Touch Arcade Review
forksclovetofu: Amazing Breaker was among the first apps I bought when I got my iPad and it was absolutely the gateway drug that make me realize the potential for the touchpad + iOS as a legit game system. Think Breakout with sculptures instead of walls and a slingshot mechanism instead of a paddle and you’re most of the way there. The loose collision fields and just-right physics made this a joy to play and easy to return to so I could three-star every level. Even at 2x expansion, the graphics are crisp and pretty and the gameplay is miles beyond Angry Birds.
Let’s begin by stirring the pot a little with some food for thought and discussion as ILG’s own Mordy discusses The State of Gaming Crit in 2011.
Here are my credentials for opining on gaming criticism in 2011:
1. I read a lot of gaming crit.
2. It is mostly terrible.
I realized we were in trouble when reading Slate’s 2011 end of year multi-part round table on the state of gaming. However many years ago it was that I read Slate’s first round table, I was primarily thrilled that anyone would deem gaming worthy of writing about in the first place. I’ve had rich somatic experiences playing video games – addictive experiences where I play through the night, intellectual experiences where I solve puzzles or problems or develop strategies for handling challenges, emotive ones where I am touched and moved by a development. It has been clear to me for a long while that if writing can illuminate and convey serious phenomenological experiences to readers, then there should absolutely be great writing about video games by now. But it’s 2012 already. The NY Times reviews AAA titles (and sometimes even iPhone titles). Andrew Sullivan runs ridiculous tripe about Angry Birds every other week. The AV Club reviews games every week (NB: their Sawbuck Gamer column is a bright light in a blighted field of subparcolumns). Even that bastion of cutting-edge gaming journalism, Time Magazine, had a list of top 10 games of the year. So I’m expecting a little bit more out of Slate than the regular, masturbatory “what IS gaming about, anyway?” schtick. But that’s what I got.
Worse: All over that Slate piece were expressions of world-weariness and boredom. Tom Bissell, who seems like a nice enough guy but whose primary contribution thus far to gaming criticism has been a half-okay essay about how doing lines of cocaine increases the verisimilitude of GTA IV, decides to talk at length about how he can’t be bothered to finish games anymore. He only needs to play them for an hour or two and then he’s “got it,” and doesn’t need to bother. He treats this like a virtue — that he’s so sophisticated about the ludic elements of gaming that he grasps them immediately and doesn’t need to waste his time. Not only does this ignore the précis that his big GTA insight was that a game can own your life – can invade your living space and imprint itself upon your imaginative space and basically take control – but it pretends as though he’s an enlightened spirit for not caring that much. It’s essentially taking the same tact I’ve been hearing about games for years – that they are a juvenile waste of time – and rephrasing it to sound fresh. This is a guy, by the way, who having been given free reign by Bill Simmons’ Grantland to write about whatever he wants has chosen to write about Madden NFL, Skyrim, Uncharted 3, Batman: Arkham City, Catherine, Dead Island, Gears of War and Angry Birds. With the (kinda?) exception of Catherine, his scope of vision is confined to the biggest, most-mainstream titles being released. Some of those games are great, don’t get me wrong; Skyrim and Arkham City are certainly high on my own Coint and Plick ballot. But with all the journalistic freedom in the world, this is how curious he is? What a missed opportunity.
Okay, now I feel like I’m just bashing Bissell, but it’s hardly only his fault. Kill Screen, the independent gaming criticism site that not only stole Pitchfork’s insider-deep model of reviewing music but actually signed up to publish game reviews on Pitchfork’s website, is a source that does review interesting and new games but generally takes profoundly vapid approaches to talking about them. Apparently having decided that the only way to create legitimacy around video gaming is to engage in over-the-top sentiment, Kill Screen has become so embarrassingly pompous that even Proust (well, Stanley Cavell at least) would tell them to tone down the sappiness. If Bissell is constructing a secret history of dismissiveness, Kill Screen is implicitly suggesting that the only valid vernacular of games is one where we’re barely talking about games. Instead we’re talking about feeling up high school girlfriends, or about how this game is just like how life is like a game, dude.
There’s one guy that I think was doing it right in 2011 and that’s Tom Chick. I first read Chick in Computer Gaming World, where he helmed Tom Vs Bruce. He’d take a game, often an RTS or a turn-based strategy war-game and play against his counterpart Bruce while recording their commentary about the game as it was being played. It was routinely amazing and not because Chick is an incredible writer (he’s got journeyman chops but nothing flashy), but because the writing was about how gamers actually play games, what happens when different pieces of design and execution gel together. He described complex systems and how they affected his enjoyment of play. We saw him fail or succeed. He does much the same thing now on QuarterToThree. The telling point is that even though it’s rare that I agree with his opinion about games (he often seems to contrarily set himself against big releases), when he rewards a title with a great review, I feel like that’s reason enough to check it out. His obsession with gaming inflames my own. His personal website features numerous playthrough diaries and his forums are overflowing with fans who play together and organize massive season long Madden games where every in game player has a real world player controlling it. These are people who love Pinball FX2 with a passion generally reserved for fine wine, people who have formed a community around loving games because they love games. They’re not trying to convince Ebert that games are art. They’re trying to have fun.
In some ways, 2011 was my personal worst year for gaming yet. I had my first kid and, as any gamer with a kid can tell you, you don’t get to game much for a long time afterward. I was really excited after we ferberized the little girl because that meant I might be able to sneak in an hour or two of gaming after she went to sleep. Even as a new father, I still played far more focused hours than the average casual gamer would consider healthy; my C+P ballot easily could have included twenty or more games. The problem is not the market. As far as I’m concerned, video games still offer plenty of thrills and anyone who was disappointed by this year’s crop was either not paying attention or just hasn’t figured out how to properly communicate natural enthusiasm through writing.
It’s depressing that so much gaming criticism is depressing because the games certainly aren’t depressing at all! They’re beautiful and exciting and they take up way too much of my time and space… both my actual tactile manipulation space (I love holding an Xbox controller) and my mental space. Reading serious contemporary video game crit, I feel like I’m mostly reading the work of people who honestly don’t care for or about games. They care about being at the forefront of a new body of critical literature so that maybe they can be considered the Lester Bangs of video games one day. Or they just want to develop a website where they can be a Pitchfork-style tastemaker. Or they’re just so unsure about how to best address the new, wider, non-gaming market that they use methods of writing and language about gaming that ignores the intrinsic truths of playing games in the first place.
The secret is that what is appealing about gaming is the gaming, not the literary illusions or the intellectual property being exploited or that, ya know, this game right here (Braid! Limbo! Bastion! Passage!) might finally, seriously, actually, really be art and you love art, don’t you dear reader? So see? Games aren’t that bad. But games are bad! They’re bad in the way that Woody Allen said sex is dirty; only if it’s done right. The things that most often turn people off to games are the things that make them great in the first place.
As a for instance: think about how difficult most games are to play, much less gain mastery of. I am sure the sequel to YOU DIED, Dark Souls, is going to place high on this year’s list and part of the reason it evokes so much love from its fans is because it’s nigh on impossible right up until the point you figure out a personal, difficult, evolving strategy to cope and when that fails, you have to figure out another tactic until finally it all works and suddenly you feel like you’re a better human being. You have gained an admittedly untranslatable skill (no one will ever get a degree in killing that particular demon in that particular corridor) but a skill nonetheless; you can do something you couldn’t do before. Or another example of the seduction of difficulty that’s hard to translate to clean critical prose: when you game online against thirteen-year-old kids who yell sexual and racial epithets at you while they’re shooting you in the head for hours, the frustration can be excruciating, but as you slowly grow better and better until you’re fragging them, damned if it doesn’t feel good. As bad as it feels to lose is as good as it feels to win. That feeling is powerful. It matters. You can’t tell the story of the game unless you tell the story of how it feels to play it.
The ideal literary critic doesn’t provide a consumer guide and they’re not supposed to judge the value of literature. A great critic creates a parallel paradigm that discourses with, not about, the material. That paradigm is what allows a thing to be great; essentially you can’t have great literature without great literary critics. Critics establish an audience that allows the work to rise to the highest possible plateau, but they also can transcend, through properly articulated appreciation, what makes a work most gorgeous and significant. It’s the second more than the first that is missing in video game criticism today.
The popular opinion is that we are in a pre-Cervantes stage of video gaming; still awaiting our proof of greatness. Ignore for a moment that there was literature of merit being written in the pre-Cervantes era and that, should we choose to pick up this gauntlet, the games we played in 2011 meet that standard. Focus instead on the possibility that if we want to embrace gaming’s Cervantes era that we may need writing gamers, not gaming writers, who can find the Cervantes in the games we have. And not just in games like Braid or Limbo that wear their artiness on their sleeves, but in games where one would never expect to find beauty or deeper meaning. We may discover that the beauty and joy we bring to gaming is the missing element that will elevate games, in spite of ourselves, to the level of art. You’ll know you’re reading great game criticism when the author evokes the joy of gaming, not of reading. They’ll make you excited that you’re still a gamer, sneaking in that hour while your child sleeps. You’ll know you’re reading great game criticism because when you’re done reading, the first thing you’ll want to do is start to play again.
Welcome to 2011, the year when EVERYONE was a gamer. The iOS revolution, the dropping prices in this generation’s systems, the fallout from Angry Birds, the novelty of cross-platform motion controls, the continuing evolution of the “art” game, the proliferation of sequels, the broadest acceptance of gaming as a force by mainstream press that could attract eyeballs… pick your reason, but 2011 felt like the first time video games had accelerated into a post-acceptance mode and were simply a dominant media form. Not just for kids anymore.
Coint and Plick offers a peek into the mind of a cross-section of Joe Average gamers; forty guys and gals from their teens into their forties who still enjoy a good orc rampage/bullet hell/spaceflight/historical sim/roguelike/sports fantasy. Much more than giving the reader a definitive “top ten”, Coint and Plick is meant as opportunity for the busy gamer to acquaint him/herself with potential missed highlights that are available at discounted prices at an e-store near you. That we are doing this poll WELL after the turn of the year is no accident; I wanted people to have time to really gather their thoughts and estimate what they love. We’re not in it for hitcount, we’re in it for history and, more immediately, the edification of our fellow gamers. After all, everything on here is good enough to make SOMEONE’s top ten of the year. You can hardly go wrong.
The poll was taken in Pazz and Jop style vote/point format: all voters had 100 points to divide among any ten games released in 2011. The maximum number of points each entry could receive was no more than thirty. In the end, 128 games were nominated. Rather than just peel off the top half, I’ve opted to list everything that got a vote here, along with a few links, images and YouTubes of note. We’ll have slightly more detailed entries for the top fifty games.
In case of a tie breaker, I went by number of people who voted for a game first and number of people who listed the game as their #1 of the year second. As in past years, in the interests of people’s ability to load these image-heavy threads, I’ll be starting a new thread for every twenty five or so entries and interlink the threads.
Bear in mind that not every voter used the full amount of points they had at their disposal, so the numbers don’t crunch exactly. User comments for these games come from individual ballots as well as from past ILG posts; I’ve done a bit of editing to streamline but I’ve made every effort to maintain your meaning. My apologies if you feel misquoted; feel free to correct me on this thread.
I’ll be trying to add roughly between three and five entries per day. If you feel that we’re moving too slowly, may I recommend that you go play some of the games listed? That’s what this is all about!
292 points, 18 votes, 4.5 TOP GAME votes
Matt D: It’s pretty much pitch-perfect Western from the voice work to the vistas. The world has a great amount of verisimilitude and immersion, and a sort of weird self-awareness. At one point while searching for buried treasure, I realized I was in a cactus-free zone and the very moment I said to myself, “Damn, what am I doing here?”, Marsten said, “What am I doing out here?” Creepy, Rockstar. Everything sort of reacts as you’d expect: bandits are bandits, varmints are varmints, coyotes are coyotes. The combat is a step up from GTA IV (which I found a bit anachronistic); there’s endless freedom to explore and the storyline is surprisingly good. This competes for the top spot among Rockstar’s many offerings for sure. Can we have Tokyo next?
Mitch Krpata: This being a Rockstar game, the story of Marston’s quest for revenge — and, yes, redemption — is adorned with endless side missions and mini-games. At their best, they flesh out the world. What would an Old West setting be without some back-room poker? Some of this is busy work, like the series of challenges that send Marston into the wilds to hunt game under increasingly stringent conditions. Yet it’s all worth pursuing just to experience the harsh environs, and to marvel, evenings, at the red sky in the West. Rockstar builds incredible worlds. Red Dead still showcased some of their worse qualities, but it also gave us their most compelling hero and their most beautiful environment.
n/a: Admittedly this is pretty much the only 2010 game I played in 2010, but it’s also almost the perfect game for me. I feel justified in naming it the best game of the year.
jjjusten: Loved it to death until it became terribly terribly samey and boring; find the herb/critter hunting quests for level ups are total bullshit. On the plus side, this is the first game where riding a horse didn’t make me want to break shit in my house. It looks absolutely gorgeous.
Lamp: There are so many aspects of Red Dead Redemption that I found deeply stupid ,but its one of the rare games i felt compelled to finish this year. Others will, I’m sure, write more fluently and more passionately about it but damn did I ever… uh… finish it.
ledge: Who knew a GTA clone set in a desert (wait a minute, that’s literally a sandbox…) would be so fun. Less irritatingly repetitive gameplay than GTA IV, a more engaging story and and less ridiculous cutscenes; plus it was good fun just to chill out in the desert and spend some time shooting rabbits and coyotes and pumas and armadillos and bears and crows and wolves and boar and eagles and… I do agree that the missions end up being repetitive, but it’s not as bad as GTA IV was for that, and also the various challenges do add a bit of spice. Okay, picking herbs gets a bit dull but i had fun trying to find all the different critters to kill, searching out the treasure, etc. Overall, I’m pretty happy with the depth in the gameplay.
bnw: King Kong of 2010. Writing, atmosphere, and voice acting all on a different level then the rest of the field. Biggest complaint would be that it gets a little grindy with repetitive side quests.
Polyphonic: A few of my friends and I brought our 360s together to play this game as one big posse. It was probably the nerdiest thing I’ve ever done, and caused me to seriously question the life decisions that led me down that path. But fuck it, it was fun. There are few moments in my gaming life that I will ever treasure more than when I killed that bear in the snows of Tall Trees with only my knife, or when I drifted up on my RS to see a starry sky as I hunted for armadillo carapaces — only to be mauled to death by a cougar.
The single player storyline was very good, probably the best Rockstar has done to date, and the closest they’ve come to gameplay that is actually fun in and of itself. But the star of this game is the atmosphere. Also, the zombie overrun multiplayer co-op is fucking great.
Jimmy Mod : I just met my first cougar. The meeting did not go well.
JimD: I didn’t actually finish RDR, and I don’t think it’s that good as a game (it shares a lot of GTA’s flaws while lacking a lot of its dumb fun) but as a world it’s fucking amazing. It just feels like a totally believable immersible recreation of a certain time and place, which is kind of a new thing for games to do, and I hope lots more games do it in the future. Bonus points for multiplayer too, which was good for big stop-shooting-me-in-the-horse lulz.
ZS: The “shoot 5 flying birds from a moving train” challenge was like the chillest assignment I have ever received. If only real life challenges were so relaxing. YES, I want to name my horse, YES I would like to name it Michael Lindington, and NO I don’t care who knows it. I’ve been getting up and down off the horse every time, listening to John Marston say “ooooh…this is DIRTY”
Tracer Hand : i have logged approx 5,000,000,000,000 hours with this game. i was just about ready to launch my assault and unlock mexico but my horse died right before the big race – the one i’d spent hours getting to know! so fuck – i spent a good while looking for the kentucky saddler but never found him so finally i just went on an all-night hunting binge, leveling up enough to buy the kentucky saddler outright
something happened while out hunting that sums up this game, and all its nonsensical, fabulous breathlessness
1 – trying to kill a coyote i somehow ended up aiming straight down into my horse and pulled the trigger (!)
2 – my horse was still alive but my honor dropped and suddenly lawmen were on my tail
3 – trying to outrun them, i heard the sound of a train and realized one was headed past right in front of me
4 – i managed to race the train and dart just in front of it, cutting off the lawmen and saving my sorry ass!
total movie moment
Forks’ RDR Country Soundtrack mix:
Buck Owens – I Got A Tiger By the Tail(1965)
Cherryholmes – Black and White (2007)
Cherryholmes – Don’t Believe (2008)
Anonymous Young Girls – Hopali (1930′s?)
The Carter Family – See That My Grave Is Kept Green (1933)
Cinderella G Stump – Temptation (1947)
The Carter Family – Keep On the Firing Line (1941)
Chet Atkins – Tennessee Stud (?)
Bill Monroe and Doc Watson – Chicken Reel (1963)
Alex Hood’s Railroad Boys – L and N Rag (?)
Alfred G Karnes – I Am Bound for the Promised Land (?)
Alfred G Karnes – We Shall All Be Reunited (?)
Basil May – The Lady of Carlisle (?)
The Carver Boys – Sisco Harmonica Blues (?)
Bascom Lamar Lunsford – Lulu Wall (1939)
Buell Kazee – A Short Life of Trouble (1939)
Charlie Bowman and His Brothers – Moonshiner and His Money (1929)
Blue Highway – Where Did the Morning Go? (2007)
Charlie Poole and The North Carolina Ramblers – If the River Was Whiskey (?)
Cal Stewart – Monkey on a String (?)
Ben Curry – I Heard the Voice of a Pork Chop (?)
Ben Curry – It’s A Fight Like That (?)
Daddy Stovepipe and Mississippi Sarah – The Spasm (?)
Bill Carlisle – Feet Don’t Fail Me (?)
Asher Sizemore and Little Jimmie – Little Jimmie’s Goodbye to Jimmie Rodgers (?)
Mayor Jingleberries: played this drunk last night and my horse got killed by some rampaging animal. So I got upset and starting killing anyone I came across to get their horse. I guess your not allowed to murder fools for their horses when you think its convenient. I guess you’re supposed to find a riderless horse out there…?
goole: i think i’m around the 40% mark, in the game’s second act in Mexico, and i haven’t interacted with one indian yet. i don’t think there are any in the game at all. i think this is significant, somehow. i like that the game is in 1911, a “late western” about the closing of the frontier rather than an early one about opening it. maybe this is just to allow them to put more interesting guns in the game, or riff off the meta-westerns like the wild bunch or there will be blood (a town called plainview? really?). plus it doesn’t shy away from politics at all; every other dude wants to talk to you about federal power. anyway, the setting’s early-20th-century-ness is really present and apparent to me and i’m really liking it. speaking of politics, there’s the politics of Rockstar’s media reputation, and i’m getting ongoing chuckles from the (what i take to be) anti “hot coffee” vibe of the whole thing. no matter which path you take, the John Marston character is (so far) faithful to his wife as a given. the prostitutes say stuff like “”I hate to see a man with such a dry pecker… can I help?”and our killer just says “my wife wouldn’t like that” or something. the writing and v/o is head and shoulders above even IV. the mission design is finally good. the secondary challenges are interesting well-thought out, hit that grinding w/o grinding sweet spot. the body physics and gun combat are excellent (the gta games are kind of bad as shooters, really!) I’m not totally without complaints but most of the things that bugged me about the GTAs have been mostly fixed. and the things it does well it does really really well. you can’t underestimate how important it is to have a game be pretty. funny i think it’s closest to bully in terms of uh vibe, maybe cos of the atmosphere and hazy old-timeyness
Cozen: jesus, the sky in this game
Jim D: Huge lolz last night – I wandered up to that little cave where West Dickens lives, and found him stood there rambling away to himself while pissing onto his own bed. Went a bit closer to try and get a better look (yes, I was looking for his winkie), but accidentally bumped into him, which caused him to fall face first into his own pissy matress and lie there shouting about what a bastard I was.
Forksclovetofu: On a river bed, I found an old man doubled over holding his head. A woman was laid out in front of him, bloody and dead. When I stopped and walked up to him, he stood up and shakily held a gun to his own head. I ran up and pushed him. He dropped the gun and began weeping and then finally glaring at me angrily until I rode away. That’s not a video game, that’s a Cormac McCarthy short story.
My main issue with this game is: riding along minding my own business, “help save my baby” from the side of the road, I pull off my horse and before I know what’s up someone is shooting at me, I return fire, kill some old lady and now the game is shaking its head at me with a “what were you thinking” attitude. Then, cougar attack.
I just went south of the border and the amazing and very clearly directorially planned moment with the Jose Gonzalez music was awesome; as deeply affecting as anything I’ve ever seen in a game. Then I got eaten by wolves. This is a lot less like GTA and a lot more like Fallout 3
There’’s a lot less relatably icky gang bullshit and putting caps in people’s asses than GTA but the game is about two steps away from blatant racism; the first guy I met in Mexico might as well have been Al Pacino playing Tony Montana which didn’t even make sense. There is a definite parochial “save us old white guy we cannot survive without you” vibe. Also there’s a real disregard for life that even GTA never fostered; the game invites you to kill kill kill every animal you encounter… weirdly, that puts you somewhat of the game’s time though?
All the above aside, I recommend this wholeheartedly and would definitely say it’s the best thing Rock Star has ever done.
BRB LEVELLIN’ MY DONKEY
MPx4A: I lassoed a guy off a hooker to try and go the taking him alive route, but it just made him fall headfirst into a wall and he died anyway. The drunk guy that sometimes falls out of the bar seems to be immune to punches. I tried to lasso his body to drag him to the cells for the night and he disappeared, leaving only his hat. I kind of hope they don’t patch any of that shit. It’s happened to me twice that I’ve seen a guy standing on his own in the middle of the wilderness, waving his hands and looking scared, and then I’ve got off my horse to talk to him, he’s immediately tried to ride off on it, and I’ve shot him and then lost 50 honor as a result. I too have accidentally shot my horse in the neck, minutes after maxing out its loyalty. I did not skin it. Do you know why? It was out of respect.
bnw: forks shot me in the head. never forget.
189 points, 10 votes, 3.5 TOP GAME votes
Mordy: This had a multitude of bugs that kept it from placing higher, but despite those I still gave it about 20 hours or so before deciding to wait for a major patch or two. Half my vote is for what I’ve already seen — a sharp, well-written game that is deserving of the Fallout brand (if you include Wasteland it’s my favorite video game series of all time) — and half for what I hope: that further patched play will reveal an incredible game. I’m embarrassed to admit that like a fallout-crack fiend, despite being disgusted by the early crashes, I still played about 4 hours of this last night. I got down to Primm and cleared that shit out (took a couple reloads tho, I’m not in love with my character build atm). It’s very familiar to F3, especially wrt the types of items you find lying around. I’m playing on hardcore which is actually kinda hard (gotta remember to tote around purified water and food) and led to one of my cooler Fallout experiences. Someone got a critical head shot on me while I was in the middle of clearing Primm and since stimpacks don’t heal critical damage on hardcore I basically continued to fight with my head in poor condition (since I didn’t want to run away and see a doctor). Every few minutes the screen went all blurry and shaky and static came up, which was a really cool way of indicating trauma and reminded me of the malaria mechanics in Far Cry 2. It’s hard killing gangers when you can barely see the screen or aim your gun.
jjjusten: So yeah, people keep saying that this is just a content expansion pack for fallout III but eh I call bullshit, its a better swing at the fallout universe than III was in pretty much every way that matters – the characters are far better, your companions are more than just bullet sponges, the plot actually has legit moral choice based branches, the locations look better. yeah sure, its the same game mechanic, but once you peel back the grime filter from gta4 yer still pwning pedestrians and boning prostitutes, so whats the big deal. still loving this game but:
A) no one in the entire world will ever get excited about the stupid survivalist thing
B) some of the fixit quests are a little badly designed ie “here is a broken food processor, and here is the list of 74 pieces of junk you need to fix it. no, we will not keep track of this for you, so i hope you have a pen and paper handy”
C) some of the quests are pretty counter-intuitive, I’ve had to gamefaq a couple which always sucks.
that being said roaming the tight vault passages fuckin’ peeps up with a chainsaw is like the best shit ever
NI: one of my favorite moments of the game was me and boone spending about an hour blowing away the mother and alpha male deathclaws and their clan in that mining pit. avoided it for so long as i’d heard deathclaws were pretty much unkillable this time round but boone + missiles + incinerator + my cunning technique of running up a mine chute squealing like a girl soon sorted them out.
im up to about level 24 now, only just entered the strip and i can sense the old FO3 syndrome of it getting too easy starting to kick in. been doing a bunch of no-risk ‘wander about and chat to people’ missions in camp mclarran and freeside and it’s all getting a bit zzzz. the xbox loading times between locations is frustrating as hell too.
Princess TamTam: combat’s wayyy better imo – the true iron sights are a great addition, and because of that i’ve barely touched VATS so far. sneaking and sniping is my tactic of choice. enemies are still bullet sponges (im playing on very hard btw) which is unfortunate because I really prefer shooters where one well-placed headshot = a kill no matter what. the ammo variety is great, AP bullets actually work, and the new guns are all awesome and make bethesda’s weapons look retarded (it’s really jarring when you equip say the 10 mm pistol and it’s this weird clunky made up gun that doesn’t fit in with anything else), reload animations are sick nasty too. I was fully on-board when I walked into Nipton and the fucking Necropolis music from Fallout 1 started playing. Also, fucking JOHNNY GUITAR. Just as an aside, I think this game will be remembered as one of the most progressive AAA titles ever wrt its treatment of gay characters. Most of the v/o is a huge step up. It reminds me of how impressed I was by the presentation of the first Fallout… it was really cool that whenever you had a talking head convo, you knew you’d get some great voiceover from people like Clancy Brown, Ron Perlman, Keith David, Frank Welker, Richard Moll, etc. I took a break from the game this week, but I’m playing again today. I just got to Jacobstown, and lemme just say that I’m glad mutants have personality again instead of just being bellowing hulks.
Magnificent *kisses fingertips like a french sommelier*
jeff: bugs so far today: got stuck between two crates that were seemingly stacked right next to each other. guess not. and then one where my fire button stopped working and my weapon would only fire when i exited out my pip boy menu. had a really fun vats experience where i just watched a gecko run at me in slow motion for a minute while my gun did nothing.
Craig G: A new Fallout game and Cowboys must be cool this (last) year I guess. A lot of people criticized New Vegas because it looked dated, still using the Gamebryo Engine. I guess I didn’t notice this because it hadn’t been that long since I finished playing Fallout 3 and all the DLC. That said, in spite of the fact it is my game of the year, for me New Vegas wasn’t as good as Fallout 3, but in an intangible way. I guess it could be because Fallout 3 was something new, and I spent way more time just wandering around the environment looking at things, and exploring for the heck of it. New Vegas was familiar, and for that reason just not quite as exciting. It brought lots of nice additions though; modding weapons to stick a scope on my usual favorite the Hunting Rifle makes it pretty fun to wander the wastes picking off Bad Dudes. The new factions cover a wide range, and it was a pretty satisfying hour and half clearing out Cottonwood Cove and The Fort of the Legion jerks. I think it will be better for multiple playthroughs too, as the options available, both for side quests and main quests, seems more flexible than Fallout 3 was. Cannot be assed with playing Caravan though.
bnw: I’m playing hardcore mode. It’s not really that tough so far, we’ll see when my resources dwindle further. One fight gave me problems so far, took like 10 tries. I’ve had a couple freezes and a corrupt auto-save. Seen some coyotes stuck in the ground and some other animal stuck motionless on the road. Overall a bit of letdown as it’s like a more buggy fallout 3. Also seems lacking in the great underground tunnels fo3 has. seems kinda silly that hardcore mode cripples you so realistically and effectively wrt injuries and weight and yet you can still “fast travel”. You can even walk/run as fast as a gimp, you just limp at equal speed. I do think you’re more vulnerable in those areas if crippled though. Also not a big fan of CRAFTING. So far it is completely unnecessary and just a pain to manage 8000 different ingredients. My character is a black lesbian obv.
Ste: Some of the feelings i get from this game are too real and not fun enough lol. one mission had me lure some guy in front of a sniper. but i got told off for having no evidence. it was quite funny to see the guys head explode as i talked to him, but i felt really shitty when i was told off by the sniper guy.
need to level up before i go lurking into areas with deathclaws, they’re sons a bitches but at least i got my egg!
EZ Snappin: Might have been my game of the year if it didn’t ship horribly fucking broken. Better story than F3, even more of a mess technically. If Obsidian ever manages to release a finished, working, product the world might end. I believe their “unnamed development project” after Dungeon Siege 3 is scheduled for release December 20, 2012. Make of that what you will. No bugs, still lovin’ it (almost 10 hours in), playing with Wacky Kooky Wasteland but haven’t seen anything kooky or wacky – just radscorpions, ghouls, molerats and the like. I’m enjoying it more than F3 at the beginning, and the humor seems less LOOK! FAN SERVICE FUNNY! than Fallout 3.
Forks’ Fallout 3 Soundtrack:
The Master Keys – I Don’t Mind the Rain (Unreleased, radio)
Charles Brown – It Ain’t Gonna Be Like That
Nat King Cole – Nature Boy
Son House – Low Down Dirty Blues
Dizzy Gillespie – Oop Pop A Da
Jack McVea – Open the Door Richard
The Stanley Brothers – Death Is Only a Dream
The Big Three Trio (Willie Dixon) – I Ain’t Gonna Be Your Monkey Man
The DixieAires – Joe Louis Is a Fightin’ Man
John Lee Hooker – Crawling King Snake
Amos Milburn – Bad Bad Whiskey
The Big Three Trio – Signifying Monkey
Redd Stewart – Brother Drop Dead Boogie
The Dominoes with Clyde McPhatter – The Bells
Earl Hooker – Sweet Black Angel
Eddie Boyd – Third Degree
June Christy with The Stan Kenton Orchestra – Everything Happens to Me
Howlin’ Wolf – Evil
Junior Wells – Somebody Hoodooed The Hoodoo Man
Little Walter – Mellow Down Easy
Lambert Hendricks and Ross – Standin’ On the Corner, Whistlin’ at the Pretty Girls
Little Richard – Slippin and Slidin’ Peepin’ and Hidin’ (Piano/Drum Demo)
The Starlight Gospel Singers – I Got a Right To the Tree of Life
The Weavers – Sixteen Tons
Bobby Blue Bland – You Got Bad Intentions
Bo Diddley – Hey! Bo Diddley!
Chuck Berry – Maybelline
Eddie Banks and The Five Dreamers – Sugar Diabetes
Elvis Presley – Blue Moon
Patience and Prudence – Tonight You Belong to Me
Nhex: coming back in 3 years after the fan patches make this playable
163 points, 10 votes, 1 TOP GAME vote
if: The first section of Limbo was unrivaled in atmosphere all year – it may have been mostly basic 2D platforming but that was not as important as the darkness, the sense of dread, the creeping realization that yes, the entire world is against you! It later went on to lose the singular feel a bit and do some clever but rather more conventional puzzling, but the art and feel of it was still strong enough to make it all still hang together as one enjoyable experience. I enjoyed the deadpan sick humor of the deaths in it a lot more than similar in other games, too.
Salsa Shark: One of the things I absolutely love about this game is that all of the puzzles can be figured out if you just think about them a bit. Limbo often rewarded contemplating and surveying your environment rather than jumping right into it.
forksclovetofu: If you liked the idea of braid but couldn’t handle the preciousness, this is your game. Best played after it gets dark; it’s not an appropriate before noon game. That goddamn fly puzzle! And the moment when you see your sister, there she is, in the light, so close AND THE GODDAMN BRAIN WORM TURNS! Totally worth fifteen bucks and one of my favorite gaming experiences of ’10.
Craig G: I dropped the full 1200 MS Points just to play this for Coint and Plick a day before the end of polling and I’m so glad I did. The atmosphere is great and the puzzles were *just* hard enough that I eventually figured them out, but at times they kept me occupied for quite some time. The game is brutal, both in how violent the deaths your character suffers at the hand of bear traps, giant spiders, crushing blocks, etc and in how it teases you with glimpses of (what I assume is supposed to be) a way out of Limbo before snatching them away because a brain worm forces you to go the other way and when you return the landscape has changed into further trials.
bnw: Beautifully done. We really need more games like this.
ledge: Very reminiscent of Another World (aka Out of This World). Inventive puzzles, evocative atmosphere, yadda yadda.
Polyphonic: Another game that goes a long way with atmosphere and good level design. Everyone I’ve shown Limbo to has loved it, gamer or not. Reminds me of sidescrollers like Out of this World and the original Prince of Persia, but with great intuitive puzzles that never veer into the absurd like Braid and enough story to intrigue but never get in the way.
Jordan: I love its positive attitude toward dying.
149 points, 10 votes, 2.33 TOP GAME votes
abanana: Proves that Nintendo’s drones can pump out just as good a good a game as Miyamoto can.
if: Putting this at number one feels a lot like the easy route, the vote for the Arcade Fire as album of the year, but in this case there really is no other option. The best game of this gen, remade with new levels and with all of the same invention and creativity intact, as well as a few minor fixes (like the clock pickups making the timed levels more thrilling than frustrating). Clearly it was never going to have the same revelatory effect as the first one, and I’ll take Rosalina and her storybook over the faceship every time, but the basic happiness from playing stills beats everything else.
Polyphonic: This was the year I finally played Super Mario Galaxy 1, and of course this game is not a huge departure from that one. Collectively these two games prove that Nintendo is still unmatched when it comes to level design. Constantly changing but always intuitive and built in a manner that is fun for gamers and noobs alike. When faced with the innovation of games like Portal and Braid, Nintendo proved that they can do stuff like that with their eyes closed without sacrificing mass appeal.
ilxor: Super Mario Galaxy 2 was my go-to game for most of the year. I played it two or three times through; am currently hunting for green coins. The puzzles are extremely clever and can be frustrating in parts (in a good way, promise). Two-player mode is addictive, and the nature of the P2 controls having a simple, secondary role allows for my elementary-aged kiddo to get in on the fun. Well-done Mario games are pretty much in a class of their own as far as I’m concerned. This one’s perfect.
tomofthenest: It’s very good. More of the same, but so many ideas and so much fun. Most of the boring stuff from SMG1 has been ripped out and replaced with new cool stuff that works. Only criticism is that it’s been a little on the easy side.
Jeff Levine: Picked this up tonight and played for about an hour. There’s something about hearing Mario go, “yeah” and “woo hoo” that is instantly more fun than most other games and puts a big, stupid smile on my face. Design and graphics so far impress (no surprise there). I especially enjoyed the first 2d section that introduces the game (I understand the game plays with 2d more?) and riding around on Yoshi – who feels especially powerful – so much better to be able to eat up those enemies than to bounce on their heads, toss star bits at them, do the spin attack, or run away.
J0hn Darnie11e:I agree that the linear “you’re here to do this task right now” nature of it is a little bit of a drag but the game is a blast otherwise. The purple coin treetrunk race was a fucking blast.
Autumn Almanac: I gave up on Sarah Michelle Gellar 2 after star 55 because of all the lazy timed/racing shit. It’s 2010 and I don’t want to be pissfarting around with that crap. It’s a shame, because up until star 40-odd I was infatuated with this game. Thoroughly inventive but very, very boring when you’re expected to execute the same perfectly-timed series of pinpoint jumps etc. 100+ times in succession. That’s not fun.
Captain Lorax: This is better than the first one. I feel that it has a bit more emphasis on the gameplay. One of my top 3 games of the year.
122 points, 12 votes
if: A couple of years ago a friend gave me a football management game which was written and played entirely within Microsoft Excel. It was, of necessity, somewhat simplified – you changed the team each game based on injuries and tiredness, gradually made money and used it to replace your players with those with better stats (well, “stat” singular; it was just one number) then watched your team climb the divisions through results based on those stats with just a slight added element of randomness. Just plugging through the routine and gradually watching all the numbers go up was necessarily limited but weirdly addictive. While playing Game Dev Story I was acutely aware that in terms of complexity, it was very much closer to that football management game than to, say, Sim City. For at least the first two thirds of the twenty year lifespan of my imaginary game company it was a brilliant experience. Some of that was from the same basic enjoyment of watching the numbers go up, some was from its presentation, but the largest element was probably from its propensity for games industry satire – deliberate satire on the part of the makers, deliberate satire on the part of the player, but also an accidental, light touch satire which it just consistently seemed to generate almost every time something happened, every single success or failure a damning indictment on the tastes and actions of someone out of the industry workers and/or the fans at large.
Jamescobo: Ten hours of fun for $4 doesn’t sound like that great of a deal, especially compared to the value proposition offered by about 468438432038464 other games on the app store. On the other hand, it’s a game that lets you make a game called ANUS LANDLORD. You’ll definitely burn out quickly but those 10 or so hours where the game has its hooks in you are a magical blur of whimsy and profanity.
Sgt Biscuits: This thing functions as like a surrogate girlfriend to me, in that it provides a means for me to make unacceptably shit, offensive jokes without needing to have a “woman” there so I’m all “in a comfort zone” with to the point where I have “no filter”. I paid $800k getting a renowned children’s artist in to devise an art style for my romance simulator. I then titled it “Shrub Rapist”. It shifted 4.9 million units. This game is Japanese, right?
The 14 character limit is kind of a drag though, if there was a bigger limit you could get cracking mileage out of making up lots of pretentious modern game names with colons in them, instead of not even being able to fit the “2″ in when you make a cash-in straight-to-DS shovelware sequel.
Polyphonic: Also known as the week I accidentally stayed up until 3am every night and was a complete wreck at work.
govern yourself accordingly: The fact that i’m now taking extended bathroom breaks to play this while at my ACTUAL JOB AS A DEVELOPER is super weird.
That being said, I’m really happy that Dong Collapse was a massive hit.
antexit: Other notable failures: My foray into dating simulators for the 8-bit market, Lonely Too Fat, was far ahead of its time. I also overestimated the demand for the town simulator Fuck Your Face 3 and rushed it prematurely into the marketplace near the end of its console’s lifespan. The golf arcade game Cup My Balls was greeted with confusion in the press and the cool reception City of Pubes received in the same season nearly did me in. Thank god I had a surprise cash infusion with the one-off bookstore simulator Fuck Cunt Book. The rest is history…
In describing GDS, I tell people it’s a game where you run an office, which sounds boring (and it mostly is) but you get to engage in videogame nostalgia and make up funny titles. See? It says Fat Fuck Guy is popular with 12-13 year olds! So if you’re as entertained as I am by giving profane, offensive, obscene or ridiculous titles to mundane objects, it’s a godsend. A little bit of game holds a mechanic together which allows me to make myself laugh with my tourette-y jokes without alienating my loved ones.
ZS: Sure, after the first 20-year cycle, the replay value is pretty much destroyed, and once you’ve managed to release a single million-selling game, you can pretty much coast through the rest of the game without trouble. But the first 6-8 hours of gameplay are totally addicting, great for killing train rides and very much worth 99 cents.
s1ocki: this game plateaus so hard. once you do okay once, it’s easy peasy street and there’s nothing new for you to do or new challenges to face. Kinda lame.
Euler: When my dating life game “The Quims” made the hall of fame, I knew BumweiserWare had finally reached the top.
Craig G: Of course I know it’s just A Rockstar Ate My Hamster with ‘funny’ names for games, but damned if I didn’t sink a lot of bus/waiting room/office lunch break hours into trying to even get a game that scored a 30.
forksclovetofu: Dude, if i paid you 2.4 mil you don’t get to say “I don’t know if I’ll do well this time”. It’s 2010; designers are a dime a dozen. In good news, the Toot Toot harbor motion franchise is in full bloom and I expect an NYT trend piece shortly.
JimD: BOOBS! Game BOOBS story! Game Dev BOOBS! LOL!
112 points, 8 votes, 1.5 TOP GAME votes
Cozen: If you own a current gen system and you are not currently playing this game, then you are a n00b.
Polyponic: It is the perfect Pac Man game, basically. Easily the best re-imagining of a classic arcade game ever and arguably more fun than the original. The revamped gameplay is like eating all of the pixie stix on God’s green earth at once.
Antexit: I’m a little uncomfortable with how much the giant five-second serotonin burst that comes with nailing a line of 100 ghosts feels like an orgasm. It makes me not want to play too much.
Unpredictable Johnny Rodz: Basically “Pac-Man: The Benny Hill Years”.
Will M: Not as mindbendingly fun and fresh as the first one but still a hell of a lot of fun. Plug in your arcade stick for maximum greatness.
Forksclovetofu: Compulsively replayable and intense to the point of tears. Somebody explain to me why they don’t put a mini version of this to play during the loading screens of every other game ever made for the rest of eternity.
jamescobo: The Portal of 2010: an elegantly compact, bite-sized (YEAHHHHHHHHH) celebration of pure game mechanics. If at all possible, play with a joystick; it’s so much fun that it threatens to rip open the space/time continuum.