Five Games That Caitlin Galiz-Rowe Loved in 2017
Hey, Humans! I’m Caitlin Galiz-Rowe, aka your geeky gal pal. You might possibly know me from, you guessed it, Your Geeky Gal Pal, a little pop culture blog that mostly focuses on indie games, criticism, and highlighting queer stuff in media. It’s also possible you’ve seen me on Twitter, yelling about whatever entertainment I happen to be consuming *cough* Riverdale *cough*. Chances are, you have no idea who I am. That’s okay too! Most days I don’t even know. But that’s not why we’re here. We’re here to talk about some video games.
Now, we’re not doing the standard “top 10 GOTY” list. Instead, we’re going to talk about five games that didn’t quite make it to my top ten, but still deserve some recognition. So buckle up, buttercups, and let’s get this show on the road!
Heart of the House:
Heart of the House is the first interactive fiction game I’ve ever played, and it was very much my kind of game. If you don’t know, interactive fiction games are basically playable books. There aren’t any animations, illustrations or really any visuals aside from the text. They rely on the quality of their descriptions and the player’s imagination to create the imagery of the world. Heart of the House is a gothic horror choose-your-own-adventure book where you play as a paranormal investigator in search of your missing uncle. Horror, particularly gothic horror, is my jam, and this game did not disappoint.
I haven’t finished a book in a long time (thanks, post-college burnout), but I finished Heart of the House in about a week. It’s incredibly well written, with tons of different choices that can take you down different paths. Additionally, your character is wildly customizable; you get to pick pretty much everything from their gender, to their romantic preferences, to their clothes. Unlike a lot of similar, choice-based narrative games, your decisions actually really matter in how the game will turn out. My ending will probably be vastly different from yours if you play it (and you should).
Heart of the House isn’t in my top ten because as much as I loved it, it just wasn’t as impactful as the other narrative-based games I played this year. It’s well-crafted and very much my shit, but it was more of a popcorn game than something that hit me hard.
Agents of Mayhem:
Let’s be honest here, Agents of Mayhem is stupid. The humor is heavy handed and a lot of the jokes don’t really land. But I love it anyways. I’m a big fan of campy, over the top nonsense, and Deep Silver’s newest really scratched that itch for me, which was incredibly surprising since I had zero desire to play it when I heard about it. But listening to Todd Harper talk about Daisy’s intro mission immediately piqued my interest, and I’ve had no regrets.
I started this game coming off Saints Row 4 (the only Saints Row game I’ve ever played), and I found myself enjoying it more than its predecessor. The tone felt more modern and less reliant on old tropes of edgy sexuality and blatant sociopathic tendencies.
The diversity in this game is also pretty refreshing. I wasn’t expecting a large roster featuring people of multiple different skin tones from all over the world, or blatantly out queer people, but I got them, and it’s fantastic. While some of the characters are pretty generic, take Hollywood for instance, there are plenty of others who have rad skillsets and interesting personalities (looking at you, Rama).
Agents of Mayhem is definitely a fun podcast game, or something to play when you’re not looking to be super invested in the story, but you want more characters and personality than something like No Man’s Sky. It’s not top ten worthy, but it’s more than worth your time when you just need a bit of a break.
The Sexy Brutale:
The Sexy Brutale is right up my alley because it takes on puzzles in a more purely logic based way than dealing with spatial reasoning or even jumping through obtuse hoops to get your desired result. As long as you see what happened, there’s a good chance you can figure out how to stop it without too much trouble. The time reversal mechanic also allows you to look at the problem from all angles to see anything you might have missed.
I also really enjoyed the concept of the game. Saving guests of the mysterious hotel from the murderous staff was fun, and morbid as it is, there’s something interesting in learning more about who a character is by watching them die over and over again. Gaining new abilities from each rescued guest adds new layers to the puzzles, and makes you feel a little closer to each life you saved. Individual characters feel special, and using their abilities to help the next person is like getting help from an old friend.
Ultimately, this game didn’t make my top ten because while it’s fun and interesting, the ending is fairly tired, and a bit nonsensical. I’d still recommend people play it, but it just wasn’t quite put together enough in the end to rival something like Night in the Woods.
Resident Evil 7:
Creeping through the main house in Resident Evil 7, is a moment of gaming in 2017 I will not forget. Looking around every corner, hiding behind couches, and breathing sighs of relief in the safe room all played into how well the game conveyed the sense of being hunted. The parts of Resident Evil 7 that didn’t dip into the usual RE tropes were my favorites, and the ones I still find myself thinking about from time to time. It was when the game dipped back into its roots that I found myself less impressed.
Granted, I’ve already said in this list that I love over the top nonsense, but I didn’t feel that the roots of the series were implemented as well as they could have been. The game felt bizarre and supernatural enough without diving into eyeball monsters. Witnessing the family just being creepy humans was enough to leave me feeling unsettled, especially when you throw in the mold monsters in the basement. Adding the extra Resident Evil twist really just felt like the game was being split into two different franchises, as opposed to wrapping everything together.
All that being said, the human aspect of Resident Evil 7 was enough to keep me interested long enough to finish, and to keep it as my favorite horror game of the year, even if it wasn’t in my top favorite games of the year.
Prey is a wonderful game that is 100% too difficult for me. I’m not great at stealth, I’m awful at ammo conservation, and I’m far too anxious to play it for more than an hour or two. But those are all indicators that it’s a great game for its genre.
The environmental storytelling is superb, giving you snapshots into what Talos I used to be, while simultaneously communicating the horror of its current state. Just walking around is nerve-wracking, knowing that something could come at you at any given point. Unless you got the pre-order bonus shotgun, combat is tricky and stressful, conveying just how powerless you are against the Typhon without making them a part of you.
But it’s not just the environment that contributes to the narrative. The actual main storyline is compelling and handles its many twists in clean and interesting ways. I haven’t actually finished yet, but I’m a monster and spoiled the endings for myself. Even knowing what’s going to happen, I’m so excited to see how it all happens, and to make those final choices for my Morgan myself.
Honestly, I wish I was more in love with Prey because I respect it so much. But the combination of the above factors, and the combat not really clicking for me made it an unrequited affair. I’m very much in agreement with Austin Walker on “wanting to see the twenty hour Prey” because I made it through about ten hours on my first playthrough and it felt like twenty. Pacing issues in the middle and not great combat make Prey a bit of a slog, but it’s still a game with rad ideas and, of course, space lesbians who make it worthwhile all on their own.