These are the shining examples of gameplay greatness this year, as decided by Snackbar Games staff. In this second installment, we look at consoles and PC.
Graham Russell: This was a packed category, because we love downloadable games around here. Costume Quest, Pinball FX 2, Chime and Protect Me Knight all had substantial support, but ultimately two classics come out on top. Polish tops innovation, I guess, but give these two credit.
Andrew Passafiume: Even those who don’t call themselves Pac-Fans can probably find something that will get them hooked here. You haven’t lived until you’ve eaten thirty ghosts in a row.
Runner-up: Mega Man 10
Chris Ingersoll: While MM10 wasn’t the polished awesome throwback of MM9, it still contained plenty of 8-bit difficulty in the classic Mega Man style. Whatever failings the robot master stages might have suffered, the first stage of Skull Castle made up for it by being one of the most epic ever.
Shawn Vermette: The Civilization series is a huge timesink for me, Civilization IV especially so. As it turns out, changing to one military unit per tile and hex tiles rather than squares doesn’t destroy Civilization. Instead, it makes it even more addicting and strategic.
Graham Russell: I dream in hexes these days. Civilization is just one of those games that gets in your head, making you think up new strategies and avenues for explanation even when you’re not playing. That’s quite a feat when you factor in how long you actually are playing.
Runner-up: Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty
Shawn Vermette: Poor Starcraft II. In almost any other year, it would easily have been PC Game of the Year. Unfortunately, it came out in a year when Civilization V came out, thus making it fall to #2. Nonetheless, it was well worth the wait for it to come out, as the multiplayer is as addictive and fun as ever, and the campaign does a splendid job of adding onto the story of the universe of Starcraft.
Andrew Passafiume: Very few games put emphasis on story and character development over gameplay, but Quantic Dream does it and does it well. Despite some spotty voice acting (play with the French voice acting, trust me), this game weaves a memorable story with many different scenarios that could go several ways. It was quite an emotional journey, but one well worth taking.
Justin Last: Heavy Rain is not without its warts, but it kept me engrossed from start to finish in the story of the Origami Killer. Quantic Dream handily proved that interactive fiction can work and that story can take precedence over gameplay. It’s something that everybody should play and the branching paths increase the replay value tremendously.
Runner-up: God of War III
Andrew Passafiume: It may be very similar to its predecessors, but God of War III is one of the most action-packed games of the year, and it did not fail to live up to its lofty expectations.
Gerry Pagan: I got to rip out Hades’ soul, stick my thumbs into Poseidon’s eye sockets, cut off Hermes’ limbs, sever Helios’ head with my bare hands and pummel Hercules to bloody pulp. Mythological genocide has never been as fun and as satisfying as this.
Eric Schabel: I have always been of the opinion that games feature mediocre storytelling at the best of times. Even so called story-driven massive RPGs almost always suffer from recycled plot lines, terrible dialog, and over-the-top melodrama. The first Mass Effect made me question these assertions, and its sequel has got me damn close to eating a crow for dinner. I don’t think I’ve ever cared more about a cast of characters in a game than I did when I was playing through Mass Effect 2—no doubt thanks to BioWare’s well-crafted “decision points”. It doesn’t hurt that the gameplay is top notch as well—this game is a perfect example of the action RPG done right, and I can’t wait to play the final installment of the trilogy.
Shawn Vermette: As an avid sci-fi and RPG fan, and after repeatedly telling people that the first Mass Effect built the best sci-fi universe I’ve seen or read about since Star Wars or Star Trek, Mass Effect 2 had to be amazing to live up to my expectations. Somehow, it did, making it my top 360 game of the year.
Runner-up: Rock Band 3
Andrew Passafiume: Rock Band 3 is a groundbreaking success and easily the best music game I have ever played. I honestly cannot see Harmonix topping themselves after this. It really signifies the fact that this is much more than a game, it is a platform, a point the team has been trying to get across since day one. Well Harmonix, bravo, you’ve finally done it.
Graham Russell: There’s all this talk about the Move and Kinect being new platforms unto themselves, but I think the most successful platform launch this year was Rock Band 3. It’s a series I thought couldn’t get better, and it did by leaps and bounds.
Graham Russell: This isn’t the tightest game design I’ve seen, and some parts are just silly, but there’s nothing that can beat a game that puts a smile on your face every time you turn it on. The strategy in the battles actually works, and it’s nice to have a strategy RPG where I don’t have to worry about EXP or micromanagement. For now, all I’ll say is that if you didn’t buy it, you deprived the West of localized versions of the rest of the series, and that makes you a horrible, horrible person.
Gerry Pagan: Picked up on a whim, and I loved every second of it. It’s a shame that we probably won’t see any more of this series stateside, despite it having such a strong Japanese following.
Runner-up: Donkey Kong Country Returns
Gerry Pagan: An excellent comeback to one of gaming’s most beloved franchises, Donkey Kong Country Returns is everything you want in a platformer, from the challenging difficulty to the brilliant level design.
What do you think of our picks? Agree? Disagree? Discuss in the comments!