A Strange "Favorite Games of 2014" List

This is quite belated now, but 2015 has been busy so far for me and I wanted to make sure I knew what I wanted to write in this post.

The highlight of last year was my first time visiting the east coast. I planned my trip to coincide with PAX East in Boston and headed south to NYC afterwards. After living my entire life in California and hearing all sorts of stereotypes of what the east coast is like, I was expecting to come away with a soured experience. Happily that wasn't the case at all! Everyone I met was friendly and the areas themselves were splendid. It helps that the trip encompassed a great PAX event with a bunch of friendly folks too, as well as the surprise of seeing Jeff Green shouting with his shirt off.

In terms of games 2014 was weird. I found myself getting excited for many things, but by the time they came along, my enthusiasm had dissipated. That's fairly typical for me each year in gaming, but usually it is isolated to one or two cases a year, and also through no fault of the games themselves, just the timing of their releases. With 2014, it seemed like that happened to every single big release I was excited for. I went into the year convinced I was getting a PS4, specifically for Destiny, and after I heard impressions of the last beta, that went out the window. Then I debated getting an Xbox One for the Master Chief Collection, and we all know how that turned out. Far Cry 4 was my saving grace of the year. While everything bad was going on, there would still be Far Cry 4. I loved 3, and everything about 4 seemed great. As it turns out, it is pretty great! However when I heard it's pretty much the same game again I remembered I still have 3 installed, uncompleted, and didn't feel that urge to jump into 4 just quite yet. As a result of all of this, I agreed with Jeff frequently while listening to the GOTY deliberation podcasts, specifically that this year overall was kind of bad. There were definitely great games, every year there are, but the general mood was clouded by constant release struggles of big name publishers and developers. This was exacerbated by the fact many games were pushed to 2015, forcing the attention back on the big release we did have, which were plagued with technical problems.

My "favorite games of X" lists have become more about reflecting on fond gaming memories of the year. Less about game quality, though that is a big part of it still, but remembering shared experiences with friends and noting just how fun those can be. So, my list looks quite strange as that was more of a focus this year, and I also ended up not playing many new games. Thanks for indulging in my lengthy intro, now onto the list!

(Mostly) Honorable Mentions

Octodad: Dadliest Catch

I love this game. Or more, I love the concept of this game. It's wacky in the greatest of ways, and the theme song is a delight. I told as many people as I could about it, because I wanted it to get it's deserved exposure. Then I ended up not playing more than a couple of hours. I don't care! Everyone should take a look at this gem.

Shadowrun Returns

This came as a delightful surprise. I picked it up around the summer steam sale (or maybe humble?), anyway having read Neuromancer for the first time in 2013 I was ready to delve into a cyberpunk adventure. I enjoyed the writing in the game more than I expected to, but the gameplay didn't really do a lot for me. I never did finish it, I got about halfway and didn't feel compelled to finish it. I know the expansion is supposedly better, and I'm very excited by the announcement of Hong Kong being the setting for the next one, so I'm still open to this series.

Hearthstone

I love and hate you.

Super Mario 3D Land

This was a gift on my birthday in December so I haven't beaten it yet, but it's been pretty enjoyable! I'm excited to see the tougher levels towards the end because it's been quite easy so far. I didn't grow up playing many platformers so I'm still awful, but I'm warming up to the genre quite a bit (foreshadowing!).

Mount Your Friends

Bless Jason and Dan for promoting this. It's stupid fun. A great party game, or break game between something else with friends. Really, it's the ability to import your own heads and bodies that makes it truly special.

FIFA 15

I almost didn't include this. I didn't want to include this. But I played about 100 hours of it on PC and so that has to be worthy of a mention right? This game is bollocks. It's my first futbol game since FIFA 08, so I was quite excited after getting into the World Cup in a big way. I wanted to play soccer again. So many of those hours were out of shear desire to satisfy my reignited passion for the sport. Pro clubs, the mode where you control 1 player out of the 11 on the field is an amazing idea. I've had great times playing that with a full team. Ultimate team is the best and worst thing ever. To this day I still check the web app and look at player prices to build new teams. But! The game is crap. Defense can feel impossible at times, chipped balls are ridiculous, and the goalies are absolute garbage. Hilarious, because I think EA was touting their goalie AI tech this year. Maybe things will change, but I think I'll be taking another lengthy break. So, reluctantly, here's your (dis)honorable mention you turd of a game.

MY FAVORITE GAMES OF 2014!

10. Tagpro

This is some of the best, easiest, and quick fun you can have with a group of people. Especially drinking. Hearing car noises from your drunken friend as you watch them boost straight into spikes and end with a simple "pop" is genuinely great. It's worth a shot, as it's a free browser game. I've always been a fan of games with a low barrier to entry, and this is one of the best in recent memory.

9. Joust

Joust is one of my favorite arcade games and between California Extreme and the opening of Brewcade in San Francisco, I've had a healthy serving of Ostrich combat. One day I hope to live in a house with a Joust cabinet and Ms. Pac-man cocktail machine. Oh by the way Ms. Pac-man should be on here too.

8. Transistor

The game I was most excited to play in 2014 that I actually played in 2014. I tried it at PAX Prime 2013 and loved what I saw. The art is fantastic yet again, and they added combat that was more interesting to me than Bastion. It has extremely clever ideas. Adding story elements based on the skill combinations you use is genius. I think it has one of the most clever health systems in a modern game, instead of losing your life immediately and starting over, losing a power until the next checkpoint. The only problem I had with it was that the story itself didn't grab me. I don't know why, I thought it was an interesting premise, but maybe it was the writing or something which just didn't click. So it ended, and I was kind of left thinking "okay". Honestly puzzled by that.

7. Dark Souls

This was on my list last year as well, but I believe I was only around 15 hours into it and had hardly made any progress at all. Now with 40+ hours I can say I understand the genius of these games. The series has been talked to death so the only thing I'll add is I found a few times that after drinking I actually progressed more and defeated a couple bosses I was stuck on. It's probably that my fear inhibition was deafened with inebriation, but it was a funny antidote. I have 2, so I'm looking forward to seeing what changes there are.

6. Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare

I can say this now that the game came out, but I focus tested this game in 2013 and thought it was surprisingly fun then. The general idea to take a 2d puzzle defense franchise and make a third person multiplayer shooter sounded creatively bankrupt and not at all what anyone asked for. But it's a rare case where what we didn't even want was quite good! There's plenty of clever ideas that make playing it feel quite new and refreshing for the genre. There's tons of unlockable class variants, weapons, and cosmetic items, which I'm a sucker for admittedly. However it also has plenty of modes, and the class balancing is pretty darn good for how uniquely different each of them are. I especially liked that the classes aren't mirrored on each faction. For example a sunflower, the healer for the plants, does not play like the scientist, the healer for the zombies. The one big complaint is that there isn't any group/party matchmaking functionality, so you have to invite friends while you're already in a game. Also microphones are on by default so you have to mute everyone which is counterproductive for a multiplayer game. Still, pleasant surprise!

5. Crossy Road

I don't play many mobile games, but when Crossy Road was first brought up on the Bombcast I had to check it out for myself. It's endless frogger with voxels and a ton of unlockable characters, which add little changes to how the game looks. That's all I ever want out of a mobile game as it turns out! It's beautiful, Crossy Road is beautiful. I'm curious which character readers like to use? I'm a fan of the mallard, Crazy ol' Ben, flea, rusty robot and The Dark Lord. Still don't have the penguin which I really want. Also what is your highest score? Mine is currently 350. You don't have it? Just go download it, it's free and get back to me.

4. Shovel Knight

If you aren't familiar with this game, just take a moment to listen to the main theme. Hopefully that gives you a sense of how awesome this game is. Remember how I said I was warming up to the platforming genre? This game is a huge reason why. I've always been bad at platformers, but Shovel Knight is so well balanced that every accomplishment I had felt genuine. The game made me feel good about myself when I beat it, and that's a rare thing these days, specifically that sense of overcoming challenge. The art, the characters, the music, the levels, it's all so well made. Kudos to Yacht Club Games for putting together a kickstarter project that came through and delivered wonderfully. Keep in mind this is coming from someone who didn't play Mega Man or Castlevania, Duck Tales or even Super Mario World growing up. Do yourself a favor and at least check and see if it piques your interest.

3. Super Puzzle Fighter 2 Turbo

After going to California Extreme for the second time I can say definitively that this is one of the best games ever made. I went with a fellow Giant Bomb user and within the first hour of walking in the first day, we found the machine and couldn't stop playing it. I think we went for 2 hours straight before deciding to get lunch or something, but we went back and back over the weekend. It's a delightful game, they really need to bring HD remix to PC.

2. Spelunky

Another game making it's second appearance on one of these lists. This time I went from 15 hours in 2013 to 67 total in 2014. Obviously the game is well known on the site thanks to Patrick's Spelunkin' with Scoops series, so there's not much to say here. It's a glorious game with so much depth you could spend just one run, or hours playing and you'll leave satisfied. Unless you land on spikes on your first jump, maybe not then. Anyway, I believe all of the hours spent on Spelunky is why I had such a rewarding experience playing Shovel Knight and have warmed up to the genre so much. So, thank you Spelunky for being such a great game that it expanded my interest in a genre.

1. League of Legends

I have been playing this game regularly for about 3 1/2 years now, and 2014 was probably the best year of the bunch. I finally made it to gold in ranked and have a gold border, which is super important for many reasons, and was rewarded the victorious skin. There were times earlier this year when I wasn't really enjoying the game much, but I had an unthinkable winning streak (~22-1) over the course of two weeks to bring me from silver 3 to gold 3. Plus, my friend group I play with is still going strong and they're the biggest reason why this game keeps ending up at the top of my list. It has lead to more fond gaming moments than any other by far, it's going to be very strange when it's not a part of my life anymore. But that won't be soon and who thinks that far ahead anyway?

Thank you so much to those who took the time to read through this, I mean it. I'm hoping to do some more blog posts, which isn't the first time I've said that, but hey I'm doing more writing in general so I think it's genuine this time.

Cheers,

-KnifeySpoony

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Knifey's Best Games Played in 2013 (sort of)

2013 was the biggest roller-coaster ride of any other year for me so far with some of the highest highs and lowest lows. But! That's not what this blog entry is for, no! This is to reflect on the highlights of my favorite hobby for the year. It took me longer to create than anticipated, hence the tardy postdate but to heck with that! Here are some of the reasons why that is. (note: I didn't get a chance to play Last of Us, Link Between Worlds, Saints Row 4 or Gone Home but I plan on it edit: Zeno Clash 2 as well).

Honorable Mentions

Bioshock Infinite - I enjoyed my time with Bioshock Infinite for the most part. It was my first Bioshock game and I think the world Irrational crafted was great. I just thought the story wasn't all there. I'm also a player who will go everywhere else before the main path, and this game didn't reward that much at all. Even though it teased that it would.

Planetside 2 - Once I built my new PC I was able to go back to this and really sink my teeth into it for the first time since it was in beta. There's fun to be had, but I think it can be short lived. There are things in it that you just can't experience anywhere else because of the massive scale. Hug armies rolling out to capture the same point is exhilarating. However, that same scale can be to its detriment as well. If there is a huge stalemate because of a choke point or there is a lack of players in the area, it can be boring.

The Pinball Arcade - This finally came to steam after being promised for what feels like years. It's still a fantastic pinball sim and I love it. It just feels a bit crap to have to buy the same tables over again after playing it on other platforms.

Animal Crossing: New Leaf - I bought the 3DS bundle with this game. It was my first Animal Crossing ever, and I was super curious to find out why seemingly everyone who plays games I spoke to was excited for it. I then played it heavily for about two weeks and then stopped and haven't gone back. It's such a weird game, but it ultimately didn't hold my attention for too long. There's just not much you actually do.

Cook, Serve, Delicious! - I was addicted to this for a couple of days. I think it's clever and there's a nice charm to everything. The thing for me is, while I found myself playing it a lot I couldn't put into words why it was fun, if it was at all. I think it just plays on my compulsive nature more than anything. Still worth checking out, and the music is great.

Papers, Please - This probably would be on my list if I played it more. Other games during this holiday steam sale have taken priority though. That said, this is definitely a game that deserves a mention. Many things have been said about it, but it hit a different note for me personally as I'm a son of immigrant parents whose history is similar to what is depicted in the game. For that, it got my brain working and asking more questions and there's value in that alone.

Top 10!

10. Devil May Cry

I'm not a huge character action fan. I've played games like Darksiders but the genre isn't my forte. I had always watched the DMC series from a distance with anxious curiosity but it wasn't until this game that I decided to try it. I'm extremely glad I did. It's accessible and polished everywhere. The reason it is so low (high?) on the list is I never got too far into it, about 4 hours. I'm sure if I go back to it there would be a great case for it to be higher (lower) as I loved what I did play of it. With so much left unseen, I can't say for sure. I've got Metal Gear: Rising pre-ordered on steam which I'm really looking forward to as well.

9. BIT.TRIP Presents...Runner2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien

I fell off the first Runner in a big way. I enjoyed the music massively, but settled for just listening to the soundtrack rather than playing the game after a certain point. It was just too difficult. I was surprised then to find how much more enjoyable the sequel is. It's still challenging, but the timing isn't so difficult that your hair turns gray. The music is still awesome and I've been able to get through everything so far while still feeling rewarding. I'm currently in the final world and am confident in putting this on my list. It was a fantastic surprise find in the holiday sale. Plus the reverse merman has his junk hanging down.

See

8. Pokemon X

This was the first Pokemon I've ever bought. I played a ton of Red when it came with my best friend at the time at their house, and that plays into why I enjoyed this one. Being able to get one of the first starters early on sold me. It's shameless nostalgia sure, but as it turns out this was also one of (if not the) best Pokemon games in recent years. I said I might actually finish this one, but that still hasn't happened. I've had fun seeing the old stupid monsters though. This sounds passive aggressive. Whatever it's good okay? Trust me, I've got the keyboard on this post.

7. Rogue Legacy and Spelunky

(RL) After getting into Dark Souls and having played FTL I had gotten into the rogue-like game design in a big way. Rogue Legacy takes that design concept and makes it less punishing, and thus is more accessible. To go along with that it has a clever sense of humor and fun gameplay. I thoroughly enjoy the secrets that you can find in the castle as well. Reminding the world of the classic Don't Shit Your Pants was revelatory. I had no idea it was the same developer!

Spunky Spelunky is the next game I got after playing Rogue Legacy a bunch. I was much more curious to try it because I enjoyed my time with RL quite a bit. Spelunky is certainly more challenging because any progress you make is more reliant on the player's skill. Whereas in Rogue Legacy you can try to keep grinding coins so you can keep upgrading and make your subsequent characters stronger. They're close games for me and I feel like they should almost be in tandem with each other. To this day I have the same amount of time played in each and I've not yet finished playing either.

6. War Thunder

This is a fantastic game for someone who wanted to be a pilot as a kid. It's intense, tactical and exceptionally rewarding. I've played World of Warplanes before this for a while, but after trying War Thunder I understand why Drew said he preferred it. There's more weight in the planes, and getting damaged in different areas actually feels different. Compounding damage can turn your plane into a flying piece of swiss cheese and you feel like the man if you survive the round in that state. Surprising considering I'm only using a 360 controller and I've been told that with a flight stick it's sublime. Plus I got to fly a spitfire fairly early on! I genuinely feel bad when I go down while using it, and that's more than I can say about dying in most other video games.

5. Dark Souls

It took quite a while before I understood what makes Dark Souls great. I'm still not too far into it, I'm at the 3rd boss I believe, but that's how the game operates. It's there when I'm ready for it, and it will promptly kick my ass for neglecting it. I'll continue slowly going through it and enjoying my short bursts of success with the spectacular failures.

4. Battlefield 4

You know when you return to a series and end up having the same kind of fun that reminds you why you liked a series to begin with? That's what Battlefield 4 has been like for me. I couldn't get into 3 much when it came out. I didn't like many of the maps, and the multiplayer shooter grind wasn't appealing. With 4, I was able to give my good friend a copy as well and that's been a huge factor in getting it's big shooter gun hooks into me. I've laughed the hardest this year because of Battlefield 4 with my friend on skype. Things going horribly wrong in vehicles is still highly entertaining. Just recently we had the bomb (in obliteration) on an ATV and my friend starts going off the map boundaries. "Uhhh" I say. "Don't worry it's part of the plan." An instant later, we start falling down a crevice and he goes "THAT'S NOT PART OF THE PLAN". We blew up from the timer going off and the bomb was about a mile outside of the map boundaries. I'm on PC and while I've had some crashes, it hasn't been anywhere as bad as others.

3. Brothers - A Tale of Two Sons

The controls took a little getting used to but I think it was the best way to handle the game they made. I thought of it as making a two player cooperative game single p layer and in that regard I think they did a good job. That control scheme also plays into the story in a satisfying way that I didn't see coming until the moment presented itself. This was also the first time I'd ever sent an email to the creator of a game after completing it. As I was getting deeper, I was thinking more about how much this resembled an adventure movie. Low and behold Josef Fares, the game's lead creator, is a film director. An emotional experience for me as I could relate to some of the beats directly, and a rewarding journey overall.

2. The Stanley Parable

Alright, a confession before I begin. I bought this and have been playing it at the tail end of the steam sale, which means it's technically 2014. However it's made a striking impact on me that I just can't let it fall all the way to 2014's list in fear of forgetting what I want to say about it. Given that I'm just now writing and uploading 2013's list, I think it's just to be here. I read Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy for the first time earlier this year, and there are similarities between his writing and the writing of the narrator in The Stanley Parable. They're both brilliant. I was complaining about not being rewarded for exploring in Bioshock Infinite, well this is the polar opposite. The entire purpose is exploring the different endings. Any which combination of straying from the path leads to something else it seems and it's awesome to get such vastly different outcomes. I found that the more alternate endings I discovered made the "main ending" even more impactful than it would have been were it the first thing I saw. An exquisite game for a curious gamer.

1. League of Legends

Reading through this list I've compiled of my favorite games this year, I realized that none compared to my experiences playing League of Legends this year. For mobas in general, it doesn't get much better than having a group of friends in a skype call and working together to overcome from an early deficit to win. I maintain that it's probably not worth trying to put in all of the work to get into these types of games. It takes a ton of time and patience to get to where the game is at its best. Though because I somehow found myself in that situation I'm fortunate enough to have the good that comes with the bad. I may start playing more Dota 2 again we'll see. It feels like I'm cheating my list a bit but the amount of hours I spent playing with a solid group of people forces my hand to say it's the top game for me this year. Wait I called it top highlights this year? Oh man I accounted for it all along!

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I got Torqued

I mean dumb. After hearing the bombcrew talk about this movie from 2004, I had to rent it for myself as I'd never been exposed to the creation, "from the same producer as The Fast & Furious and XXX." I mention the year as this piece of cinema history places itself in time quite well. The appearance of Dane Cook and Nickelback playing at the happy ride off into the sunset in particular.

I'll be honest I rented this with the idea that I'd be under the influence of something, and it did help with the experience. Some things about it are so profound. Should I spoiler it? No probably not. There's crotch rocket lancing between two women. Crotch rocket lancing. There's some of the dumbest CG effects I've seen. It's splendid, a masterpiece, but damn stupid.There's also the idea of Ice Cube being the leader of a gang that all rides these sport bikes. It just doesn't seem fathomable to me. He would have been much better suited to one of the Fast and Furious movies. Apologies if he was, I don't really remember. Personally I feel that Jaime Pressley should have been awarded an Oscar for her performance of, "hardcore female who licks the side of her mouth in every shot and says nothing."

Anyone else have anything to say on this piece of movie history? Stories of theatre experiences or perhaps the trouble they got into with motorcycles after the fact?

Oh also isn't crystal meth not that expensive? I think it's hilarious that that's the main drug that this main villain wants back so bad and not cocaine. Maybe he's got a hefty fix in the home life. Maybe that's why Jaime Pressley keeps licking her mouth. Poor girl needs to go into rehab.

OH MAN AND THE DUDE'S NAME IS FORD AND HIS GIRLFRIEND SHANE WHAT THE FUCK!?

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Best Games I Played in 2012!

A bit late to this, has been a much busier holiday than years past. This is a little different from other top 10 lists in that games released from any year are eligible. The only qualification is that I played it for the first time in 2012.

10. Day Z

Despite it being a work in progress with many issues regarding connecting to servers and general game bugs, this mod gave some of the most thrilling gameplay experiences I've had this year. It was a wonderful step forward for co-op gaming. It also was an excellent take on the trope that man is the worst enemy. What made it so excellent, is that rather than it being a story presented to the player ala The Walking Dead, these were real players you were interacting with. The drive for supplies played a huge part in player interaction, whether or not you decided to trust strangers you came across in the world, and whether they screwed you over as a result. It's unfortunate that eventually the game got to the point where encountering other players were shoot on site or be killed yourself, because the stress in deciding whether you can trust others were magnificent, fresh and new to the multiplayer experience.

9. Far Cry 3

I haven't gotten too far into Far Cry 3 yet, so it's a bit unfair to judge exactly where it is on this list yet. What I have played of it so far, around 5-10 hours, has been incredibly fun. I've mostly explored the world, climbing radio towers and conquering outposts, but there is no other game where I can find a relic in a dark cave through a waterfall, be attacked by a crocodile upon returning, frantically kill said crocodile, only to be jumped on by a leopard immediately after stepping on land. Beautiful game that plays great.

8. Fallout: New Vegas

I disliked playing it the first couple of hours. I almost never got deep enough into New Vegas to know how great it is. I'm so happy I kept at it. As soon as I arrived in Novac the game became wonderful and I was sucked into the world more than I had with Skyrim. One of those games I'm glad I got to eventually, rather than having it forgotten in an increasingly long back log.

7. Borderlands 2

Thank goodness they did right on the PC version for the sequel. The PC version of Borderlands 1 was one of the most disappointing in recent years, so the fact they made a sequel that not only plays better than the first game, but functions wonderfully is just fantastic. I was hooked for a good long while when this came out, with many sleepless nights spending countless Borderbucks on the slot machines in Moxxi's bar. The humor didn't always hit for me, but the world of Pandora was fun to explore. There's such a strange tone to it that I find endearing, a lot of which can probably be contributed to the art style. Whenever Borderworlds comes along I'll be there.

6. Halo 4

This is on the list more for the social aspect than anything else. As a result of my haul during Black Friday, I now have a TV in my room, which I hooked my neglected Xbox 360 to along with Halo 4 and a 3-month card for Xbox Live. I was able to travel back to 2007 when I first bought my 360 for the Halo 3 launch. The gameplay has evolved in drastic ways, but laughing with buddies in an xbox live party while running over people with ghosts is just as fun as I remember. I haven't played more than 2 missions of the single player so I can't comment on it but I intend to play it on legendary co-op soon. A great way to relax after work.

5. Binary Domain

I wouldn't have played this were it not for Vinny talking about it on the Bombcast. I'm certainly glad I decided to though as this has got to be one of the most satisfying third person shooters I've played, as a whole package. There are games with great gameplay but their settings, characters and/or plot are forgettable, however I enjoyed everything Binary Domain had to offer. It reminded me of some of my favorite campy action movies. Fun the entire way through, with some genuinely well written characters and an interesting story that has a better impact thanks to the work done with those characters. Like The Fifth Element it's the future, there are crazy developments, some things fall flat, but it puts a smile on my face regardless.

edit: Also has the most satisfying headshot feedback ever in a shooter. That ping was delicious to my brain.

4. Journey

Many things have been said about it. All I have to say is this was an excellent experience that I'm glad I have. They did a splendid job in making you feel like your playthrough was unique thanks to their genius multiplayer system. After I finished it I told people that I wanted to watch my playthrough in a theatre. It's as visually engaging as cinema.

3. XCOM: Enemy Unknown

This was probably my most anticipated game this year. It looked impressive every time I saw footage of it, and it delivered in spades. I have no history with the franchise, I don't have much experience with strategy games in general, but for some reason everything about XCOM appealed to me. I loved the customization of soldiers, and the perma-death. The meta-game was engaging enough to me and forced some difficult decision making. The gameplay had some of the widest swings from high to low I've ever experienced. I loved making up scenarios in my head for my soldiers as well, specifically for when they died. I would play it out in my head like a death in a show or movie. The poor red suit who successfully took out a cyberdisc...only to have it land on top of him, blowing him up and severely injuring my only support at the time. I'm greatly fond of games where I can be imaginative with the story and make fun out of some awful situations they go through. That may be in part to the style they used for the character models. Whatever the aspect, it's complete and I'll be happy to go back to it for a long time. I feel this top 3 is so close it can go either way.

2. The Walking Dead

Again, many things have been said. It's amazing what Telltale has accomplished with this season of episodic gaming. I'm happy that it paid off for them as they truly deserve it. They provided the best example of storytelling in a video game and it's a benchmark moment looking forward. It's not often I come close to shedding a tear over anything, so to have welled up eyes after the final scene speaks volumes of their accomplishment.

1. Sleeping Dogs

I got this game the week before launch because of a sale. I was feeling impulsive, I saw it was $33, thought it looked interesting enough from the setting and took a chance. That ended up being one of the best decisions of the year. I knew it was something I myself would enjoy, as I have the most fun with open world games, but the extent of polish and care they put into Sleeping Dogs is profound. They put a ton of love into this game, and it shows from their attention to detail. Things like clicking the thumbstick to switch the GPS markers. The writing of the characters is surprisingly believable, and while not being an original story, it is successful in it's execution because of the strength of the characters they develop. I'll be honest the music they chose to include was a big influence to my enjoyment as well. To have Ninja Tune and Warp record stations was exquisite. The fact you don't use a gun for the majority of the game felt right and fresh. The beautiful world was a joy to drive around and gaze at the scenery. It was the first time I got so invested in a world that I actually wanted, and did, do everything. It was the most pleasant surprise of the year and I hope the team gets a sequel, they rightfully deserve it.

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California Extreme 2012!

The most hilarious FMV game I've played

I’ve known about CAX for a few years now but haven’t had a chance to go until this year. The experience I came away with was liberating. Being younger (22) and growing up in an area without any great arcades nearby means my knowledge of arcade games is lacking at best. This weekend was as educating as it was entertaining. I played games like Tempest, Tapper and Smash TV for the first time. Games I had never seen before, let alone played but have been hearing about on the Bombcast for years now. Having this arcade experience was incredibly enjoyable and I now have a great appreciation for the era of the arcade. The show itself was a perfect size; no machine had more than 2-3 people by it at any time, making it easy to play whatever you’re interested in. To have all of those classic sound effects going off as well gives the place a fantastic atmosphere.

The machines were running free play which made it much easier to try anything and everything. This was pivotal in the experience. I came into the show wanting to play a lot of pinball, despite being terrible at it. Thanks to the free play, you get to learn a table and actually see what makes each one unique. What the draw of each game was. I had my first exposure to great tables like Star Trek: TNG, Attack from Mars, Medieval Madness, X-Files and so much more. I came away not only having a context for popular pinball machines, but also what a few favorites are.

Warp~

On the drive to the show a friend and I were talking about our various arcade experiences, at least the few we did have growing up. I recalled my first experience at the Metreon in San Francisco when it opened. There was a particular machine that stuck with me, a multiplayer third person arena shooter which used a trackball to look left and right and a joystick for movement. It always stuck with me but I couldn’t think of the name at the time. While doing our initial walk around the show, we came across 4 cabinets, each with the same white trackball I remember from childhood. The game is The Grid by Midway and it is still as fantastic as I remembered. It’s those types of stories that encapsulate the event to me.

As a result I don’t see myself missing California Extreme hereafter. It’s something that the Penny Arcade Expo lacks and an experience you just can’t get many places anymore. If you ever get a chance I highly recommend going.

As a side note, one of the first things I did upon getting home was buying Pinball Arcade on my PS3 and getting one of the table packs with it. I have had the iOS 99 cent version since it released but I needed my fix until it arrives on PC!

37 Comments

How to improve TNT

I have been a devoted fan of the weekly TNT feature since it's incarnation, but I've noticed a few trends that are making the experience less fun than it could be. I have a few suggestions that hopefully make their way to the staff.The feature as it stands now gets its entertainment value solely based on what game they choose to play each week. These TNTs have resulted in a less talkative quick look for two hours. I feel like it is missing the potential of what this feature is supposed to be. It's a chance to play something with the community and mimic a casual gathering with friends. There are several changes they can make to capture this feeling.

I would love it if they took these TNTs as an opportunity to try something new with the game they wouldn't normally do as reviewers. Stuff like finding little easter eggs, glitches, or using different tactics to present some sort of new unorthodox challenge (akin to Dave drinking and driving in GT5).

It should be pass and play as well. They usually have numerous members of Whiskey on the couch sitting in on these, but it's always the same person playing. Apart from when Coonce asks for a turn, it seems like there was some arbitrary decision off camera that one person gets to play the entire time. As a viewer, it would be much more interesting to see how different people play the game. It would open up more opportunities for surprising moments because of the different experience levels of the game and familiarity with the genre. Jeff was playing the entirety between Tron and Mortal Kombat last time, despite the fact that there were people shuffling in and out, including Alexis, the winner of the scrub league. How come it never occurred to them to have a rematch between Jeff and Alexis? Switching players up will also spark more opportunities for conversation. More people playing will give more insight and experience to share, rather than always speaking as an audience member.

There also isn't really any community feel, despite the community being the focus of these shows. Having more involvement from the staff, as well as the giantbomb community would give it the group dynamic it lacks. Maybe give a prize opportunity for whoever wins the round? Right now it would be no different than if they were playing against randoms, apart from those in the chat who can say, "Hey I got to play with them, cool!"

I love the idea behind this feature, but I really think they need to make changes to keep it entertaining for two hours. There are times where there is just dead air and they look bored and I'd rather them have fun. For our sake and theirs.

Cheers,

-KnifeySpoony

50 Comments

KnifeySpoony's YouTube group assignment

Hey there giantbombers, hope all is well! 
 
For one of my courses this semester my group and I had to make a youtube video. Original content and at least 2 minutes long. We had a few videos before this one but they all were on the borderline of the rules our professor set. Have a look! 
    
  
edit: Alright for some reason the embedded video shows up when I click post, but it doesn't show up when it's submitted. Here's the link.  
  

 This is a semester long competition to see who gets the most views, so any and all views are greatly appreciated.  I'm also interested if other members here have made videos for school or for fun and want to share them, let's seem 'em! 
 
Cheers, 
-KnifeySpoony 
 
p.s. We don't have much hope in winning, so I want to share my favorite video from this project.

8 Comments

A 2010 list (of gaming :O)

Rather than post a top 10 list of games that came out this year, I felt I should post the best games that I played for the first time this year. There are a few older games I finally got around to and thought were amazing and there are still a few from this year (Halo: Reach and AC: Brotherhood) that I have here but have yet to play. A lot of games I played came from sales I saw at the time, which had a lot to do with what games I had.
 
So with all that in mind, let's begin!
 
#10 Project Gotham Racing 4 - I've wanted to play this game for quite a while and so early on in the year I picked it up for $8 or so. I'm happy it did as everything about it felt fresh, even this year. The varied objectives to progress, the graphics and the driving provide a rewarding experience that's still great fun today.  
 
#9 Dawn of War 2
- Again, I had interest in playing this for quite a while, especially after hearing stories on the Idle Thumbs podcast. I'm not good at RTS games, but playing this cooperatively made it very easy to grasp and fun to play. I've also put more hours into the Last Stand mode than I like to think about. I would love for them to expand that idea further in future iterations.
 
#8 Magic The Gathering: Duels of the Planeswalkers
- Funny enough, I never thought I would own this game when I did. I also never thought I would have over 50 hours playing it. Thanks a ton to Driadon for gifting it out of the blue. Yes, it has flaws like the inability to customize the entire decks, but it still captured the feeling I had as a kid in middle school playing with my friends during lunch.

#7 Starcraft II - I was in the beta for the game for a while and during that period I was anally abused repeatedly, to the point where I vowed to never buy the game. Well, then more and more people started clamoring about it, including friends of mine who don't play too many games. The talk didn't stop which led to my eventual purchase. I was relentless in trying to learn at least a way to win a game as a result. Things eventually clicked and though I don't see myself ever going past bronze/silver, I've had loads of fun in the process. I still have most of the campaign to play as well, so I'm excited to continue into the new year.
 
#6 Battlefield Bad Company 2/Vietnam - It had been a long since a Battlefield game came out on PC, so I was extremely excited for this one. Fortunately it delivered in what I wanted which was explosions everywhere causing ditches and buildings to collapse while gunning with my brohos. I now have over 100 hours clocked in the vanilla game, and the Vietnam expansion has kept things fresh by switching between the two. The game also sparked one of the dumbest things ever with jim_dandy. 

#5 Red Dead Redemption - I love this game. The scope of the world and all of the ambient challenges hooked me nonstop. However, because I wasn't able to finish the story over the summer, I never really made progress thereafter. Mostly because my limited play sessions consisted of doing the challenges. I'm starting to get spoiled on the story almost everywhere so I've been doing strictly story missions this break and hopefully I'll finish it soon.
 
#4 F1 2010
- This is one of the most rewarding driving models I have ever experienced. It had a rough release as there were a ton of bugs, including ones that made the career mode basically unplayable. However, the actual driving is what matters and they nailed the cars in every way. The feel, the sound, the speed, everything. This game was also the first time I had ever attempted to organize an online league of any sort (this happened on NeoGAF). A 9 race season with the maximum 12 players online. It was easily the most fun I had online, maybe ever,  and I can't wait for our 2nd season. I should note that Codemasters did release a patch which fixed a handful of the bigger bugs so the career mode is worth playing now too.
 
#3 Max Payne 2
- This was actually the first game I played this year, as a result of steam's holiday sale 2009. I paid $2.50 for it and it ended up being one of the best single players I've played. The main draw for me was just how dark everything about it was, and not in a campy way. It was something I had never seen before and I adored it. I think everyone should play it at some point, it definitely holds up.

#2 Batman: Arkham Asylum - I'll preface this by saying this is the game I finished most recently. Another pick up from a steam sale, I can't believe I was ever doubted buying it before. This is a solid game all the way through. The gameplay varies when it needs to which kept me hooked. I found myself getting close to the end and having to stop as I wanted to save every last bit as long as I could before it was over. Incredible game, can't wait for the next one now.
 
#1 Mass Effect 2
- I can't help it. The Mass Effect universe is probably my favorite thing from this generation of consoles. Though the overall story was underwhelming and essentially the same as the first game, the characters that you are surrounded with this time around are such vast improvements that it outweighs any fault I found with the game. Mass Effect 3 is my most anticipated game, I just hope BioWare is a bit more creative in how it finishes.
 
Thanks for reading everyone, what a fucking year for gaming. :)

4 Comments

YEYEEESSssss

Okay thtis is probably the worst possible idea but it's my 21st birthday, I'm drunk and I love all those whom I've gotten to know from the giantbomb community. You guys, you guys here yeah, you guys are pretty cool guys. Just sayin'. 
 
It's finals week for most uni students, myself included, hope everyone is coping well and succeeds in their endeavors. As a result I haven't been able to go out yet with friends, but rather drink at home with family, which is nice in it's own right. Also music with my headphones, which caused me to climax, hot damn. 
 
I'm sorry and thankful, those of giantbomb. Happy holidays.
 
Cheers

20 Comments