The Year in Review, in Review: A Late Retrospective of 2014

I wrote my first draft of this on January 2nd, 2015. I note this because I realize that some people say this retrospective is “late” or “pointless” or “fucking ridiculous like why bother,” but those people are just squares who have confined themselves to a mentality in which relevant units of time begin and end at arbitrarily-defined points. I subscribe to a far more free-form system of time units that makes me totally oblivious of your restrictive “beginnings” and “ends” to a given year. Frankly, you should aspire to be more like me and liberate yourself from the reality tunnels you’ve been conditioned to accept.

Besides, Chinese New Year was like a week ago. There’s no way you can call this late. VIDEOE GAMES NO THANK YOU


Part 1: A Year of Games, Gates, and Idiocy

Pretty much everything anyone said about the games of 2014 sounded like “VIDEO GAMES ARE DEAD 2014 WAS HORRIBLE THE NEW SOULS GAME WASN’T AS GOOD KILL JONATHAN BLO FOR REAL THIS TIME,” and, in a lot of ways, that’s baffling. What was the matter with last year, exactly? Gamergate? Yeah, that was a totally inescapable vortex of controversy. Look, I still don’t know what a gamer gate is. You don’t have to get involved with this kind of stuff if yoou don’t want to. Gamergate is not some stain on the games industry that will never wash away. It’s just a really noticeable one. Ever spill a bunch of ketchup on your shirt and think it’ll never come off, only to see it all go away with a little extra detergent? Well that’s what this is. Gamergate isn’t going to stick around forever. People are starting to forget about it already.

“But Gamergate is the biggest controversy to ever concern video games!” All right, I have to admit you have a point there – ESRB formation OH. Columbine OH YES THAT’S RIGHT IT’S COMING BACK NOW.

The fact of the matter is that this isn’t actually as big a deal as people make it out to be. It’s just been arbitrarily chosen to be part of the triad in a three-ring circus. This mostly just represents a bunch of smaller, ambient issues coming to a single head. Because enough of those issues were in the public conscious to begin with, and because it was slow for news, Gamergate got snatched up and splayed to those free of video game’s clutches. Before you know it, almost no one will still care about this.

You know people will still care about longer than two years from now? The actual video games that came out this year. A lot of people seemed to think the games that came out this year were disappointing. For once, I was actually more optimistic about the quality of the games being released than most. We might not had any titanic blockbusters this year,

Should I remember what this is?
get it

but all three of last year’s Game of the Year gluttons haven’t even been that well-regarded lately anyway. Grand Theft Auto 5, The Last of Us, and Bioshock Infinite were commercially successful because their marketing was exciting enough for all the gullible folks to trick themselves into thinking they adored them. I’m sure there are people who regard each as a masterpiece, and this could be another case of a vocal minority, but most real people I’ve spoken to have grown tired of each. At the least, the games haven’t maintained the same reception to truly warrant all their perfect scores and hearty recommendations.

A lot of my favorite games are those that fall between the biggest-budget blockbusters and the teensiest indie games If I had to mark one point on the sliding scale of obscurity-versus-popularity where I felt the games were consistently the best, it would have to be there. I like the games that take the sensibilities of smaller titles that have the money, resources, and polish to accomplish everything they aspire toward. 2013 lacked a lot of those. Every successful game was either a massive commercial undertaking or annoyingly indie. Only a handful of games (Metal Gear Rising: RevengeanceRisk of Rain) sated the interim, and that’s sad.

In contrast, 2014 had a great balance between the two extremes. There were gems that were more successful than the biggest games of the year, big-name releases that focused on staying smart and mechanical rather than being shiny and ‘splodey, and there were tons of games that beautifully straddled the fence. There really weren’t that many bad games that came out this year, either. Even the biggest and baddest shooters made, at least, strides to be different and memorable. Even Call of Duty, the usual punching bag for annual rehash, and Wolfenstein, which has been washed up so badly, it’s somewhere in the flyover states, did something new and interesting with themselves. Admittedly, not every attempt to stay memorable was successful,

Are you sure this came out?
When did this come out?

but bigger publishers seem to be realizing that people are getting sick of the same trite over and over again. It’s a good sign when large corporations are actually listening to people’s complaints. It feels like there weren’t any noteworthy bad games this year, either. The only high-profile stinkers this year were:

  • Rambo-based rail gun shooter… the resonance of the crushing disappointment was overwhelming, I must admit.
  • a modern Sonic game that wasn’t as bad as Sonic ’06 that people really only hated so harshly because there was nothing else to nark on.
  • a mediocre sequel to a game everyone liked way too much in the first place.
  • a mediocre copy of a game everyone liked way too much in the first place.
  • um…
  • probably something else I’m forgetting?
  • nothing else comes to mind, honestly.

You can dig deeper and look for shovelware, of course, but that holds true of every year video games have existed. If you look only at the consensus, there weren’t many bad games worth talking about from 2014. When you compare that figure with how many great games came out this year, I’m not upset about how last year panned out. A year where we have to stomach a handful of bad games to get to the fantastic stuff will always be preferable to one to one of mediocrity. Honestly, I think I enjoyed last year more than 2012 and 2013 combined.

So let’s get to the skinny, then: what are these super-amazing games came out last year? Well…


Part 2: Video Games

The last time I did a post rapid-fire, it was absolute bonkers, so I’m going to use that style again here. It’s time to get crazy.


Lovely Planet

I know we’re all saddened by the shooting death of Hatsune Miku last year, but I’ve got some good news. We’ve finally got a game to fill the void.

Indie Game of the Year

Lovely Planet stimulates that same bit of you as Katamari Damacy does, which makes its presentation an absolute joy. The difference here is that the game isn’t pathetically easy. Lovely Planet is a Super Meat Boy-like, and I like Meat Boy-likes. It’s similar to Super Hexagon in a lot of ways, too. The gameplay is fast and challenging, but it starts back up as quickly as you inevitably fail. I love it for its clever implementation of new mechanics, its presentation, its speed, its creativity, its reflection of its creator, and its demanding challenge. I was hooked more on this game than I was Sma5h and Mario Kart 8 this year, and that’s seriously telling. It’s a real tragedy that this game isn’t going to win any awards. If you have a majority of a ten-dollar bill, please spend your money on this game and its amazing soundtrack. It deserves as much of your money as you can afford to give it.

SAY THIS GAME DOESN'T LOOK FUN. DO IT. LOOK IT IN THE EYE WHEN YOU DO IT, I DARE YOU.
SAY THIS GAME DOESN’T LOOK FUN. DO IT. LOOK IT IN THE EYE WHEN YOU DO, I DARE YOU.

Crimzon Clover

I’ve never been terribly fond of spaceship shooters. As somebody with shit reflexes, it feels to me like the genre is about impressing yourself with how well you’re doing at the game for ten seconds until your brief spree of not immediately failing crashes down. You have to be good at these kinds of games to deeply enjoy them; I’m terrible, and therefore these games are at fault, obviously. As an example of a game I hardly enjoyed: Ikaruga was fantastic fun at first, when the focus was on manageable bullet patterns. In the later levels, though, the degree of clairvoyance demanded of you for the game to be anything less than a moment-by-moment attempt to not ram into a wall or squeeze between a cubic ton of bullets wasn’t my cup of coffee. Crimzon Clover, how-o-ver, proved to me that it’s possible for a genre I dislike to contain something I love.

…No, wait, that was basic human reasoning that told me that. Face Melter-Offer People say greatness is either achieved through doing something new and brilliant or through doing something as well as possible. Crimzon Clover bucks that into a corner and does both. It reinvents shoot-them-uppery by including a number of interesting mechanics. There’s a nifty Break Mode, which temporarily super-powers your ship, that allows for a lot of strategic planning. There’s a fantastic lock-on feature that’s great for wiping out hordes of enemies quickly that slows down your ship a lot. This makes it central to both offense and defense, but never at the same time. Despite how interesting these mechanics are, though, they never feel gimmicky, like Ikaruga‘s. That’s because, as a balls-to-the-walls, no-nonsense shooter, it’s an absolute masterpiece. Every bullet pattern in this game is a challenge for your reflexes, but none are so difficult that they seem impossible.

No, this is not a Jimi Hendrix album cover.
No, this is not a Jimi Hendrix album cover.

Well, not really; at least if you’re me. I promise I’m getting better, though. You can too. I suggest George Weidman‘s “use as many continues as you need and wean yourself off them” approach. You’ve probably heard of this game from his and Slowbeef’s channel, but hardly anyone talks about it elsewhere. That’s a bummer. There’s an incredible attention to including just the right amounts of excess and innovation and impossible difficulty in Crimzon Clover, and it’s something you should really admire. It’s a game that goes to extremes, but not to the supreme extremes. Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross, and The Other One. Being able to be this exciting without being overbearing takes a lot of finesse and care. I still think Ikaruga is a good game, and Xevious is, of course, devious, but I think Crimzon Clover might just be the best spaceship shooter on the planet.


Shovel Knight

Right, we’ve already discussed this, let’s just plop down an award for it quick and move along quickly before anyone gets too annoyed. Most Overhyped Game I actually considered a few games for this award. I almost gave it to a Titanfall or a Watch_Dogs or a Sunset Yellow Overdrive, but the thing about those games is that they were really only praised because of their hype. Watch_Dogs really only carried itself like it was successful. It only deserves this spot because of its confidence. Pretty much any critic outside of the IGN circles dissented from the game. Shovel Knight is a game that was given too much attention from both the press and the people. It’s upsetting to see Lovely Planet and Crimzon Clover, which are filled to the brim with creativity and talent and love and effort, get overshadowed by this toss pot.

A visual.
A visual.

The biggest contender for this one, though, was that other game that everyone seemed to love. Its fans weren’t as outspoken, but it make up for that by being more than just mediocre. It was’t even bad. It was downright offensive.


Strider

I was really looking forward to Strider. I bought it day one. I never buy games day one. And, after having gone through the experience of buying it, I’m not sure I will ever again. It makes me feel dirty. When Other M and Sonic ’06 came out, I wasn’t as balls-deep in the video games as I am now. (That was a halcyon era.) On the other hand, I went into Strider totally blind. I’ve never been so disappointed to see something I love so thoroughly tarnished. Biggest Disappointment The original Strider was a total romp. It was the epitome of all that makes stupidly basic, uninspired design great. It wasn’t trying to be a hallmark of great game design, nor was it trying to do anything remotely creative, nor did it deviate at all from the most standard concept of a video game. It just wanted to be fun. This is what would happen if Castlevania played fluently it it retained its absurd scenarios and satisfying gameplay. It doesn’t want to impress anyone; it wants players to have a good time. It wanted to be its own moronic, futuristic ninja game where you blew up lots of big metal things. It’s no opus, but it’s sort of important that it wasn’t an opus. It was everything the Genesis would market itself to be two years before the console came into its own. Strider is to games what The Avengers is to movies.

The new Strider is a goddamn Metroid clone.

I’ll say it again: the reboot of the game that was great for its total irreverence and over-the-top camp is taking stylistic tips from the series that pioneered tactful atmosphere and methodically-paced exploratory gameplay.

…Let me make sure this sinks in: Strider, the game that acted as a sign to come for the single most formative event in the course of video game history – the one which ushered in a new age of kitsch and of dumb fun and which effectively embodied the spirit of one of the most relevant games consoles of all time; the one which, as a consequence of characterizing the sleek and rebellious console, cemented the family-oriented reputation of the most popular and best-known and best-loved video game makers in the world – is made to be more subdued, more cerebral, and, worst of all, more serious.

THIS DID NOT END WELL.

And you know what’s worse? This game isn’t just a clone of Metroid. It’s a bad clone of Metroid. It’s the kind of Metroid clone where every power-up exists less as a logical aid to your combative and exploratory capabilities and more as a key that superficially can – but never will be – used in fighting. It’s the kind of Metroid clone where you’ll do less guided exploration and more aimless wondering as you desperately attempt to progress. It’s the kind of Metroid clone that feels less like a varied, yet, cohesive, whole and more like a bunch of distinct levels crammed together into one overworld. It’s not that the levels are very apparently encapsulated; rather, they’re separated in a way that you won’t notice until you start to tug a little on the ends and look closely for the perforations. Once it starts to tear, the breaks are as obvious as Xevious is devious. Yes, I’m sticking with that joke.

People actually liked this game for its gameplay. It feels horrible. Every enemy moves sluggishly, like they’re suffering from Sonic Generations syndrome. You have to stand in front of someone for tangible seconds before they even bother lifting their guns to shoot you.

Gimme a second, mate, the thing's jammin' up again.
Gimme a second, mate, the thing’s jammin’ up again.

Bosses don’t come a dozen a minute in the reboot, which was the best thing about the original game. They’re not as off-the-wall as they were in the original game, either. They’re like a concentrated mass of what focus groups from Buzzfeed and Cheezburger and Watchmojo checked as “omg zany.” (That should be a sign, friends: I’m resorting to making fun of popularly unpopular websites just to express how bad this game is.) Nobody working on this game had a sense of what actually makes something whimsical and fun. The handful of bosses which don’t seem to be trying way too hard to be cool are the ones that were stolen from the old game.

Look, you're on top of a flying serpentine dragon! That's NEVER been done before!
Look, you’re on top of a flying serpentine dragon! That’s NEVER been done before except for Shadow of the Colossus and Super Paper Mario and the original game all of which put some spin on the fight rather than being totally generic.

It’s not the fact that they changed the original Strider that bothers me. It’s that they made the game different while forgetting what made the original game good. Even Shadow Warrior at least remembered that the game was supposed to be about using your sword to its fullest potential. Strider forgets that the classic upon which it’s based is cutthroat, non-stop, and earnestly absurd. The new game holds your hand, distracts from the action at every opportunity, and tries every measure suggested to it by How to Appeal to 28-Year-Olds Men and Make Money Fast. If there’s any reason to play the new Strider, it’s to spark your affinity for the original game.


Hearthstone Hearthstone It’s a worse version of Magic the Gathering available for free on PC. It’s great, if you don’t have friends to play a better game with. A lot of the math is too complex to keep track on easily on paper, and the visuals, animations, and voice acting only nourish the experience. If you think this is a cash grab for something that could easily exist in real life, you’re mistaken. Hearthstone definitely works best as a computer game. It is lacking a real chat function, which makes matches with randoms impersonal, but you can at least spam “I will be your death!” and “Well met!”, so the basic essentials to human conversation are at least there. As with all card games, its biggest problem is that it’s got a lot of luck to it. If you don’t like that, though, you probably don’t like card games in general, so I’ll leave it at this: if you like card games, this is the best one you can play online. If you’re not familiar with them, just go download it and have fun already.


Guilty Gear Xrd

I want it. Give it to me. Now. I’ll donate a dangerous amount of blood to play this for a few unimpeded hours. This looks too good for what humans deserve. Please.  AAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH


Mario Kart 8

Hey, I reviewed this one, too.

…Wait, what do you mean I didn’t review Shovel Knight?

You say Sma5hThe Wonderful 101Bayonetta 2, and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze aren’t enough to convince you to buy a Wii U? How did they let you out of the asylum Then is Mario Kart enough? No? What if I told you this was a nearly-perfect installment to the series? What if I told you I had to dig deep just to nitpick this game? Do you know how many surface-level imperfections I usually manage to find in a game? And this isn’t like Super Hexagon, which didn’t have many flaws because it was so simple. This is a fully-fledged game with loads of content. It’s just that good. I played it for an hour expecting it to completely ignore the lofty expectations the Internet had set out for me, and I accidentally played for twenty-three hours after that. Whatever your favorite Mario Kart game is, this one will blow it out of the water.

It must be restated: this is the prettiest game of the year.
It must be restated: this is the second prettiest game of the year.

 Rhythm Doctor

I know everyone likes Rhythm Heaven anymore, and apparently this fangame is as good as the real thing. If that’s the case, the real thing must be a tedious, repetitive slog of executing the same input over and over again. Like Super Crate Box, I think too many people love this game because its UX is really smartly-done. It’s excellent, but letting me access the tutorial again at any point does not a good game make, lads. This is just playing Morse code, or playing drums with one stick. I don’t like it. I’m sorry. Most Repetitive Game


Lethal League

It was an incredible year for fighting games, and I haven’t played most of the better ones. Examples include Persona 4 Ultimax, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Battle Royalexrd I need it. Hand it over.Put the fighting game in the bag. I have a gun.

There were, however, a few that slipped into my PC elitist clutches. One of them was Lethal League. I know SkippySigmatic talked all about this game already, and I know I’ve mentioned it about five times on the podcast, but I don’t actually care, so I’m going to say my piece. Lethal League, in most ways, isn’t a fighting game at all. There are no complex combos to memorize, and there isn’t a frame-by-frame metagame that mandates absolute devotion and mastery to deeply enjoy. And yet it’s still as good as any fight-gamey fight game. It’s best as a contest between two players. Getting good at the game requires quick mind reading, trickery, and just the right amount of reflexes and skill. The whole thing is a mess of mind games and gambits – the sort only the best fighting games can deliver.

deadly denomination The Pong comparison is rather trite at this point, but it’s still accurate. In Lethal League, you knock a ball around the parameters of the screen and try to hit your opponent. You can aim the ball in one of three directions, and you can bunt the ball to give yourself a little more time to consider your options. Aside from that, there aren’t many moves you can make. This means that both players are constantly aware of, and can consider the consequences of, every possible outcome at any given time. Despite this, there are just enough options for the game to remain interesting and variable. The best part of this is that it’s all delegated to three face buttons. This is the only fighting game I know of with a control scheme simpler than Sma5h. Well... GOOD fighting game, anyway. Well… good fighting game, anyway. Super-Awesome Fighting Game Sadly Overshadowed by More Popular Games That You Should Totally Play with Your Friends


Mercenary Kings

Like Freedom Planet, this was a Shovel Knight-like, except for one thing: Mercenary Kings came out first. Does that make Shovel Knight a copy of Mercenary Kings? I dunno.

See? I didn't hate Shovel Knight THAT much.
See? I didn’t hate Shovel Knight THAT much.

This game really isn’t good. Its enemy placements are ripped from Mega Man, its gunplay is Metal Slug, its aesthetic is Paul Robertson, and therefore Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, and its actually-interesting reload mechanics are a slightly worse version of Gears of War‘s. Unfortunately, a lot of the problems with its level design are those Strider had. Too much of it takes place in the same few areas, and the places you’ll spend your time in are too expansive, too barren, and lack enough landmarks to prevent yourself from getting lost. Of the game’s 100-some missions, there are about four varieties, and there are in total about ten types of mission. I’m calling bullshit on people who celebrated how much content was in this game.

I do like the co-optional play and the weapons customization, but the gameplay isn’t solid enough for me to give this game my seal of approval. With greater variety and more manageable levels, this would’ve been fine. The gunplay is obnoxious and satisfying, which only makes me wish I liked this game more. Guns are fun to fire, but enemies are such pushovers that there’s nothing satisfying to stick bullets into. As it stands, the only real selling point here is Paul Robertson’s art, which is magnificently detailed as always. (YOU HEAR THAT SHOVEL KNIGHT? WE HAVE MORE THAN EIGHT BITS NOWADAYS FOR A REASON.)


Nidhogg

Nidhogg is another half-fighting game, and it’s another game I’ve talked about at length on the podcast, and it’s another game of which I intend to post a thorough dissection. This time, you and your opponents “fence,” though the game usually sees you and your foe throwing swords at each other, drop-kicking one another, dive-kicking one another, snapping each other’s clavicles off, and running away from each other to the next screen. It’s heavily systemized, but instantly understood after one match. The game is like a tug-of war. Your goal is to get to the far end of the level; your opponent’s is to get to the other. This is an endlessly fascinating game that’s brutal to the eyes, the ears, and, most importantly, to your kinaesthetic sense. Combat is quick and changes in an instant, and you have to learn your opponents well to gain an upper hand. It’s a game that’s always in motion… except when the game’s horrible netcode causes intolerable lag. This is the game’s Achilles ballsack. I don’t have friends. Who am I supposed to play this game with? Am I supposed to go out and… meet others? The music is also pretty egregious, and the graphics don’t have a reason to imitate a 2600 beyond trying to be retraux. You were so close, Nidhogg. indhogg


Super Smash Bros. for Wii U

Here’s the big one, lads. I almost didn’t include this on account of it being so universally adored, but I don’t think a little extra sugar has ever hurt anything.

Mostly.
Mostly.

Whatever extreme praise you’ve heard for this game is wrong. It’s actually much better than that. If you think that Melee or Brawl compare to this, you’re either living in the past, or play competitively and fall into a totally different demographic than most. Just… let the plebeians have this, O. K.? We promise we won’t shit on Melee too much. At this point, you should only get Sm4sh on 3DS if you don’t own a Wii U – and if you don’t own a Wii U, you need to get one immediately. That being said, I bought both these games full-price, and I don’t regret it. I gladly would have spent 100 dollars on either of these games. It’s been a great year for multiplayer, between Sma5hMK8Lethal LeagueHearthstone, and, if you can round somebody up, Nidhogg. These games alone should be enough to sate my compatriots and me until the Dreamcast 2 comes out.  best fighting game


Street Fighter 4: Ultra

Oh, right. This happened. I never played that much of 4, so having this on PC is nice. Obviously, it’s not as good as Third Strike, but Juri waifu material, and so it is an acceptable purchase. this pleases me


Mount Your Friends

This is, uh… mount your friends Well, it’s interesting… Is this really the brand of comedy people go for?

Yes! I blasted Buzzfeed AND PewDiePie in the same blog post!
Yes! I blasted Buzzfeed AND PewDiePie in the same post!

Oh, yes, most definitely.  mount your friends


The Jackbox Party Pack

I’ve never actually liked You Don’t Know Jack, because I’ve never considered myself an awful person, but I think that the other games in this pack are fine. I’m partial to Lie Swatter, but Fibbage, Drawful, and Word Spud are all a blast.I no longer miss Draw My Thing. Rest in peace, you monstrosity of a microtransaction. I’ve heard people gushing over the technology that makes Amiibo possible, and as amazing as the expensive little fuckers are,

T_T i just want the pretty princess as a figurine T_T
T_T i just want the pretty princess as a figurine T_T

I think that an equally ingenious technological marvel is the Party Pack‘s interface. By using a code and a website, you can seamlessly use your cell phone, tablet, or computer to play along with the game. It’s the kind of brilliance that makes you wonder why no one thought up the idea before. No longer do you need to fuck with USB ports to play a local co-op PC game. No longer is there really a difference between local and online multiplayer. No longer does the Dreamcast’s VMU seem like that good of an idea. No longer does the Wii U GamePad seem like a good idea. No longer do you need twenty copies of a game to play with pals through fiber space. It might just be the single smartest thing I’ve seen anyone do all year.

Unlike the FUCKING AMIIBOS. ...Wait a minute, why didn't they call this the Jackpot?
Unlike the FUCKING AMIIBOS.
…Wait a minute, why didn’t they call this the Jackpot?

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze

I didn’t realize it until now, but this is the best platformer of the year, isn’t it? I mean, can you think of a better one?

Ha, good one.
Ha, good one.

I’ve only played this game for about ten minutes – I know, my journalistic integrity’s off the charts right now – but that’s honestly all I needed. It blows the already excellent Donkey Kong Country Returns out of the water, which is saying quite a lot. How much? Well, let’s see. If a picture says a thousand words, and this game runs at a beautiful sixty frames per second, and there’s about twenty hours’ worth of playtime and re-playtime sprinkled in here, google calculator quite a lot indeed. It’s the prettiest game of the year, hands-down. It’s also the best-looking game of all time, hands-down. Aside from that? It’s Donkey Kong Country Returns, but with better music, better boss fights, and craftier level locations. To say the least, this is near the top of my “to-get” list for Wii U. Best Platformer


Google Spell Up/Santa Dive

Ah, I thought we were on a roll with the good games there for a second.

Yep, these exist. Yep, they’re as awful as you think they’d be. To date, there have been two games that have caused me direct physical harm: Kid Icarus: Uprising, which was worth bearing the pain of finger reconstruction, and Spell Up, which made me strain my vocal chords more than I thought was possible. Part of that was probably the result of how infuriated I was about its terrible questions, but I am positive part of the problem was a deliberate attempt to enrage me through disregarding answers that HAD to be registered correctly. Santa Dive is… well, I could tell you, but you really should just play it yourself. I’m not trying to cop out here. You seriously have to see this one to believe this one. Ho Ho Holy Shit These Are Awful


Phoenix Wright vs. Professor Layton

I expected mediocrity and got badness. At least Justice for All had enjoyable moments. Adrian Andrews is welcome in my harem at any time. But this… was bad form. I now have to admit there’s a bad Ace Attorney game. (And before you say it: Apollo Justice was fantastic. I’ll explain why in due time.)

I think the seed of Professor Layton impregnated the Ace Attorney womb to the point of bursting. The characters in this game are just plain bland, and the stories aren’t remotely compelling. The setting is weirdly mystical for no reason. Non-canon or not, this doesn’t feel like an acceptable place for Phoenix or Maya to solve murders. That’s when you’re lucky enough to solve a murder, by the way. There are cases in this game that aren’t murder trials. Do you know how much the stakes plummet when you’re not solving a murder? In fairness, I’m not entirely stunned that the Layton influence is overwhelming. What I am surprised by is that a Shu Takumi work wound up being this bad. The warmth and levity and genuine funny humor the best Ace Attorney games deliver are abandoned for Layton-style quirk. Everyone in this game is characterized not through personality, but through a fill-in-the-blank questionnaire. It seems as though the storytellers here just picked a characteristic of someone in the room and applied it to a random character. Simply put: Professor Layton vs. Ace Attorney is further testament to the fact that there are literally no good 3DS games worth owning anymore. The series just don’t compliment one another well at all. NO THANKS


Robot Roller-Derby Disco Dodgeball

Technically, you could argue that this game’s earliest versions came out in 2013; technically, you could also argue that it only officially released on Steam last month. I’m going to go under the pretense that this game updated enough from the really early versions in 2014 and was basically done by the time it was out of Early Access. That having been said, SHAMELESS PLUG Like Lovely Planet, this is one of those really great games everybody completely missed. The strangle-a-millennial humor of Mount Your Friends actually works nicely here. It’s done in earnest this time, rather than trying to appeal to a, shall we say, bror arm specific demographic. Who doesn’t love robots with customizable mustachios? The gameplay in Robot Roller-Derby Disco Dodgeball is what Tribes should be like. Maps aren’t gigantic, so you’ll actually have things to shoot at without having to wander a topographical mess for half an hour to find an enemy. At the same time, the gameplay forces you do move around constantly and lead your shots, so managing to get a kill is still very satisfying. There’s a lot of nuance here, considering how Unity the game is. Catches are one of the game’s coolest mechanics. If you get hit with a dodgeball, you die; but if you catch a dodgeball, your opponent is killed instead. This gives the game a fun dynamic and a lot of frantic scenarios where your instincts will tell you to move, but your cowardice will tell you to hope for a catch. It also gives every situation the right amount of uncertainty to stay interesting, but fair. The Score Attack mode is really excellent, too. You get points for pulling off tricksy shots and win when you get a certain number of points. These include everything from killing someone with a ball you threw just before you died, getting a kill after spinning around in midair, getting long-distance shots, and doing things for which I still haven’t guessed the requirements.

"Flying Squirrel?" What is that even supposed to mean?
“Flying Squirrel?” What is that even supposed to mean?

Other shooters have tried doing stuff like this – Battlefield, I know, has an experience system that kind of works this way – but I’ve never seen anything incentivize such a great array of nonsense accomplishments in a way that’s this funny and this fun to play. Finally, the presentation in Robot Roller-Derby Disco Dodgeball is incredibly effective. This is another soundtrack you should totally download, and the look of the game is like the Electrodome from Mario Kart 8 applied to a laser tag arena. I know it doesn’t look like much, but there’s so much more to this game than looks the eyes. It’s perfect evidence that you don’t need the strongest technicals to be one of the best games of a year. It combines the high-speed chaos of Mario Kart, the contemplative action of Lethal League or Nidhogg, the deep systems of Sma5h, and the party atmosphere of The Jackbox Party Pack to create something really special. In fact, this game is so special… Best Multiplayer Games …that I’m giving this game two awards. Yes, this obscure shoestring FPS is better than all the most massive-budget, best-known ,highest-definition party-based games of the year. You really need to buy this one.


And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for… Kanjoos Lahookvinhaakvinhookvin hereby declares that the official Meme Genie Award for Best Game of 2014 goes to…

Best drum roll I could find.
Best drum roll I could find.

Bayonetta 2!

This really didn’t surprise me. Platinum’s topped my game of the year list for three of the past five years, and the Bayonetta franchise has done so twice in that span. Bayonetta 2 is as good as the first one. I don’t even want to talk about it here. I want to write a full dissertation on all the ways this game is pure genius. This is so much deeper than popcorn entertainment. This is the same deal as Strider, except it plays better than almost every other game ever made. How many combos does this game have? Has anyone even come up with a ballpark figure? It’s true that Bayonetta 2 is Bayonetta 1 in blue in different scenarios. That’s good. That’s all I was hoping for it to be. The first game was so perfect to begin with, and this one almost manages to be more flawless. I like blue more than red, so I have to give this game the upper hand. And what’s this? You get Bayonetta for FREE!? What idiot slipped that into the case? Screw The Jackbox, THIS deserves Best Value! I literally bought a Wii U for this game. It’s so immaculate. It’s looking like Bayonetta is going to be the best game of a generation… again! Hideki Kamiya deserves a hug from every human being alive for this gift. And now he’s working on The Great Ace Attorney? I thought I was going to be late to upload this; apparently, it’s still Christmastime. In all honesty, I could’ve told you this was my Game of the Year 2014 four years ago. If you honestly think last year was a disappointing year for games, you must be blind. Bayonetta 2 is too good for any year it came out in to be bad. Most Perfect Thing


…but not all is well in video game land.

Pokemon: Omega Ruby

I can’t do it. Look, I know I keep saying that I want to write full pieces about these games, but I really mean it this time. I can’t just talk about ORAS in brief. I have to tackle this beast the long, hard, miser-able way. But before I do, I’ll leave you with this. Worst Game 2014 I promise you, the next one’s gonna start a shitstorm.


FINAL SCORE: 8/10

2014 might not have had many bigger releases, but if you dig deep enough, there’s something to satisfy everybody. There were shooters, platformers, hackers, slashers, everything! One of the premier games of the year was a card game, for Pete’s sake. That niche should’ve been covered a decaded ago. There weren’t many bad games either, so I think an 8 is a damn well justified score for the year. Feel free to argue with me about this as much as you want. I’m opening the #GamerGate to as much dissent as you care to give.


The Best:

5. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze

4. Mario Kart 8

3. Super Smash Bros. for Wii U

2. Lovely Planet

1. Bayonetta 

The Least Best:

5. Monument Valley

4. Google Spell Up

3. Santa Dive

2. Strider (2014)

1. Pokemon: Omega Ruby

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: