Rich Gallup is Executive Producer for Disruptor Beam, home of Game of Thrones: Ascent and Star Trek Timelines. Ben Coello is Senior Cinematics Artist for ArenaNet, working on Guild Wars 2. You may remember them from Fart Cat!, or as the acclaimed duo behind Giant Bomb’s 2008 Award for Best Product From Someone We All Used to Work With. Rich is on Twitter. Ben is not.
Hey Everybody! A year ago we created Dad Strength, a weekly podcast for folks like us who have limited free time (thanks to kids, careers, double lives, etc.) and could benefit from advice on which video games, movies, and TV shows feel worthy of their attention. As life continues to force us to adjust to the decreased number of games in our library, we find ourselves appreciating great game experiences more than ever. Especially the following!
Ben and Rich’s Best Online Multiplayer Session: Earth Defense Force 2025
Rich: One such experience was the only multiplayer session we had together in all of 2014. Let’s blow right past that sentence so we don’t get bummed out. Being on opposite coasts and surrounded by rapidly growing toddlers, we had to schedule our lone game of EDF 2025 weeks in advance. Our plan paid off with the fun gameplay familiar from the pre-Insect Armageddon EDF games, rife with Starship Troopers and Aliens references from the two of us. There are bigger and better multiplayer games out there, but that bug hunt was our favorite multiplayer session of the year.
Ben: That’s right, Rich. Who needs a logical story, competent voice acting, or any graphical improvements when you can still blow up bugs real good? This game proves that fun gameplay trumps all. And now the bugs can be blown into little pieces! EDF! EDF!
Game That Rich’s Wife Told Him to Stop Playing: Marvel Puzzle Quest
Yeaaaaaah, I played Marvel Puzzle Quest too much. C’mon, it’s Puzzle Quest! On your phone! And once you are in the ceaseless rhythm of competing in events for new Marvel characters, it’s hard to stop. Like “You really need to put that phone down” “Hmm?” “I mean it” hard.
Ben’s Lunch Break Award: Brutal Doom
We’re going to keep bringing up our kids because THEY ARE EVERYWHERE. Except at work, where I hoard games that are enjoyable in small chunks to be played during lunch. The Brutal Doom mod shoves the original demon blaster kicking and screaming into the modern era, updating the weapons, adding tons of blood splatter, screams of agony and a whole lot more. It’s surprising how much this old game can still quicken my pulse, and if you’ve got even a passing interest in Doom or FPS games, I suggest you check this one out.
Really Good Game that Rich Played Just Before These Awards So He Knowingly Lacks Perspective on Where it Ranks for the Year: Valiant Hearts: The Great War
Valiant Hearts looks great, tells a nice story, and softens its lessons on the horrors of World War I with a happy puppy. The game is an easily recommendable experience, especially since it’s so easy to play, but it’s hard to place it among my top games of 2014. I just finished playing it this week and need some time to see how long it personally resonates. Time I don’t have before this article is due, so I’ll give it this bald-faced compromise of an acknowledgement/award instead. Cheers! On to our individual Top 3 games of 2014!
Ben’s #3: Cavern Kings
Like anybody, I’ve been mulling over ideas that I want to see incorporated into a game. Procedurally generated levels. Endlessly stackable weapon powerups. World destruction. Digging. Finally, somebody stole my dream journal, made a game with all this stuff and called it Cavern Kings. And it turns out my dreams are pretty darn fun to play. Cavern Kings is an action platform shooting rogue like-type thing, where your goal is to dig into deeper and deeper caverns collecting as much loot as possible before dying and then doing it all over. This one can also be played in short bursts and it’s a ton of fun.
Rich’s #3: South Park: The Stick of Truth
South Park: The Stick of Truth represents an exciting achievement for video games. It captures the feeling of playing an episode of the show to a near-flawless degree. The art, animation style, effects, characters, dialog, and humor are all there. It’s an incredible feat worthy of study, mixed with solid RPG mechanics. Unless the next South Park game ships on Okama GameSphere, I don’t know how they can top this sense of immersion. Obsidian Entertainment should probably just switch to making Time Trotters games.
Ben’s #2: Dark Souls
I like short gaming sessions, so it takes a lot for me to be drawn into a game that takes many, long chunks to complete, like Dark Souls. The one that came out in 2011, that I only just got around to playing. A lot is said about the difficulty, and you are going to die quite a bit, but I rarely felt like my death was a result of the game being cheap. Instead, every death felt like a little lesson, teaching me a better strategy, demanding that I play better and smarter. I think I will take these lessons to heart as I raise my children. They will only become stronger as I defeat them at every turn.
Rich’s #2: Jazzpunk
If Ben’s dream journal game of 2014 is Cavern Kings, mine is Jazzpunk. Somebody on Twitter once compared their Steam library to an untouched vinyl collection and mine is no different. I never play games on my computer, but I still buy games to show support for the developers, or I’m hunting for Frog Fractions 2, or I naively believe I’ll have time to play it. I stumbled upon some of that time between appointments at this year’s Star Trek convention in Las Vegas, AKA the perfect setting for immersing myself in Jazzpunk’s style and artfully cohesive brand of weird fun. It’s truly the “standing in line behind Mr. Homn at a casino mini-mart” of video games.
Ben’s Game of the Year: Titanfall
Do you like Call of Duty-style/FPS competitive multiplayer-type electronic experiences? Do you harbor a deep and abiding love for all sorts of giant robot creations, anime or not? Do you dream about boost-assisted, superhuman, parkour-style movement? If you answered yes to these questions, do you want to hang out sometime because I’m into all of that stuff as well, and I bet we’d be good friends? And then, when we’re hanging out, we should play Titanfall, because it has all those elements blended together and carefully balanced. Respawn has done an admirable job releasing updates with new features and modes. Skipping across rooftops while dodging fire from giant mechs is just way too much fun, and no other game has compelled me to return and play it more than Titanfall. For this, it has earned the title of Ben’s Game of the Year.
Rich’s Game of the Year: Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag
I entered the current generation of consoles with Black Flag, and found a gorgeous and welcome return to the smooth mechanics and conspiracy storytelling that I expect from my favorite franchise while addressing aspects that came up short in Assassin’s Creed III. The ocean felt vast and explorable compared to AC III’s forest, the island terrain was more suitable for parkour-ery, the naval combat was expanded nicely and I found the “real world” scenes within Abstergo Entertainment a cleaner, more engaging addition to the Assassins versus Templars lore than that business with Desmond and Juno. The game even made being a pirate cool, which I had on good authority was no longer possible. (We’re strictly a ninja household.) Who is up for some shanties?
Thanks for reading everybody! We recorded a podcast version of these awards that may already be live over at DadStrength.tv. Hope you enjoy it!