Re: XBLA/PSN Games
A few more.
Shortly after finishing Firewatch, I picked up Gone Home, which while a little older, got brought up a lot in articles about Firewatch. It's sort of the genesis of this semi rebirth of these "walking simulators", which are really sort of redesigns of the old point and click adventures from my early PC days. They've twisted up the genre scope though, as it just doesn't make a ton of sense to have a full on adventure like this anymore, so they've written these as small personal stories.
I'm not sure which I liked better. I definitely liked the art design of Firewatch better. And the dialogue was a little more variable. Gone Home has pretty much no interaction, so it's really all finding stuff. The basic plot is you're a college undergrad, coming home from a year in Europe. The family has moved to a new creepy house left to them by a deceased recluse creepy uncle. You've never been to the house, and when you get there, it's late, rainy, and the house is empty. You explore the house (which is ridiculously huge), and through voice overed diary pages from your younger sister, and tidbits of left around items that spell together clues, you discover how the last year went for your family. The thing I liked most is that it plays like a horror game. It's got a tension like the original Resident Evil mansion, even though the threat isn't a shambling zombie. It's also in a setting I appreciate, Grunge era 90s. The main story is about the little sister coming of age. But the stories about each parent, and the creepy uncle, are all just as, if not more interesting, and a less accessible, requiring you to really piece together the story. Overall it was a really cool experience, although upon finishing it, there was a sense of what was the point of all that.
I picked up Life is Strange at the same time, for similar reasons, but haven't played that.
I also bought Oxenfree, which intrigued me as it is also sort of an exploration based story game, although it's done as a side scrolling Metroid sort of way. It's high school kids on a creepy vacation island beach in New England, which I've actually been. And it's got a bit more of a horror / sci fi vibe. I only got a little bit into it though.
And then most recently, I picked up Inside. It's from the same people that did Limbo, which was an excellent game, and I'd say this is better. Semi straight side scrolling platforming with some simply designed by functionally just difficult enough puzzling. It's the art design that sells these games though. Limbo was pure black and white, and used it's shadows in the game play. Inside is more grayscale, with little splashes of muted color. It tells a really good story without a single line of dialogue, which Limbo didn't really do. You're a boy running from a group of evil scientists who make labor zombies. Pushing and pulling blocks, swimming, climbing, swinging, it's all pretty basic. The death is creepily real feeling though. If you liked Limbo, this is sort of a must buy. But I'd recommend it regardless.