Last week I did a rant about how 2014 was a banal year for gaming. This week I've decided to argue against myself and detail the magic little things about the year. A lot of the things on this list do relate to gaming/Destructoid, even if they are tenuous links.
Before that though I just wanted to say Happy Thanksgiving to all those who celebrated it. I hope you all had a great day, and managed to stuff yourselves rotten with turkey. Being Welsh I have to wait until Christmas for this, but we seemed to celebrate black Friday this year. If there's anything that the Welsh do appreciate it is rioting over cheap stuff so we truly embraced the tradition. I managed to blag myself some cool stuff, including a Star Wars Blu Ray set, The new Wolfenstein game, A Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Duvet, a Finn the Human hat and some cool DTOID t shirts. As well as that though, and I would say the icing on the cake breaks into number 20 on my wonderful things list.
20. Opium Herz/Jim gives games away to the dtoid community!
Opium Herz/Jim very kindly wrote a blog yesterday, in which he offered us dtoid community members codes for some of his games. There was a huge list there and some excellent titles to choose from. Whilst he's stated in the comments that he does it to get rid of the games he doesn't want I think it's a FUCKING awesome thing to have done, and have already had some great times playing Sonic Adventure and Crazy Taxi from the Dreamcast collection. What a guy!
19. Nymphomaniac 1 and 2
Usually watching a Lars Von Trier film is a visceral experience. Funny, sad or terrifying. His films usually emote. And so I expected a lot going into his most recent, a 4 hour long film split in two, which promised graphic sex scenes. The sex scenes were graphic. Probably the most graphic I'd seen in a non pornographic film. But it left me feeling empty. I was disappointed at first. I'd expected an erotic, titillating masterpiece, but it felt completely cold. It was only afterwards that I realised that this emptiness was probably a representation of the titular nymphs feelings on sex. And the link to DTOID? Well only a cameo by Mr Willem Dafoe.
18. Pro Evolution Soccer 2015.
When it comes to football/soccer games EA Sports has muscled it's way to success with Money, Licenses and Graphics. Pro Evo used to stand as the thinking mans game, it played a better game of football and held its own as a franchise because of this. It didn't really survive the jump to 360/PS3, and so EA ended up being crowned the king of football games, despite the fact that it put very little into improving itself, and in actuality often seemed to get worse with the annual updates. Konami took a year out last year when it came to PS4 but they spent their time wisely. After possibly Fifa's worst showing in about half a decade, Pro Evolution Soccer has come back with a blinder. Its currently cheaper than FIFA and a lot bloody better so if you're after a football game I cant recommend it enough.
17. Sup Holmes gets community funded.
Currently Editor in Chief and formerly Site Mascot for Destructoid, Jonathan Holmes hosts a wonderful podcast called Sup Holmes'. Its a very niche show where he interviews various people working within the video game industry and gives us a glimpse of a side that we rarely see of it. Big names or small, It can be equally as exciting listening to interviews of small creators such as the man who is making Axiom verge, as it is listening to behind the scenes stories of rare during the N64 days. In a lovely tale of the audiences appreciation or the show, Mr Holmes was able to secure enough funding via kick starter to keep the show running. Hooray for Kick starter and Hooray for Jonathan Holmes.
The New Pink Floyd Album
OK, no gaming link here at all, but it's the Floyd OK? After several years of non existence, the legendary rock band released this epitaph to Rick Wright. Criticised by some for only having one track with lyrics, these writers seem to have forgotten that the band have released several instrumental records, and that these constituted some of their strongest material. A record that needs and warrants repeated listening, and definitely has throw backs to some classic material such as Welcome to the Machine, please don't be swayed by the negative press and give this a go.
15. The Evil Within
Sometimes there can be a lot wrong with the way a game plays. It can be buggy, glitchy, absurd and frustrating, but still manage to become a cohesive whole. The Evil Within is one of those games. Heavily focused on a macabre setting and pulsating with a grim aesthetic, there is a lot to love here for horror fans. It's incredibly rough around the edges. And it's difficult. Almost to the point where you feel it was designed for a different era, one not quite so focused on mollycoddling a player through the experience. The creature design is spectacular, the settings grim, and there is a constant sense of questioning what is happening. If you can put up with some odd design settings and the almost complete lack of signposting and tutorials its a unique, unnerving experience.
14. Flappy Bird
It stole graphics from Mario. It was incredibly simplistic. I'm guessing if you're reading this there's a very strong chance you've slagged it off. I bet there's a higher chance still that you've played it. For about a month it became the biggest app on the planet, and caused confusion to many gamers who didn't see the appeal. The reason I loved Flappy Bird personally was that it took a very simple concept, a small bird flapping through pipes, and made it incredibly difficult. For the first ten minutes I couldn't get through more than 1 set of pipes. An hour into it : 10. An addiction grew and whilst it is simplistic I honestly couldn't get enough of it for that month. My high score? Still a pitiful 84.
13. The Dismal Jesters.
While it may have started in 2013 this wonderful podcast was broadcast mostly in 2014. Coming to an end a long time before the audience wanted it to, this was Mr Sterling, Mr Holmes and Mr Zimmermans attempt to podcast without being constrained by videogames. As if Podcast ever talked about games. Bizarre, Grotesque and often hilarious, the show carried on some of the great repertoire of podcast like Willem Dafoe pitches, Freaky Constantina and even Cool Christmas! But it went to some new places too, a pornography special, corporate sponsorship and even a critique of banana-man villains. I think someone also mentioned something about a chungus?
GAME OF THE YEAR 420 BLAZE IT
So this is a game which is a first person shooter. Also you like Mountain Dew and Doritos quite a bit. There are some internet memes which pop up. Oh and its fucking insane. Id write more but that wouldn't do it justice so M0U4TALN DOOOOOOOOR!!!!TOS, M0U4TALN DOOOOOOOOR!!!!TOS,M0U4TALN DOOOOOOOOR!!!!TOS,M0U4TALN DOOOOOOOOR!!!!TOS,M0U4TALN DOOOOOOOOR!!!!TOS,M0U4TALN DOOOOOOOOR!!!!TOS,M0U4TALN DOOOOOOOOR!!!!TOS,M0U4TALN DOOOOOOOOR!!!!TOS,M0U4TALN DOOOOOOOOR!!!!TOSM0U4TALN DOOOOOOOOR!!!!TOS,M0U4TALN DOOOOOOOOR!!!!TOS,M0U4TALN DOOOOOOOOR!!!!TOS
11. South Park : The Stick of Truth
This seemed to take forever to arrive. An RPG with direct input from the creators of South Park, it fully understood the humour of south park, and went to town with it. I became the new kid in South park and had my own adventure there. I was abducted by aliens. I made friends with Cartman. Stans dad got anal probed! There was a highly explicit and gratuitous sex scene! There was a plot in there somewhere but I don't think anyone took it very seriously. It's rare to come away from a videogame adaptation of a property feeling like they got it right, but everything from the animation, to the in jokes about bad mechanics completely nailed it.
10. Octodad : Dadliest Catch
I'll admit that I was sold on this just from the premise. You're an octopus and you're a dad. But this game just rams home how fucking wonderful the concept is in every scene. The controls are hysterical and make you look like a novice. And then there's Octodad himself. Charismatic, charming and a wonderful try hard. There's more personality there in one little gesture than Aiden Pearce had in hours of cutscenes. Its ludicrous and it knows it. Constanlty finding new ways to make the poor octopus/mans life difficult the developers have placed the emphasis here on laughs and replayability. And the showdown with dad's nemesis at the end is wonderful. Here's hoping for a followup.
9. The New Slipknot Album.
Now that most of who were around at the time of Nu Metal have grown up I can assure you that were all suitably embarrassed by it. No longer sporting the backwards baseball caps, it can be difficult listening to the cheesy rock music we liked when we were younger. But once in a while an album comes out that shows a bit of maturity and advancement from what came before. A staple of the plastic guitar games, Slipknot always rocked hard but here they find a bit of depth to their angst driven rock, mainly surrounding the death of a former member. There's more going on here musically as well, with a lot of toned down rock anthems, focusing more on ambience and structure than the all out assault they used to be. If you didn't like them at the time, you wont like them now, but if you did? Give this a try.
8. Marvel Films.
To fulfil its quota for new Disney infinity toys the house of mouse produced another 2 Marvel films this year and what astounding quality they were. Captain America proved that it was in fact possible to make the patriotic exceptionally cool, and managed to turn the world of spin-off show Agents of Shield on its head. And you have to give credit to Guardians of the Galaxy. Not only did it manage to convince us that Dave “the animal” Batista could act, but also that a tree who spoke only 3 words could become one of the coolest characters in the series to date. Whilst im certain Avengers 2 will be a success it's going to be incredibly hard for Marvel to top this years classics.
7. The Football/Soccer world cup.
EA sports decided that there was not enough money in releasing the new world cup for Playstation 4 so I had to make do with the real thing. Whilst the final itself was a let down the tournament itself was a fantastic advertisement for the game. From individual performances by Arjen Robben, Lionel Messi and Ronaldo, to spectacular fails like Luis Suarez' Bite and the humiliating 7-0 loss that Brazil suffered to Germany, there was no end to the talking points. For once the group stages outshined the finals themselves and ensured the tournament was phenomenal from start to finish.
6. Wrestlemania 30
A lot is made of Wrestlemania moments by the WWE. In fact there are only a handful of truly spectacular moments. 2 of them happened at this years premier pay per view. Grown men were reduced to tears of sorrow as the Undertakers streak came to an end, and then reduced again, to tears of happiness after months of build up, as Daniel Bryan defied the odds to become champion. While some may question the decision to let Brock Lesnar end the streak, the impact was devastating. Wrestling fans often question the booking decisions made by the higher ups in the company, but this proved that they truly know how to drag the audience down, and build them right back up again. Outstanding.
5. Jimquisition becomes its own thing.
Former Destructoid writer, and huge advocate of consumer rights in video games, Mr Jim Sterling took the brave decision to become public funded in his endeavours to be able to provide independent coverage of gaming. Using Patreon to fund his new website “The Jimquistion” he now creates the show as well as a supporting podcast to let you know about his often strong views on games. Considering that what are often described as underhand tactics, are being used by game publishers to limit the influence that critics have on the sales of videogames, it seems like the sort of thing that was needed for an individual who specialises in consumer rights.
4. Gone Girl.
In my eyes this was unquestionably the best film of the year. To give too much away would be unfair, but what I can say is that this was an intelligent crime thriller, which specifically looks at the way that couples damage each other over the course of their lives. David Fincher has a knack of being able to tap into the issues which drive people consciously and otherwise. He also has an incredible visual flair, and while it may be a little more restrained than usual here, his sardonic attention to detail delights. Tenuous link to gaming? Trent Reznor who scored the film, also scored the first Quake game, as well as providing the main theme to black ops 2. He's also a keen gamer and has explained that he got so into gaming for a period that he stopped making music!
3. Nintendos Wii U output.
While they may not have been prolific, this year Nintendo has released 3 incredible games for the Wii U. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze showed a mastery of the genre that makes the game my favourite in the series. The difficulty was high but this was definitely my “one more go” game of the year. Mario Kart 8 is the strongest in the series and showed that with the right amount of polish and time, it is possible to breathe new life into even kart racing games. The tracks were fantastic, the amount of characters outstanding and if the first bit of DLC was any indication then we've got even more to look forwards to.
Due to fuck ups by 2 different companies (Shopto.net and Amazon) I didn't receive my copy of Smash Bros. until around 5pm yesterday. Considering that's given me less than 24 hours in which to play the thing it doesn't feel like I've had that long to play with it. What I can say is that I'm amazed by the sheer amount of content available, and that it plays like a dream. I can only imagine the hours that I'm going to end up sinking into this but I'm willing to bet it'll be 3 in 3 figures. To me Nintendo are in a classic phase right now and can do no wrong. Other than their advertising department that is.
2. Bayonetta 2
The original Bayonetta injected the third person combo beat em up with a fantastic dash of originality and character. The sequel follows up accordingly and provides us with another insane adventure into the crazy world of Umbran Witches and Lumen Sages, starting with a Christmas shopping trip and eventually descending right into the pits of hell. Outdoing itself at every opportunity with increasing levels of ridiculousness there is never a dull moment. The enemies get stranger, the settings more obscure and the humour never lets up.
Of course behind all of this lies fantastic gameplay. Building combos and using Witch Time never gets old' and there is huge intelligence in the design behind the madness. There are also extra challenges to complete, and different characters and costumes to play with on consecutive playthroughs. Not only that but they even included the original game in the package. When it comes to tradition games, this one would get my game of the year. However....
1. Depression Quest being released on Steam
Sometimes a piece of art can connect strongly with your emotions. Sometimes it can build and help you, and sometimes you can can see yourself mirrored in art. When I first played Depression Quest I experienced all of these things. While I don't think I was suffering with depression at the time I had recently had a pretty grim experience with stress. While playing the game I was surprised by the amount of things I was doing which echoed the character in the game, in how I was dealing with my personal issues. It gave me confidence that I was working through my stuff in the right way, and I found it to be an incredibly reassuring piece of software
The importance of a game like this being released on Steam is that it provides a wider audience with the opportunity of playing the game. For someone experiencing mental health issues the game could act as a tool, and for someone who has no experience this could help empathy. A lot of negative press has been written about the games creator but please try not to pay heed to that. This is a very human piece of software, written from someone with an intelligent view of the problems of overcoming mental illness.
Thanks so much for taking the time to read this list. I know there's still a month of 2014 to go but unless world peace happens I'm relatively confident that this list would remain the same. I'll be back soon with more realistic (w)riting and rampageous rantings very soon!