2011 Honorable Mentions: Doug's List
2011 has been a strange gaming year for me. I’ve been able to follow the industry as much (or more) than ever before thanks to some fantastic web sites and podcasts, but for much of the year I couldn’t (and didn’t) buy a new console game. I’ve made up for lost time since October, but much of my attention has also gone to older titles. I almost excused myself from Game of the Year discussions by default.
But there are many games that I have played which deserve recognition. So kick back and read on!
Assassin’s Creed II and AC: Brotherhood
I may not have played this year’s offering, Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, but this has still been a very Assasin’s Creed year for me. I flashed through the two AC2 games in the early part of this year and enjoyed every bit of my brief Italian Renaissance vacation. As much as I saw the promise in the first game, it had incredibly stilted pacing and relied on the same three tricks to progress the story. However, from the moment you take control of Ezio Auditore da Firenze, the series comes into its own and flourishes. Revelations may have eaten away at some of the goodwill the series developed, but these two games were amazing.
Shadows of the Damned
Proof that Japanese developers can still produce quality games. It’s far from perfect - some sections pass over from difficulty to frustration, and the “Big Boner” section is a joke that goes on far too long - but Shadows of the Damned is an engaging road trip. The gun-play and combat is well balanced, and all of the story beats are funny and well written. In the year when Duke Nukem finally returned, Garcia F*cking Hotspur slapped him in the face and stole his crown. Props to 8-4, Ltd., for the excellent writing in the game - hardcore gamers may know their other work, including previous lives at Electronic Gaming Monthly. This game is now just $30 on Amazon new; please go pick it up.
The iOS Section: Tiny Tower, Tiny Wings, Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery EP, Ticket to Ride Pocket and GP Story
In the year of me not buying any new games, I have to add a condition: I didn’t buy any new console games. However, a fleet of iOS games - Tiny Tower, Tiny Wings, Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery EP, Ticket to Ride Pocket, and Grand Prix Story - have kept me occupied for a very long time this year. Others may write about Tiny Tower, but it’s the perfect check-in game, requiring just a few minutes every day to keep progress moving. Beyond that, it’s got a fantastic art style and sense of humor. Tiny Wings continues the strong history of bird games on iOS, and with simple but genius gameplay. Ticket to Ride Pocket is a great translation of the board game. Grand Prix Story is the newest in a long line of Kairosoft management games, but this time in the realm of auto racing - perfect for me. And Sword and Sworcery is easily the best iOS single-player experience on iOS yet. A stellar year for gaming in your pocket.
And here’s where I’m sure some of our readers will roll their eyes. I know Spencer already has! It’s hard to top the highs of NBA 2K11 last year, but somehow NBA 2K12 has managed to grab me even more. If 2K11 was the great leap forward, 2K12 is a great evolution from its predecessor. The gameplay remains fantastic and the two ancillary modes - MyPlayer and Legends mode - have been improved to be a lot more fun. MyPlayer no longer requires you to start as a nothing player, and the Legends mode has expanded beyond just Michael Jordan to encompass almost 20 of the NBA’s greatest players from throughout the league’s history. It still looks and feels like an NBA broadcast (I’ve actually fooled a friend into thinking this) and makes me fall in love with basketball even more. I’m not sure if I burned myself out on EA Sports’ football titles or if they have stayed stagnant, but 2K12 manages to feel fresh despite being iterative. I will be playing this for a while.