SB Staff Picks 2008: Graham Russell

December 21, 2008

Game of the Year awards are almost never consensus picks. Different gamers like different types of games. Here at Snackbar Games, we have a diverse staff of writers and editors, and between now and the end of the year, they’ll each be telling you, however they choose, about their top ten of ’08. Today, news editor Graham Russell typed this sentence instead of writing an intro.

I hope everyone is enjoying these looks into the staff and what they really enjoyed this year…personally, I’ve found them really insightful, and I hope you readers have found a kindred spirit among our crew. Anyway, on to my own list:

10. Soul Calibur IV (360/Bandai Namco)

I have no idea why I like this game so much. The production values aren’t great, the new characters are unbalanced, and I’m not a tournament-level fighter by any means. There’s just something about the character customization…and somehow I’m not pathetic at it. The HD upgrade was helpful with a game like this, and I’ll take Yoda over Vader for pure entertainment value.


9. Tetris Party (WiiWare/Hudson)

This was, to me, the most enjoyable WiiWare title this year. I’m not much into Mega Man, though I can respect the game and its nostalgia value. With Party, Hudson crammed in a bunch of modes at a tiny price, and a handful of them are truly special, like co-op and online multiplayer. Some are tacked on, but think of them like airline peanuts – you’re still getting where you need to go, but they’ve given you a little bonus to enjoy for a minute or two.


8. de Blob (Wii/THQ)

I may not rank this game #1 like Cone, but it had a magical quality. I’m a sucker for innovative concepts, slick menus and cool, original soundtracks, and this game had all three. For those who liked Katamari Damacy or Jet Set Radio, this is a must-buy. (Seriously, go now. I’ll wait.) It’s a bit clunky at times, but if the developers can get the green light for a sequel, a little more mechanical polish will do this game wonders.



7. Rock Band 2 (360/EA)

I enjoy sequels, but I don’t typically find them to be marvels of gameplay worthy of my best-of list. The original Rock Band was just so brilliant that, in largely an off-year for the industry, there was no way a similar game wouldn’t break the charts. As someone who played Donkey Konga and Dance Dance Revolution before rhythm games got their big break, it’s nice to see some real budgets put behind these concepts, and Harmonix hasn’t put out a bad game ever.


6. Ninjatown (DS/SouthPeak)

Those who are aware of my freelance work (or just my avatar) should know where I line up with this whole Pirate vs. Ninja business. Besides that, though, SouthPeak and Shawnimals took a charming line of toys and put that visual style and humor into a genre so addicting that you can’t resist. Unlike most tower defense games, Ninjatown felt fulfilling enough to only take on one map at a time, so a 30-level game actually does last a while. DS gimmicks keep it in the bottom half of the list.


5. Advance Wars: Days of Ruin (DS/Nintendo)

This is one of those games that seems like it was released last year. It was actually released early in this one, though, and I’ll keep playing it until the next. I’m not actually a fan of the changes made to the series (new look, decreased CO abilities), but online play and new content keeps a game fresh that needs that kind of thing. Intelligent Systems is overloaded with hit series, and it’s a shame that this series, Fire Emblem, Paper Mario and Wario Ware get fewer releases as a result.


4. Strong Bad’s Cool Game for Attractive People (PC-Wii/Telltale)

Telltale’s Sam and Max games were funny, but bringing in The Brothers Chaps to help create this new series made for extra laughs. The dual release meant not alienating core fans while giving the Wii the point-and-click adventure game everyone knew would make a lot of sense. Kudos, and here’s hoping for a second season. Come on, Fhqwh—I mean, Telltale!


3. Super Smash Bros. Brawl (Wii/Nintendo)

As documented by my pre-release live stream event, I was excited about Brawl. The delays were frustrating, but ultimately it had lasting gameplay and was filled to the brim with nostalgia. Online difficulties and an incomprehensible story may have kept it from the Hall of Fame, but the local multi keeps it close to my disc slot.


2. Castle Crashers (XBLA/The Behemoth)

I’m not really bothered by online troubles this game has had, because I was lucky enough to have a group of eager players right in the room with me. With that in mind, there was nothing in Castle Crashers to disappoint me. Cooperative play works great, and the humor in the game is, barring a few outliers, genuinely funny. My play group has attempted to follow it up with Secret of Mana, among others, and even it pales in comparison. How can a game get such high praise but not top my list? Well…


1. Mario Kart Wii (Wii/Nintendo)

I’ll admit it. I’m a Mario Kart fanatic. From the SNES original to this newest offering, I’ve played some version of Mario Kart on a regular basis for as long as it was possible. My love for co-op makes me rank Double Dash!! above Wii, but only barely. Online play is actually fun—it’s challenging without being cutthroat. People want to play it—from non-gaming family and friends to that friend that takes games way too seriously. The Wii Wheel is available to put people on an even playing field, but optional to test true skills.

So…what do you think about my list? Comment away!

Honorable mentions:

Animal Crossing: City Folk (Wii)
Disgaea DS (DS)
Fable II (360)
Kirby Super Star Ultra (DS)
Penny Arcade: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness (360)
Spore (Mac)