Last time I remember looking up from my desk it was August and we were just launching Quarrel on iOS. Next thing I know I’m being asked to choose my “Game Of The Year” for 2011 because it’s almost 2012. What a blur! Anyway, that means it’s time to shut up our toy workshop for a few weeks and let all the elves out to visit their oft-neglected families.
So, just before we blow out the candles and put one last lump of coal on the fire at Denki Towers it’s time to announce the winners of this year’s Denki “Games of the Year” Awards. As you might remember from last year, there was no real consensus from our panel of experts, and this year seems to be little different.
So apologies in advance to everyone who made a great game that we haven’t discovered yet. If it’s any consolation, we know only too well how that feels… And, moreover, because we choose games we’ve enjoyed playing during the year rather than games that were released during the year it’s entirely possible that your game might turn up next year. Leave a comment below if you think we’ve missed anything important off our list and we’ll check it out as soon as we get a chance.
But in the meantime, without having to wait for midnight, here are the ghosts of Denki Past, Present and Future to tell you what they’ve been playing this year and why:
Aaron Puzey: “Skyrim – No other game allows me to sneak up and shoot a guy in the face with an arrow and he stands up and says to his mate “did you hear something?”. Bugs aside there’s so much to do here that I probably won’t live long enough to see everything Skyrim has to offer. Sadly I’ve not played anything else of note this year.”
Chris Dawson: “L.A. Noire dazzled and kept me gripped, even if I picked the wrong questions! However, this year’s arcade gems; From Dust and Orcs Must Die unleashed new hope for strategy games and were insanely fun! Another year of F1, Motorstorm and Dirt filled my racing needs sufficiently with Football Manager and Scribblenauts hands down winners on the iPad. Ultimately though, Portal 2 stood out and left me wanting more and more!”
Eevi Korhonen: My GOTY would be Dragon Age: Origins. I’m a sucker for story games, and while the game is far from perfect, I experienced such dramatic moments and got to make important and terrible decisions. Even though the run-up to the final battle was a bit anti-climactic and Alistair hallucinated about being king when I certainly had made sure he wasn’t one, I still can’t help but smile wistfully when I think on this game. Other games that left a warm and happy imprint on my brain were Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes and Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light. The first I loved for its beautiful blend of strategy, puzzle and touch of RPG. Capy are just so good at making match-3 games, each with their own lovely twist (try this and Critter Crunch, if you don’t believe me). The latter was a breath of fresh air to the ol’ Croft franchise, and worked so well both as a solo and co-op game. Not much replay value, but a tight and well-executed package nonetheless. On iDevices I had a brief but intense fling with Words with Friends (where making words wasn’t quite as much fun as in Quarrel), but a more lasting yet somehow illicit relationship with Tiny Tower. I guess it was because money was involved, despite our intentions to keep with free…
Gary Penn: There’s a last-minute clear winner in the form of Super Mario 3D Land. And not just because there’s nothing else worth playing on the 3DS at the moment. It looks, sounds and feels lovely – beautiful sometimes – and extremely solid with it. The 3D can be disturbingly effective, creating such a strong sense of a real place and occasionally making you flinch. Continuing the trend of less hardcore, more enjoyable Super Mario that was delivered with the likes of Galaxy 2 and New Wii, this latest outing is probably the easiest yet arguably most fun yet. For once it always feels like your fault when you make a mistake. The combination of the thumbstick and 3D gimmick can make for some of the most intuitive and satisfying precision play ever experienced.
James Law: Its been a year of rediscovering old favourites; HD Beyond Good and Evil, Shadow of the Colossus and Zelda Ocarina of Time. Coming in at the last minute is the spectacular Zelda Skyward Sword, whose motion controls are both essential yet invisible, making it the freshest, most involving – and possibly best – Zelda ever. But my GOTY must go to Xenoblade Chronicles, an unfortunately titled Wii JRPG that breaks all of the clichés that just sprung to your mind. It’s simply a joy to play and explore; the most progressive game this genre has seen in a decade. Sprawling, majestic, player-considering and obviously made with love.
Paul Conry: My game of the year would have to be Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception. For pure spectacle, high production values, compelling set pieces and a truly refined gaming experience, it has very few peers. Considering it’s only the third game I’ve ever earned a Platinum trophy on (can you guess the other two?) it shows how much of a fun experience the game provides. It’s a world apart from my game of the year last year (Pix’n Love Rush) which shows just how varied an experience games can provide. Games costing hundreds or thousands of pounds to develop can easily compete against games costing tens of millions of pounds to make for a game of the year award, based purely on how much fun can be had from it. This year the multi-million pound behemoth wins, however.
Overall, it’s been a pretty good year, honourable mentions first:
· I loved Bulletstorm, it felt like I playing a really good 80’s action movie.
And the winner is… the Assassin’s Creed series. I played them all back to back this year and loved it. Ezio is a great toy to play with and the Renaissance setting makes a great playfield. Add a decent story and a sensible length and I’m a happy chappy. I’m not through Revelations yet but fingers crossed Ubisoft have finally worked out how to create a satisfying finale sequence
Tom Kronberg: There’s a few multi player games that I’ve spent a lot of time on this year. My favourite early this year was Alien Swarm, a brilliant, free, top-down shooter on Steam. After that I moved on to Magicka, which in turn was followed by Terraria. Terraria is for me what Minecraft should have been, I love the 2D approach. In the single player section there is of course Skyrim which currently eats up an insane amount of my free time (which isn’t much since AmoebaLab and Motoblox Ltd keep me more than busy these days!)
As for myself, I really have played embarrassingly few games this year as most of my time has been reading books (and contracts of course, always with the contracts…): “The Lean Startup” by Eric Ries, “Adapt” by Tim Harford, “Tribes” by Seth Godin, and “Made To Stick” by Dan & Chip Heath are all highly recommended if you’re looking for game development inspiration and already accept it really isn’t about having ideas.
But, back to games… I enjoyed Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, though not as much as AC2 (mostly because Rome just wasn’t as jaw-droppingly pretty as Venice, Florence, etc.); the HD re-release of Beyond Good & Evil reminded me just how good that game was, and how it hasn’t really been bettered since in many ways; but overall, I think the game I’ve had the most enjoyment from this year is probably Hard Lines by fellow UK Indies Spilt Milk Studios. As a concept a cross between Snake, Tron and Geometry Wars could have gone either way, but the implementation of the design is top-notch and the result is a bite-sized arcade classic that hasn’t been off my iPad since I first played it back in June or July.
So well done to all the developers that have entertained us throughout the year – we know how hard it is to make a great game and really appreciate your efforts!
That’s it from Denki for another year. We’ll be back in January to get on with our mission of entertaining the world once more. Until then, a big “THANK YOU!” to all our Denki friends old and new around the world.
We hope everyone has a wonderful time over the holiday season this year. I’ve heard rumours that there may be a multiplayer version of Quarrel appearing next year sometime, so you might want to put in some more single-player practice before then while you still can. Just saying like…
Ho ho ho!