Monday, December 30, 2019

SuperPhillip Central Best of 2019 Awards - Top Five Platformers

It's time for a genre of gaming that I love so much that so many years ago on the site I devoted an entire category of awards to it--it's the platformer! SuperPhillip Central's Best of 2019 Awards chugs along, ready to run and jump its way forward with the Top Five Platformers of 2019. These games are mechanically sound with excellent controls, overall entertaining platformers in regards to both gameplay and design, and they feature some of my favorite level designs of the year. If you're ready to roll on with the countdown, then let's make a starting dash and jump on in to things!

5) Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night (PS4, XB1, NSW, PC)

Our first top platformer of 2019 is an overall better game than at least one of the picks on this list, but mechanically it may not be as masterful in the gameplay department as say, the fourth game on this list. That notwithstanding, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night brought the goods and the receipts with it when it released over the summer. It took the tried and true Metroidvania formula--lovingly given the moniker of an "Igavania", named after the director of this game and several Castlevanias of gaming past--and brought some new conventions to them. Whether our heroine took on massive monsters or deadly humanoid opponents, she would gather their souls to unlock new abilities to use in and out of combat to explore the massive world. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night managed to make me love it so much that I happily went for the Platinum trophy on my PlayStation 4 copy of the game. That's saying something for how much I enjoyed it.

4) Katana ZERO (NSW, PC)

An indie hit on the Nintendo Switch and on PC, Katana ZERO by developer Askiisoft was a colorful, vivid, vibrant, and violent action-platformer that possessed incredibly tight and responsive controls. The latter was a good thing, as the manic action require quick wits and steady hands to survive each of the game's levels, which could be completed in a number of different ways. That made it so no two play-throughs of a level might be the same. Slash, strike, and deflect bullets at foes in surprisingly satisfyingly creative ways in this excellent action-platformer, earning its spot on this list of best platformers of 2019.

3) Yoshi's Crafted World (NSW)

We move from the fast paced action of Katana ZERO to a more subdued and much more mellow game (as well as decidedly much more family friendly as well) with Yoshi's Crafted World. I must admit that while Yoshi's latest adventure won't get your palms sweaty too terribly much if you're simply moving through levels, they will when tackling some of the game's more difficult challenges, such as going for 100% collectibles and taking on the title's end-game boss. Yoshi's Crafted World featured some of the most clever level designs and concepts in a platformer this year, with each level having me excited to see what level ideas the designers would come up with next. A mostly leisurely platformer, Yoshi's Crafted World gets comfortable and cozy in the middle of this countdown.

2) Super Mario Maker 2 (NSW)

Not only is the next game on this countdown a platformer with five of the best Mario platforming styles in one game, but Super Mario Maker 2--as the name implies--also allowed players to create and craft their own Mario levels in one of four Mario themes and one of several level types. Along with Nintendo's tightly designed Story Mode levels, which not only provided excellent platforming challenges but also gave players inspiration and ideas for their own levels, players could hop online and try out myriad creations from a plethora of players and designers. Super Mario Maker 2 barely loses out in this category to our number one game by virtue of not being a wholly original game, but don't let that fool you into thinking that this platformer and platforming level tool wasn't a fantastic platformer, no matter which Mario game theme you used--Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World, New Super Mario Bros., or Super Mario 3D World.

1) Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair (PS4, XB1, NSW, PC)

We run and jump to our platforming game of the year with a pair of familiar enough characters. Unlike the original Yooka-Laylee, which many consider a pale imitation of the games it was inspired by, Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair not only lent itself to a favorable comparison to its Donkey Kong Country inspiration, but it also rivaled the games. Yooka and Laylee made one killer combo, and the running, rolling, jumping, and spinning made for a tight feeling game. The eponymous Impossible Lair was a fantastic capstone challenge for the game, but it also could cut plenty of players' adventures just short of the goal. The other levels leading up to the Impossible Lair were really well designed with smartly placed secrets, fun level gimmicks (including two versions of each level, which drastically altered their designs), and a 3D overworld that brought forth a combination of platforming and puzzle elements. All in all, Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair delighted me the most as a completely original platformer this year, giving it top honors as the best platformer of 2019.

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