Snackbar’s 2011 Staff Picks: Justin Last

December 23, 2011

10. The Ico and Shadow of the Colossus Collection
Some people will claim this entry is a cop-out for two reasons: first it is two games, and second: both of them are PS2 natives. These two games are good enough to get nominated again on the PS3. Both are absolutely amazing experiences that go beyond gameplay. The story that Team Ico manages to communicate with little to no spoken dialog is amazing. If you enjoy puzzle games at all and haven’t played these two then you owe it to yourself to track down a copy of the dual pack. The best the PS2 had to offer is presented on this one disc.

9. Bastion
Bastion is great not just because of the tight gameplay but because of how well the world is realized. It never gets old watching the world rebuild itself as the hero comes near and requires ground to walk on. The narration, which I was skeptical of at first, adds tremendously to the experience as well. It’s really something that has to be experienced to see just how much the voice-over adds to the experience. Simply put, Bastion is the shining example of voice-over done right.

8. SpaceChem
Never before has a game made me feel so staggeringly dumb before making me feel like an absolute genius. SpaceChem is a visual puzzle game, and when you finally manage to take the molecules given to you, turn them into the target product, and then immediately go back to make your solution more efficient you’ll understand what’s so magical about it. It doesn’t hurt that the story is actually intruiging as well, which is a nice change for the puzzle genre.

7. InFamous 2
The original InFamous took me by surprise. Nobody expects superhero games to be any good anymore, but the folks at Sucker Punch (of Sly Cooper fame) proved that it could be done. And they did it again in the sequel. Cole’s powers are fun to use, and I was anxious to see the story unfold. User-created levels add to the game’s longevity, and I’m curious if we’ll see a third entry in the franchise. I’m certainly up for more electricity-based gameplay.

6. Assassin’s Creed: Revelations
Revelations adds just enough to the Assassin’s Creed formula to feel fresh without changing things for no reason. Ezio’s assistants are back in a more fleshed-out fashion this time around making you feel like you’re really controlling an entire order of assassins, bombs are a great addition to both stealth and open combat, and the hookblade makes for some great traversal through the wonderfully recreated city of Constantinople. AC: Revelations is the last we’ll see of Ezio in video games, and Revelations is a good farewell for him.

5. Portal 2
Portal 2 hits two sweet spots perfectly for me: challenging puzzles and humor. Normally puzzle games don’t have much replay value for me, but the dialogue in Portal 2 makes it work playing again. The cooperative test chambers are a blast as well. The additions from the original feel like they belong in that universe, and the tale of Cave Johnson told entirely through pre-recorded messages is amazing.

4. Gears of War 3
If you had told me after playing the original Gears of War that I would be singing its praises as one of the best experiences available on the 360 I’d have called you crazy, but between four-player coop play in the campaign, excellent versus, the greatly improved Horde 2.0 and the newly introduced Beast Mode, there is enough content that is fun to play here to keep me from seriously looking at another game for multiplayer for a very long time.

3. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
I love Zelda, and it has finally showed up on the Wii the way we all hoped it would when Nintendo first started showing off the Wii Remote. Skyloft is amazing, combat is more puzzle-focused making duels more meaningful than they have been in past games, and the look is amazing. Skyward Sword may have taken the spot for me as my favorite Zelda game ever.

2. Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception
Uncharted, since the first entry in the series, has felt like playing an Indiana Jones movie. The writing is sharp, the adventures are over-the-top, and the exotic locations are just as much a part of the experience as the excellent gunplay and endearing characters. The only thing missing is the ability to deck out Drake in a fedora and give him a whip.

1. Batman: Arkham City
I didn’t think that it would be possible for Rocksteady to beat Arkham Asylum. It managed to make Batman feel powerful and fragile at the same time, it made good use of his numerous gadgets, and it featured much of the voice cast from the animated series. They did, though. Arkham City is the definitive Batman game. There is tons of content, a great representation of Batman’s rogues gallery, the upgrades made to the combat system (counter multiple enemies simultaneously chief among them), and the new gadgets and their uses make for the most entertaining game I’ve played all year.