I’m writing this on Friday to post on Monday, because I have absolutely nothing else to too. I am bored out of my mind and shizzle my nizzle. I think it’s time to start reviewing 2010 and, all in all, it was a pretty low year to be honest. Nothing really came out of the blue and beat me to death. If anything, I think game design itself has improved rather than core experiences, allowing future experiences to be much better. For instance, Mass Effect 2 focuses on character development and progressive relationships with the player character, essentially you’re creating your own emergent story; the game is performing Inception (I’m going to be probably using that phrase a lot more).
I think, all in all, 2010 was the year that indie gaming truly hit its stride. VVVVV, Super Meat Boy, Minecraft (although still in development), Give Up Robot 2 and various others. In fact, my main three contenders for game of the year come from that list right there.
I’ll be announcing the final game of the year next month at some point, although I have a vague idea of what it already is. For now, let me go into depth into my choices.
Give Up, Robot 2
You can play it for free here.
Surprised, shocked, confused? Good. I think Give Up, Robot 2 is pretty much the definitive ‘grappling hook’ game. It out-grapples Bionic Commando and various other games to become the absolute dominant game that I can think of. It reminds me of ye olde Spider-man 2 game, in which web-slinging was the main focus and felt smooth as butter. Give Up, Robot 2 from the amazing Matt Thorson pretty much brings that linear mechanic and shapes into this big giant arc of content. There are various other little bits of gameplay goodness from jetpacks to gravity to everything in-between. It’s all told through this retro aesthetic and is a true video-game game, it also holds my ‘antagonist of the year’, who is both hilarious and chilling at the exact same time. The game isn’t on my list because it’s necessarily good, but because it’s so amazingly well designed. There are intricacies at play here and it all adds up to a clever and thoughtful platformer-puzzle with similar responses that I got from the likes of Braid and VVVVV. I won’t spoil which is my front-runner for game of the year… but… well… maybe.
I finished New Vegas a few days ago and I can honestly say it’s one of the best RPG experiences I have ever had. The ideas of old RPGs of progressive metrics are now completely dead and I have fallen in love with the design philosophy of ’emergent introspective’. The type that when you make a decision, you’re looking into yourself and finding reasons for such decision (even finding things about yourself you never knew). It’s this introspective which challenges the idea that games have to do the questioning and answering for us (putting morality into a metric was the stupidest idea of this generation of consoles). I enjoyed my time with the characters so much it became an emotional and heart-warming emergent tale. All of your relationships are progressive and there is such a wealth of content here that I can’t help but wonder if I’ve barely even scratched the surface.
Super Meat Boy
Christ, what a game! Probably the best platformer I’ve ever played, the hardest game I’ve ever played and the most fun I’ve had with some meat. The controls are probably the best ever too. So why isn’t it the front-runner? Or is it? WHO CAN TELL?! HAHAHAH. Anyways, I am going through my 100% completion and I just cannot find a single fault with the experience I’m having. It’s impossible to hate this game, but it’s impossible not to love to hate this game. Know what I mean? No? Go away. I am a god. I think the fact that a game like this can come about and tickle people’s hearts and wallets into experience pure video-game would make me die a happy man if it was the last game I ever played. It is something to be said when a game touches you not in its actual content of the experience, but in the actual existence of it.
Mass Effect 2
I have never felt so in touch with a player character ever before playing Mass Effect 2. The decisions I made had actual ramifications, the world was like clay to my liking of choice and everything seemed to revolve around the people I was gathering. The game is not about the suicide mission or the eventual outpouring of heart and soul and death; but the absolute revolutionary build-up towards that. Bioware are true masters of video-game writing, managing to turn 25 hours of (what sounds boring on paper) character development into one of the greatest paced video-game experiences of all time. I love, love, love this game and I love it even more for being able to carry on my history and decisions from Mass Effect 1. It is so welcoming to see your relationships pick-up from when you left off.
I’ll make a big fancy schmancy logo and stuff for GOTY and some other awards I want to do. If you’re asking why a few games aren’t on my list, I’ve listed them below.
- Red Dead Redemption – Characters I’ve never met serve as the motivation for the whole game story, don’t learn the name of my wife until half-way through my whole crusade. Dubbed ‘non-linear’ but it’s just a sandbox stitching together purely linear mission.
- Limbo – The ending killed it for me, and I think some of the pacing is wibbly wobbly. Was a sideline contender, but I think it shows all of its cards too early. Can’t wait to see what the studio do next though.
- Call of Duty: Black Ops – Abuses interactive storytelling beyond and measure and effectively does nothing to the franchise. Stagnation has come early.
- Halo Reach – I don’t get all the love.
- VVVVV – Toughie, toughie, toughie and all I can say is that Super Meat Boy is just the better platformer. I love both in equal measure but I had to make a decision.
- Minecraft – Not finished yet, automatic GOTY when it is.
- Heavy Rain – Absolute abuse of player identity and interactive storytelling, doesn’t let the player experience a story, just lets them take a small role. Plot holes and inconsistencies along with pre-determined character relationships shoot it in its candidacy guts.
- Kane and Lynch 2 – LOL