Our individual Game of the Year articles allow our lovely team of writers to share their own personal PS5 and PS4 picks for 2021. Today, it's the turn of reviewer Stuart Gipp.
After the much purer horror experience of Resident Evil 7, some fans must have been disappointed by Village’s hard swerve into over-the-top Grand Guignol camp shocks, but not me. This was the ridiculous Resident Evil of 4, 5 and, [coughs lightly] even 6, not to mention the underrated Revelations 2, and it was back in full force. A fragmented experience that lacks focus, gameplay flow and, at times, coherence, it’s a testament to how enjoyable the fundamentals of Resi Village actually are that it’s still an absolute joy to play and one of the best games of the year. With the upcoming DLC, I’m excited to dive back into its twisted world.
Trust me, I’ve been playing seminal roguelite The Binding of Isaac for over a decade now. The Afterbirth and Afterbirth+ expansions came somewhere close to ruining the entire thing. Bloat and imbalance – and not the fun kind of imbalance – crept into the mixture and the ever-increasing length of the game erased its pick-up-and-play breeziness. Thank god (specifically the wrathful, Christian God, I suppose) for The Binding of Isaac: Repentance, the final DLC that integrates fan expansion Antibirth along with a ton of new characters, items, enemies, bosses, layouts and endings. But, best of all, it extensively rebalances The Binding of Isaac and makes one of my all-time favourite games fun again.
3. It Takes Two
With hindsight, the pretty good but very uneven A Way Out was nothing more than a proof of concept for Hazelight’s full-tilt co-op masterpiece, It Takes Two. Taking control of quarrelling couple Cody and May, two players are thrust into a stunning platforming adventure, combining the esoteric and quirky feel of an indie darling with EA’s big bucks AAA polish. The shining strength of It Takes Two is its generosity; not only is it surprisingly lengthy, it’s also constantly changing, with exemplary pacing meaning that whenever you start to feel fatigued with a particular area or mechanic, you’ll find yourself somewhere completely new doing something completely different.
Belated sequels aren’t supposed to be this good. Psychonauts 2 doesn’t just match its iconic, beloved predecessor, it outclasses it in every way, oozing with playability, fantastic ideas, gorgeous visuals and humorous dialogue. It is an absolute pleasure to revisit the world of the Psychonauts and, indeed, Raz Aquato in such high fidelity and with such buttery smooth visuals. It’s the kind of platformer they really don’t make anymore, an impossible sequel bursting with imagination. Is it maybe a touch controversial that the best paid PlayStation game of the year is an Xbox Studios joint? Perhaps. Don’t let it stop you from picking this up, though.
This one sort of snuck up on me at the end of the year, and many would argue it isn’t even a game. But it is the most memorable thing I played in 2021, a celebration of Radiohead’s brilliant Kid A and Amnesiac in the form of a digital museum. It’s an imaginative, fundamentally fantastic way to experience music that may or may not be familiar to you, and the game’s centrepiece – the magnificent void of How to Disappear Completely followed by a triumphant rise in You and Whose Army is spellbinding, evocative and deeply immersive. Indeed, at the risk of outing myself as a great big softy, I found parts of this game downright frightening – that final little area post-Like Spinning Plates put some very serious fear up me. Is it essentially a big advert for Radiohead? Yes. Are the QR codes linking to merchandise a little gauche? Absolutely. But it’s still the best thing I’ve ever played on my PS5.
What do you think of Stuart's personal Game of the Year picks? Feel free to agree or berate in the comments section below.