2012 was an interesting year in video games. It saw the redefining of an ending after the game was released, a blockbuster series start anew, a very personal tale, and the usual slew of sequels. My choices for this year’s top ten was easier, but the top two was almost a tie. Without further ado let’s get right to my top ten games for 2012. Each has links to my original review.
#10 Quantum Conundrum
I was curious about Quantum Conundrum shortly after it was first announced. The game was developed by Kim Swift who was one of the developers of Portal. At first blush it did have some similarities; both are essentially first person puzzle platforming games. Instead of navigating via portals, you had switches that controled dimensional shifts that changed the properties of the objects around you. The gameplay was challenging and fun. In some rooms the challenge could be solved in different ways. The humorous story of an absent minded professor who needs to be rescued by his nephew after he trapped himself in a lost dimension made for a very fun game.
#9 Halo 4
Bungie finished the trilogy in 2007 and had two side stories with Halo 3: ODST and Halo: Reach. After that they left the franchise in Microsoft’s safe keeping. Creating a new development studio, 343 Industries, comprised mostly of former Bungie employees, Microsoft set out to continue the series with a new trilogy. Halo 4 picks up where Halo 3 left off, Master Chief and Cortana lost in the far reaches of space. A splinter group of his old enemies, the Covenant, find him and in the process of trying to escape and warn an approaching human ship releases an ancient Forerunner warrior, the Didact. The gameplay and story is classic Halo. 343 Industries delivered a solid beginning to the next chapter. They did change things up a bit though. Halo 4 is a fairly complete story, unlike Halo 1 or 2 which both had cliffhanger endings.
#8 Skylanders Giants
The surprise hit game Skylanders is back with even bigger toys in Skylanders: Giants. Evil Portal Master Kaos returns, after discovering an ancient army of robots, with a new plan of taking over the Skylands. The Skylander Giants have returned to Skyland to help their smaller brethren battle the robots. Skylanders: Giants expands not only on the original story and gameplay but introduces new toys while allowing players to continue to use their original toys to battle Kaos and his minions once again. The ability to use the toys with any gaming system continues to make Skylanders one the most unique and player friendly games on the market.
#7 Tiny and Big: Grandpa’s Leftovers
Tiny and Big: Grandpa’s Leftovers has quirk, style, and attitude, fitting for an indie video game. Black Pants Game Studio told the story of two brothers as they quarreled over the legacy of their grandfather, a magic pair of underwear. For a puzzle platformer Tiny and Big had a unique gameplay mechanic of being able to manipulate and literally cut a majority of the environment. This made for many solutions to the puzzles put forth. The art style and soundtrack was also awash in the indie attitude. The soundtrack was so good I eventually bought it.
#6 Diablo III
Do you remember where you were when you read, “error 37” on your screen? While the launch of Diablo III was not the smoothest for a hotly anticipated game it all eventually work out and gamers settled in for multiple playthroughs of Blizzard’s first big launch of 2012. Diablo III continues the story of the battle between angels and demons set in a dark medieval fantasy world of magic. While the gameplay remained largely similar to the rest of the series the auction house did stand out. There are two ways to use the auction house. Buy and sell items for in-game gold or for real world money. Gamers who find ultra rare equipment in the game could potential make a small profit from the amount of time they spent gaming.
Diablo III is my PC Game of the Year.
#5 Borderlands 2
The love child of a first person shooter game and a role playing game with a “bazillion” guns was back with a “bazillion-ier” more guns. Because of the actions of the vault hunters from the first Borderlands, the planet of Pandora was no longer just a desert dust ball, nor was there just one vault. In Borderlands 2 four new vault hunters come to Pandora in search of a second mythical vault. This time however they are hounded the whole way by Handsome Jack, the hyper-cruel CEO of Hyperion, who wants the powers of the new vault all to himself. Crude humor, cell-shaded art, and a new randomizing treasure system made for a very entertaining return to Pandora, one I keep finding myself coming back to as time permits.
#4 Mass Effect 3
Every decision you have made across three games was supposed to make for a unique game experience for each player. While many players found the original three endings for Mass Effect 3 either not clear, too similar, or just plain not unique enough, it made for what I think is an industry first. The rewrite of an ending of a game already released. Personally the original endings made sense to me and I was fine with them. What vagueness they had, to me, left things very open for Mass Effect to continue. Endings aside, the game itself made it clear that the final battle against a race of machines called the Reapers was going to cost you, dearly. Your own defeat always seemed imminent, hard decisions had to be made, and for some people, the loss of beloved key characters. In the end the sheer “epic-ness” of the tale and how it was told made for something that felt like a movie blockbuster.
#3 Forza Horizon
I’m not sure who decided to take Turn 10’s excellent racing sim and make it an arcade racer with sim elements, but I’ll be damned if Forza Horizon isn’t one of the best driving games I’ve played in years. From the odd driving challenges, to the beautiful Colorado inspired scenery (the game is set at a fictional festival in the state), and the excellent soundtrack; developer, Playground Games, has created a driving game that anyone can play and enjoy. Much like Borderlands 2, I keep coming back to Forza Horizon when I find the time.
Forza Horizon is my Xbox 360 Game of the Year.
#2 Papo & Yo
When I sit down to play a game I never expect to have someone’s personal story told to me. I also rarely expect to tear up at the end of the game. Even now reflecting on Papo & Yo I feel a slight twinge in the back of my throat. Papo & Yo tells the story of a boy and loveable monster that has a serious addiction to frogs. The problem is the frogs turn the monster into a true monster. The story is based on game creator’s, Vander Caballero, real life relationship with abusive and alcoholic father and really came through. The gameplay was fun and the look very colorful with touches of South America where Mr. Caballero grew up.
Again when I sit down to a game I rarely expect to have an emotional connection. While Papo & Yo told a bittersweet story, Journey told a story that gives the player an emotional connection that is more open to interpretation of the game itself. Developer, thatgamecompany, is no stranger to games that leave the interpretation up to the player; it is something they have done with all of their titles. Journey not only hit at an emotional level it also brought a unique co-op connection. The game could be played online, but you would be paired with a completely random stranger and the only form of communication was four noises you could make with your character.
Journey is my PlayStation 3 Game of the Year and Overall Game of the Year.
I want to thank you, the reader, again for coming along with me through these games. I hope you have enjoyed reading my reviews each week and that they have helped you in choosing a new game for yourself or someone else. We here at NWCN have a few things planned for Generation Game in 2013 and can’t wait to share it with you.