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  1. As we move into the new year after successfully surviving the end of the world (thanks again, Goku!), it“s time to look back on all the fun times we had in our virtual worlds. There were certainly lots of games released in 2012 – some good, some bad, and some so ugly only a blind prostitute is willing to look at it. Which ones are worth playing, though? With such a large slush pile of bad games that may or may not have something to do with Kinect or James Bond, there are plenty of gems for each game-playing platform that I find extraordinary. So let“s take a look at 2012 and pick out what I think are the most outstanding games of the year…from what I“ve played. Keep in mind that I haven“t played all gazillion games that came out in 2012, and this is just a list of the games I enjoyed the most out of what I played. PC Game of the Year: Guild Wars 2 I haven“t exactly played too many PC games recently (now, if you“d like to buy me a better computer, we“ll talk), but out of the ones I have played, as far as PC exclusives go, none have given me as grand an experience as Guild Wars 2. With such a gorgeous world to journey through, unique systems to play around with, and a vast array of nice character classes, this game is fun from the get-go. But throw in tons of imaginative quests, a brilliantly-designed PvP system, and a crapload of other content, and this is one helluva MMO. And ya wanna know the best part? All of this requires a subscription of only $0! PS3 Game of the Year: Journey Official GP Review It“s not a 2012 Game of the Year list without Journey in there somewhere. And there“s a reason thatgamecompany's newest game is finding its way onto so many of these lists. As far as video games go in general, few have immersed me into its world as much as Journey has this year. It's not only one of the most beautiful games I've seen, and not only does it have one of the best co-op modes I've ever played, but the soundtrack... oh, that soundtrack! And you know a video game soundtrack is amazing when it gets nominated for a friggin' Grammy. That doesn't happen often. Xbox 360 Game of the Year: Silent Hill: Downpour Official GP Review It“s pretty much unanimous that the first three Silent Hills were the best, and many considered the series to have been going downhill since. With that said, Silent Hill: Downpour is exactly what the series needed to get it going back uphill again. With the survival horror genre having shifted directions, it took a while for the series to truly find the path it needed to keep modern gamers happy while also giving hardcore fans a true Silent Hill experience. It has its share of flaws, sure, but as a hardcore Silent Hill fan myself, I really enjoyed it. Wii Game of the Year: Xenoblade Chronicles The Nintendo Wii didn't see much in 2012, but that didn't stop it from having one of the console“s greatest games arrive on American shores, thanks to the efforts of Operation: Rainfall. Sure, The Last Story could be considered the Wii“s swan song, but compared to Xenoblade Chronicles, that is merely a duckling chirping. Out of all Wii games released in 2012 (yes, all four of them), none can hold even a drip of candle wax to Xenoblade. I already knew it was a good game from all the praise it got, but once I was finally able to spend 70+ hours exploring the incredibly expansive world, I realized that Xenoblade is by far one of my favorite experiences I've ever had on the Wii, and definitely the best one to come out of 2012. Wii U Game of the Year: New Super Mario Bros. U Unfortunately, I still need to buy a Wii U. That said, my lack of owning the console hasn't stopped me from playing a few of its games (I have my ways). And out of what I“ve played, there“s no denying that New Super Mario Bros. U is my favorite thus far, so it gets my pick for Wii U Game of the Year. While I for one love every entry into the New Super Mario Bros. series, many of you have your share of problems regarding them. And I understand that because none of them has been able to match my love for Super Mario Bros. 3 or Super Mario World. But after playing NSMBU, I think one of them has finally come pretty close. Whether you play solo or with four others, New Super Mario Bros. U is a great game every Wii U owner should own. Now, back to saving up for my own Wii U! DS Game of the Year: Pokemon Black 2 / White 2 Official GP Review With the 3DS having picked up steam a while back, you“d think the DS would have been set aside long ago. Pokemon didn't think so, which is apparent by its love for the last-gen handheld throughout the year. One (or two, rather) such game is Pokemon Black 2/White 2. Of course, with what little the DS got in 2012, there really isn't much competition aside from Pokemon Conquest, but whatever. If you“ve played the first Black/White, you“ll pretty much know what to expect from this one. But that“s not to say it“s the same thing. I see it as Black/White after it took a few rare candies (oh there I go with the lame Pokemon jokes). If you're a Pokemon fan, this game is a no-brainer. 3DS Game of the Year: Kid Icarus: Uprising Official GP Review It took about 20 years for our favorite little angel warrior to show his face in a game of his own, but when he finally returned, I couldn't have been happier. Kid Icarus: Uprising is a lot of things, and a lot of things handled really well. To put it simply, Uprising is a fantastic revival to a classic gem, and has a lot going for it as a fantastic game all in itself. And of course, it is. I mean, what list do you think this is? Sure, the game does have a few flaws, but they were obviously no match for the awesomeness this game exudes. Of all the quality 3DS games released in 2012, Kid Icarus: Uprising is the one I enjoyed the most. PS Vita Game of the Year: Zero Escape: Virtue“s Last Reward First off, I actually haven“t played the Vita version of this game. I played the 3DS version, though, so at least I played it. As for why I named Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward my favorite Vita game of 2012…well, that“s pretty much because I haven“t exactly played anything else for Vita that isn“t also for the 3DS. So, uh...I guess take my word with a grain of salt (or sugar, if you prefer sweets). Second off, I did do my research before finalizing my decision, so there“s that too. As I understand it, the Vita version is just as good, if not slightly better than the one I played, so that“s something to consider if you own a Vita. Regardless of which version you play, though, Zero Escape in general is simply amazing. If I owned a Vita, I“d buy this version of the game just so I have an excuse to play it all over again… Mobile Game of the Year: Rayman Jungle Run If there“s one thing Rayman Origins did right, it“s everything. Well, as far as platformers go, anyway. Not only was it one of the greatest platformers this generation, but it even gives Mario a run for his money as one of the greatest platformers ever. Speaking of running, if you liked Rayman Origins and have an iPhone or Android, Rayman Jungle Run is a game you must own. In fact, even if you haven“t played Origins, Jungle Run is a game you must own. Seriously, while I don“t think mobile gaming will ever truly take over the handheld gaming market, it“s games like this that make that a compelling argument. It's basically a game where our favorite man-without-limbs runs continuously throughout each level, giving you the task of making him not kill himself by getting him to jump, punch, and fly his way to the finish. This game is such a delight to play and definitely my most enjoyed mobile game of 2012. And My Pick for Game of the Year... Xenoblade Chronicles No matter how much I love each and every other game on my list, none of them gave me quite the year-defining experience that Xenoblade Chronicles did. Operation: Rainfall was right in petitioning to bring this game over because it truly is an amazing game. Not only is it the best Wii game I“ve played in 2012, but it“s also the best RPG I“ve played in a long while. But most importantly, Xenoblade was the game to come out of 2012 (even if others did get it beforehand) that I enjoyed the most, which makes it my official pick for 2012's Game of the Year.
  2. Similar to the thread about your favorite RPG music, I'm a bit of a music rut, so here's another one! So many games have great ending/credit themes -- whether it be because they're catchy and just generally a good song, or because they have a great reflective quality on the game itself -- so let's hear some of your favorites! Here are some of mine: It's mostly the first 30 seconds or so that really give me the feels (and it's 'anime' as heck) but I like the song overall too. Really feels like a good closing theme for the entire series as well considering that this was the trilogy finisher. It's technically not the "ending/credits theme, but this song does play either before or after the credits, if I remember correctly. While not serious in any capacity, it's a fun sort-of wrap-up song, and it's neat to see the villains collaborating as well to sort of tie the whole cast together for one final send-off as a thank you to the player for playing. Definitely by far the most serious of the themes I've posted in this thread, "Symphonic Poem - Hope" is a really cool suite of different songs that play in succession during the credits of Final Fantasy XII. It starts off super somber in the intro for the first minute or so, as almost a reflection of the tragedy and losses of war experienced in the game, before it rolls out into a triumphant crescendo and then further into another upbeat song that ends on a nice note. One of my favorite ending themes in a game by far. This one might sound like a weird collection of noises if you're not familiar with the Metroid or Metroid Prime series in particular, but it's a pretty cool one imo. Basically, it's a sort of expansion/remix on the intro theme, but branches out into its own sort of rendition toward the end; my favorite part starts at 2:29. Overall, the music is super alien and out there, but it's a perfect fit for the series because... well, that's what it's about! Super light-hearted song, but wow, what an ending to a great game. The whole parade sequence really makes for a satisfying conclusion to the whole story, and it's a fun send-off for the game's characters as well. If you've never played Journey before, I recommend playing it first before listening to this. Honestly? No words. An amazing, beautiful song that's super somber and reflective of the experience Journey provides. Austin Wintory is a masterful composer. So which ending/credits themes do you like the most? Let us know below!
  3. Jason Clement

    thatgamecompany is finally teasing its next game

    It's been over four and a half long years since thatgamecompany released Journey, its last title and critical indie darling hit. While they'd released two games prior to that (Flow and Flower), Journey was the game that really put them on the map with many gamers, garnering many industry awards, and equally as many (if not more) Game of the Year awards. Now, thatgamecompany is finally teasing the first bit of info for its next, currently untitled game. All that the studio has shared so far is a simple image of two candle wicks, with one seemingly about to light the other, and a quote that mentions "a game about giving." Might the candles be symbolic? Or are they representative of what you'll be playing as? We'll have to wait and see. This will be the third and final exclusive for PlayStation under thatgamecompany's initial contract with them; whether or not they make exclusives for them in the future is undetermined, but after this game, they'll be free to develop for other platforms as well. In the meantime, now that thatgamecompany has opened the door with a small tease, it's entirely likely that we'll hear more about the game, including a possible trailer, at either PlayStation Experience 2016 or next year's E3. Stay tuned! Source: thatgamecompany (via Twitter) Are you excited to hear more about thatgamecompany's next game? What do you think it might play like?
  4. Jason Clement

    Limited Edition Journey Statue Now Up for Order

    If you're a fan of collector's items (especially ones pertaining to games), you might want to check this out. Sony has announced that they will be selling 1,000 limited edition Journey statues on their website, and orders are live right this instant. The statue/sculpture features two pilgrims (one wearing the normal brown cloak, and one wearing the special white one) journeying together with their scarves blowing in the wind. It comes in at an approximate size of 11 inches tall, 8 inches wide, and 10 inches deep. Each statue will also come with a 5"x7" color print of the original conceptual design art. You can order the statue for a cool $150 right now, but you might not want to take too long to think about it; after all, they are limited to 1,000 overall. The Journey statue is set to ship at the end of the month. Source: gear.playstation.com Are you interested in ordering a Journey statue?
  5. Recently Sony revealed which games would be playable at Gamescom this August. While the list has since been removed from their website, a few previously unannounced titles caught a NeoGAF user's attention. According to the announcement, The Unfinished Swan, Journey and Until Dawn will all be playable on Playstation 4. Since Sony has already upgraded PSN games like Dead Nation and Flower for the PS4, it makes sense to include The Unfinished Swan and Journey as well. Journey is particularly deserving of a PS4 upgrade as it is one of the PS3's most decorated titles. More interesting however was the inclusion of Until Dawn. We reported earlier in June that Sony had updated and expanded Until Dawn's trademark and it now looks as though a Gamescom re-reveal is certain. Does this mean a larger focus on Project Morpheus? Possibly. Either way, these three games are welcome additions to Sony's Gamescom lineup which will likely include Media Molecule and Guerrilla Game's unannounced PS4 projects. Stay tuned to Game Podunk for all the big Gamescom news August 13-17. Source: NeoGAF Which PSN game do you most want to see upgraded for PS4?
  6. Today, the Playstation Blog has announced that a bundle of Journey and The Unfinished Swan went up with the new PS Store update. You can now buy both games together for the price of $14.99; two-for-one, essentially, as both were that price individually before today. If you haven't played them yet, both games were critically acclaimed when they launched last year, and were also considered for Game of the Year 2012 awards throughout numerous media outlets. Of course, we happened to like both quite a bit as well as each earned very favorable reviews. It's currently unknown whether this is the new status quo price for both games or if it's a limited time sale (as the PS Blog doesn't allude to a closing date), but hey, the deal is out there right now as you read this.
  7. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Well, life decided to spill that cup of lemonade I made on my computer, and now I'm without access to a dedicated writing box to spit my thoughts and opinions out at the world. As you can probably guess, this makes writing the words you're currently reading very hard for me to get out to you. But I've found a way, and that way is needlessly hard. I'm currently writing these articles exclusively on a PS3 using the Sixaxis that came included with the system. It is a nightmare, but it gave me an idea: What other needlessly hard things could I do with gaming? This led me to what you're reading now. Can Journey be beaten without pressing the jump button? Find out right now. Every Journey Has A Beginning My journey started out deceptively easy. Every area that required any climbing could be walked up or I could make use of the floating pieces of cloth around the area to automatically float myself up to the places I needed to reach to continue the story. I was actually slightly worried through the first few areas because of how smoothly things were going. That worry wouldn't last long, but before I start discussing the real challenges, I'd like to go on a bit of a detour in our story to talk about something that ended up helping me on my quest considerably. In the very distant past I managed to get into the Journey beta. It was only the first two areas, but I played them to death while I had the chance. After playing those first two areas for God knows how long, I started to get bored. And with boredom comes stupid tests of the game's limits. I found myself trying to fly back to the start of the game's cloth bridge level just because it was much too high to reach by normal means, but I figured out that if you position yourself underneath the cloth bridge and start singing, you'll be thrown into the air like a slingshot. High enough to reach the start of the level on some occasions. The Trials That Lie Ahead That little mechanic I found out won't actually come into play for a long while, so let's get onto the first real obstacle I faced. The cloth ladders in the first underground area. My hope was that when I walked into them, I would automatically just float up them. My character did levitate when in contact with them, but he didn't rise up to the top. This was a problem. I tried getting a running start when I started to float near them, but it didn't help in the least bit. So I kept trying from every different angle, hoping to find a way to slingshot myself up them, but it just wouldn't work. You can't get the cloth ladders to lay flat long enough to do it. Was my quest over so soon? Was I beaten by the first obstacle? No, of course not! I found a way to get up the cloth ladders, but it was an insanely grueling and arduous task. I had to sing my way up them. When you sing in the game, you raise up off of the ground just an inch or two. If you do it fast enough while next to a cloth ladder, you'll continue to raise up until you reach the top, allowing you to continue the level. The problem was it took about a twenty minutes to get to the top of each ladder, and there were about a half dozen ladders that needed to be climbed. I took so long getting through this one area that I had to take breaks in between ladder climbs to rest my hands and eyes or risk going insane over falling every few times. But after a few hours, I had reached the end of the level. Only this time, I was faced with an even more annoying and difficult task. The Dreaded Chamber Room After you get past the area with the stone dragon things, you'll find yourself in some sort of chamber/tower area that fills with water as you light up hieroglyphs and ride different cloth creatures to the top of the tower. Its a pretty amazing and atmospheric level when you can jump. When you can't? Its the biggest head ache of the entire game. First of all, you can't mess up even once after you begin lighting up the glyphs. The reason being that once the water starts coming in, any scraps of cloth you could use to float on either vanish or go into a dormant state after they've been submerged by the magic water. You can float in this water, but even with singing you can't raise yourself, so water is an instant restart if you fall in. Secondly, everything is moving in this level. The kites that carry you seem to float where ever they want, the jellyfish will slowly drift away if they're bumped (which can also work to your advantage) and the whale is it's own nightmare that'll I'll get to in a moment. The problem with all of this is that you have to stand around and wait for the creatures to come to you (which they might never do) And if you bump a jellyfish too far away you might even have to restart the level over again because you can no longer reach them from their original starting position. This can work in your favor though. Once you get onto a jellyfish you could sing in different parts of it's body to steer it closer to the area you needed to go. Helpful, but meaningless when you get to the whale. Easily the worst part of this whole experience as the whale is almost always out of your reach unless you position yourself just right. It never gets high enough into the air to allow you to reach the end of the level, and it was incredibly easy to slip off of it, forcing me to restart the whole level over again. Because of this, it was an absolute nightmare that took hours to get past. But I finally did. How, you ask? Remember earlier about my time in the game's beta when I would slingshot myself from under the cloth bridge? Well, the whale essentially has the same design as the bridge, so I could slingshot myself from under it, getting those precious few extra feet I needed to end the level. It took a massive amount of failures, and I nearly gave up. But I finally scraped on by to the top. Every Journey Has An End I was actually shocked I had made it all the way to the snow level. Here I was at one of the game's very last areas, without pressing the jump button a single time! I was sure I had gotten past the hardest part of the game, and it would all be smooth sailing from then. Oh how foolish I was. My greatest obstacle yet was still waiting for me. I just didn't know it yet. As I went through the level, my character's ability to sing got progressively weaker. I was still able to sing my way up ladders, but it was getting harder. I was relying more and more on the unpredictability of the slingshot technique to get me up certain areas. But it wasn't nearly as difficult as the previous level. Until I reached the fall, of course. Right at the end of the level you get blown into a small ravine. No big deal, right? I could just sing my way up some scraps of cloth and be at the end of the game in a jiffy! But wait... I can't sing anymore. The ability has been completely taken away. My character just bobs his head and no longer floats when the button is pressed. Even worse, the scraps of cloth are too small to slingshot myself with. The gap I need to get across is no more than an inch or two off the ground, but my character just can't get past it. He slides down the hill when I try to walk, he can't sing anymore and there is no cloth to throw myself off of. I'm officially stuck just a few feet away from the game's final level. But I'm persistent. I had to reach the end now! Too much has happened to just give up! I restarted the level and timed my steps just right so I didn't get blown down the cavern. I got past the impossible area and made it to the final level. This was it. My hours of hard work have paid off. I REACHED THE END OF JOURNEY WITHOUT JUMPING. At least, I thought I did. The worst thing ever was waiting for me at the start of Journey's final level: You have to jump for the level to begin... Hours have been spent getting to this point. I have put myself through nonstop mind numbing torture trying to get from point A to point B. And my journey is cut short by a forced jump. There was nothing that could get me out of it. I had no tricks or techniques left. The game was over. You cannot beat Journey without jumping. But at least we can say we now know the answer if anybody asks if it's possible. As always, thank you for reading.
  8. First, it was Kellee Santiago who left thatgamecompany after co-founding the studio and serving as its president. Now it appears that the art director on Journey and Flower, Matt Nava, has also moved on from the company and formed his own development studio called Giant Squid Studios. No word yet on what the studio's first project is, but Giant Squid's website states that they believe the project will "deliver a moving, compelling and exciting experience to a wide audience." Also notable is the fact that famed Journey composer and recent Grammy nominee Austin Wintory is listed as composing the soundtrack for the budding developer's first game. Stay tuned for more information on Giant Squid as they share more updates on the website in the coming weeks and months. Source: Twitter
  9. Video games have always been a hard medium to truly define. When a game is creatively constructed with artistic values, whether due to a lack of opportunity for realism or simply a desire to be the game developer version of Leonardo Da Vinci, video games can come off as a legitimate form of art. But then there are those modern games that are built to be realistic, proving to be more like interactive movies or real-life simulations than anything else. But is that a good thing or a bad thing? Should game developers aspire to make their games more realistic or should they be focusing their art direction to something more unique to the medium? Creative Art Direction There was a time when games really couldn“t pull off such the realistic flair you see today, turning to more unique means of art direction to compensate the limitations they had. This, of course, gave gamers an experience neither real life nor any other medium could provide. Whether you were a hero fighting for the fate of the world in an RPG, a young traveler on an important quest in an adventure game, or a…erm…plumber saving a princess from a giant turtle-dragon in a platformer, these games always had a unique look to them that still hold up to this day. But over the years, with such rapid advancements in technology, more and more games take a more realistic approach to art direction. In my many years as a gamer, however, born into a SNES lifestyle thanks to my older brother, I“ve come to really appreciate games that take a more creative approach. This could be a manner of things, such as the beautiful art-in-motion styles of games like The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword and Journey, the crafty styles of games like Paper Mario: Sticker Star and Kirby“s Epic Yarn, or games like Lone Survivor and Cave Story that use retro styles to remind us all of what makes the classics so timeless. Whatever the case, these creative art styles really make me feel that games deserve to be labeled as “art†alongside “entertainment.†Realistic Art Direction That“s not to say that I don“t like games with a more realistic appeal to them, though. I mean, some people prefer abstract paintings to realistic sculptures, but that doesn“t stop either from being works of art, does it? Of course not. With video games, a lot of the time, the more realistic of the bunch tend to feel more like interactive movies or real-life simulations than what the more unique-looking games provide in the visual spectrum. But hey, some people prefer movies and real life to paintings and the like, and I“d be lying if I said I don“t enjoy watching movies or going out and about in that thing they call the “real world.†It“s also sorta like choosing between watching an anime series and watching a live-action TV show. On the one hand, you“ve got a show you can better relate to, although I sure hope you aren“t a serial killer or anti-heroic meth cook. On the other hand, you“ve got a sort of art-in-motion show, watching drawings (beautiful if pulled off well, like Studio Ghibli) moving around within a certain story, and with a lot of room for the abstract. And I find both styles highly entertaining in their own right. In gaming, however, you“re in control, and sometimes I feel like realistic games try too hard to be interactive live-action movies or TV shows that the more artistic side of gaming is sometimes shunned (Roger Ebert, anyone?). I guess it must be the artist in me, but when it comes down to it, my bread and butter (mmm…) in video game art direction has to be the more creative type. By that, of course, I mean that I tend to prefer games that seek out a unique art direction that other games don“t normally have. I still enjoy playing more realistic games that provide a more cinematic and/or “real world†experience, but I admire game developers that really take their art form seriously and try to do something different in their medium, and I would like to see that more often. Developers like Nintendo and thatgamecompany love doing that, and that“s one reason I tend to like their games a lot. With that said, both directions have their places in the world of gaming, and I wouldn“t give up either one.
  10. Jordan Haygood

    Video Game Art Direction

    From the album: Kaptain's Gallery

    © thatgamecompany, Crytek

  11. Jordan Haygood

    Creative Art Direction

    From the album: Kaptain's Gallery

    © Nintendo, thatgamecompany, Studio Pixel, Superflat Games

  12. Journey may have been one of the top games of 2012, but its development wasn't without hardship. "I wouldn't say that the development of Journey was a successful example of game development. We bankrupted the company," thatgamecompany founder Jenova Chen told Polygon during DICE 2013. Journey may have also sold well on top of being well-received, but Chen wants an even more commercially successful game while still remaining just as artistic and emotional. "I run into a lot of lost and frustrated students who study games to work on great art ... I feel responsible for them because I showed them that is possible, but there is no place for them," Chen says. So, in order to make that a reality, thatgamecompany's next game will be multiplatform. "I think to have a financial success, that is going to change everyone, it has to be much bigger than a game on the PlayStation platform," Chen says regarding the matter. Nothing is known yet about the new game, but Chen leaves us with this: "Journey was focused on connection. I think we are trying to do one level above that with this game."
  13. Have you been checking out the DICE coverage we've done so far? Keynotes broke the news of a Valve-related movie, Ouya's partnership with Double Fine, and David Cage's "rules" to help the industry all came out on the first day. Today we saw two big keynotes, one from Warren Spector and one from Gabe Newell. If any of this had made you want to watch some DICE action live then you're in luck. Just a few hours from now the 16h Annual DICE Awards will take place. Even though none of us may be there, we can all give it a watch on Machinima where the ceremony will be streamed live. It will air at 7PM PST/8PM MST/9PM CST/10PM EST. Hopefully if you're in none of those time zones and care about watching then you know how to figure out when the show airs. Chris Hardwick, founder of Nerdist, is hosting the event. Popular games such as Journey and The Walking Dead are nominated for a variety of things, although it remains to be seen if they will be favorites (but they probably will be). Let's just hope that the ceremony is better than some other video game awards show that shall remain nameless.
  14. Last year was interesting because there was really only one game that stood out above everything else for me - The Legend of Skyward Sword. Going into 2012, I wondered if any other games would really resonate with me like that title did, and what transpired throughout the year manage to surprise me quite a bit. It became evident to me that the games that would really stick with me were the ones that were mostly shorter, powerful experiences above all else. That isn't to say there weren't games to enjoy purely for the fun of it, but there were at least four or five different surprises for me throughout the year that I wasn't expecting at all. Take a look below, as you might be surprised at more than a few of the games I selected for my top 10. 10. Nintendo Land If you're looking in disbelief at the #10 spot right now, know that I would've been right there with you just a few months ago. Upon actually playing it, however, Nintendo Land is deceptively deeper than originally thought. The actual minigames have a simple-but-fun element to just about all of them, but when you factor in multiple modes, multiple difficulty levels, and multiple levels (sometimes spanning into the 20's-30's) for some of the games, there's quite a bit of content here. And the actual task of using coins won in minigames to help pad out Nintendo Land's theme park with statues, remixed music, and other objects from the publisher's history is a lot of fun in itself. 9. Rhythm Heaven Fever Official GP Review Rhythm Heaven Fever exceeds and surpasses 2009's Rhythm Heaven (DS) and does it with the push of a button, literally. As much as I loved the DS predecessor, tapping and flicking the touch screen amped up the difficulty considerably on certain games (which often required precise timing), so that hampered my enjoyment a bit. Fever returns the series to a button-only control format and it's much better off for it, not to mention that a lot of its music features what I consider the catchiest songs of the year. If you love rhythm/music and unique games, definitely check it out. 8. LEGO The Lord of the Rings This year saw the release of two of the best LEGO games yet; the first being Lego Batman 2, which introduced an open world format for the first time in the series. However, I found the second LEGO title, LEGO The Lord of the Rings, to be a more ambitious game overall, and it corrected quite a few of the bugs and glitches that LB2 had. Toss in an open world Middle Earth that is fully explorable (along the path that Frodo and his companions took), a brand new item system, and levels that adapt some of the best moments in the movies quite well (Helm's Deep and The Battle of the Pelennor Fields are especially impressive), and it's easily the deepest LEGO game to date. Bring on LEGO The Hobbit next! 7. Tokyo Jungle Official GP Review Tokyo Jungle was never on my radar from the beginning, but I knew that I had to try it when our own Leah and Marshall were raving about it over Twitter. It's a good thing I did end up playing it too, because it's easily one of the most unique experiences I've played in years. Along with some pretty happenin' electro-ambient tunes, what really struck me the most about this game was how different each playthrough felt as a different animal, and how much strategy comes into play in adapting to the ever-changing random atmosphere in order to survive. Post-apocalyptic games have never been that interesting to me before, but Tokyo Jungle's animal-themed take on it took me by surprise and went for the jugular. 6. Paper Mario: Sticker Star Official GP Review Paper Mario: Sticker Star was perhaps my most anticipated game coming into 2012, and for good reason. Introducing a new and innovative "sticker" element to the series, Sticker Star retained the same trademark humor and inventive gameplay that the first three games were known for. Sure, the shift in focus away from a more traditional RPG setting is a little disappointing given the high quality of the first two games, but overall, there were tons of great, memorable moments in this game, and collecting and figuring out what all of the different stickers did was a lot of fun, making it easily one of Mario's best adventures in years. 5. Rhythm Thief & The Emperor's Treasure Official GP Review Professor Layton clones are a dime a dozen nowadays (especially considering Konami's failed knockoff Doctor Lautrec and the Forgotten Knights) but Rhythm Thief blends the touch-centric Layton gameplay with rhythm segments and catchy music to a wonderful effect. However, the characters are the true heart of the game and its story (even if it is a bit absurd), and the game does an amazing job of introducing them and making you care about what happens to them as well, even managing to throw a twist or two that most players won't see coming. It's a shame that Rhythm Thief's future is uncertain as SEGA dropped much of their internal development earlier this year due to financial difficulties; the cliffhanger ending opens the way not only for a sequel, but an entire franchise to be spun out of this game, and I'd love to see it happen. 4. Xenoblade Chronicles Confession time: I haven't beat Xenoblade Chronicles yet, but from the good amount of time I did invest in it so far, I can say that it has one of the most stunning settings and worlds that I've ever experienced in a game; you can spend hours upon hours in the first area just exploring and doing sidequests alone. The narrative and story are pretty attention-grabbing and heavy-handed as well, and what happens in the first 15 hours is pretty significant, but doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of the game as a whole. In an era where JRPGs are largely thought to have had their golden years behind them, Xenoblade reignited my passion for the genre and keeps my hope alive that we'll continue to see great games like it in the near future. 3. The Unfinished Swan Official GP Review Not everyone will appreciate The Unfinished Swan like I did, but for those who did, the world created within is unlike any other. For me, like the top two games on this list, what this game does as far as imagination goes is pretty extraordinary, creating a storybook-like world with a narrative that unfolds through pages as you make your way through a world that was created with a single paintbrush. What's most unique about the game is how its gameplay evolves as you progress and new ways of interacting with the environment begin to open up. Coupled with a unique and heartfelt story, The Unfinished Swan is one of the best experiences I had all year long. Did I mention that Monty Python's Terry Gilliam does some superb voicework here? 2. Papo & Yo Official GP Review Another huge surprise, Papo & Yo was another title that I vaguely acknowledged up until a week or two before its launch. What looked like another Ico-like puzzle platformer was revealed to be a game with much deeper meaning, as it came out that the story in it is actually a metaphor for creative director Vander Caballero's abusive childhood under his monster-like alcholic father. The game itself isn't without issues, but the world it presents in child protagonist Quico's imagination is truly outstanding, being one of the first video games wholly grounded in South American culture, from its made-up Latin-gibberish language to the setting of a Brazilian favela and themes of poverty within it. Artistically, it's unlike any other game I've played this year, and its soundtrack is one of the most heartfelt and sorrowful (yet beautiful) in a year of largely excellent video game music. But the ending alone is what truly cemented Papo & Yo as one of the must-experience titles of this year; what it leaves behind when you're finished is a powerful lesson that stands true even for those who may not have experienced a childhood under an abusive family member. 1. Journey Official GP Review It's hard for me to truly describe why Journey is such an amazing experience. Is it the extraordinary art style - an otherwise painterly aesthetic that transcends the realism most other modern games shoot for (pun entirely intended)? Is it the groundbreaking effect and emotional ties that the multiplayer creates with seemingly unknown and random online players along your journey? Austin Wintory's hauntingly beautiful score which fits the game's narrative to a "T"? Or is it the story and narrative, a tale of death and rebirth, and destiny, that seem to linger in my thoughts? Or perhaps it's all of that at once? The idea behind Journey is something that largely has never been attempted up to this point. There is a goal, but there is little skill involved in reaching it; rather the emphasis is shifted to your experience as you journey to the final destination. Emotion through narrative, as creative director Jenova Chen put it. As I reflect on my playthrough and what other people have written about the game, one word keeps appearing above all else - "transcendent." "Surpassing usual limits," or "beyond the range of usual perception" as some definitions put it. And really, that sums up the experience as a whole for me, especially the final area. There's nothing else quite like Journey, and there may never be another game like it ever again.
  15. Jason Clement

    Journey 03

  16. By virtue of potentially being the last year ever to make or play games, 2012 was a year of high-octane, explosive releases... or at least, that's the current lay of the land, anyway. It would“ve been impossible for me to play them all, but I got to as much as I could, and our medium's cask is replete with options, albeit a bit trite around the high-dollar edges. Without a Skyrim this year, and with loads of potentials lying around, it seems like it could“ve been anyone“s game, pun (?) intended. Picking games of the year is like trying to choose between my favorite children, though: Easy, because some are just better than the others, so without further ado... 3. Tokyo Jungle Tokyo Jungle scratched multiple different itches, or at least provided pet shampoo for them, within my first ten minutes of playing (or, as fans of the game will know them, your first three game overs). There has been a resurgence in a lot of titles that look for that “classic” difficulty level that older games have, but there“s a weird capitalization on being cheap or because of massive health pools. Yeah, sure, these were methods that were definitely employed then, but the quintessence of that dinosaur-age difficulty was in how they required you to modify your way of thinking. Tokyo Jungle does this in spayed-s. In the first few deaths, it“ll be due to trying to go head-on against animals, bat them around, then eat them. This might work at first, but it won“t get you far. Once you“ve modified the way you think, not just knowing how to lunge and how to sneak and pick targets and whatnot, but knowing on a knee-jerk level when to do it. There“s consideration of how to proceed from point to point, but playing Tokyo Jungle becomes instinctive, and that theme plays brilliantly off of the framing of the story. 2. Spec Ops: The Line Frankly, Spec Ops: The Line shouldn“t be on this list. It“s mechanically tight, the story is excellent, and more importantly (as well as the reason this is on the list), it uses the gameplay to accentuate the narrative. It shouldn“t be on the list, though, because this shouldn“t be uncommon by now. The more indie a game gets, the more wont the developers are to create this marriage, such as Anna Anthropy“s Dys4ia, or the more abstracted player-authored narratives of stuff like the beloved Minecraft though, to a lesser degree, an argument could be made for Bethesda“s Fallout and The Elder Scrolls games. It“s a hard game to play because progress requires you to be more and more of a participant, and it plays off the tropes it identifies with. Not in that Duke Nukem “pretend there“s a problem so I can spoof it way,” but in a “this is how the trope exists, where would that actually lead?” way. It“s a genuine shooter with arthouse flavor. It“s not even a new thing. BioShock“s use of gameplay and game design to hammer in the point of the narrative was brilliant, and still has many people listing it as their favorite game, even with the Randian politics shoehorned in. The fact that we had to wait five years for something like Spec Ops: The Line to come out is ridiculous. 1. Journey Journey is a small-town game about living in a lonely world, about companionship, about wordless communication, about living just to find emotion. It is different things to different people, and sometimes different things to the same person. The only companion you have is an anonymous other player, someone with whom you can“t communicate beyond a “ping.” Despite the fact that the other player looks pretty much exactly like your own character, give or take scarf length or, if you“re as thorough as our own Jared is, with the super-secret white robe, there“s a weird dichotomy between that sameness and your inability to relate. That person may disappear, level-to-level, and be replaced seamlessly with another person, and you“d never know. Whether intentional or not, there“s an overbearing, chest-crushing feeling that I got from playing through for the first time, like a struggle to relate with others with whom you“re supposed to easily relate, supposedly so much like you. I felt a uniqueness within conformity. It told me of traveling through beautiful desolation over and over, trying to find faith in those little prizes that extend your reach just a little more, all with someone who is infinitely replaceable, who will never understand you, and will always, always be the most important person to you. You walk with the wind at your face and it becomes harder and harder to keep going, because it“s so cold and empty and you can hardly see yourself anymore, and finally you stop because you can“t give up any more than you already have, because you were only pushing onwards because you already came this far, like you told yourself every step of the way, long before you were too far gone, and it is something so saccharine, so pointlessly jubilant and it“s absolutely glorious. Maybe it is false symbolism, like some Rorschach of your own psyche and therefore prone to overanalysis, but even if there is a lack of inherent meaning, that doesn“t mean that there is a lack of meaning. Journey is beautifully constructed in every way, and whether it does anything for you or not, that artistry has to be appreciated. I do appreciate it, and that“s why Journey is my game of the 2012.
  17. Marshall Henderson


    From the album: Randos

  18. Jordan Haygood


    From the album: Kaptain's Gallery

    © thatgamecompany