So, here we are - its December of 2008, and its time for a yearly ritual in video games - your very own top 10 list. I say ritual because its almost customary practice for every magazine, newspaper and blog to churn out a end-of-year awards piece, or a top 10 list, and the practice is increasingly becoming tough because as video games expand, both in numbers and in diversity, the top 10 list is becoming less of a ’these are the 10 games you should buy’ sort-of conusmer guide to a list that really, kind of, exemplifies the kind of gamer you are and the games that attract you.
Of course, this is a good thing, since the nearly identical, universal opinion of a few years back is being replaced by a gaggle of diverse, different opinions, and games journalism is the better for it.
So, anyways. Top 10 games of 2008 - these will ofcourse cover all genres and platforms, but will restrict itself to games released in India - so sorry Fallout 3, and Guitar Hero World Tour and Rock Band 2 - which, havent so far seen indian release. There will be, I admit a slight tilt towards PC games - since it does have the largest sort-of install base here in India, but most titles, as of Dcemeber, are multiplatform (excepting a few notable ones, of course), so thats not going to be a glaring bias of any sort.
But, like I said, top 10 lists are, today, purely subjective opinions informed maybe partially by notions of objectivity - so feel free to disagree or agree, and you can always get back to us at email@example.com
So, at No. 10 - we have a little, free text game called Violet playable at ifcomp.org - i covered this in a previous episode of the Playcast, its a 500 kb text-based game about being stuck in your office on your birthday. Its a bittersweet, beautifully written interactive fiction story, and an example of how to get videogame romance just right.
At No. 9, we have No More Heroes, an action title for the Wii. The Wii has had a pretty challengin year in 2008, with big name titles sort of drying up, and the platform itself being taken over by mediocre mini-game collections and cheap movie tie-ins. Even though its incredibly popular, the lack of titles being released for it means it might gathers dust on the shelves while the other consoles see a healthy release schedule.
Thats not to say, of course, that all is not well in Wii-land - we saw WiiFit, the release of the Wii-Ware channel which has seen some great games, and our no. 9 game for the year - which is No More Heroes. No More Heroes is proof, I think, that the Wii can be a platform for this kind of quirky, off-beat stuff. You play as Travis Touchdown, who stumbles upon a ’beam katana’, which is basically a glorified lightsaber, in an online auction. It had great motion controls, a cool combat system, and some very very nice music.
Okay, we’re going to go a little bit faster now.
At No. 8, we have The World Ends With You, a japanese role-playing game for the Nintendo DS. This is a game that tried to cram too many ideas, broke every rule of prudent game design, and generally was an aberration haunting the traditional school of how a Japanese RPG should be played. Needlessly to stay, its quite wonderful, with an excellent plot based on the real-world Shibuya ditrict of Tokyo, good use of the DS’s two screens, and again, some lovely music.
At No. 7, we have Oiligarchy, which is a free flash game playable at molleindustria.it. This one deserves special mention for dragging video games kicking and screaming into relevant, timely political commentary. You play as the chief of an oil company in the 1950s, bribing, influencing and destroying the environment to your hearts content. Also read the excellent Postmortem of the game on the site, somethig, i think we need more of for video games.
At No. 6, we have our first tie - this is between Gears of War 2 for the Xbox 360 and Resistance 2 for the Playstation 3 - both exemplary, if not too revolutionary, examples of a console shooter done well.
At No. 5 - we have Far Cry 2 for the PC, for its incredible world, dep deep gameplay and for essentially rebooting the first person shooter in 2008. Its an incredibly well, crafted, complex achievement, and also very very pretty to look at.
At No. 4 we have, surprise surprise, Grand Theft Auto IV for Xbox, PS3 and now pC, for getting the attention of every newspaper and magazine and conservative and concerned parent in the world the way only a controversial GTA game can. Well done there.
And so we reach our top three. By this time you may have realized, and I wish to reiterate - this has been an incredible year for video games, some have even called it a ’golden age’, and thats not too far off the mark - the number of polished, intelligent, timely, well-crafted titles is on the rise, and there’s so many avenues and channels to choose from.
So, at this point, just a quick sort of Certificate of Participation to all the games that deserve to be in this list (Just off the top of my head, there’s Audiosurf, Hinterland, Sam and Max Season 2, Spore, Braid, Mirror’s Edge, and Left 4 Dead) - it would defeat the purpose of the list to include them, of course, but lets not be exclusionary here- and at the risk of sounding overly zealous, the idea is to just point out that games are evolving beyond being covered as mere consumer choices into a hopefully maturing, and diverse medium in their own right.
At No. 3, we have Professor Layton and the Curious Village for the Nintendo DS, a point and click adventure game with some lovely hand-drawn visuals, and a fiendish set of puzzles of solve. The game is like a huge book of Shakuntala Devi puzzles - and while IM sure this ill-chosen analogy will inevitably drive you far far away from trying the game - it shouldn’t..its a wonderful experience thats get overything right - story, sound, difficulty and length.
At No. 2, we have LittleBigPlanet for the PS3. Its a sort of do-it-yourself platform making game, a little hard to explin briefly, but an absolute joy to play co-op with other people. Alone, I wouldnt recommend this game...but with another person, and this could be your grandmother, or even children, and thats the brilliance of it, its absolutely a blast. And also very educational.
And so, we reach No. 1
Tha game of the year was, oddly, the first game to be chosen in this list...it wasn’t a no-brainer, but anyone who played this title will defeinitely agree...and Ive talked about in previous episodes of the Playcast as well.
That game is World of Goo. World of Goo is a labour of love by a small indie studio called 2dBoy, and its just brimming with humour and ideas and cleverness, that its hard not to get charmed. Please try out World of Goo - its really an exemplary example of how far independent games have come in this year, to the point where a game like World of Goo can stand head and shoulders above any money spinning, large name studio.
So, thats it then. Thanks for listening - and one caveat - at the time of recording this podcast, the PC version of the new Prince of Persia was not available, and therefore has been excluded from this list. Expect a separate review of that sometime later.