Monday, December 19, 2011

Top 10 Games of Recent Memory

This was going to be a "top 10 games of 2011" post, but I never kept track of which games I played this year that were actually released in 2011.  So instead, it's basically "top 10 games I played and liked in 2011".

This list is in no particular order.  I don't wish to infer that any one of these games is better than any other one of them.  So really, it's more of a "10 awesome games I played in 2011" post.  You may very well recognize some of these titles from my previous posts, and may also very well see more in-depth posts about some of them later on.

1. Magicka

I'd been wanting something like this for years.  A game where I can make custom attacks by combining the various properties that I want it to have.  Magicka delivers on this.  You get 8 elements and can conjure up to 5 of them in a single spell.  The resulting spell's properties are determined by the properties of the elements you conjured and their priorities.  For instance, adding Arcane to most elements produces a beam of that element, or an area-effect explosion.  But combine it with shield and you get explosive mines.  This spell system is incredibly deep and greatly rewards experimentation.  It also helps that the game is incredibly challenging, which forces you to explore the spell system to figure out what's going to work.

2. Jamestown

A danmaku (bullet hell, if you will) shooter themed around American colonial times?  How could that get any more awesome?

How about if it takes place on Mars?

Yeah.  This game is, as would be expected of a danmaku, incredibly difficult.  But once you get your bullet dodging reflexes in gear, it's also quite fun.  You have different ships to choose from that have different firing patterns and special attacks, as well.  My personal favorite is the Charge, which charges up a large orb that when fully charged will absolutely annihilate most regular enemies.  I still haven't beaten the final boss yet.

3. Minecraft

A pure sandbox game, with blocky terrain that you can move to build stuff.  Basically the epitome of "play it how you want to play it".  You can craft all sorts of tools to assist your mining efforts, swords and a bow and arrows for weaponry, and much more.  Weaponry?  Yeah, there's monsters.  The game runs on a day/night cycle and at night (or anywhere it's dark enough, such as in an underground cave), enemies can spawn.

I don't really need to describe Minecraft much more than that, do I?  It's one of the bigger indie game hits of the past year, and took the internet by storm, so you've probably at least already heard of it.

One final thing though: If you want something extra out of the game that isn't in the vanilla experience, there's a pretty big modding community that's added all sorts of stuff.

4. Torchlight

This game was recommended to me by a friend when he saw me talking about Diablo 2 on Twitter.  It's only single player, but the gameplay experience is solid and incredibly fun.  It's the same sort of game as Diablo 2, i.e. a hack and slash RPG, but rather than a gothic setting, it's a steampunk setting.  The three classes you get to choose from are your typical melee, ranged, and mage, but within each there is the ability to develop it the way you want.  My favorite is the ranged class (the seasoned reader of my blog will be going "no, DUH" at this point), and my weapon of choice is the gun.  I swap back and forth between a two-handed rifle and dual-wielded pistols depending on the situation.  Also, regardless of class, you get a pet that helps you out in combat, can learn spells and equip a limited set of items, and most notably, can carry items for you.  The pet's ability to carry items is awesome because you can send your pet back to town to sell its inventory with the click of a button.  This keeps you in the action, and a game that keeps you in the action is a good game.

5. Barkley, Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden

In a post-apocalyptic world where basketball is banned, Charles Barkley is the only person capable of performing the powerful Chaos Dunk.  He gets framed for the crime of performing a Chaos Dunk that destroys Manhattan and kills 15 million people, and sets out to both clear his name and restore the former glory of basketball.  The result is an over-the-top absolutely hilarious RPG adventure with absolutely no grind.  I'm not even really a fan of basketball, and it was still fun as hell.

6. Aquaria

Set in a mostly underwater world, you play as Naija, a fish-person who wonders if she is the only person left alive.  She sets out to explore and find answers, and gains incredible powers in the process.  The game is free-roaming with a layout similar to Super Metroid, with areas you'll need to get a special power to access.  Throughout the game you find decorative items that Naija uses to decorate her home cave, and some of which are actually armor that does special things for you.  Also, throughout the game, you find ingredients, and you can cook up food to give yourself healing and stat boost items.  As you progress you'll also gain different forms which give you different powers.  The game is long and has a great story, great graphics, and a great soundtrack.

7. The Binding of Isaac

This is a randomly generated dungeon crawler with mechanics similar to the Legend of Zelda games.  There is an extensive number of items you can find totally at random in the dungeon, and one way or another you have to make it to the end and defeat the boss.  Sometimes the game is incredibly unfair to you, and other times you can waltz right through.  It depends almost entirely on the items you get.  Regardless, it's pretty damn fun.

8. Guitar Hero 5

How could there be a list of games I consider awesome without a plastic instrument game in it somewhere?  I consider myself to have been extremely lucky when I stumbled upon not one, not two, but three copies of Guitar Hero 5, new in box with guitar controller, at Wal-Mart for $20 each.  I bought two of them, and sold the extra copy of GH5 to a friend for $10.  Basically, I got what would normally go for around $140 for $30.  Plus, the game has a great soundtrack, and the guitar controllers are actually well-designed and will hold up longer than the GH3 ones did.  It's a wonder that Guitar Hero died, being that it thrives on what most gamers loathe: each new game is essentially "same game, more levels".  GH fans want exactly that, and will readily drop money for each new installment, plus, then there's DLC.  My only remaining wish is that they had released GH: Warriors of Rock on PS2, so that the PS2 would have the entire home console GH library available.  I'd even accept it stripped down, all I really care about is quickplay, practice mode, some options so I can turn off the tilt sensor and touch strip, and the ability to save my scores and options.  Leave everything else out, for all I care.

9. Voxatron

It debuted via a Humble Bundle, it's still in alpha, and since its debut it's gotten a lot more playable.  Active development will do that for a game.  Plus, it's eternally extensible via its level editor and the integrated online level-sharing service.  Custom levels can do a lot of stuff with the engine, which really adds to the replay value.  I have no clue when the game will actually be released (or available for purchase), but if it keeps going like it is, it'll definitely be worth picking up when the opportunity arises.  Oh, and the graphics.  The game gets its name from the graphics.  Everything is composed of voxels, which is short for volume pixels.  Basically, picture a small, colored cube in three-dimensional space.  There you go.  The game takes full advantage of this by having fully destructible environments and a wide variety of weapons.

10. The Maw

While everything about it suggests it's designed for kids, i.e. the lack of dialogue, the cartoony graphics, etc.; it's still fun even for all us big kids out there.  You play as an alien named Frank, who has a pet monster named Maw.  Maw has an insatiable appetite and it's your job to feed him.  And you feed him everything.  As you feed him, he grows.  Certain things he can eat give him special powers, such as the ability to breathe fire or break through rocks.  The entire time, you're being pursued, because at the beginning the spaceship you were on crash-landed onto a planet and you and Maw escaped.  There are three DLC levels which are all pretty good and worth getting.  It's not a difficult game by any means, but if you need to relax and have some fun for a while, you can't go wrong.

I briefly contemplated adding an eleventh game to this list and making a typical "This is Spinal Tap" reference, but ultimately I decided against it.

No comments:

Post a Comment

I moderate comments because when Blogger originally implemented a spam filter it wouldn't work without comment moderation enabled. So if your comment doesn't show up right away, that would be why.