Following on from my previous post discussing my game of the year picks in 2006, today I'm going to discuss the games I picked in 2007.
I'll be posting the original list of games I picked back in that year and then discuss them in the context of the present day. This is because I think it makes it more interesting, and I didn't provide any comments back then so I've got nothing else to work on!
So without further delay - and because there are a million games this year as opposed to the previous - let's start.
01. Space Giraffe
03. Clive Barker's Jericho
05. Goku Makaimura Kai
06. The Orange Box
07. Silent Hill: Origins
08. Halo 3
09. Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games
10. Wario Ware Smooth Moves
Let's just get this out of the way. Space Giraffe is a revelation.
I have never experienced a game previous nor after that encourages... nay, demands, you unlock your third eye as it were. Not your third eye as in you're suddenly at one with the universe and at peace with the world and your fellow man. More like how Neo learns and eventually wakes to see through the matrix, to see the code past the visual. To awake from his visual prison and see what's really going on. You think I jest? Elaborate for affect? No, I'm being dead serious. This effect is real and if you do want to finish this game you have to learn how to do it. The rewards for doing so are astonishing, or perhaps, astonishment, that what you're doing is actually happening. What others see as a mess of colour and abstract shapes randomly spewing at their eyeballs, you 'see' as a completely normal navigable landscape. 'See' in quotes because seeing is only half the reality, the other half is the audio cues that tell you what's actually going on, the code behind the matrix as it were.
It's so genius that I refuse to believe it was intentionally meant to work as effectively as it does, because I don't comprehend how that would be possible. To be able to create such a work would be to already have the gift of seeing inside of it, yet if you haven't learned to see inside it, how can you have ever had the insight in the first place? It's the whole chicken and egg routine.
Regardless, Jeff Minter is surely a design genius and as mad as a balloon.
Like my comments on Twilight Princess in Part 1 of these blog posts, the shine of Bioshock has waned some over the years. While certainly one of the best games for me in 2007, I don't look at it as being as memorable as others in my list. And like Twilight Princess, I can think of a couple of really cool moments in the game that I really loved, but as an overall experience it just hasn't lived up to my initial appraisal.
As a console FPS though, it was probably the first that made me realise the platform could actually pull it off. I used to play FPS games exclusively on PC and had a pretty long history with DOOM and Quake competitive play. But going cold turkey on PC games and diving head first into consoles it was nice to see they could actually create a worthwhile experience on occasion.
Clive Barker's Jericho
Remember this game? You probably don't. And if you do you are probably still trying not to. Sorry for bringing you back. I did really enjoy this game though, for reasons even I can't explain effectively. Yes, it was horribly broken, horrible AI, with scripted events that were so archaic while offering you multiple ways to attempt it -only one of them actually possible. But it did have a really cool underlying idea (switching to any of your squad mates at the touch of a button who each have their own abilities and powers), and it did have an appealing style and art direction. It even had, what I believe, interesting dialogue, characters and character relationships.
But when it comes down to it, I'm just a sucker for any of Clive Barker's insane horror concepts.
I initially hated this game, as friends who had to listen to me whine about it can attest. I found the platforming really frustrating, with my character seemingly letting go of ledges at the exact moment I didn't want him to. In fact I found a lot of the control in the world frustrating. I found the game directionless. The enemies were too punishing, and like a fly who just won't get out of your face, incredibly annoying. But over a long period of time the game started to gel together and I started to get into it.
In fact, it ended up redefining what I thought games could do. There were times where I literally stopped and looked around and thought, how did they even build this? It's huge! I can do anything I want, and all of it is complete chaos, hilarious and fun. The turn around on the feelings I had for the game initially couldn't be more opposed.
Goku Makaimura Kai
Ok, that's a bit of a mouthful. But relax, it's not a Japanese rape sim. It is in fact a Japanese only re-release and remix of Ultimate Ghosts 'n' Goblins. They thought the game was a bit too hard so they tweaked some of the energy systems and other things and gave it another go. It wins points for including the original game in there as a selection too, but in the end they shouldn't have tried to improve on perfection as the game was good enough last year. But I can understand them being disappointed with the sales. It was criminally overlooked by almost everyone.
Let's be honest here though, including this game was just a sneaky way to get the game in my top 10 for another year.
The Orange Box
I said before that I was an exclusive player of FPS games on PC. I was one of those keyboard warriors who bristled at the very idea of playing the genre on a game pad. So it might be odd to hear that I never did play Half Life 2 back in the day on PC. A fact that I'd explain by saying I was an ID Software fanboy at heart and thought Half Life 1 was garbage (I still believe it wasn't such a great game), and that the source engine ruined my favourite franchise and the competitive Quake scene that I loved so dearly. Counter Strike was the very bane of my existence.
So I bought The Orange Box for the console and decided I'd like to see what I possibly missed out on, and would also like to try this little game everyone had collectively climaxed over - Portal.
The less I say about Portal the better. I didn't care for it. I felt it almost went somewhere with its slow build up of atmosphere with the grimy hidden rooms with scrawled text on the walls. I thought it was heading into Silent Hill territory. It never did though and those rooms remained the same throughout until the final end encounter. I came away disappointed.
Half Life 2 on the other hand, and its episodes, were an absolute joy. I had conceded that the praise for those games were fair and just, and I do feel bad that I missed the party when it was initially held. But I got there in the end at least.
Team Fortress 2 was never anything I cared for. I had played Team Fortress and Team Fortress Classic on PC and thought little of them. A sequel was of no interest and especially of no interest on a game pad. Single player FPS on a game pad, sure. Half Life 2 worked great. But not competitive FPS. Besides, I'd given up being competitive. Years of Quake tournaments satisfied that need very well.
Silent Hill: Origins
This Silent Hill offering by a western developer on the PSP was actually pretty good. The story, while it failed to deliver on what it alluded to in the first half of the game, at least satisfied expectation. There were some genuinely creepy parts, the graphics were suitably dirty and atmospheric, and the music helped all those areas as you would expect coming from the sound genius Akira Yamaoka. The ending though seemed quite forgettable, as evidenced by the fact I can't remember it. Probably a sin in a Silent Hill game where endings are meant to be confronting and almost shocking. But still quite a good game for a horror title in the palm of your hand.
My first Halo game. Yes yes, PC FPS. You've heard me say it enough now. But I did really like Halo 3. It's probably the most casual FPS game I've ever played. Everything is slow and deliberate, the combat almost a dance, as jumping is more a ballet pirouette than the violent lurch against gravity as in other games, or indeed real life. There's a real craft at work with all the gun fights in the single player game where everything just feels right. Like you are somehow executing everything you try with great precision and it all just links together somehow, to the point where you are constantly pulling off exhilarating combat situations that you can't wait to tell your friends about.
Also, the vehicles actually feel good to drive around and use in battles. I'd never seen that pulled off before. The Unreal Tournament games tried but you always felt more in control and more powerful outside of the vehicles than in. Halo 3 brought it all together and made it all fun.
Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games
My nerd boner was well and truly stroked when this game was announced. Mario and Sonic, together in a single game. Even better, in a Wii Sports like package. I even say that without a hint of sarcasm, I loved Wii Sports.
Unfortunately the games on offer in Mario and Sonic weren't quite up to par, and my friends and I only played it a few times at our game parties. But I really loved the concept, I loved the characters, and god damn it I was including it in my top 10. Just try and stop me.
Wario Ware Smooth Moves
Only played this one a few times too, however when we did play it, it was a hell of a lot of fun. I really enjoyed the crazy 'could only happen in Japan' mini games in this title and yes, even I was performing stupid hula hoop pelvic thrusts in my living room to great amusement of everyone watching. Fun times.
And so that concludes yet another chapter in the series of blog posts on this topic I'll be doing. Next up: 2008.