Best Games Played 2018: Most Charming

These games and awards were decided during the Wardcast’s Best Games Played 2018 episode, where we considered any and all games played by the members of the Wardcast in 2018, even if they weren’t released that calendar year.


In the mid 2000s, I was in a weird spot. I was working a crappy job at a crappy company for crappy pay. I’d given up on school, given up on making art, and given up on making games. I tried to be realistic about my life: it was enough to eke out a living and never pursue my dreams, because my dreams were silly.

Then I played Cave Story.

It would still be years before I would sit down and force myself to learn game development, but seeing a game that well-crafted made by one lone developer – the great Daisuke “Pixel” Amaya – spoke to me. The fire was lit again.

Over a decade later, I sat down to play through another one of Pixel’s games, Kero Blaster. The art looked more rough than Cave Story’s, the game was strictly linear compared to Cave Story‘s expansive semi-open world, and the story had far less depth, but despite all this, the game captivated me.

For a while, I tried to identify why this was the case, what deeper feeling was pulling me along. The longer I played, more of the game’s brilliance shone through – things like the tension in a well-designed level leading up to an engaging boss fight or the joy of unlocking a new weapon that redefines your playstyle.

Above all else, I found the simple pixel art and chiptune soundtrack wonderfully delightful and funny. I found myself cackling as my boss slowly transformed into a goofy monster. I found myself humming along to the music while blasting refrigerators into oblivion. I found myself intensely gripping the controller while fighting a bird perched on an alarm clock.

Kero Blaster, like Cave Story before it, brings me back to the childlike joy of making and playing games. It’s the kind of game I imagine me and my friends making – it’s kind of silly, you might even consider it a little ugly, but it’s got some deep refinement in ways that make it a priceless treasure and one of my favorite games this year.

Best Games Played 2018: Best Remix

These games and awards were decided during the Wardcast’s Best Games Played 2018 episode, where we considered any and all games played by the members of the Wardcast in 2018, even if they weren’t released that calendar year.


In my own work, I’m a big fan of the Haxe coding language, pixel art, limited palettes, and trying to nail an aesthetic. Ruari O’Sullivan utilized all of this in making his action-horror platformer OVERWHELM.

OVERWHELM has been described by many people as a sort of inverted Metroidvania. The player traverses a world, shooting off alien bugs in their hive to reach five different bosses. Upon defeating a boss, many games may reward the player with a power up – something to aid them in traversing to their next goal, something to aid them in battle, or something to help the player from getting overwhelmed by the dangers surrounding them. As the name implies, that is not the intent in OVERWHELM.

After defeating a boss, instead of granting the player a power up, the game grants enemies power ups. Enemies will get faster, stronger, more relentless in their efforts to destroy the invading player. This clever remix of a simple idea produces the dread that makes OVERWHELM feel unique. Beyond that, the world truly feels overwhelming. Oppressive soundscapes, unforgiving one hit deaths, a pittance of three lives to accomplish your goals, the encroaching darkness, all of it is masterfully crafted to bring the tension of the game to a piercing level of unease.

And if that’s not your speed, O’Sullivan has graciously coded in various accessibility options so that players can dial in a level of difficulty that matches their own comfort level. I personally adjusted the auto-aim to be extremely forgiving, and even then, I still get goosebumps every time I delved into the hive.

Best Games Played 2018: Greatest Mechanical Reach

These games and awards were decided during the Wardcast’s Best Games Played 2018 episode, where we considered any and all games played by the members of the Wardcast in 2018, even if they weren’t released that calendar year.


Earlier this year, Alex came to the podcast with glowing praise for tiny smartphone game Part Time UFO. I’d been trying to find enjoyable mobile games to dig into, and when he mentioned that the game was developed by HAL Egg, the mobile division of HAL Laboratory and the minds behind Kirby, Earthbound, and Smash Bros., I was itching to play. In the game you command a cute, little UFO with an extendable claw, taking on a number of gigs to pick up and place objects in specific locations – what Western audiences would call a crane game or claw machine and Eastern audiences would call a UFO catcher.

Even on first blush, I could tell that this was a well-crafted package: the pixel art was adorable, the music was catchy, and the controls felt solid. There’s a virtual analog stick to direct the UFO and a virtual button to operate the claw. There’s also an option to use a one-finger control scheme that, while intriguing, works better as an accessibility option than a convenient way to play. But the first few levels were fun, so I kept playing, not knowing what I would find.

What starts out as a simple physics-based puzzle game unfurls into a series of precarious challenges, thoughtful puzzles, demanding time limits, and more. I was immediately sucked in by the optional objectives for each level, like making sure boxes were placed right side up and stacking other objects in the correct order. Each level has three of these extra achievements, and they typically include a time limit. By completing these goals, you earn extra money which helps you unlock unique outfits for your UFO. These outfits don’t just add a cosmetic flair, most also bring strategic benefits: faster movement, stronger claw control, and other smaller tweaks that can make the difference between succeeding and failing at your current objective.

Part Time UFO brings all of HAL Labs’ charm into a tight mobile game that branches out into challenges that will keep a player engaged all the way through to the last gig.

Best Games Played 2017: Coolest Gadgets


These games and awards were decided during the Wardcast’s Best Games Played 2017 episode, where we considered any and all games played by the members of the Wardcast in 2017, even if they weren’t released that calendar year.


What’s out there in the void of space? Justice? Revenge? Riches? In Heat Signature, the answer is all of the above and more.

What more could space offer, you may ask? Trouble. Heat Signature is bringing trouble. A lot of it.

Every mission sees you boarding a ship with claustrophobic corridors filled with various space folks using an assortment of weaponry to eject you from their ship into the cold vacuum of space. Your mission – should you choose to accept it – can run the gamut from kidnapping or rescuing to searching and destroying, and any mistake you make can lead to things spiraling out of control.

At first glance, these systems are fun but rote. After an hour or so of playing I could feel my interest waning, but that’s when you start to experiment with the gadgets you pick up on you adventures.

I’d be introduced to items like the Glitch Trap, letting you teleport enemies around the map, so I’d bring it with me on my next mission. I’d round a corner where there are three guards with gear that my puny gun can’t touch, so I take a pop shot to attract them and make a run for it. The guards would follow my position, and as they turn the corner, they step into the Glitch Trap I set and one by one get shot out into space.

There’s also the Visitor. Say you’re trying to steal some treasure from a locked room that’s full of guards. You use the Visitor to warp into the room, shoot one guard, cut another down with a sword, throw your gun at the third to knock him out, loot the treasure, and warp back out in the span of two seconds.

Each one of these new tools keeps the game fresh and exciting, and everytime I’d start to feel tired of playing missions with the same loadout, the game would show me the latest gizmo, and it would feel like new again.

Heat Signature is a fun foundation of top-down run-and-gun gameplay made great by a cavalcade of wacky contraptions that help keep your playstyle constantly evolving. If you’re looking for a creative and thrilling game that makes you think on your feet, this is it.

Best Games Played 2017: Most Treacherous


These games and awards were decided during the Wardcast’s Best Games Played 2017 episode, where we considered any and all games played by the members of the Wardcast in 2017, even if they weren’t released that calendar year.


Well, it finally happened. Our rule about considering any game irrespective of release year finally bagged us a relatively older game.

1001 Spikes, originally released in 2014, is a deceptively difficult game about venturing through a temple to plunder it for gold, jewels, and treasured idols. You play as adventurer Aban, braving the hidden temple’s many perilous traps. At the outset, you’re given 1001 lives, which act as your life pool for the entire game. Once you’ve spent your allotment, that’s it, the game is done.

The game is a practice in patience. Where a platformer like Super Meat Boy is a dead-eyed sprint, 1001 Spikes is a marathon. Upon each loss, you’re improving your strategic mind, learning about how the game operates and what its next move is going to be. Each death is an opportunity to learn. Spike and dart trap timings are taught through repetition, since every level in the game is handmade.

Where a game like Spelunky is built upon procedurally generated levels, each level in 1001 Spikes drips with authorial intent. With each trap, gap, and jump, you can feel the hand of semi-mysterious development studio 8bits Fanatics at work. Every time you attempt a level, you’re taking one step forward at understanding 1001 Spikes and its creators.

1001 Spikes is the kind of game where simply finishing a level fills you with a giant sense of achievement, as long as you don’t put it down in frustration before then. This game isn’t for the faint of heart; it’s for true adventurers willing to brave the pitfalls of the temple to uncover its secrets.