December 31, 2012

My Top Games of 2012: Top 5

Okay, let’s keep this rolling with my top 5 games of 2012. Tomorrow I’ll give some honorable mentions that I couldn’t put on the top ten list for one reason or another, but I still think are pretty swell.

Number 5 – Binary Domain
Sega trying to do Gears of War sounds really terrible, but Binary Domain is something special. The voice commands just do not work. Don’t try them. But the smaller system of pressing buttons to respond to your allies’ comments is actually pretty cool. The combat is solid. The enemies are bullet sponges at times, but it’s still quite fun, and the upgrade system really does change you from a really weak character to a guy who can take a lot of abuse by the end of the game. The real spotlight here, though, is the story. All the characters seem like horrible caricatures, but end up being really well realized and endearing by the end of the game. There’s a crazy twist by the end of the game, but when you get there, you’re so engrossed in this weird world of French Robots and Cup Noodle that it makes perfect sense. Like Spec Ops, you’re probably best off just playing this one on easy and enjoying the story, but the story is super enjoyable, and you should really give it a try.

Number 4 – XCOM: Enemy Unknown
I must admit it’s kind of painful to put XCOM so low, but I couldn’t move my top three around to make room for it. So it goes here. In a different year, this could have been Number 1. But holy shit, XCOM. Obscenely addicting tactical combat that, unlike the original XCOM, clicked with me immediately. When I make mistakes, I know why, instead of just dying and being confused. There’s so much depth in setting up your team, determining what to fund when, balancing the needs of all the countries giving you money, and so on, that you can just play this game for HOURS. I don’t have much time for binge sessions of video games anymore. I tend to play in hour chunks, then quit. Even on my winter break here, that’s what I’ve been doing. I have only played XCOM in like 4-5 hour blocks. It is so good. SO GOOD. Play XCOM.

Number 3 – Cook, Serve, Delicious!
I e-mailed the guy who made this game, and I told him that it was one of my top games of the year. I meant it. Cook, Serve, Delicious! is some of the best fun I’ve had this year, hands down. This little restaurant simulator is so fast-paced and challenging, but in a way that slowly ramps up with you, so you never feel like you can’t do the crazy challenges it throws at you. The adrenaline I get when I play this game is insane. I cannot remember feeling so pumped and “in the zone” when playing a game since back when I was obsessed with Tetris Attack. Apparently this just came out on iPad as well, which seems like a good fit. You really need to give this game a try. Once it starts to click with you, it will not let go.

Number 2 – FTL: Faster Than Light
I played this game to death, but still, months later, I’d throw on a podcast and go, “I need something to play while I listen to this” and play a few more rounds. The game is so simple, but so deep. That feeling when I first beat the rebel flagship was AMAZING, even though it was on easy. I never thought I would! And still, I wanted more. I wanted to unlock more ships, which drastically change your playstyle. I wanted to try more weapon combinations and new types of crew. I wanted to see everything. The fact that you can pause this game at any time, and the combat still often feels overwhelmingly intense, says something about how awesome FTL is. The music is solid too. Fucking buy FTL right now.

Number 1 – The Walking Dead
The countdown to tears is over. Walking Dead made me cry at its ending, and I nearly teared up at several other points throughout the game. Few games have made me more attached to its characters, and the decision-making you do in this game feels so brutal constantly, even if I can realistically separate myself from the game and realize how much of it was smoke and mirrors. I have always supported Telltale Games, but with this game, they have really come into their own. I don’t give a shit about the comic, or the show, but I have constantly evangelized this game to everyone who would listen to me. The Walking Dead might not be the most game-like game, but it shows how the medium can be used to have a really, really affecting story that makes you feel like a game story might actually be able to stand up against a well-written TV show or movie. The Walking Dead is a triumph.

Tomorrow, I’ll talk about some stuff that couldn’t make my list, unfortunately. Have a fun New Year’s Eve, everyone.

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