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Tuesday, March 3, 2009

My Favorite Games: Let Me Show You Them

Like every gamer worth his or her salt, I have a couple of games that I frequently play or fondly remember. I'm going to be counting down my 10 favorites, starting today with numbers 10 through 8.

10. Katamari Damacy (PS2)

There are some games that provide a singular experience, one that you will never see again. Katamari Damacy is one of those games. Other games have tried to imitate it, but it's impossible to duplicate.

Some developers think that the reason for its success is the Japanese quirk that permeates the game. Others think that the gameplay, picking up more and more debris and getting the katamari bigger and bigger is the reason why it's so fun. These are both good reasons, but Katamari Damacy transcends those reasons.

Here's why: The controls are tight. The game is absolutely hilarious. It's quirky, but you don't have to know Japanese culture to find it funny. The change in scale, starting out less than a foot tall and moving on to being much, much larger is impressive. It's easy to learn. Everyone loves the game. The only knock on Katamari Damacy is seriously lackluster multiplayer, but when everything else is so good, it's easy to overlook that.

9. No One Lives Forever (PC)

There is a great quote from Kurt Vonnegut that I would like to share: "Literature should not disappear up its own a**hole, so to speak." Replace "literature" with "first-person shooters" and you have my problem with most FPS games. They're bleak, dull, and only fun to people who already like them. That's why I love No One Lives Forever.

Let's put aside for a moment that you play as a girl. Let's also put aside the wacky 60's spy setting (even though that contributes greatly to the fun inherent in this game). Let's also throw out the excellent selection of weapons, like the Hampton Carbine and a briefcase rocket launcher. The gameplay in NOLF is so darn fun that all the other stuff doesn't matter.

Find me another game where you go from a sniping mission, protecting a dim-witted Texan embassador who keeps dropping dimes out of his pocket, get thrown out of an airplane and have to get the parachute from someone below you, go to the Moon and fight in zero gravity, and chase people off the streets so that they don't get caught in the blast radius of an exploding woman. You're also going to be electrocuting an opera singer along the way. Sounds good? Then go play it.

8. Jedi Knight II (PC)

The original Jedi Knight was a fun game, but it wasn't perfect. Most notably, it was made before the prequels. This may seem strange now, but light saber battles didn't used to be very balletic. Rewatch Return of the Jedi, and you'll see that they were more like fights between people wielding broadswords at each other: Slow, clumsy and brutal.

When the prequels came out, the perception of lightsaber duels changed, and Star Wars games had to change with it. The first game to really embrace this change was Jedi Knight II. The first few levels you handled awful blasters that didn't shoot straight, and it was almost enough to make you want to throw the game out the window. Afterwards, you enter the Jedi Temple, round a corner and "OMG there are two people fighting with lightsabers and it looks just like the movies I am going to be able to do that later OMG OMG."

However, the real kicker for Jedi Knight II are the cheat codes that add in even more fun. There's a dismemberment code so that your lightsaber acts like a lightsaber should. There are codes to drop random NPCs in the middle of a level. You can even drop them into cutscenes, with sometimes hilarious results. The multiplayer was very well supported for years, with new characters being constantly created by the community, new lightsabers being made, and new levels for dueling. One of the best Star Wars games ever made.