Creative Christmas: Game of the Year 2017

Completing our journey for Creative Christmas; this is a collaboration formed by community bastion Later Levels, full of tasty festive posts from a growing band of WordPress bloggers.

Question: You wake up the following morning, hungover but happy – you have an entire day of gaming ahead of you. You start thinking back over the video games you played during 2017; what was your game of the year?

Jon: My finger buffet approach to gaming makes this one difficult, and I’m thinking I’m going to cheat here a little bit and say the Witcher series. I’ve been meaning to play them for a while and I’ve just finished 1 and 2 and I’m downloading 3 while I type this. It’s been a while since something has really grabbed me – lore wise – so the Witcher series gets my vote, for reminding me that it’s not a race to devour a game, but an exploration to discover it.

“It had my inner child jumping up and down”

Cat: For pure nostalgia, and hours of joy spent playing it, Sonic Mania.

Chris: Well for me GOTY is easy – Sonic Mania. It managed to pay tribute to the classic (and best) Sonic games on the Mega Drive, without relying purely on nostalgia. It’s a solid Sonic game in it’s own right, you can tell it has been made by people with a genuine love for Sonic. It had my inner child jumping up and down in excitement the moment the opening “Seeeggaaaa!!” intro played, right through to the end credits. The campaign for Streets of Rage Mania starts here!

Dan’s Wife: I loved playing Overcooked but it got difficult… I was obsessed with Piano Tiles on iOS and maxed out the levels!

Claire: Out of all the games to release in 2017, there is only one I could pick as GOTY, which led me to invest in a PlayStation 4.

Horizon Zero Dawn captured me straight away, thanks to my love for archery, but beyond that, I soon learned nothing could get me away from the game. Even since first playing it, other games like Sonic Mania, Cuphead, Life is Strange: Before the Storm and Crash Bandicoot: N Sane Trilogy have come along, but they still wouldn’t be able to reach top of the list.

I was so happy to see DLC released, The Frozen Wilds, to make the experience last just a little bit longer.

The mechanics of the game – open world, completing quests, puzzles, working out how to kill giant machines, it has a good balance between story and not overloading you too much with side quests. Working out how to kill the “boss” machines joyfully threw me back to working out how to take down the colossi in Shadow of the Colossus.

The graphics also make you feel like you are there in the world, on top of that, you can also have fun in photo mode…

Unravelling the secrets of the game world, you learn it is closer to our own than you first think, but unfortunately, I cannot reveal why I love Horizon’s story without spoiling it for you 🙂

Overall, Horizon Zero Dawn is just the perfect balance, in my opinion, in all aspects of gaming. It feels like something truly original.

Dan: My game of the year for 2017, which released in that year… it would have to be Prey. It was such a great experience, I’m looking forward to revisiting it; 30 hours of BioShock and Half-Life smooshed together, I loved it.

If we’re talking about favourite game played during the year, I’d have to say Fallout 4. I put this series off for a long time, having seen my brother in law play Fallout 3 many years ago. Was this something I’d be interested in?

Eventually I caved during a Steam sale. To begin with, I had many issues with the game crashing, performance, losing progress because it doesn’t auto save very often and so on. I strayed too far too soon around the map, and was punished for it, not really knowing how the levelling and progression worked.

Watching Toy Story 3 over Christmas, I was reminded of this horror I stumbled across in Fallout 4, I didn’t sleep very well that night

I just fell in love with it, then the research started, how can I get this game to run better, save more frequently, how can I mod it, how does the levelling actually work, the settlement building looks cool, I can mod the weapons, armour? Oh and build robots?

Before you know it, 300 hours has been invested and I’ve had an absolute blast. Think of all the games I could have finished with that 300 hours! Who cares, I love the wasteland!

Woop: I struggled to think of a game that was released this year that I would consider my game of the year. The only one that sprang to mind was PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, but with all the bugs, controversy and the fact it was only just released (fully) by the end of the year, I felt it probably didn’t deserve the title – maybe for 2018.

So I have decided the award, for me, goes to a game that was released in 2016 (almost 2017!). Planet Coaster is up there with my all time favourite theme park builder sims. I may even go so far as to say it has surpassed Rollercoaster Tycoon 2… I haven’t had chance to play it much, but I will definitely be sinking many, many hours into this game as they continue to develop it over the coming year.

Dan: So ends another year, quite a good one for gaming, in my opinion, some great titles chosen there! I’d like to namedrop a few others, which didn’t make the cut for me, but I’ve been asking todays question of many people, out of curiosity more than anything.

  • Ghost Recon Wildlands – Three of my colleagues surprised me in picking this one, I thoroughly enjoyed it, I’ve also been forced into playing “Expert” mode and I’m still enjoying it
  • Grand Theft Auto Online – I wasn’t surprised by this persons choice, as he hasn’t played much else all year, but he has a good point. Rockstar have consistently released some great (and free) DLC for about 18 months now, continuing to milk the cow…
  • Nier:Automata – I haven’t played this myself, but I’ve wishlisted it for the PlayStation 4, it’s been very well received and is highly rated, it does look worthy…
  • PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds – Another popular choice at work and in the wider world, breaking more concurrent user records on Steam over the festive period. For me, a bit too unfinished, even leaving Early Access in December, but I’ll keep dipping into it over the coming months…

In closing…

I’d like to thank everyone on the team, friends and family too, and everyone else out there for taking part in Creative Christmas. Huge thanks, however, must go to Kim from Later Levels, for organising this event in the first place, so thank you Kim!

Also, 2017 was the humble beginning of, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you all for reading, following, liking and commenting on our musings.

It’s been so much fun working on the site, but more importantly, seeing what everyone else is up to and reading some truly great and original work out there, which is a nice change of pace from the big name sites.

Happy New Year to you, from all of us, here’s to a great 2018!


Creative Christmas: New Years Gaming Resolution

Continuing our journey for Creative Christmas; this is a collaboration formed by community bastion Later Levels, full of tasty festive posts from a growing band of WordPress bloggers.

Question: Midnight eventually rolls around, which means it’s now time to pick a New Year gaming resolution to see you through the next 12 months. What’s your [gaming resolution] choice for 2018?

Jon: Continue to regain that sense of wonder and discovery while playing a game and not rush through in an attempt just to beat the damn game.

Dan: I’ve got to get my backlog under control and finish some freakin’ games. Horizon Zero Dawn and the first Destiny must tumble first.

I’ve promised myself not to buy anything else, despite all the insanely tempting offers, there’s got to be a one in and one out rule. I’ve put my whole backlog on and the challenge is on!

Multiplayer games are the problem. Do I play something on my own, while everyone else is playing Overwatch? Well of course not!

Disclaimer, anything purchased during the current Steam Winter Sale doesn’t count :p

Dan’s Wife: Get around to playing the Crash Bandicoot Remastered, which someone needs to buy for me!!!

Dan: Good job Santa came through then!

Woop: Every year, for the last 5/6 years, I have made the resolution to play through Half-Life 1 and 2, to the end. Maybe this year will be the year?

Dan: “They’re waiting for you Gordon, in the test chamber.”

I highly recommend playing them both, and the episodes. If you’d rather watch someone play it, I’ve been thinking of recording a play-through to test the whole YouTube thing.

If you finish either game, I’ll fulfil my promise to complete the first Mirrors Edge haha. They’ve rebooted it since I first made that promise!

Woop: Deal.

Creative Christmas: New Years Eve Attire

Continuing our journey for Creative Christmas; this is a collaboration formed by community bastion Later Levels, full of tasty festive posts from a growing band of WordPress bloggers.

Question: You’ve been invited to a swanky New Year’s Eve party but have nothing suitable to wear! Which video game character do you call to ask if you can borrow an outfit?

Woop: Zoey from Left 4 Dead – I hate wearing smart, posh clothes. Give me a hoodie and a pair of jeans to wear and I’ll be happy! That and it means I’ll also be ready in case of the Zombie Apocalypse…

Jon: Agent 47 from Hitman, all the way, the man cuts a mean suit and has plenty of other clothes to wear while I borrow that fetching suit.

Dan: New Years Eve, party time! I’m going to hit up Soldier 76 from Overwatch for his rather fetching “Daredevil” outfit. I’ve attempted to grow a moustache in the past, I can tell you it does not look as good as his and I’ve never tried since haha.

Dan’s Wife: *giggles maniacally* Princess Peach! I’ll have one of her dresses, a tiara and her shoes!!!

Cat: Princess Peach 🙂

Jon: Our wives need to stop picking similar answers…

Dan: If we married princesses, does that make us princes?

Creative Christmas: Time To Chill

Continuing our journey for Creative Christmas; this is a collaboration formed by community bastion Later Levels, full of tasty festive posts from a growing band of WordPress bloggers.

Question: The presents have been opened and dinner has been eaten, so you’ve got a bit of time for gaming while Gran is snoozing on the sofa. What’s the best video game to play during the holidays?

Jon: It certainly needs to be something a bit more chilled for this time of year, so I’m going to opt for some relaxing Stardew Valley. A game that can be stressful, if you try to “beat” it, but absolutely wonderful if you sit back and just “discover” it.

Woop: Hmm The Sims. It’s my go-to chilled/slow paced game. Perfect for when you feel fat and slightly hung over, from all the chocolate consumed in a very short space of time 😛

Cat: Sonic The Hedgehog or Streets of Rage.

Dan’s Wife: I miss playing things like Guitar Hero! Get everyone involved and have a laugh!

Dan: Only because you troll everyone by saying you can’t play, then beating us all, Mrs Grade-something-or-other Cello/Piano!

Chris: Something with a good storyline to burn through whilst you have all that time off. I’m currently playing Remember Me. It’s pretty good, I’m really enjoying it. I think the prelaunch hype about altering memories ruined the game before it was even released.

Dan: Pre-launch hype?

Chris: Yeah they went on about being able to alter the memories of your enemies, to turn them into allies or generally mess with them. Turns out, in the final game, this can only be done in scripted sequences that are remarkably like the crime scene investigations in Batman: Arkham City. People were not amused lol.

Dan: Peoples expectations are too high I feel.

Chris: I think it was more the PR people completely miss-selling it in this instance – the memory altering thing is a tiny scripted part of the game, where you have no control over the outcome, yet they made a big thing out of it.

Dan: I’ve always associated Christmas with driving/racing and sports games, for some reason. I play driving games year round, I love them. Forza games are getting most of the love right now. Over the years, I’ve stopped being interested in sports, as well as sports games, but I used to dabble in the likes of Pro Evolution Soccer and NHL. At Christmas time, I can be persuaded to pick up the controller for those once more 😉

Having said all that, I’ve purchased STEEP during the Steam Winter Sale, which Woop and I played the heck out of during the open beta last year. The final game, a year on, is sublime. Oh there’s a photo mode too, sort of, so I’m doomed. Every hour of trying to beat something is followed by another hour of constantly rewinding and pausing the replays, to get another screenshot haha.

Tell me this isn’t appealing at Christmas time? The only thing missing from this game is being able to go back to a cabin when you’re done and drink hot chocolate

Creative Christmas: Video Game Food

Continuing our journey for Creative Christmas; this is a collaboration formed by community bastion Later Levels, full of tasty festive posts from a growing band of WordPress bloggers.

Question: It’s now time to head out to the kitchen to put on your oven gloves and start preparing Christmas dinner. It consists solely of video game food; what’s on the menu?

Jon: It’s got to be a traditional Christmas roast, anything else is just not cricket. Although it will all be seasoned with the salty tears of my CS: GO enemies, washed down with a Mana Potion.

Dan: Pardon my ignorance, what the heck is a Mana Potion?

Jon: Not sure if serious…

Dan: I am serious. Recovering FPS addict here.

Woop: It’s a thing you use when you cast spells. DotA is a good example. Each spell/ability has a Mana cost. It’s a universal thing.

Dan: Does this explain it for the uninitiated, like me?

Woop: That’s the one, yeah.

Mick: Uh, actually, not all of them do.

Woop: lol shush, most of them do, I was trying not to confuse him.

Mick: That ship sailed a long time ago. Phoenix’s spells cost health, and some just don’t cost anything.

Dan: I’ve heard enough, there’s a reason I play Soldier 76 in Overwatch!

I’m a little bit obsessed with meatballs in Don’t Starve Together, because they’re so easy to make. That is, unless something else is distracting you from cooking, as shown in the headline image lol. Yes, that’s a giant Dragonfly.

Thinking about it, I’m a little obsessed with the cooking in general, thanks to the Crockpot and the variety of ingredients and recipes available. Half a meat and even three ice cubes will make meatballs though…

We run around screaming “Meatballs! Meatballs? I’m coming back to base, are there any meatballs?” – when we’re not distracted trying to spelunk in the caves or tame the Beefalos. You can make a meaty stew or even a turkey dinner in this game, so I guess we’re not going hungry this Christmas! For desert we’ll have some pumpkin cookies and ice cream. It is never too cold for ice cream!

Jon: Fairly certain I have this meatball talk recorded.

Dan: Chances are indeed high, it’s priority #1!

Dan’s Wife: I love Overcooked! We’ll be having turkey dinners from the Christmas DLC, but don’t let Dan near them, because he’s an arse!

Dan: I think what she means to say is, I will take the name of the game to heart, by burning everything!

Cat: Crash Bandicoot’s apples, Alex the Kidd’s rice cakes, and all the sweets from Candy Crush (more of a dessert buffet really!)

Woop: I’m adding this in after this has been published because I am ashamed of myself for not thinking about this earlier – of course my answer would be a chicken dinner from PUBG 😀 (pleased with myself for thinking of this one….)

Creative Christmas: A Gaming Related Gift, For Meeee?

Continuing our journey for Creative Christmas; this is a collaboration formed by community bastion Later Levels, full of tasty festive posts from a growing band of WordPress bloggers.

Question: Your help must have worked, because it’s now Christmas morning and presents are under the tree! There’s a fancy box with your name on it; which gaming-related item are you hoping is inside?

Dan: I’ve developed a love for video game art books, walkthrough guides, key rings and so on. In some cases I’ve spent more money on that sort of thing than the games to which they relate.

This Christmas, I’m really hoping for the Destiny and Destiny 2 art books, because they are incredibly beautiful games. I’ve still got the Art of Horizon Zero Dawn to open, a treat to myself back in August.

I typically buy them the moment they come out, otherwise they either disappear forever, or you end up paying a fortune, if you can get them at all!

I learned my lesson with Half-Life 2: Raising the Bar – currently around £100 on eBay – which I had to beg Gabe Newell for, years later. To my surprise, he got someone at Valve to send me a copy!

Dan’s Wife: Some coins from Mario! Chocolate ones though, preferably 😜

Dan: *rolls eyes*

Cat: A full sized Pac Man arcade machine!

Jon: Yikes, this one is kinda difficult, I’m with Cat on this one, but I’m being greedier; I’d like an arcade machine, but one that can switch between games, something like a Retropie in a cabinet. I’m far too lazy to make one myself.

Dan: What the heck is a Retropie, some Raspberry Pi contraption?

Jon: It’s a Raspberry Pi running a front end for emulators. Think emulation station. So easy my nephew can just change the channel and pick his game.

Chris: You can get them in kit form on eBay. I think it’s called a bartop. Pretty nice if you have somewhere to put it. Can buy them prebuilt too, it’s a cottage industry on there.

Dan: Wants.

We’re back from our festive food hangover! Did Santa bring you everything you wanted this year? Do you have any prized gaming merchandise or a “Bartop” in your possession?

Creative Christmas: Helping Santa Deliver On Time!

Continuing our journey for Creative Christmas; this is a collaboration formed by community bastion Later Levels, full of tasty festive posts from a growing band of WordPress bloggers.

Question: You’re woken from your drunken haze by another frantic call from Santa, who’s worried he’s not going to make all his deliveries in time. Which video game item or vehicle would you recommend for him?

Cat: Obviously after helping with all the toys, Tails will be able to help deliver them too…

Dan’s Wife: All I can think of is Mario Kart, which I’ve played a lot of in the past! One of the carts powered up with the invincibility would get the job done! 🌠

Dan: The Portal gun would be an amusing way of getting around, although you might struggle to get through the portals once you’ve eaten a few of the mince pies haha. In Half-Life, they hadn’t quite mastered teleportation yet, the amount of time spent in Nova Prospekt waiting for that damn Combine teleport to “recharge” would be quite inconvenient.

Chris: The Tardis would be ideal; although Dr Who is not known as a video game character, there have been Dr Who games.

Woop: Time Turner from the Harry Potter Universe.

Dan: Is that represented in video game form? Lego Harry Potter maybe?

Mick: Fan wiki says yes, in the Lego series, Years 1-4.

Dan: I’m down to things like Lego games in the Steam sales, I’ve bought most of the other things I want. They look like fun and always seem highly rated by users…

While we’ve got your attention, the whole team would like to wish you a very Merry Christmas, thanks for joining us for this series of posts, they’ve been a lot of fun to put together. Be sure to head over to Later Levels and keep up with all the Creative Christmas posts from the WordPress community, if you haven’t already!

Don’t eat too much, we’ll see you on the other side for more 🙂

Creative Christmas: Video Game Character Kiss

Continuing our journey for Creative Christmas; this is a collaboration formed by community bastion Later Levels, full of tasty festive posts from a growing band of WordPress bloggers.

Question: The party is still going strong and you find yourself conveniently positioned under the mistletoe. Which video game character would you call over for a cheeky kiss?

Jon: Sweet Dreams 🙂

Dan: Jon, you’re sick my friend, guessing you’re a fan of the tongue?

Jon: You know it 😉

Dan: :O

I’d choose Lara Croft, from the 2013 reboot. She got me into 3rd person games properly and I’m completely smitten with her, such a great reboot of the character. Also, I think it’s safe to say, responsible for a reboot of the films, so now we get to see Alicia Vikander kicking arse on the big screen too!

Cat: Joel from The Last of Us – surprisingly hot for a game character!

Dan: Man crush.

Dan’s Wife: Mario! Why not?!

Dan: Everyone deserves to be loved, I guess? Is that why she married me, low standards?!

Creative Christmas: Video Game Soundtracks

Continuing our journey for Creative Christmas; this is a collaboration formed by community bastion Later Levels, full of tasty festive posts from a growing band of WordPress bloggers.

Question: It’s now Christmas Eve and you’re throwing a lively party for all your friends, family and favourite characters. Which video game soundtracks would be on your playlist?

Jon: I’m particularly partial to the Wipeout soundtracks, the problem with that is I’m fairly certain everyone will have died from exhaustion trying to keep up with any dancing.

Teenage me would make the playlist purely a selection of the MIDI’s from Final Fantasy 7, so I think we can let teenage me win.

Cat: Either the early Gran Turismo or Wipeout soundtracks.

Jon: …and this is why I married her, she’s got great taste.

Dan: My choice is only because I’ve heard this particular soundtrack quite a lot, many of the tracks stick firmly in my brain. The GTA V soundtrack is one of my favourites of the series and in general when it comes to video games, in particular:

Soooo many more. There’s something for every mood and occasion, well apart from Christmas I guess!? Well that’s not a problem either…

I’m not sure about the console versions, but on the PC, you can use “Self Radio” to listen to your own mp3 tracks, so when the snow hits Los Santos, I’ll listen to Now That’s What I Call Christmas! or something like that 😉

Creative Christmas: Santa’s Little Helper

Continuing our journey for Creative Christmas; this is a collaboration formed by community bastion Later Levels, full of tasty festive posts from a growing band of WordPress bloggers.

Question: You receive a call from Santa, as the elves desperately need a hand in the workshop getting all the toys ready. Which video game character would you recruit to help out?

Jon: Do I powergame it, picking the most powerful character I can, or, as I’m inclined to do, go for the most amusing? I suppose it depends on what concessions I can wring out of Santa, before deciding how helpful I should be. *renegade points earned*

Fine, I’ll be nice. I’m going to pick Tracer from Overwatch, for numerous reasons.

  • First of all, she’s annoyingly fast and Santa needs to get a wiggle on
  • Secondly, that teleport is going to come in amazingly handy for the repetative parts of the product line
  • Thirdly, if she’s with Santa she can’t keep shooting me in the damn back!

Cat: Tails – he’s well trained as a helper.

Dan: Well frankly Santa isn’t doing a very good job of working his elves is he!? He needs a floor manager perhaps, someone to handle the front line.

I’m going to pick Marcus from Borderlands 2, who primarily concerns himself with the distribution of weapons in the game. In the Mercenary Day DLC (the Borderlands version of Christmas), he sends the Vault Hunters (the characters you play) to a local frozen village, to take down an evil snowman. I’m not making this up.

His Christmas spirit is questionable, but it is there, his shop is decorated tastefully for the festive season at least. Despite the beard and belly, he’s not Santa. He’s no nonsense and should be able to whip the elves into shape, improving productivity in no time!

There’s nothing quite like the constant threat of violence to improve your work ethic.

Dan’s Wife: Sonic the Hedgehog, of course! He’ll zoom through it all!