Best Books & Games of 2015

Happy New Year! Here’s a list of my favorite books and games of 2015. The items within each category category aren’t ranked; they’re chronological.

Books:

All the Light We Cannot See
All the Light We Cannot See
Wool
Wool
My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry
My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry
Red Queen
Red Queen

Games:

Brothers - Snowy city
Brothers
Tomb Raider: gun
Tomb Raider
Mini Metro map
Mini Metro
Character Screen
ARK

Bardbarian

Bardbarian

Summary

Move Brad the Bardbarian around the battlefield, dodging enemy attacks while your units fight for you.

Review

Bardbarian is a fun and simple casual game. It is very polished with great art and goofy characters. I played it on my computer, but it would probably be a great mobile game, too.

Bardbarian gameplay

You might like this game if you like…

  • Dodging enemies
  • Unlocking and upgrading units
  • Magical lutes made out of war axes
  • Tower defense

Want to play?

$2.79 on Steam (on sale 65% off) | Free on Android and iOS

ARK: Survival Evolved

ARK: Survival Evolved

Summary

Learn to survive on an island full of dinosaurs. Hunt creatures, gather resources, craft items, and build structures. You can also tame, breed, and ride dinosaurs in this open world sandbox game.

Review

ARK is an Early Access Game, but it already feels like a complete game. It has a huge community of players, gets updated very frequently, and can keep you entertained for hours upon hours. There is even an alternate play mode called Survival of the Fittest, which is essentially The Hunger Games in a world with dinosaurs.

My biggest complaints are that it is a resource hog (the developers are actively working on improving the game’s performance) and that the world is a fixed map and not destructible (not a big deal, but it would be nice).

I was really skeptical about ARK at first, but it’s a lot of fun. Highly recommended!

Taming Penelope
Taming my first dinosaur, Penelope the Parasaur
Character Screen
The character screen
Riding a Trike
Nick riding Timothy the Triceratops

You might like this game if you like…

Want to play?

$29.99 on Steam (Early Access)

Costume Quest

Costume Quest

Summary

Costume Quest: Trick-or-treating
Trick-or-treating

It’s Halloween and you are trick-or-treating when a monster shows up and kidnaps your twin. Go around the neighborhood collecting candy and costumes, making friends, and battling monsters to try to get your sibling back.

Review

Costume Quest is cute and great at adapting the theme of Halloween to an adventure game. The story and dialogue are funny… however, the gameplay gets boring and repetitive quickly. The combat system is incredibly simplistic. Each costume has a basic attack and a special attack you can use every three turns.

It’s nice to have a game kids and adults alike can play on Halloween, but don’t expect much from it.

Costume Quest: Battle system

You might like this game if you like…

  • Halloween
  • Turn-based RPG battles
  • Costumes and candy
  • Fighting monsters

Want to play?

$0.99 on Steam (on sale 90% off) | $4.99 on iOS | $14.99 on PS3 and Xbox 360

Mini Metro

Mini Metro

Summary

Mini Metro is a strategy simulation game about designing a subway map for a growing city. Draw lines between stations and start your trains running.

It was first created during Ludum Dare 26, a game development competition in which you only have a couple days to create a game that fits the given theme. The developers liked their prototype and decided to develop it further.

Mini Metro map

Review

I love Mini Metro. It’s a brilliant game idea that is executed well. It is fun to play, the achievements are challenging, and it’s quickly becoming one of my favorite Steam games.

It’s currently available as an Early Access game and will be released soon. Hopefully they’ll add a Seattle map. <3

Mini Metro map selectorMini Metro choose asset

You might like this game if you like…

  • Mass transit
  • Minimalism
  • Efficiency & optimization
  • Making decisions based on limited resources

Want to play?

$9.99 on Steam (Early Access)

Monster Loves You!

Monster Loves You!

Summary

Play as a monster in this interactive story. The decisions you make affect your personality, as well as the relations between monsters and humans.

Review

Monster Loves You! is cute, but better suited for kids than adults. There isn’t any challenge and the game is pretty short (although you can play through it again to go for different endings).

Monster Loves You!

You might like this game if you like…

  • Role-playing as a monster
  • Biting things
  • Making decisions
  • Cute cartoon art
  • Interactive stories
  • Collecting human artifacts

Want to play?

I played the game on Steam, but it’s also available on mobile.

$9.99 on Steam | $0.99 on Android & iOS | Pay what you want in Humble PC & Android Bundle 13

Lifeline

Lifeline

Summary

You are Taylor’s only contact after his/her* ship crashes on an alien moon. Help Taylor through life or death decisions as the text-based story plays out in real time.

*I said his/her because Taylor’s gender was intentionally left ambiguous. I personally imagined Taylor as a guy because he made me think of Mark Watney in Andy Weir’s The Martian.

Review

For a few days, Taylor and I shared a bond. Whenever Nick asked what I was up to, I usually said something like, “I just helped Taylor find a generator!”

Lifeline decisionsThe game plays out in real time, so you won’t hear from Taylor while he’s sleeping or busy doing something. You just have to cross your fingers and hope he’s okay. With other games, waiting between playing is frustrating and annoying, but with Lifeline, it adds realism. It takes about three days to play if you respond to Taylor regularly.

After you finish the story, you have the option of going back in time and making different decisions. You also unlock “fast mode,” so you can skip the waiting time if you want.

Taylor died the first time I played. And the second, third, and fourth times. It wasn’t until I went back to the very beginning of the story and changed a few early decisions that I found a happy ending for Taylor.

I liked Lifeline a lot. It is engaging and suspenseful. Buy it. 😛

My criticisms are that you are limited to only 2 choices per interaction. Sometimes I wanted more options than that. Also, although Taylor usually listens to you, he’ll sometimes argue with you or ignore your suggestions altogether. This is realistic, but on Day 3, Taylor is going to the peak regardless of any choices you make.

You might like this game if you like…

  • Text-based games
  • The Martian by Andy Weir
  • Choose your own adventure games
  • Space exploration
  • Sarcastic characters
  • Suspense and horror

Want to play?

$0.99 on Google Play & iOS (currently on sale)

Squishy the Suicidal Pig

Squishy the Suicidal Pig Title

Summary

Your goal is to die in this puzzle platformer so that you can join your parents in pig heaven.

Review

Squishy the Suicidal Pig Screenshot
Broken screenshots

Disclaimer: I’ve only spent half an hour playing this game.

When I first launched Squishy the Suicidal Pig, I was surprised by how small the window was (960 x 540 pixels) with no option to change it. The only setting was to stretch the game to fullscreen; there weren’t even audio settings. I couldn’t even use my mouse to navigate through the menus. Then I tried to take a screenshot via Steam’s built-in screenshot functionality, which didn’t really work (see screenshot on right). All of that plus a semi-hard-to-read font and misspellings like “basicly” make for a game that is severely lacking polish.

That said, I think Squishy is a pretty clever concept because the goal is not to survive, but to die. The puzzles are well-designed and challenging and I like the bright, colorful art.

I’m not sure what I paid for this game, but it’s currently on sale for $0.33. At that price, it’s worth picking up in spite of its flaws. You’ll even get some of your money back by selling trading cards.

You might like this game if you like…

  • Puzzle platformers
  • Killing pigs
  • Frequently restarting levels
  • Unforgiving obstacles

Want to play?

$0.33 on Steam (currently 67% off) | $0.99 on Google Play

Hatoful Boyfriend

Hatoful Boyfriend logo

Summary

You are the only human student at St. PigeoNation’s Institute, a school for talented birds. Your goal is to find love in this bird dating sim visual novel. The decisions you make affect your story and determine which bird you romantically pursue.

Review

My friend, knowing that I had not yet played a bird dating sim (shocking, I know!), generously surprised me with Hatoful Boyfriend from the Humble Bundle Spring Sale.

Rather than reviewing this bizarre bird dating sim in depth, I’ll share screenshots of my experience:

Hatoful Boyfriend 01
I show up for my first day at school and I’m already running late! Jeepers!
Hatoful Boyfriend 02
I have to decide which school activity I want to participate in. Library staff!
Hatoful Boyfriend 03
After going on a run and getting lost, I meet Azami, a sparrow with an affinity for traffic laws.
Hatoful Boyfriend 04
I get a summer job at a cafe. Apparently, I have a thing for my boss.
Hatoful Boyfriend 05
A gang of pigeons threatened to beat me up and steal my cash! Oh my!
Hatoful Boyfriend 06
My quail math teacher is narcoleptic… and evidently occasionally sleeps in washing machines.
Hatoful Boyfriend 07
The English translation is quite good. No errors at all.
Hatoful Boyfriend 08
The crazy partridge doctor locked me in a room. I’m in despair! Thankfully, the math teacher is there to rescue me.
Hatoful Boyfriend 09
After my rescue, I apparently confess to my math teacher that I have feelings for him. He says I’m a little young, but to come back to him after I graduate. He’ll be waiting for me. Sudden cut to game credits.

In subsequent games, I also pursued the pigeons Okosan (the pudding-loving captain of the track team) and Yuuya (the flirty infirmary assistant).

Hatoful Boyfriend 10
Our class decided to have a “maid cafe.” My crush, Okosan, would rather be nude than wear his maid costume.
Hatoful Boyfriend 11
Yuuya and I went on a date. He teased me to get me to hold his hand.

Before I can recommend that “everybirdie” buy this game, I would like to see more decision-making opportunities in the game. Hatoful Boyfriend is pretty much a lot of text with very few decisions to make. Replayability could be better, too; although there are several different endings and side stories, the base story remains the same each time. That makes it hard to want to pursue all potential bird boyfriends. 🙁

You might like this game if you like…

  • Dating pigeons (obviously)
  • Giving delicious beans to your love interests
  • Visual novels without a lot of choices
  • Lots and lots of screens of text
  • Deciding between attending math class, gym, or music class
  • Male birds wearing maid costumes

Want to play?

$9.99 on Steam and Humble Store

Morphopolis

Morphopolis logo

Summary

Find hidden objects and solve mini puzzles as you go through a colorful insect world, transforming into a new insect with each chapter.

Review

Currently on sale for only 24 cents, I picked up Morphopolis without really knowing anything about the game. Colorful art, positive reviews, and trading cards I can sell to recoup the cost of the game? Sure, why not.

Morphopolis is pretty short; the 5 chapters took me 1.5 hours to complete. The art is gorgeous and probably the game’s biggest selling point. The gameplay itself isn’t unique; it’s a hidden object game with a handful of puzzles thrown in. For what is intended to be a relaxing game, though, the insects’ slow walking speed really hurt the experience, because it was frustrating to move between screens.

Not a bad game, but not a great one either. Worth the 24 cents.

Morphopolis

You might like this game if you like…

  • Hidden object games
  • Beautiful, colorful art
  • Mini game puzzles
  • The world of bugs
  • Machinarium
  • Slow-paced, casual games

Want to play?

$0.24 on Steam (on sale 95% off) | $3.99 on Google Play and iOS