A random guy's Top 10-ish games of 2012-ish

The year 2012 has been a weird year for gaming (at least for me). Less new IPs came out because of how long this generation of consoles has been going, I am still looking for an excuse to buy a VITA and the Wii U coming out at the end of the year made a bunch of developers push back their AAA titles to 2013. All these reasons meant a lot more space for indie releases, and personally, a lot of the games I loved this year were indie releases I was not expecting. But before I go in further and tell you what my games of the year are, there are 2 games I wanted to mention but cannot put on my list.

The first one is The Darkness 2. Now, this game is a crap ton of fun. The shooting feels great and all the cool stuff you can do with the tentacles makes you really feel all powerful. It controls great, the story is pretty interesting and the graphics manage to capture the comic-book fell well. The main problem ? This game is incredibly short. It took me 11 hours to get all the achievements in the game, which include finishing the game twice (once on the hardest difficulty setting), get every collectible, and finish the coop campaign (which, by the way, isn't very good). Add to that the promise of DLC that never came out, and you understand why I didn't include The Darkness 2 in my list. If you can find the game at a low price, you should definitely check it out, but only in that case.

The second honorary game I wanted to mention is Theatrhythm Final Fantasy. I played a lot of Theatrhythm, and while the game isn't prefect (for example I wish you didn't have to unlock the hardest difficulty settings or that playing without the RPG part didn't make your score better, thus pushing you to NOT use the RPG part of the game), it has enough to offer to make you play the same songs over and over again, and rewards you when you do so with trophies and collectible cards. My main problem with the game ? The fact that the "game" part feel incidental to my enjoyment. To be frank, I played a lot of this game just to listen to the awesome Final Fantasy music. That's why I can't put this game on my list, but still wanted to mention it. Thank you Theatrhytm, for reminding me that Final Fantasy music is pretty damn awesome.

With that out of the way, let's get down to the Game of the Year list itself. You'll notice that the list is not a Top 10 and that it includes some games from previous years. The reason for that is simple. I played a lot of games this year. Limiting myself to only 10 would be a waste, as there are more than that that I really enjoyed and would like to share. The same goes for the year. I don't only play games from this year, and if I played a game I really enjoy, I'll want to share my experience, even if it's a game from a decade ago. All right ! Now, let's start with...

Number 14, Journey

Journey is an experience. A pretty short experience, but one trimmed of everything unnecessary and superfluous leaving only the pure unadulterated fun. Everything in Journey is deliberate. From the gorgeous setpieces and beautiful music, to the peculiar coop and mysterious world you'll want to explore. Is Journey a game ? Not really. Is it set out to be ? Absolutely not. thatgamecompany made an interactive story, and one that should be experienced. The issue however, is that once you have finished Journey, you don't have a lot of reasons to come back to it. In spite of that, Journey is unique, and if you own a PS3, you have no excuse not have played it already.

Number 13, FTL

"Space, the final fronti-OH MY GOD MY SHIP IS ON FIRE !" This pretty much sums up my experience with FTL. I find it difficult to describe what I exactly like in this game. The difficulty is not very well designed and sometimes you'll die for no good reason other that "You weren't lucky enough", the randomization becomes way too apparent after a while and the combat system gets really repetitive as well. So why do I like FLT so much ? Well, let's just say it took me 20 hours of playing this rogue-like to realize all that... and it is still not hindering my ability to enjoy the game a lot. Because you want to beat the game. You want to overcome the odds. You want you crew to stay alive as long as possible. Plus the game isn't bad at all ! I mean, the mechanics are solid, the game looks great and the soundtrack is so good. My point is: FTL is flawed, but by the time you realize it is, you will have played so much of it already that it won't even matter.

Number 12, They Bleed Pixels

It is easy to dismiss They Bleed Pixels as another indie platformer with pixel art, because... well... it is. But unlike every other indie platformer, the game doesn't just add a twist to the platforming and relies only on that. The reason I like this game so much is that it excels at everything it does. The platforming is really solid, the levels get really tough and will test your skill and the game has a lot of secondary "objectives" that make you play each level a lot of different ways. And if you're like me, you love that kind of stuff. Bottom line, if you don't like platformers, They Bleed Pixels is not going to convert you. If you do like them however, you're gonna absolutely love it. Plain and simple.

Number 11, FEZ

FEZ is a platformer. A pretty looking platformer, with pixel art and everything. And it has a pretty cool gameplay, with 2D but in a 3D environment that you can rotate. And you collect stuff. Overall a really fun 2D platformer. Oh, and before I forget it's also on of the most amazing puzzle game I've ever played. And I'm saying "puzzle game" because I don't know what else to call FEZ. This game is absolutely crazy ! The world is crazy, the discoveries you make are crazy, hell the fact that you could play the game and never see how crazy this game is is itself crazy ! You can probably ask someone who finished FEZ to show you their "game notes" and you'd think they are trying to summon some Satanic Spirit of some sort ! And that is why you should play this game. There is no better way to understand why people like FEZ so much than to play it yourself.

Number 10, Iron Brigade

I love Double Fine games. They all have a unique feel, are funny, look great and are very charming, but when it comes to actually playing them... it's usually not very good. Cue Iron Brigade. This game gets it. The gameplay is absolutely amazing. Double Fine basically took a pretty worn out concept, having a tower defense where you can shoot stuff, and made it incredibly fun to play. You can place your turrets almost anywhere, the shooting feels really good, you have a lot of weapon and turret variety and the game allows you to play however you want to. Regardless of if you're a "placing turrets and sipping some beverage" person or a "I WANNA SHOOT STUFF RIGHT NOW ! MORE GUNS !" kind of guy , Iron Brigade got you covered. Add to that the regular Double Fine treatment and you get a game that you definitely should check out. Oh also, DOUBLE SALUUUUUUUUTES !!!

Number 9, Mark of the Ninja

Stealth games are tough to make. Even video games series based on stealth that I enjoy a lot (like MGS or Splinter Cell) don't get the Stealth part quite right. One of the only 3D games that get stealth right is Splinter Cell Conviction... and one of the only 2D games is Mark of the Ninja. This is a game that gives you all the information you need in order to play. Add to that the fact that the controls are amazing and now you know that when you screw up, there is no one else to blame but yourself. The story is predictable, but told really well, with cutscenes that are so enjoyable, I could watch an entire movie out of them. But the in-game art and animations are just as good. In a nutshell, Mark of the Ninja truly manages to you feel like a badass ninja while telling you a really good story. It is a must if you like... I dunno... HAVING FUN !

Number 8, Mass Effect 3

If you are remotely interested in video games, you probably have heard a lot about this game, and if you did, you probably heard a lot of people complaining. I am not one of those people. I really enjoyed Mass Effect. For me, this series is probably one of the best game series I have ever played. But what about the game itself ? Well... It is not as good as the previous installments. The fact that every single subplot gets resolved and that there is a romance available with every single character in the game makes the story feel very "mechanical" and it looks more like the developers are trying to please everyone rather than tell the story they want to tell. Plus the way the game was advertised as a good entry point in the series and the redesign of some characters really shows why fans of the game felt betrayed in some ways. And while I agree that Mass Effect 3 is not the awesome climactic best episode of the saga (and that is a bummer), it is still the pretty solid character-focused and engaging futuristic RPG it always was. Don't let people fool you : Mass Effect 3 is great game and you should really play it. Also, the extended ending is pretty effin' good !

Number 7, Edna & Harvey: The Breakout

Some of you are probably going to find weird the fact that I put a game from 2008 in my GOTY 2012 list... because I am talking about Edna & Harvey : The Breakout, not Harvey's New Eyes which DID come out this year (and was pretty good). I have an explanation for this: The Breakout is one of the best point & click game I have ever played, and I played a lot of 'em ! I usually like my point & click adventure games pretty serious. I love Broken Sword 1 & 2, the Gabriel Knight series and The Dig. But The Breakout gets the "funny" part so well, I just couldn't not like it. It is probably the only adventure game where I actually LIKED the fact that you need to use verbs to interact with the environment as the amount of hidden jokes is staggering ! And they are actually good ! Edna is a very funny and endearing character and is part of what makes that game so enjoyable. The Breakout gets serious at times (we are talking about a crazy woman trying to escape from an asylum, after all) but it doesn't feel forced and the story bits are well told. And the puzzles... Man, the puzzles... This game does an amazing job at always steering you in the right direction, and the puzzles never feel dumb or guesswork. I have finished the entire game without using a playthrough and I almost never found myself clicking randomly, asking what I should do next. (There is a GENIUS puzzle involving surveillance screens that is just so good.) In short, if you are even remotely interested in point & click games, you absolutely NEED to play Edna & Harvey: The Breakout. It is pretty looking, charming, funny and just a damn good game.

Number 6, XCOM: Enemy Unknown

I hate XCOM. It beat the crap out of me repeatedly. Every time I would do even the slightest of mistakes, it would punish me immediately and in the worst way possible. It taught me how to play it by screwing up over and over again until I got it right. And that it also why I absolutely love this game. XCOM: Enemy Unknown is a turn-based strategy game and I love it. I love how the combat works and how cinematic and action-y it feels while still totally being tactical. I love spending hours in my base, trying to overcome the odds, when everything looks screwed. I love imagining an entire backstory for my soldiers, when all I actually have is a nickname, and then when something happens to them, I get so worried. I love how I couldn't play in any difficulty other than Classic Ironman, else it would be "too easy", and kept dying in the first mission of the game. I love how it teaches you things the hard way. A lot of the fun of XCOM is learning how to beat XCOM. Of course, once you've done that, it's hard to come back to it, but trust me when I say it will take time and won't be easy. I love XCOM: Enemy Unknown, it is one of the best strategy games I have ever played.

Number 5, Persona 3 Portable

Persona 3 is awesome. Persona 4 is awesome. What do you get when you mix them together ? Persona 3 Portable. This game is perfect mix of the best parts of P3 and P4. The completely broken combat system of Persona 3 is ditched for the improved system of Persona 4 and with some more improvements sprinkled on top. The interface has been remade. Some of the dialogue has been rerecorded and the game have had more scenes added where you hang out with your friends. As you go up the Tartarus on the added Maniac difficulty settings, the boss fights get really challenging. And the developers even added a female main character for the people like me who had already finished the original game and wanted something new. As I played P3P, it reminded me of the first time I played Persona 3 FES and how I absolutely loved that game at the time. If you have never played a Persona game or Persona 3, Persona 3 Portable is the version you need to play.

Number 4, Sonic Generations

I am not a huge fan of the Sonic series. Of course, I played the first 3 games on Mega Drive (or Genesis) but never finished any of them. The games got pretty dull for me when they became less about the speed and more about the platforming. So I was not expecting a lot from Sonic Generations. And boy, was I blown away. The game is one of the highlights of 2012 for me. It is absolutely amazing. First, it looks beautiful. You get a great sense of speed going through all the different levels from all Sonic games. Both 2D and 3D Sonic have a different feel but both control great. Also, the level design is great ! You'll have no trouble replaying the same levels over and over again, trying to get the quickest time possible by finding the most shortcuts in the level, and if almost feels like a rhythm game at some point. And you will replay the same levels several times going different ways, as there are a lot of side levels you can finish or bosses you can beat. Another excellent thing about this game is it's soundtrack. It is just absolutely amazing. Hell, I'm listening to it as I'm writing this ! There is plenty of variety, with a lot of remixed songs from previous games but also a lot of nudges to old school SEGA. The amount of talent that went into making this soundtrack is amazing in itself. I really don't know what else to say else than there are few games that I enjoyed like I enjoyed Sonic Generations. It's full of happiness and fun and awesomeness, and you don't have to be a Sonic fan to appreciate that.

Number 3, Virtue's Last Reward

Let me get one thing straight: I completely revere 999. It was my game of 2010. It has it's flaws, but it offers a story unlike any other game. A story so good, it will make you forget anything not so great about the game. So when I heard there was a sequel coming out, I was absolutely thrilled. And when I played Virtue's Last Reward (which isn't a great title, I have to say), I saw how much this game is similar to 999... starting with the flaws. First of all, the 3DS version is busted. Overflowing text, frame rate drop, corrupted saves (including one that nobody had before and that cost me a 28h save file) and glitched puzzles. The VITA version seems like the one you need to get. Also, the game switched from 2D anime-like art to 3D, and doesn't do a whole lot with it. I mean, the 3D art doesn't look bad at all, but neither did the 2D art. It just seems like a weird decision. The puzzle are also weirdly inconsistent. Sometimes good, sometimes bad, and sometimes just dumb. But then, you're gonna ask, why is that game so high on my GOTY list if it is that flawed ? The writing, simple as that. Virtue's Last Reward, like 999, truly deserves the name of visual novel. The story is really the high point of this series, but I can't really talk about what makes it so good without spoiling it, which would make playing the game useless. Unlike 999, the game makes getting all the different endings a lot easier by enabling you to travel directly to the branching points in the story. And believe me when I say you'll need that, as getting all 20 endings are mandatory in order to truly finish the game (I admit, half of them are game over screens, but they are all unique and still fun to get). And you want to completely finish that game. There is a payoff. And it's so crazy, it's probably going to melt you brain. It melted mine. Overall, it feels kind of weird to love a game that much, but the best part about the game isn't really the game. Still, Virtue's Last Reward is an absolute must if you own a 3DS or a VITA, and a good reason to buy one if you don't.

Number 2, The Walking Dead

Few are the game that make me think about myself not as a player, but as a person. That makes me think about my decisions and whether they are right or wrong. Heck, I don't think there are more game like that than I have fingers on my hand (5, by the way). And The Walking Dead is one of them. When I first heard of this title, I honestly thought that it was Telltale's first stab at an action game. "An adventure game in a zombie world ?", I thought, "How the hell does that even work ? No way." Turns out, I was wrong. Boy was I wrong. Telltale made it work. They made it work so well. What's so good about The Walking Dead isn't the old Telltale engine showing it's age, neither the almost nonexistent puzzles, nor the sometimes silly action parts that more that anything else remind you why The Walking Dead isn't an action game. No, what's so good about The Walking Dead is the way it presents to you different characters, each with a different personality and how those characters interact with each other. How it makes you feel when everything goes to shit because you're in the middle of a zombie apocalypse, everything GOES to shit eventually. How it makes you care so much about a 3D model that looks like a little girl and doesn't even physically exists. The writing in The Walking Dead is its greatest strength and made me feel a lot of different emotions, made me think a lot of different things about myself. And if that's not a good reason to put this game on my GOTY list, then I don't know what is.

Number 1, Rhythm Heaven Fever

I could go to length about how I love music, and how Rhythm Heaven Fever not only has amazing music, but how it is one of the only rhythm games where you actually do need a sense of rhythm. How every game is weird and funny and looks great, and always has a very simple way to show you if you have the rhythm and makes sure you're listening to the music rather than looking at the screen. But you know what ? A picture is worth a thousand words... or in this case, a video. So without further ado, here it is, my favorite game of 2012 !

Thank you for reading this blog post. This is my first time making such a post, so any comment is welcome !