In last year’s annual review, we talked about how we said a “complex year” was behind us. And that 2021 had picked up where we left off. Well, what can we say – 2022 has put in a good effort to step out of the long shadow of its two older siblings. But even during the crisis, we indulged in escapism and experienced very special moments in video games, which we would like to share with you here for the third time.
I finished more games in 2022 than ever before – 50 of them. It was also the strongest video game year I’ve ever had in terms of quality. After recounting an early scene from The Last of Us Part II last year, I finished it this year with gusto. I played Pikmin and its modern variant Tinykin with my kids. I tried my hand at the deck-builder genre and rekindled my old Magic passion with Slay the Spire, Dicey Dungeons, and Inscryption. I even dug out my 3DS and dusted off my VR goggles. Indie classics like Braid and Super Meat Boy got caught up, and The Forgotten City and Return to Monkey Island didn’t even make it into the backlog. I bought a Steam deck and experienced A Hat in Time, Spelunky, and The Sexy Brutale there, and my new Xbox opened the gates to the Game Pass world.
Metroid Dread, Disco Elysium, Doom, Kentucky Route Zero, Baba is You, Titanfall 2…. Since I’ve taken so many impressions from these 50 games finished and many more started, I’d love to fire off another blitz like I did in 2021. But then I can’t help thinking about Sun Station orbiting the burning ball at the center of the microscopic Outer Wilds solar system.
Outer Wilds was a remarkable experience in many ways, but the moment that sticks out in my mind when I think about my 2022 gaming year is opening the hatch on Sun Station.
I had been trying for a while at this point to land on the small object, which was hurtling along at high speed much too close to the deadly fireball. I suppose it’s possible, but it wasn’t possible for me. So I let it go until I happened upon an alternate method that took me directly to the station. Not knowing exactly where I was at first, I followed a nondescript corridor and discovered one of the orbs I use to open doors. The door didn’t just open, it flew off its hinges and slid into space. And then I was standing there. Directly above the sun. In front of me was a destroyed bridge that had connected the two halves of the station. Over there lay the answers to the questions that had been troubling me so much. I felt a real spirit of research. And at the same time I felt the crushing weight of endless space. There was only one small corridor in the vacuum of space that would take me safely to my destination. The music, the expectations, the real pressure in my stomach before a jump across the sun – Never has a video game felt so real as that moment when the hatch flew off its hinges. It was my best moment in my best video game year.
One of the dominant themes in 2022 was AI-generated images and texts. Smiled at, marveled at, fought against – at least you can’t accuse them of not evoking emotions. Even though there is much to criticize about this development, they caused quite a few laughs for me. That’s why I’m writing down my Year in Review video game moment in cooperation with AI Dungeon.
In AI Dungeon, you can interact with the AI, which generates the entire world, including characters, quests and dialogs, just like in a classic text adventure. Only the bold prompts are by me. This excerpt was the finale of a story in which I was sent to London as a secret agent by the US President. I was supposed to meet James Bond. And because I’ve seen enough James Bond movies to know how that goes, of course my goal was clear, romantic entanglements had to happen!
You see a black sports car. It is very shiny. You see James Bond getting out of the car.
You say, “Hello Mr. Bond.”
James Bond turns around and notices you. He smiles. “Hello,” he says. James Bond walks toward you. “I think you’d better come with me.” James Bond opens the door of his sports car. “Am I under arrest?” you ask. “Not yet,” James Bond says.
You get into his sports car. The interior of the sports car is very shiny. James Bond starts the engine. He pulls out of the parking lot.
You say, “Is it hot in here? Or is it me?”
James Bond looks at you. “I’m sorry,” he says. “The air conditioning is broken.” You’re sweating. You notice that the sports car’s dashboard is very modern. The radio is AM/FM. The air conditioning works.
You say, “But the air conditioning works.”
“Yes,” says James Bond. You notice a CD player in the dashboard. James Bond turns on the CD player. “What’s that?” you ask. “It’s a CD from the MI6 music collection. I borrowed it from there.”
You say, “What’s the name of this song?”
“I don’t know. It’s one of their new songs. You can sing along.” James Bond slides the CD into the player. The song is called “Baby Love.”
You say, “That’s romantic.”
“It’s a love song,” says James Bond.
You sing along.
The song is sad.
The song is beautiful.
The song is romantic.
The song is fantastic.
The song is sad.
James Bond stops the car.
You bite James Bond on the neck in a romantic way.
James Bond dies.
The car has stopped.
Baby Love” is playing on the radio.
The engine is cold.
The world outside is cold.
There is no air conditioning.
– THE END –
I have a thing for co-op multiplayer games. Working, swearing and winning together towards the goal is a unique gaming experience. For many games, this “together” primarily means doing the same thing at the same time. Overcooked and its second installment are notable exceptions. “Together” here means complementing each other while playing, supporting each other, and most importantly, finding a common language.
“We need two heads of lettuce, one tomato, one cucumber” – “Salad ready” – “Tomato is on it” – “Need clean plates” – “Two new plates coming right up”. With my girlfriend I play level 1-6, “Hot Air Balloon”, of Overcooked 2. We are by now a well-rehearsed team, know in our sleep how burgers, fries and soups are made, and this level turns out to be surprisingly tame. We are supposed to prepare salads in an oversized basket of a hot air balloon. A few minor sparks that make running difficult can’t faze us. We chop and serve plates full of greens like there’s no tomorrow. As the sky darkens, the music becomes more dramatic, and a work surface or two shifts during the shenanigans, we just smile in victory. Until everything changes with a crash exactly halfway through the level.
With the balloon we plunged directly into a sushi bar. The don’t-get-hectic-ness is now put to the test. We have to take over the operation of the new kitchen, i.e. prepare sushi, as well as satisfy the still lingering hunger for salad of the previous orders. Besides, the hut burns; it was a balloon crash after all.
We extinguish, rinse, cook, roll, deliver. The whole scene is so absurd that we have to laugh constantly. On the fine line between elegant skill and haphazard bustle, we pull ourselves together and serve our way to the end of the level – and score enough points for a two-star finish. We want to play this level again. For the third star and for the exuberant fun.
Overcooked 2 managed to throw two people into a rollercoaster of emotions with this level, without taking them out of the flow. With a fireworks display of the absurd, it left us hungry for more. That’s why the Hot Air Balloon level is my gaming moment of 2022.
1) Wait, for the fact that this “Vampire Survivors” was just put so much to my heart, the screenshots don’t even look that cool now. But hey, it only costs a few euros. As they always say: Treat yourself.
2) Wait, four hours? That can’t be. Where did the time go?
3) Wait, already all achievements? But well, it’s “Early Access”. I can continue playing when there are updates.
4) Wait, why have I now played ten hours in a few days, even though there were no updates? Is the game just that much fun? That can’t really be the case. Is it still allowed to do that at all?
5) Wait, another update already? New achievements again? New items again? New characters again? Is this going to continue on a weekly basis now? It’s getting a bit cheeky.
6) Wait, you can quite easily change the sprites in the game and replace them with your own? Then I know what I will do in the next few days.
7) Wait, a hundred hours?
8) Wait, version 1.0 is out? Wasn’t the game already finished? No? More stuff? Yeah, OK, life, so be it. See you on the other side.
9) Wait, was that really it? 100%. All achievements. Everything unlocked. Done. All right, one more round, but then it’s really good. You can’t just…
10) Wait, there’s DLC?
For me, the year 2022 retrospectively stands for the (hopefully permanent) renunciation of the continuous questing of any service games (Greetings, Destiny!) and the return to the leisurely consumption of degenerating single-player epics. After all, this is how I spent and enjoyed the majority of my gaming years. So in 2022, it was time to tackle the Pile of Shame and the biggest chunks first. After the obligatory start of the year with Elden Ring, The Witcher 3 including add-ons, various Pokémon titles and last but not least Persona 5 were on the agenda. The latter also marked my return to JRPGs – a genre I hadn’t played at all for about the last ten years. Numerous friends, however, attested Persona 5 the status of an absolute exceptional game, one of THE flagship titles of the past game generation – especially due to its groundbreaking story. With the arrival of the beloved franchise on Game Pass in late October, it was finally clear: Persona 5 was getting a chance. And my goodness did it take that chance.
About 97 hours of gameplay later, I find myself in the middle of the game’s DLC at the turn of the year, which is docked after the actual end of the main story. The title is by no means lacking in special moments, but the story twist just before (in-game) Christmas made me feel real enthusiasm for the story of a video game again after a long time and made for lengthy Google escapades to understand exactly what actually happened there. Although Persona doesn’t avoid numerous supernatural JRPG tropes (SPOILER: Greetings, omnipotent deity pulling the strings in the background) despite its modern, present-day setting, the story would certainly also work well as a TV series epic with its carefully constructed twists and turns and that crackerjack twist at the end. Without even beginning to expect that other JRPGs will be able to repeat this experience in time, I have clearly resolved for 2023 to devote more time to the favorite genre of my teen years again. Tropes or not, I somehow missed the feeling of being sucked deeper into a cliché-laden story hour by hour, and at some point really empathizing with it.
We would like to wish all our readers a happy new year with many beautiful, memorable moments! Our resolution is to surprise you with a fresh WALL JUMP text every Sunday in 2023, and we’d love to have you join us.
This post is also available in: German