Tagged: of 2012

Nintendo Picks old NES games as ‘Best of 3DS’

So I got some 3DS cash for Christmas and I’m pokin’ around the featured categories on the eShop yesterday and I see “The Best of 2012” and figure I’ll take a look. ‘Oh wow, Dillon’s Rolling Western was a 2012 release?’, I think. ‘Oh right, Sakura Samurai, that looked pretty cool and maybe — wait, what!?’, I’m interrupted mid-thought as I’m suddenly seeing Super Mario Bros., a Sonic the Hedgehog game for Game Gear, a handful of Game Boy games and even Metroid! Yes, the red hot new release from 1986 which did come out on the 3DS eShop in 2012 but completely does not count for a “best of the year” list. I also take odds with Colors 3D and Petit Computer which are more productivity apps than games.

Oh Nintendo. On one hand they’re pioneering Day One digital releases for retail games and on the other they’re saying a ROM dump of Super Mario Bros. is one of the best 3DS games of 2012. Is this list based on sales? User ratings? Who knows, but if Bird Mania 3D makes the cut then surely there were enough ports of hidden object and iOS games to fill out this list without dipping into Virtual Console releases. Anyways, there is some good stuff worth looking into on this list so check out all 25 entries below.
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Of 2012: Year of the Roguelike

Permanent death, overpowered enemies, unpredictable outcomes, random loot. I had always been put off by roguelikes but these 2012 releases either caught my attention with their visual style or mixed the classic gameplay with something familiar.

I had played the Binding of Isaac in 2011 and didn’t care for it but something finally clicked and the Wrath of the Lamb DLC opened up the game and the roguelike genre for me. Red Rogue was one of the IGF games I looked into and it captured my interest for weeks with its dark, tiny side-scrolling pixelart dungeons.

MatchHack distilled the roguelike down to its most basic with tile matching, memory gameplay that determined if you won, lost or scored some sweet gear. Lose track of the tiles, though, and it’s back to Square One. I still load this up for a quick hit of rogue-ish torment. I was then turned onto Spelunky when it finally debuted on Xbox Live Arcade but I had no idea what it was like so I turned to the free PC original. I have yet to escape the jungle (i.e. level 2) but I keep coming back for more. It’s terrifying, satisfying, empowering and devastating all compressed into a few minutes of gameplay.

I then joined the zeitgeist and jumped on FTL which marries TWO kinds of space sim to the rogeulike as you try to keep your crew and ship alive. It is downright infuriating at times but supremely satisfying when you’re dancing around the keyboard to command squad members, weapons and defenses in unison.

Two unexpected roguelikes came my way with Tokyo Jungle and The Denpa Men both of which looked like completely different games at first glance. Tokyo Jungle sets random stipulations at the start and forces you to play by its rules or risk losing a century of progress. The Denpa Men will mercilessly wipe out your party members and send them back to the ether from whence they came without a moment’s hesitation. It’s particularly jarring given the game’s colorful visuals and simplified turn-based gameplay.

And very last minute is Don’t Starve which Maxx bought for me in December. It’s a terrifying mix of Minecraft and Harvest Moon with a Tim Burton aesthetic. It’s still evolving through beta but I already love it and can’t pull myself away as days/weeks/months pass in the game without taking my life.

I think I nailed it with that Spelunky description; roguelikes compress a ton of strong emotional responses into short, random encounters. I came to value their potentially endless replayability this year given our money situation and discovered a whole new kind of game to enjoy… and hate and fear and loathe and cherish.

Everything I played in Q2 2012

With money still a concern I’d say this is when I really locked into the Digital vs. Retail mindset. I subscribed to PlayStation Plus for a few months, dug into search and survey programs to earn giftcards, and stuck to downloadable releases. For the cost of a few on-disc releases I played a whole lot more and here’s the Q2 recap to prove it.

Dinosaur Hunting: The Playthrough begins (and concludes)!
The game I’ve loved since 2002 and tried to get through since 2005 was finally conquered! I still can’t read any of the Japanese text but I did captured the entire game for posterity on YouTube. I could explain it here but, ya know, there’s all those videos you could watch instead.

Happy Action Theater for Kinect
To entertain our nephew when he came to visit, the Kinect tomfoolery turned out to be a little over his head but we had fun goofing around with lava and pigeons.

Star Wars Starfighter on Xbox
I don’t even remember what reminded me about this game but in the doldrums of the early spring I found it at a local shop for cheap and played up to my favorite mission… and haven’t touched it since.

Fez on Xbox 360
A gorgeous, mind-bending game within a game that was wonderful to experience alongside other players. The clever 3D-in-2D platforming quickly gives way to even bigger mysteries and you find yourself deciphering hidden codes and transcribing an alien language.

World Gone Sour on Xbox 360
Another game-within-a-game, it was the connection to Giant Bomb and some free Microsoft Points from Bing that had me strolling through this pedestrian platformer.

Kinect Voice Studio on Xbox 360
I read disjointed phrases out loud into my Kinect and felt like I was activating a sleeper cell. Free Achievements and dumb Avatar gear abounds as you fine tune how Kinect interprets phrases like “Sally seemed unhappy with her husband”.

Trials Evolution on Xbox 360
I love to hate myself and nothing made it more apparent than Trials! You may scream at it but the game of physics-centric bike gymnastics is perfectly designed to punish and teach… and that makes the reward feel sooo very nice.

Driver: San Francisco on clearance for Xbox 360
Tanner’s in a coma and can fly in and out of cars around The City as he tries to solve a crime caper he’s overhearing via news reports in his hospital room. There’s a lot of open world padding to distract you but stick with the story missions and you’ll experience one of the most peculiar, well written driving games ever.

Sports Champions for PlayStation Move
I found a Move bundle for $40 and grabbed it. Despite its completely horrible cast of generic and annoying stereotypes it’s one of the best feeling motion games I’ve ever played.

Datura for PlayStation Move
This is why I wanted the Move bundle to begin with. It’s a clever, trippy first-person puzzler that mostly pulls off its motion control gameplay effectively.

A return to Trials HD on Xbox 360
I wrapped up Trials Evolution and was hungry for more! I went back to Trials HD for one day and cleared out all but one Achievement and the rest of the Hard courses I was too afraid to tackle when it originally came out. That felt great!

Medieval Moves: Deadmund’s Quest for PlayStation Move
This was included in my Move bundle and it is complete garbage. It has a good premise and style but it’s a total bore, chore and pain to actually play.

Kung Fu Rider for PlayStation Move
I knew going in this wasn’t a great game but for $3 it was well worthwhile. Puzzly, frantic physics racing abounds and the animation and style are something to be seen. Despite the sometimes-unreliable, awkward motion controls I had a good time S-ranking this one.

Parameters free online
It’s an RPG in microcosm. Experience all the thrills, grinding, looting, and leveling of any JRPG in spreadsheet form. It doesn’t sound it but Parameters is addictive!

Fallout 3 Game of the Year on Xbox 360
Last year I was late to New Vegas and in 2012 I was even later to Fallout 3. I was tired of Skyrim and wanted a new world to explore and exploit so I finally played through Fallout 3. I personally liked New Vegas more but this is still epic, time-sucking sci-fi RPG heaven.

Bejeweled Blitz Live on Xbox 360
This was on sale and another purchase offset by Bing rewards points. It  broke my heart by making me realize my eyes and reaction times are slowing down with old age.

Midnight Club 2 free on PC
I loved the hell out of Midnight Club 2 and so I jumped at the chance for a free PC copy. I think all that was required was joining a Rockstar Steam group and, bam, I was back in 2003, point-to-point street racing with one of my favorite soundtracks.

Star Wars Episode 1: Racer on Dreamcast
Racer is always on my mind and for a few days I finally went back to it. I was afraid it had lost some of its luster with age but it remains incredibly fast, challenging and packed with annoying B-list alien voice samples.

Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown on PlayStation 3
I haven’t touched Virtua Fighter since VF3 on Dreamcast! It was great to have a chance to check it out again through PlayStation Plus and find I’m still OK with Pei; I even won a couple online matches!

Warhammer 40k: Space Marine on PlayStation 3
Another PlayStation Plus title; I don’t know why people speak so highly of this game. It starts out fun and you feel incredibly powerful but it just kept going, long after I stopped enjoying it. The annoyingly, repetitive Ork voices didn’t help either. SPOICE MUREEN!

Hard Corps: Uprising on PlayStation 3
I’d have never paid full price for this game but as a PS+ offering I had fun pummeling myself against its brutal, old school Contra designs. The Ark System Works art and music just made it all the more fun.

Choplifter HD on PlayStation 3
Watching this game seemed like it could be fun but actually playing it (another PS+ title) was a pain. Fly, dodge, shoot, crush your passengers, repeat forever… or about 30 minutes… and then delete it.

LittleBigPlanet 2 on PlayStation 3
I loved the original, a LOT, but not even new features and another gajillion user made masterpieces has made the game fun enough to stick with. And I only played LBP2 because it was another PS+ offering.

Sideways: NY on PlayStation 3
A platformer where 2D graffiti comes to life and adventures around an urban 3D world should’ve won me over. Problem is, by the time Sideways was released I’d played the concept to death via numerous flash games. Too little, too late. Oh, also a PS+ game.

Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light on PlayStation 3
This is the last PS+ game on this list and quite the surprise. The demo seemed fun enough but playing the full game I was floored by the intricate art style and a great mix of action and puzzling.

Mass Effect 3 Extended Cut on Xbox 360
That fan outcry forced a top developer and publisher to rewrite the end of their game is way more important than the content herein. Star Baby explains more of what each choice means and you get a little epilogue of what that choice means in the near and long term for the universe. I was fine with the original ending and this is OK too.

Ultimately it probably serves best as an example to developers and publishers that by the time you implement changes to appease the most upset fans they will have moved on to complain about something else.

Of 2012: Favorite Soundtracks of the Year

I have been on the outs with game music for a while now. For the past several years we’d been hearing more and more bombastically boring orchestral scores trying to mimic the style of John Williams. That, or it was just a bunch of licensed tracks or worse, APM Music. There’s still loads of that happening but I feel like 2012 in particular saw an explosion of musical creativity. Here’s a rundown of the soundtracks that have been on heavy rotation.

Disasterpeace’s soundtrack is a perfect match to the cerebral world of Fez but it also works great on those fuzzy mornings to jumpstart your mind and spirit. Hono Bono is largely packed with traditional Chinese sounds but a few tracks in particular hit some incredible highs. Double Dragon Neon is notable not just for its remixed Double Dragon tracks but the work that Jake Kaufman put into the style parodies of the power-up mixtapes. Like Hono Bono, both Bravely Default and Gravity Daze have incredible, soaring pieces filled with horns, guitars and driving beats that helped me survive some rough days.

The soundtrack to Zombies. was a late find for me but it’s been on heavy rotation for weeks now. It’s got big hits and heavy drops but its crunchy synth sounds also feature some surprisingly touching melodies. Newer still is Retro Family’s soundtrack to Pid, the crushingly difficult indie platform/puzzler. While you’re being killed in a single hit and dropping yourself out of gravity beams into oblivion, the music stays mellow and soothing. Even the boss music plays it cool. It’s almost worth struggling through just to hang out in Pid’s world and chill out to this music.

And a total last second addition is Tokyo Jungle’s soundtrack by TaQ. I hated it (and the game) at first but after coming to appreciate the strict, directed actions the game requires I feel the soundtrack fits perfectly. Driving beats and sweeping tunes push you ever forward into a trance-like state as you fight to survive. Also works good while driving.

Remixes and Honorable Mentions

Here’s a few stragglers that didn’t fit into the 2012 soundtrack category. The SQ series (that’s SQ for Square) grew this year with three more remix albums. I don’t even know most of the source material but the quality of these albums continues to sound great to me. More chiptunes join the surprising festhaus atmosphere of Beer SQ and the electro/metal sounds of Battle SQ. P.S. It’s got a dubstep remix of the Final Fantasy victory tune.

I was all set to throw Hotline Miami in my official 2012 soundtrack category but it turns out all that music is licensed from other artists. Still, it’s a great collection of music that perfectly fits the neon-soaked, homicidal rage of the game. And last up is Treasure Adventure Game which was technically a 2011 release but whose soundtrack had me boppin’ my head to its SNES-inspired RPG sounds all through 2012.

Of 2012: Favorite Free Games

Starting a desk job for the first time in my life this year provided quite a bit more time to play browser based games. I also went through all those IGF entrants which provided plenty of free, downloadable experiences. Here’s the stuff I liked best:

I can’t even begin to put these games in order. Each was captivating and special in its own way and, c’mon, they’re all free anyways. Click the links to play them yourself, they’re all great!