A note from Alex “Jeddy” Jedraszczak, GameCola’s Editor-in-Chief:
Aha! Here we are again! It seems like it was only a year ago that I was handling the GameCola Videogame Awards for the very first time. Things went a bit more smoothly this time around, and I have to thank the staff for that! Come on, let’s all stand up and give them a round of applause.
Are you standing? I’m standing. Commence the clapping!
OK, I think that’s enough clapping. You can sit down now.
So, here we are again—the time of…no, please, stop clapping. Thank you, but that’s enough. Yes, that’s good, you can sit down now. So, here we are again—the time of year when the staff is allowed to talk about mainstream games. Really, if we didn’t, every single category would be a twenty-way tie as every staff member would just vote for the one game they remembered playing this year. With our differing tastes, it’s difficult to even find mainstream games we’ve all played. But, that doesn’t stop us! We’re GameCola, and we kind of like videogames! It’s our moderate interest in gaming that brings us together—what binds us as writers, what binds us as readers. And that’s what makes this website great.
Let’s all clap again!
OK, OK! Enough clapping; go read the awards!
Best Licensed Game
Daniel Castro: I usually applaud games that manage to do something different for a change, and Alien Isolation is a milestone of game design no matter how you look at it. Not every game has to be about shooting, jumping, or any other of those tropes that have accompanied videogames since their inception. You don’t do much of that in this game. Isolation is mostly about moving careful from room to room, hiding in fear, and exploring outer space…you know, like the actual Alien movies!
And, that’s the best part of Alien Isolation—I can’t decide if love it for being a game that respects the license it is inspired by (even the technology and space stations have that dated, futuristic style from the ’80s!), or for being a licensed game that understands how survival horror games work. You can’t kill this Alien, running around and shooting will only get you into more trouble, and your best chance to survive is your patience, cleverness, and your wits to get the hell out of your hiding place and venture out, where you’ll probably suffer a gruesome death…it’s…so…much…fun!
Honorable Mention: The Walking Dead: Season Two
The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth
Robyn Tyrfing: From its roots as a Flash-based game that was not meant to succeed to where it stands now, The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth is a testament to indie game development. Only indie game developers can build a game to fail, only to have it succeed. With a dedicated fan base, the first incarnation of The Binding of Isaac survived to see an expansion pack. Then, with the rise of the Let’s Play phenomenon, the game got the sort of popularity boost required to get it re-released with even more content added to it. So, it’s with my pleasure that The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth is awarded as the best Remake/Re-Release of 2014.
Honorable Mention: Pokémon Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire
Best Use of Motion Controls
Mario Kart 8
Joseph Martin: Of all the functions of motion controls, a steering wheel is far from the most abstract of concepts. Yet, that’s precisely why I think it works so well in Mario Kart 8. While many will still claim the technical superiority of a controller, using the Wii Wheel in Mario Kart 8, even if it’s only a framing piece of plastic, just feels right. Turning is responsive and scales well to the degree of tilt. Additionally, jerking the controller up whenever you hit a jump feels much more satisfying than just pressing a button. At the end of the day, it captures the sense of driving a car, even if you don’t feel so immersed that you actually feel like you’re driving. And really, that’s all you can ask for from motion controls in a game if you ask me.
Honorable Mention: Alien Isolation
Best New Character
Goat (Goat Simulator)
Michael Gray: Goat Simulator is an April Fools Day joke gone right. It’s a game where you run around as a goat and get points for causing chaos. It’s intentionally bad—or, maybe it’s just so perfect that it only SEEMS bad. It’s one of the most successful indie games of the year, with millions of downloads and press coverage from the Wall Street Journal.
None of Goat Simulator‘s success would be possible without its main character: Goat. Goat rightly deserves to be crowned as the Best New Videogame Character of 2014. With a kick-butt attitude, a bleat that doesn’t quit, and a fondness for dreaming, Goat will soar to new heights with or without its jetpack.
Honorable Mention: Chica the Chicken (Five Nights at Freddy’s)
Diana Gray: Okay, admittedly, I was the one who nominated this—and yes, it was kind of nominated as a joke. But, of course, I got caught and ended up writing about it. However, now that I’m actually thinking about it, Tomodachi Life is innovative in a way no one would expect. By that, I mean that the game took elements from other games—The Sims, Animal Crossing, and others like those—to create something totally new that no one has ever seen before. From clothes shopping to creating songs to trying to discover what each Mii’s favorite food is, there’s never a shortage of things to do on [insert your island name here]. I think the part of the game that sold it for me was (weirdly enough) the social value of it. By throwing your friends’ Miis into your Tomodachi Life, you can create crazy situations that definitely would not occur in real life. My best friend married her favorite baseball star, I somehow hate chocolate, and Paul Franzen has not attempted to fire anyone yet! (Surprisingly, he and Anna are actually pretty tight.)
I believe that the pure uniqueness of Tomodachi Life perfectly qualifies it for Most Innovative. There is no other game from this year that allows you to totally embarrass yourself, your friends, and your colleagues in the way that this game does. You will honestly never run out of interactions, and you never know what your wacky islanders will ask you next.
Honorable Mention: Super Smash Bros. for Wii U
Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright
Diana Gray: This game. What is this game. Where can I even—Okay. Okay, Diana, breathe. You can do this.
This game consumed my life for a solid two weeks, if not longer. Looking back on it now, it all kind of runs together. I could not put it down, as evidenced by my manic tweeting and frantic calls to friends on the other side of the country at 3 a.m., usually in tears. And, as amazing as the puzzles were and as awesome as it was to have a classic Ace Attorney court back in session, the story was truly the most amazing part.
I don’t think anyone will disagree with me when I say that both Professor Layton and Ace Attorney have games with awesome stories. The zany characters and witty dialogue of the Ace Attorney games combined with the ridiculous plot twists from the Professor Layton series could not fail to succeed. And succeed they did.
I don’t want to go into too much detail about the story here, as I know that if I do, I’ll start ranting and fangirling and get into spoiler territory. However, I will say that the characters meshed quite well together and managed to create an engaging and memorable story. The whole game (but, the special episodes in particular) is a love letter to fans of both series, throwing in tidbits like Chelmey and Barton, and jokes about Godot and MILES EDGEWORTH. Yeah.
Honestly, this game definitely stood out story-wise the most this year to me. It had everything that I could have possibly asked for in a game with both Professor Layton and Phoenix Wright. The plot twist was ridiculous, but that’s how Professor Layton fans like it. The writing made me laugh and made me cry, and that’s honestly all I can ask for in a good story.
W-what? You think I’m biased?! You think something’s up because an Ace Attorney game won Best Story two years in a row?! No…no. Y-you just leave me alone, just scroll to the next award already!
Honorable Mention: Bravely Default
Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric
Jenna Colors: To say I was disappointed by Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric would be an understatement. After becoming interested in Sonic history and games after playing the Sonic & All-Stars racing games last year, the news of the Sonic spin-off broke last February. After hearing more about the plot and plans of the ambitious project, that it would include a new TV show, merchandise, and comic book series to supplement the 3DS (Sonic Boom: The Shattered Crystal) and Wii U games, I thought to myself that not only could this be good for the plot-muddled Sonic series—it could introduce a whole new generation to Sonic.
Unfortunately, as heavy backlash came against the game in its E3 demo, and months would drag on with little information about the game’s development progress or exact release date, I lowered my expectations. The TV show and both games arrived without much immediate fanfare, but once Sonic fans with YouTube channels began to play through the game, it was obvious many things had gone horribly wrong. Although the game had many issues, the most unappealing for me were the repetitive level designs and that if you explored too long in one area, you would come across respawns of the team standing still in T-poses…like clones or zombies. However, not everything turned out terrible. Although not particularly a stand-out, the 3DS game is actually playable, and the TV show is hilarious. Maybe SEGA will rethink their strategy with the Sonic franchise and opt for developing games in-house that actually work.
Honorable Mention: Assassin’s Creed Unity
Octodad: Dadliest Catch
Paul Franzen: There’s nothing really funny in this game; it’s just about a regular dad.
…is what I want to write, but if I did, I’d have to fire myself. No, this is a well-deserved victory for the regular-dad simulator—not just for the story about an octopus dressing up in a three-piece business suit and trying to pass for human in front of his very-much-human family; the actual game mechanics themselves are steeped in humor. The original Octodad was on the forefront of the “games with intentionally terrible controls” movement that includes titles like Surgeon Simulator, QWOP, and Ampu-tea. By controlling each of Octodad’s limbs separately with various combinations of keyboard and mouse buttons, something as simple as putting away a sportsball or grabbing a box of cereal becomes an uncoordinated mess of flailing tentacles, cursing players, and subtitles that say things like “*a blub that mixes command with accusations of laziness*” while your character makes indeterminate octo-noises. Either you’ll think it’s hilarious or you’ll think it’s the stupidest thing you’ve ever seen; that’s exactly my kind of humor.
(For bonus goofs, try playing it in co-op mode, where each player controls an individual limb. We don’t even need Mario Kart to ruin relationships anymore.)
Honorable Mention: Goat Simulator
Best New Peripheral/Accessory
Jenna Colors: When the Amiibo were announced at E3 2014, they had immediate buzz. They were characters every gamer (and, some parents) could recognize, had high-quality designs, and were the icing on the cake to a truly formidable lineup of content. Originally, Nintendo made it sound like you could play in Super Smash Bros. as your Amiibo character, which with its difficulty level boosted up to 50 versus the normal extreme of 9, would have been a game-changer for Super Smash Bros. competitions. Alas, Nintendo didn’t update us much on what exactly the Amiibo would do—instead letting the consumers find out at their launch.
When I got my hands on an Amiibo, I found that you could play alongside and against your Amiibo…and, that was about it. But, a silver lining appeared: in-game collectibles. When you use your Amiibo, they collect gold, trophies, equipment, and outfits to customize your Mii fighters. The equipment that you feed your Amiibo, in addition to playing with or against it, trains the figure somewhat like a Pokémon, which you can then bring to a friend’s house to unleash in their game of Smash. If those aren’t enough reasons to buy Amiibo, Nintendo also announced Amiibo compatibility with MarioKart 8, Mario Party 10, and other games.
Finally, what is perhaps the most unique thing about the Amiibo are their collecting infamy. Essentially, any characters that aren’t from the Mario, Zelda, Donkey Kong, or Pokémon franchises are snapped up within a matter of days—and, some characters ended up on eBay for thousands of dollars. Nintendo cannot keep up with demand for these darn things, and even worse, they don’t tell consumers exact release dates for the figures either, leaving myself and others were to wonder, “It’s December 27th, Nintendo said Wave 2 was coming December 5th! Where the heck is Captain Falcon?” I checked every big-box retailer website for days searching for any sign of Captain Falcon, and when I did see one, I went screaming to GameStop to pick up the last figure a 40 mile radius. Although Nintendo has announced they will re-release some Amiibo, what a wild ride for some cheap painted plastic.
Honorable Mention: Wii U GameCube Adapter
Super Smash Bros. for Wii U
Diana Gray: When I first got the 3DS version of Smash Bros., I was in love. Until I started playing multiplayer. The lag was so incredible that Daniel Castro, GameCola superfan No Lynch, and I were unable to have an actual match. However, the Wii U version’s multiplayer made up for all the issues of the 3DS and more. The many ways you physically can play the game alone make it deserving of merit—obviously, the Wii U controller and GamePad can be used, but there’s so much more. The GameCube controller adapter for the Wii U was met with great excitement by the community, and although being notoriously difficult to obtain, it allows one to play with classic controls on the Wii U. Finally (my personal favorite), you can sync your 3DS to a Wii U and play via wireless. I was honestly surprised when this was announced, and although I haven’t gotten to personally test it out yet, everyone I’ve talked to says it’s kind of amazing.
With so many ways to play, it makes sense that Nintendo would have to step up the battles. AND THEY DID. In Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, there’s a new battle feature: 8-player battles! There are specially-created, unique (and bigger) stages and just so you and seven friends can plug in and “Settle it in Smash!” It makes it a great game in the dorm and for families, too!
There’s so much more to talk about for Smash Bros. multiplayer, I honestly don’t even know where to begin. But, what I do know for sure is that Nintendo smashed it out of the park with Super Smash Bros. for Wii U!
Honorable Mention: Mario Kart 8
What’s that? “Where the other awards are, like Game of the Year and the rest?” Click here to continue to Part 2!