The Backlog: Wow, It's Almost That One Holiday! edition

Vader offers seasonal sustenance to the refugees of evil Mayan calendar technology

The year known as 2009 is winding down. A celebratory mood creeps into our homes as Christmas and New Year's draw near, while we inch, ever closer, to certain Mayan-predicted doom as told by the prophet Cusack. Those critics won't be laughing when the planets start aligning; their precious Miatas and Ayn Rand anthologies will be swallowed up by a vengeful Mother Earth angry at their scathing words.

Although, words look puny when the ocean can slam an aircraft carrier into the White House!

But until we all become embedded in the upper mantle of our planet, there are games to play. And as long as there are games to play, we at Silicon Sasquatch are obligated to talk about them. But only some. And rather infrequently.

However, we have some seasonal treats for you readers. Before January 1, 2010 arrives, we'll be posting our "Top 10 Games of 2009" in a four-part series of articles starting Monday, December 28, and ending on New Year's Eve. Along with our collectively discussed and debated choices, each editor and contributor will be posting his own "Honorable Mentions" piece about titles not in our collective list, but which merit a nod all the same.

All right, now it's time for the backlog.

This is what happens when a tail-happy muscle car slaps a wall and spins in front of a full online room in a race...thankfully, the host had damage set to "cosmetic" only. Whew.

Doug:

Another week off from school, another week to spend far too much time gaming: God I love winter break. I've been able to pour even more time into my mainstays right now, and lord knows I'm going to have enough time to go out and rent or buy something else soon, too.

Of course I've been playing a ton of Forza Motorsport 3 this week, racing my way up closer and closer to Level 50 in the game. I've never 1000/1000'd a game on Xbox 360, but this may well be the first — the achievements are really well designed (which may just be code-word for "I can get them all by playing the game my way"), but I'm also hopelessly hooked. I spent some time racing online with my friends on Wednesday, which resulted in a lot of racing game high-jinks and shenanigans...like three of the guys thinking the next-to-last lap was, in fact, the final lap, which resulted in a battle to be first across the finish line and then turn brains off, thinking the post-race cinema would take over. Needless to say, the voice chat after they all straight-lined into the gravel off the first corner was hilarious. I also managed to mangle my car and cause a huge pile-up, which was kind of awesome and embarrassing — see the attached image.

I've also been putting more time into NCAA 10 and, inspired by the recent ESPN documentary "The U," I've started up a new dynasty with the University of Miami. In one of the older NCAA Football games you could run a program that was...how do you say...not totally on the up-and-up. It meant you could lose scholarships if your team was too unruly, but it is a feature that's never been repeated since then. If I could run a team in NCAA 10 with any more bravado or swagger I would definitely run The U like that, but as it stands I'll just run up the score on teams and recruit the state of Florida heavily.

Last but certainly not least, I've made serious headway on Batman: Arkham Asylum. I believe I'm close to the end of the game by now, and it hasn't disappointed at all. Comparisons to Metroid or post-Symphony of the Night Castlevania games are all the more apt given the upgrade and unlocking structure of the game — Batman receives a new tool in his kit and, much like SotN or Super Metroid, sections of Arkham Island and its buildings become instantly accessible. Plus, the pacing and direction of the single player story has been fantastic.

PixelJunk Shooter

Nick:

It's been a busy week for me, but I still found time to try out PixelJunk Shooter, the latest in Sony's impressive PlayStation Network-exclusive downloadable game series. Its simple premise of "save the good guys and shoot the bad ones" coupled with its innovative action-puzzle gameplay hybrid based around the concept of fluid dynamics and manipulation make it worth the time and money of any PlayStation 3 owner.

And for those of you keeping track: Yes, I'm still playing Dragon Age: Origins, and yes, I'm still enamored with it. Steam says I've logged 47.3 hours into the game already, making it second only to Plants vs. Zombies, but I'm not gonna mention how many hours I've spent with that game. Forty hours seems ludicrous when you consider I'm only at level 10. But even when you factor out about five hours for when I left the game paused and another few hours when I let some friends make new characters, that's still about forty hours of raw gameplay -- and I'm not even halfway through my first playthrough. Dragon Age is, without a doubt, the most engrossing role playing game I've ever encountered. I just hope I can finish it before Mass Effect 2 arrives in a month.

A quick and badly composed screencap of a game that deserves better than that

Aaron:

So, I really like Cave Story (Doukutsu Monogatari). I know I'm five years late to the party, and I have no excuse. At least I'm enjoying it now -- though I can't believe this was (and still is) a freeware game before its announcement as a future WiiWare release. It's funny, adorable, endearing and instantly classic.

My remaining list of played games is pretty boring this week. I contributed two kills to Team Fortress 2's WAR! effort (as a soldier because I think Demomen, while hilariously Scottish, are bastards), and continued on my seventh and final playthrough of Mass Effect. The purpose this time around is to create my "perfect" character for Mass Effect 2. I'm essentially doing everything over again, sidequests included, to make sure the outcomes are unique to my Shepard in the sequel.

Oh, and I tried some more Modern Warfare 2 multiplayer last night as a sort of bookend to my review. However, the infinite grenade glitch made me drop out in the middle of the second match. You really have to admire a developer that can make its game more unplayable after each patch.