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5 Standout Gaming Moments of 2019

A lot of games made some noise last year but what were the standout gaming moments of 2019? We asked some of our writers for their take.




2019 was another fantastic year for gaming, with everything from triumphant returns from long-standing franchises to brilliant original games and indie knockouts. A lot of games made their share of noise last year but what were the standout gaming moments of 2019? We asked some of our writers what were their favorite gaming moments of the year, and this is what they came up with.

The Ashtray Maze, Control

Best Gaming Moments of 2019

If you arrive at Control’s Ashtray Maze before you’re properly equipped, it will continually open its architectural jaws and stubbornly spit you back out in an endless, and pointless, loop of confusion. It’s such a tantalizing tease at this stage, because the cosy aesthetic charm implores you to try and unravel its knotted corridors of mystery, but there is no unravelling, no matter how many times you try. Its eventual solution really doesn’t require any brainpower at all to solve – you merely need Ahti the janitor’s Walkman, which he has very kindly loaded up with some magical progressive hair metal.

Once you return to the maze quite literally ready to rock and roll, the game’s best set piece kicks into life with a cacophony of guitar shredding and scenery flipping. All the powers and skills that protagonist Jesse has acquired throughout her time in the Oldest House are required to take on this M. C. Escher painting come to life. It’s a thrilling piece of gratification to apply telekinesis and levitation to this twisted piece of cubism by way of some seriously 360-degree violence. Walls become floors, doors become ceilings, and enemies will pop out of each and every nook and cranny to keep you on your toes, or not as the case may be.

So much of Control’s world-building and setting is to be applauded – and the vast majority of the Oldest House is a lot more reserved and less bombastic than the Ashtray Maze – but it feels like such a suitably weird crescendo that it stands out in the memory more than anything else in the game. Most tellingly, it’s a far more enjoyable part of the campaign than the final onslaught of enemy waves in the Hedron Chamber. Subtlety be damned, then; just give me the videogame version of Inception played out to a heavy metal soundtrack and I’m very, very happy. (Alex Aldridge)

Tear Down the Wall, Life is Strange 2

There has been a strong call from certain elements of the gaming community over the last few years to keep politics out of gaming. While some companies and studio reps have notably cowed to these angry sects, others have embraced their artistic privilege, using their voices at a time when some minorities and groups have never been more afraid for their safety.

Life is Strange 2, by its very concept and characters is a game destined to challenge the ideas being presented and debated in the United States congress and senate at this place in time. Love it or hate it, the border wall has certainly been one of the more divisive political ideas of the last 4 years, and the fact that the Diaz brothers’ journey of escape to Mexico sees them put up against this very symbol of the hate, judgment and derision they’ve experienced over the course of Life is Strange 2 is a natural conclusion for their tale.

However, the real standout gaming moment of their journey comes when Daniel Diaz uses his power to tear a hole in the border wall and secure their freedom. If you’re for, or ambivalent to the wall, then it’s just a cool moment where you get to see how strong Daniel’s power has gotten over the course of his journey. On the other hand, if the idea of the wall is something that has caused you fear, distress or heart ache since 2016, this culmination of the Diaz brothers’ journey is a moment of hopeful catharsis, and easily one of the most emotional sequences in the last year of gaming. (Mike Worby)

Enter Mr. X, Resident Evil 2

Resident Evil 2 Tyrant
Resident Evil 2
(2019) has made Mr. X infamous, and it’s not hard to see why. While he was certainly an intimidating presence in the original Resident Evil 2, he was relegated to the game’s “B” plots– unlockable alternate scenarios. Only after clearing the game once would players find themselves hunted by the Tyrant. Intimidating as he may have been, however, the technical limitations of the original PlayStation meant Mr. X couldn’t actually follow players. All of his appearances were scripted and amounted to little more than jump scares in the grand scheme of things. Memorable, but not really scary.

Then comes the remake. It isn’t enough that Mr. X now has Nemesis-esque qualities, properly stalking players through the R.P.D. No, now players don’t even have the luxury of an “A” plot to familiarize themselves with the level design. Playing on common knowledge surrounding the Tyrant, Mr. X now ambushes players halfway through their first playthrough. Lifting a downed helicopter out of his way, Mr. X’s first appearance in the remake defies all expectations.

There’s a chill unlike any other that runs down your spine when he first makes his presence clear. He shouldn’t be here, but he is and he’s actually dangerous this time. Getting past this first encounter is simple enough and veterans might even feel confident getting away, but the real horror sets in when Mr. X casually strolls through the R.P.D.’s lobby, what was otherwise the game’s central hub. Nowhere is safe. Lumbering towards you with only murder on his mind, Mr. X is survival horror at its finest. (Renan Fontes)

The Ape Returns, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

Best Gaming Moments of 2019
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
has its fair share of great bosses like any From Software game but where it really shines is in the utter shock of the midpoint of the Guardian Ape fight.

The Guardian Ape blocks access to an important quest item in Sekiro, and so, must be destroyed in order to obtain it. He has no qualms about fighting dirty either, hurling poop and even farting out toxic gas amidst other, more standard, smash and grab maneuvers. However, where the ape crap really hits the fan is after Wolf performs the killing blow that has ended every boss fight up until now. Seizing on the massive sword sticking out of the Guardian Ape’s neck, Wolf yanks down, decapitating the creature and presumably ending the battle.

In a mind-blowing moment, though, the ape stands back up as Wolf leaves the arena, picking up its severed head and the sword, before coming back for another round. Shocked players were forced to seize back onto their controllers and see if they could beat the beast a second time, especially now that he had several new moves at his disposal.

The sheer surprise and thrill of the moment left it unmatched as the coolest boss fight of 2019, and that’s saying something. (Mike Worby)

Clementine Survives, The Walking Dead: The Final Season

Best Gaming Moments 2019
The Walking Dead
series came to an end in 2019 and with it came the end of Telltale’s legacy. Their collapse left the fate of the series that catapulted them to success hanging in the balance. Thankfully, the series was completed thanks to the involvement of Skybound Games. The ending provides the right amount of closure, making it one of the better gaming moments in 2019 gaming.

Beloved protagonist Clementine seems to be going the same way as her protector Lee as the game comes to its conclusion. She has been bitten by a walker and — in a segment that closely resembles the ending of the first TWD series –we see AJ following through on Clementine’s lessons in survival. Now able to fend for himself, we see AJ tearfully swing his axe as Clementine says goodbye. The player then takes control of AJ. There is a painful emotional element to this gameplay for AJ, as we assume that Clem is gone forever. However, once AJ returns to the boarding school we see that Clementine is in fact alive and well, albeit missing a leg. The relief I remember feeling in this moment was astronomical. It may not have made a great deal of sense for her to survive if you think too much about it but in that moment I really didn’t care. All that mattered was that this character that I had protected, watched grow and gone through the horrors of the zombie apocalypse with since 2012 was still breathing and had finally earned her happy ending.

Telltale created a character so beloved by gamers that we fought for her survival over and over again (and in more ways than one when it comes to the cancellation following the studio closure). This moment is not only hugely emotional and an incredibly satisfying ending to the story, it is also a testament to strength of Clementine as a character and her impact on the gaming world. Clementine’s return and her happy ending makes for one of best and most positive gaming moments in 2019. (Antonia Haynes)

Humans by birth. Gamers by choice. Goomba Stomp is a Canadian web publication that has been independently owned and operated since its inception in 2016.

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‘Atelier Ryza’ Warms the Heart No Matter the Season

Atelier Ryza excels at creating a sense of warmth and familiarity, and could be just what you need during the winter months.



atelier ryza

The Atelier series is something of a unicorn in the JRPG genre. It isn’t known for its world-ending calamities or continent-spanning journeys; in fact, it’s quite the opposite. The small-town feel and more intimate storytelling of Atelier games has made them some of the most consistently cozy experiences in gaming, and Ryza is no exception. No matter if it’s this winter or next, here’s why Atelier Ryza is the perfect type of RPG to warm your heart this winter.

Ryza starting her alchemy journey.

Like a Warm Blanket

Unlike protagonists from other entries in the franchise, Reisalin Stout (or Ryza for short) has never stepped foot in an atelier or even heard of alchemy at the start of her game. Instead, she’s just a fun-loving and mischevious girl from the country who spends her days in search of adventure with her childhood pals Lent and Tao. It’s this thrill-seeking that eventually leads the trio to meet a mysterious wandering alchemist and learn the tricks of the trade.

The entirety of Atelier Ryza takes place during summer, and it’s clear that the visual design team at Gust had a field day with this theme. In-game mornings are brought to life through warm reds, yellows, and oranges, while the bright summer sun beams down incessantly in the afternoon and gives way to cool evenings flooded by shades of blue and the soft glow of lanterns. Ryza’s visual prowess is perhaps most noticeable in the lighting on its character models, which are often given a warm glow dependent on the time of day.

The cozy sensibilities of the countryside can be felt elsewhere as well. The farm Ryza’s family lives on aside, the majority of environments are lush with all manner of plant life, dirt roads, and rustic architecture. Menus feature lovely wooden and papercraft finishes that simulate notepads or photos on a desk. Townspeople will even stop Ryza to remark on how much she’s grown and ask about buying some of her father’s crops. Everything just excels at feeling down-to-earth homey.

The titular Atelier Ryza.

An Intimate Take on Storytelling

Kurken Island and the surrounding mainland feel expansive as a whole but intimate in their design. This is partially due to the readily-accessible fast travel system that Atelier Ryza employs; instead of a seamless open world, most players will find themselves jumping from location to location to carry out quests and harvest ingredients for alchemy. However, there’s still strong incentive to explore the nearby town thanks to tons of random side quests and little cutscenes that trigger as players progress through the main story.

It’s an interesting way to tackle world-building. Instead of relying on intricate dialogue like The Outer Worlds or massive cinematic cutscenes like Xenoblade Chronicles 2, Atelier Ryza lets players get a feel for its world rather naturally through everyday conversations. These scenes run the gamut from Ryza’s parents yelling at her to help more around the farm to running into and catching up with old friends who’d moved overseas. They’re unobtrusive and brief, but the sheer number of them gradually establishes a cast that feels alive and familiar.

The town drunk and Lent's father, Samuel.

Of course, post-holidays winter is also the season for more somber tales. The relationship between Lent and his alcoholic father is striking in its realistic depiction of how strained some father-son relationships can become.

The narrative escalates subtly: An early cutscene shows Mr. Marslink stumbling onto Ryza’s front lawn thinking it’s his. Then an event triggers where the neighborhood jerks tease Lent about being the son of the town drunk. Lent’s house is a small shack pulled back from the rest of the town, and visiting it triggers one of the few scenes where Ryza can actually talk to Mr. Marslink himself. The situation eventually reveals itself to be so bad that it completely explains why Lent is gung-ho about being out of the house whenever he can.

Though Lent’s general character motivation is wanting to get stronger and protect the town, it’s the heartfelt insights like these that make him much more relatable as a party member. Atelier Ryza features no grand theatrics or endless bits of exposition, but instead favors highlighting interpersonal conversations as Ryza continues to learn more about the people and world around her.

Atelier Ryza

Cozy games rarely get enough credit. Just like the Animal Crossing series or Pokemon: Let’s Go provides players with a warmth that can stave off the harshest of winters, Atelier Ryza succeeds in being the lighthearted, touching JRPG fans wanted. It’s both aesthetically pleasing and heartwarming in the way it builds out its world and cast of characters, and seeing Ryza gradually grow more confident and capable is a joy unto itself. If you’re in need of a blanket until Animal Crossing: New Horizons comes out in March, you can’t go wrong here.

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PAX South 2020 Hands On: ‘The Artful Escape,’ ‘Foregone,’ and ‘Tunic’



PAX South

This past weekend, PAX South 2020 brought a huge variety of promising indie games to the show floor in San Antonio. Here are just a few of the most remarkable games I got to try, including a hardcore action game, a classic adventure, and an experience that can only be described as dreamlike.


Simply put, Tunic is a Zelda game, but foxier. Tunic takes significant inspiration from the classic Zelda formula, complete with an overworld to explore, puzzles to solve, enemies to fight, and a protagonist clad in green. My demo even began by leaving me weaponless and forcing me to venture into a nearby cave in order to discover my first weapon.

Yet there’s nothing wrong with following such a traditional formula. At a time when Nintendo has largely stopped creating new games in the style of its classic Zeldas, it’s left up to other developers to rediscover the magic of the original gameplay style. Based on my time with the game, Tunic achieves exactly that, reimagining the charm of A Link to the Past for the current generation with gorgeous visuals and modern design sensibilities. The biggest difference from its predecessors is its green-clad hero is a fox, and not a Kokiri.

All, that is to say, is that if you’ve ever played a 2D Zelda, then you’ll know exactly what to expect from Tunic. It starts by dropping the foxy little player character into a vibrant, sunny overworld, and true to form, your inventory is completely empty and the environment is full of roadblocks to progress. Simple enemies abound, and although its greatest Zelda inspirations lie with those from the 2D era, it also includes an element from the 3D games due to its inclusion of a targeting system in order to lock onto specific opponents. What followed next was a linear, straightforward dungeon that focused on teaching the basics of exploration and item usage. It was extremely simple but hinted at plenty of potential for the full game later.

Tunic’s gameplay may hearken back to the games of old, but its visual presentation is cutting edge. It features gorgeous polygonal 3D visuals, loaded with striking graphical and lighting effects, making its quaint isometric world truly pop to life. My demo didn’t last very long, but the little bit I played left me excited for Tunic’s eventual release on Xbox One and PC. It could be the brand-new classic Zelda experience that fans like myself have long waited for.



These days, nearly every other indie game is either a roguelike or a Metroivdvania. Just by looking at Foregone, I immediately assumed that it must be one of the two based on appearances alone. Yet when I shared those assumptions with the developers, Big Blue Bubble, the response in both cases was a resounding, “No.”

Foregone may look like it could be procedurally generated or feature a sprawling interconnected world, but that simply isn’t the case. The developers insisted that every aspect of the game world was intentionally crafted by hand, and it will remain that way in each playthrough. Likewise, although there is some optional backtracking at certain points in the game, Foregone is a largely linear experience, all about going from one point to another and adapting your strategy along the way. In a generation where nonlinearity reigns supreme, such straightforward design is refreshing to see.

If there’s any game that seems like an accurate comparison to Foregone, it would have to be Dark Souls. From the very start of the demo, the world of Foregone is inhabited with fearsome enemies that don’t hold back. If you don’t watch what you’re doing, it can be easy to get overwhelmed and fall under the pressure. Thankfully, there’s a broad assortment of abilities at your disposal, such as a wide area of effect move that can stun enemies within a wide radius, and a powerful shield that can block many attacks. I fell many times during my time with the game, but it never felt unfair. Rather, it merely felt like I wasn’t being smart enough with my own ability usage, and I was encouraged to keep jumping back into the world for just one more run, this time armed with better knowledge of my own abilities and potential strategies.

And it’s a beautiful game too. Rather than featuring the typical pixelated aesthetics often associated with platformers, the world is actually built-in 3D with a pixelated filter applied on top of it. This allows for a uniquely detailed environment and distinctly fluid animations. Foregone looks to be a worthwhile action game that should be worth checking out when it hits early access via the Epic Games Store in February, with a full release on console and PC to follow later this year.

The Artful Escape

Bursting with visual and auditory splendor, The Artful Escape is easily the most surreal game I played at PAX South. The demo may have only lasted about ten minutes, yet those ten minutes were dreamlike, transportation from the crowded convention to a world of color, music, and spirit.

As its name would suggest, The Artful Escape is an otherworldly escape from reality. Its luscious 3D environments are populated with 2D paper cutout characters, its dialogue leans heavily into the mystical (the player character describes his surroundings with phrases like “a Tchaikovsky cannonade” and “a rapid glittering of the eyes”), and its music often neglects strong melodies in favor of broad, ambient background themes. This all combines to create a mystical, almost meditative atmosphere.

It only helps that the platforming gameplay itself is understated, not requiring very much of you but to run forward, leap over a few chasms, or occasionally play your guitar to complete basic rhythm games. This gameplay style may not be the most involved or exciting, but it allows you to focus primarily on the overwhelming aesthetic majesty, marching forward through the world while shredding on your guitar all the while.

This Zenlike feel to the game is punctuated with occasional spectacular moments. At one point, a gargantuan, crystalline krill called the Wonderkrill burst onto the screen and regaled me with mystic dialogue, while at another point, I silently wandered into a herd of strange oxen-like creatures grazing in a barren field as the music began to swell. The demo was filled with such memorable moments, constantly leaving my jaw dropped.

For those who think that games should be entertaining above all else, The Artful Escape might not be so enthralling. Its platforming is extremely basic and its rhythm minigames are shallow at best. For players who think that games can be more than fun, however, The Artful Escape is set to provide an emotional, unforgettable experience, an escape that I can’t wait to endeavor.

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PAX South Hands On: ‘Boyfriend Dungeon’ Wields Weapons of Love

A weapon is an adventurer’s best friend, and Boyfriend Dungeon is focused on deepening that relationship.



Boyfriend Dungeon

In most games, weapons are straightforward objects. Sometimes they can be upgraded or personalized, but at the end of the day, they function as little more than tools for a single purpose: to cut down enemies and make progress in the game. Boyfriend Dungeon, however, proposes a different relationship with your weapons. They’re more than just objects. Instead, they’re eligible bachelors and bachelorettes that are ready to mingle.

Boyfriend Dungeon is a dungeon crawler and dating sim hybrid all about forging an intimate bond with your weapons and, after demoing it at PAX South, this unique mix seems to be paying off.

There are two main activities in Boyfriend Dungeon: exploring the loot-filled dungeons (referred to as “The Dunj”) and romancing the human forms of your weapons. There’s been plenty of great dungeon crawlers in recent years, but Boyfriend Dungeon sets itself apart by humanizing its weaponry. This concept may sound strange on paper, but Kitfox games director and lead designer Tanya X. Short is confident that players have long been ready for a game just like this.

“A weapon is an adventurer’s best friend,” and Boyfriend Dungeon is focused on deepening that relationship.

“I think the fans of Boyfriend Dungeon have been out there for years, waiting. I remember when I was in university ages ago, I was sure someone would have made a game like this already… but I guess I needed to make it myself!” She adds that “A weapon is an adventurer’s best friend,” and Boyfriend Dungeon is focused on deepening that relationship.

Boyfriend Dungeon

My demo with Boyfriend Dungeon began simply enough. After a brief character creation phase where I chose my appearance and my pronouns (he/him, she/her, or they/them), I was dropped into the stylish, top-down hub world of Verona Beach. Here I could explore the town and choose where to date my chosen weapon. I decided to head to the public park to meet Valeria, a swift and slender dagger.

“Today I’m writing dates with a scythe, and that’s beautiful.”

Upon reaching the park, I discovered Valeria in her dagger form. When I picked up the weapon, a beautiful anime-style animation commenced in which she transformed into her human form. What followed was a visual novel-style date sequence complete with detailed character art and plenty of dialogue options to help romance your date.

The dialogue is full of witty, self-aware humor and charm – there were more than a few jokes about axe murderers along with other weapon-related puns, for example. Short herself put plenty of love into the writing. “Writing dates with weapons is a joy I never knew could be part of my job, but here we are. Today I’m writing dates with a scythe, and that’s beautiful.”

Boyfriend Dungeon

I loved my date with Valeria, but she’s not the only potential mate in Boyfriend Dungeon. Rather, there’s a cast of five potential partners in the game, each of them hailing from distinct backgrounds and identities. “When I was coming up with the cast for Boyfriend Dungeon, I tried to imagine as many kinds of people and personalities that I could be attracted to as possible.”

Short drew from her own personal experiences in creating the cast. “I was very lucky to meet my partner many years ago, so I haven’t actually dated many people in my life, but I become fascinated with people I meet very easily, and they can provide inspiration. Whether they’re upbeat and reckless, or brooding and poetic, or gentle and refined…there’re so many kinds of intriguing people out there. And in Boyfriend Dungeon, I hope.”

After building up this bond during dialogue, it was time to put it to the test by exploring the Dunj. Of course, this isn’t the typically dreary dungeon found in most other dungeon crawlers. Instead, it’s an abandoned shopping mall overrun with monsters to slay and loot to discover with your partner weapon.  

Boyfriend Dungeon

Combat is easy to grasp, focusing on alternating between light and heavy attacks and creating simple combos out of them. Just like how the dating content aims to be inclusive for people of different backgrounds, Short hopes for the combat to be accessible for players of different levels of experience as well. “Hopefully the dungeon combat can be approachable enough for less experienced action RPG players, but still have enough challenge for the people that want to find it.”

Based off the demo, Boyfriend Dungeon seems to achieve this goal. I loved learning simpler moves and discovering new combos with them. Movement is fast, fluid, and intuitive, making it a pleasure to explore the Dunj. Succeeding in dungeons will also result in a stronger relationship with your weapons, so it’s in your best interest to perform well during combat. Of course, your weapons don’t simply level up – instead, their love power increases.

An arcade environment

“Our approach has been that the point isn’t the destination — it’s the journey you take, and who you choose to take it with.”

Fighting and dating may seem like two disparate concepts, but in practice, they manage to mesh surprisingly well. “The game is mostly about switching from one [gameplay style] to the other,” Short says, “and it’s nice for pacing, since you often want a breather from the action or get restless if there’s too much reading.”

The overarching story and general experience remain relatively firm throughout the whole game regardless of your decisions, but Short encourages players to enjoy the ride they take with the weapon they choose. “Our approach has been that the point isn’t the destination — it’s the journey you take, and who you choose to take it with.”

In Boyfriend Dungeon, your weapons can wage more than just war. Rather, they can spread love and lead to deeply fulfilling relationships. Boyfriend Dungeon is one of the most refreshing games I played at PAX thanks to its engaging dungeon exploration and combat and its surprisingly positive view of weaponry. That’s the mission of peace that Short had in mind with the game: “It feels like a difficult time in the world right now, but that’s when we most need to find love and compassion. Let’s try our hardest to be kind.”

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