It’s always a difficult task to narrow down the best of the best. Well, not always, but usually. Today marks the final day of our favorite games list, and we’ve pulled out all the stops. If you haven’t played these games, you should probably stop what you’re doing — working, flying a plane, performing open-heart surgery — and get on them. We aren’t kidding.
It’s fitting that the game at the top of my metaphorical mountain for 2012 is a game where the target is reaching the top of a mountain. I already had my socks blown off by Thatgamecompany in the past with Flower so my expectations for Journey were sky-high. Could they exceed the experience I had directing a cloud of flower petals around a fantastical environment? I don’t know that Journey is a better game when compared to its predecessor, but I do know that it’s at least its equal in almost every way, and certainly the game that had the most profound effect on me all year.
Wandering through the sandy ruins of a lost civilization as a nameless, robed character is, by itself, a decent concept. The desire to explore is something bred into many gamers, so the hook is already solid. The simple gameplay facilitates this — Journey isn’t the kind of game that will make you feel extraordinarily intelligent for solving a puzzle. It’s the kind of game where the music swells to a crescendo as you traverse the environment as the sun sets, evoking solid, tangible emotions. It’s the kind of game where you may come across another wayward traveller — an actual player on another console — and improvise a method of communication using your ability to chirp. Getting from point A to point B is the objective, but it’s not the method that’s important, it’s what happens between those points that carries weight.
I don’t want to say too much because describing things too deeply could ruin what lies ahead. If you haven’t played through my favorite game of the year, you should stop reading this immediately and go do so. It’s the kind of game that is best experienced rather than simply read about. Videos can’t convey the effect the game has on you as you interact with the world. The emotional bond you form with your character and others you may come across stay with you long after the final scene rolls. That’s something only the best games can claim. Thatgamecompany’s staff has to be proud of the achievement Journey became — I was proud to simply have finished it.
1. Snapshot – PC
I first saw Snapshot almost two years ago at PAX East, and I found it to be one of the most interesting games at the show. I was so excited for it in fact, that it took the top spot in my list of Top 5 Upcoming game for 2012 and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. Thankfully, when I finally did, it did not dissapoint.
If I have one complaint about Snapshot it is that some of the puzzles can occasionally feel a bit overwhelming. It’s a rewarding experience when you finally figure out the solution, but many frustrating sessions have been spent staring at a particular area not knowing what to do. The game gets very challenging by throwing some physics based challenges at you that force you to interact with objects in motion, but it was never anything I felt was impossible.
Snapshot excels at almost everything it does, and there is enough content to keep you playing for a long time. Each level has a number of challenges such as finding all the stars, beating the stage within a certain amount of time and capturing a hidden object. With over 100 levels there is plenty of content, and the developers did a spectacular job keeping the environments and objects you interact with varied. I never felt like the gameplay was too repetitive and I was constantly looking forward to the next area and challenge. If you enjoy platformers with a focus on puzzle solving, you will be hard pressed to find a better game in the genre.
I’ve been pining over my top 5 for the past week and I actually had a list of about 10 games that could have made it, you might want to go back and see Anthony and Dave’s choices for an idea of what else is awesome, as well as a few others that were all so close that it was nearly impossible to make any cut. However cuts had to be made and I’m sure I’ll mention the others sometime soon. Enough rambling on about other games though, because I need to talk to you about Spooky Squid’s They Bleed Pixels, my Game of the year!
I came into playing They Bleed Pixels without a lot of hype, Anthony had talked about it previously and I checked it out at PAX East and thought it was cool but I didn’t have a large expectation coming into it seeing that hard platformers don’t tend to be my forte. Finally getting into it I was drawn in by how well tuned and put together the whole game is. Through a series of easy to use but versatile controls and gameplay systems it ends up like a well tuned machine built to make you a better player, eventually allowing you to make maneuvers you never thought possible as well as integrating in the story of a young girl’s growth. This is all added to with an interesting visual style that takes a low color scheme design and plays them into each of the dreams while the music keeps you pumped up through even the most difficult sections. I’m still impressed by how well the levels are designed and how perfectly it all works together.
Above all They Bleed Pixels was the most fun game I’ve had playing all year inching it past the others, I still look toward any new bonus levels or what Spooky Squid has up their sleeve next. Thank you and Congratulations for making my favorite this year!