Friday, December 24, 2010

Year in Review: The best games of 2010

Above: Not even a game of the year nod can make Ethan Mars smile.

We're wrapping up our recap of the year that was. Today: the best games of 2010.

We've saved the best for last. You can click through to the feature on to read all the blurbs. Here's my list of the 10 best games of 2010.
  1. Heavy Rain
  2. Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit
  3. BioShock 2
  4. Rock Band 3
  5. Red Dead Redemption
  6. Dance Central
  7. DeathSpank
  8. Halo: Reach
  9. Bayonetta
  10. Final Fantasy XIII
That about wraps it up for 2010. As always, thank you so much for reading. Have a merry Christmas and a happy new year. We'll meet right back here in 2011.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Year in Review: The worst games of 2010

Above: "It's just me getting killed by a giant spider for an hour and a half. It cost 80 million krone."

All this week, we'll be recapping the year that was. Today: The worst games of the year.

As I keep darkly alluding, I found this to be a challenging year in a lot of ways.* Nowhere was this more apparent than with all the supposedly great games I struggled to play. Every year there's crap, and everybody agrees it's crap, but this year, more than any I can recall, there was crap that people kept telling me was an ice-cream sundae.

In chronological order of when I played them, here are the games I liked the least in 2010:

Army of Two: The 40th Day: I was sad to see this game go in the wrong direction, because I thought the first Army of Two showed a lot of promise. But the sequel ditched the humor, kept the monotonous duck-and-cover shooting, and added a terrible checkpoint system to boot. Nothing was worse than laboriously customizing your weapons, dying in the next firefight, and finding that you had to do it all over again. Ugh.

No More Heroes: Desperate Struggle: This is where we're talking about disappointing sequels, right? I loved No More Heroes so much, and I thought the sequel wasn't fit for the tissue box next to Travis Touchdown's easy chair. I can't even talk about it. It makes me sad.

Aliens vs. Predator: Never wrote about this one. In fact, I'd forgotten I played it until I saw it on somebody else's worst-of list. Whoever that was, damn you for reminding me of this awful game.

God of War III: Mechanically, God of War III was sound, but it was the moment when Kratos stopped being cool. Dude needs to get over it. He's like the guy who shows up at his 20th high school reunion wearing the same leather jacket he wore in the twelfth grade. It's embarrassing at this point.

Splinter Cell: Conviction: I get what Ubi was trying to do here. It just didn't work. Even if the aggro-stealth concept had worked, we'd still have had to deal with Fisher's motormouthed antagonists. Who the hell signed off on them?

Crackdown 2: We are drowning in awful sequels right now. Pinpointing the failure of Crackdown 2 is difficult, because in every way that matters, it is exactly the same game as its predecessor. Except the first game is still one of my favorites of this generation, and the second one is... not.

Limbo: Man, I don't even know. To me, this seemed like just another too-difficult indie platformer with delusions of grandeur.

Mafia II: Not without its charms, I still wonder what sane person would keep playing through this game's terrible action scenes unless somebody was paying them. It still wasn't enough for me!

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow: This, not Limbo, is the game where I feel the most like I missed something. I read too many positive things from too many people I respect to discount it as simply a crappy game. But that's what it felt like to me: lousy camera, bad controls, dumb story. I can't get past these things.

Medal of Honor: If there was a more generic, mediocre shooter out there in 2010, I didn't play it.

Tomorrow: The best games of 2010.

*I'm just trying to seem dark and mysterious, for the ladies.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Year in Review: Honorable mentions

All this week, we'll be recapping the year that was. Today: 2010 honorable mentions.

Rough as this year was, there were still plenty of games that I played and enjoyed, even if they didn't end up making my list of the best games of the year. In chronological order of when I played them:

Battlefield: Bad Company 2: I don't think I ever wrote about this game. I am generally tired of military-themed shooters, but I dug the big maps and the vehicles, and I want to apologize to the dozens of teammates I inadvertently murdered whenever I was driving.

Alan Wake: A terrific-looking shooter with a decent gameplay gimmick and a nice sense of pacing. If only this bestselling author hadn't been such a terrible writer.

Super Mario Galaxy 2: Even if I find myself reaching the "it's not you, it's me" stage with a lot of these Nintendo games, the quality is undeniable. You still can't screw with Super Mario.

Hydro Thunder Hurricane: A super-fun throwback arcade racer for Xbox Live Arcade. I really, really liked this game. It almost made my top 10 for the year.

Metroid: Other M: Uneven, especially where the storytelling was concerned, but Other M was a fun and fast-paced update to the Metroid universe. I just wish it hadn't gotten better after it ended!

NBA Jam: I almost forgot it existed, but I had fun with this game while it lasted. God, is that the most mild praise you can imagine, or what?

Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem!: My first review for Joystiq was also my biggest surprise of the year. This game's reach doesn't exceed its grasp; it accomplishes everything it sets out to do.

Donkey Kong Country Returns: Rock-solid 2d platforming marred only by -- what else? -- shoehorned waggle control. Apparently there's a classic controller mode available, which probably would have helped to know when I was playing it.

Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom: Another surprise. I predict that, a year from now, one of two things will happen: either you'll be able to get this game for five bucks from every bargain bin in the country, or you'll have to get it for a hundred on eBay. Both outcomes seem equally likely.

Mass Effect 2: All right, you bastards. You win. I like Mass Effect 2. Sure, I still find the moment-to-moment play excruciating, just trying to accomplish the simplest tasks, and the plot isn't that good. I've pretty much lost track of the whole thing at this point. The non-stop recitation of alien races and planets is stupefying. And, come on: The Illusive Man? Seriously? WTF kind of lazy storytelling is that? He smokes so mysteriously! And where the hell is he? Is there a bathroom on his solar observation deck?

But, on the other hand, my renegade FemShep is awesome. I like her dark humor and her clear-eyed take on things. She doesn't do the things I would do in her position, but neither do I feel like the game is forcing my hand. I'm trying to get inside this character's head. There are times when it seems like this is exactly what a roleplaying game is supposed to be.

Now let's never speak of this again.

Some Games I Wish I Had Played: Split/Second, Blur, Metro 2033, Joe Danger, Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, Pac Man CE DX

Can't win 'em all.

Tomorrow: the worst games of 2010.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Year in Review: Year-end superlatives

Above: A winner is you, everyone.

All this week, we'll be recapping the year that was. Today: year-end superlatives.

Welcome Trend: Critical Non-Consensus

With the annual "Year in Swooning" quiz, I'm trying to point out how carried away game sites often get when it comes to the flavor of the week. But there is some progress in this regard. This year, I felt like there actually was legitimate, respectful disagreement about some of the highest-profile games, both indie and major-label.

I think it's a sign that gamers are feeling more self-confident that we don't have to band together all the time. This is a good thing!

PR Knuckleheads of the Year: Gabe and Tycho

Count me among those who thought the original comic was not only hilarious, but took aim at a worthy target. But the followup was a disaster. When some readers objected, Gabe and Tycho could have taken the criticisms in the spirit they were intended. A simple apology would have done nicely. At the very least, acknowledge the complaints respectfully and move on. Hell, ignoring them would have been better than what actually happened.

Instead, Gabe and Tycho doubled down with a comic that not only mischaracterized the complaints, but essentially said that the people who were offended are stupid. And then followed that up by selling Dickwolves merch.

All this was uncharacteristic for two guys who are so generous and inclusive, both with PAX and with Child's Play. These are the guys who banned booth babes from PAX, with the blessing of a majority of their readership. So I certainly don't doubt their motives. To their minds, a joke is a joke, but a bunch of their readers disagreed and I think they they did real damage to their brand by assuming a defensive posture instead of listening. To this day I don't think anything approaching an apology has come out, not for the first comic or for the followup.

For myself, I don't think they would have needed to apologize for the original strip, but they could have dealt with it in a better way than becoming the latest and most ironic exemplars of John Gabriel's Greater Internet Dickwad Theory.

Game Blog of the Year: Gamer Melodico

Barely one year into it, Kirk Hamilton and company have already made a big impact with Gamer Melodico. They did it all: good-natured jabs at obnoxious game design; satire; finding inventive ways to comment on topical subjects; round-table discussions that make you feel like you're sitting in a coffee shop with the writers.

All of it's done with a good attitude, a healthy sense of humor, and keen minds. I can't sum up the site any better than they did themselves: "Gamer Melodico is a blog about games, written by friendly people who like to play."

(And, what the hell, an honorable mention for Game Journalists Are Incompetent Fuckwits. Paddon's not on-target all the time, but, in the words of Han Solo, "I must have hit real close to the mark to get her all riled up like this, huh kid?")

Developers of the Year: Ex-LucasArts dudes

No big-budget studio jumped out at me this year. Rockstar San Diego did great work with Red Dead Redemption. Retro Studios successfully rebooted Donkey Kong Country. Quantic Dream accomplished most of its very ambitious goals with Heavy Rain. 2K Marin not only stunned me by releasing a worthy followup to BioShock, but by all accounts the "Minerva's Den" DLC was even better (unfortunately, I didn't play it).

But I have to give a shout-out here to two people that I am always rooting for, who found their voices this year with downloadable games. Ron Gilbert, via Hothead Games, brought us the hilarious DeathSpank, which was followed almost immediately by a surprise sequel. And Tim Shafer's DoubleFine Productions rebounded after the disappointing Brutal Legend to release Costume Quest, a funny and light downloadable game that's gotten plaudits from a lot of people whose opinions I value. 2010 was a good year for both of these guys, and they're two of the best we've got.

Publisher of the Year: Nintendo

Even though I still struggle a bit with a lot of the newer Nintendo games, it's hard to argue that Nintendo isn't the big-name publisher that is consistently putting out the highest-quality products. On the Wii, Super Mario Galaxy and Donkey Kong Country Returns were both worthy of their names, and Metroid: Other M was respectable. On the DS, a little game called Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem! was my biggest surprise of the year. Maybe sales of the Wii are flagging, but year in and year out, Nintendo never disappoints on the software side.

Game Console of the Year: Xbox 360

We've long since reached the point at which everybody has made up their minds on this generation of game consoles. Five years into it, the Wii's star has started to fall a bit, the PlayStation 3 has never gotten on track, and the Xbox 360 has almost defaulted to the head of the pack, massive hardware failure rates notwithstanding.

So why choose the Xbox 360 as the game console of the year? For one thing, the only hardware this year that even approached the level of buzzworthy was Kinect. The jury's still out, but it's got a lot of potential. It was the Xbox that once again had the lion's share of big exclusives, both in retail and download. And, price hike or not, Xbox Live continues to be the best online gaming option around. That's why I bought my second Xbox 360 this year.

That, and my first one red-ringed after almost five years. It was like the death of the last living World War 1 veteran.

Tomorrow: Honorable mentions.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Year in Review: The best of the blog

Above: Actually the best of Insult Swordfighting.

All this week, we'll be recapping the year that was. First up: the best of Insult Swordfighting, 2010.

It's been a strange year. My output was lower than usual. I spent a couple of months without playing anything at all. When I did play games, I often felt uninspired, or even gloomy. Without making things weird between us, I'll just say that a lot happened this year, personally and professionally, that made me question the role of video games in my life. But it's all good. As we head into 2011, I'm excited about the way things are going, and I'm looking forward to playing and writing a lot more.

Without further ado, here are some of the better Insult Swordfighting posts you may have missed from 2010:

January: Bayonetta. How is it possible for one game to be so awesome, yet so embarrassing?

February: I returned from the disabled list. If you're wondering, I have made nearly a full recovery. The doctor and my occupational therapist both told me that it's extremely rare for people to heal so well from this type of injury.

March: I made the first of many impassioned defenses of Heavy Rain. And I spent way too much time writing about PAX East. Speaking of which, I still haven't gotten my pass for the next one.

April: I was about to vanish from blogging for awhile. One reason was Peggle.

May: N/A

June: What's with the collectibles in Alan Wake? Plus, my banned review of Splinter Cell: Conviction finally saw daylight.

July: I think a lot of people thought I was trying to stick it to Ebert, but actually this post was about how much I disliked Limbo, and the critical conversation surrounding it.

August: Seriously, I didn't like Limbo.

September: Why did Metroid: Other M wait until after the closing credits to get good?

October: 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die is released, becomes a runaway bestseller, and revenue from its sales through my Amazon Associates account makes me an instant millionaire.

November: "The Year in Swooning" is always fun.

December: My vendetta against BioWare knows no bounds. (In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that I stayed up until 4:30 AM on Sunday playing Mass Effect 2.)

Tomorrow: Year-end superlatives.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit

Above: It's the man, bringing you down.

Autolog recommends that you read my review of Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit at If you follow me on Twitter (why don't you follow me on Twitter?), then you know that I love this game with a passion bordering on obsession. I found myself thinking about it as I went to sleep at night, and when I got up in the morning. When I load the title screen, my heart starts beating a little faster. This is shameful, but it's the truth.

In the limited space I have for reviews, I prefer to focus on one or two major points rather than trying to cover everything. In this case, it seemed most important to talk about how flippin' awesome the hot pursuits are, so that's the majority of the review. I didn't even mention the social features, despite how prominently they feature in the game's marketing, and even though I'm about to discuss them now, the bottom line is that the social features are a nice extra and not a game-changer.

For Autolog is, at heart, just a leaderboard. In that sense it's no different from the high score list on a Pac-Man machine 30 years ago. If no one else has played an event, you hop right to the top. If they have, your incentive is to beat them. Occasionally, you return to the game to find that you have been displaced. Your friends' scores update automatically, which, again, is not new or unique to Hot Pursuit.

Where the Autolog departs from tradition is in the ease of use. You might finish a race and return to the menu to be interrupted by a breaking news update that someone has just beaten your score. With one button press, you can immediately load that event and set to work getting your revenge. More than once, this feature resulted in an asynchronous multiplayer game between me and some of my friends who were online. We could have raced each other head to head; instead, we were trading lap times in what felt like a 21st-century update of playing chess by mail.

That's intended as a compliment.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Mass Effect 2

Above: Mass Effect 2 cast members plan their revenge against me for this post.

In advance of turning in my list of the year's top games, I decided to play a little catch-up this weekend. What better place to start, I thought, than with Mass Effect 2, one of the best-reviewed games of the year, and one of my favorite excerpts from this year's "Year in Swooning" quiz?

Despite Chris Buffa's command that I buy it immediately, I skipped ME2 the first time around. You may remember that I hated the original. That's not a word I use often, or lightly. I seem to have a mental block when it comes to BioWare, and it didn't seem fair to me or to them to keep reviewing their games when I'm just going to say the same things over and over. So Maddy reviewed ME2 for the Phoenix and loved it, and I went about my merry way.

Still, with the year ending, people starting to tweet about their best games of the year, and the price having dropped to $20, I figured: what the hell. Let's give Mass Effect 2 a try. I picked it up on Friday and put about six mostly painless hours into it over the weekend. Without question, it is a huge improvement over the original. But I remain baffled by so many of the design decisions, most of which have the effect of making the game hard to play. I don't mean that the game is difficult in the traditional sense, I mean that performing the most basic actions is always twice as complicated as it needs to be.

Over a year has passed since Krystian Majewski's epic three-part dismantling of the interface in Mass Effect 1, and despite minor improvements in this regard, that's still your best resource for understanding how and why Mass Effect 2's interaction design fails. When it comes to maintaining a consistent control scheme, to conveying appropriate information to the player, and making it easy to parse your character data, BioWare doesn't get the most basic things right, not even by accident.

This is but a sampling of the problems I encountered in my time playing Mass Effect 2.

Press A to confirm, or press B to... confirm?

Mass Effect 2 likes to change what buttons do from one screen to the next. By now, it is accepted convention that on the Xbox 360 controller, the green A button means "yes," "accept," "confirm," and so on. The red B button means "no," "deny," "cancel," and so on. Sometimes this is the case in ME2, and sometimes it isn't. When you select a costume for Shepard, the icons helpfully tell you "(B) Confirm." I think this is the first game in history to do that.

In other screens, the game doubles up on functions. At the end of each mission is a debrief screen that runs through your stats. When you scroll to the last menu option, you read "Exit (A)." And at the bottom of the screen, you also read "(B) Exit." That's hardly game-breaking, since it's hard to imagine what else you would want to do at that point. But it's BioWare's approach in a nutshell: never use one button when two will do.

Bait and switch

There are two primary modes of playing Mass Effect 2. Either you're walking around and talking to other characters, or you are shooting other characters. Both modes look exactly the same. They control the same, at least as far as moving your character goes. They transition from one to another seamlessly. Yet, when you move from one to another, certain buttons swap functions. Some things stop working. It is bizarre.

In non-combat play, clicking the right stick will bring up a static map (clicking the left stick will bring up the map, too -- again, why use one button when two will do?). Clicking the right stick again will not exit the map, despite how much sense that would make, but that's not really pertinent to this point. If you have an objective, you can click the right bumper to bring up a little arrow on your HUD that'll point where you need to go.

Once you're in combat, this changes. Now there's no map screen at all, and clicking the right stick brings up your objective arrow instead. This is necessary because the right bumper has been re-mapped to activate your ammo power. Makes sense, right?

The worst part of all of this is that I might have gotten the details wrong, but I would never be able to tell.

If the light is red, move ahead

Games can communicate information in lots of different ways: through text, through color, through sound, through force-feedback. When an interface is designed well, all of these elements work together to tell the player a story in the blink of an eye. When it is not, they will provide confusing or contradictory information to the player.

The best example that I saw in Mass Effect 2 came the first time I entered a mass relay, which is the device that lets you jump to another star system. The screen showed me a zoomed out galaxy map, and I could move a crosshair with the analog stick to select my destination. When I highlighted the nearest star system, I heard a buzzing noise, and a red line appeared connecting that system with the one I was on. "Whoops, guess I can't go here yet," I thought, and exited the map to try to figure out what quest-critical task I had not yet accomplished.

It took me three trips into the mass relay to realize that nothing was preventing me from proceeding, and that a tiny "travel" icon was also appearing at the bottom of the screen, along with the buzzing and the red line. This could have been avoided with a "ding" sound and a green line, don't you think?


Mass Effect 2's icons make no sense. When you're in combat, you can give your squadmates orders by pulling up a wheel that is studded with icons representing everybody's special powers. It is impossible to tell just by looking what any of these powers are. Even when you point the cursor at one of them, it's still not easy to tell because they all have sexy names that don't reflect their actual function. (Why is the command to heal your squadmates called "unity" and not, you know, "heal"?)

So in order to tell what anything does during battle, you have to scroll around reading fine print, most of which is hidden from view until you highlight a specific part of the radial wheel. This is a stunning feat of communicating as little information as possible to the player, while still taking up the maximum possible screen real estate.

(Just to rep Krystian's article again, he did a much better job of demolishing Mass Effect's iconography than I ever could.)

Ordering off the menu

Trying to navigate the menus in Mass Effect 2 feels like you've stumbled into an M.C. Escher painting. They never go where you expect, and they're full of extraneous information that doesn't help you accomplish your goals. You can read detailed paragraphs about your weapons, but you can't compare their stats side-by-side when you're selecting your loadout. That's the most important function I could imagine these menus serving, and it's just not there.

Or take the process of making upgrades. You access a console on your ship that brings up a top-level list of available upgrades, broken out by category. But the top menu item isn't selectable, and it isn't an upgrade. It provides a general description of what upgrades are. It looks like a menu option -- it just doesn't behave like one.

As you scroll down through the menu, detailed descriptions of each category display in a box to the right. I get that a lot of people who play games like this are interested in lore, so I'm not too bothered by so much of the screen being taken up by information that seemed superfluous to me. But guess what happens when you select one of the categories: in the next sub-menu, the first highlighted option is, again, a description of that category, which tells you nothing you didn't already know. But it does take up the first spot in the list, despite not sharing the same function as the other items below it.

Once you make an upgrade, you are booted back out into the ship, and must re-enter the console. You can't go immediately to the next upgrade you wanted to make. Which makes sense. Who would go to the upgrade console wanting to make upgrades?

That really got out of hand fast... I think Brick killed a guy!

Whoops! This was supposed to be a short post. I didn't even cover every problem I encountered, and remember, I only played for six hours. As with other BioWare games, I felt like I was playing a video game that was made by people who had never played a video game before.

This is probably a good time to go for the deathbed salvation and say that, despite it all, this time I can at least see what other people like about Mass Effect 2. Visually, it's a massive upgrade over the first, with vibrant alien worlds to explore. The storyline seems like pretty standard space opera stuff, but there's nothing wrong with that, and various individual scenarios I played were well paced. And the characters and dialogue trees remain the game's best achievement. Unlike in the first game, I started this one as FemShep, and I don't regret it. It's really nice to be able to play as a female hero who isn't defined (confined?) by her gender.

Will I keep playing Mass Effect 2? Maybe. I hear it gets better as you go along.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Let's get ethical

Hi there! I would like your opinion on something.

For several years now, I've had an Amazon Associates account, which lets me earn a small commission off of purchases I refer to Amazon. I rarely use it. For the past several months, all I've done with it is keep a persistent ad in this blog's righthand column to the book 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die, which is awesome and which you should totally buy. No problem there.

One of the quirks of the Associates program is that if I refer somebody to the site, I earn money on any purchase they make during that session, even if it's not the specific item that I linked. Recently, somebody bought a pricey television set via my affiliate link, which single-handedly resulted in my first payout in the three years I've had the account. That was exciting.

This week, you may have noticed that I posted Amazon links to both of the games I reviewed. The logic is simple: I put a lot of time and effort into writing about games, and I'd like to be compensated for it as much as I can. I think this is reasonable.

My concern is that if I stand to profit off of the sales of a video game, then I appear to have an incentive to praise the game, in hopes that I will convince you to buy it. It doesn't even matter if this is true or not. As they say in journalism, the appearance of a conflict is just as bad as the conflict itself. This has been my chief criticism of Game Informer over the years. As a subsidiary of Gamestop, they clearly have an incentive for you to buy more games. Whether or not that accounts for their surfeit of 9+ scores, I don't know, but it sure makes sense to me.

If I don't have the credibility with readers to know that I'm being honest, then I have nothing. No amount of money is worth losing that. On the other hand, I think it's reasonable to treat this blog as a commercial enterprise, same as anywhere else. It's not uncommon to see, for example, links to buy tickets alongside a movie review. Nobody thinks Roger Ebert is fluffing a movie so you'll click his Fandango link.

What do you think? Do these Amazon links constitute a conflict, or an appearance of one? Is there a better way to include affiliate links that maintains a wall between advertising and editorial?

And can I interest you in a Sony BRAVIA XBR Series KDL-52XBR9 52-Inch 1080p 240 Hz LCD HDTV, Black?

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom

Above: It's a good thing he's a vegetarian.

My review of Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom is up at Joystiq. This was a nice surprise. Definitely not a game I'd have sought out for myself, but I was glad to have played it.

I focused primarily on the mechanics in this review, because they're interesting, they work, and they overcome most of the game's problems, instead of being overshadowed by them. It didn't seem worth mentioning the bizarre voice acting, because it is so bizarre that it is the first thing I'd expect a reviewer to mention, and I like to keep things fresh.

But, so you know, the voice acting is weird. You talk to a bunch of animals throughout the game, and they have the strangest voices. I don't even know how to describe it. None of the American voice actors attempts a dramatic accent (though many go for silly voices), and they all sound freakishly laid-back. It's like the casting calls were posted exclusively at community colleges near the beach.

That said, although the storyline is boilerplate fantasy stuff, I was surprised by how much I grew to care about the Majin. His dialogue can be annoying at times, but he is such a reliable partner that I actually started feeling anxious when we got separated. It was always a relief to turn around and see him lumbering toward me, his knuckles practically scraping the ground. At the game's emotional climax, I wouldn't quite say I was moved, but I did care, and I think that's an achievement worth celebrating.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Donkey Kong Country Returns

Above: A serious mine furor.

My review of Donkey Kong Country Returns is up now at I'm starting to feel like a broken record with these rebooted Nintendo games. I like them, and can't deny the quality, but don't feel especially compelled to keep playing them. Often it seems like my complaints come down to "this game is too hard," but that's not exactly right.

Honestly, DKCR isn't that hard. You die a lot, but it's not stingy with the 1-ups, and nothing in it is insurmountable provided you put in a reasonable effort. What bothered me was its old-school approach to recording my progress. Which is to say: it didn't. In any given level, there are several goals you might try to achieve. Several times I'd successful pick up the K-O-N-G pieces, but die before reaching the exit. Then, I'd complete the level but miss one of the pieces. Of course, I could go back and try again. The game is expressly designed that way. But it doesn't mean I wanted to do it.

In other words, I enjoyed DKCR well enough to play through it, but not well enough to shoot for 100% completion. In some games, that might not be a knock, but in this case I could tell that I was supposed to. So I'll put it in the "good but not great" category, with the caveat that it's not my kind of game anymore, but it's probably yours.

Yep, these are the hard-hitting videogame insights you come to this blog for. Say, have you heard about this Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit game?

Friday, December 03, 2010

A milestone in the Laser Orgy 500

Awhile back, I mentioned the Laser Orgy 500, a battle royal put together by the Phoenix that lets users vote in randomly generated matchups between hundreds of video games. It's fun and incredibly addictive. If you haven't voted in the LO500 yet, you should start voting now.

This week, the paper ran a special selection of the current top 50 games, which includes short write-ups from several writers, including Garrett Martin, Chris Dahlen, Maddy Myers, Ryan Stewart, and myself. And it's not a bad list.

As with the entries I wrote for 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die (which makes a great Christmas gift!), I found real value in revisiting these games and trying to come up with something new to say about them. For instance, I hope my story about Mortal Kombat II isn't just funny, but says something true about the nature of arcade competition.

People like to complain about best-of lists, I know. What's great about the LO500 is that if you don't like it, you have the power to change it. What are you waiting for? Give it a shot!

(And also check out the slideshow of videogame characters invading Boston.)