I like Video Games!
I don't really write blogs because I'm not really very good at writing. This is pretty infuriating because I often have lots and lots of things I want to say about Video Games as it is something I am hugely, hugely passionate about. I'm going to write this, a list of some dude on the internet you're never going to know's ten favourite games of 2011, and then scramble away quickly because my complete nobodyness + no Skyrim probably means I am a fucking idiot or something.
If you have read enough but want to whine about MY favourite games I have included a handy one sentence list underneath this spoiler tag...
10. Uncharted 3 - I like this game.
9. Bastion - I like this game.
8. Mortal Kombat - I like this game.
7. Sonic Generations - I like this game.
6. Portal 2 - I like this game.
5. Dead Space 2 - I like this game.
4. Skyward Sword - I like this game.
3. Ghost Trick - I like this game.
2. Gears of War 3 - I like this game.
1. Super Mario 3D Land - I like this game.
Some other things before my top 10.
* There were very few games I disliked this year.
* I wish I had played Rayman, Deus Ex and Ratchet & Clank.
* I own Assassins Creed and despite not playing it yet I know it probably wouldn't make my top 10.
* I played over 50 hours of Harmony of Despair at the start of the year... Really!
* I bought a Wii this year. Mostly for Zelda, but also to catch up on all the games I missed.
* I got a 3DS at launch. I liked it from the beginning and probably spend more time messing with it than any other console I own.
* My interest in achievement points has shrunk considerably.
* There's a bunch of spoilers in the nonsense I wrote.
* Apparently all spellcheckers on my computer hate when I put U's into words with U's in them.
I also wrote a long list (also badly written) with thoughts on all of the games I played in 2011.
MY TOP 10 THAT YOU DON'T CARE ABOUT, YEAH!
10. Uncharted 3: Drakes Deception (PS3)
I could pick holes in what is the most polished, pretty, exciting and action packed game released this year all day long, but Uncharted 3 is still the best in its class at what it does.
9. Bastion (360)
Yeah, the songs are lovely and the art is pretty, but the least talked about part of the game seems to be the part where you play it, and what a cool little game it is. It reminded me a lot of the way Lara Croft Guardian of light plays in that getting everywhere speedily and efficiently meant abusing the fuck out of that roll button as much as possible. A brilliant approach to difficulty in the way it uses Idols like Halo uses skulls and a ton of little weapon challenges and perks to be gained that make all of the weapons viable from start to finish. I'm trying to find the right word to use when talking about Bastion, the one that pops up the most is special. A great game that turned out to be far more interesting than I ever expected it to be.
8. Mortal Kombat (360)
I like watching a man get ripped in half or a ninja star spin around inside a mans brain as he twitches on the ground dead and I'm not ashamed of that at all. Mortal Kombat loves to show horrible things happening to its characters and then add one final bit of extreme violence on top of it just to make sure the bloody mess of someone's corpse is as dead as possible. It is that creativity that shines throughout the game with brutal X-ray moves and fighters showing off how many bits of flesh they lost post round victory. There's just so much stuff in this game to mess around with, especially single player content. Mortal Kombat puts other fighting game stories to shame and while you could argue it's just some mystical, martial arts B-Movie it pulls off story-to-fight transitions perfectly and gets the level of silliness and seriousness spot on. The game looks gorgeous, has amazing versions of old MK tunes and some of the best Fatalities/Babalies in the series.
7. Sonic Generations (360)
Everyone hates sonic! I wouldn't be surprised if the two versions in this game spent all their free time bitching about each others spin physics and stupid friends on internet message boards. Nobody Likes Charmy the Bee... I know I don't, but whatevs he/she/it is so easily ignored that I'm willing to pretend they are not in the game. What is in the game is some brilliant level design, colourful and beautiful reinterpretations of old Sonic Levels and some amazing versions of old music tracks (CHEMICAL PLANT ZONE REMIX!!!!!!!!) The thing that surprises most about it is not how much love has gone into making that nostalgia part of the brain spin around uncontrollably, but how good the Modern Sonic stages are. They have finally got the balance of speed and minimal frustration right putting all of those terrifying nightmares about Unleashed's later daylight stages to rest. I'm sure that this isn't going to convert the masses, but as a huge fan of the Mega Drive games this is as perfect a Sonic game as you're going to get in 2011.
6. Portal 2 (PC)
Very few games this generation have left me feeling like the first Portal did, maybe 'Splosion Man or Metal Gear Solid 4. That is with complete satisfaction after completion. I had no idea how they'd top that over-quoted cake nonsense and Glados singing Still Alive. The answer was create an amazing new character that is essentially a metal eyeball, give it a ton of expression in its movement and let Stephen Merchant voice it. Wheatley is one of the funniest creations I have ever seen in a game, stupid and loveable even when trying to be evil and kill you.
The Narrative focus in Portal 2 is definitely the best decision they could have made, even if that is probably the reason why the game is far too easy for the most part. That forward momentum means that you definitely get to see all the wonderful and weird moments like when Glados becomes a potato, the easiest-hardest test chamber ever created or the ending IN SPACE! Surprisingly the "oh, I gave you a compliment, here is some sarcasm" tone of Glados is turned on its head quite early on and you actually feel some sympathy for her. Some of her lines are brilliant like when she talks about burning people in response to a passionate Cave Johnson rant about lemons.
As a puzzle game a lot of it is find the white wall and move on, but that's not what stuck with me about the game. It's the clever writing, The wonderfully bizarre ending and the best Nolan North voice/s in any game this year.
5. Dead Space 2 (360)
There is a moment relatively early on in the campaign where you are playing a slightly more interactive than the usual QTE where you run down a tunnel, get sucked out into space and then have to shoot at a huge monster hurtling towards your face. I was convinced at that moment this was one of the best things I had ever seen in a video game and while it's still an amazing stand out sequence amongst the far more blockbusterified (real word!) DS2, this year has been so strong that you could be forgiven for forgetting about its awesomeness.
I loved the first Dead Space, its atmosphere is amazing with some beautiful artwork/lighting and some nice fiction tying all of its weirdness together. DS2 removes a lot of the tense atmosphere from the first game and ups the action to eleven. This could have been a problem if the combat wasn't as satisfying as it is, with faster movement and more toys to murder space monsters with than your inventory can hold. That's not to say it is without a few moments similar to the first. The return to the Ishimura is brilliantly placed and creeping through the eerily silent abandoned spaceship with plastic covered walls like you're about to become Dexter Morgan's latest victim at any moment is wonderfully atmospheric. Obviously that doesn't last and the bloody, limb cutting gunfights resume. There's a lot of shooting in this game with the scares mainly left to cheap jumps and awesome, lunging Raptor-like enemies. Dead Space 2 very familiar if you played the first despite the increased focus on action, but this time around it has 100% more bizarre final boss inside your head (or something????) and needle-stabbing-in-the-eye minigames.
4. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Wii)
I am not a fan of motion controls. I have been hugely against anything Kinecty, Movey or Wiiey for over five years, but something happened to my gaming tastes this year. I think we are about to burst from all of the guns and blood and explosions and greys and browns... I'm sick of it. I wanted something that was pure fun, something that reminded me of why I love video games, something full of colour and adventure like A Link to the Past. Is this game better than that or Ocarina? probably not, but an equal, definitely.
The art in Skyward Sword is stunning and while it took me a little while to adjust my brain to SD its wonderful character designs and exaggerated animations make up for it's lack of sharp textures and all the other little things we expect from our game visuals in this day and age.
What did surprise me the most is how modern the game felt, not just in it's use of technology and interesting items like the gust bellows (not a boomerang in sight), but how it uses all of your inventory at all times. No piece of your equipment is forgotten about all the way up to the final dungeon. Even the climbing and platforming is pretty well designed. I never expected Nintendo to use a system like Assassins creeds for scrambling up walls and jumping over rocks and it works brilliantly here.
The biggest argument here is whether the controls add to the experience or not and I fall squarely into the camp that thinks this game is a ton better with them. There's something about getting a perfectly timed block, waiting for the ideal moment to strike or even soaring through the sky on a giant bird. Patience is often the key, but not always. There are a lot of enemies that can be beaten with excessive waggle, try that on many of the boss fights and you're going to quickly get taught a lesson, some of the later ones requiring exact horizontal or vertical slashes to be beaten.
I spent about 60 hours with the game and other than a few whines about the annoying Silent Realm trials (there is four and none of them are fun) and a boss that can be beaten in a way you're not supposed to during a first encounter making the second time you face it incredibly annoying when the hint is "yo, do what you did last time" Regardless I had tens of hours of fun exploring, chatting with amusing characters and often being a dick to my knight school classmates. There's so much to do and see and some really nice puzzles that are not the hardest in the world, but give you the right level of satisfaction once you have figured it out. Beautiful, clever, touching and some stunning orchestral music. This is easily the best action adventure game I have played since the best not-Zelda Zelda game Okami.
3. Ghost Trick (DS)
I can probably count the amount of times I have had that "ah-ha! that was a surprise" moment in a video game on one hand. Ghost Trick manages this not once, but twice in its incredibly focused yet very short story. Everything shines about the game whether it be the catchy soundtrack or the absolutely amazing visuals which are full of fluid, exaggerated movements and fun character quirks.
While there's a little bit of trial and error in the mousetrap-esque puzzles there's that moment where it just clicks or you nail the timing of something and the story moves a tiny bit forward. Ghost trick is full of twists and turns and scenarios that are glanced upon early in the game that seem like they're filled with throwaway supporting characters only to return to them later and find out they play a much bigger part in the story.
The game is very Japanese in its style and writing, but some of the character conversations are a joy. Sissel and the ever-murdered Lynne's little chats become increasingly more absurd and as soon as the brilliant and loyal Missile is introduced I fell instantly in love with him. Ghost Trick is packed with interesting and memorable characters and scenes sometimes play out completely different to how you would expect them to which made me always want to keep pushing the story forward.
I had the game at the top of my top ten list for a huge part of the year and it's nice to see that original games like this are still getting made. Ghost Trick is an awesome puzzle/point & click adventure, it would be nice if more people played it as it seems most that do enjoy it immensely.
2. Gears of War 3 (360)
Brothers to the end... The irony.
Gears of War 3 was very emotional for me, the series means a lot on a personal level, but i'm glad I didn't miss the game like I originally planned to as this is a fitting end to one of the best series of this generation.
Most people know if they like Gears at this point and as third person, cover based shooters go nothing even comes close. I sometimes see people talk of the clunky, chunky dudes and their limited, slow movement and wonder if they have ever played a Gears game. The speed and movement of combat has been increased considerably and the time it takes to down a Locust has been adjusted to keep things moving at a better pace. I can't think of many games where I feel as fully in control of my character as I do in the Gears games.
The story is what it is, a little hokey, but that's always been a part of Gears appeal, the inclusion of zombie-like lambent humans is mercifully short and the setpieces are huge, but much more interesting than they were in the second. A pretty good length campaign (provided you play on hardcore mode) with some of the best graphics I have seen on the 360, even rivaling a game like Uncharted in places. Great new weapons, great new characters introduced and a lot of varied environments. I like that they stick to the desperate tone and even have a pretty big atmospheric sequence where you're mostly just walking through the remains of bodies that have turned to ash. It seems weird to say it but Gears 3 left me pretty emotional at points. Doms death can be seen a mile off, but when that music plays and and the slo-mo kicks in anyone with a little investment in these characters is going to get a little choked up... and that is absurd. The meaty-man "sup bitches", "shit yeah", "scratched one grub" "WHOOOOOO!" game made me feel something, not once, not twice but three times. and no other game has done that to me... ever.
Gears 3 is an amazing game, the competitive is the most friendly to people playing casually and Horde's improvements are truly amazing making it feel like an entirely different mode where teamwork is always encouraged. Probably the best third person shooter we are going to get this generation, packed with what feels like three entirely different games. If it wasn't for the late release of my number one entry this game would have been my best game of 2011 by a mile.
1. Super Mario 3D Land (3DS)
There was a moment where I moved this to the number one spot on my list and questioned whether it was just me being overly nostalgic about my favourite game Super Mario Bros 3. A few days later I beat Bowser (spoiler) at the end of world 8 and the game opened up a whole new version of the game featuring both harder levels and remixes that barely resemble their original state making them completely new stages. I realized right then that the amount of content and brilliant level design is amazing.
Sonic Generations is also a great game and appeals greatly to the mind of the child I once was, but the difference that separates one from being a great game and the other amazing is that Sonic is all "hey, check me out... this is what you loved, love me....please" and then inserts that into pretty, colourful levels that despite having a bunch of fancy camera tricks and blistering speed are essentially the same style of level we had in the 90's. Mario on the other hand feels like no other Mario game, sure theres a bit of 64 here and a bit of 3 there with a dash of World and a sprinkling of Galaxy, but 3D Land is most definately it's own thing... it just so happens to have that other thing you remembered from that other game you loved as a kid, and boy does this game love the Tanooki suit! Just look at possibly the cutest ever cartridge ever with a little Tanooki headed Mario peeking over the top, the mega-goombas or even Bowser with a tail. They take that one item you remembered that you might get once, twice from Mario Bros 3 and give it to you in the first ? block you decide to headbutt. While you could argue that the excessive use of it makes an already easy game even easier it will not help you with the really, really hard special stages.
I'm trying really hard to sum up my thoughts about the game without just resorting to "THIS GAME IS THE COOLEST GAME EVER!" I could touch upon its cute little moments like when you get stuck in a coin block or the way a little Tanooki'd toad screams as you continuously smack him with your tail or how the game benefits from its 3D and justifies the systems gimmick or the enemy design, or the brilliant art, or the levels or the way unlockable Luigi plays differently and has a fox suit or, or, or...
All my thoughts about the game can be summed up with this - Every single time I finish a little session with Mario 3D Land I am left with the hugest smile on my face. My favourite game of the year, one of the best Mario games ever made and the best reason to own a Nintendo 3DS.
Some things I didn't write about in my top 10 but wanted to make sure you knew how awesome I thought they were!
* Whenever Link needs his bird he's all like "fuck this shit, I'm outta here" and just jumps off of the side of the world hoping his bird catches him.
* "Game over man" is the best use of memorable movie quote when you get a game over in the knife trick minigame in Aliens: Infestation
* Charlie Cutter is one of the best new characters this year
* I LOVE the horse sequence in Uncharted 3, possibly one of my favourite moments in the series so far. They pulled off the Horse-Truck- Back onto horse stuff perfectly.
* The Jabba/Leia joke in Mortal Kombat when you lose to Shao Kahn is one of the funniest things in any game this year.
* Deckers Die is as good as the GB crew think it is (see day one recap video of theirs for proof)
* Arkham City does an amazing job of showing just how fucking nuts Bruce Wayne is.
* The Activity Log music on the 3DS is the best music on the system!
So here is my list, I'm sorry if you read it all and even sorry-er if you read the linked page. Thanks for reading it though, even if you just skimmed it to tell me how terrible my taste in games is.