Gaming – Year in Review


2010 was another embarrassment of riches for gamers. Although, the big three game consoles reached new lows as a experience (I will try to get into it, in a future post). Here are some of my highlights from various categories of my choosing. I hope to list My Top Ten Games for 2010, in another post later, as I work to complete my backlog.

 

Check my game lists for reference: 2010 games played and big 2010 games I missed.

Favorite Arcade Game

Pinball FX 2 (360)– This was not on my radar. I already had the brilliant William’s Pinball Collection after all.  Zen studios shows they have a great appreciation for real pinball and physics, then added things to make it better. The first smart move was putting all their 16+ tables in one game. The FX 2 core package includes 4 excellent tables. Secret’s of the Deep, BioLab, Pasha, and Rome. The tables feature beautiful artwork and you will soon see that these would not be possible in the real world, dispite their authentic appearance. Their are so many things to find in each table, even more then best tables at the arcade. The special part is friend and leaderboard integration. You are always be trying to beat daily, weekly, and all time scores. It makes great use of xbox live avatars and you will see them pop up as you near a milestone. If you get on top, your avatar is given the crown for that table. So many carrots to keep you going, as well as some tricky achievements in each table. You can build your collection by getting a new table for as low as $2.50. They recently released some great Marvel Comic based tables with strong support for future releases. This gets my vote as my favorite downloadable game,  because this will be in my  play rotation for as long as my Xbox is running. The other great downloadable titles this year, will be appreciated— then likely, tucked away forever.

Runner up: Pac Man Championship Edition DX (360/PS3)– It’s hard to believe Pac Man is still relivent in 2010 and it’s never been this much fun. This builds on Championship Edition from 2005, by eliminating even more frustration from the series—like dying and not clearing a board. It pumps up the good times—like eating 30+ ghosts in a row, then gobbling your 40th fruit. They also, pack in a crazy amount of mazes, modes and art styles with one the catchiest theme songs you will hear. The trippy neon glowy particles will make you say, oooooohhh! This game awesome.

Games you must play (even if you hate them)

Building from my previous post.  These are flawed games with criticism leveled at them that are mostly true, but worthwhile and fun despite it.

Fable 3 (360)– Nothing can whittle away the hours more pleasantly, then questing in Fable 3. Their is not much challenge or penalty to stop you from whipping foes—switching from gun, sword and magic assigned to a single button. Their is also a decidedly beautiful world to explore — part fantasy, industrial steam punk, and british hilarity. Another button takes you to your Sanctuary, were John Cleese acts as your butler and guide. You may change outfits to a chicken suit or just admire your pile of riches in your trophy room. If questing becomes too much—you can fart in your neighbors face, get blotto at the pub, start an orgy, a family or adopt a poor orphan. Their all types of naughty and nice ways to have fun in Albion, if the lack of polish or game ending glitches don’t spoil it.

Runner up: Epic Mickey (Wii)– With Mickey’s appearance on the Wii this year, Nintendo now has the most beloved, one-two punch of family-friendly characters on any platform. Warren Spector and Disney Interactive have written a love letter to early Disney cartoons and their storied history . Ever meet Oswald, the lucky rabbit or like to revisit Mickey’s first cartoon, Steamboat Willie? It’s all here in a Disneyland gone wrong, thanks to Mickey’s harmful mischief, populated by forgotten Disney characters from the early days of animation. Mickey has a  paint and thinner paint brush mechanic, where you either can restore or destroy the environment. How you play will make the outcome of the story different. I don’t see adventure platformers quite like this anymore, not even from Nintendo. I quite enjoyed getting caught up in this world, despite some annoyance with control and camera.

The best quotes about Epic Mickey across the web I read are:

Disney Epic Mickey is indeed a platformer, and a very good one at that. In fact, the game is reminiscent of the classic Nintendo 64 platformers like Super Mario 64, Banjo-Kazooie and Donkey Kong 64 in many ways, and that’s a compliment.”  from G4.tv review

“If you want to be the coolest gift giver ever, take your recipient to visit the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco. The refurbished building in the Presidio features plenty of the animator’s early work and will enhance players’ appreciation for “Epic Mickey.” GameWit blog, Press Democrat.

Most Creative Game

Heavy Rain (PS3)- gave me a new experience, almost as if it was developed in a vacuum, from all “mature” mainstream games that seem to come from the mind of a 13-year old boy. Heavy Rain has lofty ambitions in creating a game for real grown-ups and a knack for creating cinematic tension with quicktime events that actually work. Being a defenseless woman attacked by home intruders and trying to escape the experiments of a crazy doctor provided my most intense moments in gaming this year. Creativity is provided in the control scheme, that try to mimic your movements in real live. You’ll find yourself engaged in mundane tasks like shaving, drinking orange juice and playing with your son at a playground. In a world of constant rain, you’ll inhibit the bodies of the four different leads to solve the mystery of the origami killer. The camera angles and soundtrack really feel out of a top- tier movie. Too bad the control and stilted movement of your character, really hurt this otherwise stunning, unique achievement.

Runner up: Kirby’s Epic Yarn (Wii)– uses the yarn and fabric aesthetic to create a beautifully charming game. Kirby is made of  yarn and will transform into other objects like a tank, car, or submarine. Each level and it’s enemies are different and chock full of great ideas. Kirby’s Epic Yarn uses its creative aesthetic to its full advantage, with a surprise just around the corner. The game also just makes you smile and features a great co-op mode for people with different skill sets. The challenge is their if you want it, but will let you skate through every level without the penalty of dying and very little frustration. This is a kid game that adults will find plenty to like too.

Best Co-op Game

Halo Reach (Xbox 360)- Halo blew me away years ago with one of the finest implementations of online co-op in a game. That polish keeps coming with Bungie’s swan song, which adds 4 player co-op and new levels of individual customization. Playing through story with someone and coordinating attacks on some of the best enemy a.i. found in a fps, can be very rewarding. Every moment will never play out the same and is that much more impressive when comparing it to the brain dead a.i. of the Call of Duty series. Knowing someone has got your back, riding together in a warthog and taking to the skies in a Banshee, is as fun as ever. Adding new jetpacks made for an awesome yet, maybe still too familiar, experience.

Runner up: RockBand 3 (360/PS3)- Puts together the great 3-part harmonies of the Beatles into it flagship product  and a easy way to add /drop people when playing songs. With a huge song list that carry over from the first 2 games with no-fail mode always turned on, this the pinnacle of music/karaoke party games. This also has great career band progression and weekly updated music store, provides content that can you keep coming back for years. I wish it had more success from gamers, burnt out by the genre’s over- exposure. This deserves more then a fad label it has received.

  

Best Graphics


Infinity Blade (iPhone)- The most jaw dropping graphics I experienced this year came from an unexpected place, my phone. Not only did it blow away the psp, the highest benchmark for portable gaming, it actually seems on par with a Xbox 360. With John Carmack’s Rage engine and now Unreal on the iPhone. The device has proved to go way beyond Angry Birds. It also is still proves that I’m not sure I want to play these type of games on my phone.

Runner up: God of War 3 (PS3)- It’s over-the-top and bombastic—but this is another case that when developed specifically for the platform, the PS3 provides the best graphics on a console. Now if only the third-party stuff can show that.



Best Trend of 2010

The racing genre had a awesome year that needs some recognition, because sales did not show it. It all started on May 25 with the release of three excellent arcade racers; Split/Second, Blur and ModNation Racers. We then received the best F1 racing game to date, F1 2010, thanks to a nice reboot from Codemasters. Followed by the long awaited release of Gran Turismo 5 in November. Then Criterion Games sucessfully resurrected a franchise with the  best game in it’s history, Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit. Arcade racing is one of my favorite genres, and this is maybe it’s best year ever. It’s also likely  the last we will get anything like it.

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