Ahah! Another list, see? Dakka-dakka-dakka! (That’s my text-based Chicago gangster with a Tommy Gun impression – good huh?)
I didn’t play every game that came out this year. In fact, realistically, I don’t really play that many new games in general. It’s hard when you’re short on cash, and – in the months from August to November – free time. But here’s the top five of what I did play, that came out this year, and the platforms upon which I did so, SO EAT IT.
Note: Minecraft is probably my most played game this year, but as that game “came out” last year, and has not yet reached final release status, I have chosen not to include it. But still, that game – and make no mistake, it is a game – deserves all of the praise it gets, if you are like me, a compulsive maker of things, and waster of time. But if I did include it, it would probably make #3.
5. VVVVVV (PC)
The relationship I have with this game is similar to the one I had with Braid last year. Like so many indie games in recent years, it’s a platformer based around a mechanic. Except unlike Braid, there are no variations on this mechanic. It is one single mechanic pushed to unbelievable extremes by a constantly changing world. VVVVVV‘s mechanic is simple: you cannot jump – instead, you can flip from ceiling to floor and vice versa. That’s it. The world is a continuous map of complex winding tunnels and obstacles, divided up into individual screens. The whole aesthetic is wonderfully retro – from the graphics to the music, this is a game which convincingly looks like a game that could have run on hardware from the mid-late 80s, but with enough post-modern game design flair that it could never have been conceived in those days. It’s a game you have to play to understand, and you have to play well to complete.
4. Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Wii)
I feel bad about how little I actually played of SMG2, but I let my various negative tendencies conspire against me this year in a horrible way that affected almost everything – leisure time included. Anyway, SMG2 does everything right, much like SMG1. It is in fact more of that game. It’s nice to see more of the 2D gravity play stuff, as that was always really effective in the first, and Yoshi is a great addition too. It’s nothing short of amazing that Nintendo found so many new ways to mess around with the gravity-play of Galaxy, so soon after the first, but lo and behold, they totally did it. Just when everyone was beginning to doubt Nintendo’s traditional game-making skills.
3. Rock Band 3 (XBox 360)
Much as with Civ V, Rock Band 3 is more of the same, but better. The interface, the drop-in system, the addition of keyboards, pro instruments, the new career mode construct, the whole package is just better than previous Rock Bands. The whole Rock Band genre was something of a discovery this year (and an expensive one at that), with me flatmate and cousin getting Rock Band Beatles, and me taking up a regular position at the plastic drum kit for the various other titles in the series.
2. Sid Meier’s Civilization V (PC)
Civ V represents a long-awaited complete rebuild of the ageing franchise from the ground up. From the hex-based map to single-unit combat to the extensive streamlining of the interface, this is a Civ game that does almost everything better. There are a few new quirks that take some getting used to, like the massive role city states play, and the new diplomacy options. You soon get used to this of course, and the basic result is that Civ V is easier to play, yet under its surface, is as complex and endlessly variable as it ever was.
1. Mass Effect 2 (PC)
No-brainer really. One hell of a game. Better in every conceivable way than the first Mass Effect, and by far the best realised sci-fi world in a videogame, and probably in any medium for years. It’s a universe in the Star Trek mould – many races co-existing – with a more hard sci-fi edge, and a lot more shades of grey. Everything has some speculative scientific basis, but more than that, the world is populated by well fleshed-out characters whose in-depth stories take place across a range of extremely believable yet unique worlds. This is masterful storytelling, married to a much improved 3rd person gun-play and cover system, and the whole package is much grander in scale than the original. More missions, more characters, more environments. Roll on Mass Effect 3.