Continuing our week of round-ups, Matt casts a glance in the other direction, rounding up “that was the year that was”.
7. Joe Danger: Special Edition
A very late addition to this list, being as it was only released the week before Christmas, but after spending a couple of hours and over 408 attempts on a single the very least I owe it is a inclusion on this list.
Taking everything that made Trials infuriating – yet totally addictive – and adding a just little bit more charm, accessibility and general levels of actual fun and you have a beautifully simple – yet totally addictive – game.
6. Driver: San Francisco
The premise shouldn’t have worked: “you’re in a coma so you can switch between cars.” See, it sounds ridiculous, but somehow they pulled it off. It allowed an open world game a new type of freedom by removing the annoying walking around bits, but also allowed the game to be played in a totally new way. Why win a race the normal way when you can simply jump into an oncoming bus and take out all the opposition?
5. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
As full and as well rounded a world as we have seen in games, wandering the world just looking for stuff can be just as exciting as following the main quest line. As tradition states, as soon as I was able to wander freely I looked towards the first waypoint… and promptly did a one-eighty, quickly finding odd tree creatures, dragons, werewolves and caverns just begging to be explored.
4. Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventures
What could very easily have ended up as an incredibly crass marketing ploy to make parents spend a couple of hundred quid on a single game, actually ended up being a very charming little dungeon crawler with some pretty darn impressive statues attached. With cross compatibility that lets you take your Xbox Skylanders to your 3DS, this is true a true multiplatform release.
3. Super Mario 3D Land
Sure the early levels may be all pretty simple, but they are still a joy to play. Slowly introducing you to the all the new elements, from racoon tails to sky diving, the ante is slowly upped so the last few levels and collecting all the hidden coins becomes quite tricky.
Then you have to do it all again… but harder. Wonderful stuff.
2. Saints Row: The Third
About as mental a game as I have played in a long time. How often do you get to drive a tiger round town while it’s trying to slash your face off? Rob a bank disguised as yourself? Flee a crime scene on a gimp drawn chariot? And a million other things that I won’t mention as you really just need to sample it all yourself.
1. Portal 2
The funniest, cleverest, puzzliest game of the year. A brilliant mix of brain melting yet surprisingly simple (when it all clicks) single player and a co-op in which you actually have to – get this – cooperate. Combined with a fantastic soundtrack and a story that gives the world both Wheatley and Cave Johnson.
And if that last reason alone isn’t enough to give it game of the year, you all deserve the lemons that life has given you.
Shadows of the Damned was just the right sort of crazy and showed the gaming world has a place for two floating British side kicks; Mario Kart 7 showed that sometimes iteration of a theme just works; Ilomilo was adorable and shows that kazoos should be used on every game soundtrack; Pilotwings shows that sometimes all you need is an island and a hang glider; Bastion shows that someone narrating your life makes everything better; Rage showed us that sometimes it’s just nice to shoot things; Cars 2 showed us that kids games can be good games [if not a good film – Ed]; Stacking showed us how to do adventure games without all that pointing and clicking; Rayman Origins for showing off its beautiful self; Batman Arkham City for showing us that not everything should be open world; and WWE All Stars showed us there is still life in wrestling games after all.
Halo: Annivesary shows that while it may just be a fresh lick of paint, the care and attention given to it, made the torture of remembering how checkpoints and the flood used to work a joy. Although mixed with controller bending frustration, of course.
Kinect in general showed that while it can still be derided for not appealing to the core audience of Xbox 360 owners, the sensor is really finding an audience, and some pretty damn good family friendly games. Sesame Street, Disneyland Adventures, Fruit Ninja, Gunstringer and Kinect Sports Season 2 all prove that when the game is made for the device rather than shoving Kinect functionality into other games it can not just work, but work really well and be a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
Pullblox showed us that the 3DS e-shop might be worth looking at from time to time. A neat little puzzler that has you trying to free little children after they have been trapped on top of sculptures in Pullblox Park. Each puzzle is essentially a bit of pixel art that has you pulling out blox of the same colour and trying to make a staircase to reach the top. As with most Nintendo properties however, it’s more that the sum of its parts which a huge amount of charm being layered on top of the whole package.
Nintendo showed us how not to launch a console. I love my little 3DS, but my did it get off to a slow start. A meagre launch line up, saddled with a delay in the launch of its online meant I was close to giving up. Thankfully they stayed my hand with the one-two punch of Mario Kart and Super Mario 3D Land. But I warn them now: don’t make me wait too long for Luigi’s Mansion 2 or Animal Crossing or I will not be happy!
And finally, Duke Nukem showed us that something’s aren’t worth waiting for. No, no it wasn’t… now go away!