SB Staff Picks 2008: Matthew Gallant

December 16, 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, we feature writer Matthew Gallant. He’s Canadian, and just this once, we’ll leave in those funny spellings.

Here are my top 10 picks for 2008:

1. No More Heroes
No More Heroes is a punk pastiche, a loving tongue-in-cheek tribute to the history of video games. It surprised, confounded and delighted me at every turn. Every time I thought I had the game figured out, I discovered a new ridiculous minigame, over-the-top character or creative Wiimote implementation. Suda 51, shine on you crazy diamond.

2. Sins of a Solar Empire
More than any other title this year, Sins of a Solar Empire had me staying up ’til the wee hours of the morning without noticing. The scope of the game is astounding: you command an empire across several solar systems, but can zoom right in to watch a single ship. Ironclad managed to flawlessly marry the pacing of a 4X strategy game with real time gameplay.

3. Braid
Braid was one of the most ambitious titles released this year; an indie puzzle platformer from outspoken designer Jonathan Blow. It forced me to reconsider my notions of time and space, and I loved the watercolour aesthetic and rich soundtrack.

4. Fallout 3
I thought Fallout 3 did “sandbox” better than any other game this year. Bethesda managed to create a world that is gigantic and ripe for exploration without delving into MMO grinding territory. Sadly, the lack of technical polish is extremely jarring.

5. Rock Band 2
While Rock Band 2 didn’t improve significantly on its predecessor, it certainly polished out some of the quirks and added a fair chunk of content. Considering I probably played this game more than any other this year, it seems only fair to include it on the list. Guitar Hero is dead, long live Rock Band.

6. World of Goo
World of Goo was another game that was continuously surprising and delightful. 2D Boy managed to nail the learning curve at a level only matched by Valve and Blizzard. New mechanics build seamlessly on old ones, and every lesson is learned by doing.

7. Left 4 Dead
As people have come to expect from a Valve title, Left 4 Dead is a wonderfully polished cinematic experience. By building the game from the ground up with co-op in mind, they’ve created an environment where working together feels effective, not frustrating. My only concern is with the lack of content; even with the AI director mixing things up, the game’s four campaigns are beginning to wear a bit thin.

8. Far Cry 2
This game requires some digestion. It took me about four hours of playing to finally “get” it, and I’m not sure it’s something I can easily communicate yet. The best I can say is this: Far Cry 2 is Africa.

9. Professor Layton & The Curious Village
I had high expectations going into this game, but it exceeded them in nearly every way. While in many ways it’s just a vehicle for puzzles and riddles, it’s all tied together with extremely charming presentation. The quirky characters, locations and music were irresistible, and I quickly found myself engaged in the game’s murder mystery.

10. Smash Bros Brawl

Like Rock Band 2, Brawl is not a significant improvement on its predecessors. However, it’s another title that I spent way too much time playing to not include in this list. Smash Bros Brawl adds a staggering number of characters, stages and items to the series’ already impressive cornucopia of content.

Honourable Mentions:
The World Ends With You, Boom Blox, Geometry Wars 2

I look forward to seeing what everyone else picks!