Gather round the fire, friends, as we celebrate the year in games—the good, the bad, the really bad, and everything in between. It's our 3rd Annual Holiday Awards Spectacular! Plus, Brad's son stops by to share his best and worst of the year, and we announce the winners of our Game Credit Giveaway! Featuring Brad Gallaway, Mike Bracken, Richard Naik, Dan Weissenberger, and Tim "Counting is Hard" Spaeth. Happy Holidays to all our listeners!!
Tim Spaeth: A holiday tradition as treasured as A Christmas Story or Miracle on 34th Street, it's the third annual GameCritics.com podcast holiday awards spectacular. Make that an acronym. I'm Tim Spaeth, the Dolores Hopes to my Bob Hope. Let's start by saying hello to Mike Bracken. Hi, Mike.
Mike Bracken: I prefer to be the Bing Crosby to your Bob Hope. Can I be that?
Tim Spaeth: We have space for a Bing Crosby.
Mike Bracken: That's good. I could beat a kid with a belt, too.
Tim Spaeth: [Laughter] Three percent of our audience will understand this reference.
Mike Bracken: Yes. I love the Road movies, so.
Brad Gallaway: Wait, wait, wait! I want to be Dorothy Lamour, then.
Mike Bracken: [Laughter] Oh, awesome! This segment just got awesome. Can we sing "Road to Morocco" later?
Tim Spaeth: We will wrap with that, no question. And believe me, we will wrap with that. Well, okay. That leaves Richard Naik. You can still be Dolores Hope, if you're okay with that.
Richard Naik: Uh, sure.
Tim Spaeth: I think she had a little moustache. And then joining us, a very special guest from the frozen North, Daniel Weissenberger. Hi, Daniel.
Dan Weissenberger: Hey, Tim. What it is?
Tim Spaeth: What is is, sir, to you. Great to have you back.
Dan Weissenberger: Absolutely.
Tim Spaeth: Lest I forget, Mr. Brad Gallaway. Hi, Brad.
Brad Gallaway: Hey, everybody.
Tim Spaeth: Brad, my understanding is you have a special guest.
Brad Gallaway: I do; my nine-year-old son Rhys is here with me tonight. He most of the year lives with his mom in a place very far away, but I'm fortunate enough to have him with me for this Christmas. And he's here right beside me in our GameCritics west studio, so I thought we might put him on for just a moment.
Tim Spaeth: Fantastic. Put him on the microphone and we'll talk to him for a bit.
Brad Gallaway: Here we go.
Tim Spaeth: Hi, Rhys?
Tim Spaeth: Hi, Rhys. My name's Tim.
Rhys: Nice to meet you, Tim.
Tim Spaeth: Very nice to meet you. Your dad talks about you all the time, so it's great to have you on. I would like to know what was the worst game you played this year, and then tell us what the best game you played this year was.
Rhys: Well, the worst game I've played this year was Madden NFL for the PSP, because I thought the controls were unreasonable and everybody on the opposite team kept intercepting my passes.
Mike Bracken: That happens to me, too.
Tim Spaeth: Now, are you a big football fan?
Rhys: No, not really.
Tim Spaeth: Because your dad is not a football fan at all.
Mike Bracken: No. He gets very upset when we talk about football on the show, or hockey, or any sport.
Tim Spaeth: So, okay. So that was the worst game. I don't like Madden much, either. What about your favorite game?
Rhys: Well, I got to say, my favorite game is Monster Hunter: Freedom Unite for the PSP.
Mike Bracken: Wow.
Rhys: Because you can just connect two PSPs in the same room, so I do it with my dad all the time. We go out on missions, go slay some monsters.
Tim Spaeth: Oh, that's cool.
Mike Bracken: He just got a ton of hardcore cred, picking that game for Game of the Year.
Tim Spaeth: That's true.
Mike Bracken: That's hardcore. Bravo to you, Rhys. I'm proud.
Tim Spaeth: I am, too. That's fantastic. Now, let me ask you this, Rhys: Who is better at Monster Hunter?
You or your dad?
Rhys: I got to say, my dad.
Mike Bracken: Aw, you don't have to say that. You can tell us you're better. We believe you're better.
Tim Spaeth: You're a good son, Rhys; you're a good son. Well, it was a pleasure to meet you. How long are you going to be in Seattle?
Rhys: Enh, two weeks, I think.
Tim Spaeth: Two weeks?
Tim Spaeth: Well, have a great time, and it was a pleasure to meet you, and thanks for coming on the show.
Mike Bracken: We hope you get lots of games for Christmas.
Brad Gallaway: Is that it? you guys good?
Mike Bracken: We're good.
Tim Spaeth: Good.
Brad Gallaway: All right, cool.
Tim Spaeth: He's very well-spoken.
Brad Gallaway: Thanks. He's a wonderful little guy.
Handsome as hell, just like his daddy, I'll tell you that much.
Tim Spaeth: And Mike, I want to commend you for not swearing rampantly.
Mike Bracken: It was really hard; it was really, really hard.
Brad Gallaway: I could feel the strain from off-mike.
Mike Bracken: I'm sweating with the effort.
Dan Weissenberger: He was down to just a ten-word vocabulary.
Mike Bracken: I know; I feel very limited.
Tim Spaeth: Well, guys, we have a big show tonight, as any holiday special should be. My producer, Filipe, as you all know, has been working on this for months and it's a shame he's spending the holidays in jail and can't be here to savor the fruits of his labor. But nevertheless, we are going to live on; we are going to survive. He have 13 categories to cover tonight. We're going to share our nominees in each. We'll actually only select winners in the final two categories. One of those [stammering, verbal flailing]
Brad Gallaway: When did Jerry Lewis get here?
Richard Naik: I was going to say: Did Jerry Lewis just become the Jerry Lewis to your Bob Hope?
Mike Bracken: Jerry Lewis was never in a Road movie.
Dan Weissenberger: Which is a tragedy in and of itself.
Tim Spaeth: Wait, the Martin and Lewis…? He was never in the Bob Hope Road movies, but Martin and Lewis were all of the…
Mike Bracken: Yeah. But, look. Really, we only call the Hope/Crosby movies the Road movies.
Brad Gallaway: Yeah, seriously.
Mike Bracken: We don't call the Martin/Lewis…no.
Brad Gallaway: No. No.
Tim Spaeth: That's fair. No, I don't disagree with that. Although I will point out, Jerry Lewis, of all these people, is the only one still alive.
And I don't even know that that's relevant, but I just point it out. So only selecting winners in the final categories. One of those, of course, is Game of the Year. Now, in 2008, that award went to Fallout 3. Last year it went to Demon's Souls. Which game will join them tonight? I'm trembling with anticipation.
Now, the other award goes to you, the listener. We asked you to post your biggest surprise of 2010 to our forums. We're going to be randomly picking two of you tonight, and those two will each win $20 of game credit on the downloadable service of their choice—either XBLA, PSN, WiiWare or Steam. So we will announce those live toward the end of the show. Very excited about that, and we got some great responses to the biggest surprise of 2010. Some things I completely forgot about that will come up in that part of the show.
Mike Bracken: I made sure not to read that thread so that I didn't steal somebody's thing.
Tim Spaeth: There were some incredibly obscure things referenced in that thread. I was extremely impressed, as I always am with our audience, so I'm very much looking forward to reading some of those. Well, guys, I think we're ready. Are we ready for the first award?
Brad Gallaway: Ready.
Mike Bracken: Let's do it. Everybody got their tux on?
Brad Gallaway: Yes.
Mike Bracken: It wasn't a trick question, I swear.
Richard Naik: I [answer?] affirmative to that statement.
Mike Bracken: I'll just shut up now and quit throwing everyone off.
Tim Spaeth: Category number one.
That's where the sound effect goes. It's the Nail in the Coffin Award. Which franchise needs to be put six feet under, based on their latest 2010 release? And I am going to kick things off with our very special guest, Dan Weissenberger. Do you have a nominee for the Nail in the Coffin Award?
Dan Weissenberger: I do, and I think it's probably going to be the winner. It could've won this award every year for probably the past decade, and that's the Sonic series.
Richard Naik: God damn it, you stole mine.
Dan Weissenberger: I know. That's why I'm happy I went first.
Tim Spaeth: Would either of you care to elaborate as to why? What in particular about this year—?
Dan Weissenberger: I stole it, so you can go first.
Richard Naik: Sonic is basically the San Francisco 49ers of gaming. He was freaking awesome in the 1990s, but it's just been complete crap since he tried to make the transition to 3D in the early 2000s. He's just made piece of shit after piece of shit. And even they went back to 2D this year, and they even screwed that up. So it's time to just take him to the vet and put him down.
Mike Bracken: I must've missed the part of the 90s where Sonic was awesome, because I've never particularly thought Sonic was awesome, but that's just me.
Dan Weissenberger: I'm with Mike on this one; I've never been a huge Sonic fan. I can get a scared-out-of-my-mind, visceral appreciation of the first couple of Sonic games and a little bit of Sonic and Knuckles. But I don't think they were ever particularly well-designed games, being as they were more about memorizing what the map was like than actual reflexes, although you needed some of that, too. If you were good at video games, you could play through Mario all the way the first time, whereas Sonic, it was just hours and hours of learning the maps. And that's never stopped.
Sonic 4 was bad enough, especially because it's Sonic 4: Episode 1, as if you want to pay for more of that. But I also got a review copy, which I have been too depressed to write the review of. I actually went back and played the Sonic Adventure from the [Dreamcast] as downloadable content, and it's terrible.
Richard Naik: Yeah.
Dan Weissenberger: I'd forgotten what a terrible game it was. It just put it into this focus for me that we've just got to stop Sonic games.
Richard Naik: I'm going to go give you both a little history lesson here about the Golden Age of Sonic.
Back when people thought he was cool Basically, Sonic 3 was released as roughly a half-finished game. It had about half the levels that they wanted to put into it. Later, Sonic and Knuckles was releaased. It had the same sound effects, the same sprite pallets, all that kind of stuff, because it was basically the second half of Sonic 3 that they released after they finished it. And Sonic and Knuckles had this top cartridge slot that you could put Sonic 3 into, and then you combined that and it made this massive 14 levels in total. I could be wrong on that, but I'm pretty sure it was 14, so it made this huge Sonic game that was the apex of his existence—of the franchise's existence.
I once spent eight and a half hours straight playing that and trying to get all of the Chaos Emeralds—all 14 of those stupid freaking Chaos Emeralds in those hard as shit special stages. Yeah, I guess you could say I like the old Sonic games.
Tim Spaeth: Richard, oh, you poor, poor boy.
Richard Naik: Sonic 1 through Sonic 3/Sonic and Knuckles, plus Sonic CD were all really good. I'm going to make that statement now with the utmost confidence in it. After that, it completely fell apart. Sonic Adventure was just terrible. It's just gotten worse and worse, and what really disappointed me—and this is going to be my answer to another category, too. When I first heard that they were going back to 2D with Sonic 4, I'm like: "Great! They're just going to get rid of all the stupid crap and make it good again." And they couldn't even do that.
They made it 2D and it was still terrible. They have no idea what's wrong with their games, so it's time to just put a bullet in between its eyes.
Tim Spaeth: Well, I think we're all in agreement. Whether Sonic became terrible 20 years ago or 10 years ago or yesterday, I think we're all in agreement Sonic is terrible and is a very, very worthy candidate for the Nail in the Coffin Award. Let's move beyond Sonic, though, and Brad, I'll turn to you. What franchise should be laid to rest, based on its latest release?
Brad Gallaway: It kind of pains me to say this, especially given the drama that we went through to get the game that came out this year. But my pick was actually Crackdown 2. Crackdown, the first one, was a cult hit, a slow burn, and it had a lot of potential. I reviewed it myself; I wasn't too crazy about it, but I did kinda like it and I saw plenty of room for it to grow. With all the things that happened with the developer going out of business and people thought that there would never be a sequel, the fans rose up and there was this grassroots movement to get it into production.
And then lo and behold, we finally get Crackdown 2 delivered and it sucks. It's worse than the first one, and it was basically a framework that people were sold that was going to be this place for them to send DLC. Unfortunately, the DLC that they put out was buggy as hell. So even their Trojan horse ploy of selling us the game and then giving us the actual game via DLC later was a complete failure as well.
This was supposed to be the total comeback. "You love us, we're here, we're going to do great things. You saw greatness in us the first time, and now we're here to prove that," and they just completely flushed it down the toilet. So even though there's only been two games, for me, I think Crackdown is done. I think the core ideas are still good, but I think maybe it'll have to be carried on by a new franchise.
Mike Bracken: Yeah. The first game was a $60 tech demo, basically.
Brad Gallaway: And 2 was worse, so we'll see where we go from here.
Tim Spaeth: Had an awesome harpoon gun, though. I will give it that.
Dan Weissenberger: The thing about the first one was, that was one of the best demos I'd ever played.
Mike Bracken: Yeah. It was a great demo.
Dan Weissenberger: And I bought that the day it came out, and I got nothing more than I did in the demo.
Mike Bracken: Yep.
Dan Weissenberger: It's shocking how bad and [unknown] that first one was, so yeah, I wasn't going anywhere near 2.
Mike Bracken: Me, neither.
Tim Spaeth: I ended up buying the first one. I got my Xbox very late and at that point, Crackdown was $20. So I ended up getting Crackdown for $20, and at that price, I thought it was pretty great. Mike Bracken, Nail in the Coffin Award, your nominee?
Mike Bracken: Yes. Like Brad, my choice pains me. In fact, my choice is so outrageous that these are words I never thought I would utter. My Nail in the Coffin Award for this year goest to Castlevania.
Brad Gallaway: Oh, no!
Mike Bracken: Yes.
Brad Gallaway: [That pained?] me just to hear you say that.
Mike Bracken: I know. This has been a horrible year for Castlevania. First we got the DLC game for Xbox Live, which was really mediocre. It was just basically a multiplayer cooperative boss rush thing in the standard Metroidvania mold, which has gotten pretty stale. I don't remember…was the fighting game on the Wii this year, too?
Brad Gallaway: Yeah, yeah it was, yeah.
Mike Bracken: There was that abomination, which was absolutely fucking awful, and then Lords of Shadow, which was another awful attempt to bring the franchise into 3D yet again, and while it is not as bad as Castlevania 64, it's still pretty terrible. My feeling is, at this point is there anything left for this franchise? I don't think there is. I don't want another 2D Symphony of the Night wannabe. They're never as good as Symphony of the Night, and if I want to play Symphony of the Night, I'll just fucking fire it up and play it. I certainly don't want another fighting Castlevania game, and if this is all the better they can do with 3D, I don't want any more of that, either. So let's just put that series to bed and move on with our lives.
Tim Spaeth: Lord of Shadow was the one Kojima was involved in tangentally.
Mike Bracken: Yeah, yeah.
Tim Spaeth: Can you see his fingerprints anywhere on that game?
Mike Bracken: No. I know Gene kinda liked it, because he reviewed it for the site. He gave it a six or something like that. I would not have scored it that high. I think it's a steaming pile, personally. But yeah, it's a game that you can kinda tell that they were making it as something else and then they decided in the middle: "Hey! Let's make it a Castlevania game!" It doesn't feel like Castlevania at all. As much as it pains me to say it, I'm just really over Castlevania at this point.
Tim Spaeth: Shocking. Coming out with a shocker right out of the gate, my goodness.
Mike Bracken: Right out of the gate.
Tim Spaeth: Well, my nominee for Nail in the Coffin Award, I briefly considered Civilization, but I'm saving Civ V for a future category—stay tuned for that. The only right answer to this question for me is Tecmo Bowl.
Brad Gallaway: Why didn't we see that?
Mike Bracken: Yeah.
Brad Gallaway: We all should've picked that.
Tim Spaeth: We don't talk about sports games on this show, although your son started off with a sports game tonight.
Mike Bracken: It might've been the first sports game mentioned in the history of this show.
Brad Gallaway: I think it actually is.
Tim Spaeth: He broke new ground for us. But I'm going to mention football again. Every year, Tecmo decides: "Hey, let's revive Tecmo Bowl. But instead of releasing a new game, they re-release an old version of Tecmo Bowl. So this year's attempt was Tecmo Bowl: Throwback on the XBLA and the PSN. There was a DS version a couple years ago—again, just rereleasing Tecmo Bowl.
The first problem here is obvious: Tecmo Bowl just isn't a good game anymore. It's a 20-year-old game. It's just not that good anymore.
Mike Bracken: And 20 years ago, it was awesome. But that was 20 years ago.
Tim Spaeth: Yes, that's right.
Mike Bracken: Unwashed jeans were awesome 20 years ago, too.
Tim Spaeth: [Laughter] We all pegged our pants.
Mike Bracken: We wore pleats and Members Only jackets.
Tim Spaeth: And jams. We all wore jams. Secondly, and I hate to say this, but as long as EA has a stranglehold on the NFL license, no one should bother making football games. I mean, as great as competition would be, I don't wnt to play as the Cleveland Beavers.
And as I've said on this show many times, all I did in college: two things. I played Tecmo Bowl and I made love. I would very much like for that to be my life again. But Tecmo's not going to do it, so let's bury it six feet under. Goodbye, Tecmo Bowl. And that is our first category.
I think that went very well. Let's move right on to our second category. Category number 2 [Law and Order doink-doink]. This category named for one of our hosts. We call it the "Brad Gallaway is Single-Handedly Keeping Indie Developers in Business" award. And it would be silly to start with anyone other than Brad Gallaway.
Brad Gallaway: Ah, darn. I thought you were going to Richard first.
Mike Bracken: So did I.
Tim Spaeth: It would've been a better joke, but enh. Yeah. It's too late. Gotta go with Brad.
Brad Gallaway: It was a tough pick this year there were actually a number of things to go with. But I think the one that really stood out to me as being an excellent game, as well as being completely unknown, unseen, unheard of by anybody in the industry that I know of was Patchwork Heroes, which was a download for the PSP via PSN. I think I've only met two people who even have heard of this game the entire year, and it was a fantastic game. It was really well put together. It was really artistic, had some great ideas.
For those of you who don't know, which is everybody, what the premise of this game is is that you're this little character who has to defend his hometown from incoming airships. How you do that is you get airlifted onto these airships which are heading towards your town and you have a saw. So you take this saw and you saw huge chunks of the enemy airship away, and they just fall off. You have to keep sawing and sawing and sawing until this giant airship is reduced to just a little tiny spec that can't fly anymore. And then it goes poof! and then your town is saved.
So you do this over and over, and each of the ships incoming has different mechanics to it. Some are made of metal so you can only saw in certain places; some you have to bomb these vital connections; some are crawling with enemies and so forth. It was just really, really interesting. It was really different. It was really fun. The art factor was really high; it had a very quirky style to it, great music. Everything about it was fabulous. It deserved to be the next Loco Roco for Sony, and yet it didn't go anwhere; nobody heard of it. I didn't hear anybody at all talking about it, so it just completely got lost. I feel really bad for little old Patchwork Heroes, because it really deserved to find a bigger audience. So for me, that is the one that I would choose this year.
Tim Spaeth: And hopefully its presence on this show will inspire people to check it out. Let me turn now to Richard. Your vote for the "Brad Gallaway Single-Handedly Keeping Developers in Business" award.
Richard Naik: Well, this was actually a fairly difficult choice for me as well. There were about three or four different choices I was gravitating in between, and there's one that I'm actually saving for a later category. But the one I'm going to pick here is Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale. It's a little RPG; you basically play as an RPG item shop owner. The idea of exploring the life of an item shop owner is such a great idea, because they're in basically every RPG, but very rarely do you every actually learn anything about them.
For the most part, it's executed really well. The actions of acquiring and selling items is very interesting. There's a dungeon-crawling section where you go and you find items to sell. Outside of some really horrendous pacing, it's really, really good. It if wasn't for those pacing problems, this would probably be on my top ten favorites of all time list. But it is pqced terribly, so it's going to have to settle for just being really good.
Tim Spaeth: [Chuckles] And this is frequently on sale via Steam. So I ended up buying it on your recommendation at I think it was half off. It seems to always be on sale, so if your eloquent description did not inspire them, hopefully the price will. That's a good one, too. Mike?
Mike Bracken: Yes. I took the indie developers thing and just ran with it to the farthest possible, most extreme definition I could come up with. So my vote was for a game we talked about last week: Epic Dungeon. A game that one guy made. Can you get more indie than that? Basically it's a dungeon-crawler like NetHack crossed with Diablo, with lots of loot-whoring and leveling up as you go through this dungeon, fighting monsters for 50 levels.
Death is permanent, so there's a constant sense of tension; there's four different classes to play. The graphics look a little bit rough, but the game costs a dollar. This is the best dollar you could ever spend on a game and have fun. I've paid $60 for games that I didn't like as much as this little dollar game. So definitely check out Epic Dungeon; that's my vote. When one guy makes a game, that's pretty fucking indie where I'm sitting, so good for him.
Tim Spaeth: [Chuckling] And Dan Weissenberger, how about you, sir?
Dan Weissenberger: I'm actually just going to back Mike up on this one.This category's perfectly named for me, because the only experience I ever have with indie games is when Brad recommends one and I go get it. I don't spend a lot of time looking through Indie Games and I trust his recommendation. This one just blew my mind. I'm already a fan of Rouge-like games. If there was a perfect game imaginable in my mind, it would be Demon's Souls but with progressively generated dungeons.
So this thing, I loved. It showed you that, yeah, a Roguelike game is still relevant today. Between this and my other pick on the category. Spelunky, which I think technically came out last year, so enh.
It's a good time for people who like progressively generated dungeons.
Tim Spaeth: Yeah, it's a fabulous game. Fabulous game, no question. My answer here, I've mentioned it a few times on this show, so I won't belabor the point, is Game Dev Story. It's an iPhone game, ironically, about keeping an indie developer in business. Huh? You see what I did there, guys?
Mike Bracken: How meta.
Tim Spaeth: See, the game is about what the category is.
Brad Gallaway: That's like a twofer, man.
Mike Bracken: My mind is blown.
Tim Spaeth: Oh, my God! My nose is bleeding! I've already talked about it. It's $1.99, App Store, go get it. Game Dev Story, it's fantastic. Let's move on to our next category. It's category number three. [Cat meows four times]. The "Non-2010 Game of the Year." What outstanding game from your backlog did you finally get around to. I'm going to come back to Mike Bracken. What is your vote in this category?
Mike Bracken: My vote this year was for The Orange Box.
Tim Spaeth: Ooh.
Mike Bracken: Yeah. I bought it when it came out and it sat on my shelf. It's even funnier, because I had Half-Life 2, the original Xbox version, and never got around to playing it. Prior to this year, my only experience with Half-Life 2 other than reading a lot about it and seeing videos about it was I played someone's version on the PC for half an our one day, goofing around. But I liked it, but I just never got around to playing the whole thing.
Portal, oddly enough, left me feeling indifferent. Portal's neat, but I'm just not as gaga over it as everyone else is, but Half-Life 2 and the add-on episodes are definitely worthy of the praise they've received over the past few years. The most amazing thing about it, to me, is that it's aged really well.
Richard Naik: Yeah.
Mike Bracken: Half-Life 2 has been around for a long time, but yet, when you play it, it still competes with the Halos and the Call of Dutys and everything that's come since and moved the bar for FPSs up. And here's a game that's been out for years and it's still great. I had a really good time with it; I'm looking forward to the next episode, if it ever comes out. Definitely dug it.
Richard Naik: Timeless classic.
Tim Spaeth: No question; no question. One of the few games I've played multiple times. Richard?
Richard Naik: Mike, by chance did you spend any time with Team Fortress, which was also in the Orange Box?
Mike Bracken: No, hunh-unh.
Richard Naik: [sadly] Oh.
Mike Bracken: I would like to, but honestly, I think if I played Team Fortress it would be better to play it on PC, seriously.
Richard Naik: Yeah, it really would be. I was just curious if you had peeked your head in, just to see what all the fuss was about.
Mike Bracken: I did one night, and I didn't even get into a game. I didn't really get to spend any time with it. It looks really cool; I would like to try it.
Richard Naik: Oh, okay.
Tim Spaeth: [Laughter]
Richard Naik: What?
Mike Bracken: Richard wants to win me over to the Team Fortress cause.
Tim Spaeth: I love when Richard tries to sell Team Fortress. Every opportunity he has, Team Fortress. I love it.
Mike Bracken: Yeah.
Tim Spaeth: Totally! I love the passion; I love the passion. Richard, what did you get to in your backlog? What was your non-2010 game of the year?
Richard Naik: My non-2010 game of the year was the very first Phoenix Wright.
Tim Spaeth: Mm.
Mike Bracken: [thoughtfully] Mm.
Richard Naik: It succeeds in basically all the ways that an adventure game should succeed—great story, likeable characters, the investigations were fun. Basically everything that people were saying five years ago, when they were saying: "This game is awesome!" and I was like: "Enh, whatever. I don't want to buy a DS for it" is true. And this game makes me glad that a Nintendo DS magically appeared in a box in my closet.
Tim Spaeth: And that's not a joke, either. You actually did find a DS and have no idea what it's origin is.
Richard Naik: Yeah. I did. I just moved into my current apartment a few months ago, and I was going through a box and I found a DS. It's actually a DS slim, so it's not an old one. I have no idea who it belongs to; I've contacted all of my old roommates. They say they're not missing one, so it must've just been placed there so I could play Phoenix Wright.
Mike Bracken: Man, I wish somebody would place a PS3 in my other room, in the closet. That'd be pretty nice.
Tim Spaeth: Well, that's good. And, Richard, plans to play the follow-ups to Phoenix Wright?
Richard Naik: Eventually, yes. I hear that they're not as good, but I have a feeling that this could be the kind of thing that I just become addicted to, regardless of how good it is. So we'll see. After I got the original off my backlog, I immediately put the rest of them on my backlog.
Tim Spaeth: Two and three, I think—and, Brad, I think you've played them all.
Brad Gallaway: Yeah.
Tim Spaeth: You can back me up or refute. But I think two and three, definitely worth playing. Four and five, take them or leave them.
Brad Gallaway: Enh, leave them. Leave them. Leave them. But yeah, two and three for sure. As far as my money's concerned, stop there.
Richard Naik: Okay.
Tim Spaeth: And Brad, since we're hearing from you, your vote for non-2010 game of the year.
Brad Gallaway: I'm actually going to echo what my son said earlier in the podcast. I don't think he really was aware of it, but Monster Hunter: Freedom Unite actually came out in '09. I am a Monster Hunter fan, and I never got around to that one for a couple of reasons, but I figured I would do it this year, and I'm really glad that I did. Even though the game has some pretty severe camera problems, it's actually a really, really deceptively deep game. It appears to be really shallow and grind-heavy, which it is. I'm not going to say that it's not. But there is quite a bit of depth to it, and a lot of craftsmanship that went into it. A lot of really subtle nuances that you don't really pick up on until you've played for 50, 75 or 100 hours or something like that.
So I'm really glad I got around to it. I've really, really been enjoying it, and it's just been a cherry on top of the cake that I've been able to multi-play it with my son. He got to becoming a Monster Hunter head when I was playing Tri earlier this year, and so I just really like the fact that we can both play this game that we have a shared interest in and just quest together. So it's been great.
Tim Spaeth: Now, can you play that remotely when he's back home? Are you able to play together via wifi?
Brad Gallaway: Unfortunately, no. You can get a program on the PS3 which lets you do that, but he does not have access to a PS3 when he goes back home, so we've only been able to do it here, locally. It really works really well locally. I was actually surprised at how well it comes off. But unfortunately, no. We cannot do it at a distance.
Tim Spaeth: Gotcha. Gotcha. And Dan Weissenberger, your non-2010 game of the year.
Dan Weissenberger: Easiest choice. We're not going to talk a lot about it, because we did last year. I didn't play Demon's Souls until a couple of months ago, and now I can't stop. I'm playing it right now. It's fantastic.
Brad Gallaway: I told you it was good, right?
Dan Weissenberger: You did.
Brad Gallaway: Told you.
Dan Weissenberger: Everything great that anyone says about this game is true. It just deserves all of the accolades and all of the Game of the Years. If I'd have played it last year, I would've given it Game of the Year over Batman, so there you go.
Tim Spaeth: Funny you mention Batman. That is my non-2010 game of the year. I don't remember—did we talk about Batman on this show, other than Dan mentioning it as his game of the year? Did we do a Batman segment?
Richard Naik: I don't think so.
Brad Gallaway: Really? We didn't?
Mike Bracken: I thought we did, because I played it at a friend's on PS3 and I remember we talked about it a little bit at least.
Richard Naik: Yeah. I thought that was the Game of the Year show, though, but I don't know. Could be wrong.
Mike Bracken: Yeah, I'm not sure. If we didn't, we should've.
Tim Spaeth: We really should've. I played it in April after I finished Mass Effect 2, and God, what a perfect melding of Metroid Prime and Batman cool! Would you agree it's probably the best superhero game ever?
Mike Bracken: Yeah.
Dan Weissenberger: It doesn't have any competition for that title.
Tim Spaeth: [Laughter] Yeah; it's a small category.
Mike Bracken: Aside from Superman 64, but…
Tim Spaeth: [Chuckles] Well, yeah, obviously, but that's just assumed that that's the best, right, yeah. All right. Well, let's move on. Let's go to our next category. This is category number 4 [man's voice saying: "Great story. Compelling and rich." Music swells] Ennh. "Most Promising New Franchise." A brand-new IP from 2010 that has some potential legs. Let's start with Richard Naik.
Richard Naik: My pick is Monday Night Combat.
Mike Bracken: Wow.
Richard Naik: It is a third-person multiplayer shooter. As Tim just said before, I played a lot of Team Fortress 2. I've also played a lot of Halo and Counter-Strike, years and years ago, so I'm always up for a good multiplayer experience—a good focused multiplayer experience. Monday Night Combat, it has the core mechanics down pat. I think they are one of the few that has actually mastered competitive third-person combat. The vibe that I got most of all from them was from the multiplayer mode from the third Ratchet and Clank game, which was criminally left off the later games.
But I think what they really need to do now is just have some more diverse content, like different gameplay modes, different maps, stuff like that. The announcer needs more than six lines to say, or he just needs to stop talking during the games, either way. Actually, as I just found out, literally, about two hours ago, there's a PC version of Monday Night Combat coming out that will have both dedicated server support and tools to allow for user-generated content. So it may wind up getting all the things that I think it needs. It's definitely got some legs.
Tim Spaeth: I was going to mention the PC version. Will you double-dip?
Richard Naik: Yes, I will.
Tim Spaeth: Good.
Richard Naik: That's the simplest answer ever.
Tim Spaeth: Yeah. We had a very good time playing that as a family, I think.
Richard Naik: Umhm.
Mike Bracken: Yeah.
Tim Spaeth: Four out of five of us were on.
Mike Bracken: That was very good.
Brad Gallaway: Good, good times. Good game.
Mike Bracken: Good time.
Tim Spaeth: Dan Weissenberger, what about you? Most Promising New Franchise?
Dan Weissenberger: The weird part is, my pick, I don't know if it's a franchise because I'm not at the end yet. But on the recommendation of Richard and others, I got Amnesia.
Tim Spaeth: Mm.
Richard Naik: Ooh.
Dan Weissenberger: And I don't know how it ends, because I've not done it yet. But just from what I've seen already, I am ready for the next part if there is one, or whatever these guys develop next. I'm excited for more of this exact kind of gameplay and this story, specifically.
Richard Naik: The impression I get from them is there is not going to be an Amnesia 2, basically. But I actually interviewed them not too long ago, and they say they are working on something else, but would not elaborate as to what that is, at least at this time.
Dan Weissenberger: Well, if it's even a spiritual successor, I'm calling it a follow-up in the way this category is suggesting.
Richard Naik: Yeah. Okay. Now I gotcha.
Tim Spaeth: Fantastic.
Dan Weissenberger: If you haven't played it yet, it's something special.
Richard Naik: And it's really in the same vein that Dan, you said Deadly Premonition is $20; there's no excuse for you to have not played this. Amnesia is $20, and there is no excuse for you to have not played this, unless you are like me and have to drink your way through the game.
Dan Weissenberger: Scare easily.
Tim Spaeth: Fine, I'll buy it. For God's sake, stop pestering me.
Mike Bracken: I know.
Brad Gallaway: Even I bought it, so nobody has an excuse.
Mike Bracken: I haven't bought it yet. I need to.
Richard Naik: It might still be on sale for $10 on Steam. I haven't looked.
Mike Bracken: Yeah. If it's $10, I definitely got to get it.
Tim Spaeth: I got to think with the Steam holiday sale that we're going to see a price drop on that. But, yeah, Brad. Brad's playing a PC game; that's amazing. So, Brad, let me turn to you next: most promising new franchise?
Brad Gallaway: I had a little bit of trouble picking just one, so I did a double-headed choice here. The first one would be Vanquish. I really liked the light, non-serious tone to the story. It wasn't satire or anything, but it was a nice change of pace from the usual super grim and gritty tone that these shooters generally take. And also I really liked the different direction, the way that the combat took. It was cover-based, but it was fast, it was energetic, there were definitely a lot of changes in the motifs that we saw. So I think that this kind of game has a future and there was certainly plenty of room for a sequel with Vanquish.
My second choice is kind of a weird one, but I'm going to actually pick Heavy Rain, believe it or not. Although there were tons of problems with Heavy Rain—it was not a perfect game by any means—I really thought that they were generally going in the right direction with a lot of the choices, and I would really, really, really be up for more detective story kind of games. We've seen that pop up a few times this year, and I'm just really interested in that genre. I think that it's something that has plenty of room for exploration, and I think that if they got better writers next time and had a better story, that the kind of game Heavy Rain was would really lend itself to telling some really great detective stories. And again, there definitely was room for a sequel if you got the proper ending.
So I would call both of those promising starts.
Richard Naik: Depends on what you consider a "proper" ending.
Brad Gallaway: Well, I'm not going to spoil anything, but I'll just say that I think there was a proper ending. I don't know if it was a proper English ending, but a proper ending.
Tim Spaeth: Mr. Bracken?
Mike Bracken: Yes. I had a hard time with this one, too, which is really a good sign for gaming in general. That means we got some things this year that were good that weren't just the same old fucking sequels to the tired games we've been playing for the last few years.
In my heart, I really wanted to say Alan Wake, but I just couldn't. And actually, I have two picks and I need a judge's decision on this. My top pick, I'm not sure if it really counts as the most promising new franchise. My choice initially was Red Dead Redemption, which is technically not new, but it feels so different from Red Dead Revolver that's it's really easy to start to think that it is new and they're really just linked through their name alone. Redemption, as we talked about, is not perfect. The second act drags. I know Brad didn't like it at all; I know Tim and I did. But John Marston as a character is interesting, and the Old West setting is great. I would love to have more adventures in that game's world. The zombie stuff, like Undead Nightmare, is really cool, too.
But if we're not counting that, I went with another game which was kind of surprising: Dante's Inferno. What looked like a simple God of War clone manages to get everything right in borrowing from that game. It doesn't break the mold from God of War at all, but it understands what makes God of War cool and takes it and incorporates it into its own world, which is the same fucking problem Castlevania: Lords of Shaodw has, in that it just takes things without any understanding of why it works and tries to just slap them in the game and hope you love it.
The funny thing about Dante's Inferno to me is it actually does a better job of being a Castlevania game than Castlevania did this year. Those are my choices. I don't know if we're throwing Red Dead out or not. If not, it's Dante's Inferno. If we're going to let Red Dead slide, it's Red Dead.
Tim Spaeth: I cannot allow Red Dead.
As much as I agree with your logic, Mike—
Mike Bracken: Yes.
Tim Spaeth: —that it does not feel like an extension of Revolver, technically, it is the successor to that game. I cannot call it a new IP. I'm very sorry. Your choice will have to be Dante's Inferno.
Mike Bracken: All right. I can live with that; I'm okay with that.
Tim Spaeth: And, Brad, you liked that one, too, didn't you? You liked Inferno.
Brad Gallaway: Yeah. I was actually planning to bring it up in a later cagtegory, as a matter of fact.
Tim Spaeth: Huh. I think we hit everyone there on that category?
Dan Weissenberger: Yeah.
Mike Bracken: Uh-huh.
Brad Gallaway: Yep.
Tim Spaeth: I struggled with this one a lot, because I actually did have problems thinking of one. But the more I thought about Enslaved, particuarly after the Pigsy's Perfect 10 DLC, the more I really want to go back to that universe. I like what they started there, and the game ends with a real sense of: What's next? There is a wide opening for a sequel there. So I hope that once they finish Devil May Cry, that Ninja Theory does come back and revisit the Enslaved IP.
I do want to mention, since I'm talking about Enslaved, we recieved a lovely letter from a gentleman named Matthew Hart. He is actually a senior producer at Ninja Theory; he actually wrote Pigsy's Perfect 10 and he wrote just thanking us for our Enslaved segment a few weeks ago, so I wanted to thank Mr. Hart for taking the time to do that. That was very cool.
Let's move on to our next category. This is category number 5. Category number 5. [Music] This is going to be good. This is going to be good, guys: Most Disappointing Game of the Year. You wanted this game to be so good, so sweet. You thought it would taste unh! so delicious. But it didn't. It was soul-crushing.
Mike Bracken: It tasted like burning.
Tim Spaeth: It did. It tasted like burning.
Richard Naik: The tar pits are making me nauseous.
Tim Spaeth: Let's start with Dan. Dan, what was your most disappointing game of the year?
Dan Weissenberger: Okay, this might come across as a little controversial, but what you've got to remember here is that this is not the worst game of the year. That's later. This is the biggest disappointment, and that was Red Dead Redemption.
Mike Bracken: Waah.
Dan Weissenberger: Okay. [Chuckles] Just because—
Richard Naik: It sounds like you [unkown] something.
Mike Bracken: Such a divisive game.
Dan Weissenberger: The thing is, I really loved Red Dead Revolver, and I'm not going to complain about it becoming an open-world game because I love open-world games. What I'm going to say is, that game didn't have an excuse for being as boring a game as it was. The endless fetch quests; the endless riding places. It took forever to get anywhere in that game. Had the journey been half the fun, it would be one thing. But it's not like there were interesting locations. It wasn't like Shadow of the Colossus, where the landscape itself was so beautiful that you could just ride through it. It was jsut more trees, more hills, more desert. I would have gone mad if I didn't abuse the instant travel, and there were so many missions that didn't let me that I was just angry at the game by the end.
Tim Spaeth: I agree with you, Dan. I do. I do not think that's a controversial selection. But I do want to ask you this. Mike and I haven't talked about this, either. I believe that the final three hours of that game—and I'm not talking about the twist, I'm taking about the three hours that precede it—are genius.
Mike Bracken: Umhm.
Dan Weissenberger: Oh, yeah.
Tim Spaeth: I can't say a word without spoiling it.
Dan Weissenberger: Don't spoil it.
Tim Spaeth: Yeah, the way that goes down, I thought, was brilliant. Would you agree with me there?
Dan Weissenberger: Oh, it's fantastic. I just couldn't abide the 30 hours it took to get to that three hours.
Tim Spaeth: Yeah. I said the same thing when we did our Rockstar show.
Dan Weissenberger: Okay.
Tim Spaeth: I agree with you 100 percent.
Mike Bracken: Yeah. You definitely spend a lot of time riding places; that sucks. It especially sucks when you can't skip it during a mission, especially when tehre's no reason for why you can't. The NPCs are talking, but they're not telling you anything particularly relevant to what you're about to go do. That's definitely a problem.
Brad Gallaway: If I could just chip in for a second. I definitely agree with what Dan is saying, and I also hear what you guys are saying. It's tough for me. In fact, I think that Red Dead was probably the game I wrestled with the most this year, because I had just so many people sending me messages and e-mail and on Twitter saying it was just so fantastic. And yet, at the same time, I just did not see it. And everybody said the same thing: "Get to the end. The end is so awesome; the end is so great."
And that may very well be true. I did not finish the game, and to be perfectly honest, I couldn't force myself to play through it. I have many, many issues and we're not going to get into that now. That's another show, for sure. But I just got to say that I just had some kind of core values dilemma because I felt like I should play it and I should get through it, but, man. It's just such a turn-off, such a bore, so tedious. I couldn't do it. So I think if we were going to have a category for Biggest Conundrum of the Year, that would be mine, for sure.
Mike Bracken: [Chuckles].
Tim Spaeth: Yeah. To somebody who's maybe five hours into it and is debating whether to go on, I would probably tell them to stop. But if they had invested the 25 hours, I would tell them to go the rest of the way. But you're right. It's a tough game to crack—very, very divisive. Brad, while you have the mike, share with us your most disappointing game of the year.
Brad Gallaway: Sure, no problem. And this one was actually a really big disappointment for me. I'm actually going to pick Dead Rising 2 as my most disappointing game of the year.
Mike Bracken: Damn you.
Dan Weissenberger: That was actually second on my list, so that's not controversial at all.
Brad Gallaway: Great minds, obviously. I was a pretty big fan of the first Dead Rising. It had its problems, but I loved it and I played through it. I even did a strategy guide for it and stuff. I spent a lot of time with the game, and I really thought that there were just endless opportunities to take that same game and make it better. Instead, what we got was virtually a carbon-copy of the first Dead Rising. There were certainly some tweaks. It was easier, which was great.
Dan Weissenberger: Oh, yeah. [Laughter]
Brad Gallaway: The "survivors" were now actually able to be rescued, which I thought was great. There were a few other tweaks to it, but in general, it was almost note for note the exact same game.
Mike Bracken: It's the exact same.
Brad Gallaway: Yeah, exactly: the way the locations were, the things that you did, th enemies you met.
Mike Bracken: Some of the missions, yeah.
Brad Gallaway: The missions, the endgame. It literally, literally was a redo of Dead Rising 1 with a different character and just a few things that were tweaked. It was almost a carbon copy. I really wanted to see more. I wanted to see more risks taken, and the item combination was just not anywhere nearly enough to make that experience fresh for me again. So that was a huge disappointment for me.
Mike Bracken: Yeah.
Dan Weissenberger: I just want to jump in quickly with Brad on this one. It was a huge disappointment for the same reasons, and what pained me about it was what an easy fix it is—well, for me, anyway. I didn't have as high expectations as he did for this one, but seriously, who wants to spend 20 minutes building a weapon and have it break after 20 seconds?
Mike Bracken: Yeah.
Brad Gallaway: Exactly, exactly.
Dan Weissenberger: If you took that game and you turned off weapon degredation and just let people use whatever weapon they want to kill thousands of zombies, I think it would double that game's playability.
Brad Gallaway: Totally.
Mike Bracken: Oh.
Brad Gallaway: It would [be?] such a big shift. It would make it so fun. It would actually give those weapons reasons to exist.
Dan Weissenberger: I played through the game just using [guns?], because there's no point to building anything.
Mike Bracken: Here were my problems with it. I found the first game incredibly disappointing, because the survivor AI was so terrible, and it was just frustrating to try to get anyone anywhere in that fucking game. And the save system in a game should not be designed to punish a gamer.
And I always felt like the save system in Dead Rising was designed because the developers actually hated everyone who played their game. I was really skeptical when Dead Rising 2 was announced. I was like: "Enh." This should be a slam dunk for me, being a horror guy. It's like fucking playing Dawn of the Dead, basically. You're in a mall with zombies. That's perfect. But I was like: "But they fucked up the first one, and I'm not convinced they're going to fix this one." And then they gave me Case Zero.
Dan Weissenberger: Yeah.
Brad Gallaway: Yeah.
Mike Bracken: And I played Case Zero, and Case Zero is so fucking right. Pretty much everything except the weapons breaking is right in Case Zero. The survivors are easy to control; it's a nice location. It's not in a mall. You've got enough time to do everything, and you've got enough time to branch off and just slaughter zombies if you want to. So I'm all on board for Dead Rising 2, and then I get it a week and a half ago, and I play it. It's the same fucking game, and what happened to everything that was in Case Zero that was so great? Why am I back to doing this shit again?
And the problem is, and we hinted at this on an earlier show, the Japanese design open-world games differently than Westerners. Westerners make games like GTA, where the story is important, but it's not important important. You can take a break from the story and fucking go off and do whatever, and maybe never come back to the story. Or come back to it if you want. The Japanese, and particularly Capcom, seem obsessed with this idea of making you do things on their time schedule. And that's great, if you have a narrative that's worthy of being linear and directing me through it, because you don't want me to step off and do my own thing. But in a game where there are seven fucking thousand zombies on screen at once, why am I running around them like they're pylons? Like I'm OJ Simpson on a dash to the end zone?
Why am I not using these weapons to slaughter fucking 50,000 zombies on my way to where I want to go? Why is my enemy an inanimate object, a clock, not these slavering, undead monsters that want to eat me? And that's why this series disappoints the hell out of me. If I want to race the clock, I'll go get some fucking racing game or something. If I want to kill zombies, I want to play Dead Rising, where I actually get to fucking kill zombies.
Dan Weissenberger: I can't believe I'm weighing in this much on this game, but I want to back up Mike here on this one. Also goddamn inexcusable: the lack of a freeform zombie-killing mode.
Mike Bracken: Yeah.
Dan Weissenberger: The first game had it. Just pull in a mall full of zombies, get rid of the story. The first game had it. Why did they take it out of the second game?
Mike Bracken: Yeah.
Dan Weissenberger: It's inexcusable.
Mike Bracken: All I want to do is fucking kill zombies. I don't want to fucking race the clock to get everywhere. I want to go back to the story when I'm ready, but don't make me fucking run through it. And the story's shit, so there's no reason to make me run through this stupid, fucking story anyway. And the last fucking boss is so goddamn cheap that it's unreal.
Brad Gallaway: It doesn't even make sense, either. And just to add one more piece of fuel to the fire: Exactly what you said, Mike. I wasn't hyped for it until I played Case Zero. I loved Case Zero, and so that turned me around and got me hyped for it. And I got to say: I buy very, very few games on release day for full price. It's really expensive: $60 is a lot of money to me. And a game has to have me so incredibly jazzed for me to even consider buying it for full price. This was one that I bought for fucking full price.
Dan Weissenberger: Me, too.
Brad Gallaway: I was totally thinking that the stuff we saw in Case Zero was going to carry forward. I'm like: "Well, I'm going to reward Capcom for this, because they really have shown me what I wanted to see. So I'm going to line up and pay for this," even though in the back of my mind, I thought: "Well, I should probably wait." And I didn't.
Mike Bracken: [Chuckles]
Brad Gallaway: Just one more reason why it was my most disappointing game of the year.
Mike Bracken: The worst thing is, this is a game that's easily fixed and they've had two cracks at it and they fucked it up both times. I'm not convinced that they'll ever fix it. I wish they'd give it to someone who actually had a clue what they were doing and would do it right. Then it would be fantastic.
Dan Weissenberger: The sad part is, I'm totally going to buy Case West.
Mike Bracken: Me, too.
Brad Gallaway: I will, too, actually.
Tim Spaeth: Suckers! Suckers!
Brad Gallaway: Yeah, totally. [Laughter] The [pathetic?] thing is, it'll probably be better. It'll probably be better than Dead Rising 2.
Tim Spaeth: Mike, is it safe to say that's your most disappointing, officially, of the year?
Mike Bracken: Yes. Yes.
Tim Spaeth: So I think that leaves Richard. Your most disappointing game of the year?
Richard Naik: This should come as absolutely no surprise, but Sonic the Hedgehog 4.
Tim Spaeth: Enough said. [Chuckles] Enough said. Unless there's something you wanted to add.
Richard Naik: This is just what I had written in my notes, so I feel obligated to say it now.
Tim Spaeth: Of course.
Richard Naik: When I heard they were making a return to 2D, I had hope for the franchise for the first time in a very long time. Like Dan said, there was the Sonic Adventure games, which sucked; there was Sonic Heroes, which was just…guh. There was that stupid one where he turns into a werewolf or a werehog or whatever.
Dan Weissenberger: [Laughter]
Richard Naik: I don't even remember what it was called, it was so awful. But when I heard they were going to go back to 2D, I'm like: "Okay, they're finally starting to get it. They're going to start just churning out these short little 2D games that are updates of the first game." It's nothing groundbreaking, but it'd be good. It'd be Sonic again. Sonic would be himself.
When I discovered that they couldn't even do 2D anymore, and not only could they not do 2D, but the levels and the enemy types in Sonic 4 are straight rip-offs. Not just "inspired by;" not just "derivative of"—rip-offs. They are exactly the same as stuff in Sonic 1 or Sonic 2. Every level, every enemy, every boss, or at least the first phase of every boss, is from Sonic 1 or Sonic 2. And so they just straight up lifted the stuff from the games that were good in the past, put it in this one, and it still wasn't good.
Tim Spaeth: [Chuckles]
Richard Naik: That convinces me that it's done. No. And to top it all off, the crap icing on the cake, they made a Sonic soundtrack that is boring.
Dan Weissenberger: [Laughter]
Richard Naik: No. I'm done. Sorry.
Tim Spaeth: I only played the demo. It is indistinguishable to me from the very first Sonic the Hedgehog.
Richard Naik: Yeah.
Tim Spaeth: But I do have a question, since you played the whole game: Does this Sonic 4 feature animals fornicating?
Richard Naik: No, it does not. Or if it did, it's some crazy, weird unlockable that I didn't find.
Tim Spaeth: Because I understand the later Sonic games, that's a big plot point.
Richard Naik: It must've been past the ones where I played, because I don't remember it. Or maybe I do remember, and I'm just blocking it out of my mind.
Tim Spaeth: I'll Google it later. That's fine.
Richard Naik: I'm sure it's on YouTube somewhere.
Tim Spaeth: [Chuckles] My pick in this category, Most Disappointing Game of the Year, and I alluded to it last week. 2010 was just a chain of disappointments for me, kicking the year off with Mass Effect 2, in large part Red Dead Redemption, StarCraft II. Just last week I railed on World of Warcraft: Cataclysm. Just triple-A title after triple-A title not meeting my expectations, and ultimately depressing the living daylights out of me, to the point where I considered quitting gaming, and actually did, for a few weeks.
But nothing was more hurtful—genuinely hurtful—than Civilization V. Not just because of the broken AI or the half-finished game systems. The game was disappointing mostly because after all these years, I have played so much Civilization that I'm not sure Firaxis could release any iteration of this game that could recapture the magic for me. And that just made me sad more than anything else. Civ V is a bad game. I would say it's in the bottom tier of Civilization games. But after the magnificent peak of Civilization IV and my own tedium with the franchise, I just feel bad that this isn't going to be part of my life anymore. But I am done with Civilization and it's dead and buried to me. I would love for Sid Meier to move on to something new. I hope he does soon.
So with that. let's do one more category and then we will take a break. This category, number six [Liam Neeson as Zeus saying: "Release the Kraken."] "Best Argument for Games as Art." I'm just going to jump in here and say Limbo. Done. Mike, your turn.
Mike Bracken: Limbo. Done. No. The gameplay may be little more than platforming and puzzle-solving with a little bit of collecting thrown in to make it interesting, but the visual design of this game is just so breathtaking that you're sure to find yourself just stopping to drink in the visuals and the ambience and the atmosphere. We know gaming is about more than just graphics and the visuals, and Limbo is more than just a pretty game, but the black and white design of it is so captivating that this game surely has to push forward the notion that games can be art.
Tim Spaeth: Dan Weissenberger.
Dan Weissenberger: Deadly Premonition.
I don't think I need to explain more; I did that for an hour already.
Brad Gallaway: Yeah, he's written—
Mike Bracken: He's got 11 entries.
Tim Spaeth: If memory serves, we have a whole show about Deadly Premonition.
Dan Weissenberger: And why it's art and why it's the best video game story you're ever going to play, so just go listen to that if you want to know why it's games as art.
Tim Spaeth: [Chuckles] Brad Gallaway, your vote.
Brad Gallaway: I went with Limbo. It'a kind of a no-brainer, for everything you guys said previously. It's visually powerful; it's subtle; it's elegant. It's the perfect argument for games as art, so Limbo.
Tim Spaeth: And Richard?
Richard Naik: Limbo is certainly a worthy choice. I have no problem with that at all. But the one I went with was Super Mario Galaxy 2. The reason for that is something Tim said a few shows ago, and I'm going to gleefully rip it off now: "Every level is like a present." Like what Mike was saying about just stopping to drink in the aesthetic of Limbo, I found myself doing that a lot in Mario Galaxy 2, and really in Mario Galaxy 1 as well—just with the way the planets are built and just how you move around them, and the absolute precision with which the first game has been tweaked, to where it's so streamlined now. It's just amazing.
It's turned something that could have really just been another sequel scrumming for cash, which, granted, it was, but that level of care made it into a classic in its own right, I think. With both of the Super Mario Galaxy games, I don't see how you could play either one and say that games aren't art.
Tim Spaeth: Yeah. Craft. Craft is the word I used.
Richard Naik: Craft, yes, thank you.
Tim Spaeth: Yeah, you'll hear more about Galaxy 2 as this show goes on. That's a great choice, Richard. It's certainly right up there with Limbo for me. By the way, for those who didn't hear our big Limbo discussion—I think one of the best discussions we had on this podcas, episode 38—all of us had played Limbo. We talked about the entire game. Go back and listen to that. It's a really, really good show, if I do say so myself.
So we are just shy of halfway through the awards. We're going to take a quick break here. When we come back, we have something called the "Too Human Award for Inexplicable Excellence." Stay with us. More of our holiday spectacular right after this.
Welcome back from the break; I hope you're well-rested and injected full of nog. We're going to get right to our next award. It's category number seven. [Some guy: "If you want to become wealthy, come to my seminar."] This is the "Too Human Award for Inexplicable Excellence." This is an award given to a game that is not good; you know it's not good. Intellectually, it cannot be good, and yet you crave it like the dad from Alf craves crack cocaine.
Mike Bracken: Oh, Willy.
Tim Spaeth: So Mike, I'm going to start with you. Your nominee?
Mike Bracken: All right. My nominee is no surprise to anyone who listened to me wax rhapsodic about it a few weeks ago. I'm going with Alan Wake. Alan is a giant douchnozzle and this game definitely has issues, but I'll be damned if it wasn't on of the best experiences I had gaming this year.
Tim Spaeth: And we did a couple segments on Alan Wake here on the show, so much to be said about that. That's a great choice for that. Dan, what about you?
Dan Weissenberger: It's a rehash of last year's. My biggest guilty pleasure genre is fantasy open-world games. I cannot get enough of the experience of being on a beach somewhere and looking up at a city that's built out of a cliff. I'm like: "You know what? I can walk there if I want to without any interruptions." So these year it's Gothic 4: Arcania.
Not a good game at all.
Mike Bracken: Yeah.
Dan Weissenberger: It's a terrible game, but it's better than last year's pick: Two Worlds. And provides basically the same experience of: "I want to see a castle in the distance and I want to walk there" and these games let me do that. That's all I need.
Tim Spaeth: Beautiful. Beautiful.
Richard Naik: Arcania's maybe half a rung above Two Worlds.
Dan Weissenberger: I'd say it was good.
Tim Spaeth: Brad, your choice for this award?
Brad Gallaway: I'm going to go in a little bit of a different direction than you guys, in that I think that the game that I'm going to choose actually is kinda good, but I think it was just so bizarre to me that it was good that I had to put it in this category. That is a game that came up earlier: Dante's Inferno. I was all ready to hate on this game, based on the completely stupid advertising campaign that EA did for it.
Mike Bracken: Umhm.
Brad Gallaway: The very idea of taking that particular book and making a game just made no sense. At all. And it just seemed like fail from the start. I had no idea how this was going to work. To be honest, when I played the demo at PAX a couple years ago, I was like: "Wow. Could you be a bigger fucking rip-off of God of War than this game is?" And yet, when I actually sat down with the finished product and I spent time and I gave it a chance to really unfold as the developers wanted, I really liked it a lot.
Mike Bracken: Yeah.
Brad Gallaway: I really liked it more than I ever expected to. I thought they did a great job with it. I didn't have any of the problems that a lot of people bitched about. It just was good. To be honest, I'm really looking forward to part 2.
Mike Bracken: It does everything God of War does well, and it it does it well, too. And it doesn't bother to try to change that formula at all, but it's good at doing what it does. I really like that game, too.
Tim Spaeth: I think that's it. I don't have a selection here. Richard, I don't think you have a selection.
Richard Naik: I do not.
Tim Spaeth: So let's move on. It's time for category number eight. [Man's voice: "Ding, ding."] "The Best Argument for Abandoning Discs." What was the finest thing you downloaded all year? Richard, I will turn to you.
Richard Naik: Well, my selection is just going to be off-topic a little bit. My best argument for abandoning discs is me.
I think I can count on one hand the number of games I've bought on disc in the past four years.
Mike Bracken: How did you get on this show?
Richard Naik: I don't know.
Mike Bracken: We all bitch about how we don't want downloadable stuff to be the norm, and we got Richard, who doesn't buy anything physical anymore. Too funny.
Richard Naik: It's just, I don't like dealing with discs. I like the kind of security that comes with being able to redownload my games at any time if my computer is stolen or if my house catches on fire. So, my best argument is me, myself and I.
Tim Spaeth: I love that answer, and I'm so happy we have you on the show, Richard, because despite what Mike said, your counterpoint to our general disdain for the downloadable universe, it's valuable. It's valuable to have that perspective. And as the show has progressed over the two and a half years, I have slowly started to come to your side. Just not quite there yet, but you raise compelling points for it. Mike, what about you?
Mike Bracken: I'm never going to be there.
I like my physical media; I like my shelves of games. But my best argument for abandoning discs this year was Limbo. And that's all I got.
Tim Spaeth: Yeah. No doubt. No doubt. Brad, what about you?
Brad Gallaway: I have to say that this also was another tough one. I was going to say Epic Dungeon, but we've already picked that one before earlier in the show. I was going to say Explosionade, coming from Mommy's Best Games, which I really had a great time with and I really enjoyed. But I think that my final choice is going to be kind of the obvious one, and I'm going to go with Super Meat Boy. I really enjoyed that game quite a bit; I thought it was excellently made, and I think that Super Meat Boy, along with Epic Dungeon and Explosionade is the kind of game that never would've been released without the advent of these downloadable services. So I'm really glad that there was an avenue for these things to arrive.
Tim Spaeth: Good answers and all great games. Dan, what about you?
Dan Weissenberger: Yeah, that's kinda my argument, too, because I picked Super Meat Boy. It has the exact [feel of] what I feel a downloadable game should feel like. You can jump in, play it for two minutes and leave or you can put hours into it. It is the perfect pick up and play game. This is what I want $10 of game to be. It's the exact value. So, Super Meat Boy.
Tim Spaeth: You know, I forgot about Meat Boy as I was coming up with my pick, and that's a really compelling choice—as is Limbo, as is downloading Richard.
My selection is the highest downloadable title on my top 10 list, and that's Pinball FX 2.
Dan Weissenberger: Oh.
Tim Spaeth: I talked about my love of pinball a few weeks ago on a show; I'm going to give two reasons. First, I want to commend Zen Studios, the developer of this game, who allowed us to import all of the original pinball tables from Pinball FX 1 for free.
Dan Weissenberger: Yeah.
Tim Spaeth: They could easily have charged an import fee, and I probably would've paid it, but they didn't. They said: "You know what? You already own these tables; here are upgraded versions of them with better graphics, better physics and all the leaderboard support of the sequel." So kudos to Zen for that.
Secondly, and apart from just being a great game of pinball, Zen has embraced the social competition, the leaderboards that we've seen in games like Geometry Wars 2. You are constantly being informed that you are X points away from the next highest score. It actually awards you extra points and extra rewards for having more friends on your friends list who play the game. I have about 40 friends—most of them who I know, some who I don't—on my friends list, so that I have plenty of scores to work towards. Dan, I think you're on there somewhere, but oddly, for you, you're not very high on the leaderboards.
Dan Weissenberger: Yeah. I actually had huge Internet problems right when I downloaded Pinball FX 2, so I haven't actually played it online since I downloaded it.
Tim Spaeth: To me, it seems like your kind of game, and I expect that you'll be way higher in the leaderboards at some point.
Dan Weissenberger: It might've even made it onto this list, had I been able to spend any real time with it, because it is fantastic. You're completely right.
Tim Spaeth: Yeah. It is; it's great, and I love this pinball rennaissance that we're in. I do want to give one more shout-out to our buddy Peter Skeerrit, our friend and colleague. He is I think top 20 in the world at this game—absurdly high scores. I have no idea how he does it. He and I also single-handedly keeping Game Room afloat.
Dan Weissenberger: [Laughter]
Tim Spaeth: So a big shout-out to Peter, and congratulations to him.
Dan Weissenberger: But if they could just get Elvira: Scared Stiff on that thing, it would be the best pinball game ever.
Tim Spaeth: Yeah.
Mike Bracken: Is Addams Family on there?
Tim Spaeth: Not yet. That's sort of the Holy Grail.
Mike Bracken: Yeah.
Tim Spaeth: That and Twilight Zone.
Dan Weissenberger: This is all conversation with people who haven't played Elvira: Scared Stiff, so, trust me.
Tim Spaeth: [Laughter] Well then, let's move on. We've got another fun award, and I think only Brad and I are brave enough to dip our toes into this one. It's: "The Internet Has No Idea What They're Talking About" Award. Category nine. [Music plays] As I like to describe it, it's us versus five million fanboys. Let's take a stand; let's tell them why they're wrong. Brad, I'm going to make you go first so you can take all the heat.
Brad Gallaway: Oh, man! I honestly dread this category. And this was tough. In fact, I almost was going to lie and say that I had no pick, because I'm envisioning the e-mail I'm going to get after this, and I'm going to hate myself for even speaking during this segment. But I'm going to preface this by saying that there are a lot of my friends and a lot of colleagues in the game reviewsphere who I totally respect, who are brilliant, who are very intelligent, who are very well read and well spoken who love this game. And a lot of people just had nothing but positive to say. I'm not saying that they're wrong, although I guess that I am.
But I'm simply saying that, literally like the category says, I have no idea what they're talking about. For me, this year, that game was Bayonetta. I've heard nothing bu accolades from a lot of peopel that I have nothing but love for, and when I played this game, I was like: "Is this even the fucking same game? Is there an alternate version that I got? Did I get this unfinished copy, or something?" It was just pure ass on a disc.
The decisions in that game were really just off the wall and nonsensical. The combat was good; I liked the core combat engine. I will say that was fairly well done, but the story was terrible; the cut-scenes were terrible; the structure of the game was terrible; the camera was awful in a lot of the missions. It just went on and on. It was really repetitive in some sections. I could not see what people were holding this game up as something to be praised for. It didn't make any sense to me. I have no idea what people are talking about, and I get that maybe I'm going to be one of the only people this year who doesn't have infinite love for Bayonetta, but for me, this game was a complete failure and a misfire.
So I apologize in advance. Please don't feel the need to send me any e-mail after this show, because I already know. It's just, for me, Bayonetta, no. No. Just not happening this year.
Mike Bracken: You said that to get traffic to the site, didn't you?
Brad Gallaway: Yes. I'm being an outlier.
Mike Bracken: An outlier. Fucking outlier.
Brad Gallaway: I am saying that to get traffic. It is a preconceived ploy to inflame fanboys across the 'net. There you go. Whatever.
Tim Spaeth: Did anyone else play it? I didn't play it.
Richard Naik: I played the demo, and to be totally honest with you, just based on that, I can totally see where Brad's perspective is coming from. So, there's one.
Mike Bracken: I have it on my game queue, and I keep moving it down because honestly, I think it looks retarded.
But I will play it at some point. I just look at it, the hair and all that. I'm just like, I don't know. It just looks weird to me.
Tim Spaeth: Well, my selection for this category, far less controversial. For me, there was no obvious stand out choice like last year's Bionic Commando: fantastic game, no idea why people just hated on it so much. Just a fantastic experience. Nothing stood out to me like that.
But I think the Internet made a big mistake this year ignoring Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands. It's a real shame, because that is a damn proper Prince of Persia game. Probably the best one since Sands of Time. Why was it ignored? For one, it was tied to that horrible movie—that awful, terrible Jake Gyllenhaal disaster. And also ignored because it was released the same week as Red Dead Redemption. But now that Forgotten Sands is $20, it really deserves a second look. Just a great entry in the series, and I think it's a real shame that people just forgot about it. So, Brad, you played it, didn't you? Forgotten Sands?
Brad Gallaway: Yeah, I did. I thought it was good. It didn't really bowl me over, but I'm a fan of the proper Prince of Persia games. I didn't really appreaciate that one-off they did last time. But this one was good. It wasn't anything mind-blowing and it certainly didn't feel like it actually belonged as a "midquel" or whatever they were trying to position it as, but it was fine. If you ignored all the other Prince of Persia games and if you don't really care about the story, I thought it was very, very enjoyable, very playable, well put together. Yeah, it was good.
Tim Spaeth: Yeah. Very good game.
Dan Weissenberger: I'm just going to jump in here with the same two words I always jump in with: Deadly Premonition.
You want to know why the Internet was wrong? We've got an hour telling you.
Tim Spaeth: [Laughter] That we do, sir. That we do. Well, our next category, category 11 [Music plays] is the "Steaming Pile Award." And now we're getting down to it, folks. We're getting down to the big awards. This is, quite simply, the worst game of the year. I'm going to take the lead here, because I need to get this out. If this was any other year, this award would easily go to Metroid: Other M.
Which, as the kids would say, is a complete hot mess. An asinine control scheme, a completely broken combat system, and an insulting, borderline sexist narrative. But fortunately for Metroid: Other M, it's 2010, which also saw the release of the actual worst game of the year: Final Fantasy XIII.
Most critics cite XIII's linearity as its chief fault, and that's valid. But it's really a symptom of a larger problem, and that is that Square-Enix finally and completely lost touch with reality. They removed from this game by their own admission anything that was too expensive to produce, so towns, shops, NPCs, and also a laundry list of items that American gamers have cited as annoying, such as having to heal after battle.
But what Square didn't do is replace any of those missing elements with new ones—with innovations of any kind. They basically gutted the JRPG and released that. So the result…"hollow" doesn't begin to do it justice, but let's call it a hollow experience. An endless chain of identical combat encounters tied together by a story incomprehensible even by Final Fantasy standards.
Mike Bracken: Which is really saying something.
Richard Naik: Umhm.
Tim Spaeth: Wholly unlikeable, humorless characters, and when I arrived at the final boss completely underleveled and realized that I would need to grind for ten more hours, I threw the game out against the wall in absolute disgust. Final Fantasy XIII is not just the worst game of the year; it is the worst of all the numbered Final Fantasys, keeping in mind I haven't played XIV and will not play XIV. And XIII is arguably the worst triple-A title of this generation. It is my greatest hope that this franchise—once my favorite franchise—dies here today and now. To Final Fantasy I say good night, and good riddance.
Show's over. Show's over.
Dan Weissenberger: I just want to quickly mention here, I haven't actually played a Final Fantasy game since Final Fantasy VII I finihsed VII and I'm like: "I'm not going to have a better experience than this," so I just never went back.
Mike Bracken: Oh, man. See, I think VII is so fucking overrated.
Richard Naik: You should try IX.
Mike Bracken: IX is good.
Richard Naik: IX is good.
Dan Weissenberger: Okay. All right. I will look into it now that I just know to not keep going after that. Don't play that one; don't play online; don't play the one that's just Star Wars. Gotcha.
Tim Spaeth: So I don't know if any of you can match that, but you're welcome to give it a shot. Brad, what do you got?
Brad Gallaway: Well, I don't think anything any of us have is going to top what you just said, but for me, far and away the worst game I played—and keep in mind, I actually didn't play Final Fantasy XIII—is Naughty Bear. I hate Naughty Bear. And in fact, Naughty Bear was a game I felt like I was going to love. It's a serial killer bear in the woods, killing candy-colored other bears. What's not to like about that? It's a golden premise.
But the camera was so bad, I literally felt like I was going to vomit on my floor. I had to actually turn the 360 off to prevent myself from losing my lunch. The levels are just really, really small and tiny. There's no craftsmanship involved. The camera sucks. It's a score-based grindfest, which to me makes no sense when there are at least six other genres this game could've been successful in. And they staggeringly kept releasing DLC for it, long after the entire Internet had written it off.
It just was a complete failure from the get-go. I have no idea why they even bothered to release the game, honestly. I really, really really can't imagine some executive somewhere playing this for five minutes and saying: "Yes, we're going to go with this this year." It just makes no sense to me. So for me the biggest steaming pile, Naughty Bear.
Tim Spaeth: Good effort there, Brad. Good effort. I'm sure it was pretty bad. Dan, what about you?
Dan Weissenberger: Well, I've played Naughty Bear, and it wasn't my worst game of the year, so that tells you how bad my game is. It's a game I just reviewed for the site; it's currently still on the front page, and that game is Blood Drive. I've got a review out, so I don't have to get into too much of it, but suffice to say, it's a game about driving over zombies in a car, in which the zombies frequently forget to appear.
And I don't think I need to say any more. When you've that fundamentally missed out on the premise of your game, no. You're the worst game of the year.
Tim Spaeth: Seems to defeat the purpose of having a car and zombies.
Dan Weissenberger: Oh, yes. And of course the Tournament mode asks you to play every game mode on every map in a row without stopping.
Tim Spaeth: Oh, God.
Dan Weissenberger: Two solid hours of looking for zombies to run over.
Tim Spaeth: Ugh. Well, that does sound bad.
Dan Weissenberger: It is bad.
Tim Spaeth: That does sound bad. Richard?
Richard Naik: I did play Final Fantasy XIII this year. I only got five hours into it before I finally gave up, but it was not the worst game of the year for me. That distinction goes to Hydrophobia.
Hydrophobia is a game about really cool powers with water, like being able to pick up chunks or globs or whatever the correct physical term is, just pieces of water and move them around and create waves and do this kind of cool stuff, in which that power is not actually in the game. At all.
You basically play this really terrible version of Uncharted, and once you finish that—if you can finish that. I still don't know how the hell I did it—at the end of that, you unlock this sandbox room, in which you finally get that power. And it completely blows my mind that this game was released with the single best thing about it—the only thing that would've made it even remotely redeemable—hidden in the back room behind a bunch of boxes and wrapped in a layer of raccoon shit.
It is the most mind-boggling design decision I have ever seen. So Hydrophobia is the worst game. I would challenge you to find a worse game than Hydrophobia.
Tim Spaeth: Well, Mike Bracken, can you do it?
Mike Bracken: I would like to go with Final Fantasy XIII, but I didn't play enough of it. I still fully intend to get a copy and play through as much as I can stand, but honestly, I don't have any hope for it really being good. The little bit I played was not super-exciting. It's just really funny to me that Square-Enix says: "Oh, well. We didn't want to spend the money on putting towns in, so that's why we didn't do it."
If you're Square-Enix and this is your fucking flagship franchise and you're admitting you didn't want to spend the money on it, is this industry really in more trouble than we realize? That's just scary. My choice is not a real surprise, based on how I've talked through the show. I went with Castlevania. I didn't play a lot of bad games this year; somehow I managed to avoid [them.] Usually in a standard year of reviewing, I get an Aquaman or something like that. This year I was pretty lucky.
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, though, I'm absolutely flummoxed. I saw Game Informer give this game a nine, and I just don't fucking understand where the logic comes from. It has a horrible camera, the gameplay is a boring combat system with just mashing whip attacks and everything with two magic modes—one that heals you as you deal damage, and one that deals extra damage. The enemies are all repetitive; it's just the same couple enemies over and over and over. It's full of ideas stolen from games like God of War and Shadow of Colossus, and a dozen other great games, and they just threw them into this game in the most soulless way possible and put no thought into why [they work].
Like the Colossus fights. In Shadow of the Colossus, you're climbing up these monsters and it's really awe-inspiring as you climb up them. Basically all Castlevania thought about it was: "Wouldn't it be awesome if you could climb these really big things?" They have no grasp of why Shadow of the Colossus works the way it does. They just took this because they thought it looked cool. It's just an absolutely soulless game. And then fucking Patrick Stewart and Robert Carlyle with the most overwrought voice acting ever.
Every chapter starts with Patrick Stewart reading this fucking gigantic dialogue about the game, and he's telling you how Gabriel, Robert Carlyle's character, is so beseiged by evil and overcome by rage. Never once in the fucking actual game do you see him do anything that indicates that he's beseiged by evil or overcome by rage. Just Patrick Stewart fucking telling me over and over again. After three chapters I just started skipping it. It's a steaming pile, and it's my steaming pile of the year.
Tim Spaeth: Well spoken, sir. And I think it's great that we're all in agreement—Final Fantasy XIII is the worst game of the year.
Mike Bracken: I wouldn't argue. I think there's something to that.
Tim Spaeth: Man, we played a lot of bad games this year, didn't we?
Mike Bracken: Yeah.
Tim Spaeth: So we're down to three awards left. This next one will be very quick, I think, as only Richard and I have nominees. We call it category 12 [Man says: "How about a sandwich?"] "There's Nothing Wrong with a Little Self-Love." It's an award in which we describe our favorite moment from this year's GameCritics.com podcast shows. And Richard, I think you have one, unless I'm mistaken?
Richard Naik: Yes, I do.
Tim Spaeth: Please, do share.
Richard Naik: Okay. Well, this has to do with Brad, so, Brad, in the virtual studio we are now in, I am now staring in your general direction.
Brad Gallaway: And quite a stare it is.
Richard Naik: It is. Brad is someone that I respect. He's a very good writer and he is [in] large part a reason why I am currently writing for GameCritics. On the last podcast near the end of the show, he started talking about he was going to play two PC games that I really, really love, and those games are Amnesia: The Dark Descent and Aquaria.
And I have been singing Aquaria's praises for pretty much the whole time I've been at GameCritics, and then my Amnesia love is really well documented. The fact that I convinced someone whose opinion on games I do care about to play these games on a platform that he has an irrational hatred for based on my recommendation, that made me happy enough that I actually got up and bonked my head on the shelf of the closet that I was trapped in.
So that was my favorite moment in that someone that I respect actually took my recommendations, and that meant something to me.
Brad Gallaway: Aw, I don't even know what to say, man. I'm glad that I had enough of an effect on you that you felt like you were finally able to come out of the closet and…
Mike Bracken: Be who you are.
Brad Gallaway: Yeah, exactly. I'm glad that I could help you have that breakthrough in your life. But seriously, seriously, though, that really is a really nice thing to say, and I'm really glad that we have so much self-love on this show that we can love each other like that in the open and not be ashamed.
Mike Bracken: And not in the closet.
Brad Gallaway: And not in the closet.
Richard Naik: That closet really was not very comfortable, so I'm not going back in there.
Mike Bracken: That might've been the best moment of the year—you in the closet.
Brad Gallaway: That was pretty good.
Richard Naik: That wasn't a moment, really. That was just the whole show.
Mike Bracken: The whole show.
Tim Spaeth: Well, my pick for this came as a result of a suggestion Chi had, which was our Gamer Exchange Program, in which I made everybody—or, I'm sorry, everyone volunteered—to play Too Human. I finally after two years of doing this show got to have a 45-minute period where we got to talk about that game. And even though not everyone loved it as much as I did, it was so great, much as you said, Richard, to hear everyone talk about a game that meant so much to me. And so that made me feel good, and I think it was one of our most entertaining shows. It was also fun for Chi, I think, to get that same treatment with Dynasty Warriors. So that, to me, was my favorite show.
I also want to put out a special bit of recognition to both Dan and Richard, who were part of both our Heavy Rain special show and our Deadly Premonition special show, and I think I want to do more shows like that in the future. I think those turned out really well, in no small part, to your contributions. So I commend and provide kudos to both of you.
Dan Weissenberger: Merci.
Richard Naik: And to you, as well. And just think: eventually, you'll get to do the same thing with Team Fortress.
Tim Spaeth: That's true. That's true. Now, what happens if I cancel my WoW account in the next week before we have a chance to play?
Richard Naik: I will be able to play within the next week. I found my discs and I am actually installing it as we speak.
Tim Spaeth: I'm getting very close to cancelling my WoW account.
Richard Naik: Don't do it yet.
Mike Bracken: Wow.
Richard Naik: For me. For me. Don't do it yet.
Tim Spaeth: All right. For you and your moustache.
Richard Naik: And my moustache.
Tim Spaeth: Let's move on. Folks listening have been waiting nearly two hours for this moment. It's category 13. [Dick Clark: "See you tomorrow on the $100,000 Pyramid for now, Dick Clark. So long."] The biggest gaming-related surprise of the year. Now, this is the listener choice for biggest gaming-related surprise of the year. And we asked our listeners to post their picks on the GameCritics.com forums, and we receieved a ton of responses—unfortunately, more responses than we could possibly read on this show. But what we're going to do is randomly select two of you. We'll read your response and you will win a $20 credit towards the downloadable service of your choice. As I said at the top, that's going to be XBLA, PSN, Steam or WiiWare. Your choice. So I think I'll go ahead and just randomly draw the name now.
Mike Bracken: Ugh. I bet there will be a ton—a ton of WiiWare.
Tim Spaeth: No doubt.
Mike Bracken: Everybody's going to want WiiWare.
Tim Spaeth: Downloading Urban Champion, probably four copies of Urban Champion.
Mike Bracken: Yep.
Tim Spaeth: So that they can gift them to their friends. So what I have here is a random number generator. I am going to generate random numbers. Richard, you should love this. And we will draw the first number. Here we go. [Pause] All right, there it is. And the first winner is bum bum bah! Can anyone do a drum roll? Anyone?
Mike Bracken: I can't.
Richard Naik: Uh, no.
Tim Spaeth: All right. The first winner is frogofdeath.
[Chorus of "Yay!"s]
Brad Gallaway: Frog, yay! We love Frog.
Tim Spaeth: Frog's surprise—and I love this. Love this—he says his surprise is: "The fact that Picross 3D was released in the United States. It has to be one of the best all-around games I've played in a long time." Picross is actually number two on my Top Ten List for 2010, so I'm right with frogofdeath. He will also say he "was pleasantly surprised with how GoldenEye Wii turned out. Far from perfect, but definitely better than what I was expecting." So really appreciate that, frogofdeath, and we will reach out to you via private message on the forums to arrange the delivery of your prize.
But we're not done yet. We're not done yet. You still have a chance to win. I am going to draw another number. I feel like one of those lotto girls, you know, right before Wheel of Fortune. They come out and…oh, this is so exciting!
Mike Bracken: Maybe you should've been Dorothy Lamour.
Tim Spaeth: [High-pitched voice:] HellOOO! All right. Random number generator is firing up. Normally, Filipe would do this, but again, he's in prison. Number has been generated, and the winner goes to the user named [Pause] Hold on.
Mike Bracken: The drama is killing me.
Tim Spaeth: I know; brace yourself. The winner is broodwars. broodwars.
Brad Gallaway: Hey, broodwars! Right, okay.
Tim Spaeth: Now, broodwars wrote about four paragraphs.
Mike Bracken: Wow.
Tim Spaeth: I'm not going to read all of those, but let me summarize his statement. He says:
"Probably my biggest industry surprise of the year was Nintendo's stubborn drive to push inane limitations on games that did not need them. For instance, forcing Retro Studios to map probably the game's most vital gameplay features in Donkey Kong Country Returns to motion control waggle, a move that clearly made the game worse in an experience dependent on precision and timing."
He also goes on to say: "Nintendo also allowed Sakamoto to make Metroid Other M completely unchecked." Bad decision there. And he says:
"When it comes to games, probably my biggest surprise this year was the racing game Split/Second. I normally hate racing games, and I have longstanding irritation for what Nintendo has done with the Mario Kart series. Despite this, I checked out the demo for Split/Second and was so blown away I walked into a store the next day and bought it."
Mike Bracken: I like that he's as down on Nintendo as we usually are.
Tim Spaeth: He's gonan fit right in, no question. So we congratulate you, broodwars, and frogofdeath. Again, we'll reach out via private message on our forums to arrange delivery. Let me do a quick shout-out to everyone who submitted a suggestion, including RandomRob, Odofakyodo, aHei, crackajack, FidgetyAcolyte, coyls3, reason49, Hargrada, JPGrant, etherangel, Pedro and Macstorm—all of you submitted great choices for surprise of the year. I wish we had time to read them all, but my thanks to each of you. And to my co-hosts, did any of you have a major surprise that you wanted to share before we move on?
Mike Bracken: I did, Tim. I was really excited this year by news that Atlus, one of our favorite developer-publishers, is working on a PSP version of Persona 2: Innocent Sin.
Brad Gallaway: Yes. Yes. My God, yes.
Mike Bracken: Please, for the love of Christ, bring this to America now, so I can die happy. That was my best gaming-related surprise of the year.
Brad Gallaway: I'm with you, man, 100 percent. All the way.
Tim Spaeth: That's a good one. My biggest surprise, and I've been dying for the opportunity to pay for store-exclusive fatalities in Mortal Kombat. I've been dying for that.
Mike Bracken: I think we all have.
Tim Spaeth: Finally, I can pay for—
Mike Bracken: —for moves that should've been there to begin with.
Tim Spaeth: Mm. Thank goodness. Well, guys, we are almost out of time. We've got five minutes left. We need to get to the big category, the major one of the night: Category 14. [Megatron: "It's over, Prime."] The 2010 Game of the Year. And I think it's only right to start with our guest, Dan Weissenberger. You know what? Before we go to you, Dan, let me give Chi's vote by proxy. He couldn't be with us tonight. Chi is voting for Dragon Quest IX.
Mike Bracken: Mm.
Tim Spaeth: So that is one point for Dragon Quest IX. Now I'll turn to you, Dan. Your choice?
Dan Weissenberger: Well, I've written a 14-part series so far about how Deadly Premonition is the game of the year, so it's not really going to be a surprise that I'm going to go with Deadly Premonition.
Brad Gallaway: It'd be kind of weird if you didn't, though.
Dan Weissenberger: Honestly, it would be creepy if I just jumped out: "You know what? I'm just going to say Tron: Evolution is my game of the year." No, it's Deadly Premonition and there's no excuse for saying anything else. Now go say other things.
Tim Spaeth: I will move on to Richard Naik.
Richard Naik: Uh, well, I'm sorry to say that I'm going to be announcing my game of the year pick on my hour-long ESPN special, called "Game of the Year."
I will announce the choice within the first five minutes and the rest will just be that Cleveland tourism song playing over and over and over again.
Mike Bracken: Will Michael Wilbon be hosting, though?
Richard Naik: Yes, he will.
Mike Bracken: I was hoping Tim would be.
Richard Naik: It would not be an hour-long ESPN special without Michael Wilbon. Um, but no. My game of the year is Amnesia: The Dark Descent. Really, we did a whole segment on one of the other shows about it, so I'm not going to pick it apart. But 2010 was a really strong year for me, and this was a difficult choice for me to make. Up until Amnesia, this pick was Super Mario Galaxy 2, but Amnesia just elicited such a strong emotional reaction for me, which is done so well in every way imaginable. I can't not give this Game of the Year. Congrats Frictional Games, you've made a masterpiece.
Tim Spaeth: Very good choice. Again, not much of a surprise there, but an excellent choice. So we've got Dragon Quest IX, we've got Deadly Prem, we've got Amnesia. Mike Bracken, your choice.
Mike Bracken: It should be obvious: Castlevania: Lords of Shadow.
Brad Gallaway: I knew that was coming! I was waiting for it.
Mike Bracken: No, it was a tough call this year, because I really loved the PSP version of Persona 3, but I went with the PSP version of the original Persona last year, and if Persona 2: Innocent Sin comes out here, I could totally see myself going with that next year. And that's even a little too fanboy for me.
The other problem is, I played a lot of games this year, but I didn't get to play everything, like every possible contender. So I always feel bad picking, because there are a couple things that certainly would've been in the running, I think, that I just didn't get a chance to play.
With that being said, surprisingly enough, I went with Limbo. In a world of Halos and Call of Dutys and Mass Effect sequels and all these big triple-A $60 games, I chose a $15 downloadable title, mainly because Limbo is gorgeous; it's fun; it's challenging, and being less than four hours long, it never wears out its welcome. You play it; you have your time with it; it's fun and engaging and then it's done.
So many games now want to go on for 60 hours when they could be over in ten. That's part of why I can't play everything every year, because I like to finish things. And so many games are padded now, it's really great to see a game come along that's as well-designed and beautifully made as this one, that also just realizes: "We'll give you a great experience where every moment of it is important, and when it's done, it's done. We're not going to pad it or anything like that." So it's great. And even though it's so short, you're going to think about it and talk about this game for months after you finish it. Playdead Studios really has shown how good downloadabl games can be, and that you don't need these huge developmen budgets and crazy CGI cinema scenes and all this shit to make a great game. I think that's worth championing and that's why Limbo is my game of the year.
Tim Spaeth: Another great choice. I'm going to go next. Brad, I'm going to leave you for last. If you remember my incoherent gushing—and, really, when is my gushing not incoherent?—over this game back in June, it should come as no surprise that my game of the year is Super Mario Galaxy 2. Episode 38 is where you will get all the details. For now, all I'll say is this: when Nintendo wants to (and unfortunately it's all too rare these days), they can still design the cleverest, most creative and, frankly, the best games in the business. Not five minutes would go by playing Galaxy 2 that I didn't find myself saying, "Good Lord, I can't believe somebody actually thought of that." And that's really the highest praise I can give Galaxy 2. I just adored it, and it is my pick for game of the year. And that leaves us with Brad. And Brad, I suspect I know where you're going, and that's why I left you for last. Your pick?
Brad Gallaway: Well, this was a pretty difficult year, but not really for the reason that people think. For me, a lot of the frontrunners were also fairly flawed. I did not have a standout, runaway, no questions frontrunner pick. I struggled for a long time, and in fact, I was really, really, really close to actually picking Limbo like Mike did, but I ended up not picking Limbo. I went with Deadly Premonition.
So I am with Dan 100 percent on all of the articles he's written. I totally agree with every single word he says. And Deadly Premonition, I think, might be a little bit of a contentious pick, because it does have some fairly significant problems. But I think it's a really bold title; I think it's really fresh in a lot of ways. It's really, really just infinitely interesting. And the writing was just so spectacular for me. The writing was strong. Francis York Morgan, the main character, is a character I'm going to remember for the rest of my life, guaranteed. The ending completely made up for any problems I may have had earlier in the game.
It's broken in a lot of ways: it's difficult, it's challenging, it's unpleasant sometimes. But when you really get right down to it, that game was just brilliant. Just runaway brilliant, and I couldn't not pick it. So even though Limbo came really close, Deadly Premonition is my game of the year.
Dan Weissenberger: Which, unless I've done my math wrong, also makes it GameCritics' game of the year.
Brad Gallaway: That's right. That is right.
Richard Naik: You guys are lucky I didn't go with Super Mario Galaxy 2.
Tim Spaeth: Then we would be deliberating all night long.
Mike Bracken: All night long. It'd be like the 2000 election all over again.
Tim Spaeth: That's right.
Dan Weissenberger: [Laughter]
Tim Spaeth: Well, there you have it, folks. Deadly Premonition, Dan, as you titled all your articles, is the game of the year for the GameCritics.com podcast. It joins Fallout 3, Demon's Souls, and in my private alternate universe, Plants vs. Zombies as the only games to hold that title.
So, guys, you really brought it tonight. I know we are out of time, so I'm going to wrap this up. I want to thank each of you for coming on tonight and having such great thoughts—great games, great conversation. I also want to thank our listeners. This is our last show of the year; we will be back in 2011 with more shows, and I hope you'll join us then. In the interim, I wish all of you a joyous holiday season, a spectacular and safe new year, and we'll see you right back here in 2011 for more of the GameCritics.com podcast. Until then, for all my co-hosts, good night, bonne chance, and joyeaux Noël.