Tug Your God Out

Dwell into the pasttime of empowerment; video games

2010 Game of the Year

So 2010 has come and gone. Some gamers may consider this year the greatest year in gaming as companies flooded us with a great deluge of quality titles over the past 12 months starting in January and not letting up until the finish of the Holiday season. While we didn’t exactly match animals two by two, us gamers had an impossible time keeping our heads above water. There were hundreds and hundreds of games released this year. 2009 saw 1001 releases on the major consoles (not counting the iOS and Android platforms I believe) and while I don’t have the final numbers for 2010 I wouldn’t be shocked if that number is completely dwarfed by 2010’s count.

For the first time ever it felt like it was impossible to play everything you wanted. But I sure tried my damnedest to play anything and everything anyone would recommend or found interesting. And there was a ton of great, interesting games put out this year. In fact, my original short list for the top 40 games of the year spanned well over 100 different titles.

Pouring over that short list for about a month (outside of maybe two or three titles, everything worth mentioning is out before Black Friday — I mean it’s only smart business)  I just couldn’t seem to settle on a single order to things.  Granted it’s like that for any list one creates.  You’re usually very aware of what items you want on that list and in what general order those items will go in but there’s a lot of items so close and interchangeable that it gets frustrating trying to differentiate between say the 4th and 5th spot.  And how much difference is there between the 20th spot from the 24th one? Generally this quandary doesn’t bother me too much — lists are, after all, pure opinion separated by arbitrary numbers.  That and generally my opinion on these arbitrary numbers tend to often change vary wildly in the span of six months.  I recall looking back on my 2009 list back in June and it’s dreadful to be honest.  Even the final re-edit was groan-inducing. 2008’s list is so awful it’s not worth even talking about — seriously, LittleBigPlanet and Fable 2 in the top 5? What the hell was wrong with me — I almost despise those titles now. And I don’t really want to remember where I placed Braid before my quest for the true ending made my brain snap.  I swear I feel a slight twitch coming from underneath my cerebral cortex any time Braid is mentioned.  Not just within my presence, but anywhere in the world. My wife thinks it’s a potential tumor but I know better.

Still this year’s list was increasingly difficult and it dawned on me eventually why this year felt more difficult than previous years to order. I honestly try each year to pick the best games and attempt to keep my bias for genre or platform out the discussion.  Obviously, I’m very aware this task is impossible but at least I can be aware of it and limit it to a certain degree.  And there’s the problem — there was just too much quality stuff across every single genre and every platform.  The Playstation 3 continued its steady rise; the 360 saw a solid year built on key sequels;  even the Wii, which I would argue saw an off year compared to 2009 had a strong showing with several amazing experiences that you could only find on Nintendo’s waggle-box; the DS continued to produce some of the most interesting and unique titles on the mainstream market; the PSP quietly had maybe the best year in terms of software exclusives; iOS and Android finally not only established themselves as viable gaming platforms but began to even show the potential to dominant the gaming landscape; Facebook and other browser games brought us diversions from our everyday lives in short bursts; and PC gaming is starting to rise from the ashes and take a foot hold again as it always does as each console cycle wanes on.

If you wanted FPS games — well we had a ton of those as per status quo, but the platformer returned in a big way also.  The fighting game revival continued to pick up steam and 2011 looks to be home for potentially six of the most hotly anticipated fighting games ever (KoF13, Mortal Kombat 9, Tekken Tag Tournament 2, Street Fighter X Tekken, Marvel vs. Capcom 3, and Arcana Hearts 3 if you needed to know.) If you liked puzzle games — we had those by the boat load. If you liked RTS games — this may have been a year never to forget. True, RPGs were a bit hard to find but only if you didn’t know where to look. Shmups? Yeah 2010 had them, as well as visual novels, a genre that is quickly becoming one of my favorites. And all the other genres — we saw amazing, quality entries in all of them.

2010 had something for everyone across all genres and platforms and when you try to keep genre bias out of it as much as possible is it really possible to say one great game in one genre is theoretically better than a great game in another genre? As I said, it is possible to just ignore it and keep going — it’s just a list — but when you start trying to shift every genre in front of each other it just gets insane.  Just maybe 2010 was the greatest year in gaming history — it has a lot of tough rivals out there but the variety and depth in variety found in 2010 is just mind boggling.



A late contender for my list, Digital: A Love Story by Christina Love came out apparently in February but I didn’t hear about it until Giantbomb had Paul Barnett on their podcast for his games of the year. I quickly downloaded it (Barnett said it couple be completed in 8 minutes….I believe he meant two hours) and ran through it.It’s another visual novel so if it’s not your cup of tea, I don’t blame you, but two hours — what do you have to lose? You can’t even grind out a single level in an hour of WoW.

The game is set “five minutes into the future of 1988” and it’s told through the old Bulletin Board Systems (BBS) that would later evolve into the World Wide Web we know today. I vaguely remember BBSs growing up so I’m worried anybody younger than me might not get the same warm, nostalgic feeling of the interface or the crackling of the dial-up modem each time you log into a new BBS.

The story is told by reading and replying to posts on these BBS. Sadly you don’t get to choose your ‘reply’ beyond just hitting reply but it allows for more control and structure to the story obviously. But as you read and reply to these message boards the mystery of the story starts to unfold. Part of the twist sort of comes out of left field but one BBS and its posts actually at least grounds the twist.I don’t feel the main line story is all that intriguing (although hacking into APRANET is amazing) but the way it’s told it’s unique and totally only something a video game could do (and while mimicking a shell that is wholly unique to computers) and that’s what I absolutely want to see from a Games of a Year list — something that’s original and helps push the medium forward.

 Could this type of story telling be done in a Triple-A title? Definitely not, although it is slightly similar to the non-intrusive story telling you find in Bioshock’s audiologs or the appendices of Final Fantasy XII, where all the interesting back story is told by completely optional means. I think I’m one of the few that loved FFXII but only because I spent the hours and hours reading the information on Ivalice in the game. Still making an entire retail game out of that isn’t going to work.I kind of wish there then was more superfluous entries. You’ll see some BBS posts that are satire of internet culture and of the time period, posts that are completely irrelevant to the narrative impetus but they help ground you in the world of Digital and make it feel more alive. If we could have seen more posts that were just solely flavor I would have been all over that. Still I’m very impressed on how well the structure was able to work.I’m a real stickler on video game stories — 99.9% of them just aren’t up to snuff — but in a year where everyone’s mind was blown by the clusterfuck that was Heavy Rain, it’s a bit of a shame games like this are completely overlooked by 99.9% of the population.

As a movie, Heavy Rain would be awful D-list fare — and it attempts to be a movie more than a game. I’m not going to say Digital: A Love Story tells a fantastic story but at least it tells a solid, competent and heartful story that could only be done in the contexts of interactive fiction.Oh and the music, wouldn’t imagine it, but it’s amazing. Ms. Love, thanks for the experience and I’d be willing to pay you for the soundtrack. I finally found your website but there’s no donation button? What’s up with that?Digital: A Love Story can be downloaded here


Two years ago I was able to put the first Professor Layton (and the Curious Village) on my top games of the year list. Last year’s entry, Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box, got the short end of the stick because it didn’t change up much of the formula. Yeah it was one of the best games of the year but with so few spots on an arbitrary list I’d rather use a spot on a game that did something new. I do sort of regret that decision as Diabolical Box’s narrative did something very few video game narratives have done and brought me to tears.

I’ve decided to remedy that mistake and geek the hell out about Layton’s third adventure:


Professor Layton is amazing and if there was one video game characters I could hang out with and go on adventures solving puzzles with it would be the Professor and his apprentice Luke. And guess what — that’s the strength video games have. I can go on a grand adventure and solve puzzles with the Professor and Luke and I’m an active participant in that adventure even if the story is linear (ooh, there’s that evil word again) and the puzzles usually have little connection to the actual plot.

The improvements Level-5 made to Unwound Future are small and subtle but make a huge difference and I cannot wait to see what they have in store for us with the next three Layton games: the Specter’s Flute, the Mask of Miracle and the Towering Silence. Honestly one of my early 2011 ideas for a blog post is why Professor Layton is prehaps the greatest video game series ever created. I’m confident I can back that up.


I think I’ve made it clear that I despise Braid.  PB Winterbottom is what Braid should have been — you know, a game and not a bunch of pretentious crap for the sake of being a douchebag.  

The object of the game is to collect pies and you do so by making clones of PB that will repeat whatever action you recorded.  The puzzles are fun and interesting and I love the silent-talkie film aesthetic which felt a lot cooler and stylistic than Limbo’s “hey, let’s make everything silohetted. That’s be artistic!”

It was on steam for a whole 50 cents over the Holiday break so if you missed out of it you really ought to kick yourself.


I believe this is the lowest the Playstation 3 has clocked in on my list since the PS3’s freshman year (which really only included a single month) and there will be no three-peat with Sony’s black box taking home the top slot the previous two years.

Sure God of War 3 is more God of War but everything is ramped up to the Nth degree for the series debut on the PS3.  The Cestus and other new weapons expands and prefects the combat — which was fairly fantastic the last time out to be honest.  The brutality is off the chain too as all I have to mention is Poseidon, Zeus and Helios and anyone who’s played God of War 3 will cringe.  And the set-pieces also have gone through the roof — YOU’RE RIDING ON THE BACK OF A FUCKING TITAN TO OPEN THE GODDAMN GAME!  HOLY FUCKING SHIT THAT’S AMAZING! WHERE’S MY FUCKING UNICORN THIS SHIT IS AWESOME! God of War has always known how to put its best foot forward to start off its games and hook you.

I’m a little grumpy about the post ending, I’m really in the camp that says Kratos needed to die for the sake of the narrative but I’ve come to gripes with it.  Maybe he deserves to retire peacefully to some deserted island.  Though knowing what we know about Kratos, he’ll never have peace until he’s dead so I can only imagine it means another game is coming.  Is it a bad thing? No but God of War 3 is epic enough that I’ve had my fill for a while.  Playstation 4 launch title? Now I’d be up for that.


At 15 we get a two-for as I think both games are pretty much the same as they both came out in the West in 2010 and Ys Seven builds so strongly off of Felghana’s work five years previous.

I know why the PSP hasn’t done well over in America but while no one was looking over the past two years it has built up a fairly impressive library.  There are some flat-out fantastic games on Sony’s little portable that couldn’t and while the Japanese get it (it was the highest selling platform in 2010 there, thanks to Monster Hunter Freedom obviously) I really wish some of that enthusiasm would leak into the US market. Sony really needs to fix up this hardware because the software library holds its own.  More than likely Sony will make the same stupid mistakes with the PSP2 but we can hope (and pretend) they learned from their stupidity and be excited for the handheld.

Both Ys Seven and Oath in Felghana (a remake of Ys III: Wanderers from Ys) came out in America over the past calendar year although Oath is five years older.  I’ve always had a soft spot for Ys III but it’s admittedly a horrible game that attempted to riff off of Zelda 2 and failed miserably. They pitch that out the window and use the game engine from Ark of Napishtim, which I’ve admittedly not played.  The engine works and the experience is a much faster pace and a complete blast to play.

Ys Seven builds off of the same engine and was built specifically for the PSP in mind and introduces dodging and being able to control multiple party members.  Ys Seven may (I’d have to deliberate on it further) hold two very nice RPG distinctions for me.  It may be the fastest pace combat I’ve ever seen in an RPG and it might have the coolest/best boss battles.  I really looked forward to what the game was going to throw at me next.

The only down side to Ys Seven is JESUS THEY NEVER SHUT UP and the dialog is so poorly written that you almost hate your party members for being the dumbest people you’ve ever encountered.  Hey you think she’s the princess? Nah! I NEVER thought I would hate Dogi in a million years but Ys Seven I came very close.  I don’t mind reading — I mean I do have two visual novels on this list — but when the game begins to almost insult your intelligence with its pathetic writing that’s where I start to have beef.  It’s a shame because good God the combat is so much fun.

Oath in Felghana is slightly older and doesn’t feature multiple characters or the dodging during combat but I almost enjoyed it more as very little dialog got in the way and I was prehaps more familiar with the story playing Ys III dozens of times. Though come to think of it each Ys game pretty much is the same thing over again.


The caveat here is Enslaved is one of those games I’ve yet to finish or even get too far into thanks to so many games I’ve been playing lately.  But Enslaved is one of those games that I can see really moving higher and higher up my list the closer and closer I come to the end of it.  Although I hear the ending is totally weird to a fault.

Enslaved does a tremendous job putting forth one of the best character driven narratives of the year (although it falls short of being the best in that category) through tremendous motion-capture and voice acting work.  The extra care and work (and Andy Serkis) they put into those aspects really helps to connect you to those characters and while they’re not terribly interesting or unique characters they’re certainly endearing enough to be memorable. 

The combat is surprisingly deep and fun for how simplistic it is.  I was worried after completing the demo that would be it but thankfully the combat really does get better.

Also I’ve noticed I’m  starting to become a sucker for parkour games — Prince of Persia 2008, The Saboteur, Assassin’s Creed — I find myself hopelessly addicted to games that involve a lot of climbing on shit by just holding the left stick in the right direction. 


I’ve been championing Greed Corps the game came out and no one listened.  It’s a great little four player ‘board game’ that takes about 20 minutes a match as you attempt to harvest as much of the map as you possibly can while trying to avoid having the land collapse along with you. I talked about it at slightly more length in a previous blog post. Seeing as I haven’t posted much this year, it’s probably not hard to find.

NUMBER 13. BIOSHOCK 2 (360, PS3)

I know, I know — BIOSHOCK 2 DIDNT NEED TO HAPPEN!! It seemed like Bioshock 2 was damned by gamers before it even came out. How dare they make a sequel to the beloved Bioshock, which story was deemed very much “complete.” Well they did so by just doing another self-contained story set in the same atmosphere of Rapture. And guess what — it was as good, if not better than the original.

Sure it comes off as odd that we had never heard of Sophia Lamb or some of the other new important characters but alright — yeah it felt like a retcon because IT WAS. Here’s my advice to gamers when it comes to games — games are a lot more enjoyable when you stop being a douchebag and start looking at a game for what it is and not for what it isn’t. OH MY GOD FINAL FANTASY 13 ISN’T AN OPEN WORLD!!!! Well it was never intended to be. HALF LIFE 2 IS LINEAR — Well duh, that’s how one tells a story experience — IN ORDER.

Just forget what YOU think Bioshock 2 should be or forget you even believe there should never have been a sequel to Bioshock and look at the game for what it is and hey, imagine that — an enjoyable experience with better weapons, more diverse combat, better choices, a better story and probably one of the most bad-ass video game characters ever — Eleanor Lamb. And let’s face it — the Gathering sequences may just be some of the most intense gaming moments of 2010 on the highest difficulty.

Give Bioshock 2 a chance. It’s about $20 now and even the DLC Minerva’s Den is worth the download as another self-contained, fantastic story. Can’t speak for the multiplayer though — I never did try it.


Pretty much all of us gamers that grew up in the NES era are finding themselves lamenting the lack of time they have for games now that family, work and other commitments have encroached upon our gaming time. As I said with  Etrian Odyssey 3 I love my dungeon crawlers. I think Rogue is the most brilliant thing ever done with a computer (well other than Half-Life 2 and the internet) but sometimes I don’t have time to tackle massive randomly generated dungeons. Thankfully the guys at QCFDesign have answered my prayers and designed Desktop Dungeons.

At the start you pick your race, your class and what type of dungeon challenge you want to tackle and you’re plopped right down in the middle of a generated dungeon that’s no more than a window. Combat is handled fairly simply — you run into a creature until it dies — or you die first. You have health and mana potions, although both magic and HP are recovered by exploring unexplored portions of the dungeons. Some enemies can cause status effects like poison (which stops you from regaining health while exploring) or mana burn (the same but for magic) and you can even find alters to gods you can pray too. Each god will bestow your crawler with bonuses (as long as your pious to them) but also come with strong drawbacks.

With 7 different races, 18 classes, and 8 dungeon types there’s a lot of surprising depth but here’s the greatest part — dungeons take no longer than 10 to 20 minutes to complete. Sure, a lot of times you’ll be finding yourself in a unwinable scenario but that comes with the random generated territory.Though the funny part of Desktop Dungeons is while it’s genius and strength is in its ability to be played in less than 20 minutes, I’ve routinely lost 5 or 6 hours playing this. I almost always have it on in a background window while I’m doing something. In fact I’m attempting to finish the Snake Pit with a Blood Mage as we speak….I’ll be back in ten minutes for our next entry.

Desktop Dungeons can be found here…for free. http://www.qcfdesign.com/?cat=20


Yep, the best Wii game was a Nintendo property this year but sorry Mario and Kirby you’re playing second fiddle to Treasure’s on-rails shooter Sin and Punishment 2. Honestly I don’t think there was a single game released in 2010 that had more care, love and attention poured into it than this one. If I had to do a top-10 list, Star Successor is a hands down top 5 release.

Granted on-rails shooters are expensive to make and thus you’re starting to see them less and less, and it doesn’t help that anything that’s not an open-world game finds itself with the unwanted criticism of douchebags on internet message boards claiming that it’s too linear and therefore inferior to even dog shit in terms of playablity. But I guess they don’t realize these experience are more difficult to program and balance. Every little piece of the game is precisely calculated and designed to challenge and engage the player. The camera effects S&P2 uses are amazing and God I wish Michael Patcher was right for once and Wii HD would happen.

The original S&P holds a huge place in the hearts of importers as it was fully localized into English before it was decided not to release it out over in America. Its release on the Wii Virtual Console was reason to celebrate but damn if that game wasn’t made specifically for the awful N64 controller.  Playing it with a Gamecube or Classic controller just didn’t do the brilliance of that game justice.  I’m glad to see the franchise get another release and here’s to hoping another one isn’t far off.

Anyone who wants to say Japanese game development is dead and is no longer producing innovative, thrilling experiences needs to shut the hell up and pick up their Wii remote and Star Successor.


Probably the most fundamentally flawed game in the top 10 but it’s charm and art carries it a long way for me. It’s quite a unique tale as you’re not playing the handsome hero charged since birth to save the world. No, you play as the item shop keeper who has to stock all those wares that allow the heroes of the world to go on doing what they’re doing. You play as the titular Recette who’s inherited all of her lousy adventurer father’s debt and is forced into running an item shop for the dungeon faring town.  She’s accompanied by/spurred on by an advisor/faery named Tear.

You have only a few customers each day who come into your shop either trying to buy an item you may or may not have or they’re trying to sell an item to you.  You get two chances to make an offer to the customer to see if they accept it.  The value of the item is displayed on the screen (although I wish sometimes this wasn’t the case forcing you to guess at its actual value) so you have a general starting place.  If the customer doesn’t like your second offer you lose the sale, and as you only get a limited amount of customers a day these become huge risk-reward situations in guessing how high or low your costumer will go. 

Buying and selling low is only part of the it as the item shop is pretty much just the wrapping around a dungeon crawler for the obbessed complused.  The combat might not be the best but it’s fairly addictive nevertheless and later enemies start to require more strategy and skill than just whacking them — in fact some of the boss fights are just marvelous. Still once the loot you procure in the dungeon far outweighs anything a lone adventurer brings into your shop to sell, the illusion and premise of the game sort of breaks apart. Yet then again, the solo task of running just an item shop by itself would have worn thin much quicker.

If you don’t pay off the debt by Day 29 don’t worry — it’s kind of like New Game+ or hell Dead Rising 2 — the game just loops back to day one with a lot of things intact for you.  Though once you do pay off the entirety of the debt so much more  of the game opens up.  It’s simply enormous for only $20.

I almost disqualified this title as it did not originally come out in 2010 but seeing as 2010 was the first time it was available to the West in English I’ll let it slide this time — although man it leaves the door open for Dragon Quest V, but no — I’m only making one exception and it’s for Recettear. CAPITALISM, HO!


I won’t spend a lot of time talking about Darksiders as it seemed to picked up steam over the course of the year and people finally acknowledged it but let’s face it — Darksiders is a message to Nintendo that you better get your shit together because someone just did Zelda better than you. Darksiders got a lot of shit for ‘stealing from other games’ but honestly, game design is entirely an iterative process. Whatever you do is built upon that which became before you. Shouldn’t we then be lauding the Darksiders team for being able to tie so many small things together into such a tight package? The amount of times development teams have tried to combine elements from different games and failed miserably numbers up in the incomprehensible. It’s pure madness.

Let’s give Darksiders credit — it’s a damn good, solid game; what more did you want?

Also if you’re getting tired of post-apocalyptic worlds then well this one says fuck all that and brings on the actual real apocalypse.   Now only if we can get the well hinted at sequel before December 2012. If Legend of Zelda: The Skyward Sword isn’t just as good as Darksiders then sorry Nintendo I’m done with the Zelda franchise until you decide to get your shit together. Between Darksiders and 3D Dot Game Heroes I really have no need for Link.  Deep down that makes me sad but you at least attempt to innovate with Mario, Metroid and Kirby — why give Link and Zelda the short end of the stick since Majora’s Mask?


Some people in my gaming circle have asked me why it’s a bad thing that the Japanese gaming industry is falling apart at a rapid rate.  Sin and Punishment 2 is one good reason and Bayonetta is another. The Japanese, for whatever reason are all batshit insane. Even look at Shigeru Miyamoto — does he not look a little “off?”  Kenji Inafune this year proved he’s about as crazy as they come. And we know from Bayonetta that Shinji Mikami, Hideki Kamiya and the guys at Platinum Games are driving the crazy train — but luckily for them crazy makes some of the best shooters (of the third person kind) on the market.

I LOVE — LOVE — Devil May Cry. I’m sure the first game has not age well at all but I don’t care, I still hold it on a pedestal.  I loved DMC3 and I thought DMC4 was very good and I liked Nero a lot, enough to be sad about the upcoming reboot.  But not that sad because I’m pumped for the reboot — Ninja Theory (the guys behind Heavenly Sword, which I loved, and the aforementioned Enslaved) and Dante? It couldn’t get any better.  I even make excuses and “tolerate” DMC2 — so I’m a fan.

I LOVE Platinum Games.  I’m not sure if they really “get” what Western audiences want or if they “get” it on such a level the human brain can’t comprehend.  Because you look at their games — MadWorld, Bayonetta, Vanquish and to a smaller degree Infinite Space — and they’re all so over the top and seemingly trying to produce a Japanese version of what the West wants that it almost comes off a pathetic attempt — like white kids attempting to be thuggish black kids — it’s just painful. But then something with it just clicks and some how it elevates to parody and then finally to pastiche in your mind.

Bayonetta is about a sexy woman in glasses dressed up in a suit that looks like leather but is made out of her own hair, who kills angels with a gun in each hand….and a gun in each heel.  It’s just bat shit insane and it keeps getting weirder and weirder after the initial graveyard sequence and going up even into space. I’d love to explain the plot or at least the narrative set up but I’m not even sure I could attempt doing so. I have a vague idea about what went on in that plot but as I attempt to type it out I just feel dirty.  It’s cliché but Bayonetta is just one of those experiences that has to be experienced, mere mortal words cannot do it justice.

There’s a button to make Bayonetta pose….in sexy ways. Let’s not mistake what the target audience here is.  I know some feminists have attempted to equate Bayonetta to female empowerment and what not but you’re wrong — there’s nothing philosophical about  Bayonetta beyond guys just like leather and T ‘n A. I love the character but the fact that she’s showing up on some ‘best characters of 2010’ list is an outright joke.  Every time I think the industry is making a step forward (see Mass Effect 2’s Miranda, Samara and Tali) it still shows how very deeply rooted it is in adolescent fetishes.  Again — not taking away from what is a brilliant action game, but it just irks me to see Bayonetta talked up as some great character when she’s prehaps one of the most shallow of 2010.


 Where do I even begin? This might be my favorite experience game of the year and it happened to be the last game I played and completed of the year. And not just completed but completed four times in three days and I still need two more endings. I’ve been addicted to this game since Christmas night.The way I’ve tried to sell people on it is it’s a visual novel version of Saw.

You snap awake from the sound of an explosion to find yourself in a locked room. There’s a blood red ‘5’ emblazoned across the door with a keycard reader to the right of the door. You have a watch attached to your wrist with a digital read out of ‘5.’ Unfortunately you don’t have too much time to figure things out right now as the explosion has shattered the window — and you realize you must be on a oceanliner as now gallons and gallons of water is now pushing itself through the open window. Time to escape.

Upon escaping you find out you’re one of nine people who have been abducted by a person identifying himself only as Zero. The nine of you have nine hours to find the exit hidden behind the door labeled with 9. Each of the nine doors on the ship can only be opened by groups of no less than 3 but no more than 5 determined by the combined digital root of the bracelets of the group. Break the rules of this Nonary Game and the offender’s bracelet sets off the bomb Zero placed in each participant’s stomach.

Why were they each abducted? Who is Zero? Is Zero amongst them? With only one 9-door is it even possible for everyone to get off the ship alive? You know the drill in these types of stories but suffice to say there are a couple of surprises along the way and a couple turns that I didn’t expect or see coming. As you dig deeper and deeper into the mysteries of the Nonary Game and the ocean liner that may become your coffin in 9 hours the story just keeps branching out. Obviously nothing is a coincidence and by mistaken.

The meat of the action comes from the locked room puzzles which play out as self-contained adventure games. You have a locked door and a room or two and everything you need to open that door Zero has kindly provided you within the confines of that space. You just have to find it by solving puzzles and combining items. All the puzzles are logical (no rubber-chicken-with-a-pulley-in-the-middle found here) and really never come off frustrating. As long as you have half a brain and are awake you should be able to come up with the answer in a respectable amount of time.

Bridging the locked room sections are the story portions of the game which play out visual novel form. Be prepared to read a lot as there’s quite a bit of text in some sections but it’s all compelling and worth taking the time to explore. 999 does at least a very strong job in breaking up the walls of text with visual portions on the screen and you are allowed to fast forward any text you have read/seen in a previous play through so you’re not bogged down with having to read one early section that takes nearly a half hour again.

The story does sort of get a bit too weird for some tastes — at times I almost wish it completely ditched the elaborate back story behind the Nonary Game and concentrated more on the intense feeling of just escaping the situation but what we get is pretty damn good. This might be the best visual novel I’ve ever played — granted we don’t quite get as many as Japan where the genre is about as common place as action games. I implore anyone with a DS to track down a copy — hell I may just be willing to lend it out as the price in the secondary market is starting to skyrocket now that it sold out over Christmas. I believe in the game that much.


Only in video games can a cube of meat be considered cute

I don’t say this often but if you don’t like Super Meat Boy then you’re an idiot. No other game released this year completely embodies what a game should be at its core. This is a gamer’s game and it’s brilliant. You also won’t find slicker controls or more tightly designed levels than you will in SMB. Yeah the game is difficult (prehaps too difficult) but if you mess up a jump and die you have nobody to blame but yourself — the controls are that precise. This is the 2D platformer fine tuned about as far as it can get. And all this done by just two dudes. The indie scene never ceases to amaze me.

God it’s brutally hard at times but the short length of each level and the fact that death just means starting back at the beginning immediately I’ve never really thought of the game as frustrating. Now some of those Dark World levels I start-up, take one look at and go “oh fuck this” and immediately back out and return to the Light World levels, but I’ve never got so frustrated that I’ve had to chuck my controller across the room.

It’s like a bad relationship where you know you should get out but you love him — as you dab the ice-bag against your battered and swollen eye one more time and use a tissue to soak up the blood coming out of your lip.  Yeah, Meat Boy you’re a bastard but I love you so much.


At one point or another in the past month I’ve had each of the top six games at the number one spot.  I really have never seen a year where six games could have easily been the favorite.  Usually it’s just one game that stands heads above the rest or at the most two. And how weird is it that a PSP title very much was in the running for my game of the year?  Obviously it didn’t finish ahead of the fourth spot where Half-Minute Hero placed last year but did I ever once think of putting HMH at one? Never.

There are tons of good stuff on the PSP, it’s a shame Sony’s dropped the ball with it in America. And it’s not for a lacking for trying because well Peace Walker is the best Metal Gear game to date.  Yeah, they put the best game of one of their flagship series (yes I know Snake started on the MSX and has appeared on the 360 and the Wii and is coming to 3DS but when you think of Snake you think of the Playstation brand now) on their tiny system that no one in America bought.

Yeah, I said it — Peace Walker is the single best Metal Gear Solid game out there. It’s funny the game that has the least of Hideo Kojima’s bullshit (remember all Japanese are insane) and the least talking heads comes out as the best game. Hmmm who would have known? Something tells me they won’t learn their lesson and the upcoming MGS Rising and (you know it’s happening) MGS5 will go back to not shutting the hell up.

For the most part when it comes to a Metal Gear game you play it once, beat it and your done with it. Your head hurts but you’re done with it. You can play the higher difficulty levels and unlock some of the cheats but usually the rewards you get aren’t exactly worth it — you’ve beaten the game already. Peace Walker’s story mode can be finished in under 20 hours easily.  With 100 extra missions and the whole army/Outer Heaven building aspect it’s hard to put Peace Walker down hours and hours after that. It’s easily the biggest Metal Gear game also.

It’s easily the most straight forward in terms of story.  After the events of Snake Eater and Portable Ops, a shaken Snake leaves the United States and forms Militaires Sans Frontieres, a militia organization of mercenaries. It doesn’t take long before a professor and a girl are knocking at Snake’s door with an offer.  The CIA has invaded Costa Rica, who is without a military, thus they want the MSF to become Costa Rica’s protectors.  Snake laughs at their offer but the Professor plays a tape that supposedly proves the Boss is still alive.  Finding Boss is the driving motivation for Snake, none of this Patriots shit or who’s related to who.  You have a jaded and hurt Snake who had to kill the woman he loved for his country…and now she’s alive somehow.  And he obviously has a lot of questions for her.

Of course it wouldn’t be a Metal Gear game without Metal Gear and the threat of a nuclear warhead but that’s all secondary to Snake’s search for the Boss. Once those two missions are out of the way Snake’s job is then to build the MSF that will later become Outer Heaven.  As addictive as it is don’t be surprised if you dump twice as many hours into that than you did on the main story.

The biggest and best Metal Gear game and yet Sony doomed it to only have been played by only the most dedicated of the series fanbase. How about we rectify that with a slightly up-res’d PSN release that can be played on the PS3 and all for $20?


It’s a little cheese ball and it’s cringe-worthy that this is how the Japanese generally view the West and their tastes but much like Platinum Games other major release this year in Bayonetta they find a way to go beyond satire and deliver us something incredibly fresh and original.  You’d be surprised how satisfying and useful the rocket slide is not only in offensive situations but defense ones as well.

I’ll just get this out of the way though — Vanquish is the single best 3rd person shooter of 2010 and maybe one of the best action games of all-time.  Yeah a lot of people poo-poo’d on it for only being four to six hours but would you rather four to six hours of complete awesomeness or would you rather them padded the game out to twelve hours and made itself repetitious and redundant?  Every single review of Vanquish seemed to take points off for the game’s length and that seems to be one of my major gripes this generation (and even going back into the sixth generation as well) that people seem to think every experience needs to be the same. Every experience needs to be open world or needs to occupy X-number of hours to be worth it’s price tag or value. That’s why so many goddamn games are put out in a year — so we can get a variety of experiences, not every experience has to be like the other ones.  Why can’t a solid five hour game stand on its own if it’s just damn amazing?

If you like arcade type shooters then why haven’t you tried Vanquish yet?  Considered where I put Sin and Punishment 2 on this list and my great affinity towards The Club, released earlier this generation, and my love for Mikami’s work it’s no real surprise that Vanquish finished as high up on my list as it did.


Up until a month or two before it’s release Ubisoft was touting this release as a multiplayer expansion to the franchise and not much was said of the single player campaign up until even the release of the game.  Little did gamers know there was a full scale single player campaign inside Brotherhood and while slightly on the short side it not only offered up some interesting new gameplay additions and a nice variety of missions, but a story that’s almost integral to the continuation of the franchise.  The ending of Brotherhood is not just something they can breeze over in a typical “previously in” cut scene prior to the opening of Assassin’s Creed 3 or Lost Legacy or whatever is the next chapter in the franchise.  I just find it odd that more wasn’t made of the single player campaign as it’s their best yet and so important.

Though I guess one reason would be because that multiplayer is damn addictive. I’m not a huge multiplayer fan in general but I spent a good number of hours playing Wanted matches until I even decided to take a look at the single player stuff. Ubisoft really needs to be given their due props. Everyone was skeptical that they could make multiplayer work around the main tenants of the Assassin’s Creed franchise and yet not only were they able to do so they were able to do within the framework of their existing game mechanics as well as work it into the fiction and storyline.  It’s not just a mode separate from the single player but it sews itself into the fiction alongside the Facebook game, Project Legacy, released a few months back.  The Templars are building an army and they’re going to come to fight. It’s not subtle but you don’t realize at first how much shit is about to hit the fan. 

For a series that started off so poorly (I absolutely loathe the first game despite suffering through it start to finish twice and even collecting all those stupid flags once) it’s just shocking on how much they’ve managed to improve the series in just two more entries. Both AC2 and Brotherhood have their fair number of flaws, technical or otherwise, but they’ve managed to both be engrossing and fun while spinning a historical conspiracy thriller that is open to go to any location and to any time period it so chooses.  Thanks to both of these games I can’t stop thinking about Assassin’s Creed and I can’t stop playing Assassin’s Creed.


So amazing I’ve gone back to play through the Penumbra games — also thanks Humble Indie Bundle for that.

A survival horror, adventure game in the first person perspective, your character (Daniel) wakes up in the halls of Brennenburg Castle with no memory beyond he knows something is chasing him. As expected the back story and plot are told by finding diary entries and notes scattered around the castle. Two of the earliest notes are amongst the most chilling and serve as the impetus of the narrative — one reveals Daniel purposefully made himself forget; the other instructs him to travel deep within the castle and murder the baron of the castle, Alexander.

Sorry but Amensia chews up and spits out anything ‘survival horror king’ Resident Evil has ever attempted. This is legitly the scariest game made to date.  The game is strongly influenced by HP Lovecraft and it makes no apologies for it as it tends to deal with one’s sanity more than common ‘bump-in-the-night’ frights.  In fact ‘sanity’ replaces ‘health’ in the game-sense.  Sanity drops in one of three cases — seeing unexplainable events; staring at enemies; and being in the dark.  Once Daniel’s sanity tanks he become difficult to control and he begins to have visual and auditory hallucinations.  They’re fantastic effects but I do suppose Eternal Darkness did some more mindfuck stuff with its sanity meter. Still it does tension like so few games are able to do and a lot of it is in thanks to some stupendous pacing. I tend to think the term “immersion” is a stupid over-used buzzword but Amnesia really was able to suck me in.

The first time you see the beast it’s only for a fleeting moment as it passes by a door.  Knowing that Daniel is unable to protect himself, it’s one of the most tense moments I’ve ever felt in a game as I went through my head every single escape route out of that room just in case.  It’s not often that I forget that I’m playing a game and actually worried that much about my digital surroundings, but Amnesia was able to do it almost throughout the entire playthrough.


What is there left to say about Mass Effect 2 that hasn’t been said already?  Yeah it’s only a competent shooter but honestly the only thing that didn’t take one massive leap forward in this sequel was the soundtrack quality.  Everything else makes Mass Effect and ME2 like night and day.  Easily the biggest leap from the first entry in a series to the second, edging out even Assassin’s Creed 2. Even the only remotely intriguing thing about the first entry was completely toppled by ME2 — the characters.

What’s strange is when you look at Mass Effect 2 it’s only a competent to above-average shooter.  The narrative and story aren’t particularly intriguing.  The final boss is a huge let down as well as a “Whiskey-Tango-Foxtrot were they thinking?” moment. And I still think Alpha Protocol and Bioware’s own Dragon Age: Origins handled morality and choices better.  Yet some how Mass Effect 2 is more than the whole sum of its parts.  Some how Mass Effect 2 works so well that people have sunk the 30-40 hours into the game multiple times.

They lay the Dirty Dozen vibe on a little thick but I’ll be damn if it doesn’t work and it only works because the characters are damn intriguing.  There’s not one character in the group that I didn’t desire to figure out more about — and I wasn’t alone as evidenced by the amount of people who slapped down the money for the Lair of the Shadow Broker DLC.  The content in the DLC wasn’t particularly interesting or strong but the chance to pour over the Shadow Broker’s dossiers on each of the characters was enticing enough to slog through the missions.

While the loyalty missions were completely optional you’d almost be an idiot to skip any of them as they provided the best writing and content found in Mass Effect 2. While I still believe video games have a long way to go in providing interesting and worthwhile moral choices, Mordin Solus and Thane Krios really show how far the medium has come in not only in regards to morality but depth of characters. 

For what started out as somewhere between a riff and a blatant rip-off of both Star Trek and Star Wars (you can feel the influence of KotOR dripping off of the series) has miraculously turned into one of the most fully realized sci-fi fantasy worlds out there.  I may not have gotten what I wanted out of the series at first — a legit successor to the Star Control series — but I’m pretty happy with what we wound up with. After all I’m saying it’s the game of 2010. Though let’s not kid ourselves, I think a lot of Mass Effect 2’s legacy will depend on how Mass Effect 3 turns out.  I’m one of the millions that cannot wait.

AND NOW THE HONORABLE MENTIONS (In no order beyond as I think of them)

Alpha Protocol, Chime, Death is Sleep, Final Fantasy XIII, Dragon Quest IX, Kirby’s Epic Yarn, Miner Dig Deep, Protect Me Knight, Shoot 1-Up, Shoot First, Hydorah, Dance Central, Kinectimals, Etrian Odyssey 3, Majin and the Foresaken Kingdom, Split-Second, Gran Turismo 5, Call of Duty: Black Ops, Halo: Reach, MAG, Heavy Rain, Yakuza 3, Metro 2033, Resonance of Fate, Truama Team, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Lara Croft and The Guardian of Light, Valkyria Chronicles 2, RUSE, Civ 5, Starcraft 2, Fallout: New Vegas, Toy Story 3, Chu’s Dynasty, Limbo, Deathspank, NBA 2k11, Tidalis, Ancient Trader, Din’s Curse, Infinity Blade, Fruit Ninja, Game Dev Story


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