After the traditional quiet periods of June and July were broken up with some surprise indie darlings, including Her Story, Rocket League and the first launch of Fallout Shelter, August had a lot to live up to. And while it didn't deliver on raw numbers, there were a few surprises that definitely caught people's attention.
Galak-Z: The Dimensional (PS4)
Galak-Z proved to be far more punishing than many expected
The release of 17-bit's Galak-Z couldn't come soon enough for some — it's visuals and what little information had been released enticed many — but the punishing difficulty caught many off guard. The PC port, released later in the year, came with an easier difficulty mode that added checkpoints after each episode.
That went a long way towards easing players, although as Evan found there was still a touch of frustration at losing power-ups at the end of every season. The game still has oodles of charm — the pausing screen alone is proof of that — and it controls really tightly once you get to grips with it all.
Galak-Z is due for release on mobile platforms later this year. It'll be interesting to see how it controls, but I'm happy sticking to a mouse and keyboard.
Rare Replay (XBO)
Still a charmer
The presence of Rare Replay was notable for quite a few reasons. Firstly, it's great to see Rare actually working on a game that's not a Kinect sports game. Secondly, it also meant that Rare was freed up to work on Sea of Thieves. Thirdly, it's probably the closest we'll come to seeing ZX Spectrum games on next-gen consoles for a really long time.
Not all of the games in Rare Replay are worth your time, although some are undoubtedly still good fun (Viva Pinata being a great example). Stephen found it was the best collection of games for an Xbox since Valve released The Orange Box, but keep in mind the pack doesn't come with Donkey Kong Country or GoldenEye 007 due to licensing issues.
Everybody's Gone to the Rapture (PS4)
A pretty environment that proved divisive
It proved to be one of the more divisive titles of the year. Chris found Everybody's Gone to the Rapture was "easily one of the best games" he played up to that point in 2015, with a soundtrack that surpassed its visuals. It found a place in Mark's top 5, with our erstwhile editor describing it as "one of the bravest games of the year".
But that chord didn't ring true for a lot of people. I felt like the general reaction to Rapture was harsher than it had been for The Vanishing of Ethan Carter or Dear Esther, The Chinese Room's previous game, although the slow pacing — really slow pacing — and writing put many offside.
Kirk still found that the score carried him through, and I don't think I heard a single complaint in regards to the soundtrack. It's brilliant, perhaps one of the best of the year, and totally worth hunting down.
One Piece: Pirate Warriors 3 (PC, PS3, PS4, Vita)
The tears of Luffy look a lot better on consoles
One of my surprise picks from 2015, but then it took everyone by surprise when it was available to buy for an absurd US69 cents on launch day. The PC port features a surprising downgrade in quality from what's available on consoles and the game itself isn't that great, but I've had a blast regardless.
It actually ended up being some of the most fun I had all year, purely thanks to timing and coincidence. The game launched shortly before I went on a holiday to Japan, and when I came back I binged through the campaign as much as I could. It was still going for too much during Steam's recent Winter sale, but later this year it might become available again for something more appropriate. Probably not US69 cents, though.
Satellite Reign (PC, Mac, Linux)
The big Aussie Kickstarter success received a warm reception on release
The Aussie-made spiritual sequel to Syndicate launched at the end of August to warm praise. Luke was on the more effusive side of that, nominating the game as one of his favourites for the year. He even went as far to say that the Kickstarter success improved on many of Syndicate's original flaws.
The cyberpunk open-world strategy game has gotten a small swell of owners in the recent Steam sale, although the Steam Spy data notes that thousands of owners have refunded the game over the last couple of days. It's brought the total owner base to just under 80,000, which is a bit of a shame considering the hopes people had for Satellite Reign following the millions it raised.
Mega Man Legacy Collection (PC, PS4, XBO)
The classic platformers were beset with input lag for many
If you wanted to legally own the original Mega Man games in 2015, Capcom finally provided you with a way to do so. Unfortunately reports of input lag upset owners, while only including the first six games in the franchise soured the deal for others. It's also not fantastic if you're using a keyboard.
But with Mighty No. 9 continually beset by delays and the prospect of a genuine Mega Man successor unlikely, it was nice to see Capcom give the little blue man some love. It'd be nicer if Mega Man 7 and up were included down the track, but for now something is better than nothing.
Disney Infinity 3.0 (PC, PS3, PS4, XBO, 360, Wii U, iOS, Android)
The toy craze continues
The prospect of owning and dealing with Amiibo, Skylanders, LEGO sets and their associated portals for video games isn't my idea of a fun time, so I was happy to give Disney Infinity 3.0 a pass when it rolled around. I did like the fact that Ninja Theory and Sumo Digital were both brought on to help develop different aspects of the game, although I'm more interested in the projects those devs can produce when they're not tied to the Disney machine.
Luke found that Infinity 3.0 was "much more like a proper video game" and his five-year-old daughter described it as "prettier", "more fun" and awesome for having Sabine. That last part's particularly prescient given the suspicious lack of Rey in toy sets over the last few months, the most recent being the Star Wars: The Force Awakens monopoly game. She's the hero of the bloody movie. Come on, people.
Shadowrun: Hong Kong (PC, Mac, Linux)
Cyberpunk shadows redux
Before Harebrained Schemes turned their turn-based eyes to the BATTLETECH universe, they were busy with the Shadowrun theme. I actually quite enjoyed the original Shadowrun Returns, even if most people found Shadowrun: Dragonfall to be far superior across the board.
Shadowrun: Hong Kong had an advantage the previous two releases didn't, however. Without the burden of having to factor in the hardware in iPads and Android tablets, Harebrained was able to bump up the fidelity of Hong Kong across the board in a way that wasn't possible for Returns or Dragonfall.
Chris and his podcast co-host JJ Sutherland narrated an audio playthrough of part of the game, which is something you could probably only do with a turn-based RPG like this. It's rather interesting, so check it out.
Until Dawn (PS4)
If only David Cage games were like this
I couldn't go through August without touching on perhaps the biggest surprise of all. Until Dawn's mix of jump scares, tropes, tricky quicktime sequences and cleverness ended up being one of the best experiences of the year for many. Patrick recalled a memory about how Until Dawn was the kind of game he'd want made if he could snap his fingers, and Hayley was startled by the gulf in quality between the final product and the demo that she originally played.
Sony has shown an increasing willingness to push some of its exclusives onto the PC in recent months — Helldivers comes to mind — and it'd be nice if Until Dawn could make the jump as well. Its narrative-driven experience would find plenty of fans there, and it's the kind of game that deserves a broad audience.
That's all for August, although some of the other games that came out that month include: Lara Croft Go, Madden NFL 16, Trine 3, Volume, Velocity 2X, the Android release of Fallout Shelter, Toy Soldiers: War Chest and Nom Nom Galaxy. What caught your eye in August?