Snackbar’s 2014 Staff Picks: Henry Skey

December 27, 2014


10. Wolfenstein: The New Order

I usually play a lot more shooters in a given year, but in 2014 I only played one. Thankfully, it was Wolfenstein: The New Order. This unexpected gem gave me a fascinating backdrop (the Nazis had won World War II) and put me back in the shoes of BJ Blazkowicz. You get the usual shooter gameplay, but a most unusual group of compelling characters, weapon upgrades, game-changing decisions, insane enemies and fantastic cutscenes. This is the complete package and, to top it all off, it has a great ending. It’s one of the few first-person shooters I wanted to replay as soon as I was done.

9. Transistor

2014 was a great year for games, as shown here with Transistor being my ninth favorite game I played. I was a massive fan of Bastion, and Supergiant Games’ sophomore effort was even better. The mixing of upgrades, both passive and active, was as addictive a gameplay design choice as I’ve ever seen. Experimentation, and instant feedback on the choices I made as to which powers to use, made the experience fly by. And it has the best talking weapon since the Star Dragon Sword from the Suikoden series. I could go on and on about Transistor without running out of superlatives, so I’ll go ahead and claim that this might be the best indie game ever made.

8. Sid Meier’s Civilization: Beyond Earth

I had to stop myself from playing Beyond Earth before I spiraled out of control. It’s easily the most addictive game on the list, where the hours melt away and when I get stuck, die or win the game, I want to start over with a new affinity choice, a new race, new upgrades and new cities. I found I could enjoy it passively, with a movie playing in the background, or I could pay attention to every detail and plan out my civilization’s history move by move. I missed out on Civ V, but I plan to remedy that situation ASAP.


7. Defense Grid 2

As it turns out, I’m obsessed with tower defense games, and Defense Grid 2 might be the best one I’ve ever played. The talking AI heads reminded me immediately of StarCraft, and that’s always a positive. The storyline was a bit wacky, but it didn’t matter. Placing towers, choosing which ones to upgrade at what points in the level, setting up my alien enemies’ route and going for perfect scores became personal with each stage. Even though the visuals would never win any awards, I found myself admiring the environments beyond any measure that I should have. I’d purchase Defense Grid 3 in a heartbeat.

6. South Park: The Stick of Truth

I don’t think I could have taken South Park: The Stick of Truth being anything less than amazing. Thankfully, this time, neither could Trey Parker and Matt Stone, who apparently can do no wrong lately, be it a show, a movie, a musical or a game. The game is a treat for South Park fans, and a great introduction for those that aren’t. It looks precisely like an episode. I found myself smiling at every reference to the show, and each ridiculous moment had me pausing the game until I could get my laughter under control. I still find myself yelling “Zombie Nazi Princess Kenny!” randomly.

5. Shovel Knight

One trend I hope never goes is away is the making of new “old school” games. It (sort of) began with Mega Man 9, which was fantastic, and now continues with Shovel Knight. I could play Shovel Knight over and over, just like I used to do with my old NES games when I was 8 years old. It’s dripping with nostalgia, and covered in a glossy paint that’s part-Zelda II, part-Mega Man and part-DuckTales, enough to satiate any retro fan’s thirst.  There are tons of challenges and reasons to replay the game, and the core gameplay was so satisfying that it was difficult to put this down at number five. If somebody puts this title at the top of their list, I’ll nod and agree feverishly.


4. Bayonetta 2

Sometimes, when I’m playing a game or watching a movie, I wish the creators had downed a Red Bull and taken a shot of adrenaline when they were conceiving the project. Not every game needs a high-heeled witch ninja kicking a jet engine into the air, or monsters the size of buildings hurling said buildings at me, while I dodge and swear and use my hair to summon a demon-dog to bite something’s head off. But Bayonetta 2 does, and I can think of many other insane action games that would benefit from taking a page from this book of nuttiness. Each level had me breathless, but the one-on-one fights with the Lumen Sage had me shouting at the TV with glee. Blocks, dodges, swords, spears, kicks and bullets all intertwined in an impossible dance of death, finally giving me the control I’ve always wanted to feel when I watched Dragon Ball Z.

3. Mario Kart 8

I don’t think I’ve ever been disappointed with a Mario Kart. It is stuff of legend in my mind; countless generations and groups of friends bonding around a simple, colorful, fun racer. Throw in Mario characters (which are endearing to just about anybody) and the random nature of the items, and you have a formula that will stand the test of time. Mario Kart 8 was the first time I was truly impressed with a Mario Kart game, largely because the pervious incantations met my stupidly high expectations and this one… well, I wasn’t sure. I’m sure now: this is the best Mario Kart ever made. It’s never looked better, it’s never controlled better, the tracks are phenomenal and finally, finally, we have means to avoid the blue shell. Power-sliding into first as Daisy on a bike never felt better.

2. Telltale’s The Walking Dead: Season Two

This year’s list was incredibly difficult and I’ve a tough time admitting that The Walking Dead: Season Two is not my favorite game of the year, but it was close. Season Two didn’t have the benefit of surprise; we’d already been emotionally rocked by the first game in 2012, so we sort of knew what to expect. Aside from that, this was an incredible experience for me. Clementine grown up was my Clementine. I was still shocked, disgusted and intrigued by the story and characters. Kenny took the stage front-and-center, for the benefit of the story in my opinion. And the incredible reunion in the last chapter was one nobody expected. Tears and fears, my friends. Bring on Season Three.


1. Super Smash Bros. for Wii U

In the end, gameplay won over story for my choices this year. If Smash Bros. for Wii U had simply been a massive upgrade over Brawl with new items, stages and characters, it would have made the list easily. But the fact that Nintendo re-released my ultra-favorite GameCube controllers and implemented an eight-player local mode… well, that sealed the deal. I’ve never seen a more varied group of ages and skill enjoy a game of Smash Bros. as they have with this game at our place. Everybody won at least a few games, and everybody had a smile on their face the entire time. Controlling Kirby among the chaos felt like coming home again. Spectacular.