Snake Pass is a game built around a single idea: You’re a snake. Really. That’s it. It may look like a mid-’90s platformer, with its cartoon characters and that bright, colorful palette. You’re a snake, though, and thus have no legs with which to platform.
Instead you’re reduced to snaking around a level—coiling yourself around poles, wriggling across ledges, and clambering your way up cliffs like a sentient vine. Which is basically what you are. It’s excellent, almost more of a puzzle game than a platformer, and despite being overshadowed by the release of Yooka-Laylee in the same window I think Snake Pass is probably the stronger throwback game.
The video above shows our impressions of Snake Pass, along with the next two games on this list and another—Four Last Things—that missed the cut.
Stories Untold is really good until it kind-of sort-of isn’t. Which is to say: The last chapter is a letdown.
It’s mainly a letdown though because it tries to wrap a fat, ugly bow around what is, up until that moment, a fantastic and somewhat spooky anthology series like The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits. Stories Untold is a love-letter to analog technology, a fact that doesn’t surprise me a bit after learning that some of the Alien: Isolation crew worked on it. More specifically, it’s a game where you use analog technology to investigate the paranormal—say, by using medical equipment to experiment on a strange artifact, or typing coordinates into an elaborate radio system from your snowed-in lodge.
Everything goes wrong, obviously.
As I said, the last chapter is a bit of a lark. What comes before is more than good enough to make up for it though. Stories Untold is immensely creative, and proof that we’re not done inventing great game mechanics yet—even if those mechanics are sometimes drawn from the past.
“It’s a puzzle game with trains.” Yeah, okay. But Cosmic Express is so much more. First of all, they’re space trains.
All kidding aside, Cosmic Express is also the best puzzle game I’ve played this year. The concept is simple—just get the trains to the exit, picking up and depositing all the aliens in their homes along the way. Like last year’s Stephen’s Sausage Roll however, this simple setup disguises a fiendish puzzle game that will have you drawing and re-drawing tracks all the livelong day.
What Remains of Edith Finch
What Remains of Edith Finch is one spectacular moment after another. You’re sent to the old Finch family home for what first seems like a fairly uninspired “walking simulator” type game, until suddenly it’s not that at all. Instead you’re paraded through the dying moments of every member of the extended Finch family, a series of incredible vignettes each with its own aesthetic, its own moral (if we can call it that), and its own contribution to the greater family story.
To say much more would be to spoil the game, because so much of it is predicated on the surprise—on each 5-10 minute character sketch telling you all you need to know about the people involved, their hopes and dreams, and ultimately their fates. It’s one of the rare instances where game and storytelling are perfectly intertwined, and either without the other would suffer immensely.
It’s my favorite game so far this year.
BONUS: Planescape Torment Enhanced Edition
It’s bit silly to nominate a game from 1999 for any sort of award in 2017—especially one that’s already as well-decorated and acclaimed as Planescape: Torment.
That being said, Beamdog finally released Planescape: Torment Enhanced Edition in April, making the game much more accessible for the average person with native widescreen support, 4K resolution, a remastered soundtrack, zooming, tab highlighting, and more. Sure, you could’ve managed all that with mods before—I did that exact thing back in January—but this is the game with minimal mucking about. If you’ve always heard great things about Planescape and never gotten around to it, there’s really no excuse anymore.
BONUS: PLAYERUNKNOWN’s Battlegrounds
Two caveats about Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds. First, it’s still in Early Access. Second, the name is just terrible. We’ll be calling it PUBG from here on out.
We never really put Early Access titles on these sorts of lists, or even pay them much attention because, well, they’re not done. We’d be remiss if we didn’t include PUBG though. Not only has the game sold about a bajillion copies already, but it’s so damn fun. It’s a battle royale set on a massive island where your goal is to gather equipment, find the coolest clothes, and survive longer than everyone else. That last one is probably most important.
Sound familiar? Developer Brendan “PlayerUnknown” Greene authored a similar Arma mod back in the day and then helped develop H1Z1: King of the Kill. PUBG is the best of the bunch though, managing to mimic Arma’s realism without Arma’s clunkiness and frustration. There’s no other feeling like outlasting 90-plus competitors, making it into the final ten, and waiting to die.
Pro-tip: Install it on an SSD. That alleviates some of the more egregious performance problems. And remember, it’s still in Early Access.