2015 wasn't that bad, was it? Sure, the war in the middle east looks to eclipse Vietnam, no one has a brass farthing to rub together, and the internent is still a incubator for the most ignorant kind of hatred imaginable. But there was some still quality video games, tv shows, films and whatnot, wasn't there? Sure there was, because I'm about to write about a bunch of it. Obviously, this is a subjective piece of filler so it's just a list of stuff I liked this year. With some omissions; the newest series of Doctor Who was a marked improvement, but when you dedicate two episodes to saying goodbye to a walking pair of eyebrows- when the Ponds just disappeared and died of old age- just left a bad taste. And I merely liked, not loved The Force Awakens, because I'm eight years old. So onto what I did love this year...
A watershed moment for me was the small, yet perfectly formed, and intentionally funny, alt-game from Squinky. In much the same way all the great songs make the listener feel like it could of been written about them. This mono-input, conversation sim has you simply tap the space bar to try and join in a conversation, lest you fade into obscurity. But talk too much and you bore everyone at the table. Get the balance right and you can continue the pointless yammering for as long as you like. I've emotionally invested in games before, but not until Interruption Junction did I feel like a game could've been based on a aprt of my own life; my struggle with social anxiety. Obviously, it wasn't. That would be weird (and probably the start of some legal action) but that I could feel that way about a video game just shows games really are art. Just not art you feel like talking to to parties.
This Is England 90
There's been a high amount of quality television this year. But above all those, I put Shane Meadows' send off to the characters of his 2006 film. Previous TV sequels had been hit and miss compared to the original film, and '90 seemed to be going the same, sudden, swaying from broad comedy to tense drama, that didn't quite gel. Then the dinner table scene, one of the best pieces of drama I've ever seen. Television really doesn't get much better than that. And the cast doesn't put a foot wrong, with Stephen Graham being the main standout as Combo. A character that really only gets proper screen time until the final episode, but fuck me does he make up for it. I won't spoil it, but if he doesn't win a shit-tonne of awards for his performance, then acting can fuck right off.
Is this better than Bayonetta or Metalgear Rising? No. But I still had a bunch of fun with this nifty little action game. Based on the ,still charming, original cartoon show, Platinum Games' penchant for good cell-shaded games with effective and addictive combat justified the purchase for me. Oh, and other developers take note of the vehicle controls. That's exactly how you stop a vehicle section from being a a frustrating, extraneous, pain in the arse (Arkham Knight, I'm looking at you). Those two things combined make a TF Devy a (slight rough) little gem of a game. Graphically looking like the G1 cartoon, and (mostly) voiced by the original cast, this is the Transformers game I've been waiting 30 years for.
Save The Date
What do you get when you cross a generic, text-based, dating sim with a fourth-wall smashing storyline, that simultaneously mocks and adds a refreshing twist on the trial-and-error gameplay that are the spine of all dating sims? I'm not saying, because it'll only ruin it. You really have to discover how funny and frustrating this totally free game is for yourself. You'll be screaming at the screen so many times, as you think you've finally sussed it, only for the next paragraph to crush your hopes with a ridiculous twist of fate. And when you've stopped crying, you start the whole thing over again, unless you're not like me and bothered to save your progress.
Unlike previous Nintendo top brass- and most game publisher bosses- Iwata, who sadly passed away this year, wasn't an executive by trade. He wasn't a corporate climber, or got in by being related to someone in the Ninty board of directors. He started as a game dev. Originally for Hal Laboratory, working on Balloon Fight, Earthbound, and Kirby's Dreamland, then worked for Nintendo proper and worked on Super Smash Bros, Pokemon Stadium and many others before becoming Nintendo president in 2013. But even when he was part of management, he still kept to his dev roots. When Super Smash Bros. Melee was close to completion, despite being GM of corporate planning, he personally helped finish the debug process, because he refused to put out a substandard product. When the Wii U failed to replicate the Wii's success, he refused to fire staff, for the sake of appeasing investors, and instead took a 50% pay cut. That's a mindset an awful lot of gaming big wigs could do with adopting. Not all his ideas were winners- their youtube policy, no including a plug with the 3DS- but he was the antithesis of your average game publisher, in that he at least listened. You got the impression he gave a shit. Something a lot of publishers could do with emulating.
Jem and The Holograms (IDW)
No, not that Jem and Holograms, This comic reimagining of the 80s cartoon (from IDW) is everything the infamous trailer wasn't; it has vibrant visuals- thanks to Sophie Campbell's striking art, that gives the cast a fresh, yet classic, look and is drawing some of the best facial expressions this side of Simon Bisley. And strong characterisation from Kelly Thompson, getting the right balance of keeping enough to make it a Jem old fans will recognise, but injects enough new content to make it more than a post ironic throwback for hipsters and hardcore fans, who only want the cartoon verbatim. Plus, those glittery logos, on the first few issues, were the best! And I have them all...not that I'm braggin'.
Writer or 28 Days Later, Dredd, and winner of the Digitiser Brown Trumpet award, Alex Garland made his directorial debut with a taught, psychological, thriller that could of jumped right out of the pages of 2000AD. A "future shock" about our relationship with technology and when does artificial intelligence become self aware, and how do you prove that? Well, that's part of it- I don't want to ruin the tense drama between the three leads, with Oscar Isaac being the stand out. One part Mark Zuckerberg, one part Glen Danzig, with a touch of Willy Wonka, Isaac is excellent as the controlling, tech bro, recluse; spending all day glaring at his bank of monitors, getting shitfaced every night, then up the next morning to sweat the alcohol out with bicep curls. And, of course, "that" scene.
12 Hours- I meant to write about this free, browser-based, text adventure, but didn't make it. Anyway, this game has you playing as a homeless person, and your only task is to survive the night. Not as straight forward as you think, and very eye-opening.
Humans- Good remake of Swedish show about a near future, where we rely on a android underclass, who are a big metaphor for overlooked people in society.
Bob Chipman- If only for his eviscerating review of Pixels, but he's also kept bringing up great talking points with his continued Game Overthinker series.
Master Of None- Aziz Ansari in not-playing-an-annoying-character shocker! It's like someone saw Girls, and thought "what if the characters aren't homicide-inducingly annoying?".
Daredevil- Yeah, the man with no fear keeps doing the same flip-kick, and every other episode verges into torture porn, but man is Vincent D'Onofrio captivating as Wilson Fisk. All quiet aggression and daddy issues- living like a atypical single guy; no furnishings and making the same meal every day.
Undertale- I've not played it, in fact, I barely know anything about it. But something that upsets the people on the Game FAQs forum can only be a good thing.
Ash vs Evil Dead- You says you can never go home? Not Ashley J. Williams, he lives in a trailer. And he's still at his idiotic best when he (while stoned) reads from that fucking book again. Bloody, hilarious, and on the right side of fan service.
Future Shock!- A cracking little documentary about the history of 2000AD. With plenty of classic writers and artists giving their account of their time on "The galaxies greatest comic" and wonderfully furious telling of events from it's original editor, Pat Mills
Flaming Toast- Simply put, Flaming Toast make custom decals for your controllers and consoles, made to order, with great customisation options. Like the light bar decal I got for my dualshock 4.