Announcing the 2012 Game of the Year Awards from First Hour!
These aren't your normal awards, we cover everything from older game of the year to worst first hour. We also don't sum up votes on categories or anything either, we simply present each writer's thoughts on their pick, so if you don't like something, you know exactly who to blame! Of course, we do all this just for fun (spare time!) and buy all of our own games (real money!), so most of us don't even touch some of the big releases of the year. Woe to the unpaid game critic!
We're doing something a bit different this year, since we had so many writers submit their picks, we're spreading the goods across multiple days. The schedule is below, so let's continue!
GAME OF THE (OTHER) YEAR
The best games we played released BEFORE 2012
So, 2012 was the year I caught up with just about every other videogamer out there and experienced Chrono Trigger. It’s a pretty fantastic RPG. You travel through time, you make friends, you use Triple Tech attacks with glee and no care for its cost, and you save the world. Granted, I found some nits to pick with it, which maybe shocked everyone with eyes, but I still enjoyed taking down Lavos for the first (and only) time (so far). It holds up extremely well some seventeen years later, and having it on the portable system like the Nintendo DS made for convenient grinding. My main team throughout consisted of Crono, Marle, and Ayla, and I still can’t get that battle music out of my head. That’s not a bad thing.
Pure platforming perfection. The mostly tightly controlled game I have ever played, Super Meat Boy is hardcore difficult but the only one to blame for failure is yourself. With tons of levels, playable characters, and ways to die, I simply loved this game. My kid still bothers me to play it again ten months later, but my hands are still recovering.
Guild Wars. No, not Guild Wars 2. As with most of my games, I buy them and rarely play them. Such was the way with Guild Wars. Not only did I buy it but I bought all the expansion on clearance at Target. I played the first installment for a few hours and moved on. Now that Guild Wars 2 is out, (and I felt the need to purchase it), I decided I probably better get some more time on the original before moving on to the sequel. Well, I've been playing it again and I've been loving it. I may not even need to buy the sequel for some time now if they keep supporting the original and if recent Steam sales are any indication, it looks like they will.
I made it a mission to try every game in my backlog this year, and the best of the bunch was this amorphous WiiWare oddity. Equal parts fluid-dynamics simulator, puzzle-platformer, and Metroidvania, the humble Fluidity handily outclassed the rest of my unfinished collection with its relaxed aesthetics and thoughtful design. The 3DS followup launched recently, and once again Fluidity has taken top priority in my game queue.
The game that just keeps on giving. It never gets old for me, and I'm playing it like I never played it before. I love this game.
I couldn't decide between these two excellent titles for my Game of the (Other) Year. For me, Assassins Creed II represents the high-point in the series in terms of story-telling. I never tire of Ezio's journey from green guido to master assassin. This year saw me playing it once more through on my 360, and then purchasing the game again on Steam to replay in glorious 1080/60p. On the other hand, the most hours my classic Xbox sees these days is my occasional bouts into what I consider the finest rally game ever created, Colin McRae Rally '04. This is a time before Codemasters started catering to the dude-bro generation and focussed instead on refinements like chassis tuning and 60hz action. And for all the hours I've put into '04, I still can't beat Japan on AWD Pro. Damn.
PC GAME OF THE YEAR
Borderlands 2 was seriously great, but my favorite PC game of the year, in a year where I played a LOT of computer games, was Resonance. Developed by xii games and published by Wadjet Eye Games, Resonance mixes a fun science fiction story with multiple playable characters and grounded-in-the-real-world puzzles to create a stellar point and click experience. Everything seems to come together in this indie title, especially the voice acting and inventory system, which sets a new standard for ingenuity and ease of use. The best part? It's only $10.
I almost went a little crazy and gave Blackwell Deception, Resonance, and Primordia my 2012 Game of the Year Award. Individually, none of them was the best of the best, but as a trio of adventures all from Wadjet Eye Games, it's a crazy impressive feat. Alas, I didn't like Primordia as much as the rest, so Resonance lands as my PC Game of the Year.
I got Diablo 3 the day it came out and only played it a few hours, it just didn't grab me the way I had hoped. But Torchlight 2 was, for some reason, much more enjoyable. The look and the feel were just right. The looting was excellent, something that both Diablo 3 and Borderlands 2 could really learn a lot from. I haven't completed the game yet, but unlike Diablo 3, I'm quite certain I will.
Videogames are ways to escape, to voyage to other worlds and lose ourselves. By that definition, The Sea Will Claim Everything is the most videogame that ever videogamed. Mechanically, it’s a point-and-click adventure game by Jonas and Verena Kyratzes, a husband and wife team that have made other games set in the magical Lands of Dreams, and it looks like a coloring book designed by children with no restrictions on their imaginations. You are awakened by the wizard Rupert Mysterious-Druid, and you are tasked to fix the Underhome before you can venture outside. This takes a while, but helps prepare you for the outside world, where one can literally get lost in and drown in fetch quests and dialogue options. You will meet kooky, but memorable characters like The and Oi and Katzensaeule, you will read bits of text that blurs the line between here and there, and you will find yourself smiling at the crazy attention to detail.
2012 saw me returning to my PC more than ever since I first acquired my 360 in 2007, which has made this hard. I wish I had gotten around to playing more of the indie games I purchased last year, but alas this is what New Years resolutions are for. As it stands, I was torn between three shooters for the title of PC Game of the Year. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is my dirty addiction, and Dishonored turned out to be the girl that over-impressed on the first few dates. The one game that I haven't conquered, but still think about, is Black Mesa. The attention to detail in recreating what is arguably one of the greatest shooters to ever grace the PC is nothing short of religious. In fact, Black Mesa so authentically recreates the experience of Half-Life that I still find myself throwing my hands up in the air while trying to tackle "We've Got Hostiles." Throw in an utterly superb [original] soundtrack and you're left with a game that leaves you feeling more than a little dirty that you're not paying for it.
CONSOLE GAME OF THE YEAR
For me, the idea of giving a podium finish to a racing game is a bit daft; and this coming from a guy who absolutely loves simulation and pseudo-simulation racing. This year, however, I'm looking to Forza Horizon. Now, this is certainly not a game without flaws, but there is just so much to love here, from the concept of taking Forza's legendary game engine to the open road, to Playground's enviable attention to every detail with regards to performance. Most striking, however, is the framing. The festival setting serves not only to explain to veterans why they're on the open road, but serves to entice the initiate into going just a little longer - just a little further to see if they will really belong here in this land of noise and speed. Suffice to say Horizon is a triumph not only for the genre, but for gaming at large.
At first, I was pretty indifferent about Borderlands 2. It felt like an extremely large piece of DLC for the original game with some upgrades to the graphics and UI, as well as the addition of much needed quest location markers. The story was more fleshed out, with an antagonist worth hating. I ran through it with a Siren, glitched the end boss, and then found out that the real meat of Borderlands 2 is in its New Game+ mode, terrifyingly named True Vault Hunter Mode. This second playthrough means business, with harder (and more) enemies, but the potential for even greater loot. I’m currently trying to farm some legendary pistols. So I’ve come around more on the game to appreciate it as a refined take on the original search for the Vault, and the game will continue to get support from DLC, keeping it alive and in my Xbox 360’s disc drive for many more months.
I kind of abandoned new console games in 2012, my new PC can play any cross platform games better as it is, and the console exclusives have nearly completely dropped off. But I did get a PlayStation 3 last Christmas, so I finally got to play Heavy Rain, Infamous, Uncharted, Valkyria Chronicles and more. It's a great system with some really special exclusive games that Sony has built up over the years. And I still have a lot to go: Metal Gear Solid 4 and Uncharted 2 to name a few.
MOBILE/PORTABLE GAME OF THE YEAR
The first game I reviewed all year was also one of the best, as Where's My Water? is a spectacular mobile game for Android and iPhone. Levels are nice, bite-sized chunks of watery physics goodness, and the game has a charming theme to it that doesn't get old after dozens and dozens and dozens of levels. The optional rubber ducky challenge in each stage is a great addition and the different puzzle elements allows for a huge variety of levels. Controls are pretty precise for a game that involves rubbing dirt away with your finger, too. There's also Where's My Perry which is basically an expansion to Where's My Water, but more levels is always great.
I’ve never gotten into rhythm games before, and so I guess the ticket to hook me is to use music that I really love. That I’ve grown up with. And Final Fantasy has some marvelous tunes spanning the very first game all the way up to Final Fantasy XIII. In this, you form a party of four, picking various iconic members from each game—personally, I stuck with Zidane (leader), Squall, Vaan, and Terra for the most of it—and then you tap along to the song or tap in specific directional commands as a song plays. Those two elements are sometimes harmonious, sometimes counter active. The best part about Theatrhythm is perhaps the Dark Notes, which are harder and randomized versions of previous songs, but if you perform well enough on them you can unlock rare items and colored shards, as well as opening up yet another Dark Note to play. It’s an addicting path for sure. It’s both a really fun game and a boat-load full of fanservice goodness. Here’s hoping for a Theatrhythm: Dragon Quest somewhere down the line...