Remember that time the world ended, because Nostradamus and his Mayan friends said it would? That was a pretty wild time but since we live in the timeline with Duke Nukem Forever, we never got to experience that apocalypse. My memories of 2012 aren’t exactly clear, but the games I played from that year are pretty fresh in my mind. My list of 2012’s bad games probably won’t go down well. I’m sure my list of good games will also be controversial: I mean, what kind of person would call Silent Hill Downpour to be a good game, and Xenoblade Chronicles a bad one? Me: I’m saying that and I’ll try to explain myself.
Here’s the full list of games I’ll be talking about in this addition of my Decade Project. This month, I’m just going to go down the list, stating plainly which of these games was either my favorite or most hated.
I don’t remember buying Binary Domain, it was just kind of squatting on my Steam games list. I probably got it as part of a bundle, and once I built a computer that can actually play games I gave it a shot! What it turned out to be was a weird, techno-futurist third-person shooter. It could be me, but I had a lot of trouble controlling Binary Domain with a mouse and keyboard. To make matters worse, my PS4 controller didn’t seem to want to work with it either. I eventually got over the control issues, mostly, but the awful writing, bad enemy AI, and dissatisfying combat kept me from wanting to play this for a longer than an hour or so.
Borderlands 2 is Borderlands, but more of it and with Claptrap thrown front-and-center because I guess that little robot is the marketable face of the franchise. The first game in the series bored the Hell out of me, probably because I’m a single-player gamester. I also couldn’t help but notice that Borderland is a game of numbers, and everything surrounding them feels just as artificial and pointless in 2 as they did in the first. I play, and enjoy, turn-based JRPGs which are also based entirely around numbers but the stories are what kept me going through those.
The story of Borderlands couldn’t get me to see past the mechanics. There might be millions of guns to find, but the dozen or so that I used in 2 all felt more or less the same. I even felt a sense of diminishing returns since your level, your gun’s level, and enemy levels are always rising instead of the game giving me guns that actually feel more powerful than my old ones. It makes me question why there’s an RPG system here at all.
I’ve played games that aren’t as well-made as Borderlands 2, but that doesn’t stop me from being apathetic towards this franchise. Borderlands 2 isn’t a better Borderlands, it’s just more Borderlands, and throwing Claptrap in my face just demonstrates that characters like Claptrap only work in small doses; a loud, annoying character can be funny, but not when you’re forced to walk alongside them for an hour.
Double Dragon Neon disappointed me. I can’t claim that I’m a huge fan of Double Dragon, but I had fun playing the original NES games a couple years ago, and playing Super Double Dragon as a child. Of those two games, I strongly preferred the SNES game if only because of the smooth frame rate and large sprites. Double Dragon Neon is smooth, but it’s paced incredibly slowly. What I mean doesn’t refer to level layouts or the story, what I mean is, movement is slow and even inputting commands in my controller, there seemed to be a delay between button-presses and on-screen action.
Jimmy walks incredibly slowly, and I couldn’t figure out how to play as Bimmy, my preferred brother. I’ll take that as a “me” problem: for all I know Bimmy is just as slow as Jimmy. I like the idea of buying power-ups and consumables, but actually using them didn’t seem to be well tutorialized. It also seemed like the music-based power ups had more downsides than positives, but again, that could be on me misreading descriptions. I’m not sure if Double Dragon Neon gets better later, but I know the cool-looking Skeleton boss had the voice of Skeletor from He-Man and once he started talking, I had completely checked out. I came into Double Dragon Neon with an open mind, but I left it feeling annoyed.
The Last Story is a JRPG exclusive to the Wii which was allegedly localized to the west because of high fan-demand. That’s what I remember off the top of my head, and a voice in my head is chanting “MMO-style combat” insistently. Another voice in my head is saying that I liked this game more than Xenoblade Chronicles, but I definitely spent more time with Xenoblade than I did with Last Story.
I recall the main plot centers around a single city rather than being a globe-trotting adventure, but I can’t recall the names of any of the playable characters. Since JRPG’s are mostly vessels for their stories, that’s probably a bad sign. I checked a video or two, and the combat isn’t as passive as I thought. There are a lot of dodge-rolls and it looks like attacking is an active action that you need to do through button inputs, but there’s also the option to pause the action and select special abilities and attacks for you and your party members to perform during battles.
I’m calling Last Story ‘bad’ instead of ‘meh’ because of how forgettable this game was. There are a ton of JRPGs that I haven’t played in years that I can still easily recall in part or in whole. For you, memorable may not automatically equal good, but to me Final Fantasy Mystic Quest, Mario & Luigi: Dream Team, Star Ocean: The Last Hope, and many others had a much greater positive impact on me than The Last Story did, and that’s unacceptably bad coming from the same person whose name is attached to the Final Fantasy franchise.
(I wanted you to be good)
Mario Party games being bad is basically a joke by 2012, and the joke has been drawn out to the level of something you might expect from Friedberg and Seltzer of Movie-Movie (Epic, Disaster, Scary, Date, etc) fame. Mario Party 9 differentiates itself from 8 by letting you play as fewer players, taking away the ability to move freely around the game board, and having the same number of mini-games as 8. So if you thought Mario Party 8 offered too much personal freedom, Mario Party 9 might just appeal to you! For me, I’m mostly a solo-player so Mario Party 9 probably wouldn’t have appealed to me anyway. In 2012 though, I had a girlfriend to play with. I think it only took one or two rounds of this game before we mutually decided to go back to Mario Kart. I did like the bowling mini-game that you can just play outside of Mario Partying, but there are better bowling games on the Wii.
Paper Mario: Sticker Star embodies Nintendo’s philosophy of, ‘if you don’t like this version of this game, then maybe you’ll like the sequel. If you don’t like that, just replay the old games because we have new fans to milk.’ Unlike previous Paper Mario games (64, and The Thousand Year Door), Sticker Star seems to be ashamed to have been a role-playing game. When I think of RPGs, I think of vibrant worlds populated with a lot of interesting characters.
Paper Mario: Sticker Stars is populated by Mario, Peach, Bowser, and a billion copy/pasted toads. When I think of combat in an RPG, I think of quick engagements that make your cast of characters stronger and increase your arsenal of abilities. The encounters I engaged in while playing Sticker Star depleted a finite resource and didn’t seem to offer any opportunities for growth.I don’t think I made it an hour into Sticker Star, but I remember the combat being pointless, the world being uninspired, and the whole experience being negative.
I fully admit that I didn’t give Resident Evil 6 a full chance. Out of the four playable characters, I only played as Leon. Leon is often said to offer the best campaign out of everybody in Resident Evil 6, but what I played was a series of dark corridors with a couple of large rooms populated by fodder. Leon seems to have forgotten what zombies are, but there is intrigue surrounding how the outbreak happened this time around, at least until you enter the room with the large Umbrella logo, during the forced tutorial level.
I wouldn’t mind another action-focused Resident Evil: I really enjoyed number 5 for example, but Resident Evil 6 seems like it was made by a team who only knew of Resident Evils 4 and 5. The linearity, the dialog, the plot, the combat, nothing really endeared me toward this entry, and it’s no surprise the seventh Resident Evil was essentially a reboot.
Xenoblade Chronicles for the Wii is another JRPG that bored the crap out of me. From what I remember, Shulk is a young man living on the corpse of a titan. He journeys to the corpse of another titan to seek revenge on a mechanical life-form who attacked his village. He should have been killed too, but luckily Shulk has the power of The Monado: an ambiguous, sword-like weapon of fate that’s really good at killing mechanical life-forms. Other than my short and probably-mostly-wrong summary, all I remember of Xenoblade Chronicles plot is that Dickson is probably going to betray Shulk, and Dunban is the closest thing to a waifu that game has.
Unlike The Last Story, my complaint of ‘MMO-style combat’ applies to Xenoblade: normal attacks just happen when you’re close to an enemy and special abilities can be used so long as they’re not cooling down. Special attacks can be chained into combos to do more damage to enemies, apply status effects, and generally bring me back into the game instead of just watching passive attacks. Out of the three Operation Rainfall games people shouted about (this, The Last Story, and Pandora’s Tower), this is actually the one I most enjoyed, and the one I played for the longest.
The passive combat was just boring to me though, and unlike X and Xenoblade Chronicles 2, there wasn’t enough to the plot or any other gameplay incentives (like Mecha or unlockable waifu) that made me want to keep playing.
(At least Shulk is decent in Smash, kinda)
I played a bit of Fez years ago when I was using a laptop that I was surprised to find could play flash-based games. It might not have run well for me at the time, but I do remember having fun with it. It’s an indie-platformer, but unlike games like Braid, Fez played like a game that wanted to be fun. It’s a 2D platformer, but the unique selling point is that you can turn the game on an axis to move around objects in 3D space. Fez is charming enough, but it didn’t engage me particularly well. It’s still on my Steam list, but it’s never been a game that I ever particularly wanted to go back and complete.
Final Fantasy XIII-2 is my favorite entry in that trilogy of tears. The plot follows Sarah, Lightning’s little sister and Snow’s love-interest I guess, and Noel, a boy who was born at the end of time and is part of a time-travelling tribe if I remember correctly. Basically, the timeline is shattered and XIII-2 is all about hopping from time to time and trying to set things right. The abysmal combat engine from XIII is back, but it’s been tweaked enough that it’s actually not terrible anymore.
It still mostly boils down to automatic attacks and changing AI behavior, but there’s more player input required to make attacks work to their fullest effect. Since there are only 2 main characters and the FFXIII combat engine is designed around parties of 3, you add to your group by capturing and training monsters. I guess that’s what really engaged me the most about XIII-2; the combat engine still feels bland but it also feels more customizable and there’s a better sense that I’m in control instead of just a spectator. You bump into familiar characters from the previous entry, but none of them join your party. Best of all, Lightning is nowhere to be found!
I feel like that’s the main point of the game: Sarah is looking for Lightning, Noel is trying to fix the timeline and find the source of its destruction. There are multiple endings, and if you choose any of the ones that aren’t canon, you can stop playing and assume XIII-3 and even XIII didn’t happen because canon is subjective.
(I forgot to mention how annoying this Moogle is, Kupo)
There’s a reason I have FTL: Faster than Light listed as one of my ‘meh’ games. I don’t consider FTL to be an actual game, but rather a very intricate random number generator with a fun aesthetic. I’ve put over 58 hours into FTL, but in that time I’ve never actually beaten the game. I’ve fought the final boss multiple times but based on everything I know about how to win in combat I just can’t seal the deal with the final boss. Just getting to that point, even on easy, is arduous.
What you do in FTL is travel from point-to-point on a star map on a quest to get to your Imperial base before the Rebel Armada can obliterate it. Each point you warp to has a random chance of being an enemy encounter, a special event (which can kill your crew, give you resources, add onto your crew, damage your ship, etc), or nothing at all. Whether or not a map has a shop is decided by random chance too. Whether or not you get several bad rolls in a row and don’t see a single map transition is decided by random chance.
In battle, you can pause time to micromanage your ship and carefully choose what part of the enemy ship you want to target next. This is my favorite part of the game, since you can disable an enemy ship’s oxygen generator and watch them suffocate. You can send your crew to the enemy ship and bludgeon them all to death. You can disable their warp drive and be merciful when they offer resources if you’ll only stop hitting them. There are a ton of options, but it’s all marked with a percentage and if you get one bad dice roll it’s easy for that first failure to cascade.
FTL can be fun, but it’s the kind of fun that you get by beating mathematical odds and that’s not the kind of fun I usually like to engage with...unless of course there’s a real chance that I can win something material.
(This has happened to me so many times...)
Halo 4 shouldn’t be a thing. Having closure on Master Chief after the first trilogy would be nice but it could have been better. When I first played this game, it was during a time when I would play everything on the easiest settings if I had the choice. You can laugh if you want to, but for Halo 4 playing on easy was still frustrating for me. It seemed like the weapons did little-to-no damage to the mostly-robotic enemies. The returning Covenant enemies also seemed to take more hits than usual before they would go down. The only time enemies didn’t feel like damage sponges were when I could get into a vehicle.
I wish there was just a vehicular combat based Halo game, but anyway, while I was in a vehicle it hit me that I could just rush past most of the enemy mobs in Halo 4. When I realized that, I tried it on foot and when that worked too I breezed by the rest of the game. Halo 4 seemed like a waste to me; I didn’t care about the new story beats, the Prometheans were just pointy robots, and I still don’t see why The Covenant came back at all. It’s nice to know that Spartan 117 didn’t just waste away in space, I just wish the continuation of the Halo franchise had started off on a better foot.
I definitely played Hitman: Absolution, but I don’t recall it having a major impact on me. I can’t recall if Absolution was the one where the main claim to fame was a centralized hub, or assassin-nuns. This is why it’s ‘meh’ to me; I don’t really replay games too often and a big part of the appeal of the Hitman franchise is the idea that you should be replaying and mastering each of the levels. They’re really puzzle games in a way: You’re dropped into the middle of a marketplace or city center, you’re given a target, and you’re surrounded by dozens of means to end bad men (and women I’m sure, again, I haven’t played enough of the series to know who all of the targets are). These aren’t bad games, I just don’t usually stick with them.
I choose to believe that I beat Kid Icarus: Uprising, I made it as far as the fake-out ending before I packed this one in. I don’t have any nostalgic ties to Kid Icarus: I didn’t own the NES or Game Boy games but Uprising was a lot more fun than I thought it would be. I like how it mixes gameplay styles for one thing. Levels start with Palutena giving Pit the power to fly from a nebulous starting point into each level proper. The flying section is essentially an on-rails shooter, where enemies fly around you, and you’re meant to be shooting them down. There’s even a boss fight in this style.
Once you land, the levels play out similarly but with free movement, light exploration, and a big boss fight at the end. Monsters are still trying to murder you, you still have long-range and melee attacks, but you can explore levels which are more open than I would have expected. The issue at hand is how you control the game. Kid Icarus Uprising would have worked so much better on the Wii U, or on the updated 3DS that has an analog nub. Moving Pit and the Camera at the same time was a huge challenge for me because I’m left handed, and movement controls being mapped to the face buttons on the right side of the console never felt right. Camera controls being mapped to the touch-screen didn’t feel right either. I really hope this is remastered and ported to the Switch, because I did have fun playing this during those moments before my wrists and finger joints started aching.
(This is an actual accessory, bundled with the 3DS to make Kid Icarus Uprising easier to play)
Kingdoms of Amalur: The Reckoning has a really interesting premise: You are a dead (gender, race, age, etc to be determined) who has come back to life, and thus, you have the power to alter Fate. Here’s why I call it ‘meh’ though: This was an example of me knowing that a particular game is definitely going to ask me to spend dozens of hours playing it, but I kept getting distracted by other, more easily digested games. The first couple of hours and the first area didn’t fully engage me, so I put the game down and haven’t come back to it. I plan to eventually, but I haven’t done so yet. Part of why I didn’t stick with it is because, once you exit the very first dungeon, I felt like the first village was still trying really hard to give me tutorials. It didn’t feel like I had unlocked very many options when it comes to building my character and I wasn’t sure when the game would fully open up. I also didn’t care for how, even outside of the first dungeon, the forest surrounding the town didn’t feel open at all: it was like someone had built a forest inside of a large room instead of being a freely explorable biome.
Mighty Switch Force Hyperdrive Edition is a platformer I downloaded on the Wii U while waiting for more exciting games to launch. To complete levels, you need to collect cute prison escapees. To do that, you must solve puzzles by press switches which manipulate blocks and allow you to move freely around each stage. It’s a simple gameplay loop, and fairly engaging, but like with so many other games I got distracted by other, more engaging games and never actually finished this one.
New Super Mario Bros 2 and New Super Mario Bros U are perfectly functional, perfectly fine, even fun games to play. The problem is that the most challenging levels are unlocked after you beat Bowser and save the day. The compounding problem is that those challenging levels are levels that you’ve already played before, but harder. Yet another compounding problem is that the New Super Mario Bros games peaked with the first two entries. You can still play the original DS game on the 3DS, and you can still play the original Wii game on the Wii U. To further incentivise playing the old games again, the Wii version was the one that I found to be the most challenging, and thus the most satisfying to complete.
(Going by the trailers, this 1 level is NSMBU's primary selling point. This 1 level looks like this. 1.)
Nintendo Land is the proof-of-concept demo disc that was made into a game and bundled with Wii U consoles. It’s a series of minigames that get new users used to the idea of asymmetrical multiplayer, keeping an eye on the touch pad and TV screen at the same time, and adding in new characters and sets to be used as stages and assist trophies in future Smash Bros games. My favorite of all the Nintendo Land games was the Donkey Kong themed one that heavily relies on the gyroscope sensor in the Wii U gamepad. That alone was probably the most challenging platformer I’ve played in years, and it’s a shame that hasn’t been scaled up into a more full-featured stand-alone game.
Playstations All-Stars Battle Royale is kind of a lie, since it lacks many characters who I would consider to be Playstation All-Stars. Cole McGrath and Kratos are fine characters, but I associate the Big Daddies of Bioshock with the Xbox more than the Playstation. Ratchet and Clank are great, but where are Spyto, Crash, Gex, Croc, Klonoa, Tombi, and the little puppet boy from Puppeteer?
The obvious and often told joke is that this game is a blatant rip-off of Smash Bros, but there are 2 things it does that Smash doesn’t: First, it has dynamic stages that transition from one theme to another as fights progress. The other thing it does is force you to use special attacks to knock out your opponents. Smash Ultimate added a special gauge that fills up over time, but PA-SBR made you use and connect those attacks if you wanted to win. Congratulations on that much Sony, it’s a shame you had to settle for Raiden and New-Dante.
Primorida is yet another game that I didn’t finish because I got distracted by other games, but this one is a point-and-click adventure so I’m somewhat more justified. You control a robot, and go around collecting items to open paths, to get places, and I have forgotten what the central narrative and issues were. I think it had to do with robots facing an energy crisis. Primordia has a great setting though, and I liked the characters, I just got distracted, put the game down, and haven’t picked it up in a few years.
Resident Evil Revelations reminds me a lot of Metal Gear Solid 2: It starts out on a boat and was really compelling, but the level after that mostly lost me. It did start promisingly enough though: the opening sets a really tense atmosphere, and the new monsters are based around deep-sea creatures. The investigative elements were pretty spot on too from what I remember. After investigating the cruise ship though, there’s a boss fight with a completely different character, and once the focus shifts to action my interest just waned.
I played this on the 3DS, and back when this game was new it launched on a brick-shaped console that hurt to hold after too long. This isn’t an issue with games that are more easy-going, but during a tense firefight I couldn’t help but to dig my digits into the shoulder buttons and wind up disincentivizing myself from wanting to play. I stopped playing during a set piece gunfight that takes place after a fall down a hill and pits you against a pack of fast-moving wolves. I died a few times, told myself I would try again later, and somehow several years have elapsed since then.
I didn’t know what a rogue like, or rogue lite, was before I started playing ZombiU but I knew the concept of finding your previous body and killing it to get your stuff back sounded like a really cool idea. It’s half-past the London zombie apocalypse and you’re being guided by a cockney voice in your head. The main goal of the game seems to have been getting to Buckingham Palace, but the streets and shops are packed to the gills with football hooligans and a single bite will turn you to their side, at least until Sheffield United F.C. gets their shit together. Once you’re inevitably turned into a zombie, your next player-character has to make do with resources you might have overlooked unless they find your zombified past-self, kill it, and retrieve their gear.
Gathering resources is a tense affair, since opening up the item menu doesn’t pause the game and it can be really easy to get blind-sided by a hitherto unseen mank. I made it to Buckingham Palace when I played this, but I never actually finished the game. Unfortunately, the wind was knocked out of my sails when I was zombified close to the end, and I just couldn’t muster the energy to try again.
The Darkness 2 continues the story of Jackie Estacado who has ascended to the head of his crime family and thus, has attracted the ire not only of other mafiosos but also of a cult who seek to suck the demonic energy force that powers him. Unlike most first-person shooters, Jackie Estacado is able to defend himself by using up to four guns at once. If you’re feeling more vicious though, Jackie can also attack his assailants with tendrils of solid darkness; you can toss objects, toss people, grab people, or just rip prone enemies apart.
Speaking of, this is one of those rare FPS games where enemies are blown apart rather than being blown away as a perfectly in-tact rag doll. If you’re more of a managerial type, you can summon demonic imps to kill your foes for you, but all of these demonic powers can only be used in the dark. In fact, if you’re in direct light you seem to take significantly more damage from attacks. Luckily, this is one of those rare FPS titles where you’re able to (and strongly encouraged to) destroy light sources. It feels like you have a massive amount of influence over the world around you, and even though you’re clearly not invulnerable, there are sections of The Darkness 2 where I felt unstoppable. I picked this game up for cheap on Steam but I haven’t finished it yet...when I did play through it completely it was several years ago on the PS3.
Can I remember the plot of this game more clearly than the plot of the first? Nope, and the funny thing is I’ve played The Darkness 2 much more recently than the first. What I do remember about The Darkness 2 though is throwing a mafioso into exposed rebar, decapitating another with a car door, shotgun-blasting a third one’s legs off, and devouring the heart of a fourth in just under 10 seconds, and that gameplay loop is the rule rather than the exception.
(Buy this game if you like shooters and haven't already tried it)
I didn’t know what Dishonored was, I didn’t ride the hype-train while it was being shown off, and I didn’t even pick it up until it was insultingly cheap on the PS3. What I wasn’t expecting were 2 excellent games: a game with thoughtful level design that leads to satisfying stealth, and a game with intense and satisfying combat mechanics. It all depends on if you want to play a passive run or a murderous run, and the consequences of both styles make sense given how the world is presented. You play as Corvo; the personal guard of an Empress who was murdered, so it’s time for you to take care of the conspirators who brought about her fall while also trying to save her kidnapped daughter. The levels are vast, well-populated, and the settings vary nicely. There are gloomy neighborhoods, an opulent mansion hosting an opulent party, a flooded neighborhood, a bordello, a gloomy prison, and many other gloomy places.
The open-ended gameplay is what made me play this game twice in a row, and it’s why I intend to double-dip next time it’s on sale on Steam: a lot of games with a moral choice and story split will relegate the split to choices in dialog, or very specific NPC kills. Dishonored’s story changes based on how you play the game from beginning to end and thus feels much more organic. I can’t recommend Dishonored highly enough.
Far Cry 3 tells the classic story of a young man who is kidnapped while on a lavish vacation with his rich, jerk friends. While escaping from a potential life of misery, the player character takes a bunch of illicit substances, joins up with a faction, and starts murdering everything around him. This first-person shooter takes place in a massive island that’s realistically populated with all kinds of wildlife, groups of mercs, strongholds, and towers just waiting to be conquered. Unfortunately, there is a super-effective playstyle that can trivialize the difficulty for a lot of missions and that’s by playing as a stealthy-sniper. You’ll be able to craft a silencer for a sniper rifle fairly early on in the game, and if you remain unseen you’ll be able to clear out most enemy camps in no-time flat.
The shooting, and sniping, is satisfying here so it isn’t a necessarily boring way to play, it’s just the easiest way to complete a fairly major chunk of the gameplay. For me, the low points of the game were driving segments (which I don’t recall being mandatory), and the story. There were a couple of story segments that were fun in a hallucinatory, dream-like sort of way, but I just enjoyed wandering around the sandbox of Far Cry 3 more than actually playing through the story.
Hotline Miami is such a psychotically violent game that if it wasn’t stylized it would be rated A/O. You play as a person wearing an animal mask in the 1980’s taking vague directions from your answering machine. After being driven to each level, all you really have to do is murder everybody and leave. The levels themselves are essentially mazes which you need to find a way to efficiently navigate without dying.
It only takes one enemy touching you once to end your run, but the time between failure and restart is measurable in nano-seconds so I was never really out of the game for long enough to make me consider ending my play sessions. You also kill enemies with a single hit, but there are certain circumstances where you can hit an enemy multiple times for effect (like bashing a fool’s head on a sink or toilet for example). Hotline Miami is a very easy game to pick up and play, it’s fairly easy to lose oneself in too, and it’s one of the best games that launched in 2012.
Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance (I’m just going to call it 3DS because there are three D’s) really impressed me. The 3DS in general impressed me, but this is a game I would have expected to play on a console a few years earlier. Kingdom Hearts 3DS looks and plays like the PS2 games which is great, but it highlights why the original 3DS consoles really should have had a second analog stick.
You play as both Sora and Riku as they train to become Jedi Knights. Unfortunately, you’re always on a timer: Once the timer runs out, you’ll be automatically switched from Sora to Riku and vice-versa. The duo do in 3DS what you usually expect from the other Kingdom Hearts games; they travel between well-known Disney films. Traverse Town and Prankster’s Paradise (the world from Pinocchio) return, and there are a few new worlds here, most notably from Tron Legacy and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Since this game plays like Kingdom Hearts 1 but faster, and on a handheld, I automatically thought this game was great if only on a technical level. The story is still convoluted, and there’s no closure in sight, but this game is fun to play, and I recommend it.
(It's almost as uncanny as the Pirates of the Caribbean level from KH2...)
When I posted my 2010 review, I said very negative things about the Super Mario Bros All-Stars collection on the Wii. I’m now going to say very nice things about the Kirby Dream Collection on the Wii! The first point in Kirby’s favor is that this isn’t a Super Nintendo game pressed onto a disc. Kirby’s Dream Collection is made up of Kirby’s Dream Land 1 through 3, Kirby’s Adventure, Super Star, and The Crystal Shards, a collection of 6 games not previously available together before.
If you downloaded games from the Wii’s virtual console, you would have only had access to Crystal Shards, Dream Land 3, and Super Star. The other half would never launch on the Wii Virtual Console. In addition to these excellent games, the Dream Collection also came bundled with a soundtrack CD and an art book that shows concept and promotional material from the first game all the way through to the then-new Return to Dreamland. The Dream Collection is just 6 games on a disc and sold on the Wii, 6 great games from a great series. This is good enough for me, even before considering the extra content.
Little Inferno is the first indie game that I spent a lot of time playing on the Wii U. The presentation is a very simple, single-screen showing a fireplace. The first thing you’re given is a letter thanking you for buying a Little Inferno play set. With nothing else to do, it’s easy to figure out that once you tap that paper, and anything else in the fireplace, those objects will ignite. This is it: This is all you do in the game.
Every time you burn something, it becomes a coin. You use coins to buy flammable things from a catalog. The more you burn, the more money you get, the more catalogs you can buy, and thus, the more things you can burn. There is a very simple puzzle mechanic whereby burning certain things together will give you more money than usual. The gameplay is very casual, but I couldn’t stop playing it: Little Inferno is a chill experience, and a fantastic wind-down game.
Long Live the Queen isn’t a game I’ve technically beaten, but it’s a game I’ve spent a good bit of time with. It’s a text-based adventure game with a bunch of branching paths, centered around a Princess who is in grave danger.
The main goal is to not die, but in addition to your unknown assailant(s?), The Princess can die very quickly and very easily. You can gain skill points with tutors and by doing certain actions on certain days, but if your skill levels are insufficient, you could find yourself falling down a staircase or being choked to death by a bush. Long Live the Queen isn’t part of a genre that I usually get into, but the writing and the amount of possible outcomes brought me in and held me long enough to kill a young girl multiple-times over. This is good stuff!
I haven’t spent too much time with Mark of the Ninja, but despite that I’ve had fun with it. You may think you already know the story, but no, you may be playing as a ninja out for bloody revenge, but your master wasn’t killed. From what I’ve seen of the story it looks like while you’re out exacting revenge, your master and surviving Ninja peers are trying to put the school back together after a devastating attack by an unknown group.
This is definitely a good game, but so far, I’ve only played the introductory level, where I was marked down for killing and being seen on my first run. Even on later attempts, I would lose points because I just won’t stop killing people. This is one of those stealth games that will definitely keep me occupied for hours upon hours once I give it a chance to, but I am very easily distracted.
Mass Effect 3 is better than Mass Effect 2. I haven’t played this game in a few years, but the story, both new threads and all of the conclusions, have stuck with me since my first playthrough. The Earth and many other home worlds are being directly attacked by the ancient Reaper race, and it’s up to Shepard to save the Milky Way galaxy by any means necessary. If you’ve never played Mass Effect or Mass Effect 2, you’re given a summary of what happened before and given a chance to make some choices.
If you did play those previous games then your save files are brought forward and applied to your playthrough of Mass Effect 3. People who you could have killed or spared in previous games may or may not be in Mass Effect 3, and if they are, it really adds to the drama of the story here. Weapon customization that was absent in Mass Effect 2 but expanded upon from Mass Effect 1 gives gunplay a really fun feel in this game. The main focus in Mass Effect 3 is the story, which is difficult to talk about without spoiling certain set pieces and conclusions. I’ll say this though: Choosing between cinnamon, wintergreen, or peppermint is lame, Mordin’s paragon conclusion, Thane’s paragon conclusion, Jack’s paragon conclusion, watching a Reaper deal with a Thrasher Maw, and so much more make Mass Effect 3 worth playing through.
(I am one of maybe 20 people who own this on Wii U)
Rhythm Heaven Fever is an incredibly easy game to just pick up and play if you only have a few minutes to spare, but it can also be really difficult to put down once you get into it. As you might have guessed from reading the box, this is a rhythm game, broken up into a multitude of mini-games. Since this version is on the Wii, most of the game plays out by swinging, waving, wagging, or stabbing with the Wiimote.
Rhythm Heaven Fever was built from the ground up to be played with motion controls, and surprisingly they all work! The mini-games are also based around timing and tempo, the sound design here is fantastic and the soundtrack too is incredibly catchy. I don’t think I’ve played a Rhythm Heaven game that I disliked, and this is definitely worth playing.
I haven’t played very many Silent Hill games, which probably explains why I consider Downpour to be a really good game. Murphy Pendleton is a dweeb who runs away from his problems when the prison bus he was on crashes right outside of the happy holiday locale, Silent Hill. In this incarnation, Silent Hill is punishing Murphy for what he might have done in his past rather than giving him a definitive backstory. Depending on how you play, and how you deal with the monsters who stalk you, Murphy could be misunderstood and sympathetic or, he could be a terrible, murderous, bastard.
The town of Silent Hill itself can be explored freely, with subway tunnels acting as pseudo fast-travel spots. New areas can be unlocked by opening gates or pulling ladders down from high places. There’s a pretty fun weather effect too: it’s always foggy in Silent Hill, but the level of fog varies and if there’s a downpour of rain, then monsters will appear more often and act far more aggressively. There are also scripted sections of the game where you’re transported to a red and black Otherworld.
The Otherworld segments are more focused on puzzle solving and staying away from a strange orb of light that will kill you dead.It isn’t a scary game, but Silent Hill Downpour has a great atmosphere and the gameplay was really engaging. High recommend, would play again, it’s a shame Homecoming is the only Silent Hill on Steam.
Sleeping Dogs, while being on the PS3 and Xbox 360, looks like something that could have launched on the next generation of consoles. The depiction of Hong Kong in this game looks fantastic during the day, but at night the city lights breathe a whole new life into the environment. You play as an undercover cop working to destroy a triad from within, mostly by emulating films by Chow Yun Fat, Takashi Miike, or Park Chan-Wook ie: by kicking the crap out of people and tossing them through windows.
There is a satisfying flow to the gameplay, whereby you can seamlessly go from fighting to driving to shooting depending on how far into the game you are. This is another exhaustively large sandbox game, and like most of them I haven’t finished this game. I recently picked up the Definitive Edition on Steam, but back when this game was slightly more recent, I played this on and off when I wanted to wander around in an open world that’s mostly a dense city.
Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed is a fantastic racing game and a celebration of classic Sega games. I expected this to be my holdover game to get me through the period of time between the Wii U launch and the release of Mario Kart 8, but I wasn’t expecting All-Stars to be a more memorable mascot racing game than Mario Kart 8 would turn out to be. Everyone you race as uses a transforming vehicle, and every race track transforms as the race progresses. You could start out boating around a river at the bottom of a canyon, only to end a race soaring between massive rock formations.
The usual aspects of mascot racing are here too: while you drive around the tracks, you can attack other racers with rockets and oil slicks. The big thing I have against Sonic All-Stars is the roster: I would have loved to see more characters but Yakuza was still a cult hit rather than a full-blown sensation. What baffled me is the inclusion of Wreck-it Ralph and Danica Patrick. They’re not bad, it just confuses me that they were available out of the box but Ryo Hazuki was held back for DLC?
Spec-Ops the Line is a third person military shooter with something to say about military shooters and the idea that people in the military are heroes by default. The city of Dubai has been transformed into a wasteland after an apocalyptic sandstorm buries the opulent metropolis and it’s up to Captain Martin Walker to save U.S. Marines who were left behind during the natural catastrophe. Unfortunately, you’re soon attacked by rogue militant personnel and must act fast to save yourself and your squad before things get much, much worse.
The shooting in Spec-Ops feels fine-just-fine, and you can take care of enemies by attacking the environment to bury them in sand, but it’s nothing spectacular or particularly noteworthy. There are sections of the game where you’ll be given a choice between 2 seemingly obvious choices leading to a seemingly obvious moral choice-based ending. Unfortunately, there is no escaping the ending which ranges from either not-good, to absolutely tragic. In terms of gameplay there are definitely better shooters, but Spec-Ops the Line tells one of the best stories I’ve ever seen in a game and no matter how it ends I was left feeling...not necessarily satisfied but I didn’t feel like the worst endings were just unconventional game-over screens.
Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy is one of my favorite Final Fantasy spin-off games and possibly in my top-10 of best Final Fantasy games in general. This 3DS exclusive is a rhythm game whereby you tap the lower screen in-time to popular music from the (then) 13 main entries of the series. While you’re tapping in rhythm, you watch a party of four characters going on their own mini-adventure. The characters you chose are from Final Fantasy 1 through 13, and also include Cosmos from Dissidia. They level up at the end of each song and are used as a very light framing device that tries to add context and a story to Theatrhythm, but which can be overlooked without missing out on much.
I don’t like Final Fantasy XIII, I don’t think I’m ever going to play Final Fantasy XI, but I spent over 100 hours playing Theatrhythm and enjoying the music from those games and leveling characters from those games. I played Theatrhytm a lot on lunch breaks at work, while commuting, and whenever I had a few minutes free. It’s very friendly for casual play, and is fantastic fan service for someone like me who loves a majority of the Final Fantasy franchise. This is my game of 2012, no contest.
(Game of 2012)
X-Com: Enemy Unknown is a lot like FTL: Faster Than Light in that a majority of what you’re doing is pitting yourself against a series of random number generators. Unlike FTL, save-scumming can save your bacon if you have a particularly unlucky run of a given level. Aliens are invading Earth and you get to lead a battalion of soldiers in counter-invasion operations. As X-Com progresses, you gain new resources that boost your soldiers' performance either through better gear all the way up to training psy-ops personnel. As you strengthen your troops, you also strengthen your base of operations by expanding it to offer more facilities. The better your base, the more quickly you can make resources and increase your odds of defeating the alien menace.
There are 2 reasons I haven’t played this game to completion: The first is, no matter how overpowered you can eventually become you are always bound by the random number generator. There is always a chance that your best sniper will miss a shot, there is always a chance a critical hit will kill them, and if that happens it takes a lot of time to train someone up enough to fill in that gap. That’s a fairly major annoyance, but the big thing that makes me not want to get back into X-Com is the premise of its sequel. X-Com 2 takes place in an environment where you lose in X-Com: Enemy Unknown. If I already know that I’m entering into a hopeless situation, it makes me ask, “why bother” and play something else instead. X-Com: Enemy Unknown is a lot of fun in general though, and I do plan on getting back into it sooner or later.
Looking ahead, these entries in my decade project are going to get more and more dense. Things are going to thin out but not until my entries for 2018 and 2019. I’m a little bit behind schedule at the moment, but I plan on having my next entry in the Shoggy Decade in Review project up by mid-April. Next month it’s going to be all about the next generation of consoles, the next generation of Pokemon, and indie games that are still beloved to this day. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading up on my thoughts of the games I played from 2012, and I hope you look forward to the rest of my series. If you’re only interested in my thoughts on the games of 2019, and the best games of the previous decade, those won’t be available until Autumn. Until then, stay safe and please don’t burn my house down because I don’t like Xenoblade Chronicles.