Tuesday, 7 January 2014

2013: A Really Bloated Game Awards

We played an awful lot of games this year. As with all our 'awards ceremonies', this isn't all comprised of games RELEASED this year, just games we (Allie and Tobi) played this year. We like a bit of old and new. A bit of tradition and progress. Speaking of which, this year we decided that since we have so bloody much to say about everything, we'd write a paragraph about our 3rd and 2nd place entries, as well as the winner for each category. You thought the VGX was long-winded and pointless? Good. Me too. The following post has zero self-hating-nerd jokes about adult diapers tho.

Best character

3rd place
‘Ace’ (Zero Escape: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors)

Everything about this character is a spoiler, down to his real name. On a ship full of agitated strangers, placid and gentlemanly Ace was the first to strike me as the character least likely to stab me in the back... But then again, you can never really be sure, can you?

2nd place
Wonder Red (Wonderful 101)

I just love this guy. You may think he’s your cliché boring wunderkind hero without flaw from any kid’s show ever… and he is! That’s sort of what they were going for. The man’s character trait is to a square who loves protocol and being a goodie-two-shoes. His enthusiasm and earnest attitude is absolutely infectious.  He’s the type of guy who doesn’t only believe in letting other people finish, but also wants to know all the intricate details of people’s backstories. His dialogue and interest in pretty much anything delivers some of the funniest dialogue in an already pretty hilarious game. A running joke with him is that he has an almost obsessive compulsive need to recite everyone's full title, no matter how long it is. He also wields the power of firey fisting. Pretty coo’. Diplomacy may fail constantly, but this hero will try give it his all every single time.

Wheatley (Portal 2)

"Also, are you alive? That's important, should have asked that first."

The hugely intimidating world that is set up in Portal 2 just makes you feel weirdly in need of instructions, and suddenly this useless little orb with a WestCountry accent rolls up and he seems like your saviour. Even so when it becomes apparent very quickly that he is alarmingly incompetent and definitely going to get you killed. But… but… he’s your only friend. Also he’s completely hilarious.

Wheatley is a brilliant character. He provides a contrast between the cold robotic efficiency that GLaDOS, your AI “companion” from the first game, portrayed. He is basically everything she was not. His dialogue and delivery is incredibly well done as well, which provided a pleasant narration over most of the story.

Worst Character

3rd place
Ben (Full Throttle)

Though a brave departure from the usual P&C genre heroes, Ben represents everything I hate about macho fantasy characters. He’s gritty, gravel-voiced and aloof. He mostly solves puzzles by threats of violence and/or actual murder. Ben quickly decides he fancies this one chick, and at the very end he just ditches her to cycle off alone into the sunset! What a dick.

2nd place
Duck (The Walking Dead)

Duck is a character carefully engineered to piss you off. One look at him and you just know what type of role he’ll be fulfilling in the story. Dead weight with nonsensical actions that also whines. I won’t go into spoilers, but yeah. All of those things turned out the be true. The kid is a plot device for bullshit to happen and has no redeeming qualities. It’s worse than that even too. Since he was the son of my bro Kenny, I had to be nice to the kid to get good points with his parents.

Also his name is “Duck”. “Duck”.

Louie (Pikmin 3)

Dead weight even in zero g.

Argh, this guy. I’ve played some backstabby games this year, but none of them hurt as much as Louie. Let me set Pikmin 3 up first: You and two others are crash landed on an unknown planet, pretty much working around the clock to not die of starvation. Did I also mention that the reason you went on this quest was to try and save your whole planet from starvation too?
So here you are, on this wild, finally feeling a little in control of the scary planet, and not being too worried anymore about your food supply. Then you stumble on an incapacitated Louie. You’re reluctantly happy about it, since Louie is a familiar character from the second game, and the more helpers you have, the easier it becomes to cover more ground and get fruit! You bring him back to your ship, and he repays you by sneaking off in the first night and takes away ALL.YOUR.FOOD. All of it. He’s trying to indirectly get you killed, as well as your whole planet! Then later in the game you find out he pulled the same shit on his companion, whom he crash landed with. Video games often go to dark places, but I was not prepared for this kind of stuff.

Louie, who returns in Pikmin 3, is first met in Pikmin 2 as captain Olimar’s assistant. Probably some adorable little underdog space man right? He actually has zero redeeming qualities. He's at best completely incompetent and lazy, and at worst he’s actually some sort of homicidal maniac who just wants to watch your world burn. Like Heath Ledger’s Joker re-imagined as a potato.
Not sure? Here’s a small list of things Louie does over the course of the 2 games that are way beyond crazy:
1) Starts a journal of recipes to cook and eat all of the living things encountered on PNF-404
2) Gets left behind, forms some kind of gadget-spider legion that tries to murder the Captain.
3) Impersonates Captain Olimar to receive aid, steals all his rescuer’s supplies that they need to survive and runs away.

Best Soundtrack

3rd place
Ni no Kuni

Ni no Kuni's music is the one consistently fantastic part of an otherwise very mixed bag. Listening to it really sweeps you up with a sense of adventure and doesn't let go. Many of the pieces are great at making you feel a sense of scale. The main and theme overworld especially. They mix up instrumentation and tempo in such a way that one moment everything feels very distant and calm, and the other moment up close and personal. It makes for perfect adventuring music. The people involved really knew their stuff. Easily the prettiest part of an already very pretty package. Shame about the actual game it’s tied to.

2nd place
Rogue Legacy

The Rogue Legacy soundtrack is super catchy and really cool. The moody faux-retro songs have all these clever little sounds evocative of the subject matter; The jingling of gold coins, the slamming of doors, the echoing wails, as if the dungeon itself is singing to you.

Zero Escape: 9 Hours 9 Persons 9 Doors

999, as the lazy people amongst us call it, does a pretty good job at sucking you in its world. The game is pretty much a videogame version of Saw or Cube. The mood of the game is either oppressive or depressing, and a large part of this is due to the music.

I love this soundtrack. The game is already outstandingly memorable to me for its tone and atmosphere. It is tense, chilling and kinda sad. The songs make that even more so. The many pensive background themes are all impressively cohesive yet distinct from each other. This might be a slightly esoteric choice, but I can’t think of any others like it. Plus, y’know, it’s my favourite one this year.

Best Art Direction

3rd place
Pikmin 3

When I first saw Pikmin 3 footage, it was just how i remembered the other Pikmin games looking. It’s not though, it’s actually miles better looking (and HD of course) that’s just some serious case of nostalgia-goggles. Particularly with its unusual rts-esque camera angles, its a really well... art-directed game.

2nd place
Portal 2

The Portal games look bland and clinical for the most part, and that’s exactly what they were going for. So why do I really like the look of this one and not so much the first one? Aside from the most obvious technical upgrades, the game polishes the clinical parts up to look even more clean and featureless. What it then did was add elements of nature and decay seep through. This not only made sense in a narrative sense, but it also created the perfect contrast that complemented the look of the original.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

Hehe, yes, go into the rainbow wall gash.

Not only is ALBW a gorgeous 3DS game, but its technical achievements are really something else. First of all, it’s the only game to ever make me actually want to turn 3D on for my own benefit, and not just because I feel like giving that poor unwanted feature a chance. It’s just a great choice of style and angle for the 3d, as well as using it for the actual gameplay by having the layered dungeons. But here’s where it gets really crazy… the game’s visual assets are actually built distorted in order to look right in what is a viewing angle that doesn’t actually make any geometric sense. Sure, it was very doable back when games were 2D and you just made a set of sprites.. but not only did they get that to work in 3d… they got it to look SO DAMN GOOD. Also not to be dismissed is the funky little 2d wall-paintings mechanic that blends seamlessly with the 3d art, giving even more originality to an already very brave art style.

This game was fighting an uphill battle for me. It was basing itself on an art style which I was not fond of, so it really had to prove itself to me. They accomplished what they set out to do pretty well. There’s a lot of subtle stuff that really ties it all together, creating a pretty pleasant package. The dungeon where it all came together for me was the Swamp Temple. The little reflections, the slight lighting and mapping effects to make everything look damp and wet, the great use of depth,... it was just flawlessly done. As Allie mentioned, the 3D also looked really well done, creating a nice diorama look. All of this at a really smooth and snappy 60 frames per second. You did good, Nintendo.

Best Story

3rd place
Klonoa: Door to Phantomile

Wait wait wait… Don’t scroll down or close the windows just yet. Hear me out. Yes, Klonoa is a 90s 2(.5)D platformer with very little and simplistic dialogue. So what makes Klonoa’s story enjoyable then, you ask? The whole tale is woven into the game itself so well that you might not even notice that it’s trying to tell a story. It’s one of the very few games I know where the pacing of the action and the story are one and the same, and it never falters. It’s able to do this by making the game a tight package without any filler. Impeccable camera direction also lets the action flow from gameplay into story with ease.

The story itself takes place in the land of Phantomile, a mysterious place that takes place in the dreams people have. You play as the titular Klonoa, who lives in the town of Breezegale with his grandfather, who has had a dream about an airship crashing into a nearby mountain. One day a ship does indeed crash into the mountain, and Klonoa and his friend, Huepow, decide to check it out. They make their way on top of the mountain, only to find two shady dudes. These dudes plot to turn the land of dreams into a land of nightmares. After chasing them around the lands, you finish them off and learn that you’re not actually part of this particular dream world and were dragged in to help. Klonoa was unaware of this, since dreams are weird like that, and doesn’t want to go back to his real world. Many onions were being cut during the game, especially the ending.

2nd place
Portal 2

Portal 2 is a rollercoaster of a game. You follow the story of Wheatley, an incompetent AI that tries to help you bust out of the testing facility. The game pretty much never shuts up, and that’s cool because I liked listening to it.

Zero Escape: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors

Like for starters, I'm not convinced you are Saint Nick.

This game… so.. people give me this deeply baffled and uncomfortable look when I tell them that I didn't really get into this game until I had beaten it… twice.

Okay let me explain. This game is a very short visual novel with puzzles, with several alternate endings. But here’s the genius part.. the endings are a metagame themselves, each tells you more of the story and the secrets of the characters.. and each ending is like a swift kick in the nuts. Metaphorically. And in a good way. I… I guess. Not only is it a stomach-churningly intense read, but it uses loads of obscure conspiracy theories and urban myths/devices from popular fiction that made me compelled to hit snopes and wikipedia a couple times, just to see which parts were fact and which were fiction. This game requires a fair bit of patience, both with its antsy anime cast and forced gameplay repetition, but for me it was well worth it. My emotional experience with the game may have been somewhat enhanced though by the fact that it kept me up ‘till like 3am on work nights because I just had to finish one more bit…

What I liked most about 999 was its structure. As Allie brought up, the game is designed around the fact that you will fail. Several times. Failure however is not necessarily a punishment in this. Every time your character bites the dust, you are armed with a little bit more knowledge that you are allowed to use in your next playthrough. This allows you to figure out exactly what would have happened if you made a different choice, or get a glimpse of where other characters’ loyalties and trustworthiness lie.

Best Original Game Concept

3rd place
Soul Blazer

Soul Blazer is a top-down action-rpg about a divine avatar who is sent to defeat hordes of monsters and rescue captured souls. The cool idea in the game though is each soul you rescue creates a human, animal or plant in the local town… making the game a sort of linear city builder. The villagers/animals/plants you rescue are the key to progression, it could be a vine that you can climb or a villager wanting to drop some eastern philosophy on you. Cute!

2nd place
Papers, Please.

Papers, Please is one of those games. You know the type. Games where you play a waitress, spell-checker or an attorney. It sounds absolutely atrocious for a video game. In this one you play as a customs agent of a fake Eastern European border. Your job is to check people’s papers and look for inconsistencies. The goal is to keep terrorists, smugglers and illegal immigrants out. The more people you successfully process, the more money you earn.

Where the game gets really interesting though is that at the end of each day, you get a screen with the statistics of your family. You immediately get to spend all of your money on your wife and kids’ basic needs, since income appears to be quite tight. You are constantly presented with sob-stories and temptations, just for you to approve entry into the country. As soon as your family starts struggling, you find yourself tempted to bend the rules more and more, until it eventually backfires. The game has a super interesting method to show you how corruption can be bred. It does this all through its gameplay mechanics as well.

You lost the manual?
SpaceTeam! Is a multiplayer game unlike any other I've played. In this game, 2-4 players are given a different panel of knobs, buttons and switches each labelled with some daft space-jargon. Each player is then given an instruction for a button to to press or a switch to turn, but the twist is it might not on their control panel, it might be on their friend’s one. So you have to take turns shouting commands at each other to avoid catastrophic spaceship-failures. It’s a brilliant exercise in cooperation and communication. All players have to find a balance of assertion and attention, making this a unique personal development tool, as well as a fresh and funny video game. Oh, and in case you didn't know, you can get it for free on iOS and Android.

There’s not a whole lot to expand beyond what Allie mentioned. SpaceTeam is not a game I would call “fun”, but it’s definitely one I call “interesting” and “unique”. That’s what the category is all about, isn’t it?

Funniest Dialogue

3rd place
Puzzle Agent

The townsfolk of Scoggins, Minnesota are a little bit special. But then again, Nelson Tethers from the FBI’s puzzle division is a little bit special too.

2nd place
Wonderful 101

The game is pretty much one big parody of saturday morning Power Rangers-esque shows. Luckily it doesn’t expect you to be intimately familiar with this genre, and injects plenty of character of its own.

Portal 2

I think we've said it already, and heck everyone knows it, but Portal 2 is one of the funniest games ever. The only thing better than being trapped in an inhumane logical puzzle testing facility and having to put up with one snarky rogue AI who’s constantly sassing you, is being trapped with 2 rogue AIs who hate each other and the recorded ramblings of an obvious madman. The humour in this game is slick and brutal, full of wry comebacks and heated rants. It also helps that the voice acting is fantastic.

I was not the biggest fan of the Cave Johnson bits, but pretty much all else was comedy gold. The writing and delivery was spot on. You can tell they put a lot of effort into the game’s comedy and it paid off brilliantly.

Biggest Surprise

3rd place
Poker Night at the Inventory

I’m neither a big fan nor a hater of poker.. I got this game as part of a humble bundle or something. Turns out, I really super enjoyed pretending I was sat at the table with a maniacal bunny, a wrestle-man, a gigantic russian soldier and an arrogant celebrity-geek. The funny dialogue and animation is so smoothly crafted it really sorta feels like you’re there. Playing poker. With fictional weirdos. YES.

2nd place
Rogue Legacy

Another Roguelike game with randomly generated dungeons based around dying a lot. Yaaaaaaawn-wait it’s a platformer? And it’s like… fun? It’s also full of funny gimmicks that make trying over worth it? Well gosh darn.

Puzzle Agent

Step 1: collect underpants...

Another game I got in the aforementioned humble bundle. I knew nothing of this game, I soon learned it was at least sort of a low-budget Professor Layton wannabe… not too impressive right? But then freaky presentation inspired by Twin Peaks and Fargo totally charmed me. The puzzles may not be Layton standard, but the game really has character. Bizarre, twisted character. Totally worth a look. Shame the story, (possibly intended to be episodic?) is apparently unfinished… I really wanted to know what exactly is going down in the mysterious town of Scoggins.

When this game dropped, I was sceptical of its quality to say the least. Telltale’s output quality was starting to get more and more questionable by the day and suddenly they made a mobile game, heavily leaning on Fargo and Professor Layton. The fact that it looked like one of those cheap “Spot the Difference” games in a newspaper did not help. Lacklustre impressions made me write it off. It wasn’t until I got a PC port later from a bundle that I gave it a shot and it turned out to be pretty cool.

Biggest Disappointment

3rd place
Harvest Moon: Island of Happiness

The offensive thing about this game is it could have been good if someone had bothered to like design it with some mechanics that weren’t fundamentally broken. Harvest Moon is for many alreadt a winning formula, or so you'd think. If raw ingredients are worth more than finished products, and your stamina bar barely lets you get anything done in a day, you done fucked up your game.

2nd place
Ultima IV

This was supposed to be one of the RPG classics. Maybe it didn’t age too well, but it’s pretty rough for someone new. You’re constantly lost or getting boned over things you had no clue about. This was supposed to be the game that’d get me into the series, but all it did was put me off the whole thing.

Final Fantasy: All The Bravest

Oh I'm sorry, were you expecting a game?

Real talk. I’m not super disappointed in All The Bravest. Not really, no. It’s an abhorrent excuse of software, that not only actively insults one of the more renowned franchises in the industry, and its fans. It features less gameplay or entertainment than the act of checking my phone for a weather report. All it expects from you is to swipe your fingers across the screen in any sort of way you want. None of it matters. Even if you did like its gameplay, which you won’t, it still tries to ensure you’re not having any fun by taking away your ability to play it. You are constantly waiting for a cool-down timer to pass until you are allowed to “interact” (a term I used loosely) with it again, which you can solve by spending more money on this game. The game also locks out all the popular characters the series is known for, and gives you the ability to purchase random ones like you would from a gumball machine. I wanted to say it basically had all the bad symptoms of a scummy mobile game, but with all the effort they put into it, it may as well be coronated as the pope of scummy mobile games. So yeah, I’m not that disappointed in the game. I’m disappointed in the company that made it. For shame, Square Enix.

Disappointment is kind of an understatement for a game that, when I heard exactly how the game works and what it plays like, I felt obligated by my conscience to warn all my friends and family to avoid this game. Rip-off games are pretty common, especially on the mobile platforms, but usually they’re made by some dodgy company and not Square-goddamn-Enix. Geez.

Most Time Wasted

3rd place
Harvest Moon: Island of Happiness

Doesn’t really matter how long I played this for, it was a total. Waste. Of time.

2nd place
Animal Crossing: New Leaf

I don’t know how I keep ending up playing these games. They’re all the same and you basically do nothing in ‘em. Yet each and every time, I’m there and I’m pumping in embarrassing hours of my life into my virtual one.

Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate

Wabbit hunting season is every season.
350 hours, man. It’s a huge expansion pack for a game I had already played, and I still put three hundred and fifty hours into it. In only a few months time!

Yeah but that’s for each of us, so that’ll make about 700 hours in total. :D Just sayin’.

You want to know what the scariest part is? ...We actually still have a ton of content left. So many weapons to master. So many beasts to slay. So many pieces of clothing to get. So many challenges to unlock. It’s insane(ly good).

GAME OF THE YEAR (released in 2013)

3rd place
Rogue Legacy

Indie games pretty much defined this year, there were a whole lot of worthwhile gems and at the top of that pile, for me at least, was Rogue Legacy. Self-described as a roguelike platformer, this game has everything that makes the castlevania series fun (great controls, accessible rpg systems and stylish presentation) and it manages to champion the roguelike genre by turning permadeath into progress with it’s ‘inheritance’ system. Unique and immediately addictive. Nice.

2nd place
The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

It’s been a while since we had a 2D Zelda game and both the DS entries were a little disappointing. While I don’t have the nostalgia for Link to the Past like others might, I was certainly interested in A Link Between Worlds, hoping this would be the 2D title I’ve been waiting for. Simply put, it’s a good game. Yup. Very good even. You're given a lot of freedom in exploring the overworlds (plural). Once you end up in Lorule and the training wheels are removed, that's when the game was at its best. Dungeons were shorter, making them more handheld-friendly, but still provided a satisfying experience every time. I think the paradigm change of having all items available was a neat idea and a breath of fresh air, but I do not think it should be used again in the next title, not without changes anyway.

Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate

He just goes around burning things and doesn't even care.

Allie, how bad is it that typing this game of the year stuff is making me want to play more Monster Hunter? It’s starting to sound like a serious condition. The game just has it all. It might be difficult to get into due to its harsh difficulty and complex systems, but it is the most rewarding game I’ve played in my entire life. It’s a fantastic action game, with great customisation, accommodates so many playstyles and creative monster designs. It also helped that I was able to play through the game with someone who was both helpful and rad.

Blush. Yeah this game might not even be considered for GOTY by many, due largely to it being a port of a game released a while back… but not only was this the first Monster Hunter I ever played (and also it technically counts so there)… but I’m pretty certain this has SO MUCH MORE CONTENT than Monster Hunter Tri. Sure, it might not be worth if you were one of like 10 people who played Tri to death, but this game has so much content. And that’s on top of the fact that it’s just designed for grinding old missions, but just shut up and trust me it’s the good kind of grinding. It’s all manual, its like the visceral, infinitely pleasing gameplay of something like street fighter (but oh with badass monsters) put into the framework of an extensive and addictive crafting-focused RPG. Also you can play it online OR with people who have the 3ds version, because they somehow managed to both make a fantastic looking HD game AND a fully functioning AAA-feeling handheld game. Props.

I really feel like we should commend the entire online community too. The previous Monster Hunter Tri community was more what you would expect. Lots of people who were more interested in breaking the game to cheeze through it, be really snobby towards newcomers and bully them out of the rooms, or just act like your average ignorant, foul mouthed youtube commenter. I really dislike playing online for this exact reason. Shockingly, none of this was here this time around! People were really nice, helpful and patient. This was even the case with the many language, gender, age and skill barriers. Kudos, peeps. Thank you for giving me hope that we can play nice together as a species. ...now gimme Monster Hunter 4.

DINOSAUR OF THE YEAR (released before 2003)

3rd place
Soul Blazer

This might be a little bit of a retelling of the earlier mention of the game, but it deserves to be up here again. There’s something super cool about restoring the world piece by piece. The game’s dialogue is also weird and unnatural sounding, which might just be the result of poor translators or translation tools. The end-result, paired with the tone and concepts of the game sounds like everyone is speaking like a fortune cookie. I have played Soul Blazer many times before and it still is one of my favourites. I just hope Allie liked it as well.

2nd place
Doom 2

Doom 2 is still considered one of the champions of FPS games. I think this game has aged well because the folks at ID Software knew to value good level design. Doom 2 might look and feel old and clunky, but that good level design and the iconic sounds and graphics are timeless

Klonoa: Door to Phantomile

Use your flaps to flap.
The makers of Klonoa set out to evolve the platforming genre for the 3D era, and I think they did an outstanding job. Rather than throughout 2D conventions and turn it into a more free roam game, Klonoa instead is a 2D game that takes place in a 3D world. The game makes fantastic use of its camera, tells a cute story and has several good hooks that make it stand out from the rest. The biggest obviously is using the power of your friend Huepow, the ring spirit. What he allows you to do is shoot gusts of air into enemies, which forces them to bulk up like a bit balloon. You can pick these balloon-people up and either use them as projectiles or give you a little bit more lift in the form of a double jump.

Yeah Klonoa is just a really good quality platformer. At a time where the platforming genre was getting a bit hit and miss too, and 3d graphics were so rough. They managed to get a game that looks nice, feels great, and surprised me with its simple yet emotional little story. Still doesn’t look like a cat to me, though.

Craziest Amateur Game
3rd place
Papers, Please

I already touched on this a little bit earlier, so the absurdity of the concept should be evident. You’re a customs agent. You do pretty much nothing but look at papers, people’s expressions, nose through your rulebook and slowly watch your family perish at the end of the day because you’re never good enough. The look and sound of this game is super creepy and gross. The game wants you to feel like the job sucks, which is a ballsy move for a game. Aiming to be not fun. What I also really loved about this game is the fact that there’s a character in this that keeps trying to cross the border, who pretty much never qualifies for anything. His attitude and guts makes me laugh and respect his pathetic attempts in a weird way. I cracked a smile every time he tried. 

2nd place
Analogue: A Hate Story

Analogue is a visual novel game where you read the logs of a spaceship on which everyone died after the civilisation seemingly devolved into an incompetent ancient-korea-themed patriarchy. It’s kind of a horror story about a feminist’s worst nightmare coming true. And now there’s an AI in the form of a teenage schoolgirl that you have to deal with. 

Amazing Frog?

Amazing Frog is a game where you get mad ups and get to listen to some dope tunes. The goal of this is just to run around a city and stay in the air for as long as possible. It sounds stupid and crazy and it is exactly both those things

This game is a self-aware so-bad-its-good type situation. As Tobi said, it’s a small sandbox physics game where the goal is to try and jump really high using buildings, trampolines, whatever you can find. One of my favourite parts of the game though, is the setting. It’s an ugly parking lot and bunch of office buildings. It looks suspiciously like some 3D student’s map of a small british town. Because it is. Amazing Frog? takes place in a 3D replica of Swindon. Obviously.

I just realised this is the second year in a row a froggy game wins our Craziest Amateur Game award. Makes me look forward to next year.


3rd place
The Doom Marine Guy (Doom)

The worst thing about this iconic character’s space armour isn’t even that awful shade of green. It’s that abs window. Why do you have a little square hole for your gut there, man? Is that six-pack of yours fireball-proof?

2nd place
Lotus (Zero Escape: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors)

Oh Lotus, honey, what are you doing? I know in the game you were abducted and you couldn't choose what you were wearing at the time, but I don’t know if that’s a good excuse to look like a belly dancer genie.

Sir Graham (King’s Quest)

Got that lonely guy by a mountain swag.
I don’t know why this king dresses like a hobo Peter Pan, but he does.

This is the problem with letting MSPaint pick your wardrobe. Sir Graham wears cyan leggings, a red half-sleeve tee/tunic, and a matching cyan robin hood cap. I know this was the 80s, but this guy is a knight in the first game, and the actual King in the second game. He’s got a magic mirror to show him his destiny, but maybe he should get a regular mirror as well?

Headache of the Year

3rd place

I played both Doom and Doom 2 this year, same diff, but the point is, these old first person games with their primitive graphics and loud shooty noises are like MADE OF headaches. That’s almost like the point.

2nd place
King’s Quest 2

This tune. Lol. Wow. Coupled up with those MSPaint style colours, this game means well, but it’s quite an assault on the senses.

X-Com Apocalypse

Suburban Purgatory. Suburbatory.

Here, look at this screenshot. See if you can figure out what is going on in this Escherian nightmare.
I’ll just spoil the twist immediately. This is a screenshot that shows two floors at the same time, full of rooms and hallways. Somehow in all that mess, video games is supposed to happen… using that maze of a UI at the bottom. I won’t even pretend to understand any of this.

Unlike Tobi, I at least know how to work this exhaustive interface, and its a pretty cool game. But for a game where identifying what floor you are on is extremely important… what the eff am I looking at? Christ. Let’s just say this whole game is not exactly… intuitive. Also, FYI Tobs, according to the UI, there's actually 3 floors in this area. ;)

Worst Trend of the Year

3rd place
Baffling naming conventions. Game Series Title: Generic Subtitle. No more numbers.

For some reason, a lot of game sequels wanted to do away with numbers and go for generic forgettable subtitles instead, such as JUDGEMENT and ORIGINS and… erm… REVENGEANCE. This might have seemed like a noble attempt to make your game seem more of a standalone entry, but that doesn’t work if the games aren’t standalone and you CONTINUE MAKING NUMBERED SEQUELS AS WELL.

2nd place
Always online DRM, but only as much as our servers can handle.

2013 was a big year for always on DRM. We had several companies dip their pinkies into the pool to see if they would like the feel of anti-consumerism. Luckily every attempt thus far backfired massively, rendering games unplayable. Things like this educated the public enough to the point where Microsoft had to change their entire DRM system of their next console, only a few months before launch. Things were so dire that people were applauding Sony for not doing something. That’s just crazy to me. This thing also drowned out the fact that they started charging for online functionality. Can’t win ‘em all, I guess?


I could buy an actual real-life pepper for like 30p.
Microtransactions are normally part of the business model of Free to Play games. Giving people the option to support a developer that made a free game, for which they got a little something in return for. Slowly but surely this concept started getting perverted into free games where it was impossible to enjoy yourself unless you keep putting in money, like some kind of slot machine. And now we’ve come to the point where you pay for a game that expects you to keep paying you more. This is not just All the Bravest, sadly enough. It appears to become the cornerstone of “next gen” design documents. Gamers have already been giving up cheats, bonus costumes and easter eggs in the last generation. Those elements are now separate purchases microtransactions or DLC. We are now entering the domain where the simple act of “unlocking content” is being jeopardised. Games are raising the in-game requirements for these things to be arbitrarily obnoxious. This is to try and tempt you to spend a few extra bucks to make the tedium go away. It’s scummy and annoying, but it’s what we’re going to have to put up with.

Yeah the worst part is it’s really debatable where to draw the line. Some people are prepared to buy virtual hats and win buttons and some are content to grind their way to slowly progress so long as its free. Makes some sense to say that the consumers will ultimately dictate what’s going to be a viable option for game monetisation on the whole… but that’s not such a great solution in practice when so many people are reporting that they bought game with certain expectations and they ended up feeling cheated and ripped off because they didn’t realise from a few screenshots and rigged reviews just how LITTLE fun they were actually getting for their money. Worse still, some people have found that they or their children have UNWITTINGLY made purchases because the user interface hasn’t been clear, and the companies just… got away with that? The lack of any sort of system for refunds reveals the greed and apathy towards consumers.

Dumbest premise

3rd place
Wario sees an opportunity to raid a pyramid for women’s jewellery, a princess who got turned into a cat follows him, he drives to a pyramid in his cadillac and when he hits a magic frog he has to escape the level before the portal closes I guess. (Wario Land 4)

At least, that's my interpretation of whatever the heck is going on.

2nd place
Twin girls were born into the kingdom so they had to abandon one because there can only be one queen to wield the runestone that protects the kingdom but they felt bad for the abandoned princess so they gave her the runestone when they left her to die. (Lost Kingdoms 2)


I have to stop the villain from getting to the sperm bank and stealing some jizz THIS IS A SERIOUS GAME (Parasite Eve)

That's what she said.
Serious game based on a serious novel, that’s all about ...well… that.

I guess anyone who read our Parasite Eve review has already seen this, but… come on. I mean, sure it’s not like there's anything wrong making a story about hoisting some joe juice, but this game just plays it so straight like there's nothing a little bit special about running around a sperm bank with a grenade launcher hoping to christ that the terrifying abomination won’t get the creampie she needs to secure the end of all mankind.


Most Awkward Moment

3rd place
The Sound Room (Wario Land 4)

I’m not going to waste many words on this. Wario Land 4 rewards you for collecting stuff by giving you just the worst music. I’m not even exaggerating here. The worst music. That’s a big claim, and you might think you know bad music, but you really don’t. Not until you heard this mess.

2nd place
Getting quizzed on my thoughts about lesbian adultery by a spaceship computer (Analogue: A Hate Story)

This very provocative game featured an ultra-conservative character who accompanies you while reading a diary about a lesbian love affair between a patriarch’s wife and his concubine. She is deeply disgusted by lesbians and obsessively questions how you feel about forbidden lesbian sex. It doesn’t really give you the option to clarify that lesbians are cool but cheating generally isn’t. Also everyone is like a moe teenager. Blargh.

Talking about the sex life of a 16 year old slave bride (Analogue: A Hate Story)

Instant coffee.
And if that wasn’t weird enough, the whole game revolves around a story of forced marriage and statutory rape, and you get to talk to the victim who is now a little bit clingy for you. She tells you what she did and didn’t like about being a slavebride, and asks what provocative fetish uniform you want her to wear. Um.. no thanks. Still the provocative and emotionally challenging nature of this game is what made me glad I played it. It asks you how you feel about the subjects and gives you the option of being a feminist crusader or a creep. It’s not for everyone, but its immersive and challenging in an unconventional sense.
Is there really a lot of explanation needed beyond this? Pretty much says it all, doesn’t it? I get that the story is supposed to make you reflect on the unfortunate circumstances that this person was forced in, but it doesn’t really make it feel less uncomfortable.

Deja Vu Award for Ballsiest Ripoffs

3rd place
Puzzle Agent is Professor Layton sorta

The people at Telltale must have looked at the Layton games and thought “Hey, this is pretty cool and seems like a thing we could do too.” So they went ahead and made their own Layton game, while giving it a Fargo makeover.

2nd place
Doctor Lautrec REALLY is Professor Layton

While Puzzle Agent takes inspiration with the composition and genre but goes it’s own way with all it’s asthetics… Doctor Lautrec totally lifts the whole style of Professor Layton. He’s an eccentric european archaeologist who likes solving puzzles with a young assistant. Whilst wearing a black top hat. Hmmmm.

Game Dev Tycoon teaches us an important lesson.

So Game Dev Tycoon is a game about making video games. Pretty cute idea, and executed in a decent fashion. You know what game did it better though? The very game that this game *cough* “took inspiration from”; Game Dev Story. However a straight rip-off doesn’t really do enough to set yourself apart these days. These guys had to go the extra mile.
They added a mechanic that would punish those that pirated this game. It did so by making sure none of the in-game products you made would sell very poorly. The lesson is that ripping off other people’s properties hurts the original developers. You should therefore be mindful and respectful to the people whose hard work gives you these countless hours of entertai-ohhhmygooood grab onto something! This black hole of irony is sucking us in and consuming us all!

Bognor Award for Exemplary Fucking-Shit-Up-itude

3rd place
Deviljho (Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate)

I once heard someone describe Deviljho as a design only a very excitable child could come up with. That it is the biggest, hungriest T-rex with teeth all over its body, has acidic saliva, can shoot coldfusion-laser-breath out of its mouth, and whose hunger is only only rivaled by its ability to be angry. All true. This thing is always scary. It stalks you and any other big monster around the maps and is fully capable of slaying any monster it encounters. It is the only monster in the game that can see you putting down poisonous, drugged meat, and not give a shit. It will chomp that stuff down just to prove that it doesn’t care.

2nd place
The Wonderful 101 - Pretty much all of it.

Wonderful 101 is the embodiment of the Bognor spirit from top to bottom. Collateral damage is a staple of the genre, and, well, you make giant fists and swords and guns out of other superheroes and jam a train carriage into a spaceship and rip the arms off a godzilla-sized mech and deflect anti-tank sticky mines with a baseball bat... But no real spoilers,  that’s all just the tutorial chapter.


So after two nominees that easily could have won this award handily, how the heck did neither of them win, Al? Who was more awe inspiring than those?

Us. (Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate) 

Well gosh, I hate to brag (loljk), but… well, we’re The Shit. You read what Deviljho was like, and Tobi and I have killed like 6 of them. And about a dozen Brachydioses, 4 Jhen Mohrans, 3 Ivory Lagiacruzes, 2 GoldBeard Caedeuses, and a Plesioth in a pear tree. With my switch axe and his hammer, we’re some ridiculous force of destruction. I think we might be what happened to all the dinosaurs.

Anyway, my REAL point here actually isn’t to act like we’re actually the best at that game compared to say, other players. We almost certainly don’t rank on any actual leaderboards at all. My actual point is how much of a badass the game MAKES you feel when you get a bit good at it. It’s so very manual and hands on, and it takes so much practice to learn each weapon type that it feels like the weapon becomes yours and the victories are earned. There’s no ‘press X to do an elaborate uninterruptable combo’, you have to plan your hunts and time your swings and learn all the different types of AI behaviours.

This is definitely the heart of the series. It puts enormous, scary, salivating obstacles in front of you and you’re probably going to get your ass whooped. A bunch of times. In order to survive and climb to the top of the food chain, you need to learn how to be patient and prepared. Since pretty much all of your opponents are vastly faster and stronger than you, your only defense is being smart. Since I played with a hammer, an incredibly slow item, I spend a lot of time waiting. Waiting for a monster to reveal an opening or stop paying attention to me. In single player, this meant that matches could last a very long time, since I’d be dodging more than attacking. When I took my hammer online however, I was amazed with how valuable Allie’s presence was. She whacked the big critters constantly, wearing them down and grabbing their attention. Because our characters complemented each other so well, we were able to overcome pretty much anything it threw at us. When you complete a hunt, the built-up adrenaline slowly releases its grip on you, the soothing theme song just washes over you. It makes you feel like the raddest dude on the planet.
And the only thing more thrilling and satisfying than all that, is doing it while working together as an inseparable team with your best friend.

1 comment:

  1. A very interesting blog. Not exactly what I would've chosen as winners but the it's good enough because I have also found some of those games to be fun. We are all entitled to our own opinion about the best and worst games of all times anyway. :)
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