Volgarr the Viking: 2013 Game of the Year
Oniken: 2012 Game of the Year
Check out our Best of 2013 awards show, where we discuss all of
the best 2D video games of 2013 and give out meaningful awards!

Electronic Super Joy: Groove City

A game by Michael Todd Games for PC, Mac, and Linux, originally released in 2014.
Electronic Super Joy: Groove City is a mini-sequel to Electronic Super Joy, acting as a standalone game rather than an expansion to the original release, and the premise is every bit as zany as the first… Early in the game, a giant robot stripper named JoJo rampages through Groove City, angered by the fact that Dr. Swinger has stolen her laser nipples. You are tasked with defeating Dr. Swinger and retrieving said photonic areolic protrusions, with the assistance of a returning character from the first game, Pope Boris the Super Sexy.


As before, the world is filled with bright throbbing colors and pulsing electronica, and you control a silhouetted fellow running and jumping through a similarly silhouetted world. While the original game featured numerous movement enhancements, including a butt stomp, a double jump, and even the ability to fly… this game has none of that.

Instead you have only your 3x variable height jump, which makes the gameplay somewhat simpler, but also adds additional challenges by focusing more heavily on precision platforming. Also, without your butt stomp, there is no way to smash swarming missiles into oblivion, and so you must avoid these on your platforming adventure as well.

1001 Spikes

A game by 8bits Fanatics and Nicalis for PC, Mac, Linux, PS4, Wii U, Vita, and 3DS, originally released in 2014.
1001 Spikes is an abbreviation of Aban Hawkins & the 1001 Spikes. Including the subtitle, the full name is technically Aban Hawkins & the 1001 Spikes: The Temple of the Dead Mourns the Living, if you aren’t into the whole brevity thing. The game acts a pseudo sequel and enhanced remake of Aban Hawkins & the 1000 Spikes originally released on Xbox Live Indie Games in 2011 by 8bits Fanatics. For 1001 Spikes, Nicalis revisited the game and fleshed out the overall experience, adding a bit more than a single spike with a new storyline and cutscenes, a new introductory tutorial area, several multiplayer modes, enhanced visuals, and some extra tough single player challenges following the completion of the main game, making this the definitive version of the Aban Hawkins adventure.


The new story tells the tale of Aban Hawkins whose father, the famous archaeologist Jim Hawkins, recently disappeared while exploring the Antarctic. Years before, Jim Hawkins decided to leave his entire fortune to Aban’s sister Tina, leaving the impetuous Aban with nothing… in the hopes that he would become a “real man” and earn a fortune of his own.

Transistor

A game by Supergiant Games for PC and PS4, originally released in 2014.
Transistor tells the tale of Red, a singer who has lost her voice. Things begin in medias res with Red on rooftop, standing near a man with a large sword sticking out of his torso. The sword speaks, glowing as it does so, and says: “Red… We’re not going to get away with this, are we?” The player then takes control of Red as she dislodges the object from the body of her companion, and finds that his consciousness has been transferred to the sword-like object, known as the Transistor.


The game takes place in what appears to be a virtual world, although this is not overtly stated. This setting is enforced by the fact that bits of “reality” are being altered by mechanized creatures that roam the environment, and the language of the game consists largely of programmer-speak, with battles being called “processes”, areas carrying names like Empty Set and Floating Point, and your various attacks being called “functions” with names like Ping() and Crash().

Retro Game Crunch

A game by Retro Game Crunch for PC and Mac, originally released in 2014.
Retro Game Crunch is a collection of seven retro-styled games inspired by the classics of the 8-bit era, and each offers a different gameplay experience and a different theme. The collection came into being as a result of a game jam. The developers created Super Clew Land over the course of 72 hours as part of the 24th Ludum Dare game jam in 2012, which was themed on evolution. From there, they decided to use Kickstarter to fund a development project where they would make additional games under limited time constraints.


The developers’ goal was to create six games in just six months, something that has been attempted to a greater or lesser degree by developers like Arkedo and Radiangames, but the twist here is that they gave the Kickstarter community an active role in the development process. Before starting each game, Kickstarter backers had the chance to vote on a theme, at which point the development team created a prototype within 72 hours. From there, Kickstarter backers were allowed to pay the prototype and offer feedback while the developers polished the game into a final product.

At the end of the campaign, the developers released all seven titles as a single bundle. The bundle has a no-frills presentation, offering only a simple interface that allows players to cycle through each of the games and view their controls.


Scram Kitty and his Buddy on Rails

A game by Dakko Dakko for Wii U, originally released in 2014.
Scram Kitty and his Buddy on Rails is a peculiar game, featuring a rail-riding fellow named Buddy who uses a magnetic “Spinboard” to slide around the edges of a space station, hopping away from the edges in platforming challenges, and blasting away at evil kidnapping mice. Apparently, the mice of the world have risen up against the cats, abducting them and bringing them aboard an orbital laboratory. Fortunately, one of the abducted cats – named Scram – has a friend who breaks into the station to rescue him and all of the other hapless kitties.


You take on the role of Buddy, navigating the environment with a rather unconventional control scheme. Buddy’s Spinboard is magnetically attached to the wall, forcing him to move through the environment by sticking to the edges of various structures. Controls are screen relative, rather than character relative, so pressing LEFT or RIGHT moves you left or right along rails, but when you move around a corner, you have to press the stick in the desired direction to continue moving. It is not possible to change this control scheme.

Super Time Force

A game by Capy Games for Xbox 360 and Xbox One, originally released in 2014.
Super Time Force is a run-and-gun actioner with a strategic twist, centering on a time travel mechanic that allows players to reverse time at will – even after death – to play through segments of the level with one or more versions of their past selves carrying out their previous actions. Ultimately, the player may have dozens of copies of himself running around the stages, taking on bosses, and even creating the occasional time paradox as he rescues a past self from his own death. Such is the zany nature of Super Time Force, and it has a cracked narrative match.


Super Time Force was originally to be titled Super T.I.M.E. Force, although the acronym still remains in the final game as Super Temporal Infinite Manipulation Expert Force. The game begins in Philadelphia in 1987 with an eye patch-wearing scientist who has discovered time travel. Immediately upon realizing this great discovery, the world is destroyed by a robot army, and Philadelphia of the USA becomes the post-apocalyptic wasteland of Cincindelphia of the USSA in the year 198X.

Kero Blaster

A game by Studio Pixel for PC and iOS, originally released in 2014.
Kero Blaster is a sidescrolling action game with a focus on platforming and shooting. The game stars a frog custodian who works for C&F Inc., a.k.a. Cat & Frog Incorporated. The president of the company is a cat who keeps a strange black creature in her office as a pet. Meanwhile, the company’s teleporters have been overrun by these same creatures, and it is up to the frog to clear them out.



Pink Hour
A month prior to the release of Kero Blaster, the developer released a prologue to the game, acting as a teaser of sorts, called Pink Hour. This free download stars the pink office secretary who has lost an important document, and she uses one of the company teleporters to head out into the enemy-filled world to retrieve it and present it to the company president.


The game is only a few minutes in length, and features a number of the environments and enemies present in Kero Blaster. However, unlike Kero Blaster, which eases the player into many of its challenges, Pink Hour tosses the player directly into heavy platforming intermixed with flying enemies, a low ceiling, and tiny platforms over bottomless pits, making for a pretty tough first taste of a more balanced final product.

Chronology

A game by OSAO Games for PC, originally released in 2014.
Chronology is a puzzle platformer starring an old inventor and a talking snail. Together, this duo must use their powers of time manipulation to make changes to the environment, interact with the creatures around them, and solve puzzles. Along the way, they learn more about the events that led to the world’s destruction, which came from the abuse of an energy source known as the Vapor that naturally rises up from underground.


When the game begins, the inventor finds himself lying on the ground, alone in the woods with no memory of what has happened, although there has clearly been an explosion of some kind. He discovers his pocket watch lying nearby, and finds that it gives him the ability to move through time, switching between the “Before” and the “After” time periods. In the past, the world is lush and green, and society is at its greatest height, but in the future, the world is run down, and everything is in ruin.

Gunhound EX

A game by Dracue for PC and PSP, released in the US in 2014.
Gunhound EX, also known as Armored Hunter Gunhound EX, falls into the small subgenre of mech-based action shooters inhabited largely by the Assault Suits series – which includes Target Earth and Cybernator in the U.S. – as well as a few one-off titles like Metal Warriors. Gunhound EX features a large lumbering mech smashing and shooting its way through five sizeable environments and facing off against numerous military targets and several huge bosses.

As is typical of the genre, the mech’s movement is slow and deliberate, and the controls are complex. The mech comes loaded with heavy firepower in the form of four distinct weapon types, each with different effects, and each is assigned to a separate button or button combination. In addition, the mech has a long slow jump, and it is stunned for a moment when hitting the ground from any great height unless the player uses his boosters just before hitting the ground.

The booster function allows the mech to sustain a jump for a bit longer, cross gaps, and even reach higher elevations, but it too is slowed by the incredible weight of the mech. Aside from a couple of instances where the player is given an unlimited booster, its power will drain as you use it, but it recharges quickly while disengaged.

Secrets of Rætikon

A game by Broken Rules for PC, Mac, and Linux, originally released in 2014.
Secrets of Rætikon is an action adventure game about exploration and discovery, with very few restrictions placed on the player. You take on the role of a bird that has fallen from a great height into the Alpine world below. Aside from an opening tutorial section that familiarizes the player with the controls, the game offers no direction… Simply fly around, interact with the world, search for hidden areas, and take things on at your own pace.


To move about, you must flap your wings, and each tap of the button translates to a single flap. However, unlike Joust where you had to keep flapping like crazy to stay aloft, this bird can hover in the air and even move slowly in all directions without any additional input. Flapping essentially allows for greater speed, more maneuverability, and the ability to reach great heights if you time your button presses properly.

Broforce

A game by Free Lives for PC, Mac, PS4, and Vita, not yet released, available via Steam Early Access.
As it says on the (virtual) tin, Broforce is a patriotism simulator. This run and gun takes its inspiration from American action films of the 80’s and 90’s, and the over-the-top badass characters portrayed in them. The story is America vs. terrorists, kill them before they kill you, I ain’t got time to bleed, I pity the fool, I’ll be back, I am the law, thank you for your cooperation, groovy, get away from her you bitch, Machete don’t text, call me Snake, and yippee ki-yay… And if any of that just made sense to you, then consider yourself the target demographic for this game.

Broforce starts you in the jungles of Vietnam with a muscular machine gun-toting, bandana-wearing dude with long hair and a bad attitude. This fellow is known as “Rambro”, a caricature of Sylvester Stallone’s John Rambo character from First Blood and its sequels. Throughout the game, you unlock numerous other characters, each with a “bro-ified” name, but all recognizable as their action hero counterparts.

The Swapper

A game by Facepalm Games for PC, Mac, Linux, PS3, PS4, Vita, and Wii U, originally released in 2013.
The Swapper begins with an escape pod being launched from a research facility on a space station, landing the player on the desolate planet below. The player character emerges from the capsule clad in a space suit, and makes her way to a doorway embedded in the rock. Passing through the door reveals an expansive subterranean excavation site. You enter the site, looking for a teleporter to return to the space station for reasons that are not yet clear. Along the way, you activate computer terminals and listen to radio broadcasts that provide a bit of context for your adventure that unfolds – or perhaps, unravels – as you make your way through the moody and mysterious world.


The Swapper is a puzzle-based action adventure game which focuses on a single core mechanic. A device known as the Swapper allows its user to generate clones of herself – up to four at a time – and then swap her consciousness with any of the newly-created bodies, thus taking over the new vessel and making it her own. In addition to the complex puzzles that this sort of mechanic allows for, it also presents a number of philosophical questions, mixed with the core science behind the device. What is it that is being transferred? Is it a soul? What happens to the bodies that you leave behind? What is it that makes you you?

Chucky Mendoza and the Curse of the Pharaoh

A game by {ths} for PC and Mac, originally released in 2014.
Chucky Mendoza and the Curse of the Pharaoh is an experiment in retro game design, harkening back to classic 80’s computer games, particularly Pharaoh’s Curse, from which this title borrows its overall structure, visual design, and numerous gameplay elements, even going so far as to reproduce many of its stage layouts outright. In fact, the games are so similar that Chucky Mendoza could almost be seen as a remake, and it explains the inclusion of “Curse of the Pharaoh” in the game’s title.


The primary difference between Chucky Mendoza and his spiritual predecessor is that the pace has been slowed considerably and Chucky does not have any offensive capabilities. As such, the game has a greater emphasis on exploration over action, as players spend most of their energies avoiding enemies and traps rather than blasting away at endless streams of mummies and pharaohs.

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