Looking back at 2013 it’s been a great year for games and we’ve truly been spoiled by the titles on offer. Here’s what grabbed our attention:
Subway Surfers has to be my game of the year, just because it’s always been my standard ‘goto’ when I’ve wanted a quick ‘pick-me-up’. It’s kept me pleasantly distracted wherever and whatever I’m doing.
It’s a wonderful example of taking a format that’s already familiar and appealing to an audience, and plussing it until it becomes the definitive expression of that particular format. Disney have been masters of this in the world of animated storytelling, and it’s something I’ve often aspired to do as a game developer, but never yet managed.
Hats off to the teams at Kiloo and Sybo for an inspiring piece of work.
I indirectly enjoyed Lego City with my son and found it to be the only Lego game that was like playing with Lego.
Last Of Us distracted me with lovelies and story but ultimately bored me with its repetitive hide/kill/search/move pattern.
But my GOTY is State Of Decay. It was just plain old fun. No other game allows me to deck a zombie by door slamming it from my moving car.
GTA + Zombies = Good times.
There were a few games that really stood out for me (Papers Please, Tearaway, Last of Us) and trying to whittle the list down to a single game is incredibly difficult! If the decision was based purely on hours
spent wasted, the clear winner would be Candy Crush. No it didn’t get a single penny out of me but I may have lost a few friends on Facebook through incessant spamming.
My GOTY is Lub vs Dub, a two player endless runner that picked up the ‘Best Game’ award at the Scottish Game Jam. While the single player mode is enjoyable, it’s the insanity of the two player mode that really stood out for me.
Broforce, GTA V and Saints Row 4 are my favourite games this year. I can’t pick between them! They all offer endless fun, great art style and excellent moments. So many games have the cool art styles or ideas, but these actually fulfil the most important part – the fun!
My worst game of the year was Cloudberry Kingdom, I struggle to find a good procedurally generated game – and this was certainly not it! It feels more like a teenagers tech demo.
I’ve not spent enough time with GTA V or The Last of Us yet whilst Hotline Miami (PS3) burnt bright but quickly.
So, my award goes to Papers, Please.
Why? Because it’s engaging, thoughtful and thought-provoking. It deserves to be played, to be enjoyed, to be savoured.
“Grim yet affecting, it’s a game that may change your attitude the next time you’re in line at the airport.” – Simon Parkin, New Yorker
“The range of feelings Papers, Please is able to evoke is simply stunning, considering the premise and its simplicity. Pope really outdid himself with the clever writing, cohesiveness and subtle humor of the story, as well as the ethical ambiguity of many of the choices. This is a game that should be experienced by even non-gamers. Buy it. Share it. Talk about it.” – Steve Mullins, NPR
“Games have mastered action – the amplified and instant reward – but Papers, Please finds satisfaction in the tedium of bureaucracy, and twins it with genuinely human stories and an underlying, dread-filled tension. It’s rare to play a game about something, about a time, a place and a theme, and for a game to embody those ideas from meaning right down to mechanics.” - Edge
The 3DS has been genuinely exceptional this year: starting with the brilliant (and my first SRPG) Fire Emblem Awakening in Feb, and running through the charming Luigi’s Mansion 2, the wondrous life-sapping Animal Crossing New Leaf, a true reinvigoration of a franchise in Pokemon X and capped off with the excellent (though not the best ever) Zelda: Link between Worlds. I enjoyed them all immensely.
There was also The Last of Us: a truly special game because it was subtle. Any gameplay video showing its raw violence will seem to immediately undermine that, but whilst it is brutal and unflinching it is also never obvious, and unafraid to be quiet and calm. The best parts are walking and talking, amazingly. Containing genuinely great writing, characters — is Ellie the best female protagonist ever? — arcs, real danger and a point of view, it is also a masterful game at matching play action to your emotional state. When you feel outraged by the narrative the game scenarios allow venting of that, when you feel helpless and alone due to narrative, the game will also reinforce that. From start to finish, a masterpiece, and all the more so because it is largely directed and linear, the opposite of what I normally enjoy.
The game of the year is clearly Deadly Premonition: the Director’s Cut. One of my favourite games of all time, this open world, detective, horror/comedy, Twin Peaks-esque opus looks like a Dreamcast game and sounds like a student project. But it has an amazing plot, a truly great lead character (isn’t that right, Zach?) a wonderful, living rural town with a real time schedule and just oodles and oodles of personality. Fancy a 10 minute conversation with the lead about Richard Donner movies? You got it! Want to have to turn on your wipers and indicate when you’re driving, or grow a beard if you don’t shave? Done. It is weird. It is hard to get past the first impression. But if you can manage it — as I re-did, in this Director’s Cut — there is real, rare magic here. It’s like nothing else. And I chose it over the Last of Us in the hope that someone, somewhere will take a gamble on it and fall in love. It really is special, and though still broken in i’s charming way, this version is the one to get.
The four new StreetPass titles on 3DS were probably the snackiest games to distract me in 2013. My initial fevered enthusiasm for Squad was ultimately usurped by the slow-burners Garden and Mansion, which both seemed to gain depth. But on 3DS it was Animal Crossing: New Leaf that made its mark, proving to be the first of the series to really get its hooks into me.
There’s so much choice of things to do these days that I want to spend indulgent, quality time when I get round to gaming – and preferably in the company of my children. Which means I’m super intolerant of anything that fails to tickle my pickle. I seem to be less enamoured by anything ‘free’ and preferring instead to spend a wedge of cash up front on something substantial I can keep and that I know is going to fill me up.
On Wii U, Rayman Legends was a real looker but ultimately lacked the heart and soul of New Super Luigi U and, more recently, Super Mario 3D World, both of which the kids and I had a fantastic time playing together (and so nearly rinsed). The same was also true of LEGO City’s family-friendly GTA joys, which doesn’t do anything particularly novel with its play but (bugs aside) the sum of its parts is impressive.
Wonderful 101 was wonderful but Pikmin 3 was wonderfuller. You should see the beaming grin that’s split my face in two just thinking about that game now… It was occasionally infuriating but ultimately SO endearing, emotional and rich.
But it was The Stanley Parable on PC that made the biggest impression on me in 2013. I missed the original mod but I was smitten, obsessed, consumed by its updated commercial release, which turned out to be a short-lived but incredibly passionate affair. Sorry to say but I can’t easily summarise why. But to play it reminded me of Infocom at their best haunted by Douglas Adams and Terry Gilliam. It also made me LOL more often and intensely than any game has ever done.
And that’s a wrap for now. We wish you all a wonderful Christmas and Happy New Year. See you in 2014!