In case you missed it yesterday, it’s time for our annual awards special—and we’ve saved the big categories for last. Pigeon romance, Star Wars parodies and more still await you in the second half of our 2012 year-end awards celebration!
Brett Seeney: I could talk for hours about my experiences with Journey, and it’s not very often I’m able to say that about a game. Of all the multiplayer games I’ve played I’ve never experienced anything quite like this one. Even though you’re only able to communicate using a flashing symbol, the teamwork you experience with your fellow players is astonishingly good—and this, coupled with the music and beautiful graphics, helped me fall in love with this game. Yes, the game is short and yes, the game is linear, but that still hasn’t stopped every playthrough from being unique, and for that I’d suggest Journey to anyone looking for multiplayer adventure on the PS3.
Honorable Mention: Retro City Rampage
Angry Birds Star Wars
Matt Gardner: How does one improve upon the maddeningly addictive gameplay of Angry Birds? The birds themselves have clearly given this a lot of thought, having already tried a movie tie-in (Rio), seasonal themes (spring, summer, winter…and one other one), and even space, but none of those really nailed it, as far as I’m concerned. The original Angry Birds has around 6,200 levels at this point, so they really needed some kind of OOMPH to make everyone drop their current mobile apps and start playing yet another Angry Birds. But what was the key?
…movie tie-ins AND space!!
No. Not really. Nostalgia. That’s what Angry Birds Star Wars brings to the table. What better way to reinvent those lovable little birds than combining them with nostalgia-dripping characters from one of the most iconic franchises of all time? Here you have all the simple-to-learn yet difficult-to-master craziness of slingshotting those little birds all over the place, combined with Stormtroopers and Wookies and sound effects that completely overwhelm your nostalgia bone.
They could have stopped there, but no! The new starwarsified birds even have cool new abilities to combat new types of obstacles, including the force (of course), blasters, and even lightsabers. Yes, someone gave a lightsaber to an angry bird. Genius. Absolute genius.
I was going to go into a bit more detail about why this deserves to be the Best Mobile Game of 2012…but instead let me just say that last bit over again: “Yes, someone gave a lightsaber to an angry bird.”
This is one game Obi-wan won’t have to force-persuade you to download! …but that doesn’t mean the option is off the table. Go!
Honorable Mention: Draw Something
Paul Franzen: People are initially drawn to Hatoful Boyfriend thanks to its incredibly Japanese weird premise: It’s a visual novel where you play as the only human girl attending a well-respected high school for pigeons—yes, pigeons—where it’s your duty to “make connections” (read: make out) with everybirdie you can.
But underneath the game’s feathery façade is a meaty story; after you go down a few paths in which you, for example, quit school in search of The Ultimate Pudding, or wind up with your (still living) head in a jar at the wings of a sadistic doctor—you then unlock what is essentially the actual game. You get to learn why the human race is all but extinct, and how pigeons have become the dominant race (and it isn’t just “because pigeon high school is a funny idea”). You learn about the disease. The war. The reconciliation. The hope. The forces now working to wipe out humanity forever. Hatoful Boyfriend isn’t just a weird game about heathen human-animal relationships (although boy is it that); there’s an actual, serious, emotional game here, too—one you’ll be sure to flock to if you give it a chance.
Honorable Mention: Borderlands 2
New Super Mario Bros. U
Matt Gardner: The Mario Bros. series is so iconic and so well-loved that I’m pretty sure it could win Best Console Game without anyone even playing it. But, is it name recognition alone that makes this game great? Let’s think about what we look for in a perfect console game. Is it a great single-player experience? Sure enough, this game delivers enough goomba-bouncing, fireball-slinging action to keep you entertained for hours on end. Or is it a great multiplayer experience? The great thing about this game is that even SINGLE player is essentially multiplayer! As with other Wii U games, you can happily play it on your handheld peripheral while simultaneously taking up the television, ensuring everyone around has no choice but to experience the awesome!
Jokes aside, this installment of the NewBro series takes multiplayer to a whole new level…of antagonism. The original let you screw with your teammates in all sorts of fun (for me) ways, whether it be refusing to save someone from his bubble tomb, or bouncing on his head as he attempted a lengthy jump, sending yourself to safety and him to his doom. But this new one? Whole new level of mean! Using the comically large Wii U touch pad, you can now mess with others by planting annoying platforms all over the place. Sure, this sounds helpful in some cases, but does anyone ever really use it that way?
If I can make one complaint, however, it’s that this game still refuses to get rid of Blue Toad and Yellow Toad. The most half-assed characters in the history of toadstools. “Hmm. We can’t use the princess because she’s captured, but we need a fourth… Hm. Bowser? No, he’s bad. …Bowser’s kids? Also bad. … … ……..another Toad? YES, perfect.” OK, rant over.
…so! Whether it’s the intense single-player action you crave, or a fun-yet-antagonistic multiplayer experience you’re after, New Super Mario Bros. U is one game that no console owner should be without. Even if you don’t own a Wii U.
Honorable Mention: Mass Effect 3
New Super Mario Bros. 2
Jeff Day: Contrary to popular belief, New Super Mario Bros. 2 isn’t all that new. In fact, it’s about as original as any zombie movie within the last five years. Mario has to once again rescue Princess Peach from the clutches of Bowser and his seven illegitimate children. Perhaps its popularity and success can be attributed to staying true to the effective formula that Mario fans have enjoyed for over a quarter century, or maybe it’s a sign that everything else around it stunk like week-old bagel dust. Nintendo knows how to create a solid platformer better than anyone else, so why rock the boat with something new? That’s not to say that everything is stale like that bagel dust: The goal of one million coins is definitely new. Shigeru Miyamoto probably spent many a late night trying to figure out how players could crank out as many coins as possible in each level in their goal to snag all that golden loot.
MIYAMOTO: “Errr…how about a giant armpit that sweats coins?”
IWATA: “You haven’t slept in twelve days. Go home.”
MIYAMOTO: “What about a tofu lake that hides the Mushroom Kingdom Mint underneath, and the only way to get to the bottom is via a special gelatin rocket pack?”
Then, in his manic state of insomnia, he went and found a way to get real-life coins: Mario DLC. Miyamoto, you sneaky genius!
Honorable Mention: Persona 4 Golden
Captain Eric Regan: Journey is a game that takes user experience and atmosphere to levels that few games even try to achieve. It takes a much different approach to videogaming, while still very much being a videogame. The game is pretty short and doesn’t have a ton of replayablity, but it still managed to take the Best Downloadable Game crown—which really shows you just how spectacular this game is. One of the major things this game does so well is its multiplayer. It uses the multiplayer feature to ENHANCE the gameplay, instead of making it a huge ball of awful terribleness that you avoid at all costs. It completely takes away two of the normal stopgaps to entertaining multiplayer: voice chat and competitiveness. If you don’t devote your life to a game, those things are usually a big reason why you wouldn’t bother with its multiplayer. In Journey, it is just you and two other players exploring a vast open desert and trying to figure out what the hell to do. Many people did not even realize they were playing with other real people until after their game was done. Now that is some seamless multiplayer gameplay! Journey really is one of the most unique games out there.
Honorable Mention: Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition
Paul Franzen: You know him as Jeddy—the scooter riding, cat-ear wearing, chai-tea drinking master of The GameCola Podcast. The guy who stays up late playing Space Jam remixes for our readers, who once put together an entire podcast that was nothing but people clearing their throats and coughing. The guy who podcasted for 10 hours straight, live, over the Internet. The Jed-Man.
But what you don’t know is how much the guy does behind-the-scenes for us, as well. Over the past year or so, Jeddy has become our go-to guy for anything more technologically complicated than flushing the toilet at GameCola HQ. Remember when we changed our star ratings into beards? That was Jeddy. Remember our new Top Articles page? Remember our chat room? He’s the guy who, once and for all, figured out how to get those goddamn vertical lines off of my goddamn Google ads, and he did this all while spearheading what is still GameCola’s most popular feature to date. …Also he made me and my wife a scarf built-for-two for Christmas.
Honorable Mentions: Michael Gray, Nathaniel Hoover
Elizabeth “Lizo” Medina-Gray: Thatgamecompany excels as making games that push boundaries and deliver a lot of expressive and emotional content in a relatively short amount of time, and from seemingly simple premises—and their newest offering, Journey, is no exception. You’ve read three different accounts by now from various GameCola staff members about how great Journey is (i.e., great enough to win four awards from us). Let me just add to that, then, by saying the following: It’s all true. If you haven’t checked out Journey yet, do so, if only because you’re not likely to experience anything like it again (even if you play Journey a second time).
Honorable Mention: The Walking Dead
And that’s it for 2012! …Well, for now, anyway. This weekend we’ll be counting down the Top 10 Games of 2012 on The GameCola Podcast, but after that—in February—2013 can begin, officially.
Until then, let us know in the comments what your favorite games from the past year were!