Weekly Penguin
January 21st, 2022

Penguin DT's GOTYs 2021!

What am I working on right now?

The final boss of TAGAP 4. Yup, we're getting there! Obviously I'm not going to say much about it due to spoilers. Besides it not being what you'd necessarily expect.

I know, I'm a tease.

Penguin DT's GOTYs 2021

GOTY 2021

2021 was a half-and-half – half was going through the backlog and the rest were about the chosen few games that were designed for the systems mere mortals can actually buy. Many of them turned out to be shorter romps and therefore I went through tons of games – and there are true gems in the mix!
 

Best positive surprise:

Apsulov: End of Gods

(runner ups: Earth Defense Force: World Brothers, Song of Horror)

I stumbled upon this one completely by accident and I've rarely been happier because of one. Apsulov is basically if DOOM was a survival horror title – and instead of the scientists dabbling with the powers of Christian Hell, these ones stumble head-first into ancient Norse mythology.

What results is a cyberpunk-flavoured cosmic survival horror story focusing old Scandinavian myths. It's refreshing, unique and I want more! And let me tell you, after years seeing Disney make action-figure mockery of these legends, this feels like a true blessing from Odin.

Best soundtrack:

Poison Control

(runner ups: Biomutant, The Little Nightmares II)

NISA is known for banger soundtracks and Poison Control was no different. The game is set in a very unique take on Hell, where the cleansing of souls is set up as a competition of sorts held on Hell's own radio show – paving the way for one fresh, colourful and popping soundtrack by Takashi Okamoto. Okamoto has actually been featured on TAGAP site before, on the Weekly Penguin arena!

Despite having the same setting as the GOTY OST of last year, it couldn't be more different tonally.

Best feel-good apocalypse:

Biomutant

(runner ups: Earth Defense Force: World Brothers)

One of the weird running themes for me this year was the feel-good takes on the end of the world – the world going down in flames, but in great company and / or fantastical set pieces.

The shining beacon of this kind of storytelling was definitely Biomutant, the long-waited kung-fu action-RPG starring your own custom mutant critter wielding weapons you design yourself. The world, the characters, the story-book narration – it all clicks in a way that fills me with smiles. It's such fun that if this world ends, I wouldn't mind if Biomutant is what awaits everyone on the other side.

The game also rocks.

Best of the Backlog:

Deliver Us The Moon

(runner ups: Azure Striker Gunvolt series, Ghostrunner)

Absolutely brilliant, mostly-realism-oriented sci-fi thriller set on a mysteriously abandoned Moon base that is crucial for humanity's survival in the eco-disaster future. Both the world-building and the ramping-up suspense are top-notch, proving that you don't necessarily need gore or alien monsters to make an exciting sci-fi experience.

Apparently Deliver Us the Moon was Kickstarter-funded and I have no idea how I missed it over there – I almost feel like punching myself for not being there. But better late than never, this was one of the most unforgettable gaming experiences this year.

Also it has to be said, KeokeN Interactive has the best company logo mascot ever!

Petja's GOTY:

Age of Empires 3

(runner ups: Back 4 Blood, Aliens: Fireteam Elite, Tabletop Simulator, Card Creator)

The 4th part of the series being just released, I re-discovered the series after a long hiatus. Last time I played the game roughly 15 years ago, but I'm now getting to play it with my 16-year-old son. I'll nominate it as my Game of the Year 2021.

From the games released this year I've only played Back 4 Blood and Aliens: Fireteam Elite, though not that much. Back 4 Blood is worth giving the nod though. The action is solid, but might have too many things to adjust and tinker for casual players.

– Petja

Jouni's GOTY:

The Little Nightmares II

(runner ups: Quake, Biomutant)

One of the three franchises I played all the way through this year after having slept on them all this time, was The Little Nightmares. It's so good I have almost nothing bad to say about them. The environmental storytelling of the series is top-notch, the characters are great and multidimensional and that atmosphere? You can cut it with a knife.

If I'd have to describe it somehow, think of Silent Hill and the animated version of Neil Gaiman's Coraline having a love-baby; it has the atmosphere and mood of the former – and the surreal visuals and character design of the latter. It's a glorious mix that will stick with you.

I'm intentionally leaving the description vague, as the narrative is a big part of the experience. Wholeheartedly recommended.

Honourable mentions

So many great games, so few awards. Here are some more games well deserving some attention!

  • DOOM Eternal: The Ancient Gods Part II (id Software / Zenimax)

    You know, I was few digital inches away from calling it my 'GOTY 2021', as I love almost everything about it. However, I decided to move it into special mentions for being DLC, otherwise we would've had DOOM Eternal dominating GOTYs two years in a row. It's that good – from gameplay and levels to the franchise-worthy soundtrack.

    I know some have ignored it as 'just DLC', but you can't dismiss The Ancient Gods if you like DOOM. It's literary the end of the story that started almost 30 years ago and works as a suitably epic conclusion. Go get it!

  • Quake (id Software / Nightdive Studios / Zenimax)

    Where last year's Destroy All Monsters! was the 'perfect remake', the recent 25th anniversary release of Quake from id and Nightdive is the 'perfect remaster'. If you haven't played Quake – or haven't done so in a while – give the spruced up version a go. For one, it's the first official release since the 1996 CD-ROM to re-integrate the Trent Reznor soundtrack.

  • Prinny 1•2: Exploded and Reloaded (Nippon Ichi / NISA)

    Brilliant re-relase and remaster of the two previously-PSP-exclusive platformer games starring the penguin soul slaves of Disgaea, Prinnies. These are great platformer games, only with plenty of that Disgaea charm and wackiness. This one was obviously also featured as a Weekly Penguin.

  • Azure Striker Gunvolt series (Inti Creates)

    I've been sleeping on Inti Create's brilliant Gunvolt franchise for a while and with a heavier focus on my backlog this year, I decided to fix the problem. And boy was I glad I did; the entire series is bloody awesome! If you like your 2D action games with fast and precise gameplay, interesting characters and surprisingly deep lore, give the two branches of the franchise a go (Azure Striker Gunvolt and Luminous Avenger iX).

  • Ghostrunner (One More Level / Slipgate Ironworks / 3D Realms / 505 Games)

    This is for parkour titles what DOOM Eternal is for the classic FPS games – pure, concentrated surge of adrenaline that has you on the edge of your seat all the way through. Not only is the gameplay brilliant, the story and the world are interesting as heck – and the soundtrack by Daniel Deluxe is gorgeous.

  • Void Bastards (Blue Manchu / Humble Bundle)

    One of those rare cases where the 'rogue-lite' game design makes sense in a story focused title – you play as randomly generated cannon fodder for a prison ship stranded in the hostile butt-end of the galaxy. The game is like speed-running through miniature immersive sims, but with an art style that looks like 2000 AD comics in motion. Good stuff.

  • Zombie Army Franchise (Rebellion)

    I had been putting off giving the series a go because I thought they were throw-away gag spin-offs to Sniper Elite. Oh boy was I wrong; Zombie Army is one of the most atmospheric horror series out there, oozing that slimy Lucio Fulci charm, right down to the perfect scene lighting and the throbbing synth score. Plus, a realistic sniper rifle is a perfect match for survival horror – it's inherit clunkiness prevents Rambo-antics without feeling artificial.

  • Earth Defense Force: World Brothers (Yukes! / D3)

    It's pretty much the closest thing we'll ever get to 'The LEGO EDF Video Game', paving way for an epic smash-up of all the previous EDF games and their characters. Good and simple tongue-in-cheek fun.

I'm also sure the great backlog title Elex from Piranha Bytes will be mentioned in the next year's GOTY post. I didn't wrap it up until early January 2022, so it missed this round-up.

2021 games in the to-play cue

I've been more and more stuck in the backlog, with few exceptions. However, some titles still managed to escape me. I have all these games on my shelf, waiting their turn. We'll see these down the line for sure.

  • Dangerous Dave collection
  • Disgaea 6
  • Gearshifters
  • Sense
  • Treasures of the Aegean

Most anticipated games of 2022

I'm not that interested in the new systems, not that I could get them even if I wanted to. Luckily there are still a handful of games coming out designed for the old consoles and here are the ones I'm keeping my eye on.

  • Anew: A Distant Light (Resonator Games)

    Ha, I swear I'm jinxing the release at this point.

  • Azure Striker Gunvolt 3 and Gunvolt Chronicles: Luminous Avenger iX2 (Inti Creates)

    Both story arcs of Inti Creates' Gunvolt franchise get their sequels in 2022 and I can't wait!

  • Elex II (Piranha Bytes / THQ Nordic)

    Having just wrapped up the first one and having fallen in love with its universe, I can't wait to see the story continue.

  • Shadow Warrior 3 (Flying Wild Hog / Devolver Digital)

    I mean, have you seen it? It's like love baby of Lo Wang and the DOOM Slayer.

  • System Shock Remake (Nightdive Studios)

    The backbones of the original System Shock are godlike, but its engine and mechanics have aged like milk. It's perfect ground for a remake and here we have one, being handled by the folks behind the above-praised Quake remaster.

  • Yurukill: The Calumniation Games (Izanagi Games / Nippon Ichi / NISA)

    One of the wildest genre-blender titles I've seen in ages, its one part visual novel, one part adventure and one part SHMUP, all revolving around a dystopian correctional system fit for an episode of Black Mirror. It's either a future cult hit or a glorious mess, but either way it'll be a ride worth experiencing.

  • TAGAP 4 (Penguin DT)

    I don't think you've heard of it, it's kind of obscure.


Phew, that was a lot of great games. Next time we're back to our more regular DevBlog programming!

Until next time,

Jouni Lahtinen, the head penguin