Tuesday, January 31, 2012

2011: A Retrospective, Part 5

And here it is, the end of the end. The last 10 things about 2011 that were awesome.
One of Kirby's many Super Powers that are just gloriously destructive sequences in the game.

Kirby: Return to Dreamland - I love a good 2D Platformer, and Kirby never fails to deliver. Kirby: Return to Dreamland on Wii feels kind of like it would have been better turned into a 3DS game, especially given some of the camera work, but regardless, it's a joyful experience. It might not be as revolutionary as Mass Attack or even Epic Yarn, but it still makes for a relaxing multi-player romp through colorful, exciting locals, just the way Kirby used to always be.

Toki Tori 2 support - As a huge fan of the first Toki Tori, and everything else Two Tribes does, I was excited to see a sequel to puzzle platformer being announced. I was furthermore excited to see the sort of support during Alpha and Beta they were giving the community. They appear to be taking the Minecraft approach, and I'm excited to see what kind of results that has.
The table-top miniature gaming aesthetic isn't really important, it's just awesome.

Hoard - Yet another previously unknown gem to come out of the Steam Sale, Hoard is an interesting little game where you play a dragon that flies around setting the countryside and villages aflame for the sake of gathering gold. It's easy to pick up, but varied strategies makes for some great play, especially in multi-player.
Climb and climb!

Tobe’s Vertical Adventure - So hey, about 2D platformers. If you weren't aware, I realllly like them. Like a lot. This interesting little Indie platformer came out on Steam, and the soundtrack alone was reason enough to purchase it. If you haven't, go out and give it a shot. It has kind of a Donkey Kong '94/tobes-vertical-adventure/61-30780/ vibe to it.
I don't know about you, but I'm already excited.

Sonic CD - Alright, you are correct. This game did not come out last year. But it did come out on downloadable services, and it was the first time I had ever been able to play it, and you can (Sonic) color(s) me impressed. Not only is it just a great sonic game, this version also includes some great features, like swapping the soundtrack between the two different regions. Maybe it's just the weird Sonic fever I caught thanks to Generations, but I can't seem to get enough of these classic games. 
Not a looker, but definitely a player. That doesn't sound right...

99 bullets - DSiWare gets a lot of flack for being chock full of shovelware, and probably for good reason; There's a mountain of crap on there. But a few games are unfortunately being lost in that generalization, and 99 Bullets is one of them. Having no correlation to the comic 100 Bullets, 99 is a unique take on the scrolling shooter. The goal is to manuever your little Geometry Wars shapely dude through a course, avoiding and blasting your way through enemies, as one would expect. But as the name implies, your limited. Each hit you take drops one of your bullets, and you only have 99 of them to fire. So the goal isn't just firing madly, but controlled bursts for maximum combos. It's a great gameplay mechanic that really changes up an otherwise run-of-the-mill genre.
Finger's crossed for a 3DS remake.

Pokemon Black/White - There seems to be this common notion that your first Pokemon is your favorite, and that most people believe anything past Mew is a travesty against God, America, and Sanity everywhere. I don't adhere to either of these. I can definitely understand the whole Nostalgia thing, and losing track of the truckloads of portable monsters, but the simple fact is that this series has improved with every iteration, and while the jump to Black and White might not have been the biggest improvement, it still is, in every way, the best Pokemon game to date. The music is better, the story is more interesting, they mix up a lot of tired out plot elements, the battles are way more dynamic, the camera work is better, and the multi-player interaction is vastly improved. Yes, you still collect and battle critters, you still get 8 badges, and then you beat an Elite 4. It's better, but it's not entirely different. So take your pick on whether or not you are still up with the series, or which one resonates more with you, but remember that these games are getting better every time.
Music Usage - It seems to be that games are getting a lot smarter about how they use Music to interact with the action. It's nothing new; games like Shadow of the Colossus and Twilight Princess have used shifting scores before, but it's trending much more this year. Pokemon Black and White, for example, has shifted from the "annoying beeping to tell you your health is low, in case you can't read and/or are color blind" and turned it into part of the music. The beep is still there, but now it's the baseline for a "you're in trouble" song that takes over when, well, you're in trouble. There's also a triumphant spin on the music when you're in your most important battles (like Gym Leaders, etc.). Skyrim's sudden cut to it's triumphant theme when dueling with Dragons invigorates any player and makes them feel like a damned god while they're winning. In other great uses of music, Sonic Generations allows the player to swap out songs when starting a stage, which helps keeps the audio fresh while allowing you to relive classic tunes like Super Sonic Racing.
Dinosaur Office - While not technically a game, Dinosaur Office has been piped through the Nintendo Video channel on everybody's 3DS and has been the best thing about that service. College Humor's stop-motion story about Dinosaurs who work in an everyday office environment is both a hilarious satire on the workplace, but also a nonsensical world where dinosaurs get stuck in traffic. It's the perfect show. Even if you don't have a 3DS you can check out most episodes on Youtube or on College Humor's website.

Kairosoft - The developers of Game Dev Story have been pumping out game after game of simulation goodness, and while you would expect them to be worst at the rate we're seeing them, they're actually not. Granted, they're not all winners. I wasn't a huge fan of Pocket League Story (the soccer team sim), but that's just me. I'm currently knee-deep in Mega Mall Story; an addiction that may partially be fed by my love of Board Game Top Shop. In any case, the fact that a small developer can keep pumping out these quality titles like this makes me hopeful, and gleeful, that the mobile environment isn't all shitty rip-offs and sub-par experiences.
Man. Last year was pretty awesome, wasn't it? Here's to 2012!
-Make it a Good One.

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