Monday, January 2, 2012

Best of 2011

Since 2012 is here I thought it might be a good time for a short best of 2011 list! Note that only games that have been released during 2011 are included (and not games that I have played last year). So without further ado, here are my top picks from the past year (starting in reverse order, to make things exciting!):

3 - Portal 2

What I liked the most about Portal 2 were these little moments where you really felt immersed in the world. For example if you hesitate to follow Wheatly's advice and a make a not very safe looking leap down, he will try to persuade you using hilarious quips. These (unfortunately sparse) moments created this kind of special connection to characters you rarely see in games. There also exists a very strong sense of place in Portal 2. I think this is mostly created by how the dialog and environments come together and interact. Unfortunately most of this is in the first third or so and the game becomes more and more drawn out during the end. There is also a lot of really lackluster puzzle sections where you are simply trying to find the right area to place a portal. Despite these short comings, Portal 2 had me quite engaged and proved to be one of the better experiences of last year.

2 - To the Moon

I think the most interesting aspect of this game is how it in some ways is a culmination of a 25 years JPRPG pixel dramaturgy. The emotional displays of the simplistic sprites are very limited, but are used to perfection and creates a very powerful and mature narration. The game also feature very interesting take on puzzles and action. Sometimes it is possible to decide how much challenge you want and at other times the activities are irrelevant and simply there to make you more connected to the world. Unfortunately this is at its best at the start of the game and it gets progressively worse. The end even contains a terrible action sequence.
What really brings the game home though, is how To the Moon manages to bring up mature themes in a way that is extremely rare in videogames. These play out in fairly non-interactive situations and thus are not any kind of revolution. But simply seeing a game where the core experience is a meditation on love, relationships, memory and what is really important in life, makes me really happy and hopeful.

1- Sword and Sworcery
This is by far my favorite game from last year. The videogame's strong focus on making something that blends interaction, music and visuals creates a really engaging experience. This is truly a game that aims to take you inside a another world and it is all about living it instead of trying to beat it. Another thing I really liked about it is how the game does not force you into continuing playing it. Sword and Sworcery actually explicitly tells you to take a rest and come back later between chapters. In an industry where it is all about getting players hooked and never stop playing, this is extremly refreshing to see. Combined with this, the game also asks you to reflect upon it and encourages the player to not just have a shallow, addictive experience. I really hope to see more of this! The game is not without flaws of course. There are lots of problems with the often annoying combat, repetitive puzzles, the twitter integration did not feel needed and some of the writing feels a bit too quirky and lazy. Still, Sword and Sworcery is quite the thing and I urge all of everyone to give it a go.

Now I am interested to hear which 3 games from 2011 were your favorites!