2019, a year full of good games, mediocre games, and not so good games. I made a top 10 of 2019 video, so to complement that here’s my top 10 WORST games of 2019. As usual, this is a personal list, so I expect some to disagree, but again, that’s what makes these videos fun. So with that said, let’s get started with #10.
10. 9-nine-:Episode 1
I may be a big visual novel fan and even more so for suspense/mystery-type stories, but 9-nine-:Episode 1 just wasn’t doing it for me. It’s got a good story concept, some good art, and even a voiced protagonist (which is quite rare for the medium). However, it quickly loses itself in its own story, both through the quality of the writing and the pacing of the story itself. It’s a game that tries to be both a romance story and a mystery story, with little in the way of actually trying to make the two work with each other.
The result is a story that hops from mystery to romance and back with the most jarring of transitions. And of course, this leads to some very erratic pacing, with the beginning of the story being super slow and everything after that being far too fast for the type of story being told. I really wanted to like this VN given that there’s three sequels to it, but unfortunately I could barely make it through the first.
9. SENRAN KAGURA Peach Ball
So here’s the thing with the SENRAN KAGURA series. Despite the numerous different forms its games may take, they generally have some good gameplay, even if some will argue that the gameplay is not the main focus. I had a great time playing and reviewing Burst Re:Newal and Peach Beach Splash for example. However, with Peach Ball, it seemed like the devs kinda lost sight of the gameplay side and instead put all of their efforts into making the game (and girls) look good instead. I’m not even someone that has a problem when devs put effort into the visual side of things, but when the result is a pinball game that only has two different (yet very similar) tables, It’s kinda hard to excuse how lazy it is.
And I should probably mention that it’s being sold for $40, so it’s not like it’s some random cheap spin-off, it’s being sold at the same price as the main series. So of course I was disappointed with the game when it came time to review it, it just felt like a cheap cash grab, one I wouldn’t even recommend to fans of the series.
8. Super Neptunia RPG
Unfortunately it isn’t just the SENRAN KAGURA series that is victim to cheap cash grabs, the Neptunia series has a bit of that as well, with Super Neptunia RPG being a prominent example this past year. It’s got all of the signs of being a decent Neptunia game, including the fun and quirky characters, the comedic writing, and the decent art, but when you actually look at the gameplay, it’s hard to find anything to praise. For example, when you look at the game’s combat, there really isn’t all that much to it outside of spamming left click until you win. And even when you do use some strategy, it is incredibly basic and involves just a couple extra clicks.
Then when you look at the actual quest design, you’ll see that the vast majority of the game’s “content” is simple fetch quests, monster hunts, and even quests as simple as “hey give me 500 credits to complete this quest”. And that’s honestly just scratching the surface of the game’s problems. This is yet another JRPG with the quality of a mobile game being sold at a premium price, $50 in this case.
7. The Blackout Club
I reviewed quite a few horror games this past year, some good and some not so much. The Blackout Club unfortunately fell into the latter group. I say unfortunately because the game actually had a really cool concept: that being an enemy you can only see when your eyes are closed. However, the game does little past that initial gimmick and what you’re left with is a horror game that grows repetitive in just the first hour. Considering that the gameplay revolves around repetition, this pretty much kills the experience.
The entire game takes place on a single map with objectives randomly generated at the beginning. These objectives seemed pretty cool at first, but in just an hour I was already seeing repeats. Given that, I was looking forward to unlocking the next area to see if that would potentially unlock new ones. Unfortunately, once I did unlock that new area, I was disappointed to see that all it was was a simple extension of the first area and that the objectives still required me to go back to that first area. At that point I even wonder why they added new areas in the first place if they’re not going to change anything. It’s unfortunate really, as the concept was quite cool.
6. Hell Warders
What originally put this one on my radar was how similar it looked to Orcs Must Die!, a series that I’m a big fan of. Despite the obvious visual differences, the games actually play quite similarly to one another. Given that, what could go wrong? Well, in the case of Hell Warders, everything, actually. It’s a game built on combat in which the combat itself just isn’t fun. There’s no weight behind it, the abilities are boring, the enemy variety is lacking, and even the animations are stiff.
It’s the most barebones level of combat you would expect from such a game and unfortunately it just brings down the whole experience with it. Of course, there’s more issues outside of the combat, like the subpar graphics, but when the foundation of your game isn’t fun, it’s hard to even care for those other elements.
5. Strategic Mind: The Pacific
Along with horror games, I also reviewed quite a few strategy games this past year. Strategic Mind: The Pacific was one that I was particularly interested in, given that I’m really into Japanese and WWII history. So when I finally started the game and had already managed to break it during the tutorial, I knew I was in for a ride. The strategy mechanics aren’t even all that bad, even if a bit shallow, but the game simply fails on just about every technical front. Messy and confusing UI? Check. Blurry graphics? Check. Unintuitive controls? Check. Abysmal voice acting and outright cringy cutscenes? Yup, it’s all there. It’s an unpolished mess that honestly should have stayed in Early Access.
So this is another one of those “not so good” horror games. In fact, this is one of those “actually broken” horror games because at the time I reviewed it I had run into a number of game-breaking bugs. From doors not opening when they should to objects not spawning when they should, the game had quite a few issues. In fact, that “object not spawning” issue actually prevented me from beating the game after I had made it all the way towards the last level. Granted, the game has seen a bunch of patches since then, so that issue may have been fixed, but it wasn’t just the technical issues holding the game down.
There was also the repetitive gameplay and completely wasted thematic potential, the latter of which was really disappointing to see given that we rarely see games take a noir approach to storytelling. It was a pretty bad horror game overall and absolutely one of the worst I’ve ever played.
3. Punch Line
This game was an interesting case for me, as I had previously seen the anime on which it is based and thought that the anime was okay, but nothing special. Given that, I went into the game expecting it to expand on the storyline, to provide more background on the characters, as the anime was quite ambitious. However, the game ended up doing none of that. In fact, it was actually a worse experience than the anime by quite the margin. Not only was it lazily developed in that a huge chunk of the game is just the player watching cutscenes pulled directly from the anime, but it was also an atrocious PC port. The wildly fluctuating art quality, the 30fps hard cap that causes the internal game speed to increase if playing on a monitor higher than 30hz, and the controls that are not only unintuitive, but cannot be configured in any way.
Of course, some may argue that the gameplay adds something of value, but unfortunately the game falters there as well. I say falter, but that’s kinda putting it lightly. The gameplay is completely unnecessary, incredibly shallow, and obviously tacked-on to drive up sales. It hardly makes up 10% of the game’s actual content and yet is used heavily in its own advertising. It’s a complete mess of a game that I was really looking forward to, earning itself a spot on this list.
2. Devil’s Hunt
This is the kind of game that may have actually done okay if it had released back in 2010 or so, but somehow it found itself in 2019. The graphics are exactly what you’d expect from that era, including everything from the cheap character models to the incredibly jarring animation. It’s all present and complements the gameplay well. And of course, I don’t mean that in a good way. This is yet another game reliant on its combat where the combat itself just feels clunky. The hits aren’t all that impactful and it’s sometimes hard to tell if your skill has even landed on an enemy or not.
Whatever the case, it doesn’t feel good to play and, combined with the choppy storyline, makes for a rather boring experience. Of course, there’s also the numerous technical issues on top of that, so when you’re not working through the repetitive combat you’re dealing with some random fps drop or audio cutting issue. It’s a very buggy experience and, honestly, one I wish I could forget.
1. Kotodama: The 7 Mysteries of Fujisawa
So, when I write my reviews, I always split them into pros and cons. That’s something I have done with every actual review I’ve uploaded for years now. However, Kotodama managed to break that tradition, becoming the first game that I straight-up could not write a pro for, it’s that bad. As with Punch Line, this is another visual novel with awful, tacked-on gameplay, this time taking the form of some cheap Bejeweled clone that’s heavily reliant on RNG.
That’s already bad enough, but it gets worse when you get to the actual story side to the game, which is the majority considering that this is a VN. It’s a mystery story full of boring tropes, bland characters, and twists that aren’t really that well-written. However, that’s nothing compared to how repetitive it is. Yes, this is a visual novel that somehow makes itself repetitive. You may be asking, how does a VN manage to do that? Well, in Kotodama, it’s rather easy: by making you replay large chunks of the game over and over with almost no difference. So not only do you have to read through the same story numerous times, but you have to replay all of the gameplay segments too. The reason? To get the game’s true ending of course. It’s a horribly designed game in this regard and is not only the worst game I played in 2019, but one of the worst games I’ve played ever.
Yup, so that’s my list. Again, this is a personal list, so I expect some to disagree. Regardless, I’m hoping that 2020 is good enough that I don’t see the need to make such a list, but we’ll have to wait and see.