December 31, 2011

I Will Mention Them Honorably.

There are always games that are considered, but don’t make the prestigious (?) cut of being on my top ten list. Still, I like to point them out, as they’re still fine games. But before I do that, let’s talk about what games are glaring omissions from potentially being on any list. These are games I simply didn’t play this year. They might have had a shot, but it just didn’t happen.

Skyrim: I’m sure I’ll love it. I never got to it.
Kirby’s Return to Dreamland: I will clearly love the fuck out of this one, but again, haven’t cracked the plastic on it.
Stacking: Double Fine is pretty fantastic, and I’m sure this is funny and clever, but even though I own the thing (I bought it during a sale) I’ve never loaded it up.
Fortune Street: What a smart looking board game! But I haven’t spent near enough time with my friends recently to even think about playing something like that.
Professor Layton and the Last Specter: Got it for Christmas, haven’t tried it yet. It’s kind of a known quantity, but it’s good stuff, I’m sure.

Anyway, let’s get to those honorable mentions! These aren’t in any particular order.

Dark Souls
I thought that, much like Demons’ Souls, I would play this as just a curiosity and send it back to Gamefly, but this much-improved spiritual sequel really got it’s hooks into me. It’s probably still a bit more obtuse than it really needs to be. But there’s just something to the very skill-based combat and the way the world feels like a cohesive place you’re stumbling through that keeps me wanting to go back again and again, even as I die over and over and probably build my character wrong.

Neuroshima Hex
A port of a board game I didn’t know anything about, Neuroshima Hex hits the sweet spot between being complicated and being simple. Each of the armies plays very differently and gives you lots of options, and the Hex-based placement system makes turns go fast, but you never feel like a turn is unimportant. Sure, it’s a bit of a learning curve figuring out some of the icons and how the initiative system works, but once you’ve got a grip on that, you’ve got a damn good hotseat versus game that will only be improved once they get around to putting in online asynchronous multiplayer.

Ascension: Rise of the Godslayer
A card game port I didn’t know anything about, Ascension is a twist on the Dominion formula, but instead of picking a set of decks to play with every time, you have a static deck you cycle through with tons of options. In some ways, this makes the game even more strategic, because you always know what strategies are open to you from the get-go, but you can’t be sure the deck is going to deal out key cards to buy in time. Asynchronous multiplayer just adds to how awesome this game is. I guess there’s an expansion now that I haven’t tried? But the base game alone is worth the price of admission.

Virtua Tennis 4
If you had told me a sports game without “Mario” in the title would be anywhere near any best of list of mine, I would have told you that you were insane. However, I really considered booting Tiny Tower for Virtua Tennis 4 on my list for much longer than I probably should have. I just can’t believe how fond I think back on my time with that game. The honestly ridiculous board game campaign was just so much fun, and seemed created just for me, and the way you could make custom “super shots” that tailored to your playstyle was genius, even if they took a bit too long to unlock. If they kept that campaign in the next game and refined it more, I could see me buying Virtua Tennis 5, and me typing that feels weird, but it’s totally true.

I guess it’s Iron Brigade now? But the name doesn’t matter. Double Fine made a game that has actual gameplay mechanics instead of just some stuff you do while you wait for more jokes, and that is awesome. The customization on your Trench is a lot of fun, letting you play just how you want to in a group, and when you get four people together online, this game is magic. It has some flaws: the lack of endless modes at launch was one, for example, and the boss battles didn’t completely work as well as the normal stages. But it is a blast. If you have friends you can play with, purchasing this game should be a no-brainer.

That’s it for gaming of 2011! I look forward to playing way too many games in 2012 as well. Off we go! To the future! And, you know, to Ragnarok.

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