10 Years of Katamari Damacy

I can't believe it's been 10 years since the first Katamari Damacy game was released. From its quirky visuals, jamming music and weirdly satisfying gameplay; Katamari Damacy is one of the weirdest games I ever enjoyed. Part puzzle game and part action game the idea of rolling up everyday objects to recreate the solar system is just as wacky as the characters and their parallel storylines.

Also the intro freakin rocked.

Happy birthday Katamari Damacy!

Start the Conversation

My games of the Year for 2013

2013 saw some great games. A lot of great sequels with 2 series returning to form and a lot of fun indie games. The PlayStation 4 and Xbox One also launched this year and while I only got the PS4, the swan song games of the Xbox 360 and PS3 showed how much developers have mastered this extended console cycle.

Best of 2013

1. Grand Theft Auto VGTA is back with a vengeance. After a more serious approach with IV, V returns to form and very strongly. 3 characters with overlapping narratives and motivations works very well and keeps the pacing flowing nicely (well excluding near the end of the game which feels rushed). The heists are the icing on the cake which have big risks and big rewards. GTA Online is also a fun diversion and adds a whole new level of gameplay after completing the main story.
2. State of DecayProbably doing the only remaining thing I wanted in a zombie game, it added a survival layer. A survival based open world zombie game which added balancing the search for supplies and survivors along protecting your base and keeping your fellow survivors alive. Permadeath also keeps you on your toes, as any wrong move can hurt your group when you lose your strongest survivor. The negative I found was narrative being weak and a lot of plotlines end abruptly or don't seem as well thought out as they could have.
3. Far Cry 3: Blood DragonThe stand alone expansion/DLC to my 2013 GOTY Far Cry 3 it streamlines elements from that game, adds in an 80s flair and crazy techno laser future. A goofy open world first person shooter that plays up 80s cliches and probably has my favorite game ending on-rails sequence taking the action up to crazy levels as you ride a titanium plated cyber dragon.
4. Papers, PleaseBeing a border control agent has never been this fun. While the gameplay is simplistic, the bureaucracy, characters and branching plotlines make this game a lot more enjoyable than I thought. The day to day events are never boring as dealing with smugglers, revolutionaries while trying to make enough money to pay for your family's well keeps the pressure on you while increasing rules and documentation add new twists to your job everyday.
5. Assassin's Creed IV: Black FlagAssassin's Creed is back with and it's a pirate game. A huge turn around from AC III, the tropical setting, refreshing storylines (both real world and ingame) and tweaks to gameplay made this Assassin's Creed fun to play again. The Templar setting and focus offers a different view to the conflict seen in the last few games and the open world Caribbean make this the Pirates of the Caribbean game I wanted to play since Legend of Black Kat.
6. Retro City RampagePart tribute, part demake and all fun Retro City Rampage is an 8 bit styled open world game that honors tons of 8 old Nintendo games.
7. The Last of UsThe Last of Us surprised me with interesting characters and great gameplay. After a slow start, The Last of Us's story is as intriguing as it is insightful providing a nice counter to the upbeat nature of the Uncharted games. The ending sequence is one of my favorite of this year and a powerful conclusion to a journey that takes almost a year to complete.
8. NES RemixMinigames based off of old NES franchises? While the price may seem high, the mixture of nostalgia and some surprisingly difficult challenges captivates my friends and I whenever I boot this game up. Sometimes based on the best moments of games (nothing like beating the original Zelda in 5 minutes) or all new challenges and twists for existing games. The stand outs are the Remix stages that challenge everything you know about these classic games keeping it refreshing and in short enough bursts to prevent a lot of frustration.
9. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between WorldsI remember after playing New Super Mario Bros, really hoping Nintendo would give the same treatment to The Legend of Zelda. A Link Between Worlds feels like that game and presents the portable Zelda experience that I felt missing from the DS games (I could never stand the stylus control methods). The nostalgic overworld but changes to the classic Zelda formulas keep things from feeling stale.
10. Metal Gear Rising: RevengeanceShort enough to not wear out its welcome but crazy combos and a take of the Metal Gear formula that takes itself both seriously and acts like a parody all at the same time. A great action game, nanomachines son.
11. Tomb RaiderThe reboot to Tomb Raider is beautiful and fun. While it borrows a bit too heavily from Uncharted, Tomb Raider does offer more exploration opportunities and a decent enough origin story.
12. BioShock InfiniteWhile the gameplay wasn't that great Bioshock Infinite's ending provides a fitting end to the Bioshock series or a way to provide infinite sequels.
13. Dynasty Warriors 8A refinement of the already great improvements to Dynasty Warriors 7, Dynasty Warriors 8 improves the combo system and adds the great town building minigame from DW7: Xtreme Legends.
Start the Conversation

My personal favorite Soundtracks of the Year 2013

With 2013 over its time to reflect on what a great year it was for games and soundtracks. Soundtracks have the difficult task of complimenting what we're seeing onscreen, to get the adrenaline going or make us feel a certain mood when the time is right. From happy and energetic to high tempo intense action, original to licensed, 2013 certainly had its fair list of soundtracks that I'll remember long after I beat the game.

For audio samples, click the link.

My personal favorite Soundtracks of the Year 2013

1. TearawayTearaway's soundtrack stood out to me since so many tracks slowly build up for an audio treat. Pilgrimage is a great example of this. The way it starts with just 2 instruments before kicking up a notch is great. It really complimented the unique nature/feel of the world.
2. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between WorldsComprised of remixes of older Zelda tunes and new ones, A Link Between Worlds has the right mix of nostalgia and updates to make it a fun soundtrack to listen to. Hyrule Field 2 stands out to me as a grand version of the Zelda theme .
3. Grand Theft Auto VWhile GTA games have always had great licensed soundtracks, this is the first one to include actual ambient music during gameplay sections. Used particularly well during the heist sections, my personal favorite is A Haze of Patriotic Fervor. It compliments the frantic action paced nature of some of the missions really well.
4. Far Cry 3: Blood DragonThe Main Theme captures the feeling of old 80s soundtracks so well
5. SimCityAfter hours of waiting and patches and ultimate disappointment one thing that I did really enjoy about SimCity was its fantastic soundtrack.
6. BioShock InfiniteBioShock Infinite probably contains one of my favorite character moments in 2013. Will the Circle be Unbroken's moment of calm and yet subtle hint at the narrative was a perfect choice for the game's soundtrack.
7. Papers, PleaseNothing says ex-Soviet republic like the theme to Papers Please.
Start the Conversation

15 years of Metal Gear Solid

While I was in highschool I had a Nintendo 64 and never got to play the original Metal Gear Solid until I owned a PlayStation 2. However from the moment I put that disk into my console I was hooked. The story, presentation and gameplay were all top notch for the time. The voice acting was also leagues ahead of anything else heard at the time, I remember my friend and I were in awe with the voicework for Snake and Ocelot during their first duel. And while some things haven't aged well (character models), the game still has some of the best story and twists in the entire franchise.

Mixing biology lessons, nuclear deterrence theory all while in the backdrop of trying to stop a terrorist attack Metal Gear Solid was a game that set the standard for cinematic games that perhaps only Metal Gear Solid 2 was able to surpass.

Happy birthday Metal Gear Solid! The best is yet to come.

Start the Conversation

20 years of Secret of Mana

I can hardly believe it's already been 20 years since the release of Secret of Mana. One of the first coop action-rpg games I played with friends and family. I remember the first winter we spent grinding spells and weapons all for the additional points of power. While I never had a multitap, the idea of playing 3 players was something I always wanted to do.

Featuring 3 distinct characters (although they all used the same weapons) the Secret of Mana's mix of fantasy and technology worked. The globe trotting adventure featured Cannon travel, a sandship, killer rabbites and even Santa Claus. The Thanatos fight remains one of my favorite boss encounters due to the remixed theme music they played. And the opening alone (music embedded) was worth the price of admission.

Definitely one of my favorite SNES rpgs, I recommend anyone who hasn't tried it to give it a shot.

Now you're talking number one!

Start the Conversation

Driving my truck - A look at the audience for the simulator game

I'll admit after the brilliant Giantbomb quick look of Euro Truck Driving Simulator 2 I downloaded the rather lengthy demo from the official webpage and played it for quite a while. They don't sound like a very entertaining game yet, somehow when I'm playing everything just clicks together for a rather calm experience (well except those extra heavy loads that can really unbalance your truck when turning). As crazy as it may sound my friends and I were talking about how Euro Truck Simulator 2 was a mix between Shipping Wars and Need for Speed.

Yet after doing a bit of research I found that these simulators have a huge niche appeal. As a kid I remember playing Microsoft Flight Simulator for hours at a time at a friend's house. Sure the graphics were primative yet somehow there was no game experience like it. Flying, landing and seeing the rather authentic simulation of how to fly a plane was amazing as a kid. Here I am years later driving a 16 wheeler across Europe to deliver loads of potatoes before I run out of gas in the middle of a rainstorm.

Gamasutra has a rather interesting article about the rise (or is it return) or specific the simulation game genre: Who's Buying All These Niche Simulation games anyway?

"There are kids 8-12 playing the games - players who are not yet into FPS or other core genres, but are captivated by the idea of driving these big vehicles. I guess every boy at age 7 or so wanted to drive a cement mixer or garbage truck or something similar,"

And then there's the strong 35+ male audience -- "basically people who have some professional, or should I say emotional, ties to trucking or transportation industry typically," Sebor notes.

Goofy, underrated and yet somehow very enduring to me I'm glad that games like these still exist in today's post Modern Warfare world.Now if you don't mind I have some cargo from London to Leipzig that needs transport.

Start the Conversation

Favorite games of 2012

Another year down, a time to reflect on the games I've played this year and come up with some of my favorites for the last year. 2012 was marked by the launch of the Vita and Wii U, the decline of the military first person shooter genre and perhaps one of the weirdest console transition periods in recent memory.

The 3DS finally came to life with a great lineup, while the Vita launched strong but held no momentum. The PS3 and 360 saw their fair share of releases but none of the exclusives really grabbed my attention.

A quick legal note, I need to mention that I work to Electronic Arts but these opinions are my own and do not reflect the company in any way.

1. Far Cry 3

In a world of tight corridor filled military shooters, Far Cry 3 stands far above them with its open world approach. The transition from confused weakling to jungle badass is gradual yet empowering. My only gripe is the story never reaches its full potential after a shift in plot when reaching the second island.

2. Sleeping Dogs

Sleeping Dogs troubled development cycle sounded like the game would be a disaster yet when I reached the end of the game it quickly became one of my favorites of the year. The emphasis on melee combat help it to stand out from so many other open world games and the Arkham Asyulm-esque combo system works so well when mixed with the brutal takedown objects.

3. The Walking Dead

In an industry obsessed with instant gratification and explosions, the slow and methodical nature of The Walking Dead stands out that a strong narrative experience can trump even the largest of explosion laden scripted sequences. Featuring some of the strongest and well developed characters this year, watching them change over the course of the year and how they would react to my decisions was a joy.

4. Gravity Rush

My current favorite Vita game, Gravity Rush was a beautiful 3D adventure. While the story feels rushed near the end, the mysterious world and excellent soundtrack more than made up for its shortcomings. While the manipulation of gravity takes some time to get used to, gliding around and defeating enemies felt great.

5. Kid Icarus: Uprising

The first game shown for the 3DS made its long awaited debut this year and it delivered in spades. Featuring an excellent story mode and some of the best character banter this year between Pit and Paulentena. The only issue I had with the game is I never felt the on foot control scheme worked well for me making the platforming sessions a pain.

6. Persona 4 Arena

I never though a fighting game would make any of my best of the year lists but Persona 4 Arena had the right mix of fan service along with a fun fighting engine. I cannot emphasize enough how much auto combo helped me a lot in the beginning as I learned how to play and master the combos.

7. Journey

It's all about the journey in Journey but that's all that needs to be said about it. A short game (and why its not higher on my list) Journey has the user experience a wide variety of emotions in scenarios in its limited time. Highly based on the multiplayer by interacting with other users the ending is something that needs to be experienced to truely appreciate this game.

8. LittleBigPlanet PS Vita

LittleBigPlanet returns on PSVita and feels just a fully featured as its console counterparts. Featuring excellent use of all the Vita's features LBP Vita is another excellent showcase for the console.

9. XCOM: Enemy Unknown

A late entry XCOM finds the right balance between tactical action and management simulation as you wage war against the alien menace. From the mysterious council

10. Mass Effect 3

The controversial finale of the Mass Effect series was still a solid game. While many unnecessary oversimplications were made to the exploration side of the game, the shooting side was vastly improved and battles flowed a lot better than before. Also seeing the final results to many overarching plotlines felt like they had a nice payoff versus the ending to many other series this generation.

11. Uncharted: Golden Abyss

The perfect game to show off the power of the Vita it's a portable Uncharted adventure. It captures the feeling of its bigger console cousins very well and while not every touchscreen command is welcome, the other gameplay systems are copied so well that it was my favorite Vita game until Gravity Rush.

12. New Super Mario Bros. 2

A solid Mario adventure, it doesn't reinvent the formula in any significant way but delivers a solid and refreshing platforming experience.

Start the Conversation