Tagged: of 2012

A Look at GameLuv in 2012

Now that my 2012 recap is out of the way let’s take a look at GameLuv. WordPress compiled a fancy page of stats for anyone running their Jetpack plugin revealing that the site had 23,000 views and 69 new posts in 2012. For a site where it’s basically just me posting about Achievements and very obscure games I think that’s pretty good.

The busiest day of the year was Monday, May 7th with 201 views, the majority of which were this post about crazy Bejweled Avatar gear. I can only imagine this is thanks to the Giant Bomb effect. At some point Ryan spotted someone’s Avatar wearing this insanely shiny Bejeweled outfit and it probably sent everyone running to Google and ultimately to GameLuv. I’m glad to be your Top Google Result for weird Avatar clothing!

Our most popular posts continued getting hits in 2012. The post I made about Skylanders just before it exploded onto toy store shelves is now up to nearly 4,800 cumulative views. Dana’s nostalgic post about The Ocean Hunter from July 2010 is nearly at 2,000 views. And for whatever reason my closing thoughts on Metal Gear Solid 4 continue to draw people to the site. Thankfully, the majority of visitors to GameLuv in 2012 landed on the homepage to read whatever the top ten posts were that day.

The only disappointing stat to me is that we only got about 18 comments after you rule out all my replies. I’m no good at starting or maintaining conversations and with people flitting from Twitter to Facebook to a dozen other social sites I guess it’s to be expected. Still, it’d be nice to have a few more back-and-forths with real people to counter all the Russian spam comments I delete.

Seeing almost double the visitors to GameLuv over 2011 makes me feel great. Even though my lofty goals of retiring from a fat GameLuv paycheck have never panned out it really helps keep me going. As Katy and I branch out into YouTube (where the real pennies are at!) you may see more videos posted but I’m sure GameLuv in 2013 will continue to feature dumb Achievements, weird old games and photos of things I bought on clearance. Now that I think about that, 23,000 views sounds miraculous. Thank you all so much for visiting the site!

My Top Five of 2012

Some were short, some lasted months and some of them I still haven’t seen the end of. Here it is, in no finer order than an alphabetical listing, the five games I think most highly of from 2012.

I had longed to play Fez since the first time I saw it, literally five years ago. At the time I was simply excited by its bright, bold pixelart style and what looked like classic platforming. The revelation that the world rotates on sharp 90-degree turns, making for four levels in one only excited me more. But nothing could prepare any of us for the cryptic secrets hidden in almost every screen of what we initially thought was a disappointingly simple platformer. Suddenly the race was on to decode an ancient language that had been staring us in the face for the entire game. The conversation quickly turned from “how do you make it over this gap?” to “did you find the cipher yet?”. It was a wonderful experience to be a part of as the answers were unraveling and a moment in gaming I won’t ever forget.

So strong is the emotional reaction to the events of Faster Than Light that Katy came to hate when I would play it. Of all the games I played this year FTL was the most effective, the most terrifying and satisfying. Despite its tiny, minimal graphics it often left me shaking as resources are slim, an encounter can turn at a second’s notice, and much of your success is dependent on your ability to manage a dozen functions at once.

It’s really hard to think back on Mass Effect 3 before the internet blew its ending out of proportion. Streamlining the game boiled quests down to eavesdropping conversations in another tiny section of the Citadel. The phone-a-friend stuff near the end felt like a cheesy way to get more closure on the game’s menagerie of cast members. The planet scanning was whittled down to a map of boring click-and-run repetition. Meanwhile, you’re supposed to be fighting for Earth and the universe but I spent plenty of time running down my space hamster in the basement of the Normandy.

All that stuff did dull the experience but there was nothing else this year that had as much personal meaning or impact as seeing out my Commander Shepard’s story. I didn’t take offense to the ending but appreciated the exposition that the Extended Cut added and can rest easy knowing no matter what they do going forward that this was a pretty great trilogy. It’s also worth noting that this was the first multiplayer experience I’ve enjoyed since Unreal Tournament 2004 and that’s a triumph all on its own.

Rhythm Party earned a special place in my heart this year. It came along after we moved and found our beloved Pump it Up to be poorly represented in this town. It picked up the slack for dumb dance fun, it reminded me of how much I love Eye Toy Groove and it turned out to be one of the best Kinect games yet. Its crowning achievement is that it gets the tech out of the way and simply lets you dance. There’s no ‘Simon Says’ like Dance Central, all you have to do is make sure you hit the markers that appear on screen with some part of your body.

The music selection in the base game covers the basics well. Oldies, 80’s and modern pop choices are limited but good, there’s plenty of signature Bemani sounds and even the tracks featuring Vanilla Ice are fun to play. It was one of the few games this year that was purely fun and I came back to it repeatedly for entertainment and exercise alike.

A lot like FTL, Trials Evolution twisted my emotional screws in unexpected ways. Also like FTL, Katy hates when I play this game. I mostly gave up on Trials HD but stuck with Evolution long enough to experience the spiritual enlightenment of ‘perseverance through pain’. With instant restarts I was able to struggle through precise maneuvers the game was trying to teach me. Meanwhile, ghosts of my friends racing alongside let me see how they passed certain areas and gave me a goal to shoot for. It’s a brilliantly designed physics puzzler that had me loving and hating it for weeks on end with some memories of triumph that I’ll never forget.

And if anyone was looking for a full-on Top Ten of 2012, here’s a quick list of my second top five favorite games:

  • Tokyo Jungle
  • Spec Ops: The Line
  • Dishonored
  • Don’t Starve
  • Mark of the Ninja

My Bottom Five of 2012

For a while there I couldn’t think of a fifth game I played in 2012 that was off-putting enough to make it onto this list. I was happy about that but given enough time and games I eventually had to debate over a few of them to determine which was the fifth biggest bummer.

Scarygirl was one of the first games I played in 2012 and it held the top spot without contention for a long while. Choplifter HD put up a good fight but in the end I played Scarygirl to completion and its frustrating platforming wins out over Choplifter’s mundane action. It’s a very pretty game to look at but immensely annoying to play through.

Then there’s Halo 4 which I honestly expected to be great. I’m not saying it’s a bad game by any means but it turned out to be more of the same Halo that I grew tired of nearly ten years ago. SimCity Social is another game I thought would be great, and it was… for a time. I don’t do much Facebook gaming so many of its hooks were enticing but the excessive force to pay real money or troll your friends for help turned me right off. It gets an honorary Ptooey award, my just-invented golden trophy of a giant glob of spit hitting someone in the face.

Least bummery of all (but still a bummer) is Double Dragon Neon. I’ve been put off by every WayForward game I’ve ever played so I wasn’t expecting Neon to suddenly change my mind. Still, I was hopeful. It looks slick, is full of self aware humor, has a great, equally aware soundtrack and the gameplay looks good on paper. In practice, though, it’s a nightmare. WayForward’s signature obsession with animation makes the game feel slow and overly difficult to control. Maybe that’s forgivable in a space sim but in a game that trades on a twitch, arcade legacy it’s pretty distasteful.

Of 2012: Things I hoped would be great but weren’t

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.

Of 2012: The PlayStation Pus Recap List

There were a lot of people on the fence about Sony’s paid PlayStation Plus service until E3 2012 when they redoubled their efforts and sweetened the deal. Like many, I bought a Plus membership within weeks of the announcement and suddenly realized how little hard drive space I had on my PlayStation 3. Here’s everything I got to play in those three months ( * denotes a game released in 2012):

  • *Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown
  • Warhammer 40k: Space Marine
  • Hard Corps: Uprising
  • Choplifter HD
  • LittleBigPlanet 2
  • Sideways: NY
  • Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light
  • Renegadge Ops
  • Pac-Man Championship Edition DX
  • Just Cause 2
  • *The Walking Dead 1-2
  • Outland
  • Bloodrayne: Betrayal
  • *Double Dragon Neon
  • Scott Pilgrim vs The World: The Game

Purchased individually that’s a helluva lot more than the $18 I paid for three months. Granted, it’s all locked away now that my membership has lapsed but it was a great deal for the slower Summer months. Sony’s E3 gambit paid off and I’m now a fan (if not currently a subscriber) of PlayStation Plus.

Trying it also helped me realize that it’s a lot like Netflix instant streaming for games. You may not find the absolute newest, hottest games you’d want to play but it gives you a rotating menu of stuff to discover. I’d never have bought most of these games but having them handed up month after month I was more than happy to give them a whirl and I think that’s great.

UPDATE: My sister got me a 12-month subscription card for my birthday so I’m officially back on PlayStation Plus but for the purpose of this post I’ll not update the list.