The festive season has ended, giving way to yet another January. The festive glow and holiday cheer fades like the twinkle in the Eleventh Doctor's eye as it is suddenly replaced by the frowning bewildered brow of Peter Capaldi. It's cold, it's dark, time is forever moving on and the future is largely uncertain and scary. Happy new year!
In all this end year excitement I forgot to post my top 10 favourite game list of 2013. It is my understanding that everyone who aspires to write about games must have a top 10 list. So here it is.
|Luigi ain't afraid of no ghost. Psyche. He's petrified of them. The big wuss.|
Nintendo have released some great games this year across the 3DS and Wii-U. I took advantage of Nintendo's summer 4 for 3 promotion, getting Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon, Animal Crossing, Donkey Kong Returns and Fire Emblem: Awakening. Four stellar games that had me engrossed for hours. To pick just one feels wrong, but Luigi's Mansion 2 was probably my favourite. The game is a sequel to the original game that was released alongside the GameCube back in 2001, but feels like a complete expansion of the format and more of an actual game. As Luigi, you are tasked with going around a number of haunted houses in search of ghosts, treasure and the old MacGuffin, a shattered crescent moon, you must put back together to restore peace to the galaxy (I think).
The 3DS's 3D functionality was once seen as a gimmick that was detrimental to the developing eyes of children. In Luigi's Mansion the 3D is used to draw you into the immaculately conceived interiors, giving a depth and immersion to the cartoony shenanigans that feels great, almost like peering into a doll's house. Levels typically involve the hapless green plumber tasked with some objective which usually involves backtracking from one end of the mansion to the other in search of a mandatory item like a bucket full of water to make a plant grow. The real delight of the game is exploring each of the rooms for treasure and rare gems, as well as capturing the many ghosts that haunt the premises. The mechanics are surprisingly deep and elaborately expanded for a wealth of different purposes. You startle ghosts with the torch before sucking them up with your vaccum cleaner, causing Luigi to fly around the room like some kind of paranormal rodeo. Basically, Luigi's Mansion isNintendo doing Ghostbusters and its great.
|Supposedly Tearaway isn't selling so well. This is a tragedy. The game is a little miracle.|
|Oh come on man, really?|
Once you have constructed the electric chair, the prisoner is escorted to his final destination, in which you see his backstory – he was once a school teacher who after catching his wife sleeping with another man, proceeds to gun them both down. You then see how the school teacher gives himself up by confessing to a priest, who convinces him that the only way to atone for his sins is to give himself up to the authorities for judgement. So he does, and now he’s for the electric chair you just built.
The design and graphics of the game are brilliantly subversive. The character designs are all very simple, a head with eyes and hair on top of burly head and shoulders, each given a name. They are just an entity within this prison, a bunch of numbers and data to be processed, not people of course. Well... this is your first impression of the game. The design is consistent for every character whether depicting a prisoner, a victim, a security guard, a builder, a priest, or even the statue of Jesus on a cross in the chapel where the school teacher confesses. It attaches a degree of humanity to the process, that makes you consider the morality of the justice system. Not everyone has the moral fibre to manage a prisoner but this game provides a glimpse at what it may be like. And its tough.
Very much like the tri-force, the series revolves around, that three triangled artifact signifying the balance between wisdom, power and courage, Zelda has always been a series that has always administered fantastic balance against the myriad components of gaming. There is the 'aha' moment of puzzle solving, the reward through exploration, the snappiness of combat and slowly growing your arsenal of tools and weapons.
A Link Between Worlds feels more accessible than ever thanks to the ability to rent all weapons and tools from the outset. The game also allows you to simply have at the game world. Giving you the freedom of finding your own way. Hyrule is a compact world to roam, based of the same map as A Link to the Past on the Super Nintendo, but it is brimming with secrets and challenges. I couldn't put it down until I completed it. And when it was finished I was going back to find all the things I missed.
The music is also incredible
|Feel the 90s nostalgia. What do you mean there's no references to the Crystal Maze?|
|He's the cranky old curmudgeon who would rather look after himself and she's the feisty kid who's only known the world in post apocalyptic terms!|
You'll still be gratified when you blow a clicker's head off with a shotgun, but less so when strangling a man to death with your bare hands through the most protacted one button takedowns yet seen in games. Violence always feels like a last resort, because resources are so scarce but also thematically. Each of these characters represents the last of us, the last of humanity.
|The giraffe sequence|
Everything leads up to a powerful ending, which is heartbreaking but ultimately life affirming. It really is quite magical. And anybody can seemingly pick it up and enjoy it.