Snackbar’s 2014 Staff Picks: Justin Last

December 25, 2014


10. Dead Man’s Draw

It is immensely fun to examine your opponent’s traits, choose two that completely nullify them and then win a game in a landslide victory. With 18 traits and the eventual ability to use two of them simultaneously, there is always a way to win a tournament and always a new strategy to try out. Parry and Beastmaster synergize well offensively, while Captain’s Hook and Miser work well together defensively. Dead Man’s Draw is a great press-your-luck card game, and I can’t wait for my physical copy to arrive so I can play with friends when I’m not at the PC.

9. Assassin’s Creed: Rogue

The 360 isn’t dead in my house, and I’m not ready for Assassin’s Creed to leave naval combat behind. Black Flag was amazing and this is more of the same, and for me, that’s not a bad thing. I like sailing around the Atlantic, the Assassin-Templar conflict gets fleshed out and it was great to see Achilles and Adewale again.

8. Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel

The Pre-Sequel added some cool stuff to the Borderlands series. The oxygen kits seem annoying at first, but then you pick one up that gives you increased gun damage for O2 in the tank or one that allows you to set fools on fire when you butt-stomp, and it suddenly clicks that 2K Australia put in a second class mod. It also ditched slag and replaced it with cryo and laser weapons. The fact that I can shoot a laser beam that freezes guys in preparation for a butt-stomp that sets them on fire is a gameplay experience that I didn’t know I wanted until I had it. If the story were longer and the NPCs were better, it’d be perfect.


7. CounterSpy

Sometimes you just want to feel like a badass spy in the Incredibles universe. It can’t be just me, and that’s why CounterSpy exists. Your job is to keep the fake USA and the fake USSR from blowing up the moon, and you get to do complete this task by shooting guys with a gun that turns them against their friends, a gun that puts them to sleep and, when none of that works, a loud rifle that mows them all down, because it’s still stealth if nobody is left to tell the boss you were there. Collecting secret plans, internal memos and weapon blueprints makes each level feel significant, and they’re randomly generated so the experience is different each time you play.

6. Costume Quest 2

So far, I’ve dressed my children up as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the ghosts from Pac-Man, the gang from Scooby-Doo and Hogwarts students from Harry Potter. Every time they were thrilled to put on their costumes and run around the mall pretending to be those characters and collecting candy. Costume Quest 2 gives me the same feeling. I can dress up as Thomas Jefferson, beat the snot out of monsters and save Halloween from a crazy dentist. It has great-looking abilities, oozes charm and doesn’t overstay its welcome.

5. Marvel Puzzle Quest: Dark Reign

Assembling a three-hero team and facing off against another player’s team in match-three combat is more captivating than it has any right to be. I have 37 heroes of various levels, all of whom have distinct powers. I can send The Incredible Hulk, Daken and Captain America to fight Juggernaut, Yelena Belova and a Devil Dinosaur. There are regular tournaments, in which you can collect comic covers and crystals to level up your heroes and coins to buy new roster slots. I’ve been playing daily since release and haven’t put any real money in, and I regularly get to unleash superpowers on my foes. Matches are quick enough that I can play when I don’t have a ton of time for something more substantial.


4. inFamous: Second Son

It’s fun to be a hero. It’s even more fun to be a hero with four distinct sets of powers. Between smoke, neon, video and concrete, there is always a fun combat option. Smoke is great for hard hits, neon is good for traversal and ranged combat, video is good for stealth and concrete is a defensive powerhouse. Add fun side missions like stencil art and collectibles that show up on the minimap, and I had a great time getting 100 percent in this one.

3. Transistor

I love turn-based combat, and Transistor’s combat is exceedingly versatile. Each combat function can be installed into the Transistor as an active ability, a passive ability or a modifier to an active or passive ability. If you don’t want to constantly wait for use Crash() against your foes, then equip Ping() as a modifier and you can use it while Turn() charges back up. Challenge rooms serve to teach you how to use functions in concert, and the story is the best I’ve experienced this year making it a title that is a joy to play and powerful to experience.

2. Tales from the Borderlands

We’ve only gotten one episode of Telltale’s take on the Borderlands universe, and I already love it. I want to see what happens to Rhys and Fiona. I want to know more about Gortys. Most of all, though, I want more time to hate Vasquez. Patrick Warburton absolutely nails his role as villain you hate, because he’s a dick, but love to talk to, because he’s funny. The combat feels good, Rhys’ Echo Eye is a great joke delivery system and calling down a loader and then issuing it commands is just as fun as it sounds.


1. Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor

Shadow of Mordor won me over when I abandoned the main story two missions in and got caught up challenging orc captains, collecting runes, unlocking new skills and taking on side quests to improve my weapons, hunt specific creatures and pick specific herbs. Monolith made me care about collecting herbs when I could have been out slaughtering orcs. And after I took out all of the war chiefs, I got a second map, a new set of abilities and the ability to do it all again. By the time I was done, I was hoping for a third map. The combat is fun, the abilities enhance that and side characters like Torvin and Lithariel make the main storyline compelling as well.