Backlog Blitz: The games of January 2014

Earlier this month, I shared the Backlog Blitz process that I’ve been using to track what games I’m buying and playing. While it gave a very basic overview of what it is and why I do it, I thought it’d be more interesting to dive into what actually makes up those numbers, my brief thoughts on each game, and some other statistics. I plan on doing this for each month of the year, so I should hopefully be caught up by the time mid or late May comes around.

Anyway, here we go with January. Format is Game Title (Platform, Purchase Price, Play Time).

Games purchased (-1):

  1. The Humble Indie Bundle X (PC, $6)
    I love Humble Bundles for their value and high quality. There are lots of indie bundle sites out there, but none of them come close to the ones offered here. This one included BIT.TRIP Presents… Runner2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien, HOARD, Joe Danger 2: The Movie, Papa & Yo, Rues, Strike Suit Zero, Surgeon Simulator 2013, To the Moon, and Toki Tori 2+.

Games finished (+13):

  1. Super Mario 3D World (Wii U, $60, 30 hrs.)
    This game was just pure joy to play through. I’d say it’s the equal to the Super Mario Galaxy games on the Wii. It’s wonderfully varied, stars/stamps are fun to collect, and it runs smoothly at 60fps in 720p. It’s also full of inspired level design and perfectly responsive controls. It’s definitely my favorite game on the system, and is as good as platforming gets. Overall: A+
  2. Drill Dozer (GBA, $30, 20 hrs.)
    A 2006 side-scrolling platformer by Game Freak, makers of all things Pokemon. After playing the fun but uneven HarmoKnight last year (also from Game Freak), I decided to play this, and I’m glad I did! It’s extremely deep, and the treasure hunting in it was very addictive. Flying and swimming controls tarnish it a bit, but otherwise, it’s easy to recommend this. Overall: A-
  3. You Must Escape (Android, Free, 1 hr.)
    This is a pretty standard “escape the room” puzzle game. It contains a good number of rooms to solve, and most of the puzzles are intuitive. Some are a bit obscure, and the game itself isn’t anything special, but it’s still OK and worth checking out for free, especially if you enjoy the genre. Overall: C-
  4. The Last of Us (PS3, $60, 55 hrs.)
    My favorite PS3 game to date. It truly grabbed me and didn’t let go. It’s one of the rare times I’ve ever felt compelled to go through a game for every trophy, and although I skipped the multiplayer ones, I successfully collected the rest. It’s the most powerful gaming experience in recent memory, with solid gameplay that, while not extremely deep or revolutionary, supports the narrative perfectly. The world Naughty Dog has crafted here is just amazing to look at and explore, the soundtrack is haunting, and the acting is superbly top-shelf. Not to be missed. Overall: A+
  5. Forza Motorsport 4 (360, $37, 20 hrs.)
    This is my current favorite racing game series. It provides a good balance between arcade and simulation style racing, gives rewards to the player often, is graphically polished, and has powerful audio. The Top Gear contributions are fun, and the car selection is very good. Photo mode isn’t as good as Gran Turismo‘s, and I hate that it requires you to have Xbox Live Gold just to upload and save your own pictures. Still, it’s an excellent game with an abundance of content. Overall: A
  6. Crashmo (3DS, $9, 10 hrs.)
    The follow-up to Intelligent Systems’ Pushmo, this takes the familiar formula of that game and changes things up significantly by allowing you to now slide blocks sideways. It doesn’t sound major, but even early puzzles were giving me trouble due to preconditioning! Things really clicked later, and while I haven’t finished them all (I’m about 67% through it), I’m considering this one done. I’ll surely go back to it for months — if not years — into the future. Overall: A-
  7. The Beatles Rock Band (360, $60, 5 hrs.)
    My wife and I played this quite a bit back in 2009 (her on vocals and me on drums), but I decided to play Story Mode to see what it was like. I was pleasantly surprised by its quality, with great bits of Beatles history and trivia tucked away inside an excellently produced campaign. Very nice for a music game, and you can tell that the team that worked on this truly cared about the subject matter and source material. Overall: A
  8. Quell Memento (Android, Free, 5 hrs.)
    I made it about 70% into it, but I lost my progress as a result of my phone having to be replaced, so I stopped. It’s a well-produced puzzle game with good graphics and smooth, familiar gameplay. Hidden items and puzzles add an exploratory element to it. Perhaps after the sting of losing all my progress fades, I’ll give it another go. Overall: B
  9. Ridiculous Fishing (Android, $1, 5 hrs.)
    This is a fun game that puts tablet and phone tilt controls to great use. It’s pretty simple (and as the title suggests, ridiculous) in concept as you not just fish, but fling said fish up into the air to be shot out of the sky! I didn’t expect much from it, but it’s surprisingly deep with lots of upgrades, responsive controls, a funny story, and beautifully stylized graphics. Overall: B+
  10. Pet Rescue Saga (Android, Free, 2 hrs.)
    These types of puzzle games are usually OK, but this one doesn’t do anything particularly interesting, and lacks the smooth feel of Bejeweled Blitz or King’s own Candy Crush Saga. The animal designs are also not very good, and thus, I lost interest before too long. Overall: C-
  11. Bravely Default Demo (3DS, Free, 20 hrs.)
    It’s been called a better Final Fantasy than Final Fantasy, and after playing through this, I have to agree. It has a great combat system, lots of jobs to master, adjustable encounter and difficulty settings, a nice aesthetic, and an excellent soundtrack. It rewards players who put more into it with extremely powerful skill combinations that make the game almost too easy. It’s so fun though, so I figure most players will end up doing that. Overall: A
  12. Candy Crush Saga (Android, Free, 15 hrs.)
    King put some time into making this nice to look at, and its popularity isn’t a mistake. I stopped after 50 stages, since I’m not a fan of games that make you wait up to a full 24 hours before you can keep playing. You can pay to get through these, but I would rather these companies simply offer premium versions that do away with these annoying roadblocks. Overall: C+
  13. NES Remix (Wii U, $15, 5 hrs.)
    This has some good ideas, and there are challenges here that really do make you approach these old Nintendo titles differently, but the game selection itself is what hurts it. The developer Indieszero has put together a nice title that is smooth and polished, but there are better games out there to revisit. I had to support this, though, since they also made the excellent Retro Game Challenge for the Nintendo DS. Seek that out if you don’t have it yet. Overall: B-

In summary, January was a productive month, with some truly standout games on a wide range of systems. I barely spent anything, which is always a good thing when you’re trying to stay focused on games you already own. February ended up being a rougher month on the wallet, but it definitely didn’t skimp on overall quality.

To be continued!