SB09: Chris Ingersoll’s picks

December 18, 2009

One of Snackbar Games’ traditions every year is to have each staffer pick their top ten games of the year.  We’re so all over the map in our tastes that our lists are never similar.  Today, we have site veteran Chris Ingersoll.  We’d be surprised that he wrote so much about only two systems, but…well, we know the guy.

As usual for my own year-end list, I want to emphasize that this only covers games released this year that I have actually played. This leaves a lot of front runners left off the list simply because I don’t own the system(s) on which they were released, I wasn’t interested in them, I had other financial obligations at the time of its release and it got back-burnered, or any number of other reasons. Additionally, there are a few titles remaining to be released this year that could have stolen a place or two.

Right off the bat, I don’t own an Xbox360, PS3, PSP, DSi, or gaming-capable PC. For the two systems that I do own, here are the ones I didn’t get to for 2009 that probably deserve consideration:

New Super Mario Bros. Wii: This is probably the biggest omission on my list. I have never been a fan of Mario platformers, so I routinely get to miss out on what is unarguably a rock-solid franchise.

The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks: Due for release in early December, I’m not planning on picking it up. Due to my dislike of action-oriented games on handhelds, I haven’t played a portable Zelda since Link’s Awakening, and I don’t see that changing any time soon.

Silent Hill: Shattered Memories: I’m very intrigued by what I’ve read about this one, and I’ve never played a Silent Hill game before so I’m looking forward to it.

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers: expected launch date is December 26th. It looks amazing and I’m very much looking forward to it, whenever it actually gets released. It looks like it will be up against some stiff competition next year, though.

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10: Other than Wii Sports Resort, probably the finest display of what the Motion Plus attachment can do for games. Next year should bring many more games that use this option, like Red Steel 2.

Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars: Never been interested in GTA games, although I’ve heard some say that this edition is among the best.

Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days: My wife is playing this right now, but the series doesn’t interest me.

Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story: I… I’ve never played a M&L game. I know, I know…

Pokémon Platinum: I don’t usually pick up the “special edition” of a given iteration of this franchise, although I do plan on picking up the upcoming Gold/Silver remake.

Rhythm Heaven: No explanation for this one… it just didn’t interest me, I guess.

I could go on, especially when you consider all of the WiiWare titles I didn’t pick up, but that’s already a page’s worth and a Top Ten list by itself. Let’s move on to the ones I did get to play this year!

Honorable Mention: Metroid Prime Trilogy (Wii). Including this collection on the actual list would have felt like cheating. Yes, it was awesome, but outside of the new control scheme for Prime and Echoes they’re the same games that have already won accolades in previous years.

#10 (tie): Nostalgia (DS)/Avalon Code (DS). Speaking of cheating, I couldn’t decide which of these two portable RPGs deserved to make the cut here, as they were something of a yin-yang pairing. Avalon Code had more innovation and took more risks that ultimately didn’t quite pay off, whereas Nostalgia was probably the more solid offering overall despite mostly treading familiar ground.

#9: Deadly Creatures (Wii). The concept was awesome, the execution fairly solid, but ultimately what Deadly Creatures was lacking was content. It was largely hurt by its alternating level design and the overall blandness of the scorpion; a game of nothing but the tarantula could be incredibly entertaining.

#8: Scribblenauts (DS). So much promise… so much frustration. “Write anything. Solve everything,” sounded so good in theory, and for a while it was. In execution, however, it came up short in several areas, especially when objects did not appear and/or behave as expected or when the stylus-based controls led to repeated failures and/or deaths. As I mentioned in my review, the sandbox title screen can be more entertaining than the game itself, which is saying something.

#7: A Boy and His Blob (Wii). A decent action-puzzler with occasionally frustrating controls, A Boy and His Blob regained a lot of lost goodwill with its final two stages. Don’t let it’s cartoony appearance fool you — this game is challenging enough to make you work for your victory.

#6: Pokémon Rumble (WiiWare). Probably the closest I’m ever going to come to getting a “Pokémon Tactics” game, Rumble was a welcome surprise late in the year. Not being able to train your toy pokémon is a little unsatisfying, but once you get used to that this game will grow on you rapidly.

#5: Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box (DS). Not really all that different from last year’s edition, The Diabolical Box still served up over 150 quality puzzles with the trademark Layton charm.

#4: Wii Sports Resort (Wii). Not all of the included activities are winners, but the ones that are knock the ball out of the park (ironically not included: baseball). As usual, Nintendo introduces a new piece of hardware and shows everyone else how to use it. We’ll see what 2010 brings for the Motion Plus…

#3: MadWorld (Wii). I greatly enjoyed my time with Jack and the Deathwatch Games. It was a nice change of pace from the usual Wii fare, even if it fell into a repetitive groove at times. Being able to turn off the background music was a big help to me, although I thought the announcers brought an extra level of entertainment; your mileage may vary on those two points, however.

#2: Muramasa: the Demon Blade (Wii). Also repetitive with its constant backtracking, Murmasa won me over with amazing 2D visuals, quick-paced beat-’em-up action, and some truly epic boss fights.

#1: Punch-Out!! (Wii). One part nostalgia, one part innovation, and two fistfuls of action-puzzling combine to deliver a knockout blow. Being able to practice against opponents before getting in the ring for real was a huge improvement to the franchise, and Title Defense Mode is so badass it actually managed to make Glass Joe a legitimate threat!

Overall, 2009 was a poor year for Wii/DS owners with very few highlights scattered among a sea of unfulfilled promises. My own experience was even less than that of others given which games I picked up and which ones I passed on. I give the developers points for trying some interesting new ideas, but very few of them paid off for me personally.