SB Staff Picks 2008: Justin Last

December 18, 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, Justin Last, our new features editor, ranks a downloadable game #1– but not one you might think.

10. Castle Crashers
The Behemoth promised a triumphant return of the 4-player coop brawler except now I’d be able to play with all my friends no matter where they lived. They got it half right, and the fact that it shows up on my list despite being broken ought to be a testament to just how much fun the game is in local multiplayer. There’s something pure about picking a guy and wrecking levels with three friends. If I could take the game online without fear or destroying my save Castle Crashers would be much higher on my list. At least I know who to blame – featured programmer Tom Fulp!

9. Bionic Commando Rearmed

Old games are hard, and competent reimaginings are, too. There’s a sense of accomplishment when completing a level in BCR that just isn’t present in newer games. Add to that a good assortment of weapons, creative boss fights, and interesting mechanics (no jumping in a platformer!) and you’ve got a downloadable title that everybody should try. And in the chance that the story mode doesn’t offer enough challenge the numerous challenge rooms will be right up your alley.

8. Peggle Nights
Peggle is a bizarre and addictive mix of pinball and pachinko with special powers thrown in to spice things up a bit. The only thing it was missing was truly great level design, and Peggle Nights has delivered that. There’s really not much else to say, but it speaks volumes to the game’s addictive qualities when I look at my Steam list and see that I’m playing it more than either Team Fortress 2 or Left 4 Dead. And it gets better – Peggle Nights is budget priced. For a scant $10 you, too can start playing at 8:30 and accidentally forget to sleep before going to work tomorrow!

7. Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts
I played with Lincoln Logs and LEGO kits as a kid. I also love platformers so it’s no surprise that Nuts and Bolts spends a lot of time in my 360. There’s a little less platforming than I’d like, and I’m not entirely sure why Kazooie is even in the game, but I’ve probably spent just as much time making new vehicles (like a multi-stage rocket!) and testing them in Mumbo’s garage as I have running around the various worlds collecting jiggies and TT trophies.

6. Grand Theft Auto IV
Sometimes you just need to hop in a helicopter, land it on a tall building, and fire rockets at pedestrians. GTA IV lets me do that, and I actually found the story compelling enough to finish (a first for a GTA game for me). It’s a shame that the best part of the multiplayer was the lobby though. I can’t help but wonder why R* never implemented my friends and my favorite impromptu mode: speedboat vs. helicopter: each is full of people and the first one to turn into a fiery wreck loses.

5. Civilization Revolution
This is exactly what the Civilization series needed – a quick and streamlined version of the game that doesn’t betray the deep strategy and great mechanics of the PC titles. It’s great to be able to complete a game in a few hours instead of a few days, and multiplayer is a blast. Civilization Revolution is proof positive that strategy games can be implemented well on a console.

4. Secret Agent Clank
I love Ratchet & Clank, and of the two Clank is my preferred character. Running around a museum using stealth takedowns on security bots and goo guns on laser grids, bowtie boomerangs, good platforming, and PS2 quality graphics make Secret Agent Clank my favorite portable title of the year.

3. Fallout 3
Fallout 3 is high on this list for a few reasons. I love the Fallout setting, developing characters in western RPGs is great fun, and VATS manages to makes killing the same old group of raiders entertaining time after time. It also features some of the best side quests I’ve ever played in an RPG. They’re good enough that they manage to outshine the majority of the main storyline quests even. And throwing mini-nukes and Super Mutant Behemoths never gets old.

2. Bully: Scholarship Edition
It’s a PS2 port, but I missed it the first time around. Jimmy Hopkins and his time spent at Bullworth Academy is perpetually entertaining. The narrative is strong, the world is immersive, the mechanics are solid, and the mandatory school classes are entertaining and engaging mini-games. Of all the titles Rockstar has released, Bully: Scholarship Edition is my favorite.

1. Ratchet & Clank Future: Quest for Booty
Tools of Destruction is great, and Quest for Booty is more of the same. If this is the quality of episodic content we can expect from Insomniac then bring it on. ToD’s story is continued here with all new levels and a few new wrench mechanics. The only thing wrong with Quest for Booty is that Clank is absent, but the addition of a pirate theme just about makes up for it.