Sunday, March 26, 2023

WIRED Video Games Liked Most in 2020

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Yakuza: like a dragon feels like a PlayAtation 2 game, and I mean it in the nicest way possible. In the era of the next generation of multi-million dollar marketing programs, microtransactions, and “live service” requests for always-on connectivity, a game with simple combat mechanics, a relatively small map and a plethora tangential mini-games might sound quaint.

Instead of, Like a dragon burst at the seams. It is genius. It’s absurd. His GTA meets Dragon quest meets Crazy Taxi. The premise is clear: An ex-yakuza fresh out of jail views the world as an RPG because he’s never learned coping skills from adults. Of the, Like a dragon takes a luscious crime tale and infuses it with old-school psychedelic parodies Dragon quest and Final fantasy Games.

The jobs for party members, usually something like knight or warlock, are literally blue collar jobs: the foreman of a construction company who uses a huge war hammer and can summon a parade of workers to crush the enemy. A bartender can use an ice bucket to freeze enemies, while a riot cop can use his shield to tank.

Summons only the bet. I can call a chicken to lay an MP restoration egg or a biker to burn rubber on the faces of my enemies. I can call a grown man with a diaper fetish, his hideous screams reduce the attack and defense of my enemies. Of TheI can call it an orbital strike from a satellite because Ichiban, besides being a himbo, also owns a billion dollar dessert conglomerate.

But the craziest surprise was the strongly political moments of serious reality in the side quests. Here, the game replaces wacky humor with serious talk about homelessness, anti-immigrant sentiment in Japan, and the demonization of sex workers. The “job” feature doesn’t even unlock until Ichiban & Co. has solved a series of condescending recovery quests at a shady temp agency.

Maybe I’m just getting older, but I’m less interested in games that ignore reality and I’m more into games that distort and refract it, highlighting the strangeness and injustice of the world we live in. I certainly didn’t expect this from a game where the protagonist dresses like a member of the Bee Gees.

—Sidney Fussell

Courtesy of Playdots

Two points

I know we are all looking to escape our 2020 nightmare. This is exactly what Two points was for me. Gambling on my iPhone has been my anxiety relief. It’s completely insane and pairs well with ambient TV or a fun podcast that isn’t news related at all. Connecting colorful dots and solving puzzles that include ladybugs and fruit-eating monkeys while vaguely absorbing the plot of my latest Netflix frenzy leaves absolutely no room in my brain for anything else.

This game would probably also be a great friend on an airplane. I’ll let you know if I travel again.

—Elena Lacey

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