If I’m honest, this was a bit of a mess of a year for me and gaming. Not a huge amount to peak my interest, despite a wide-range of formats to enjoy them on, while PC gaming has only really become a viable option again to me in the past month, so I have a huge backlog to get through – games like Hotline Miami, FTL and Thomas Was Alone look destined to be played in 2013, when this list will no longer matter one jot. Add to that the untapped well of ZombiU, Gravity Rush and Uncharted: Golden Abyss, which all sit unplayed in my utterly horrific backlog and you have a mound of unplayed games.
As such, finding ten games to put in my top 10 has been a tough task, so tough that this is actually a top 9. It hasn’t been a vintage year, so they say. However, that’s not to say there wasn’t cream that managed to rise to the top, because there have been some corkers this year. Let’s get going:
On seeing one of the many trailers for Catherine, you’d be forgiven for thinking this was actually called Suggestive Anime Porn Simulator VII, but fortunately you’d be very wrong. It turns out to be a complex and at times frustrating (in a good way) block puzzle climbing game with a strong, mature story within which you’re decisions sort of matter (more on this later), which isn’t all about sex at all, instead dealing with the concept of relationships and trust.
8: LittleBigPlanet Vita – PS Vita
I adore the LittleBigPlanet world so it was obvious I was going to like the PS Vita version. It’s just as charming, just as clever and probably the most at home the game has ever felt when being played. The touch-screen controls really lend themselves to the gameplay of the series and everything just feels right. If you’re a fan of LBP, this is the Vita’s killer app.
I wish I could include Rayman Origins in GOTY lists every year (and technically I probably could – the PS Vita launch was in February) but can’t but for the obvious reason that it was in my list from last year, only narrowly losing to Portal 2. I did, however, manage to get my Rayman fix through this very impressive iOS/Android runner. Straight away, you’re taken in by the same visual style as Rayman Origins, same characters, same world – however, you also notice right away that you don’t control Rayman’s movements, only his jumping. And it’s a blast. It provides a new challenge and one that is really at home on a mobile platform.
6: Spec Ops: The Line – 360, PC, PS3
I don’t like shooters. There, I said it. 3rd or 1st person, I find it a very lazy gameplay mechanic where the game becomes a hide-in-cover and wait-for-the-break-in-fire simulator. It’s not interesting. Yes, you could boil any genre down into simplified terms that are heavily critical like this, but it’s the way I feel about them. And that’s exactly what I thought of Spec Ops: The Line to begin with – more of the same running and gunning. However, thing’s quickly changed with a riveting character study of the main character and you suddenly become concious of your actions in any shooter you play in the future. A shooter I liked – it sits with Uncharted in those lonely, choppy waters.
5: Theatrhythm Final Fantasy – 3DS
Rhythm game and Final Fantasy – doesn’t sound like a fantastic mix, does it? Being a game music nut though, I was immediately intrigued, and I’m glad I was Uematsu’s Final Fantasy scores are put through they’re paces with deceptively simple stylus based rhythm sections. The songs are great, the difficulty ramps up and a good speed while overall it just looks so damn cute.
4: Sound Shapes – PS3, PS Vita
Upon seeing the PS Vita for the first time, this was one of the main reasons I wanted it – a platformer that comes alive with the music with a simple but elegant graphics style. It’s completely unlike anything else I’ve played, but an absolute joy. It doesn’t force trophies on you until you complete the game so you can just enjoy the music first time through, while the modes unlocked upon completion are really challenging and very clever. This game also exemplifies Sony’s laudable cross-buy and cross-save scheme, whereby buying for either PS3 or Vita gives you the other for free and the functionality works very well within Sound Shapes.
There’s not much to be said about this game that hasn’t been said elsewhere on the internet – it has one of the best storytelling a piece of interactive media has ever told along with massive moral quandaries that really get you thinking about what you do. Your decisions shape the game to an extent and the pay-off at the end is both a joy and a sorrow to behold.
2: Tokyo Jungle – PS3
I’ll be completely honest, this came out of nowhere for me. The premise is ridiculous: Humans have vanished, so Japan has now become a dog-mate-with-dog-eat-cat-eat-buffalo-eat-chicken-eat-velociraptor society. Oh and there are outfits for the animals. That’s it. That’s Tokyo Jungle in a nutshell. I don’t think there’s a game I’ve spent more time on this year and I really don’t mind. It can get repetitive, sure, but it’s what games haven’t been for quite a while – completely bonkers old school fun – and I can’t commend it enough for that.
In the end, it could only be Journey. The emotional experience I had playing it was like none I’ve had in gaming before. Combined with a stunning soundtrack and gorgeous graphics, thatgamecompany picked up where they left of with Flower to create one of the greatest video game experiences to date. Words do not do it justice, it simply has to be played.