It would seem like 2012 has been a rough year for a lot of people. There have been a lot of ups and a lot of downs (and for some of us, more downs than ups), so I am more than a little eager to get 2012 out of my life and move on to whatever's next. Thankfully, because of some of what's happened in 2012, I've ended up playing - and more importantly finishing - way more video games than I probably have in a really, really long time. Of course, just like last year's entry, not all of these games are from 2012, but that's just the way the dice fall, sometimes.
BEST GAME I PLAYED ON A CONSOLE I DON'T OWN: Journey (PSN)
Journey was a pretty cool game, and really marked the sort of experience you'll probably never get on an Xbox 360. Part of that is the developer - "thatgamecompany" is intrinsically tied to Playstation probably forever, but the other part of that is simply that I'm not entirely sure if a game like Journey could ever live and thrive on the Xbox. This is a deeply personal game, and something about the way Microsoft carries themselves and the Xbox as being perhaps a little more "dudebro" than the Playstation makes me think a game like Journey just wouldn't work there. I'm glad I got a chance to play it on my cousin's PS3.
- RUNNER-UPS: Twisted Metal
BEST GAME I ACCIDENTALLY BOUGHT BECAUSE I WASN'T PAYING ATTENTION: The Simpsons Arcade (XBLA)
You know what's dumb? That Microsoft has a "no refunds on digital purchases" policy. That's not to say I didn't want The Simpsons Arcade - I had brought up the "purchase" menu specifically because I was debating on whether or not I wanted to drop points on it. Unfortunately for me, I thought I had moved the cursor down to "Cancel" and blindly pushed the A Button without really paying attention and before I new it, The Simpsons Arcade was mine. Fortunately, The Simpsons Arcade ended up being a fairly good version of the game - Backbone Entertainment has typically become known for putting in the bare minimum of effort, leaving a bunch of games out there with bad sound emulation, blurry graphical filters and missing features. Here, Backbone has generously gone above and beyond to give you a host of options, including the ability to cycle through which region-locked version of the game you play. Plus, I mean, let's face it - this is the one game I never thought I'd ever see get an XBLA release, given the licensing quagmire behind it, but somehow, EA, Konami and FOX all came together to work things out. Good licensed games are few and far between, which makes it all the more sad that the few good licensed games will probably be forever lost, never to see the light of day ever again. It's great that we got The Simpsons Arcade at all.
BEST 2012 RELEASE I STILL NEED TO PLAY BUT HAVEN'T: Hotline Miami (PC)
It's perhaps a little unfair to list Hotline Miami here, considering I was just bought the game less than a week ago and don't have a PC to play it on. But given all of the buzz out there about how stylish and awesome this game is, I'm almost tempted to install it on this crummy laptop just to see if it'll run - it is, after all, a game created with Game Maker, a simple-to-use game creation toolkit (I'm more of a Multimedia Fusion man, myself). Having played other GM games before, it would probably run just fine on this Laptop - and I just barely skim the game's system requirements. If not, I'm sure it'll still be there by the time I can buy a HDD so I can finally get my desktop back up and running. And the sooner the better - I really need to buy Forza Horizon.
BEST GAME I BEAT THAT WASN'T RELEASED IN 2012: Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (PC)
Well it only took me three different installs and like seven years, but I finally finished Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. I first bought the game back in 2005, and made it all the way up to the game's final mission before I lost my save file to a HDD catastrophe (which seems to be a reoccurring theme in my life). Over the years I started numerous save files, but only one finally brought me to the end of the game, making San Andreas the second GTA game I've ever beaten. And the best part is, I've already gotten the itch to start another new game and do it all over again. Of course, this has been a big year for clearing out my backlog, too - in particular, the completion of Saints Row 2 is a direct consequence of finishing San Andreas, as every time I'd come close to starting a new game on GTA:SA, I'd force myself to play Saints Row 2 instead.
BEST MULTIPLAYER: Still Left4Dead 2
Unsurprisingly, 99% of my multiplayer this year was still Left4Dead 2. Perhaps one of the worst things about not having access to my desktop is the fact I haven't been able to play with the crew in nearly three months. Do they even play Left4Dead 2 anymore? Did my leaving kill it? That's probably an egotistical assumption to make. And with the rush of Christmas, we always ended up playing a little less - Left4Dead 2 always thrived more in the summers, when there was nothing coming out. I hope everybody's still alright. There's some custom campaigns I want to play. Now I just sound like a doting parent, or something, but I'm serious when I say Left4Dead 2 is the only thing I ever consistently played multiplayer in these last two years. The runner-ups exist in this category because those are literally the only other two games I can remember signing on to Xbox Live for. Ever. At all.
THE GAME I REALLY NEED TO GO BACK TO: The Walking Dead (PC)
So if you haven't picked up on it yet, my desktop is out of commission for at least another 2-6 weeks. Unfortunately, everything on it went bad literally the week before The Walking Dead: Episode 5 released, something that was a level of excruciating I can't even begin to communicate to you. I have very nearly hooked everything all back up and tried to boot in to the desktop one last time just to try and play it - but I can't work up the nerve to do so. At the very least, I'm going to need to boot in to my desktop to rescue my save file, but that shouldn't take more than a couple minutes, tops. As such, I have spent this last month and a half carefully avoiding any and all discussions about The Walking Dead's ending. Even Game of the Year discussions have set me on edge - when Patrick booted in to The Walking Dead yesterday on GiantBomb's GOTY video feature, I shut the video off before I even knew what episode they were playing, simply because I want to avoid any and all references that could even hint at what I'm missing out on right now. Hang on, Clementine - I'll be there soon. Well, y'know, eventually.
BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (GCN)
Ever since buying it in 2006, the fact that I never finished Twilight Princess has hung over my head like a lead weight. I had gradually made it up to the game's penultimate dungeon - the Twilight Realm itself - before shelving the game eternally in 2008. So when my first HDD went, I spent my computer-less downtime starting a new game on Twilight Princess. The verdict? Tedium. Twilight Princess is an extremely atypical 3D Zelda experience - almost nothing was innovated upon. You know how most Zelda games give you some variant on the Hookshot? Twilight Princess subverts your expectations by giving you two hookshots. That's how little it cares. Instead, all of TP's effort has been shifted in to expanding the scale of everything else. Hyrule Field is now unnecessarily large, and even though you're given familiar quests, each one of them comes with a mile-long list of sub-objectives that slow the pace of the game down to a crawl and left me shouting at the TV, "JUST GET ON WITH IT!". Twilight Princess is a 75 hour game that could've easily been cut down to nearly half of that length and been better for it. And let's not even talk about the absolutely stupid final boss gauntlet, which phones it in harder than any Nintendo game I've ever seen. The one bright spot was Midna, who's impish sarcasm was a breath of fresh air for how stoic and boring the rest of the game was.
- RUNNER-UPS: Back to the Future the Game
GAME OF THE YEAR 2012 RUNNER-UP: Dust: An Elysian Tail
As a budding game developer, the story of Dust: An Elysian Tail is inspiring. Here is a one-man-army game development team who basically sits down, creates his dream game, and actually does an incredibly good job at it. And, I mean, yeah: if you haven't played An Elysian Tail yet, you're missing out on one of the best games this year. Beautiful animation, a haunting soundtrack, and air-tight gameplay really elevate this title above most of the other dreck to come out this year. I've seen that some people have been turned off by the game's art style, which can bring to mind some of the more unsavory corners of the internet, but I don't really think that's Dust's fault. Put aside any misgivings you might have about the style of character and just play the game itself - you might be surprised, assuming you can force your brain to stop thinking about what the depraved do on the internet with... art like this.
GAME OF THE YEAR 2012: The Walking Dead (PC)
I don't need to play the 5th episode to tell you that The Walking Dead is my game of the year. After coming away from Back to the Future: The Game feeling kind of luke-warm and hearing about how abysmal Jurassic Park was, I was concerned for the future of Telltale Games. They say it gets darkest just before dawn, and that oddly rings true - The Walking Dead might just be the best thing Telltale has ever produced. The heart of Adventure Games isn't silly logic puzzles where you use honey and cat hair to make a mustache, it's in clever dialog and meaningful story progression. And that's what The Walking Dead does best, with an emphasis on defining your own path. While ultimately your choices don't make as much of a difference as you think they might, just enough changes that every decision feels important and emotionally resonant in a way few video games can hope to. My only concern now is that with stuff like Back to the Future and Jurassic Park being so hit-or-miss, that Telltale knows exactly what works best about The Walking Dead so they can iterate upon it for all of their future games (even ones that don't involve zombies and protecting little girls). I have faith that they do.
And so ends 2012. Good riddance, you horrible, awful year. Onwards towards the ominous sounding 2013, and the prospect of brighter futures.
VIDEOGAME ACTIVITY IN 2012
- Dark Void (PURCHASED)
- Perfect Dark XBLA (BEAT)
- X-Men: The Arcade Game (PURCHASED) (BEAT)
- The Simpsons Arcade (PURCHASED) (BEAT)
- SSX3 (PURCHASED) (BEAT)
- Max Payne (BEAT)
- Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne (STARTED)
- Greed Corp (PURCHASED)
- Chrono Trigger (BEAT)
- Final Fantasy IV (DS) (BEAT) *
- Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts (STARTED) *
- And Yet it Moves (STARTED)
- Bit.Trip Runner (STARTED)
- Orcs Must Die! (STARTED) *
- Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (BEAT)
- Sega Rally Online Arcade (PURCHASED) (BEAT)
- Back to the Future: The Game (BEAT) *
- Journey (BEAT)
- Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 2 (PURCHASED) (BEAT)
- The Walking Dead (PURCHASED) (BEAT) *
- Saints Row The Third (STARTED)
- Alan Wake (PURCHASED)
- The Binding of Isaac (PURCHASED) *
- Goosebumps: Escape from Horrorland (BEAT) *
- Dear Esther (PURCHASED) (BEAT) *
- The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (BEAT)
- Dust: An Elysian Tail (PURCHASED) (BEAT) *
- Super Mario Galaxy (BEAT) *
- Super Mario Galaxy 2 (BEAT) *
- Mass Effect PC (PURCHASED) *
- Need for Speed: Undercover (PURCHASED) *
- Crysis (PURCHASED) (STARTED) *
- Crysis: Warhead (PURCHASED) *
- Dragon Age Origins (PURCHASED) *
- Spore (PURCHASED) *
- Sim City 4 (PURCHASED) *
- Tiger Woods 2012 (PURCHASED) *
- Resident Evil DS (BEAT) *
- Jet Set Radio HD (PURCHASED) (BEAT)
- Sonic Adventure 2 HD (PURCHASED) (BEAT)
- Outrun Online Arcade (BEAT)
- Hitman Blood Money (PURCHASED) *
- NiGHTS: Into Dreams HD (PURCHASED) (BEAT)
- Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed (PURCHASED) (BEAT) *
- Sonic the Fighters (PURCHASED) (BEAT)
- Metro 2033 (PURCHASED)
- Red Faction: Armageddon (PURCHASED)
- Duke Nukem 3D (PURCHASED) (BEAT) *
- Ghostbusters Wii (STARTED) *
- Saints Row 2 (BEAT)
- Fable 2 (BEAT) *
- Prince of Persia 2008 (PURCHASED) *
- Half-Minute Hero (PURCHASED) *
- Hotline Miami (PURCHASED) *
* A special deal and/or gifted