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The end of the year is near. Like mushrooms in a Mario game, top ten lists of stuff that has happened throughout the year have arisen all over the internet as well as other media. Everyone likes giving their opinion, and what better way to do so than making arbitrarily sorted lists on an arbitrarily set date before the (apparently also arbitrarily set) end of the world? That is a rhetorical question. Here are my top 10 reasons why I hate end-of-the-year lists. Because sarcasm.

Reason nº 1: They're repetitive



Have you ever read a top 10 of the year list and went "well, that was an interesting read"? No. You haven't, because as indicated by their name, they feature the most relevant stuff of a given year, meaning you've already read, watched and probably played a ton of hours of whatever is being discussed. Whatever the writer has to say, you most certainly already know about it.

Reason nº2: They're short



If there's something that characterizes most of these lists is the shortness of the argumentation behind each of the elements that form it. It's kind of like reading Metacritic; you can get the general idea of what people think of the game, but there's no argumentation depth, making the information they provide less meaningful for the readers.

Reason nº3: They're subjective



I know what you're going to say: "but reviews and other features are also subjective". Well of course, but just to give you an example, if you read a good videogame review, by the end of it you should understand three things: What the game is about, how it plays, and what the writer likes and dislikes about it. If you read a top 10 list you'll come out knowing what those writer/s liked about those games. Which leads me to my next point.

Reason nº4: They're exaggerated

<Jim Sterling lookalike

The end of the year is a time where people tend to reflect on the past and bring closure to later focus on new beginnings, and there's nothing wrong with that. What annoys me is that writers tend to forcefully embellish the stuff they find relevant in an effort to make the lists feel more cohesive and self-important. Everyone wants to be the judge of their own award ceremony and in that all reasonable criticism tends to be blurred out, lost in the sea of opinions.

Reason nº 5: They're uninformative



If you really care about a writer's favorite games you can check out the rest of their work or follow them on twitter. A top 10 list lacks any real interest.

Reason nº 6: They're too long.



Most of the time, a given topic will not have 10 really relevant elements to it in any given year unless you use a very broad spectrum like "best moments". Mostly the last 4 elements of these lists feel forced and unjustified, and that which occupies the first three positions is what deserves to be remembered and discussed upon.

Reason nº 7: They're trivial



Comparing two things that have unrelated themes, settings, context... and are mostly different from each other except for the fact that they share the common trait that you've decided to make your top ten list about is a very difficult job. Doing that with 10 things is just ridiculous.

Reason nº8: They're childish



What basic human impulse gives us such a thrill to put things on top of other things, to disqualify one in the vantage of the other, to embrace our own ideals and despise everything else? Childishness. Being silly. Saying "this right here is the best of the best, because I say it" makes us feel like a child playing with toys, all-powerful, in control, godly... Even if our opinions don't matter to anyone else buy ourselves.

Reason nº9: They're not rational



No good discussion ever came out of a top ten list. Just disagreement. Because we all have our personal preferences, and when that is the only thing you're willing to expose, there's no reasonable discussion to be had.

Reason nº 10: They're easy



Let's face it, top 10 lists are just a sensationalist way of making people click on your content, with no real effort from the writer, without bringing any new information or arguments to the table, and expressing an opinion in the most primitive and trivialized way.








Edit: Sorry about the repost, I was trying (and failing) to figure out how to change the size of the images. If anyone knows if it's possible please explain it to me, I'm useless.

This summer I played quite a few indie games. I started with the more critically acclaimed ones like Limbo and Braid, and fascinated by what they accomplished, moved onto different, maybe not-so critically acclaimed indie titles. This is my experience with them in a short format.

Limbo


Great atmosphere and level design. It has that kind of puzzles that make you think, but not too much. Cruel and funny at the same time. It's about 4 hours long. I can't recommend this one enough.

Braid

This game is just amazing. The story is meaningful and universal, the graphic style is beautiful and unique, but it's in the gameplay where it really stands out. The level design is tricky, making you think outside of the box all the time. Every puzzle is different and brings something new to the table, a new mechanic, a new variable to take into account, multiplying the possible answers and putting the player's creativity to the test. This is a true masterpiece of the genre. The six hours it lasts are of pure gaming joy.

Gemini Rue


With an interesting Sci Fi setting and an old school look and gameplay, Gemini Rue tells quite an intricate detective story. It plays like a traditional adventure game, but it introduces a few innovations in terms of storytelling and gameplay, letting you change between the two main characters through most part of the game, something that feels fresh and helps you unlock your brain from some of the few tricky puzzles. It lasts around 8 hours.

Tiny and Big: Grandpa's Leftovers


If I had to choose a word to describe this game, it would be ''original''. Original and fun. It's physics engine is greatly flexible, enabling the player to move, cut and destroy 90% of the level's structures. The game is quite short (around 3 hours) but if you like exploring and experimenting with the different gadgets it can last a lot more. The graphics, just as the overall feel of the game, are a breath of fresh air, providing an experience very different from games I've played before. The platforming can be a little tricky at parts and the game becomes easy once you've mastered the different abilities, but it's fun and varied nonetheless.

Analogue: A hate story

I've haven't played many text adventures, but I have to say, this was pretty amazing. The sense of discovery and the way the story branches out in different ways is surprisingly dynamic considering the game consists mainly of text entries. The story is original and well developed, presenting themes we hardly ever see in videogames. Overall, a great game and a must play for anyone who can concieve things like reading and thinking as a form of entertainment.

And yet it moves


With a simple concept (changing gravity) a unique visual style and challenging level design, this is a fun, solid platforming experience. The sounds and visuals give it a very unusual atmosphere. Duration is around 6 hours.

To the Moon


Let me start by saying that to me, To the moon has one of the best stories I've ever experienced when playing videogames. It touches themes that few videogames ever come close to and it does so in a balanced, well structured way. It's engaging, it's romantic and it's hard to forget. That said, it has some aspects to it that will probably put off some gamers. First of all, it is really, really story-driven, so if you don't find the story (two people who venture into an old man's memory to make his dying wish come true) and the themes it touches (marriage, disease, love, human relationships, morale...) interesting you probably shouldn't play it. Adding to that, the "gameplay aspect of the game is rather limited; you basically walk, talk and find objects. I don't think this makes it a less worthwhile experience, but some may disagree. The venture into a character's past makes for some fun and interesting exploration.

To make up for some truly depressing moments, the two main characters -and specially Neil-provide a bit of a comedy contrast. Some say this is out of place, but I have to say I disagree completely. After all, it's the kind of stuff they have to go through everyday, so I find it logical that they would joke around to make it less painful. Neil's jokes aren't always funny, but there are some truly hilariating moments.

Personally, I've cried and I've laughed out loud with this game, something almost no other game has ever done, so I'd recommend it to anyone who finds it's main concepts even mildly interesting and wants to experience something a bit different from other games.

Conclusion
Indie games are fucking awesome. If you're looking for something different than your average mindless shooter, these are something to have a look at. Next games on my list: SB:Sword and Sorcery, Frozen Synapse, Machinarium, Trine...
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Sir Davies
5:47 PM on 07.08.2012

Attracted by the idea of killing Hitler (best pre-order DLC idea ever), I approached Sniper Elite V2 looking for a challenge, a game that required some precision and patience, unlike most other first person shooters nowadays. So, when the menu suggested the “Sniper Elite” difficulty (aka the hardest difficulty) as the ultimate sniper experience I obviously accepted the challenge. After all, I’m good at this stuff, or at least I like to think I am.

Another thing that made me want to play the game was the setting. An American sniper, in the battle for Berlin, behind enemy lines, making sure the Russians didn’t get any German scientists to help them develop weapons of mass destruction. World War II has been present in videogames a considerable number of times, but it’s been a few years since shooters moved away from that setting into the present era and near-future settings, so this seemed fresh and new all over again.

But it wasn’t.

Berlin wasn’t as impressive as it should have been. More importantly, it wasn’t believable at all. Every now and then I’d hear bombs falling down, but it was always somewhere else. I saw destroyed buildings, but not a single building being destroyed, I saw a lot of soldiers, but most of them were just hanging around. I saw a few battles, but there never were more than ten soldiers in each side. I walked through a number of destroyed buildings, but saw no trace of human life. Well, there were some sofa’s turned upside down, but I wouldn’t say that counts. Not a single person, no pictures or objects to make the scenario more believable. Just grey, burned walls, and a street full of enemy soldiers waiting to be shot.

The graphics were acceptable and the light effects were pretty, but the level design failed completely. Now, I don’t exactly know how to make good level design for a sniper game, but I can tell you what doesn’t work: Small corridors, underground tunnels, close quarters shooting areas, buildings with multiple tiny rooms. It’s pretty obvious isn’t it? Well, apparently not for the guys at Rebellion games, because they made plenty of that. Most of the time, it made more sense to pull out the submachine gun and go Rambo all over the place. And the main reason that was the most effective possibility, apart from the inadequate level design, was the enemy’s AI.

Every time I entered a new area, enemies were walking back and forth an empty street, if not just standing still, usually with their backs turned on the player. When one of them got shot, they didn’t run away or call their allies in the next street. They ran from cover to cover, again, waiting to be shot at. When I finally cleared the area from enemies, I would walk onto the following street just to find another group of enemies, looking in the opposite direction and walking slowly like it was a sunny Sunday morning.

Stealth is a feature I always like in videogames, because it usually is the smart way out of difficult situations. In this game though, it’s almost impossible to be stealthy. It doesn’t matter if I was in a huge empty room or a street or the ruins of a building, my footsteps always sounded like those of a giant. So I had to walk slowly, crouched, from cover to cover. Sometimes the enemies would suddenly turn around and start shooting, sometimes they would see me from hundreds of meters away even if I was lying on the ground or behind cover, making stealth the hardest, less useful approach, specially taking into account the already mentioned lack of AI.

The story was practically nonexistent. I’d read these two paragraphs at the start of each mission, which can all be summarized in “go there/kill that guy, but first kill all of the bad guys in your way”

The elements already described wouldn’t be so frustrating if they didn’t come with terrible sound and save mechanics. Apart from the giant-like footstep sounds, classical music accompanied me through my sniper adventure. The music changed depending on the enemy’s awareness of my situation, making for a total of 3 tracks that repeated nonstop through all the game’s campaign. One for when there was no enemies or they didn’t know I was there, one for when they were looking for me, and one for when they were shooting at me. Now, the games is about 10-12 hours long, and it’s the exact same music on every mission, without a moment of silence. How enjoyable can that be?

The real challenge on the maximum difficulty setting was not my skill as a sniper, my precision, nor my reaction time, it was my memory. I would go trough an area, from cover to cover, sniping everyone I saw, like a robot, for like 6 minutes, just to get shot from a window in a building somewhere, die, and restart the whole thing again. On more complicated levels, I had to memorize where every enemy was standing and kill them on an identical sequence until I knew where each and every one of them was. Also, the missions were at least an hour long, and the checkpoints didn’t save permanently, so I couldn’t play it for a few minutes; if I played it I knew I was gonna be there a good chunk of time or I would have to repeat everything once again. When a game that requires patience also requires multiple playthrougs to learn where all the enemies are, it can get really, really frustrating.

The shooting mechanics weren’t bad (in fact they were fairly simple), the slow motion kill cams were awesomely gory and there was always a bit of joy in pulling off a 1000m headshot. But even then, the enjoyment didn’t last long. The clumsy AI, the boring and inadequate environments and the repetitive soundtrack ruined the experience and made this game frustrating and forgettable. [3.5]







Sir Davies
8:48 AM on 04.05.2012

In a sunny morning of August, last year, I woke up with an idea in my head. For the past few hours I had been dreaming about a videogame I had never actually seen, but that was very clear in my head. I instantly sat in fornt of my laptop and started writing. It was one of those ideas I didn't want to forget about.

Two weeks ago I accidentally broke that laptop, and now what I wrote that day is gone forever (yes , I know, security copies and stuff, whatever). Luckily, I can still remember most of what i dreamed that day, so I'm going to do my best to put into words again.

Story
A 10 year old kid changes house because his parents are splitting up, so he now has to live with his dad. Something goes wrong with the pantech van so the house is still empty when they arrive there. Their stuff wont arrive until the next day, so the kid has to sleep on his almost empty room. He only has a bed and an empty shelving. As you can imagine, he's pretty fucking depressed. His dad comes to the room and says good night. He seems depressed too. Then, the kid looks at the top of the shelving and he sees a few colorful books. He looks for a chair and uses it to get them. They are old children's books. The kid is exited.

He opens the first one and starts reading and looking at the pictures. Halfway through, he falls asleep and starts dreaming about the story in the book. That's where the "game" starts. You play through his dream, which mixes concepts from the story the kid is reading, things that are going on in his life and his own imagination. When he finishes "playing" one of the dreams he suddenly wakes up and decides to read the next one. After he has finished the third one, he falls profoundly asleep.



Gameplay and style
It is a third person adventure-platforming game. Every book would be a different experience. Visually, because it would adapt to the style of the drawings in each book, and in terms of gameplay because depending on the setting it would use different mechanics ad environment. Also, the laws of physics wouldn't necessarily be applicable. I mean, it's a dream, so things would change inexplicably and suddenly, without it becoming a complete mess, obviously.

The game would be divided in 4 acts. As I said, every book would have different gamplay mechanics and visual styles. When the kid finally went to sleep he would blend everything together. The visual style and setting would be a mix of the ones seen in the different books and the gameplay would put the gamer's hability with all the different mechanics to the test, mixing them too.

The cutescenes (or maybe short playable parts?) about the kid would be in first person, from the kid's perspective.



Conclusion
So, reading this idea through you have probably noticed there are two main "holes" in it. The first and most relevant of them being what the game mechanics would be. Sadly, that is the thing I remember less about from my dream. I myself was thinking about a mix of all the mechanics I have played in platformers in the past. Also, I'm not sure what the story in every book would be or what could be told about the kid's life. I have a few ideas about it, and I could perfectly explain these ideas, but this is a dreamed game where you play the dreams of a kid dreaming about books, so I will let you, the reader, fill the holes with your imagination.
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