By Dalai 8 Comments
My procrastination has come to an end! I am here to because I still need to talk 2011... although I am the last to do so. It's not so bad finishing last, really. Nice guys finish there according to the quote, "Nice guys finish last."
Before you all think I've been drinking, let me move on and give you my top 3 games of 2011. And let me warn you now.
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is a Zelda game. And although Skyward Sword does play it safe sticking to what worked for Zelda in the last 25 years, it also makes some strides in other areas that make Skyward Sword stand out among the crowd this year. The most noticeable change I saw in Skyward Sword was the combat and its major overhaul to fit the underutilized MotionPlus technology. Right now, Skyward Sword makes a very strong case for the use of motion controls in the future of gaming with the some of the most immersive controls on the Wii. We're not quite at 1:1 controls yet, but controlling Link's sword and weaponry just feels more natural and more gratifying than a simple button press. Not everyone has had success with the controls, but somehow I was able to swing the Wii Remote accurately with very few hiccups. I will admit some of the motion controls might fare just as well without the MotionPlus. Bomb rolling feels like I'm back playing Wii Sports, the hookshot is just like in Twilight Princess, and gaining altitude on your giant bird is a waggling mess, but other than the flying parts, they pretty much nailed the controls.
Skyward Sword might also be Nintendo's best effort in storytelling in their history. Skyward Sword is a more cinematic experience than previous games, and it tells a great story of how Link, Zelda, and Ganon are intertwined in this never-ending battle for the Triforce... despite the lack of voice acting. Actually, this might be the last time I will forgive Nintendo for not adding dialogue to its secondary characters.
I guess what people expect the most out of a Zelda game is the actual adventuring, the clever puzzles, and epic boss battles, right? Well Skyward Sword retains what made the previous games so great in those fields and adds a little bit of spin to the structure. Not every boss battle follows the rule of three, the surface world where most of the fighting happens feels like 20 dungeons glued together, and some of the puzzles are among the best I've seen in the series. And no torch puzzles... not a one. There's still block pushing and arrows to the
knee eye, but I loved how the game was able to utilize all of Link's gadgets in a meaningful way, and not just in that one dungeon where you found the item. Hell, the flying beetle might be the best thing to happen to Link's inventory since the hookshot. Even many of the bosses were great to battle... but not The Imprisoned! Sorry, but fighting the same boss three times was a chore.
Skyward Sword is not perfect and like Jeff Gerstmann said in his infamous Twilight Princess review, some of the game feels stuck in the past. I would like to see the next Zelda make a left turn like Majora's Mask or add those modern touches like voice acting, CGI cutscenes, HD visuals, and towns with more than a few signs of life, but Skyward Sword was able to make an impact without all the shininess we see on other consoles.
I understood why Minecraft was so popular, but it was never a game that interested me in the least. And I am a fan of building shit. When I first heard of Terraria, it was just beginning to gain some buzz among the indie gaming crowd so for $9.99, it was worth a look. 150+ hours later, I can safely say that Terraria is a game about building shit... and mining, exploring, fighting monsters, PvP arena battles, and teamwork. I think what makes Terraria one of my favorite games of 2011 is how it combines what I love about games into a total package of awesome. 16-bit graphics? Check. Constructing structures to my specifications? Check. Epic boss fights? Check. Exploring strange, new worlds? Check.
If you're unaware of what Terraria is, it's an open-ended game where you explore a randomly-generated world filled with riches and evil. The ultimate goal is to kill every boss and search through as much of the world as humanly possible... and depending of the size of the world, it can takes dozens and dozens of hours to see it all. Finding all the goodies underground is great, but I find that building an underground fortress or a castle made of gold is just as much fun. If you've been to the Terraria community site or the defunct Giant Bomb server, you saw the extraordinary things people have built. And yeah, that includes giant dicks.
And Level 1-1. Look it up.
Terraria is a game where you make your own fun, plain and simple. And the tools given to you make damn sure you'll have fun.
1. Portal 2
I knew within the first hour that Portal 2 was going to be in the running this year. I came to that conclusion after I was introduced to Wheatley and his neurotic personality. After a few more hours, I knew Portal 2 was going to be tough to top after Nolan North's performance as the growing collection of hilariously broken defective turrets. A little while later, I was introduced to Cave Johnson and that pretty much sealed the deal for me. So Portal 2 is my game of the year, but it's not all because of combustible lemons and potato humor.
Portal 2 is my game of the year because it expands the original Portal while not adding cheap laughs and unnecessary filler. Spreading out one of my favorite games of the generation into a larger sequel was a little risky, but in the end, Portal 2 ended up becoming one of the funniest, best written games I have ever played and one of the rare games that made me feel both stupid and brilliant without making me frustrated in anger.
There's rarely a dull moment in Portal 2 as long as they keep throwing science at you. They added a few gels that add an extra layer of thinking to several of the puzzles, and the traditional tests are just as devilish as ever, yet all are solvable and very satisfying when passed. And if you remember the latter half of Portal when you escaped the test chambers and saw the gritty behind the scenes work of Aperture Science, well that's back, but it occurs periodically throughout the game and you're bouncing between the "outside world" and the test chambers. Some of the best parts are the more dramatic parts where you're running along catwalks while science is being made around you.
But it's Portal 2's story and sense of humor that places it over the top among the games of 2011. There are more memorable characters in Portal 2 than in any other game combined this year. GLaDOS is as lovely as ever, but it's the combination of Wheatley, Cave Johnson, and Nolan North that made me laugh out loud on more than several occasions while playing. There are so many hilarious moments that listing them all would take too long. And if the humor isn't enough, they expanded on the history of Aperture Science and you get a great history lesson of the company. Not only is it entertaining, but educational.
Finally, the ending. That beautiful ending. When that bright moon was exposed in front of my eyes, my thought pretty much went like, "You gotta be shitting me!" I'm not sure why, but that moment just came out of nowhere and threw me for a loop. That moment was just icing on the... cake. However Still Alive is the better song. Nice try anyway, Mr. Coulton.
And I barely touched the co-op, but what I've played was wonderful... and I'm not a big fan of co-op.
Portal 2 is another near-flawless game from Valve that I will fondly remember for many years to come. It's everything I could have hoped for in a sequel and more.
Now I'm ready for 2012. Bring me Bioshock Infinite!