By Dalai 7 Comments
2012 is here and everybody has reflected on 2011 in some fashion. It was a year of Charlie Sheen, Rebecca Black, smelly protesters, and that homeless guy with the awesome voice. In games, it was the year of the number 3, dragons, and SPAAAAAACCE! I can't say I enjoyed 2011 as much as previous years, but despite the numerous sequels, lack of originality, and overall fatigue of this generation of games as a whole, there was plenty for me to like. And with that, here's my 2011 in review.
Just as a fair warning, I did not play a whole lot of new games this year so I had to dig into the past... just like I do every year.
I did not play nearly as much Aquaria as I should have, but it makes my list this year because Aquaria was able to make an entire game set underwater good. Perhaps the other reason why I like Aquaria is its exploration and open-world feeling... like Super Metroid and Castlevania. I call it Metroidvania. Anyway, Aquaria separates itself from other Metroidvania games with its oceanic theme, colorful graphics, and amnesia. Another standout feature is the narration which is similar to how Bastion treated narration... except it's narrated by the character and she doesn't talk nearly as often. Unfortunately, it didn't grab my attention as much this year so hopefully 2012 is the year I finally get to sit down and get more acquainted with Naija and the surrounding world.
If I were giving out awards, Chrono Trigger would win the "Best RPG of 1995 That Isn't Earthbound." I started playing Chrono Trigger just before Ryan and Patrick started their Endurance Run, but 16 years after its initial SNES release... but better late than never. I think you all know enough about Chrono Trigger now that the Endurance Run is nearing the end, but I can say that the classic gameplay still holds up well today. From the unique cast of characters to the wide range of settings, Chrono Trigger remains one of the high points in JRPG design and execution.
Or Fahrenheit if you will. Indigo Prophecy plays like no other game I've ever played. It's part point-and-click adventure, part Simon. However, the "action" is not what makes the game in this case. Indigo Prophecy is built around the story more than anything else so liking the game depends almost solely on whether the story and dialogue is well done. And... yeah, the story of Lucas Kane is an interesting one to put it lightly. It starts off with Lucas in a trance-like state murdering a guy in a diner and somehow ends with him being Keanu Reeves. Even though the Mayan connection and the Lucas/Carla attraction came out of left field, Indigo Prophecy was a one-of-a-kind game at the time and fans of adventure games who want something different should give it a try.
Of all the games I've played this year, Limbo has to be the darkest, most emo of the bunch. As a platformer, it ranks high among the best this generation. As soon as the game begins, you find yourself in a dark forest running through the dank trying to survive. You're just a boy... no superpowers, no background, no nothing. The goal is to traverse the landscape avoiding giant spiders, man-made traps, and the environment. As a puzzle game, it's brilliant and makes you think before you proceed, although trial-and-error can be used to pass through the game as well because Limbo is forgiving with its many checkpoints. Artistically, the lack of color and the silhouettes might seem lazy to people who like some color, but it works to the game's advantage making Limbo scarier than it would be if it were in full color. Overall, Limbo is an excellent game that... I still need to finish. Damn, I suck at completing games. It's my fault because Limbo is not a long game.
Many of you have witnessed the tale of Commander Shepard and the gang through two games and are looking forward to the 3rd entry later this year, but I'm late to the BioWare party. Although the game came out back in 2007, I was still amazed by the scale of Mass Effect in both the size of the game's universe and the detailed history given to just about everything. It doesn't do everything perfectly, but the few issues didn't hamper my experience one bit.
Here's a game listed in my best of 2009 blog so... why bring it back? Because I spent more than a few hours with the game this time. However, I stand by my approval for Muramasa and its lovely style and action.
Tower defense was never this good, but the premise makes zero sense. Why are plants fighting zombies? More accurately, why is Crazy Dave using plants to fight zombies? Because he's hardcore? Whatever the reason is, Plants vs. Zombies is surprisingly complex for a cutesy, casual game.
Now for this year's games.
2011 Honorable/Slightly Less Honorable Mentions
Of the 2011 games I played, Bastion ranks last in the amount of time spent. 20 minutes, actually. So expect Bastion on my 2012 list, but those 20 minutes of Bastion made me realize why people have been praising the game the past several months. Damn if that narrator is the James Earl Jones of video games! I must make room for Bastion this year.
Somehow I was hoping Bulletstorm was going to be the game to break the mold and make shooters exciting again. That didn't happen, but it's not like Bulletstorm is a bad game. It's a shooter that doesn't quite take itself that seriously and the dialogue pretty much proves that. It put dicktits on the map, but for most of us, that's the game's legacy. I do have to give People Can Fly and Epic Games some kudos for developing a solid game with some great set pieces and dozens of different ways to kill. If you were hesitant about Bulletstorm, just get it for cheap and strap it on. Seriously, though. Dicktits?
I will come out and say that I really like de Blob and getting the sequel was a no-brainer to me. I fully expected de Blob 2 to be a great game on par with the original, but sadly it wasn't the case in my opinion. De Blob 2 was a familiar game that brought very little that was new to the table and the biggest change (the 2D platforming sections) felt sluggish. I still believe de Blob 2 is a good platformer that stays true to the original with an underrated soundtrack and loads of gooey charm.
The Binding of Isaac can be best described as fucked up. You mainly play as Isaac, a scared naked fetus boy who is trying to escape his overly-religious mother because she's trying to kill him. It's a classic Old Testament story... right? Anyway, The Binding of Isaac is my first true experience with this weird roguelike genre and the randomness has kept me from discounting this game. The design almost mirrors The Legend of Zelda (the first one) so a hint of nostalgia lingers despite the blood, ooze, and creepy enemies that want Isaac's flesh. The Binding of Isaac might take bit and pieces from older games, but it's a departure from pretty much anything out there and because of that, it stands out.
I have a top 3 which I will dig into later, but chew on this for a while.
As a side note, Dead Island will likely be on next year's list. I sneaked a few hours of that game on New Year's Eve and if I had played it earlier, it would be among the games above, jank and all.