January was always my least favorite month when I was a kid. Going back to school after Christmas was even worse than going back after the summer—not only was I back at school, but now Christmas was about as far away as it got. It gets dark early, it’s cold, it’s just all around a miserable month. Sorry, Capricorns. It’s different as an adult, obviously, but instead of feeling excited about the possibilities of a new year I’m still generally depressed whenever it’s time to buy a new calendar. January is a bad trip.
Maybe these games will make this one better?
1. That Dragon, Cancer
Release Date: 1/12
Platforms: Ouya, PC, Mac
That Dragon, Cancer is finally available to the public this month. It will be a hard game to play: designers Amy and Ryan Green lost a child to cancer at the age of five, and made That Dragon, Cancer to both cope with that pain and share those emotions with others. Will the interactivity of games make a story like this more powerful than if it was told through a book or film? We’ll find out next week when the game becomes available on Steam and the Ouya.
2. The Witness
Release Date: 1/26
Platforms: PlayStation 4, PC
It’s been almost eight years since Braid came out and turned Jonathan Blow into the poster boy for what the industry calls “indie games.” (Fun fact: Braid was the first videogame I ever reviewed.) The Witness is his long-simmering second dish that piles a mess of puzzles onto an abandoned island that has to be explored (as abandoned islands often are in videogames). I am barely aware of what The Witness is even supposed to be but I am fired up to find out.
Release Date: 1/15
Platform: Xbox One, PC
Oxenfree seems to do the supernatural the right way: by gradually slipping it into what starts as a naturalistic look at responsibility-free teenage life. (Supernatural nonsense should always involve teens. Who cares if kids get scared or old people die? That’s what they’re supposed to do.) You’ve got a group of nascent young hipsters and art school types partying on a touristy island, and somehow their transistor radio (this very well might take place in the 1980s or early 1990s) seems to eventually open up a portal to a demon universe, or something. Spooky stuff happens, basically. It looks like Georges Seurat painted an old Sierra point and click, with music by a Washed Out acolyte. It is a game that I want to play, is what I’m saying. (There are going to be people who play Oxenfree who have never owned a portable radio and don’t understand turning the dial. Time is a monster.)
4. Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: India
Release Date: 1/12
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Vita
I still get into Assassin’s Creed because, in a medium that still rests too often on the same basic settings and concepts, these games regularly take us to new eras and locales recreated with abundant detail. The Chronicles off-shoot series isn’t as architecturally engrossing as the main games, but it still explores times and places rarely seen in games. The second part of the trilogy puts us in control of an Indian during the Sikh Empire’s battles with the British East India Company in the 19th century. Here’s a game focusing on a part of history that’s rarely taught in the West, and we won’t be seeing it through the perspective of a white POV character. I don’t trust or expect games (or other historical fiction) to actually get the history right, but if India inspires anybody to actually research the real story, that’s a good thing.
5. Mario and Luigi: Paper Jam
Release Date: 1/22
Sadly this is not the Paper Mario version of a music game. It’s another handheld Mario RPG, but one that unites that world with Paper Mario’s. So the two best secondary Mario franchises are slamming into each other, which makes sense, as there’s already been a tonal similarity between the two. Expect a long, simple, fun role-playing game with a love of words and a great sense of humor, and with two different versions of Mario running around.
Garrett Martin edits Paste’s games and comedy sections.