December 2010

From the staff here at Snackbar Games, please have a safe and fun-filled holiday season. We will be back in January as we start our ninth year of bringing you the best independent gaming coverage out there.

Stay tuned through the end of the month as we share the rest of our 2010 staff picks.

Merry Christmas!

These are the shining examples of gameplay greatness this year, as decided by Snackbar Games staff. In this final installment, we make our overall selection.  

Andrew Passafiume: It provides one of the most satisfying gameplay experiences I’ve seen in an RPG, and does shooting better than a lot of shooters. Complete with a lengthy story and plenty of memorable side quests, ME2 is an absolute triumph from start to finish.


Graham Russell: The second game in a trilogy with a focus on story simply shouldn’t be this good. The game threw a lot of things over the side to get going, but what’s left is still a tightly-packed, engrossing world shaped by your decisions and played in whatever style you like. I keep trying to play it again, but that first playthrough just felt like “my” Shepard, and everything else feels wrong. It takes a powerful story to make me care that much.



Chris Ingersoll: Stapling giant mecha turn-based combat onto a dating sim shouldn’t work, but it does. There are times when the BGM steps over the voice acting in awkward ways (the levels of neither are adjustable other than “voice off”), but everything else about the first Sakura Wars title to arrive in the western world is beyond solid. I don’t think I’ve stopped listening to the end credits theme (“Kiss Me Sweet”) since I first heard it.

Andrew Passafiume: You have memorable characters, a pretty enjoyable plot, and one of the most enjoyable Strategy RPG battle systems around. This is easily one of the best localized imports you’ll find on any system.


Eric Schabel: Galaxy 2 is perhaps a perfect game; the developers accomplish everything they set out to do with an impeccable level of polish. The controls are perfect, the graphics are stellar, and the gameplay is challenging but always fun. If this game wasn’t a sequel, I probably would have given it the top spot. Galaxy 2 is just as good as its predecessor, perhaps better (though I enjoyed the original’s soundtrack more, they both feature amazing music). Although it is not a focus of the game, the two-player cooperative feature is also a very welcome addition. There isn’t much else to say here—“perfect game” is as glowing as it can get, right?

Justin Last: Super Mario Galaxy was wonderful, if a little slow to get going. Also, the space station was boring to move around in. SMG2 fixes both of those gripes by starting out with challenging stages, replacing the space station with a world map a-la-Super Mario Bros. 3, and bringing Yoshi back to core Mario games.


Honorable Mentions:

Donkey Kong Country Returns

Justin Last: DKC is my favorite SNES game, hands down, and my wife and I adore cooperative games. DKCR is just the right mix of nostalgia, coop, and tight platforming to keep the Wii powered-up and the two of us glued to the TV screen. The Wii excels at local coop, and DKCR is the best of the bunch.

Red Dead Redemption

Eric Schabel: I never expected to fall in love with a Western-themed game…I’ve never held any interest in the genre, and I hardly knew anything about Red Dead Redemption before I started to play. All I can say is, I was floored. Redemption game is incredible and epic; it’s incredibly epic. The game fires on all cylinders—it features a top notch presentation and voice work, and it’s just plain fun. Hunting the numerous creatures, shooting baddies and just riding your trusty steed across the gorgeous environment are just some of the activities that shine; Redemption delivers on all fronts. The game may not be perfect, but as one of the most expensive games ever developed, it’s nice to know the money did not go to waste.

Final Fantasy XIII

Shawn Vermette: Sure, many people disliked the linearity and the characters. However, I have no problem with linearity if it fits the story, which is definitely did, and the only character that bothered me was Vanille. This was, to its core, a Final Fantasy game and because of that, it easily wins PS3 game of the year for me.

What do you think of our picks? Agree? Disagree? Discuss in the comments!

One of Snackbar Games’ traditions is to have staffers pick their top ten games of the year. We’re so all over the map in our tastes that our lists are never similar. Today, managing editor Graham Russell shares his picks. He’s the guy you can blame for groan-worthy puns in intros like this one.

Wow, this year has been an amazing one. I’m not sure which half of the year was better, which I certainly could never have said before, and we had an even mix of iterative successes and new ideas. Anyway, onto my list:

10. Chime (XBLA/PC): I think I’ve gushed about this game a few times now. It has that kind of gameplay that can really get you in the zone and, at least for a while, it did it for charity. The Steam release added one more song, which is a pretty big deal with such a short list. I’m hoping for another title in this vein, if not a legitimate sequel.

9. Protect Me Knight (XBLIG): The Indie Games service is home to some very strange things, but one big advantage is that it has no region restrictions. So it is that gamers outside of Japan get to experience Ancient’s Protect Me Knight (Mamotte Knight), a four-player co-op action game with a retro style and entirely amusing Engrish.  It only takes an hour or so to play through once, but at four bucks, you can’t really complain.

8. Heavy Rain (PS3): Story is a key component in games, but until Heavy Rain, I didn’t think it could carry one all by itself. I’d love to experience more types of stories like this, but Quantic Dream isn’t one to do that sort of thing. READ MORE

These are the shining examples of gameplay greatness this year, as decided by Snackbar Games staff. In this second installment, we look at consoles and PC. 

Graham Russell: This was a packed category, because we love downloadable games around here. Costume Quest, Pinball FX 2, Chime and Protect Me Knight all had substantial support, but ultimately two classics come out on top. Polish tops innovation, I guess, but give these two credit.


Andrew Passafiume: Even those who don’t call themselves Pac-Fans can probably find something that will get them hooked here. You haven’t lived until you’ve eaten thirty ghosts in a row. 


Runner-up: Mega Man 10

Chris Ingersoll: While MM10 wasn’t the polished awesome throwback of MM9, it still contained plenty of 8-bit difficulty in the classic Mega Man style. Whatever failings the robot master stages might have suffered, the first stage of Skull Castle made up for it by being one of the most epic ever.



Shawn Vermette: The Civilization series is a huge timesink for me, Civilization IV especially so. As it turns out, changing to one military unit per tile and hex tiles rather than squares doesn’t destroy Civilization. Instead, it makes it even more addicting and strategic.


Graham Russell: I dream in hexes these days. Civilization is just one of those games that gets in your head, making you think up new strategies and avenues for explanation even when you’re not playing. That’s quite a feat when you factor in how long you actually are playing.


Runner-up: Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty

Shawn Vermette: Poor Starcraft II. In almost any other year, it would easily have been PC Game of the Year. Unfortunately, it came out in a year when Civilization V came out, thus making it fall to #2. Nonetheless, it was well worth the wait for it to come out, as the multiplayer is as addictive and fun as ever, and the campaign does a splendid job of adding onto the story of the universe of Starcraft.


Andrew Passafiume: Very few games put emphasis on story and character development over gameplay, but Quantic Dream does it and does it well. Despite some spotty voice acting (play with the French voice acting, trust me), this game weaves a memorable story with many different scenarios that could go several ways. It was quite an emotional journey, but one well worth taking.

Justin Last: Heavy Rain is not without its warts, but it kept me engrossed from start to finish in the story of the Origami Killer. Quantic Dream handily proved that interactive fiction can work and that story can take precedence over gameplay. It’s something that everybody should play and the branching paths increase the replay value tremendously.

Runner-up: God of War III

Andrew Passafiume: It may be very similar to its predecessors, but God of War III is one of the most action-packed games of the year, and it did not fail to live up to its lofty expectations. 


Gerry Pagan: I got to rip out Hades’ soul, stick my thumbs into Poseidon’s eye sockets, cut off Hermes’ limbs, sever Helios’ head with my bare hands and pummel Hercules to bloody pulp. Mythological genocide has never been as fun and as satisfying as this. 


Eric Schabel: I have always been of the opinion that games feature mediocre storytelling at the best of times. Even so called story-driven massive RPGs almost always suffer from recycled plot lines, terrible dialog, and over-the-top melodrama. The first Mass Effect made me question these assertions, and its sequel has got me damn close to eating a crow for dinner. I don’t think I’ve ever cared more about a cast of characters in a game than I did when I was playing through Mass Effect 2—no doubt thanks to BioWare’s well-crafted “decision points”. It doesn’t hurt that the gameplay is top notch as well—this game is a perfect example of the action RPG done right, and I can’t wait to play the final installment of the trilogy.

Shawn Vermette: As an avid sci-fi and RPG fan, and after repeatedly telling people that the first Mass Effect built the best sci-fi universe I’ve seen or read about since Star Wars or Star Trek, Mass Effect 2 had to be amazing to live up to my expectations. Somehow, it did, making it my top 360 game of the year.


Runner-up: Rock Band 3

Andrew Passafiume: Rock Band 3 is a groundbreaking success and easily the best music game I have ever played. I honestly cannot see Harmonix topping themselves after this. It really signifies the fact that this is much more than a game, it is a platform, a point the team has been trying to get across since day one. Well Harmonix, bravo, you’ve finally done it. 

Graham Russell: There’s all this talk about the Move and Kinect being new platforms unto themselves, but I think the most successful platform launch this year was Rock Band 3. It’s a series I thought couldn’t get better, and it did by leaps and bounds.



Graham Russell: This isn’t the tightest game design I’ve seen, and some parts are just silly, but there’s nothing that can beat a game that puts a smile on your face every time you turn it on. The strategy in the battles actually works, and it’s nice to have a strategy RPG where I don’t have to worry about EXP or micromanagement. For now, all I’ll say is that if you didn’t buy it, you deprived the West of localized versions of the rest of the series, and that makes you a horrible, horrible person.

Gerry Pagan: Picked up on a whim, and I loved every second of it. It’s a shame that we probably won’t see any more of this series stateside, despite it having such a strong Japanese following. 


Runner-up: Donkey Kong Country Returns

Gerry Pagan: An excellent comeback to one of gaming’s most beloved franchises, Donkey Kong Country Returns is everything you want in a platformer, from the challenging difficulty to the brilliant level design.


What do you think of our picks? Agree? Disagree? Discuss in the comments!

One of Snackbar Games’ traditions is to have staffers pick their top ten games of the year. We’re so all over the map in our tastes that our lists are never similar. Today, writer Andrew Passafiume picks exactly the games we thought he would.

10. Super Mario Galaxy 2. Super Mario Galaxy 2 is everything you’d expect and so much more. While the first Galaxy wasn’t exactly easy, Galaxy 2 ramps the difficult up quite a bit. This was a welcome change for those clamoring for more of a challenge, while still able to appease to newer fans. Galaxy 2 is the closest to perfect Mario has gotten in 3D and it’ll take quite a lot to top it.

9. Sin & Punishment: Star Successor. I can’t think of many other games that brought me as much joy as Sin & Punishment 2 did just from a pure gameplay perspective. The game isn’t perfect, but I couldn’t help but enjoy every second of it. The levels are full of many enemies, each ending with one (or more) insane boss fight, each of which is unique. The difficulty is perfect, finding the right balance between ease and challenge, and never feeling too frustrating. Complete with smooth controls, it’s everything the first game should have been and so much more.  

8. Limbo. Limbo is as atmospheric as they come, and one of the most engrossing downloadable releases of the year. It’s a very simple premise, but it becomes something so much more. You never know what to expect next, and every puzzle is a welcome treat. It’s challenging at times, but not unforgiving. Very few games have done what Limbo does so well, and it’ll be a while before we see another match it. READ MORE