Hello, and welcome to Day 2 of The Gomies!
With our friend above, Gomez!
Yesterday, I presented Gomez with the Cutest Character Award, and then I presented the awards for Most Savage Game and Lightning in a Bottle! You can read that here. But, for the rest, let's move quickly into today's awards.
THE ROGUE GOMIE FOR BEST ROGUE-LIKE
Roguelikes, by all accounts, would not have been my thing a year ago. If you’d asked me what I like in games, my answer would be “precision.” I like to hit every beat on-the-mark, not allowing room for inaccuracy. It’s why I’ve always preferred the shooting in Dead Space and inFamous to Gears of War, why I prefer Ninja Gaiden’s gameplay model to God of War’s, and Super Meat Boy’s pixel-perfect gameplay to the generally floatier platforming of even SNES-era games like Yoshi’s Island. It’s also why I like rhythm games so much. Hitting every button, in its perfect place, just makes me feel efficient and in-control in a way most games don’t permit me to feel.
The easiest way to facilitate that sort of perfectionism is to turn each play session into a sort of rehearsal. Again, think Super Meat Boy; every failed Meat Boy that didn’t make it to Bandage Girl on a particular level is another take of your own twisted and fiery ballet. And though you may have wall-jumped better five runs ago, the run you keep is the best one, the one where you win.
Honing that kind of perfection is what allows leaderboards to be meaningful in most games; who can really master the game the best? But that kind of scorechasing is actually beyond me in most games. I can’t play the same level more than a thousand times, sorry. I’ve played Slayer’s “Raining Blood” in Guitar Hero III more times than I could ever care to count, and maybe finished it enough times to count on my fingers and toes. There’s a point of repetition that’s too far for me in these games.
Bring in 2012, the year where The Binding of Isaac and Dark Souls fans are people everybody wants to understand. And they can; this year churns out three fantastic games that use elements of roguelikes to extreme advantage. Of these, Spelunky and FTL: Faster Than Light are the purest; Tokyo Jungle sits in a strange place between roguelike and Dark Souls-esque precision game, but its random elements in a static map lean into this category enough that I feel comfortable dropping it into this category. ZombiU is similar, but definitely leans towards Dark Souls over roguelike elements.
The more random elements of Tokyo Jungle also are the reason it loses out to the exceptional Spelunky and FTL. Unlike the other two games, random elements like toxicity and creature placement are more generally frustrating than they are interesting. The lack of precision in the actual combat mechanics doesn’t help either.
Spelunky and FTL are just in another league. Their concepts (exploring an ancient cursed cave and piloting a Star-Trek-like ship through multiple galactic sectors to ensure the rebels don’t beat you there) are strange fits for their gameplay styles. Their presentation in music and graphics are some of the most effective of the year. And the “niggling problems” are limited to, well, not having as much content as one could dream up.
FTL and Spelunky sit on opposite ends of their spectrum, though. Where FTL is a game you have to pause regularly to not create total chaos, Spelunky is a rushing dance, rewarding players who move quickly through the level with exceptional gamefeel and in-game rewards. Where Spelunky is a random in simple tile placement and world construction, FTL is always dangerously mysterious, and highly tense in a way Spelunky rarely accomplishes. And even when you know every scenario in FTL, there’s often still a straight percentage-chance that you’ll fail an encounter. In Spelunky, any encounter can be overcome with tight enough control of your explorer.
But, in the end, the completely excellent gamefeel of Spelunky ushers it into a victory. While there’s some minor issues with repetitive tilesets and progress, it’s an absolutely pitch-perfect gameplay system. It stands among the best-playing platformers of all time. The fact that it’s also a really engaging rogue-like would come second if it weren’t for the fact that it means I have a Super Mario Brothers game I can never memorize.
THE COLOSSUS GOMIE FOR THE “SOLID STEEL PACKAGE”
The “Solid Steel Package” Gomie is going to the game that I can’t point out any notable flaws therein. It seems especially poignant this year, where the best games of the year have some really messed up technical issues and narrative problems.
Not so with Super Hexagon! You could argue that Super Hexagon sets its sights rather low, but I highly disagree. You play as a triangle on the outside of a hexagon, which pulsates in the center of your iPhone/iPad/computer screen. Lines fly at you from all sides of the hexagon; you avoid them.
That’s it. And, yes, that sounds incredibly simple. But I think making a game as simple as Super Hexagon is completely outrageous. The audacious confidence that comes along with releasing a game with mechanics that can only draw comparisons to arcade classics like Pac-Man and Space Invaders is insane. Those are, as you probably know, like, two of the best arcade games ever made.
If Super Hexagon is to compete with the arcade classics, it’s shockingly successful in its entertainment. Maybe it doesn’t hang in the company of your Ms. Pac-Mans or Donkey Kongs of the world, but it’s a lot more entertaining than Spy Hunter or Pole Position. And, yes, that is a start.
A large reason Super Hexagon still feels like a relevant gameplay experience is due to its presentation. Those familiar with Terry Cavanagh’s VVVVVV or Don’t Look Back know that he’s an absolute master at combining insane color palettes with perfectly selected music and audio. That remains true here; the music of Super Hexagon is some of the best of the year, in a year where game music has been unstoppable.
Super Hexagon is $2.99, whether you’re buying it on Steam or your iPhone. Its simplistic gameplay with either leave you cold in 15 minutes and send you running back to Tetris or Punch Quest, or it’ll hook you almost instantly.
Either way, check it out.
Stay tuned for more awards throughout the week! And, for those looking for more contentious Game of the Year deliberations than those which appeared on Giant Bomb this year, subscribe to the Nerf'd Facebook Page or the podcast itself on iTunes! Our Game of the Year deliberations should be up by Friday, but due to some recording issues, we're guaranteeing it'll be up by next week. Follow the Facebook page for the official release, as well as our panel's personal Top 10 lists!