Thursday, December 27, 2007

Game of the Year

OK...so after pontificating very, very briefly on 11 of the games I played a lot of this year, I guess it's time to talk about the four games I didn't mention, and cast my tiny pebble into the ocean of opinion that is "Game of the Year 2007." I purposely didn't mention Halo 3, Call of Duty 4, Bioshock, or Super Mario Galaxy the first time around, because let's face it (along with Mass Effect and Orange Box) they're pretty much all anyone's talking about right now. Although these are the highest profile titles, what's most important about this year is that there have been one hell of a lot of really good games that deserve to be remembered along with the big-budget, high-profile stuff. That said, no one can deny the way the bar was raised this year and whether you personally enjoyed the blockbusters or not (and personally, there were a few of them that I couldn't quite get it up for quite the way I'd hoped) there's no escaping the impact they had on gaming in general, and the fact that they were all exceptionally good. Amazing new features, unbelievable visuals, innovative new ideas, noticeable improvements in story telling (about bloody time) and emotional range, and even some good scripts. The four games above were all incredible...but when push comes to shove, and all things considered and all that - I think the real "game of the year" (and again, this is purely a personal, subjective view) was Super Mario Galaxy. It was very nearly Mass Effect, but ultimately I think that comes a close second.

I'm no Nintendophile by any stretch of the imagination, but the appeal of Mario is undeniable. Galaxy did what few other games have; it felt new, and imaginative, and whimsical, and created a world of magic and fantasy that recalled the days when all videogames felt that way. It uses the Wii controls in a way that's fun, but not gratuitous, and it is one of the most beautifully paced games I've played in years. After easing you through some relatively simple challenges, it whacks you with something crazy hard and infuriating...but only for a short while. And then it rewards you with something exciting and almost mindless. It's truly rewarding all the way through, and for that reason it's incredibly hard to put down.

I love playing it, and my kids love watching it...and now they're getting used to it, they're starting to want to do the thing with the second Wii-mote too. And what more could I want than that?

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