Tuesday, January 3, 2012

2011: A Retrospective, Part 2

Another day, another 10 great things about last year.

Earth Porn abound in Skyrim.
Skyrim - I have always been apprehensive of open-world type games. I've always felt that something fine tuned and more narrow will always be a more polished and enjoyable experience. While I don't think I'm wrong on that point, I have come around on the whole open world thing thanks to games like Assassin's Creed and, now, Skyrim. Oblivion was neat, Fallout was pretty awesome, and now Skyrim is frickin' amazing. From top to bottom there is some real spit-shine on a game I would have expected to be full of open-world jank. Sure, you've got the occasional mammoth on a treetop, or floating items, but overall this game really shines in a way that no open world game has for me, yet. It's atmospheric, it's immersive, and the game let's me get away with doing pretty much anything I want.

Portal 2 - Portal will always be on a short list of perfect games, to me. There was absolutely nothing wrong with anything in it's execution. Hopes were high with Portal 2, but I was afraid that they would end up just sort of "more of the same"-ing it. That fear was out the window in the first minutes of that game with a little sphere named Wheatley telling me all about what was going on, and my hotel room chamber smashing through a wall. Clearly, this was going to be everything I loved about Portal only bigger and better. I was not disappointed, as I added the second Portal to that short, short list.

Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet - Maybe it's the fact that I've been itching to get a new Metroid-vania style of game, or maybe it's the quirky and colorful aesthetic of Shadow Planet, but that game just hit a nerve with me. It was an inventive 2D game that was both familiar and new. The way the enemy terrain writhed and threatened me while being simultaneously dark and colorful begged me to comb every inch of that game to find all the hidden goodies.

Find Mii - So, I'm in love with the 3DS's Street Pass functionality. The old "Bark Mode" was cool, but it didn't work out since you could only have one active game at a time. But with Street Pass, all of the data of any games you own gets traded with other people. Find Mii is a game that everybody technically has if they own a 3DS, so it gets some of the most use. You take the Mii's that you find on a quest across a series of dungeons and forests to find your own Mii, who has been captured by evil monsters. It's fairly simplistic, but it's quirky in charming in that way that only Nintendo can be. It's a brilliant use of the feature, it's packed into the game, and it's been expanded by Nintendo just recently to be far more grand. Plus? If we learned anything from Team Fortress 2, it's that hats are awesome.

Super Mario 3D Land - I think it speaks for itself that I have already cleared everything I can in this game. Every coin, every golden flag, with every character, on both worlds. There is nothing left for me in Mario 3D Land, and I still want to go back in and just do it all again. That game is pure platforming bliss, and I think Nintendo has really uncovered something important with it's use of the 3D technology. Even when you're not using the 3D, which makes pinpoint landings and jumps even easier, they've still found a way to make a 3D game with a fixed camera work. I have a few quirky nitpicks about this and that, but overall, I'm more excited for a more thought out, fully cooked Super Mario game on the 3DS.

Rock of Ages - Man, this game is weird. But it's weird in all the right ways. Overall, it's just a game about rolling a boulder through an obstacle course maintained and built by your opponents, all in an attempt to break down their defense and destroy them. A simple, and interesting enough game with some cool multi-player prospects, but what really helps launch Rock of Ages into the forefront is it's zany trip through history in the form of a comedic premise featuring Sisyphus escaping his torment and bowling his way to freedom. He comes across historical figures like Vlad the Impaler and Leonidas, represented by cut-outs of artistic representations of them, and re-enacted with modern referential material, such as Leonidas trying to kick Sisyphus down a well. It's all very bizarre, but very charming at the same time. The Monty Python-esque design combines with unique gameplay, to make one of the most interesting games this year.

Minecraft - Sure we've been playing it for over a year, but it's technically 'out,' now, and it is still getting better with every update. The ability to lose yourself in a world that you must survive in by using the landscapes around you to your advantage really works. Everything in the world around you is a tool or material that you can use, so you're not locked to just select items like you would be in any other game. It's a unique experience, to be sure. And even if you don't like the whole survival aspect of it, you can just freely build crap all willy-nilly. Go make giant 8-bit Mega Man characters, or monuments to The Normandy. Recreate The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, if you're that bored.

Orcs Must Die - I almost skipped this one entirely until it went on sale on Steam recently, and I kick myself for having almost done so. This game is a fast paced tower defense/3rd person action game with a sense of style and really solid tech to back it up. Setting up traps and slaughtering waves of orcs is just good fun. Top to bottom, this game has a lot of care put into it, and it shows. All I could want out of a sequel at this point is some kind of multiplayer mode.

Sanctum - While we're on the subject of tower defense games, let's move to the first person perspective. Where Orcs Must Die had a whimsical fantasy setting, Sanctum is a super futuristic setting with only slightly less whimsy. It's more focused on the Defense Grid style of building mazes to force mindless mobs to run through while you assault them with your first person gun stuffs. It actually has a multi-player, and is a hell of a lot of fun because of it.

EDGE - A tricky little puzzle/platformer, EDGE has the right look, the right sound, and the right gameplay for your buck. It kind of feels like a game that was pulled out of the late 80's, early 90's, and cleaned up for a more current generation of hardware. It's really unique, and Two Tribes in general does great work, so I wanted to highlight it here.

So today was mostly filled with just regular ol' games. No positive trends or anything I wanted to hit on this week, but we'll see during the rest of the week if there was anything worth mentioning.

How about you? What were some of your favorite things this past year? What did you think of my recommendations so far? Feel free to leave comments below! I love 'em!

-Make it a good one.

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