Friday, 4 January 2013

2012: Another Year of Gaming

Hey I know all the overexcited peepants were doing their GOTYS (goatees?) in like early November, but an actual year has actually passed on the actual Roman calender (sorry China) and now Allie and Tobi are gonna do our own retrospective on all the games that we PERSONALLY played this year, regardless of when they were released.
What's the point of that? Well whats the point in judging games released this year if we didn't play them all? We'll leave the biased wank ceremonies to the journalists. Here's our personal picks from our personal, private, saucy lives. Oh my.

Best Character

Francis York Morgan (Deadly Premonition)

Pictured raising 'da roof'.

Ok, so bear with me, folks. Francis York Morgan (you can call him York), you could say he is an FBI agent with a slew of mental issues. He has entire conversations with a person that isn't there and he has a wealth of distracting ticks and superstitions. Overall, I would say his social-skills aren't that far removed of that of a robot's. However there are so many layers to his character that you can't grow attached to the man's wit, charm, quirks, and love for classic movie trivia. Much like the game he stars in, there is so much more depth than what you would expect.

In the game he travels to a small, removed town to research a serial killer case. The big piece of evidence that ties all the murders together are a bunch of red seeds, which were traced to this town. In this town he frequently has mental breakdowns when he is alone and starts seeing monsters that aren't there. This doesn't really seem to bother him all that much, as he must have been used to seeing ghouls all his life. In fact, nothing really seems to phase him. He seems to keep his calm throughout pretty much anything. One might say Deadly Premonition takes a lot of inspiration from Twin Peaks and one might be entirely correct. York essentially takes upon a similar role as Dale Cooper except does it in a more socially-detached, less enthusiastic way.

Another nice extra touch that made me feel invested in York, was that fact that you are expected to feed, bandage, shave and dress him. You could also not do that and just play as a bearded smelly wounded man that grossed everyone around him. It feels lame to pick a character from 2010 game that Allie didn't even play, but I can't help that York was my favourite character I had been exposed to in 2012.

Yeah, I didn't play this game per se but I've seen a couple mind-blowingly bizarre cutscenes, enough to get the impression of this very distinctive character. Also I watched a couple eps of twin peaks that probably helps.

Runners up: Headless Kamikaze (Serious Sam), Mavda & Husband (Pandora's Tower)

Worst Character

Monita (Nintendo Land)

You only need one hand to shiv a dude.

Ok, Monita isn’t thaaaaaaat bad... I guess... but ugh.. This whole idea that you need some naff robot butler mascot in a game that's already chock full of beloved licenses, do you really expect fans to like it? This game is crammed with long tutorials which she has to read to you in her gimmicky voice. I guess she’s not as bad as those mascots for the London Olympic games, but you get the same kind of disposable advertising focus group vibe from it all. Monita also can’t seem to decide if shes your ally or enemy, she gets captured by ninjas and wants you to save her but then she starts throwing bulborbs at you from her supervillainesque UFO. Finally, when she says ‘scrolls’ it totally sounds like ‘squirrels’. Seriously check that shit out now you can’t un-hear it.

STOP STALKING ME ALREADY ON THE PLAZA, GOD. Security? This floating TV won’t leave me alone. 

It’s weird. After all those hours of Okami and Animal Crossing, my brain expects everything she says to be gibberish, but it’s not. To make things even more surreal for me, they localized her in all the available languages too. For those that do not know, barely any games are dubbed into Dutch, so it’s unbelievably weird to hear it done in this game. While you in theory can skip all her tutorials, you are still shown them no matter how often you have played those games.

Runners up: Aeron (Pandora's Tower), Dylan Fitchar (The Last Window)

Best Soundtrack

The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks

I’m as shocked as you are that the best soundtrack this year by a long way for me was from a DS game! Spirit Tracks is chock full of JAMMIN’ TUNEZ that I couldn't stop loudly humming along to. I can’t imagine how dull driving the trains around would be without the sound on because the whole time I was just groovin’ mah butt. They made a really good decision to make all their best funky musics for the travelling and some more average stuff for the dungeons, since you spend a lot of the game sidequesting really. Easily as catchy and memorable a soundtrack as Ocarina of Time.

I love me some Spirit Tracks music too, A-slice. The best part of it is that the music is very well integrated into the gameplay. Not unlike some other Zelda titles, you are given an instrument which you play short tunes on to use throughout your quest. Spirit Track’s is a panflute and if don’t you like panflutes, you’re shit out of luck. Most of the music has panflutes and the cadence of a train. While a lot of people didn't like using the flute, due to it being microphone-operated, I thought it was a cool and fun idea that added a lot to my enjoyment of the game.

Runners up: The Last Story, Nintendo Land

Best Art Direction


More like Data Morgana?

Journey is a real purdy game, which is good because presentation is pretty much all it has to offer. The excellent use of colour, lighting, physics and shaders sometimes makes you forget you’re playing a game and you just get lost in its world, on the way to the mountain. 

I haven’t played Journey but the screenshots are pretty. With the resurgence of 2d games and ‘indie’ budget downloadable games, we've seen some really bold new art styles and I think journey is a very good example of this.

Runners up: Dragon Quest 6: Realms of Reverie (DS), Nintendo Land

Best Story

Asura's Wrath

Bro do you even lift meteors?

Soo... I have only ‘watched’ the first couple of ‘episodes’ of this ‘game’ this year, but I really liked what I saw. Somewhat like Dragonball and Okami, Asura’s Wrath puts a dramatic new twist on some Japanese mythology and kinda shonen manga stereotypes to create a completely over-the-top universe where robot(?) warrior gods fight demonic animals, and amidst that Asura gets betrayed by his peers and is killed repeatedly but he keeps coming back angrier and angrier. You really feel bad for Asura, he’s been raised to become a beastly warrior and when they don’t need him anymore he gets shafted for being a beastly warrior. You might scoff at how frightfully over-the-top everything is, that's kind of a thing that Capcom owns, nobody really does it better.

Pretty much. Asura’s wrath is not some kind of poetic piece of literature with a lot of deeper meanings. Instead it is anime. One might even say it is the most anime. Asura’s Wrath’s strength is being completely over the top from Chapter 1 and only escalating things over and over again with every chapter after. It might be dumb, but it sure is entertaining and reasonably creative.

Runners up: Dragon Quest 6: Realms of Reverie, Binary Domain

Best Original Game Concept


Lego chickens never stared so deep into my soul.

Do I like LEGO? Yes, Sir/Ma’am I do. Would I like it more if I could make really big things with it without having to bother with finding a space to store all my stuff or having to clean up afterwards. Yup. Do I derive enjoyment out of breeding and slicing up LEGO piggies to make LEGO pork and devour it like a beast? You betc-oh wait. LEGO doesn’t offer me this part of the experience, so I’m pretty much forced to side with Minecraft. I don’t want to count the hours I’ve wasted on this game and because it pretty much has as much gameplay as I do creativity, I might just be playing this for as long as I live.

Not only does minecraft seem to be super addictive to certain.. weirdos.. but its also just such a brilliant idea. It’s the kind of next step in evolution for ultra-low-tek-mineral-production-simulators like dwarf fortress, It’s got 3d graphics yet its the most low-tech game ever and it’s so user friendly now, you can play it in a browser and it takes like, seconds to boot up and get on a server with dozens of friends! Minecraft is a little like Animal Crossing in that it has no real set goals, but infinite possibilities for exploring and building. The addition of enemies and RPG elements and dangerous day/night cycles make it more adventure than the average simulator so even cretinous sword-bashing philistines like me can enjoy it. :)

One day I’ll show you the light on how it SHOULD be played. It’ll be obsessive and compulsive and glorious.


Runner up: StarTropics, Trauma Center New Blood

Funniest Dialogue

Deadly Premonition

Deadly Premonition, inventor if the infamous ‘Sinner’s Sandwich’ (turkey, jam and cereal) is bound to be the best dialogue of all the games we've played this year. It’s just so... so weird.

I don’t think this game was meant to be funny though, Alliegator. The whole thing feels so absurd and removed of normal human interactions, it’s like if extraterrestrials wrote a fanfic about Earthlings. That’s part of what makes it pretty swish though.

Runner up: Paper Mario, Half-Minute Hero: Super Mega Neo Climax Ultimate Boy

Biggest Surprise

Frog Fractions

As promised it has frogs and fractions.
Surprise is the perfect word to describe Frog Fractions. When I was first linked to it, I didn’t “get it”. It initially looked, sounded and played like an old educational game. This all changed when I was told to ‘go down.’ I wouldn’t dare to spoil it for you, so I’m going to tell you the same thing. play for a bit and go down! It’s a free game so you have nothing to lose except your time, sanity, dignity and respect for us.

Yeah frog fractions is almost like some urban myth. A supposedly educational-sounding game that just goes completely mental and becomes something else entirely if you can just find the secret path to progress... PS it’s real and you can, just use the internet if you get stuck I guess. I for one needed a little help figuring out that bacon milkshake makes a pretty good perfume if you just pour it into your bedquarters. You could probably play it in an evening but the psychological scarring will last a lifetime. Have fun kids!

Runners up: Mark of the Ninja, Boom Street (aka Fortune Street)

Biggest Disappointment

Baldur's Gate

20 hours in game only FEELS like 20 hours.
Gah, I know... everything I hate on has to be super inflammatory and I’m a massive hipster and blah blah...
Come get me nerds.
But seriously, Baldurs Gate I was so hyped to play through (FOR REALS THIS TIME)! I loved the idea of a game that really worked with DnD style rules, allowing for loads of imagination and custom party building. And it totally has all that stuff.. but what it lacks is crucial game needs such as balance, level design, difficulty curve... y'know, things that make games enjoyable and not just an arduous ordeal of loading saves and exploiting spells just walking across vast boring maps in order to get anywhere. That final boss was one of the most grueling experiences in my life, and one time I got 6 injections in my mouth.

We honestly tried to get into this game. We made a custom party with portraits and everything. Everything about this game just didn't sit right with me. The interface was a nightmare, the structure was unclear, art direction was generic at best, ugly at worst, the balance seemed nowhere to be seen and the level design reached a level of blandness that it was impossible for me to orientate. It’s clearly not for me and while Allie managed to soldier through the end by herself, it seems it wasn't for her either. What a let-down.

Runner up: Assassin's Creed 3, Harvest Moon: Island of Happiness

Most Time Wasted

In an unusual twist of surprising organisedness, we decided there just had to be two clear winners this year for this category. We were both separately obsessed with 2 different games and spent just an absolutely shocking amount of time on them. 

Dungeons of Dredmor

Ha-HA! Ass.
I spent like 89p on this little game on steam, being told that it was a bit like castle of the winds (ie, a roguelike dungeon crawler) and I might enjoy it. I then proceeded to play it for a total of 334 hours and counting. People on Steam would be all ‘What's up with you and that game?’ and I’d be all ‘Oh hush it’s just a little addiction I’m sure I'll get bored soon....ish.. e_e’’  It’s so easy to pick up and play, its randomly generated with loads of character classes and items so you can just keep playing it over and over again. It’s also got more expansions and now opened up to fan-mods, there’s way more content than I can ever keep up with. I really would call it a gem, and a total bargain too!



Don't even go there.
I’m not proud of it, but yeah. I pretty much live in Minecraft. It is my insomnia’s best friend. I’m really glad this game doesn’t keep track of hours played because I’d be ashamed. Juggling more single- and multiplayer than I can count on one hand is hard if you wanted to play with everyone. It also doesn’t help when you have some equally obsessed friends.

There was a short time when the spark almost died out due to a lack of updates, but then I discovered the modpack called Tekkit and was sucked back in. See you again next year for the same award, Minecraft!

Runner up: Pokemon Soul Silver

GAME OF THE YEAR (released in 2012)

Nintendo Land

Sorry haters you wouldn't understand it if you DON'T HAVE FRIENDS
Did we really pick a minigame collection for our game of the year? I know, right? A minigame collection that was released at the very end of the year on shiny new hardware? I KNOW RIGHT!? Great! It’s been a long time since I was able to sit back with my family and play games together over the winter holidays. It happened once with Wii Sports and now it happened again six years later. Many of the minigames revolve around the Pac-Man VS concept, but Pac-Man VS is awesome and we all had a blast. If you have any appreciation for Nintendo’s properties, the game’s awesome remixes, tributes and collectables will surely hit the spot. Nintendo Land really surprised me, I was expecting something... yeah, more in the realms of wiisports or wiiplay, a couple short minigames that would get you through christmas holidays with a little casual multiplayer. And.. well, ok, yeah, it is that. But it’s just waaay more substantial than I expected. Each game has several levels and is extremely addictive and masterfully crafted, with the zelda/pikmin/metroid adventures having like a full campaign of about 20 levels to get through. So yeah, its not that its just a bit bigger than I expected, but theres not a single game that I don’t really fancy playing several times because it’s really addictive. Well, maybe octopus dance. 

Runner up: Mark of the Ninja, The Last Story.

DINOSAUR OF THE YEAR (released before 2002)

Paper Mario

Me too.

I had played the sequel (thousand year door) a fair while ago, but Tobi insisted that this game was well worth getting over wiiware with my converted nintendo Europe star points. He was right! This turn based mario jrpg was fairly innovative at its time, using a stylistic choice to cleverly get a decent amount of detail into those early N64 graphics and stealing the idea of action commands over the turn based choices from super mario RPG. The most memorable thing about it though is it just has a really charming, crazy story with tons of unexpected scenarios. It keeps itself interesting and doesn’t make you have to crunch boring stats or grind in lots of samey corridors. Like all mario games it has some clever little puzzles and concepts. It’s simplistic yet substantial, and I recommend it even now if you want just a charming oldschool adventure, and you aren’t burned out on mario RPGs for any reason. 

Oh, Paper Mario. I could gush for the rest of my life about this game, but I probably shouldn't  It was one of those games that I badgered Allie to play for ages now. I’m glad she ended up liking it or I wouldn’t have been able responsible for the carnage that would have otherwise taken place.

Runner up: StarTropics, Megaman

Craziest Amateur Game

Nebulous Hero

It's-a-me! Sentient space turnip thingy!

This year we had the first ever ‘Molyjam’, a games development event (similar to Ludum Dare) where developers must make - try to wrap your head around this - a short game based on the concepts spouted by ‘Molydeux’, a parody twitter account of legendary British game designer Peter Molyneux. This was in my opinion by far the best thing to come out of the jam, though it’s worth looking at everything else.

Nebulous Hero uses the concept ‘What if the tutorial is unlocked after the end credits?’ Forcing you to replay it several times (don’t worry its really really short) as each time you beat the game you discover what you were actually supposed to be doing. CRAZY.

I really loved this idea and Nebulous Hero uses it fantastically. It’s really hard to explain just what it does without giving it away. Just try it. It’s free and it’s clever.

Runner up: Frog Fractions, Burrito Bison Revenge


Carver (Dragon Quest 6: Realms of Reverie)

Still dressed like it's 1980....BC
Erm...Allie? Why is this pink-haired pile of beef wearing an adult diaper?

Carver is totally a bro and your main dogg in DQ6, but.. what on earth is he wearing? Like seriously, what is that? Hes got some random cloths tied around him, including some sort of weird lime green loincloth that wraps around so it looks like some kinda diaper. He’s a master of woodworking but I think he could use a little help with his textiles.

Runner up: Cynthia (Trauma Center: New Blood)

Headache of the Year

Serious Sam HD: The First Encounter

Tobi is pretty lucky he doesn’t have to play this game or he’d probably be dead. Usually the biggest headache-givers are bound to be FPS games, but this one has just so much explosions, screaming, roaring, techno, lasers, bright light, and like a billion zillion monsters. It’s frantic, loud, and.. well, I like it. But pace yourself.

While Allie was showing me some footage to show me what one of the enemies was like on Youtube, it was already destroying me and I didn’t even play the game. It’s one of those spastic shooters with a seemingly infinite supply of enemies charging at you and they all play their little sound effects... through eachother. Just that clip alone was was mind numbing.

Runner up: Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale, Boom Street (aka Fortune Street)

Worst Trend of the Year

Anything Diablo 3 Did

Hilariously easy to find this screenshot.

Man hehe, everyone was sooo hyped for Diablo 3. And then their dreams were all crushed like some game reference I haven’t played any diablo games sorry. In this current climate of piracy fear and internet economies, Blizzard tried to nut up and went forward with so many terrible ideas that punished the hopeful consumers just so much. 

Firstly, as a new DRM measure meant you had to always be online for the game to work. Even though it’s not an MMO. And during the first few weeks, the servers were constantly jammed so you couldn’t even play your brand new game for days and days. This is a measure that can only serve to punish the consumer by making the game less accessible, literally. Many other companies have been considering this to protect from piracy and cheating, its great to see it field tested on a massive scale and the outcome was prettymuch the worst case scenario. Secondly, there was a mass exodus of players after they introduced an auction house for in-game items where you pay with real money. I'm already really un-fond of the 'microtransactions' business model, and many players felt it ruined the balance of the game in terms of loot acquisition.

While this is not a game I played, I was exposed to the non-stop complaining about the game for the longest time. Actually no, it was worse than that. People were complaining and then trying to rationalise it. If it had happened to any other game by any other developer, people wouldn’t have stood for the shipping of a broken, anti-consumer game.

So as a general rule, try not to copy anything Blizzard did for Diablo 3 if you don’t hate your audience. 

Runners up: Anita Sarkeesian and the Misogenist Uprising, Ultra Violent E3 trailers.

Dumbest premise

Your girlfriend is turning into a monster, you need to feed her more monster flesh to make her less monstery. (Pandora's Tower)

You call this medium rare?

Pandora’s Tower IMO is a pretty underrated game that I found quite fun. It might have been even more recommended by me if it wasn’t in part a moe anime-girlfriend simulator.. but at least it kindof had a bizarre twist to it. Your kawaii waifu-chan is slowly turning into a slimy purple monster so to have to brave the deathtrap-filled towers and return with... some monster flesh so that she can... eat it. It’s the only cure for monsteritis, kind of a hair-of-the-dog thing but a pulsating organ instead of hair. It’s super dumb, but it’s pretty fun, don’t be too quick to dismiss this derivative yet demented b-tier Wii game.

I’ve lamented the slow but certain disappearance of the B-tier game. Projects with ambition and vision. Creative games that aren’t afraid to take a few risks because the financial investment did not go out of control yet. You usually end up with a game that might not be as polished as it could have been, but you’ll find many under-appreciated gems in this segment of the market. Allie pretty much explained the premise well. If you don’t find gross looking monster flesh in time, your lady-friend will turn get covered in slimey tentacles and lumps which even the average Resident Evil boss would get grossed out by. In a small sidenote, another thing I did not expect was that Pandora’s Box was the game I felt that finally got 3D Castlevania right. Surprising for a game that had absolutely nothing with that franchise.

Runner up: You must save all the bigfoots from a devious country-western singer (Sam and Max Hit the Road)

Most awkward moment

You find yourself running a business simulator for manufacturing bug pornography. (Frog Fractions)

You know how I said I wouldn’t spoil it for you earlier? I liiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiieeeeeeeeeeeeeeeed! Frog Fractions takes some of the most insane turns you’ll ever see and one of them is somehow being the president of Mars. You’ll be in charge of distributing insect-pornography.

No, that’s OK. I’ll give you a second and then I’ll let you re-read that. Yeah, that’s really what you do. They even show it on-screen too. I wouldn’t make this up. Right, Al?

Yeah, I think for me the most awkward moment wasn’t the very fact that I had to manage an empire of bug porno, it was that like I got stuck as balls on this for hours of my life grinding away at this weird scenario because I had no idea that you could just basically print your own money with this joke simulator totally trolling me. This is towards the end of frog fractions when I’m really starting to question my sanity... shit be weird.

Runner up: Star Wars Kinect.

Deja Vu Award for Ballsiest Rip-off (new!)

PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale

Even stole SSBB's inability to have comprehensible screenshots.

Yeah I know this is a bit obvious and I’m a nintendo elitist dork but I even played it and I thought it was pretty alright and it had some cool ideas of its own... but... like, dude, it even had SUSPICIOUSLY SIMILAR SPECIAL MOVES. Fat princess is such an obvious character choice am I right? Oh no wait, its just something they could find so that they could EXACTLY copy the butt-slam move princess peach has in SSBB. Sly cooper has ripped half of Fox McCloud’s moves, and Radec is basically Samus. I kinda wonder what’s up, like did they actually manage to rip the anims, or did they painstakingly recreate the same feel of each move instead of just making their own versions?

I don’t know how hard we should be on PSASBR. It was clearly a quick cash-in to fill in the holiday release slot and buy them some time while they wait for the next generation of consoles. It’s a pretty pointless project that just doesn’t have the star-power in its cast and has an odd gameplay gimmick that feels like you’re just wasting your time for 75% of its matches. I’m not one that enjoys the party brawler genre, but I’m sure they could have made something a bit more engaging if they put a little bit more effort and creativity into it.

Runner up: Frobisher Says!

Bognor Award for Exemplary Fucking-Shit-Up-itude

No arms? No problem! Fight with your legs and face! (Asura's Wrath)

The Bognor Award was pretty much made for this game. Fucking shit up is what Asura’s Wrath is all about and it knows how to escalate this insanity with each new chapter. You know that scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail with the Black Knight? Well, Asura did too and got inspired. He means business so when he gets deprived of his limbs from time to time, he isn’t incentivised to take some time off. He just keeps going without them. Anything he can smash with his arms, his legs and face can smash just as well.

Asura is like a super saiyan crossed with robocop and whoever the biggest dude is in street fighter. He’s a tortured immortal 6 armed vessel of pure rage and the damage he can do lives up to that concept. As tobi says, there’s a great bit where he gets his arms chopped off and he just starts beating people with his face instead. BOGNOR APPROVES.

Runner up: Just way too many Kleer Skeletons (Serious Sam HD: The First Encounter)

So happy 2013 everyone! I guess as many people have complained, it was quite a difficult year for games actually released this year. It's the brink of a new console generation, and on top of that we didn't really play many exciting new things anyway. Good thing we don't really care. I know in the actual GOTYs everyone's been really bigging up The Walking Dead, I promise I will try that game out at some point. I'm a really fan of telltale so far but it's a pc game so it's not like its gonna disappear, its just gonna get super cheap. ;)

Wanna tell us about what games YOU played this year? Good for you! Haha but no really go ahead and tell us. You can post a comment or show us your blog or whatever.

If you'd like to see more about games we have played, are playing and will play someday, check out the backloggery accounts of Allie and Tobi!

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