It’s that time of year again folks, the time when the P2 team get together and give out their totally imaginary awards for the year. As always we can never decide as some sort of single entity so to save the fights every writer gets their own choice. Now it is time for the team’s biggest surprises from 2020.
The Player 2 2020 Awards – Biggest Surprise
Matt Hewson – Microsoft Flight Simulator
Oh boy, I did not expect to enjoy this game. I am old enough to remember when flight simulators came with a manual the size of the yellow pages and required dozens of hours of learning just to take off. So when the 2020 edition of Flight Simulator hit I was blown away by how welcoming it was. With options to cater for the hardest of hardcore right down to someone who just wants to fly around the stunning scenery, literally anyone can pick this up and find some enjoyment. Also, don’t get me started on the pure technical wizardry that has gone into this game. Microsoft must have made a deal with the devil to get all the complex weather, tracking, mapping and GPS systems working perfectly. There isn’t a second that goes by without some technical feat wowing the pants off me. A game like no other and truly one the games of the year.
Rob Caporetto – Animal Crossing: New Horizons
If anything were to sum up the year for me, it’s dealing with the results of lockdowns caused by that virus. From the lengthy isolation from my friends and social groups to other challenges, it’s honestly been a dark year for many of us.
Which is how Animal Crossing: New Horizons snared me within its oh so wholesome grip.
Whether it’s taking time to enjoy the simple things: like conversing with your island’s assortment of cute critters or crafting and shaping your island to fit the goals you have… it’s a nice way to craft up a ritual or two and create a virtual spot to get away from it all which things are a bit overwhelming or dread-inducing.
It’s honestly helped foster a virtual sense of connection which has been lacking for many of us during this year, becoming a reassuring habit during such times.
That’s a genuine surprise for me – because honestly? I don’t really do cute in my games. But then again, more than ever, I think we all need cute cartoon animals to tell us we’re rad when we most needed it.
Harrison Tabulo – Legends of Runeterra
A League of Legends card game, need I say more? Translating a MOBA into a TCG is unthinkable, but here I am; deeply addicted to this game. There’s just something about executing galaxy-brain plays in Trading Card Games that gets me going. Legends of Runeterra plays to that appeal excellently as there are so many combinations of card effects that everyone’s deck is equal parts surprising and unique.
The fact that both players can play cards even when it isn’t their ‘turn’ adds such a different pace and strategy to the game, helping it separate itself from the market just enough. Other TCGs generally bore me but because you’re always drawing, planning and playing cards in LoR you’re constantly engaged with it. Unlocking cards and cosmetics is consistent and fulfilling. Even if you have no concept of Legend of Legends I’d still recommend giving Legends of Runeterra a peep. It plays very well from a casual setting to intermediate all the way to hyper-competitive.
Chris Lawn – Hades
I get it, this game has been great all through early access, but I genuinely didn’t expect to get sucked in as much as I did here. Not usually one for reflex-based games, Hades is perfectly balanced in every way. This roguelike offers a well-told story and a loveable cast of characters unexpected for its genre, weaving its tale and relationship building through a novel form of storytelling. No roguelike rewards death like Hades.
Paul James – Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin
Sakuna: Of Rice & Ruin is just one of those gems that might be overlooked by many, but those who give it a chance will find themselves rewarded with one of the great games of the year. It’s almost impossible to imagine how a 2D action-adventure with Rogue-lie, Metroidvania and Farming Sim elements would all come in one cohesive package, and yet that’s exactly what Sakuna is. It’s hard to speak highly enough of this game and it’s certainly the surprise gem of the year.
Jess Zammit – Murder by Numbers
I do a lot of Picross. Whether or not it benefits my cognitive abilities in any way is undetermined, but for the last few years, it’s been my go-to when I need an activity to calm me down. There’s something really satisfying about seeing a picture come together, and it takes just enough brainpower while also being fairly mindless. But you know what makes this calming activity even better? Upping the stakes by a million and turning into a way to solve murders. I never thought the universe would give me this game, but it did, and along with it gave me a banging Ace Attorney-style soundtrack and a cast of wacky characters, including a robot friend who was only mildly irritating. This was the best weird genre mash ever, and such a great surprise for 2020, the year of clusterfucks.
Stephen del Prado – Immortals: Fenyx Rising
Initial trailers had me wary – a Ubisoft take on Breath of the Wild? Surely that was going to be a major letdown, not to mention the shenanigans with the title which further dampened any confidence I had going in. With a 6 out of 10 locked and loaded, I went into my review ready to slash and burn before, quite quickly, my doubts were cast aside.
In their ‘off-season’, the Assassins Creed: Odyssey team have put together something that doesn’t take itself too seriously and massages systems in such a way that the flat and flavourless “Ubisoft game” formula manages to engage me in a way it hasn’t in years. Immortals: Fenyx Rising isn’t perfect, and like many Ubisoft franchises, feels like a sequel is needed to truly show its potential, but it is honestly the 2020 game that took my expectations and turned them around.