Games: Everybody loves a clip show
The games of ’05
Picking the ten best games of the year is a tad trite.
After all, while gamer A might enjoy a rousing bout of digital
fisticuffs (err ... swordicuffs) in the superb Soul Caliber 3 others may
appreciates the Byzantine worlds and innovative game play provided by a
more artistic title like Shadow of the Colussus. It’s an apples and
oranges affair. I can’t with good conscience rate Burnout Revenge a
“better” game than, say the intensely addictive Unlimited Tower of Goo.
Rest assured, the titles I present to you, some for the first time in
the Hippo, are wonderful gaming experiences. These stand outside and
above the field of pablum video games; A games, the lot.
Best Non- “Racist Italian Stereotype” Character in a Platformer
Double Fine Production
Goth nerds will notice that the psychic summer camp scamp Raz shares a
voice actor with the screechingly hilarious Invader Zim. But the
off-kilter plot and dialogue is the delicious butter cream frosting on
this wonder of a game. As Raz you jump from brain to brain at psychonaut
training camp recovering “Emotional Baggage” blasting psychic censors
with your telekinetic punches and bursts of pyrokinesis. Each board/mind
is expertly designed to reflect the outrageous characters they reside
within. From spy infested suburban M.C. Escher landscapes to a twistedly
geometric space cube thing Raz’s adventure captures the imagination.
Runner-up: Stubbs from Stubbs the Zombie in Rebel Without a Pulse
(XBOX/PC/MAC): Oh baby there is a special joy found in raising an army
of zombies and trashing a city. Stubbs throws poison bombs pulled from
his own rotting guts, eats brains and smokes like cancer doesn’t matter
all to the beat of 50s rock tunes covered by some of todays best
musicians. I love zombies.
Giddiest Moment of Gaming Zen
Sure pulling of a sweet combo in Tekken 5 then smack talking your friend
into the fetal position has its pluses. And yes, caroming a compact car
into a rival racer as you shoot down the mean streets of Burnout Revenge
gets the adrenaline flowing. But none of these things elicits the sheer
wonder and freaky amazement of blowing bubbles at your digital
schnauzer. Why, well it’s not some secret combo or expertly timed
buttoning; it’s lifting the Nintendo DS to your lips and blowing into
the mike that makes the bubbles. It may sound stupid but everybody who
has seen it took a half step back in smiling awe. Kudos Nintendo you’ve
made the video game equivalent of a sunny day.
Runner-up: Gravity Head (PC): it’s barely a game. Available for free
from Carnegie Mellon’s Experimental Gameplay Project (www.experimentalgameplay.com)
Gravity Head allows you to reverse the massive gravity generated by the
head of a screaming boy. The goal, water flowers: then use gravity to
shoot the flowers at your girlfriend.
Most F-ing Metal Game of the Year
Finally a game that rewards the mastery of air guitar. While the
peripheral guitar controller may put timid shoppers off at first, this
shred-tastic rhythm game makes rock gods out of each of us. The
simplified guitar controller imparts all the elements of awesome guitar
rocking while sparing you the finger bleeding years of practice. You’ll
be bending the whammy bar on “Spanish Castle Magic” hammering on the
fret board for “Killer Queen” and just, horns in the air, rocking
through greats like “Bark at the Moon” and Franz Ferdinand’s uber-addictive
“Take Me Out.”
Runner-up: Donkey Kong Jungle Beat (GC): Guitars barely out-rock the
bongo pounding innovation of Jungle Beat. With its novel control and
delightfully robust platformer elements Donkey Kong hasn’t been this
much fun since I laughed at the plight of a certain Racists Italian
Stereotype’s girlfriend who was captured at the top of a series of
pixelated ramps. Mmmmm barrels full of monkeys.
Zombie Spaniards Most Deserving of Shotgun Death
Resident Evil 4
Capcom practically invented the survival-horror genre with Resident Evil
for the original Playstation. While running about Raccoon City
conserving ammo and running pooplessly scared from head biting frog
monsters and zombie virus infested ... uh zombies has been done to death
since the series debut in ‘96 RE:4 brings back the joy. It’s hard to go
wrong with zombies and when you need to freeze a zombie midget with CO2
and shatter him with a rocket launcher that just fills you with a warm
loving feeling inside.
Runner-up: Ummm, sorry I can’t think of another game with zombie
Spaniards. Although you can play as the Spaniards in the nearly perfect
Civilization 4 (PC). And I guess you could make zombie noises while you
enjoy this rich intricate strategy game.
Best Game that is Threatening My Marriage
World of Warcraft
I hit the World of Warcraft drum pretty loudly in these pages. Admitted.
And, yes I may be developing an unnatural fixation on becoming the best
virtual seamstress on my server. But, seriously now, if you’re playing a
Massive Multiplayer game that’s not acronymed WoW (and for damn good
reasons) I pity you. It must suck to not romp in the lush jungle ruins
of Stranglethorn Vale. How tiresome online gaming seems when you’re not
chasing your enemy across the red rock flats of The Barrens. I think
I’ve fallen for you World of Warcraft. Shh, don’t tell my wife, this
will be our secret love.
Runner-up: Battlefield 2 (PC): When the Warcraft servers crash I’m not
making “family time,” I’m planting C4 on enemy artillery emplacements in
the best army vs. army first person shooter ever made. Boom!
Best Uppercut to the Groin
Street Fighter Anniversary Collection
on one fighting is a staple of the video game world due mainly to the
quarter munching awesomeness of Street Fighter 2. The fireball slinging
karate masters Ken and Ryu have gaming icons amidst all the Sonics and
Marios. Capcom, after many many years of crapping all over the fighting
genre has released all it’s best material on one disc. Here you get all
versions of the ridiculously graceful fighter Street Fighter 3 as well
as a mash up version of Street Fighter 2 that allows fighters to choose
which release version of each character they want to use. It’s a bit
nerdy but fighting enthusiasts have rediscovered the holy grail of 2d
Runner-up: Jade Empire (XBOX): This brilliant kung-fu role playing game
nicely blends fighting with traditional RPG character development. As
developer BioWare did with Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic the
world is big enough to foster the epic sense of adventure but tightly
scripted and wound around a wonderful plot.
OK, I’ll bow to editorial pressure and let you know the hands down ...
Bestest Best Game of the Year
doesn’t love a murder mystery? I’ll tell you who; the corpse. But those
of us with a pulse and a sense of experimentation know that Indigo
Prophecy (the slightly MYST-like, slightly Resident Evil-like adventure
mystery movie/game thing) is the game to beat. Remember being a lonely
nerd playing against yourself in chess? OK that was shameful and lame
but the concept of controlling the pursued and his pursuers is an
approach both narratively innovative and expertly developed here. From
maintaining your character’s sanity to scouring the crime scene Indigo
Prophecy IV’s its intrigue into your brain. Sure there’s not so much
bang, boom and boobies but there is a hell of a lot of awesome gameplay,
intricacy and sublime interface design.