally join the Dead Orbit faction. They seem cool. I could put on one of their cloaks and then spend more time in the Crucible to earn more Crucible marks so I can rank up in the hopes of getting that cool helmet they have for my Hunter. But do I want to limit myself to Dead Orbit? I can’t earn Vanguard reputation while I’m wearing their stuff so I’m not sure. But maybe I should do more daily strikes. That way, I can get more Light and level up more so I can do more raids without banging my head against a virtual wall. This fusion rifle could do with an upgrade. When I shoot Cabal Centurions in the head with it, it does a hell of a lot of damage but the recoil is frustrating. Need to fix that. Need more Light but it takes so long. I should just stick to the strikes because I could get sweet drops from it. Nah, to hell with that. I’ll go back to the Moon and hopefully jump into one of those public events where you need to shoot a thing a billion times before it reaches its destination. Shooting a thing is more fun than defending a thing. I sure wish the Reef had patrol missions. I have a feeling that area would be pretty crazy. That emissary of the Queen better return because I think I have almost enough Queen’s reputation to buy that pink hand cannon she was selling. Oh right, Xur had one. That’s right, I forgot. Christ almighty, look at that sky. So pretty. My friends are online. But I’m enjoying looking around Venus. Everytime I join a fireteam everyone just wants to run around at full speed. I want to admire the architecture. Well, I did until I went through this area for the fifth or sixth time. Now I just want to shoot a thing hundreds of times until a valuable thing drops out. And if it doesn’t, did I waste my time? Same thing in the Crucible. What’s the deal with me not getting awesome rewards at the end of a round? Every other player gets something but I get screwed. But whatever, I’m using a Legendary shotgun in multiplayer now and its blasting people in the face on a regular basis. Should I have worn my Future War Cult cloak? Ah who cares. I don’t want to buy their junk anyway. Let’s go back to the world map. What was I doing again?

This is basically my thought process whenever I play Destiny. At first, I was okay with very little story and Bungie putting ALL information about backstory, locations, characters and enemies into the Grimoire cards that are only available to view on the website or app. But after levelling past 20, these design choices seem a bit nuts. I like loot-driven games but I don’t remember the last one that had a story I was completely enthralled by. Destiny started that way but then kind of fizzled out. Borderlands and Diablo were the same. What is with these games? Is an interesting story so hard to achieve? Destiny’s story seems like its just beneath the surface and it sounds really fascinating. But I can only hear James Remar or Nathan Fillion say the same stuff so many times.


But the combat. Oh my word. That’s where this game leaps into the air and high-fives you. It’s so much fun to play. The precise aiming, the double-jumps, the special attacks, the reload animations. All world class. If this gameplay wasn’t incredible, Destiny wouldn’t be Destiny. The same goes for the environments and art direction. It’s a beautiful game and shines like gold on the new generation consoles. The worlds are so sublime, they make you want to explore every area, cave and stronghold.

So I guess what I’m saying is Destiny is on this list because of everything I played before reaching level 20. After that, all I’m basically doing is grinding to buy better weapons to do the same stuff I’ve already done while I wait for more content that I’m pretty sure won’t change anything. That’s a pretty damning description but it’s warranted. And I feel weird that I didn’t realise any of this until now.

However before I got to level 20, Destiny was a colossal explosion of fresh air for shooter games. I remember taking my time to search through every cave and read about every enemy. And what the hell is The Traveller exactly? I’m amazed that this hasn’t been established. What if there’s an enemy in there? Like a giant Fallen or something more sinister? What else could be waiting? Wait a minute, this rocket launcher needs some more helium to upgrade. Plenty of that on the moon. I can knock over those bounties while I’m there. Those Hive Knights can be bastards but these new grenades will put anything down. I should go back to the Black Gate again to kill more Vex. I’ve got another bounty for them too. It will take a long time but hopefully it will be worth it because once I get hold of that hand-cannon then…then…wait…what was I doing again?



The first episode of Telltale’s Game Of Thrones is as good as the scene outside the RV in episode 3 of Season 1 of Telltale’s The Walking Dead. If you can follow that comparison, then you’ll know what I’m talking about.

It’s compelling, thrilling, tense and the ending shocked me like nothing else this year. I felt compassion and comparative indecision with every member of House Forrester. They feel like an honest but strong family just trying to survive in George R.R. Martin’s hellish world of death, despair and betrayal.

That’s the main reason why the Game Of Thrones TV show is successful as it is: the characters. You care about them and want to see what happens to them. Even the most horrific people in this universe are worth watching because they are never uninteresting. That same aspect flows through Telltale’s game. The writing, voice acting and story is so well executed that I was fascinated by characters that didn’t even appear on screen. I can only assume they will make their presence known in later episodes.


Another height that the game reaches is the perfect sense of loathing. Just like in the show, there are people who House Forrester have to deal with that you despise with every bone in your body. Total scumbags and psychopaths. If there’s one flaw I found in Telltale’s game design, it was the fact that there were no dialogue choices for “Kill Utter Bastard Standing In Front Of You” in every conversation. Obviously, this would drastically change the game but holy hell, I wanted it to happen more than once.

It’s a difficult decision to recommend this game to someone to who hasn’t seen the TV show. Obviously, TV characters appear in the game and knowing them helps your decisions but it is a self-contained story. House Forrester control the northern area of Ironrath, known for its forest of ironwood trees which are so strong that plenty of other characters wish to take it from them for military benefits. None of this back story is in the show (House Forrester is only briefly mentioned in one of the books) but the power struggles and machinations are as good as anything HBO has to offer. Iron From Ice begins during the infamous Red Wedding of Season 3 but then changes course elsewhere to tell its own tales of family, sacrifice and subterfuge. Most of the conversations are some of the tension-filled moments I played in 2014. I was greatly aware of each character’s reactions and making sure House Forrester took the right steps. At least I hope they were. There’s four more episodes to go.


Not so long ago, licensed games based on TV or movies were guaranteed rubbish. Even the concept itself was enough to drive people away simply because they’ve been burned many times before. But Telltale Games are helping to lay a new path through the apathy and cheap Pixar cash-ins. These days, we can be a bit more open to games featuring characters and universes we already know. I think that’s a phenomenal turnaround. Back in the day of the Commodore 64, developers like Ocean Software created licensed games that made incredible strides in the way we saw movie universes like Robocop and The Untouchables. Since then, marketing and money overshadowed any desire to create original, exciting games. So it’s a welcome relief that people are giving Telltale the freedom and resources to pick up where Ocean left off.

Another aspect I want to mention about this game is its length. This is only the first episode and it lasts maybe 3-4 hours at most. But I enjoyed every second of it. I was on the edge of my seat countless times and spent a long time reading the in-game biography of each character. Also, shorter games make more sense as you get older. I once played through the entirety of Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance in one all-night sitting with a friend of mine eating nothing but chips and beer. Those days are long gone. Now, if a game doesn’t have a “pause cut-scene” option, I am instantly filled with white-hot rage that I bottle up for later incomprehensible explosions.

I’m a huge fan of Game Of Thrones and I can’t wait for Season Five to begin. I can’t be sure whether this game is even playable without knowledge of the show. I want to say yes but I’m fully aware that a LOT of the content of this game is greatly improved if you’re already a fan. If you are, then Iron From Ice is a fantastic start to what could hopefully be a landmark series.