Jans Holstrom Best of 2021 in Review: The Squeakuel

I’ve played a lot of games this year. I’ve written a lot of reviews. I started out as a games journalist working for DreadXP in March. Before that, if you didn’t know, I was working security at a casino. I had just left my job of almost a decade and I needed something to do. Something that wasn’t as soul-crushing as casino work. Ted Hentschke, who runs DreadXP, took some of my writing samples from 2009 and said okay. From there, I’ve written a lot. I’ve played tons of games, and I love what I do. I could talk at length about my journey here, but I’d rather tell you what I really loved in 2021.

Clown In A House

“Kirk spends time ruminating on important bits about existentialism, feeling like you belong in the world, and even just how great it feels to lay in bed and not be bothered. It cuts at the small annoyances and pleasures we all face in life. I did not expect a game called Clown in A House to be this insightful. As I continued playing, I forgot that occasionally monsters would try to kill me, or that I was trying to escape a void. I wanted that next bit of sharp writing that would lampoon another daily annoyance; A text box that understood the human condition.

You can read the full review for this Best of 2021 entry HERE.


This open-ended style of exploration lends itself well to Cookies. At the cost of pay what you want, the replay value alone is worth as much as a full blown commercial release. I’ve been playing for hours and haven’t pulled all the threads. I did notice that some threads unlock permanent items that persist throughout playthroughs, which comes in handy with things like the “three piece”, a pistol that can be unlocked for use in all subsequent playthroughs. You’ll need that pistol. I’m talking a lot about the weirdness, and I bet you’re wondering if Cookies is scary. Yes. It is absolutely unnerving at points.

There is what could be generously referred to as a shop on one of the floors of the apartment block. It’s essentially a desiccated hand springing forth from a box, but money talks and it’d be happy to sell you some cool stuff. One of the things you can buy is a circus ticket. You might think that would be useless in a game about drugs and madness, and you’d be wrong. On the third floor of the apartments there is a door festooned with streamers and surrounded by balloons and presents. I’ll spoil you a bit and let you know that a circus ticket will get you in. Once you get in, you might not like what you find. It might send you screaming in blind terror to a…less festive part of the apartments.

You can read the full review for this Best of 2021 entry HERE.


I never found myself entering the waking world from the dream world without enough currency to upgrade something. You’ll be constantly upgrading and building up the dream world. You can unlock rooms for each layer of the dream. Things like challenge rooms, which give you a challenge to beat the enemies in the room without melee, or without dodging. Completing these challenges earns you an item. If you’re not upgrading the dreamworld in the waking world, you’re going to have a pretty plain experience.

The story Dreamscaper tells, with its vibrant cast of characters and beautiful artwork is exceptional. When a run ended, and Cassidy would jolt upright in bed, I knew it was just time to go chat with my new friends and get ready for that night; when I knew I’d have to hit the bed again. Goodnight.

You can read the full review for this Best of 2021 entry HERE

Aliens: Fireteam Elite

Getting into Aliens: Fireteam Elite‘s missions is absurdly simple. You just hop into a quick private or public match and off you go. The couple of times that I’ve played this with Ted and Rosy, it’s usually less than 3 minutes from deciding to play the game to sitting in the lobby. That time of course is expanded by Rosy’s constant tweaking of cosmetic items. Customization is a big part of Aliens: Fireteam Elite. You can customize your character, then their outfit, and then, to me, the most important part: Their guns. Guns can have colorways, which change their paint job, and each gun can be given a decal. Decals are found throughout the world and add a little bit of uniqueness to your guns.

For instance, Ted is currently using a metallic purple shotgun with “ADIOS” emblazoned on the side. I use a flamethrower bearing the mark of my job in Aliens: Fireteam Elite: PEST CONTROL. It’s a fun way to make your characters feel like your character. The class and perk system is surprisingly deep. As you level up, your special class abilities can be changed and modified using a grid-based system. Oh yeah, there are classes. Four, with an added fifth after completion of the campaign. Technician: A mechanical wiz that uses turret abilities to defend and buff the team. Demolisher: Heavy damage output and area denial through firepower (my class). Doc: A healer that uses buffs to keep the team healthy. Gunner: An all-around class that buffs damage. Recon is unlocked after the campaign, and I won’t spoil it, but you can kind of guess from the name.

You can read the full review for this Best of 2021 entry HERE

Death’s Gambit: Afterlife

That’s the biggest thing about Death’s Gambit: Afterlife. It went from a dark fantasy 2D soulslike, to a dark fantasy soulslike metroidvania. That doesn’t seem that different, but it is. It makes all the difference in the world. There’s also now a map! I need a map in games. My brother calls me “directionally challenged”, and has ever since he saw me try to navigate the island area in Resident Evil 4. The original Death’s Gambit had a huge game world, and lacking a map, I was instantly frustrated. That of course, is my personal preference. There is a challenge in having to remember where things are. You could also just use graph paper and draw your own map, like the psychopaths in the original Metroid days.

“Ok, so better movement and combat options.” you sneer, scraping the last bit of marrow from a bone with a weathered Bloodborne disk, “is that it?”. No! The map size is almost doubled, from 11 to 21. There were a whopping 14 bosses in the original Death’s Gambit, all with their own movesets and fun little gimmicks. Now there are 20 bosses. The amount of things to do in Death’s Gambit: Afterlife is staggering. The world is pretty much open from the get-go, with a few caveats. With new metroidvania mechanics come metroidvania features: Areas you can’t reach until you find the requisite power-up. Double jump, dash, ground slam (called crash down in the game) will help you navigate the map. A lot of the content is purely optional.

You can read the full review for this Best of 2021 entry HERE


In the mid-2000s or thereabouts, it seemed like the internet was inundated with spooky stories. Tales of haunted games, possessed Nintendo cartridges, Sonic, but hyper edgy. It was all there. It was the 21st-century version of telling tales around the campfire. We had lost out on that cultural touchstone around the time the internet and cell phones became widespread. I’m not here to go on some boomer rant about “kids in their phones these days”. I just think that to properly understand what I’m talking about (Inscryption), we need to recognize that some bits of the cultural consciousness fell by the wayside as technology advanced. It’s fine. It’s happened all throughout history. We lost stories around the campfire. We lost urban legends to some extent. You could fact-check a scary story with a 2 minute Google search.

We, collectively, decided to do something about it. The gold rush of creepypastas and especially videogame creepypastas took place from 2007 to about now. It’s still out there. These days, it’s a bit more difficult – with scores of people more knowledgeable than me pulling apart a game’s code to look for secrets on launch day – it’s hard to keep a secret. One of the best-kept secrets is Inscryption. We’ve all agreed as game playing people to just shut up and let everyone enjoy it. That’s not to say that there aren’t people out there spoiling it, but I work with videogame journalists and everyone gives me the same line: “Just go beat it”. So I did. I sat down part of yesterday and most of today and dedicated myself fully to understanding this oddity. I occasionally checked the DreadXP Discord where people were gushing about the game, and dropping off due to the difficulty of the card battles.

You can read the editorial for this Best of 2021 entry HERE.