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Pixelkin’s Game of the Year 2016

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Rather than settle on one game of the year, here at Pixelkin we feel like every one of our writers brings a unique perspective. Therefore our most prominent contributors have made their game of the year selections. Our hope is that these recommendations give you an idea of the great games of the year in all of our eyes.

Nicole’s Pick

Event[0]

I’ve been playing games my whole life and have been writing about them for more than 10 years. While there are many games that are great at what they do, it’s a rare occasion that I see something completely new. Event[0] is one of those games. Though the story isn’t that different from other AI gone wrong games like Portal, the gameplay is not only intriguing, it’s a lot of fun. Rather than listening to the  AI spout information to you, in Event[0] you have the chance to interact with that AI, whose name is Kaizen.

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You use terminals throughout the environment to converse with the Kaizen. Very little direction is given in regard to what you should ask or say, so the conversations end up being unique to each player. And besides that, they can be very amusing. This is impressive given that even modern RPGs that are focused on choice only have a few canned responses. In Event [0] those responses are nearly limitless.

Kaizen is arguably one of the main characters, if not the main character in the game. Heck, he’s one of the most interesting characters in any game. You can’t proceed without his help and many times you’ll have to be nice to him to get him to help you. Kaizen is a witty and somewhat moody character. Many times I tried multiple approaches to see what he would say and it was endlessly entertaining.

Lots of games that are trying something new with their gameplay end up falling into a hole where the game falters in other aspects in order to accommodate that gameplay. Event[0] keeps an entertaining story and other types of gameplay intact while adding in something new. This game hasn’t received the kind of attention that it deserves. It’s unique, amusing and fun. That’s the reason why it’s my favorite game of the year.

Eric’s Pick

Stardew Valley

My game of the year came as a complete surprise. I knew I’d love Overwatch, XCOM 2, and Civilization VI. I’d never given much thought to sim farm games like Harvest Moon, but I ended up sinking over 70 hours into this charming, pixelated adventure.

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Stardew Valley plays like a love letter to 90s JRPGs, localized entirely within a single town. There’s so much to do in and around Pelican Town it’s often overwhelming, especially since the game takes place in a strict day/night cycle with real seasons. Explore the mines to defeat monsters and find treasure. Socialize with townsfolk to earn rewards, and maybe even a spouse. Fish, explore, trade, and participate in seasonal events. Each day brings a wealth of important tasks and new possibilities.

Stardew Valley is so much more than a farm sim, yet the farming portion is also immensely satisfying. There’s a wonderful balance between scrapping enough money to buy just a few seeds, to eventually turning your land into a well-oiled brewery or animal farm that makes more money than you know what to do with. It’s a great experience with a catchy soundtrack, surprisingly poignant writing, and some of the best pixel art I’ve seen. Stardew Valley deserves all the praise and accolades for being this year’s big indie success, and my favorite game of the year.

Stephen’s Pick

Overwatch

The time has come to bid farewell to one heck of a bad year. 2016 wasn’t very good for much, but we did get some amazing video games. Nicole, our fearless leader, asked me a few weeks ago to think long and hard about what my personal game of the year should be. I had a lot of options, because I played a lot of very cool video games. But, at the end of it all there is only one game that stands out as “the best” and that is Overwatch.

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Overwatch is a brilliantly designed game that is possessed of a level of polish that is rarely seen in games today. Every minute detail in that glorious game is treated with care. You can feel the energy that went into development just like you can feel the excitement in a match rise naturally as it reaches its crescendo.

It isn’t just the details that make the difference though. Overwatch has managed to prove that an online multiplayer shooter with no single player campaign to speak of can be successful. And it achieved this goal by having an amazing set of characters that are well balanced against each other and all but forcing players to learn to play all of them in order to excel at the game. In most multiplayer games players are expected to select a “main.” This is the character you focus all of your effort into learning. With Overwatch the game forces you to learn all of them the same way you would learn the nuances of different weapons in other shooters. This would be bothersome if it weren’t for the fact that all of the characters in this game just so freaking COOL!

Speaking of characters – The world is a scary place and there are a lot of people who are more scared by people who are different from them. Overwatch doesn’t do that. It celebrates a cast of characters that celebrate diversity more than just about any game to have come before. If you have doubts, then look at the character select screen and take a look at all the different nationalities, body types, and genders represented. Its impressive, but what makes it better is that nothing feels forced. All of the characters are complete and well rounded. No one is the “token” anything. This is a great feeling when it feels like the celebration of diversity is being squelched elsewhere.

These are just a few of the reasons that Overwatch is a must play game. No excuses people. Go grab it and enjoy!

Pixelkin's 2015 Holiday Gift Guide

Pixelkin 2016 Holiday Guide

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Here are our recommendations for games that would make good gifts this holiday. Click on your platform below and you’ll get a list of games, broken down into games that are great for all ages, and those that would be better for older gamers. Each listing includes a snippet from our reviews of the games. Remember DON’T FORGET GIFT CARDS! Sometimes these make better gifts than specific games, especially if you’re not quite sure what some one would want.

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skylanders: imaginators

The Best Skylanders: Imaginators Figures from the Launch Wave

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With a sixth game in as many years, the Skylanders crew has had to create an astonishing amount of new toy figures. While each Skylanders game has its own unique gimmicks, playing with new and old figures is still the main draw of each entry.

Skylanders: Imaginators features one of the most enjoyable new twists in being able to create your own customizable Skylander. Yet the new Sensei and Villain figures shouldn’t be ignored; they are some of the best figures we’ve seen yet. Read More

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Pixelkin at PAX West 2016

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We saw lots of cool games at PAX West. Below are the ones we got to take an in-depth look at.

SHE REMEMBERED CATERPILLARS PUTS A STORY ON A PUZZLE

she remembered caterpillars

Most puzzle games are just that. They’re fun and great standing on their own. She Remembered Caterpillars is different. It adds in a story on top of the game and the result is interesting… read more.

POTIONS: A CURIOUS TALE MAKES EXPERIMENTATION FUN

potions: a curious tale

Lots of RPGs give you the chance to craft lots of things, including weapons, armor, and potions. In many of these games, you can’t do anything unless you have the “recipe.” Potions: A Curious Tale isn’t like that. You can experiment to your heart’s desire and use them a variety of places outside of traditional combat… read more.

BATTLE CHEF BRIGADE IS JUST LIKE IRON CHEF

battle chef brigade

If you’re at all interested in the food scene and chefs, you’ve probably heard of Iron Chef. Battle Chef Brigade is an action RPG and puzzle game with Iron Chef-style battles. And I loved what I played at PAX West… read more.

BURLY MEN AT SEA LOOKS LIKE A CHARMING INTERACTIVE NOVEL

burly men at sea

When I first heard the title Burly Men at Sea, images of some type of brawler or weird strategy came are what came to mind. But the game is probably the furthest thing from that assumption. The game is in fact an interactive novel I came away from the demo filled with anticipation for the full release… read more.

IN EVERYTHING, YOU CAN PLAY AS ANYTHING

everything

When I picked up the controller to start playing a game called Everything, I was a little bit lost. I was controlling an island, which seemed a little bit weird but also intriguing. After some brief guidance by the demoer I realized that in Everything, you can play as virtually everything… read more.

PLAYING POLITICS IN URBAN EMPIRE

urban empire

At first glance, Urban Empire looks just like another city-building game. And while it has all of the elements of those games, it distinguishes itself with a game mechanic I haven’t seen before – politics… read more.

DRAWN TO DEATH CHANNELS HIGH-SCHOOL NOTEBOOK ART

drawn to death

I hadn’t heard of Drawn to Death in my PAX preparations, but the sign above the demo stations caught my attention. The scribble-style art that would look right at home on a high school student’s notebook looked as though it might have pretty cool game beneath it. And while the art style is intriguing, the game does’t seem very unique… read more.

THIMBLEWEED PARK IS BRINGING BACK CLASSIC POINT-AND-CLICK ADVENTURE GAMES

thimbleweed park

If you’re familiar with the point-and-click genre of adventure games, the names Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnik probably sound familiar to you. That duo, the creators of the classic Maniac Mansion, are back on the development scene with and new game in the classic genre called Thimbleweed Parkread more.

THE LONG JOURNEY HOME LOOKS LIKE A BETTER VERSION OF NO MAN’S SKY

the long journey home

I was expecting to really like No Man’s Sky, but I came away feeling like the planets I visited were way to empty and the galaxy far too vast. The Long Journey Home, like No Man’s Sky, features a procedurally generated galaxy, but adds in much beefier gameplay including character interactions, a tighter galaxy with fewer planets and a focused mission to connect the dots… read more.

NIGHT IN THE WOODS IS FUNNY… REALLY FUNNY

night in the woods

When you hear the title Night in the Woods, a college dropout cat probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. This cat’s story is not only interesting. It borders on hilarious… read more.

1979 REVOLUTION: BLACK FRIDAY BRINGS REAL HISTORY INTO GAMES

1979 revolution

For some the Holy Grail of games is the perfect balance of education and fun. 1979 Revolution: Black Friday comes closer to this than any other game I’ve played. Its story is rooted in history and it plays like a Telltale adventure game… read more.

ESTABLISH YOUR OWN RELIGION IN CREST

crest

God games have been around a long time, but few have actually been based on the player being anything but a fist from above. Crest is a god game, but it’s pretty different from the rest. The developers actually refer to the game as a “religion simulator,” rather than a god game… read more.

BECOME A MODERN DAY SPY IN ORWELL

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When most people hear the name Orwell one thing comes to mind. George Orwell was the author of the classic dystopian novel, 1984. It’s only fitting then that the game of the same name basically puts you in the position of Big Brother…read more.

AMY HENNIG SAYS PLAYERS ARE COLLABORATORS

amy hennig uncharted star wars PAX West

To kick off PAX West, Amy Hennig had a fireside-style chat with Jerry Holkins. Hennig has become one of the most respected game developers, especially when it comes to narrative. She was behind the creation of Nathan Drake and the characters of the Uncharted series.  She talked about the extent of her experience, but focused mostly on story and narrative… read more.

TAME A WILD DESERT LAND IN NEW EXPANSION FOR ARK SURVIVAL EVOLVED

ARK Survival Evolved Scorched Earth

Ambitious dino-riding survival-crafting game ARK: Survival Evolved debuted last year on Steam Early Access. Despite some growing pains and technical hiccups, the open-world title has been widely successful. Frequent patches and content updates have kept ARK near the top of the Steam sales charts for over a year. Though it remains in Early Access, ARK just received its first major paid expansion pack in Scorched Earth…. read more.

GAMING WITH THE MOMS #67: RUNNING OVER A PORTA POTTY WITH A TANK

tanks wargaming world of tanks pax west

PAX West is this weekend in Seattle, with plenty of spectacle, including a smashing event involving a real tank. Nicole gives the lowdown on the games she’s planning to see. We also talk about a bunch of other video game news and family business, including No Man’s Sky, Mass Effect, and how much kids love those Pokémon plushies… read more.