I was excited for a lot of things this year.
These are the ones that broke my heart so bad that I couldn’t forget.
Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor promised to marry the controller with the Kinect in a wonderfully committal, Japanese sci-fi interpretation of ooh-ra, gung-ho army bravado. The ceaseless swearing, the expendable squadmates and the unforgiving inside-the-mech view were all great but controlling the thing was a total nightmare.
I wanted to like Double Dragon Neon (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360) as much as I’ve ever wanted to like any WayForward production but the killer remains their gameplay design. They love their animations and while they all look great the emphasis on waiting for them to register a hit, counter, or jump stomped my enjoyment into dust.
The Xbox 360 dashboard is an ancient beast that’s seen more plastic surgery than Cher. It’s slow, bloated with ad spaces and illogical to navigate so I was all about the newest iteration of the interface. It is slightly easier to get to your recently played games and pin stuff for quick access but there’s still more ads and many more menus to dig through to find anything.
For as much as it tries to inspire some emotional epiphany, Journey (PlayStation 3) failed to do more than tickle my core. It’s exceptionally pretty and has some nice moments of whimsy and tension but it wound up being even less of a game than Flower with an ending that makes whatever feelings I did experience meaningless.
I was a big supporter of Kinect when it was first announced and I stuck by it as long as I could. It’s rarely been reliable enough to for me to forget that it’s there and just have fun. Rhythm Party and Wreckateer are this year’s best uses of the hardware but even they have their moments where the game has no idea where I’m at. The emphasis nowadays is on voice commands but even that fails to work for me as any conversation gets misinterpreted as a command. I’m playing Mass Effect 3 and Katy’s simultaneously telling me about her day and sending my squad to die. Yeah, brilliant stuff there.
Wizorb (Steam) looks neat but Breakout is no fun outside of its arcade home turf. Wizorb tries to mix things up with a hub town, dialog and RPG trappings but it remains just another Breakout that takes forever to play.
As gorgeous and whimsical as Trine 2 (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Steam) was it crushes all the enjoyment under half-finished portal and pipe-placing mechanics. It also drags on hours longer than it needs to. As a huge fan of the original this descent into repetitive boredom was pretty disheartening.
I don’t mean to be blasphemous or controversial but, man, Halo 4 (Xbox 360) was just boring as hell. It’s the same crap I did a decade ago starring the same faceless space man and his crazy hologram mommy, desperately trying to make the boring sci-fi story seem interesting. I figured by now Halo would be exciting again but this quickly drove me away.