My previous games of the year were Portal and Mother 3. I can confidently say that Braid fits right up there with the best. It's a time-based platformer that warped my mind in ways that only Portal had previously. While the game technically came out in 2008 on Xbox Live Arcade, I didn't play it until 2009 and it was also released on the PlayStation Network and Windows this year. Braid set the bar for the entire year and nothing else matched it. Play this game whatever means you can, you won't regret it.
Unfortunately, my 2009 game experience has been woefully inadequate. However, of the games I have played, two easily stand out: Street Fighter IV and Dragon Age: Origins. Street Fighter IV was released early this year on consoles, a few months later on PC, and seemingly revitalized fighting games in the eyes of the public. Despite significant problems with its online implementation, the system runs well enough and the game is brilliant enough (both deep and easy to play) to create a thriving online community, bringing together old fighting game players along with new challengers.
Dragon Age: Origins is possibly the most important game of the year that came out of left field (at least, I never heard of it until it was released, then again I'm hardly integrated in the gaming scene anymore). Simultaneously released on PC, 360 and PS3, BioWare's WRPG quickly became a smash. And this was no fluke. By dropping the D&D system, improving character decision making, placing the game in a familiar fantasy setting, introducing an addicting (if somewhat imbalanced) skill system, delivering great voice acting, allowing both fast-paced or slow play (this list could go on for paragraphs), they set themselves up for a successful, popular endeavor that already has franchise plans in the works.
Chinatown Wars is simply a really fun, creative game that takes full advantage of the Nintendo DS. It's incredible to be able to play in the sprawling Liberty City on such a small device. While some of the mini-games using the stylus can be a bit gimmicky and ruin the flow of gameplay, you won't find a better driving destruction sim.
A new Zelda game on the DS, this time with managable controls and innovative gameplay. The puzzles in Spirit Tracks are fresh, the action is spot-on, and the whistle is so much fun to blow!
We played over 50 first hours in 2009, and some of them were a lot more memorable than others, and some were just plain awful.
More on this one later, but Lost Planet's first hour blew me away. Maybe I just wasn't expecting it from a game I thought for sure would underwhelm, but I have a soft spot for games that start and end with big boss fights.
A poorly reviewed game that ended up very high on my list of games this year. Wheelman is filled with wild racing action and incredible cinematics, one would have to be a hyper-critical fun hater to dislike this game.
Everything or Nothing started out with a bang and didn't let up. I expected a generic action game cashing in on a popular franchise; what I got was an well-polished action-adventure with great set-pieces, superb acting (Judi Dench, anyone?) and well-thought-out gameplay mechanics. Not only that, but it's a great adaptation of the Bond films.
While NetHack is a noob-destroyer, Star Trek: The Next Generation - A Final Unity had me staring at the clock waiting for the hour to end. It's a point-and-click adventure travesty that killed me off in the first few minutes for making the wrong dialogue choice and had me scrambling to GameFaqs just so I could get somewhere... anywhere. Too bad, and an incredible waste of a license.
The game was so bad I couldn't even bring myself to play through the first hour again to get the info I needed for the review.
This game hurt to play. Yes, that's its intent, but I was left psychologically twisted after about 45 minutes with I Wanna Be The Guy. After the full hour, I'm pretty sure I had PTSD. Do not play this game!
Being amateur journalists and gamers on budgets, we don't often play a lot of new releases, so a bulk of our time is spent playing older games. Here are our selections for games of the year... that didn't come out this year.
Probably the best overall game I played all year, BioShock rocks. Rapture is incredibly atmospheric and home to some of the most diabolical characters ever to appear in a video game. The gameplay also redefined the first-person shooter genre with plasmids and its sandbox style of gunplay. While I'm torn on the prospects of its sequel, I know one thing for certain, BioShock is one place worth visiting.
I loved the GameCube version but struggled with the control and perspective. Playing it on the Wii felt like it was designed to be played on the Wii. At a time when I wondered if motion controls would ever really be perfected for traditional games, this game gave me my answer.
I'm a few years behind Mike, and am just getting around to playing this on the 'Cube. I played this game in a way I haven't played a game in years. Even when I wasn't playing it, it was on my mind, and after I beat it I started it again, and beat the bonus mission, and I'm still enjoying it.
I always assumed that I would enjoy the Hitman series, when I finally gave Blood Money a try I instantly fell in love. It features open gameplay with tons of ways to take our your targets, but it's really the levels that shine. Mardia Gras in the French quarter, a Mississippi riverboat, the White House! Every stage is a memorable set piece. You will not forget this game.
Who knew that SimCity would work on such a small screen while re-inventing itself all at the same time? Somehow, SimCity Creator manages to do both. This game sucked away one of my vacations this year with its multiple time periods and challenged based objectives.
This game is the Reeses Peanut Butter Cup of gaming. "Hey, you got your puzzle game in my fantasy RPG!" And amazingly, the game was better for it. The quick play elements and RPG leveling were dovetailed perfectly in a powerful, yet approachable experience.
The World Ends With You has enough style for three games, or one Japanese fashionista. The combat is crazy and weird, but there's nothing else like it. The voice acting is surprising for a handheld. Plus it's the only original IP Square Enix has released, like, ever.
After a long day at the office, we get to come home to the kids. After finally putting them to bed, we get to play some games! Here's what reminded us of why we love video games.
A few years ago I watched my friend play the demo of Lost Planet (talk about first impressions...), and I was thoroughly underwhelmed by the concept. A third-person shooter in the snow where you had to worry about freezing to death? Sounded a bit too close to my Midwestern home, minus the shooting part. So it wasn't until this year that the game was thrust upon me and I gave its first hour a try. Talk about shock when I absolutely loved it. The game features big boss after big boss, tons of guns with awesome action, and no, you don't have to worry about freezing to death. Could I have been more surprised with Lost Planet? Bring on the sequel, I'm ready for more.
After reading multitudes of lackluster and even hateful reviews, I approached Golden Axe with caution. As someone who's naturally drawn to difficult games and naturally skeptical of people complaining about "broken controls", this game was right up my alley. It paid off in spades. It was one of the funnest games I played all year.
Again, because I thought it was going to be a generic action game, and it turned out to be really good. And Judi Dench was in it.
Oh, Mass Effect, how I love thee. After I received my Xbox 360 for Christmas last year, I immediately returned to the console's best game and played the heck out of it. I beat the game five times this year, and am in the middle of my sixth go around. Reached level 60 with a soldier and beat the game on Insane, then tried out my first adept, engineer, and finally infiltrator. Part of me wanted to be ready for Mass Effect 2 when it rolls around in a few weeks, but part of me just wanted to keep playing that flawed masterpiece over and over. This is the reason why I beat so few games this year: because I spent 100+ hours playing Mass Effect.
I'm at 270 days played and counting. What more can I say?
It's a JRPG. And that's that.
Pretty much see Mike's comment below about Heavenly Sword. My duel-wielding Seraphim hottie kept the grass watered with the blood of my enemies.
The game was totally average but there's just something enjoyable about a bad-ass hottie kicking faces and chopping off limbs that kept me coming back till the end.
Two Towers is fun. It makes me feel guilty because I'm a huge fan of the books, and dislike the movies. How much more should I despise a video game based on said movie?
Some people love them, some people hated them, and sometimes the hype was just too much.
Maybe I'm just an imagination-less bastard, but I could just not get into Scribblenauts. I even tried to hype it up, but at least it wasn't Drawn to Life kind of bad. It was just... not interesting to me. Grant loved it though, so what do I know?
As a huge fan of the Matrix movies and anime, I was thrilled at the prospect of Enter the Matrix. Getting my hands on it was another story altogether. The blurry graphics, kludgey combat system and ridiculously generic enemies showed this was nothing more than a licensed cash-in.
I agree with Mike about Enter the Matrix. I thought this game was going to be cool, but it's not. The live action cutscenes with the original cast could have redeemed it, but the performances seemed phoned in. It made me sad.
It's a bit painful even thinking about it, but Lux-Pain still gives me shivers. I understand that some people like playing "visual novels," but when the translation is this bad, what's the point? I just wanted it to end.
This game wasn't just broken, it was just plain bad. The shooting, the story, and the camera were all poorly implemented. Even the premise, which sounded great at first, was twisted into a D-Movie monstrosity that has to be played to be believed.
It was bad. Yes, I Wanna Be The Guy had a more painful first hour, but that's the point of that game. Enter the Matrix was supposed to be good, and it's not.