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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

↓C Games of the Year: 2009

Most Game of the Year articles are going to look about the same:  Modern Warfare 2, Uncharted 2, Dragon Age, Demon's Souls.  That's not how we roll at ↓C.  Here's our Game of the Year picks in reverse order.

3. Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box

The last Professor Layton game was enjoyable for a lot of people, but I couldn't stand it.  Frustrating puzzles, worthless clues, a boring location, and people who stop you every second for another puzzle bogged down what could have been an intriguing title.  Diabolical Box improved on every aspect of the game, making the puzzles feel more natural, the locations more varied, and the story a much more gripping tale.  I read spoilers on the finale (as I am wont to do, unfortunately) and STILL got misty-eyed.  One of the best DS games, hands-down.

2. Batman: Arkham Asylum

Theoretically, brawlers should be fun.  The issue with most is that you never really feel any stronger than the people you're fighting.  Stealth games should also be fun in theory, but never end up being as fun you would hope.  Add to that the dearth of good licensed games, and you have a recipe for failure that Batman: Arkham Asylum could have easily fallen into.

However, Rocksteady did a fantastic job on several fronts.  First, combat is simplified greatly, with only three buttons controlling the majority of moves.  Second, when being stealthy, you have a lot of ways to get around and realistic behavior from enemies (but not too realistic) that makes the whole exercise ridiculously fun.  For instance, it's great seeing the Joker's minions getting more and more panicked as you take them out one by one, until they're randomly shooting their rifles in the air and screaming, "Show yourself!"  It's in those moments that you feel like the Caped Crusader himself, and it makes for a fantastic game.

You could have even stripped the Batman license out of the game and made a fantastic game, but this is one of the rare instances where the license adds layers of fun.  It's a blast hearing the Riddler get upset as you find more of his trophies, and it's awesome roaming the halls of Arkham.  It's also extremely welcome to hear Mark Hamill's Joker ripping it up again.  If you have any interest in Batman at all, you should play Arkham Asylum.  If you already have, then you know what I'm talking about.

1. Beatles: Rock Band

Much like Arkham Asylum took classic gameplay styles, prettied it up and added a layer of familiarity that made the game that much better, The Beatles: Rock Band did the same thing.  It took a now-standardized music game format and polished it to a sheen, which would have been great if the game was just a standard Rock Band/Guitar Hero game.  Instead, the Beatles wrapper made everything that much better, with tons more style, background and texture than the cardboard-cutout characters of a standard music game.  Add to that the solid locations, dreamscapes, and automatic online leaderboards and you have a definite winner.  Your enjoyment of the game definitely hinges on how much you like the Beatles, but if you have any appreciation of their music at all, this is the game you want to play.  There's really no reason for any other Guitar Hero/Rock Band games after this one.