It's Tuesday, and it's time for another batch of awards from our lengthy Game of the Year discussion. Want to know how we arrived at these choices? Check out today's companion podcast.
Skylander of the Year
The honored title of Skylander of the Year goes to that figurine that excels in every single category. The in-game powers must be useful. The in-game options and upgrades, be they in the console Skylanders game, the 3DS Skylanders game, or even that kind of lame online Flash game you can play in a browser must be excellent. And lastly? The figurine itself must look cool.
That makes this a surprisingly fierce category that is only narrowed by the fact that you can't yet acquire all 32 of the Skylanders in stores. But the field makes its leaders clear as you level the Skylanders up and see their upgrade options. Gill Grunt's water cannon makes him nearly unstoppable, yes. And Chop Chop is a friction' skeleton. But this year's award goes to none other than Drobot.
Drobot is a cyborg dragon that can shoot lasers out of his eyes, and when you upgrade the laser ability it gets even more devastating? Not enough? How about the ability to shoot gears out of your wings that bounce off of walls? Oh, and did I mention that dude can fly? Strafing enemies from a distance almost feels unfair, but Drobot's more than capable of taking out most bad guys before they can even get close. And that's pretty awesome.
In a year where many of us spent hours in a podcast room complaining about how this year's games felt a bit too much like last year's installments, it's easy to forget the tremendous risks a select few developers took to bring us something genuinely new. Starting from scratch represents the largest risk in video games, but one that can reap the biggest rewards. Rolling the dice, making that plunge, and coming back with greatness was best summarized by what Supergiant Games accomplished with Bastion.
Bastion made an incredible splash at PAX 2010, enough so that Warner Bros. recognized what everyone else was raving about during and after the show, while us here at Giant Bomb took a keen interest in following the game's development. It would have been incredibly awkward if Bastion had just been smoke and mirrors, but that was hardly the case. Despite seeing so much of Bastion months prior to its release, Bastion completely captured the office's attention when it finally came out in July.
Bastion represents the total package when it comes to a video game. The hallmark of visiting a new world is that when the credits finally roll, you feel like you've truly visited a place. The lovely music, novel narrator, charming art and sharp action RPG gameplay came together to create something even greater than its individual parts. That all of this represents Supergiant Games' first release is what put Bastion over the top as this year's "Best Debut."
There are a few of us here in the Giant Bomb Fortress that appreciate professional wrestling, but I think we'd all agree that the video games designed to re-create the drama and tension that occurs both in and out of the squared circle usually leave a lot to be desired. That's why we were caught off-guard by THQ's latest side offering, WWE All Stars. The publisher has tried the "old vs. new" thing before, and it's attempted to grasp at nostalgic feelings for the wrestlers of the 1980s with mixed results before. But All Stars actually gets all that stuff right while also offering a game that doesn't play like... well, like a wrestling game.
The fighting game-like nature of WWE All Stars' health bars and juggle combos really go a long way. But it's the insane takes on the WWE roster, both old and new, that start to make the game feel like something more than an "arcade" style game in an era when arcades barely exist. Finishing moves take on extra flips, crazier jumps, and all sorts of other properties that simply defy the laws of gravity. Yet there's an occasional piece of detail, like the way Paul Bearer shifts the microphone back and forth between his hands during his story mode cutscenes that let you know that someone out there gets it. Someone out there understands that there's power in having a wrestler and his manager talking directly into the camera. It's not just about "simulating" Monday Night Raw. The people behind WWE All Stars clearly get it. And that's something that, in this day and age, is a huge surprise.
Best Sky Game
There are some beautiful skies in video games this year, but this isn't "Best Sky." There are games that are practically all sky, too. But this isn't "Most Sky," either. Heck, it isn't even "Best Use of Sky in a Sky Game," which might have made a little more sense. Instead, this prestigious category is "Best Sky Game." And it's built specifically to honor the best game to come out this year that happens to use the word "Sky" in its title. Normally, this would be a fairly easy task. But 2011 brought down the sky all over the place, giving us three key nominees that were all quality products and all had "Sky" right there in their name.
The best game to use the word "Sky" in its title this year is The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. It's a fantastic game. Seriously, huge world. Big quests. Sick dragons. That mace that lets you automatically trap souls. It has all that. But more importantly? Skyrim also has "Sky" right there in its subtitle. It ticks every single box on the form. Sky games may get better in the years to come, but right now, in 2011, no Sky flies higher than The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.
Best Use of a Licensed Song
Saints Row: The Third: "Power" Helicopter Jump
Was there ever a question it would be anything else? Actually, yeah.
After being played for the billionth time as one of the primary summer jams of 2010, Kanye West's "Power" should hold sway over us no longer. Despite the track creeping its way into one-too-many trailers at E3 2011, enough time had passed between falling in love again and the release of Saints Row: The Third. Volition's brilliant embedding of the thumping track during an early game mission where players toss themselves out of a helicopter is one of the moments where someone either is or isn't going to understand why Saints Row: The Third is such an incredible piece of work.
Patrick was so pumped up by the moment, he actually started the mission over to experience it a second time.
You should play Saints Row.