Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Best of 2009: video games

Like I am with books, I rarely play games during the year that they are released. This is due mostly to limited free time and my damned thriftiness. (Hey, I like to wait until a price cut. Sue me.) But this past spring I procured an Xbox 360 and the amount of gaming that I've done has increased greatly. As I played catch up with a console that's already a few years old, these are the ten or so titles that stood out the most (and I played enough to make a qualified evaluation):

Rock Band 2 - By far, this monopolized most of my Xbox 360 time this year. Developer Harmonix has put a lot of care into achieving its goal of having this be not just a game, but a platform. Thanks in part to a promotion with Pepsi over the summer, I've downloaded tons of songs of widely disparate genres. (Simon and Garfunkel! The Pixies! Kelly Clarkson! Gorillaz!) I used to fly the Guitar Hero flag, but now that I've seen the light I'm squarely a part of Team Rock Band.

The Beatles: Rock Band - Simply a beautiful game that utilizes the best pop music in recorded history. Based on my own personal experience, this is THE game that bridges the generations. During one session I was holding down on the fake plastic guitar while my mom and grandma were taking turns singing. The only gripe that one could have is that, even with the DLC that fleshes out Abbey Road, Sgt. Pepper, and Rubber Sole, there aren't enough songs. Bring on Revolver!

Marvel Ultimate Alliance - Yes, I'm a Marvel fanboy, so my opinion of this game is heavily biased. But I think that I can say in confidence that this is the best Marvel game that I've ever played. Snikt! Bamf! Loser!

NCAA Football 10 - College football season is a wonderful thing and so is this game. This was my first introduction to the current generation of sports games and I was wowed.

LEGO Rock Band - Pretty much just a LEGO skin over top of Rock Band, but therein lies its charm. And, hey, 45 more songs to play (The Zutons! Ray Parker, Jr.! T. Rex!), so I'm not going to complain about the lack of inventiveness.

LEGO Indiana Jones - Yet another licensed LEGO game. Yet another success.

Viva Piñata - Sure, it's a kids' game, but sometimes you just want the serenity of tending to your garden and making your piñatas get it on.

The Incredible Hulk - I've barely scratched the surface of this game's story, but I've spent countless hours smashing up New York City. Really, it's a great stress release.

Civilization Revolution - Once I started a campaign of world domination, I could kiss the next five hours of my life goodbye. It's like when I stumble upon a "Law & Order" marathon on TNT.

Scene It! Box Office Smash - No one can best me in a head-to-head film trivia competition. Yes, that is a challenge.

Xbox Live Arcade Games:
Peggle - An immense time suck and more addictive than crack cocaine.

Xbox Live Indie Games:
Miner Dig Deep - It's like Dig-Dug, but without any antagonists. All you do is, uh, dig deep for minerals and jewels. Sounds simple because it is. It's also really fun.

I Maed a Game With Zombies In It!!!1 - Quite possibly the best dollar that I've ever spent* and a great way to kill a few minutes. Plus, the very meta song that runs through it is totally bitchin'.

Solar - Extremely relaxing, this is something that you can start and just zone out on while listening to music or podcasts.

*Next to Father Guido Sarducci's "100 Balls on the Christmas Tree", of course.

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