Last year was a difficult year to be a fan of videogames. Less than inspiring console efforts post-launch, advertising campaigns focused solely on hype rather than honesty and the reliance on making the end of the last generation of games has given the game industry the feeling of being just an industry.
Furthermore, many major releases acting in the interest of cold franchising replaced their identity with machinations more in tune with receiving a pre-ordered payday than actually delivering a worthwhile product. Underneath all of these sequels and broken promises, however, lies the ever-present undertow that continues to pulse despite whatever’s going on up above.
There were still great games being made, and many of them courted positive press and opinions without the deluge of press releases and trailers. Two of these had some of the loftiest expectations and managed to reach them: Shovel Knight and Alien: Isolation.
On almost complete opposite ends of the gaming spectrum, Shovel Knight and Isolation are two games couldn’t have been more different. The former was a huge kickstarter success back in 2012, with developer Yacht Club Games promising a title that combined the most favored elements of old-school action adventures and making them into a polished modern classic (with all the trimmings of a NES game).
Isolation, on the other hand, was very much the last breath of an age-old battle to make a truly great game based on the Alien films. After Colonial Marines, faith in ever seeing the magic of the sci-fi horror stalwart replicated on console was all but destroyed. Yet what Creative Assembly delivered was something so good, it managed to restore a hope that movie tie-in games can work – even if the journey to get there takes 35 years.
Neither would cross the other’s path until they jockeyed for position on the year’s end best-of lists. However, taking away how they came to be, they both share the same sinews in why they exist.
In an age of cyclical nostalgia, there are a lot of games, movies and media that just re-hash, sometimes literally, what came before. It is imitation disguised as inspiration. A large part of the skeletal structure of these games is that they are reveling in what came before, and using it as a base of upward momentum.