Best and Worst of 2011

Not a particularly long list as 2011 was primarily a year of attacking the gigantic backlog for me. There are also a number of 2011 games that I have not yet been able to get my hands on such as: Saints Row: The Third (on its way to me right now yay), Portal 2, and Driver: San Francisco. I hope to get to play those at some point in 2012, but we'll see.

Most Disappointing Game: Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective

I should love Ghost Trick. I want to love Ghost Trick. I tried very hard to love Ghost Trick, and I utterly failed at loving it. While I have not much liked recent additions to the Ace Attorney series, such as Investigations or Apollo Justice, I had higher hopes for Ghost Trick, since it was primarily under the creative direction of Shu Takumi, whose games I've come to love over the years. While I do think that Ghost Trick is a very stylish game -- the art, character designs, animation, and music are all fantastic -- the game play fell terribly short for me. I did not enjoy the puzzle mechanics and the fact that they were timed only served to further frustrate me. It's a shame the puzzles were such a miss for me, because I would have loved to have seen the outcome of the story.

Best 2010 Game I Played in 2011: 9 Hours 9 Persons 9 Doors

If it had been released in 2011, 999 would be my Game of the Year since it is definitely the game I enjoyed the most that also has the fewest caveats. 999 is not without its problems -- the narrative prose can be pretty damned flowery at times and I was a bit annoyed at having to do the first room escape puzzle over and over again -- but those problems are so minor in the face of everything that 999 does right that they hardly bothered me at all. I am a huge baby when it comes to "scary" games, but 999 is full of so much great dramatic tension and general eeriness that I was completely creeped out while at the same time obsessed with getting through the story so I could see what happened next. Great characters, atmosphere, tension, story-telling and challenging but organic puzzles all in one fabulous package. Who could ask for more than that? Here's to hoping its sequel, Kyokugen Dasshutsu ADV: Zennin Shibou Desu, makes it to North America.

Best Original Soudtrack: Bastion & To The Moon

Two great examples of beautiful music perfectly supporting a beautiful story.

Most Wanted Sequel (but Totally Never Happening): L.A. Noire

It's no secret that Noir is one of my favourite fictional genres. LA Confidential is my favourite movie of all time and I've been a huge fan of James Ellroy's novels since I started reading them when I was in high school. I also love the early classics in the genre such as The Big Sleep, Double Indemnity, The Maltese Falcon etc etc etc... L.A. Noire is kind've my video game wet dream. I never thought I'd get to see a video game that updated and yet paid great homage to my favourite genre in such a fun and respectful manner. The problem is that it just felt unfinished. Yes, the facial recognition tech lent a fantastic realism to the characters, the acting was a pretty huge cut above what we often see in video games, the cases and plot were pretty well-written (with a few notable low points), but the action sequences were repetitive and the interrogation system was remarkably unintuitive. While I know there are a lot of people out there who would never want to see a sequel to L.A. Noire, I think that its gameplay could definitely do with another layer of polish. When I hear discussion about L.A. Noire, I'm always reminded of the discussions surrounding the first iterations of Mass Effect and Assassin's Creed: two games whose potential was immediately recognized, and whose gameplay improved significantly in later series entries. I'm okay with L.A. Noire as it is now, and it was definitely one of my favourite games of 2011, but I can't help wondering if it might be better the second time around. I doubt it'll ever happen, but I don't see the harm in hoping.

Favourite Game of 2011: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Yes, Skyrim is my favourite game of 2011. I don't think it's necessarily the best game of 2011, but it was certainly my favourite. It's been quite a long time since a game grabbed me as much as Skyrim did (I think Persona 3 Portable was probably the last) and I had a great deal of fun with it. Even though I'm not really in to first person perspective games or open world games (I often find them to be a bit oppressive because I can never decide what to do), Skyrim came out at a time when I needed a change, when I needed to play something different from what I usually play. It'd been nothing but turn-based JRPGs and a few adventure games in the months leading up to Skyrim's release and, once I started playing it, it was like an oasis in the desert -- totally refreshing and something I couldn't pull myself away from.

But....

...I bought the PS3 version of the game.

And yes, it is pretty broken. I bought the PS3 version because my XBOX 360 is a fairly early model and makes a lot of noise. I expected that the PS3 version would be buggier than the others, but since I don't have a PC capable of running the game and my PS3 is nice and quiet, I figured that the overall better immersion in the game would be an OK trade-off for a little extra Bethesda jank. Had I known that there was a fundamental architectural incompatibility between Bethesda's game engine and the PS3 hardware, I would've put up with the extra noise. I did not ever finish the main story quest because after a certain point, the framerate would drop so badly and the game would lock up so often than playing was a lot more frustrating than fun. I put in about 120 hours on two different characters, but in the end I had to give up, just couldn't deal with the brokenness any more. Luckily, the trade-in value in the PS3 version of Skyrim is quite high and I was able to get $35 back for it and my birthday is just around the corner, so I'll start over eventually with the 360 version.

All will work out in the end, but honestly this resolution isn't really okay. The PS3 and the 360 have been out for a long time now and I feel like the statute of limitations on the "aw, building games for both platforms at once is really hard" excuse has long passed. As a consumer, I feel like I should be able to walk in to a store, having done a reasonable amount of research, and buy a game for a system I own and expect that it will work. I may not like the game, and the company who made it is not responsible for that, but they should be responsible for whether or not their product is functional and works properly. I've found Bethesda's reactions to the PS3 version being so crap to be pretty disappointing. While I love Skyrim, its utter brokenness and Bethesda's weird reaction to it put a very ugly black mark on my Game of the Year.

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Posted by Cathryn

Not a particularly long list as 2011 was primarily a year of attacking the gigantic backlog for me. There are also a number of 2011 games that I have not yet been able to get my hands on such as: Saints Row: The Third (on its way to me right now yay), Portal 2, and Driver: San Francisco. I hope to get to play those at some point in 2012, but we'll see.

Most Disappointing Game: Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective

I should love Ghost Trick. I want to love Ghost Trick. I tried very hard to love Ghost Trick, and I utterly failed at loving it. While I have not much liked recent additions to the Ace Attorney series, such as Investigations or Apollo Justice, I had higher hopes for Ghost Trick, since it was primarily under the creative direction of Shu Takumi, whose games I've come to love over the years. While I do think that Ghost Trick is a very stylish game -- the art, character designs, animation, and music are all fantastic -- the game play fell terribly short for me. I did not enjoy the puzzle mechanics and the fact that they were timed only served to further frustrate me. It's a shame the puzzles were such a miss for me, because I would have loved to have seen the outcome of the story.

Best 2010 Game I Played in 2011: 9 Hours 9 Persons 9 Doors

If it had been released in 2011, 999 would be my Game of the Year since it is definitely the game I enjoyed the most that also has the fewest caveats. 999 is not without its problems -- the narrative prose can be pretty damned flowery at times and I was a bit annoyed at having to do the first room escape puzzle over and over again -- but those problems are so minor in the face of everything that 999 does right that they hardly bothered me at all. I am a huge baby when it comes to "scary" games, but 999 is full of so much great dramatic tension and general eeriness that I was completely creeped out while at the same time obsessed with getting through the story so I could see what happened next. Great characters, atmosphere, tension, story-telling and challenging but organic puzzles all in one fabulous package. Who could ask for more than that? Here's to hoping its sequel, Kyokugen Dasshutsu ADV: Zennin Shibou Desu, makes it to North America.

Best Original Soudtrack: Bastion & To The Moon

Two great examples of beautiful music perfectly supporting a beautiful story.

Most Wanted Sequel (but Totally Never Happening): L.A. Noire

It's no secret that Noir is one of my favourite fictional genres. LA Confidential is my favourite movie of all time and I've been a huge fan of James Ellroy's novels since I started reading them when I was in high school. I also love the early classics in the genre such as The Big Sleep, Double Indemnity, The Maltese Falcon etc etc etc... L.A. Noire is kind've my video game wet dream. I never thought I'd get to see a video game that updated and yet paid great homage to my favourite genre in such a fun and respectful manner. The problem is that it just felt unfinished. Yes, the facial recognition tech lent a fantastic realism to the characters, the acting was a pretty huge cut above what we often see in video games, the cases and plot were pretty well-written (with a few notable low points), but the action sequences were repetitive and the interrogation system was remarkably unintuitive. While I know there are a lot of people out there who would never want to see a sequel to L.A. Noire, I think that its gameplay could definitely do with another layer of polish. When I hear discussion about L.A. Noire, I'm always reminded of the discussions surrounding the first iterations of Mass Effect and Assassin's Creed: two games whose potential was immediately recognized, and whose gameplay improved significantly in later series entries. I'm okay with L.A. Noire as it is now, and it was definitely one of my favourite games of 2011, but I can't help wondering if it might be better the second time around. I doubt it'll ever happen, but I don't see the harm in hoping.

Favourite Game of 2011: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Yes, Skyrim is my favourite game of 2011. I don't think it's necessarily the best game of 2011, but it was certainly my favourite. It's been quite a long time since a game grabbed me as much as Skyrim did (I think Persona 3 Portable was probably the last) and I had a great deal of fun with it. Even though I'm not really in to first person perspective games or open world games (I often find them to be a bit oppressive because I can never decide what to do), Skyrim came out at a time when I needed a change, when I needed to play something different from what I usually play. It'd been nothing but turn-based JRPGs and a few adventure games in the months leading up to Skyrim's release and, once I started playing it, it was like an oasis in the desert -- totally refreshing and something I couldn't pull myself away from.

But....

...I bought the PS3 version of the game.

And yes, it is pretty broken. I bought the PS3 version because my XBOX 360 is a fairly early model and makes a lot of noise. I expected that the PS3 version would be buggier than the others, but since I don't have a PC capable of running the game and my PS3 is nice and quiet, I figured that the overall better immersion in the game would be an OK trade-off for a little extra Bethesda jank. Had I known that there was a fundamental architectural incompatibility between Bethesda's game engine and the PS3 hardware, I would've put up with the extra noise. I did not ever finish the main story quest because after a certain point, the framerate would drop so badly and the game would lock up so often than playing was a lot more frustrating than fun. I put in about 120 hours on two different characters, but in the end I had to give up, just couldn't deal with the brokenness any more. Luckily, the trade-in value in the PS3 version of Skyrim is quite high and I was able to get $35 back for it and my birthday is just around the corner, so I'll start over eventually with the 360 version.

All will work out in the end, but honestly this resolution isn't really okay. The PS3 and the 360 have been out for a long time now and I feel like the statute of limitations on the "aw, building games for both platforms at once is really hard" excuse has long passed. As a consumer, I feel like I should be able to walk in to a store, having done a reasonable amount of research, and buy a game for a system I own and expect that it will work. I may not like the game, and the company who made it is not responsible for that, but they should be responsible for whether or not their product is functional and works properly. I've found Bethesda's reactions to the PS3 version being so crap to be pretty disappointing. While I love Skyrim, its utter brokenness and Bethesda's weird reaction to it put a very ugly black mark on my Game of the Year.

Edited by PixelPrinny

Fun read and good choices all around! Though I haven't played Ghost Trick so I've nothing to say about that.

That's unfortunate you ran into Skyrim problems on your PS3. PC is definitely the way to go, but understandable you didn't go that route if your PC can't handle it.

Also, your thoughts about 999 pretty much sum up my own perfectly. Having to redo that first room over and over again.. arg XD But great game, nonetheless. I played its spiritual predecessor this year, Ever17, and while Ever17 wasn't nearly as good, it was certainly easy to see the similarities between the two. Might be worth a looksee if you haven't played it yet.

Posted by Cathryn

@PixelPrinny: Thanks for stopping by! <3

Well, if you like the Ace Attorney games and 999, you might like Ghost Trick -- I seem to be the only person on the planet who likes those things, played it, and didn't like it D:

Yeah, there's also Remember 11 which was made by the same guy (which is only available via fan translation). I've been thinking about checking out both since I'm just now starting to get in to visual novels, but without puzzles or the romance angle, I'm wondering if they can keep my attention well enough. I'm sure the stories in both of them are fab, though so it might be worth a slog.

/cries My backlog just keeps getting bigger.

Posted by PixelPrinny

@Cathryn: I hear you when it comes to VNs not holding my attention without romance or puzzles. Though Ever17 does have the romance covered (albeit it's a fairly slow burn), so that's a point in its favor.

I hadn't heard of Remember 11, so I might hafta check that out!

Posted by MajorMitch

@Cathryn: Well, that makes 2 of us that like those kinds of DS adventure games, but didn't like Ghost Trick :P

I really liked the Phoenix Wright games and 999, but something about Ghost Trick's gameplay annoyed me too. I think the time limits, like you mention, had a lot to do with it.

Posted by Sogeman

I know I'm a year late to this party but you go back to Ghost Trick and finish it! The gameplay may not be super great but the resolution of the story is damn amazing.