The good, the fad and the lovely: Games of the year

The good, the fad and the lovely: Games of the year
Naughty Dog’s stunning sequel to its 2013 smash hit will likely top several ‘Best of’ lists this year.
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Updated 25 December 2020

The good, the fad and the lovely: Games of the year

The good, the fad and the lovely: Games of the year
  • As the new generation of consoles arrives, we look back on the gaming highlights of 2020 (Warning — spoilers ahead)


Naughty Dog’s stunning sequel to its 2013 smash hit will likely top several ‘Best of’ lists this year. It would have been easy for the developer to serve up more of the same, with the now-grown Ellie and her guardian/father figure Joel continuing to take on the monsters (human or otherwise) in the beautifully realized post-apocalyptic United States. Instead, we got a brave and haunting sequel that took the moral grey areas of the first game’s climax and expanded on them. At the start, playing as Ellie, you feel confident you’re still the hero of this story; by the end — having taken up the role of another young woman bent on avenging her father’s death — it’s not clear who the hero is, or even if there’s any such thing as a hero. All the adrenaline rush of the endless battles against dangerous foes is suddenly flipped, and we’re left to question the very mechanics of action games themselves. Those anonymous victims of our bloodlust are made human — the grief and terror caused by vengeance made startlingly clear. It’s a sobering experience, and only very good storytellers could have gotten away with making a game this relentlessly bleak into something that you want to keep playing — something Naughty Dog manages to do by ensuring that, throughout the mayhem and murder, there are touching moments of truly engaging emotion and intimacy — and even a hint of optimism in its downbeat ending. “The Last of Us Part II” is a work of art.


Square Enix’s 1997 original was deservedly hailed as a game-changer for the RPG genre. That meant there was already a huge audience waiting for this year’s “reimagining” of Cloud Strife’s journey through Midgar. They were rewarded with a game that retains all the immersive thrills of the original but adds in even more detail, managing to satisfy our thirst for nostalgic familiarity while still making it feel like something new.


Like “The Last of Us Part II,” this open-world action game goes beyond the usual genre tropes to intelligently deliver an experience with some real emotional depth. It also pushes the technology of the recently supplanted console generation to its limits. The game mechanics are superbly balanced — allowing you to play as a stealthy silent assassin or a full-on mass brawler. The most successful method seemed to be a mix of both. But apart from being a brilliant fighting game both aesthetically and practically, it also gives its hero a journey of personal growth that lingers long after completion.


Ubisoft’s flagship title is at the point where any game bearing the “Assassin’s Creed” name can be pretty much guaranteed a place in lists like this. But the developer isn’t sitting on its laurels. This latest installment in the franchise — set during the Viking invasion of England — is a perfect illustration of the series’ evolution, with a solider historic base than the majority of its predecessors and a slightly slower pacing to the action that really pays off.


Nintendo’s fifth entry in its “Animal Crossing” series landed in late March, just as much of the planet was entering lockdown. And this gratifyingly slow “life simulation” game, packed with cute critters doing generally wholesome stuff, was just the escape many longed for as the world went crazy. It’s unlikely to be remembered by any but its most-fervent fans in another 12 months, but for a short time in 2020, this was the biggest game around (so long as you had a Nintendo Switch).


This indie sim was billed by developer Thunder Lotus as “a cozy management game about dying.” And that’s really a perfect description. You play Stella, a ferrymaster to just-deceased souls and you must build a boat on which to transport the spirits in your care to the afterlife, but in between times you work with them to explore the world — crafting, cooking, fishing and more — and, most importantly, you care for and befriend them. It’s beautifully paced and animated; melancholy but, as promised, cosy.


While there’s nothing particularly groundbreaking about this platform-adventure game — the sequel to 2015’s “Ori and the Blind Forest” — it is so lovingly created and gorgeously realized that it will melt the heart of even the most cynical gamer as you explore the beautiful, sprawling world as Ori the forest spirit attempting to locate your friend Ku — an owl — after being separated in a storm. As you progress, you will access new powers and enter new places, where you’ll find new enemies too. For what it is, this game is faultless.


If you needed a game to convince you to invest in a new-generation console, the PS5 version of this superhero action-adventure should do the job. (It’s great on the PS4 too though.) If you’ve played 2018’s excellent “Spider-Man,” you’ll pick this up easily, as the environment and key gameplay elements are practically identical — and very good. But what makes this game even better is the development of the lead character and his struggles to do what’s best for his neighborhood, Harlem. And on the PS5, the whole thing looks incredible.

Arabic calligraphy: Ancient craft, modern art
For the Saudi Ministry of Culture's Year of Arabic Calligraphy in 2020/21, we take an in-depth look at how the craft has developed from ancient to modern times.



Tik Tok star Addison Rae can’t get enough of this Lebanese label 

Tik Tok star Addison Rae can’t get enough of this Lebanese label 
Updated 18 January 2021

Tik Tok star Addison Rae can’t get enough of this Lebanese label 

Tik Tok star Addison Rae can’t get enough of this Lebanese label 

DUBAI: US TikTok star Addison Rae stepped out in a pair of heels by Lebanese footwear designer Andrea Wazen this week.

The Beirut-based designer, who is the younger sister of Lebanese fashion influencer Karen Wazen,  launched her eponymous, celebrity-approved label in 2013 following stints with some of the most renowned footwear designers in the world, including Christian Louboutin and Rupert Sanderson. 

The designer’s impressive list of celebrity clientele covers a broad spectrum of stars, from Hailey Bieber to Tracee Ellis Ross and Jennifer Lopez to Kylie Jenner, who have all donned Andrea Wazen’s strappy sandals and stilettos.

Rae, who rose to fame doing fun-to-replicate dances, opted for the Immy mules in multi-color. The fanciful footwear features mesh lined with leather  and a cone-shaped heel. She paired it with a bright yellow sweater and mom jeans. 

It’s not the first time the 20-year-old has been seen rocking an Andrea Wazen design. 

Last month, the Tik Tok star shared an Instagram Story with her 33.2 million followers in which she was spotted wearing clear pointy-toed shoes with white-strap detailing, called the Dassy PVC pumps. 

She styled the shoes with a white shirt dress from French luxury label Louis Vuitton that featured large pockets on the sides and was tied at the waist with a matching belt.

Indeed, Rae seems to be a fan of the Wazen family’s businesses. 

In recent months, she’s also been seen wearing  sunglasses by Karen Wazen Eyewear, including a pair of “Vicky” in navy blue shades from Karen’s line, which launched in December 2018.

Meanwhile, Rae isn’t the only star who has fallen head over heels for Andrea Wazen. 

US actress Emma Roberts recently donned a blush, floral Ganni dress paired with shoes by Lebanese footwear designer.

She opted for the Denver Lavender pumps, a pair of mesh sandals with an adjustable buckle strap.

“The Kissing Booth” star Joey King is also a fan. 

The 21-year-old was spotted wearing the 90s-inspired Gloria mules for a recent press event in Los Angeles. She paired the mules with a top and matching leggings from New York-based label Lirika Matoshi and a By Far bag.