Remember the time Armand K got really wasted and wrote that weird paranoid manifesto about how I’d tried to lock him out of the Bordello because he owed me $7.42? Well, I don’t know if Armand’s fully kicked the habit, but I’m pleased to have him back (and apparently lucid) with another guest entry. He’s been enjoying our Games of 2011 series and thought he’d just go ahead and do one himself. Game on, my man! —S
I wasn’t specifically asked to contribute to Tap-Repeatedly’s Games of 2011 list, and I submit this fearing that it will suffer Steerpike’s heavy editorial hand (I did not edit that piece at all -S), but I wanted to get my 2 cents in anyway due to my opinionated-ass nature.
I think the real highlight of 2011 has been the number of people I’ve killed for sport. The greater Los Angeles area is ideal for hunting humans, and I’ve really upped my game this year. I’m getting into skinning and eating my victims as well as the usual torture/murder/dismemberment. My basement torture chamber got its drain rooted and I added thumb shackles and an assortment of ball gags for use down there. If you’re even in LA, swing by and I’ll show you around. You never know, I might even have a “guest” that day!
As for gaming, this list includes plenty of new releases – but I think the real noteworthy occurrence is the explosion of top-quality indie releases. It’s no surprise that we’re seeing new websites dedicated to indie games on a near daily basis when so many games are released by independent developers and publishers who aren’t beholden to investors more concerned with the bottom-line instead of supporting the creation of art. It’s the kind of thing that has re-invigorated my love of gaming, and really gives me hope for the future of the medium.
But enough of this cooler-than-thou indie shit. Here are my games!
#5 — Deepak Fights Robots
Deepak Fights Robots is perhaps one of the most under-rated and unnoticed gems of the year. It’s a fast-paced, mock-crudely drawn platformer featuring an everyman office grunt battling an army of robots across a variety of psychedelic levels inspired in part by the classic arcade game Bubble Bobble. Deepak was a finalist at this year’s IndiCade, but otherwise didn’t get half the love it should have received. This is one of those games that keeps evolving as you play, never settling on the game mechanics of the last set of levels, instead pushing the envelope a little further every so often until you find yourself playing something that could have only been imagined by someone from Bizarro World. It additionally has the second best soundtrack of the year thanks to the musical genius of Family Funktion and the Sitar Jams, who mix Indian sitar music and psychedelic rock into a beautiful specimen that works better than could be expected for the game. It’s $5, and you owe it to yourself to go buy it… like, right now. Go.
#4 — Terraria
Terraria is often mistaken for a side-scrolling Minecraft clone. People who say this hate video games and want everyone to always be unhappy. Do not listen to anything they have to say. Though the two games share some elements such as mining, crafting, and building, they do so only on a superficial level. The vast difference between a 2D and 3D game’s mechanics and applications aside, Terraria is very far from the endless, zen-like experience that is the world of Minecraft — a game about exploration and slower-paced contemplations of why we do what we do in video games. Instead, Terraria appeals to the more core-gaming experience we found in the Nintendo and Super Nintendo days with games like Metroid and Casltevania. Sure, you have to mine and build stuff, but you also have to mow-down armies of pixelated baddies while exploring a very Metroid-esque world filled with large tunnels, dungeons, surprises, and even a few floating land masses. It might take an hour or two to get into, but once you do, you will be hooked. This is another cheap-ass game at $10, but if that’s too much for you, just wait for the next Steam sale when they will assuredly lower the price to the equivalent of a medium McDonald’s soda.
#3 — Portal 2
Portal 2 is better than the first Portal. There, I said it, and I don’t care. It’s bigger, funnier, has better puzzles, and is guaranteed to make you laugh the entire time you play. If you don’t laugh through the bulk of the game, then I recommend you take the PCL-R. Even on the third play-through, the game is incredibly entertaining, the puzzles smart, but not too difficult, and the game world a pure joy to explore. Valve have the ability to evoke wonderful character in silent protagonists, faceless machine-robots, and even a potato, and they can tell great stories simply by moving the player through their game world. The set-pieces, the wall-graffiti, the lighting, architecture, animation, sound design, and brilliant soundtrack all play into developing the plot, and you can see storytelling in games done by masters of the craft in action here.
#2 — Bastion
No matter how good Valve or any other developer may be at story telling, they pale in comparison to the game Bastion. The first release by Supergiant Games, it is a perfect example of everything that’s right and good about gaming, particularly the indie scene. With a narrator for whom I have a throbbing-huge man-crush (double entendre fully intended), you will learn about what lead up to the game’s opening scene with your every action described by his gravelly voice — evocative of the baddest of badass cowboys from the classic Westerns. It might seem this could get annoying, having someone describe the events of the game as you play it, yet the developers exercise a kind of restraint and subtlety that creates something that should be studied by all developers for years to come. The biggest surprise so far is that a hundred other games trying to clone this story telling approach haven’t appeared since the game’s release. Along with all that, the game has tight controls, lovely graphics and design style, and the best damned soundtrack of any game released this year. Anyone who enjoys gaming owes it to themselves to get Bastion, which is available on the 360, the PC, and… are you ready for this? Google fucking Chrome! Yes, you can play it in your web browser.
#1 — The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
And at the top of my list… are you ready for it? The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Surprise! Anyone who knows me or can view my Steam gaming habits knows I’m spending a lot of time with this game. That’s the tame way of describing it. Frankly, I’m surprised no one has attempted an intervention yet. Sure, people will complain about some mild buggyness (well, PS3 players may have experienced something a bit more than mild), but screw that. Show me a game as large as Skyrim; a game that offers interesting content across every square mile of the massive game world, hundreds of dungeons each with its own story. A game with hundreds more NPC characters all with something to say, and most with a quest to give you. A game with lore and history that can take years to fully comprehend (in part thanks to the long line of large Elder Scrolls games that come before this masterpiece), and years more to really understand on the metaphysical levels the game’s genius developers and writers have created. You find me a game as large and ambitious as Skyrim, that is also bug free, and I’ll eat my shoe (the same one I’ve been wearing for three years. It’s gross). It doesn’t exist. Skyrim takes “epic” to new levels. It makes me wish the internet hadn’t beat “epic” to death just so it could be used solely to describe this game, as no other word is more appropriate.
You could argue that the NPC characters in Skyrim aren’t as detailed or full of the kind of depth you might find in some other RPGs, but you’d be missing the point of Bethesda’s sandbox games. Neither NPCs nor the player themselves are the “main character” here. It’s the game-world itself, which has the kind of depth and personality on par with characters created by the master writers of literature.
Skyrim is a game that has brought people who have never played an RPG into our world. It is a game that will be remembered for years to come, and will influence a whole generation of gamers and developers. It is the highest achievement of a veteran development team, and deserving of every award, recognition, or accolade it has received. It is the closest we’ve come to table-top role-playing brought to our gaming machines. It is a masterpiece without peer, and what I will spend my time playing as soon as I finish proof reading this unsolicited list of my favorite games of the year. Bitches.
Bonus Section! One game I didn’t get to play this year, but yearn to try soon on the belief that it might have made this list had I played it is To the Moon. They say you will shed tears if you play this game. I’m looking forward to seeing if it can melt my obsidian black heart.