Orwell's Animal Farm Articles RSS Feed | GameSkinny.com Orwell's Animal Farm RSS Feed on GameSkinny.com https://www.gameskinny.com/ en Launch Media Network 12 Great Games You May Have Missed in 2020 https://www.gameskinny.com/vmq12/12-great-games-you-may-have-missed-in-2020 https://www.gameskinny.com/vmq12/12-great-games-you-may-have-missed-in-2020 Thu, 17 Dec 2020 15:30:01 -0500 Mark Delaney

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Roundguard

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Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch, Mobile (iOS)

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"How about Peggle but it's a dungeon crawler?" is something no one said until the three-person team at Wonderbelly Games did it. Roundguard is the Peggle 3 EA didn't want to make, and it carries the pinball-esque game forward more than Peggle 3 probably would've anyway.

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Using roguelite elements, players bounce around levels very much like the PopCap favorite, only death means it's back to start. But fear not, you'll acquire some bonuses on the way to use game after game, while you see how high you can climb the leaderboards and with which of the game's three different classes. It's Peggle, but deeper, smarter, and often tougher. In short, it's Peggle but better.

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Those are some of the best games you may have missed in 2020. Are there any games you think should have gotten more recognition this year but didn't? Let us know what they are in the comments below!

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Pumpkin Jack

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Platforms: PC, Xbox One, PS4, Switch

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3D platformers have undergone something of a renaissance lately, with the resurgence of Crash Bandicoot, Spyro The Dragon, and more. One game that understandably didn't get the same love but totally deserves it is Pumpkin Jack.

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Though it's best played at Halloween given its spooktacular visuals and setting, the gameplay is solid and fun enough that it's still a great game year-round. Plus, not to spoil anything, but playing it in December may prove timely too. If you long for the days of Banjo-Kazooie and games like it, the solo-developed Pumpkin Jack is 2020's greatest love letter to the era.

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Alba: A Wildlife Adventure

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Platforms: PC, iOS

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On the list of games that are kind to their animals, Alba is just behind Ooblets for the best of the year. In this Apple Arcade and PC game, you play Alba, a young girl with a camera and a passion for nature. Exploring a seaside villa on a trip with your grandparents ends up more like a freeform — and even educational — Pokemon Snap.

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Photograph the birds that fly by, look out for the elusive lynx, or just snap pictures of the townspeople living their lives. If you like photo modes or games that promote being a supportive citizen of the environment around us, Alba's little girl with a big heart storyline is a warm and fuzzy way to overcome some 2020 blues.

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The Last Show of Mr. Chardish

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Platforms: PC, Xbox One

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Fans of Edith Finch need to make time for the new name in genre-defying adventure games. The Last Show of Mr. Chardish is about a woman who returns to a theater of great importance to say goodbye to an old friend. What begins in the real world with her exploring halls abandoned by the late playwright soon unfolds as flashbacks through ever-shifting worlds where memories and feelings collide in often beautiful displays.

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Though these variable gameplay sections aren't as varied as Edith Finch, their overarching watercolory aesthetic is great and the story it tells in its two to three hours is worth seeing in one go if you've got a free evening.

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Suzerain

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Platforms: PC

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Speaking of politics, if reorganized classic literature about a farm in revolt isn't your thing, perhaps running your own nation will suffice. In Suzerain, you've just won the election of an imaginary country after decades of political turmoil. Running on a platform of your choosing, this adventure game asks you to balance promises made with the stark realities of politics. Quickly, it's shown just how delicate that balance is.

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Suzerain isn't afraid to slow the game to a crawl, which will truly be fascinating for the right players. You literally start each day reading (or ignoring) briefings from departments around your administration. For those who want to simulate a true-to-life career in federal government, with all the highs and lows that may entail, I don't know of another game that captures the process as well as Suzerain.

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Orwell's Animal Farm 

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Platforms: PC

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Nobody was likely clamoring for a video game based on a decades-old allegory about the Russian Revolution, but Orwell's Animal Farm masterfully reimagines Orwell's classic in a video game context, giving players Reigns-like control over the animals and their titular farm after they overthrow their farmer. How will you lead? Will you head down the same tragic path of the book, find new ways to suffer, or perhaps rise above and deliver prosperity to the herds?

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With multiple endings and an excellent audio mix of original music and the narration of Abubakar Salim (Assassin's Creed Origins), Orwell's Animal Farm is an unfortunately timely reimagining of the corrupting influence of power over those who seek to lead.

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Unto The End

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Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch, Stadia

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More than the Zelda-likes listed before, the Soulslike genre is one that has already been going very strong for years. For a look at something different but still akin to the brutal tests seen in such games, try Unto The End.

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Presented in a cinematic 2D, voiceless world where one man fights tooth and nail to get home to his family, Unto The End demands you master a harsh world of traps and unforgiving enemies at every step — seriously, watch your step! Using bonfires and crafting vital resources, it can feel just as exhilarating as the Souls games even in its new perspective.

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If Found

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Platforms: PC, Switch

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If Found is one of the best kinds of games for your end-of-year backlog. It can be played in one sitting if you define a sitting as about two hours. Using the overarching metaphor of a space explorer, this drama focuses on the experiences of a trans individual as they reflect on what's come before and where they're going next.

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It uses an inventive touchscreen mechanic that has players literally wipe away memories, making it a perfect fit for Switch. It's certainly not the lightest story on this list, so maybe it's not the sort of fare you're seeking for a holiday break, but in its brevity, it reveals a ton of heart and could bring forth an empathic response in even the skeptical players.  

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Ooblets

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Platforms: PC, Xbox One

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Animal Crossing got all the glory, but it was actually Ooblets that pushed the farm sim genre forward more than anything in years. The extraordinarily silly game begins with a familiar premise — arrive in a new town and set off to make friends and grow out your farm — but it does everything with a conscious awareness of the casual violence these games normally include.

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In Ooblets, turn-based fighting is now dance battling, while fishing is "sea-dangling" for crafting objects. None of the titular creatures are ever put in harm's way, and beneath the adorable language the game has built for itself lies a game with a strong point to make about living in harmony with the beauty around you.

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Windbound

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Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch, Stadia

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2020 was the year we saw the dam holding back Breath of the Wild's influence on the games industry break. Games like Genshin Impact and Immortals Fenyx Rising borrowed major aspects of the beloved Zelda game and applied them to new contexts. But did you hear about Windbound?

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On the surface, Windbound looks like another branch of the Zelda family tree, but it ends up playing quite differently, with a strong and enjoyable focus on survival elements like crafting your boat in every act. That boat soon becomes the symbol of your progress as an adventurer, going from a simple rowboat to a much grander wind-catching trophy of perseverance.

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Spellbreak

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Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch

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Battle royale has proven to be more than a fad, in part because innovative studios keep rethinking what the genre may mean.

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In one of the year's best examples, Spellbreak takes the last-player-standing mode and puts it in a world of spellcasting and elementals very much like Avatar: The Last Airbender. Even better, its first major update, which just launched on December 15, adds story missions to the game, so you'll be questing to uncover more lore in the middle of a battle royale match.

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It's sort of uncharted territory even as others have tried to add context to their massive battles. Spellbreak is the battle royale for fantasy fans who'd prefer to trade in their M16 for a fireball.

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I Am Dead

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Platforms: PC, Switch

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Every year Annapurna Interactive blows my mind by continuing their streak of never publishing a bad game. Like If Found below, I Am Dead is one of 2020's great games.

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This quirky adventure game about being dead has you explore an afterlife with your dog, swirling through the memories of those the dead have left behind like a spoon in hot chocolate. Along the way, you learn who these people were and what kind of legacies they left behind. It's a lighter way to broach the subject than we usually see in games, and ultimately reminds you how we all touch the lives of others even if we don't always realize how.

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If you liked Spiritfarer's cathartic look at death, I Am Dead makes a strong companion piece.

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You don't need to have your finger on the pulse of the games industry to have heard about the year's biggest games such as Call of Duty Black Ops Cold WarWatch Dogs Legion, and, of course, the lightning rod that has become Cyberpunk 2077. These games command the zeitgeist like few can.

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A notch or two below those are the indie darlings that rose to moderate fame. Hits like SpiritfarerHades, and Fall Guys each took a bigger share of the attention pie than many would've predicted.

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But what about the games that never really got their time in the sun but totally deserved it? We've been tracking several throughout the year and caught up with a few more. Here are a dozen of the best games you may have missed in 2020.

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Orwell's Animal Farm Review: Cultivating Something Special https://www.gameskinny.com/aqaeu/orwells-animal-farm-review-cultivating-something-special https://www.gameskinny.com/aqaeu/orwells-animal-farm-review-cultivating-something-special Thu, 10 Dec 2020 22:12:48 -0500 Mark Delaney

"All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others." You may not have read George Orwell's condemnatory 1945 allegory about the rise of Stalinism, but you probably still know its most famous quote.

For decades, the superficially childlike tale of animals overthrowing their farmer landlord  — only to descend into their own newfound chaos amid a leadership vacuum  — has been used as a benchmark of critical post-Russian Revolution literature, but its broader message of the corrupting influence of power is timeless.

For that reason, a video game adaptation of Animal Farm has potential, even if it seems an odd project, and the collective at The Dairymen and Nerial found just the route to deliver such an idea.

Orwell's Animal Farm Review: Cultivating Something Special

Orwell's Animal Farm isn't a page-by-page reenactment of the decades-old story, but sometimes it may seem that way. I suppose for those that missed it before now, a spoiler warning is justified even for a book from 1945. I'll tread lightly. 

Its intro unavoidably opens like the novel — anthropomorphic farm animals call for an uprising and cast out the farmer they believe has been a bad leader and worse caretaker. His sudden removal leaves a void, and through conflicting ideals, the animals' once-rose-tinted view of the future descends into chaos as allegiances form, betrayers emerge, and even wars ignite.

Like the book, the game takes seriously the juxtaposition of cutesy farm animals with names like Snowball and Squealer and the political ideals they represent. It would maybe be interesting to faithfully retell the story exactly as it occurred, but Orwell's Animal Farm thankfully dares to do something more.

Though it is essentially a text adventure, there are in Orwell's Animal Farm strategy elements to consider, such as determining who plows the fields, deciding whether the cows distribute their milk to other species, and what to do with excess hay for the winter. Each of these decisions and more are laid out with gorgeous original artwork, still and simple, but lovely nonetheless.

You're given free control over the direction Animal Farm heads in, but after an optimistic honeymooning period with your new government of Animalism, things tend to fall apart.

Every decision feels like it has enormous weight to it. You'll never comfortably see through the decision matrix and know how to keep all your residents happy, and more likely, you'll soon find yourself alienating your comrades  or worse, driving them off the farm or to their deaths.

Each would-be puerile predicament carries the usually overt but still interesting political overtones. Even after multiple playthroughs, the game has its share of surprises, and it's possible to head down a totally new path for your farm, only to painfully end up back on the rails headed for disaster, like a train wreck you see coming. It's really sad when that happens.

I think even if you haven't read the book, the game does a great job of introducing the many characters and causing you to feel for their needs and wants equally, at least at first. You know what they say about equality on Animal Farm, after all.

By setting up a gameplay loop like that seen in Reigns and other political text adventures, Orwell's Animal Farm allows players to sometimes retell, but more often reshape, classic literature in a way that never wavers from the core beliefs espoused in the book. Power corrupts. 

Animal Farm reminds us of this with its bleak ending, once meant to tell readers what happened next under Stalin, but you can find yourself just as doomed following different economic and political ideals on the Animal Farm.

For my first few runs of the game, which is played in up to seven-year chunks — a couple of gameplay hours each — I was beginning to think that despite many alternate endings, none of them would be any more optimistic than the original story's. I still actually haven't found one that is, though I've seen hints that they are attainable, and I love the game for that elusiveness.

It reminds me of another quote, attributed usually to Ben Franklin, where he promised the United States would have "a democracy, if you can keep it." That caveat has never felt more present than in these last few years, and we've seen firsthand how delicate our governance truly is. As we seem to now be coming out of the other side of a half-decade of borderline constitutional crises, it's unnerving and dazzling at once to see a game portray this delicacy so well. It's even more impressive to see it comes from a game that dares to rewrite classic lit in the process.

On top of remarkably recreating the time and place of Animal Farm so well through well-considered rewrites and period-specific art, the game also manages to maintain a high bar for its mood by using some excellently delivered narration and original music that feels of a piece with the era seen in the game. For a game that is mostly just text on top of pretty pictures, it is much more immersive than I expected.

Like reading a book with choose-your-own-adventure continuity, the story can occasionally trip on itself. I never saw any of my choices betrayed, but several times I did see moments play out twice in close proximity to one another in a way that implied the game bounced off its own lofty story branches. This can be jarring, but because it never broke my own continuity, I feel it's a mostly forgivable flaw in an otherwise unique and fascinating game. 

Orwell's Animal Farm Review  — The Bottom Line

Pros
  • Dares to reimagine classic lit — and nails it
  • Great narration, music, and art set the scene
  • Captures the fragility of effective governance just as we're seeing it so much in real life 
Cons
  • Sometimes replays scenes like a CYA novel backtracking on itself

Orwell's Animal Farm is destined to fly under the radar this December, sharing a launch date with the biggest game of the year. It doesn't help that many people simply won't be interested in playing a game that both plays like and is based on a book. But there's absolutely an audience for this game, and if you find yourself in it, Orwell's Animal Farm is a timely, effective reimagining of one of the last century's most notable allegories.

I don't know how often games can successfully rethink classic literature from decades ago, but it definitely worked this time.

[Note: The Dairymen provided the copy of Orwell's Animal Farm used for this review.]

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