In only a few days, Christmas will be upon us! Whether you are someone who lives in a more temperate climate where you find yourself wanting to crowd around the television with the air-conditioning set to max or a colder climate where going outdoors for long periods of time isn’t practical or even possible – the idea of ending the year with some gaming is appealing. While there is no shortage of advertising around the latest and hottest games on the market from major publishers, I would like to take the time and showcase a handful of lesser known video game series, alternate options for those who enjoy niche – or otherwise at least less mainstream – gaming options.
1Jackbox Party Packs (1-7)
Annually for the last seven years, the development team at Jackbox Games have released a Jackbox Party Pack for a range of consoles. These party packs may be thought of by some as best suited towards large streaming communities or large gatherings of people. However, even a single pack offers many hours of fun individually or with a small family group – supporting up to 8-10 players through smartphone connectivity rather than needing to have X amount of controllers.
Each pack contains approximately 4 to 5 in each, ranging from one-off games such as diction*arium (a make up your own definition for a made up word game) or Patently Stupid (a make your own invention to solve a problem game) to iconic games such as Trivia Murder Party, You Don’t Know Jack and Fibbage. While each game has its own goal, players are rewarded for everything from general knowledge to having a creative – somewhat bonkers – mind.
So… which version should you look at purchasing? If you only have the funds for one, then I would recommend carefully looking through the different Party Packs listed HERE, or perhaps spending a little more to get multiple packs bundled together at a discounted rate. Personally, the most enjoyment I have gotten have come from 3 & 4, although the inclusion of You Don’t Know Jack in Packs 1 & 5 are also worth considering.
Developed by Jackbox Games, the Jackbox Party Packs are now available to purchase for the PC, Mac, Linux, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, iOS, Android and Amazon Fire TV platforms. Prices and availability may vary per platform.
2Robotics;Notes Elite and Robotics;Notes DASH
For many years now, we have been able to enjoy the ‘Science Adventure’ visual novel franchise from 5pb, Nitroplus and MAGES – primarily kudos to Spike Chunsoft who has localised and published them in North America and PAL regions. A majority of these releases were around the Steins;Gate stream of games, following Rintaro Okabe and the other members of the Future Gadget Laboratory as their experimentation in time machine technology saw them fall afoul of the shadowy organisation SERN.
While it is not necessarily the best starting point, and playing through the original Steins;Gate or Steins;Gate ELITE is essential to get the most out of it – earlier this year – Spike Chunsoft localised and published its chronological sequel – Robotics;Notes and Robotics;Notes DASH. This time around, players fill the shoes of High Schooler Kaito Yashio, a member of his remote school’s robotics club. Through a series of events, they soon become acquainted with their own set of harrowing mysteries and dilemmas involving technology.
While neither are cheap given they only hit store shelves back in mid-October 2020, if you are after a couple of dozen hours of reading complemented by great artwork, this may be a game up your alley!. You can read the story synopsis of each game below:
Play as Kaito Yashio, one of the last two members of Central Tanegashima High’s Robot Research Club. He kicks back and relaxes as his counterpart, the reckless club leader Akiho Senomiya, strives to complete their giant robot in order to keep the club from being disbanded. But Kaito’s days of relaxation end with the discovery of the mysterious Kimijima Report. It contains instructions involving locations all across the island—and warns of a conspiracy targeting the entire world.
The island of Tanegashima is preparing for the Summer Festival. Through Nae Tennouji, an acquaintance from JAXA, Kaito Yashio is introduced to Itaru Hashida from the STEINS;GATE series. Itaru claims to be taking a tour of the island, but as time goes on he starts acting rather strangely… Meanwhile, unsettling incidents begin to occur all around them; harbingers of an event that will again plunge the world into chaos.
Robotics;Notes ELITE and Robotics;Notes DaSH are now available to purchase on the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and PC (via Steam).
3Giraffe and Annika
With a new generation of consoles, we have seen a number of new adventure games released from the major publishers, but one game which has really gone under the radar (from my perspective) this year is the charming and downright adorable Giraffe and Annika, released earlier in 2020 for the PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One and Windows PC.
With a cutesy 3D charm coupled with well-designed 2D manga-style cutscenes and an easy-to-approach narrative, this alone won me over quickly after playing. The game’s five dungeons and rhythm-based battle system were icing on the cake, delivering a short yet fun and occasionally challenging (in the latter levels) experience. The best way to describe Giraffe and Annika is that it is, quite simply, a cute and creative game!
Developed by atelier mimina and published by PLAYISM (PC) and NIS America (Console), Giraffe and Annika is now available to purchase.