Game of the Year 2012: 20-11
Christmas is over, all of the games have been released and we’re almost into the new year. 2012 has undoubtedly been a fantastic year for gaming, with many of our favourite franchises seeing new releases, not to mention a tide of new titles. As is tradition at this time of year, Thunderbolt has put together its top 20 games of 2012, of which this is the first part.
Disagree? Think we’re idiots? Leave a comment and have your say.
Music games are generally not known for their concepts but Retro/Grade isn’t exactly your average rhythm title. Combining equal parts Guitar Hero and R-Type, Retro/Grade is a remarkably clever, engaging music experiment. It keeps you on the edge of your seat, just like a sadistic bullet hell game might. But what’s special about its unique brand of suspense is the trance-like state the game’s groovy soundtrack and colorful visuals instill. It’s that bizzare dichotomy, the stressful versus the soothing, that elevates Retro/Grade above its rhythym peers.
19th. Torchlight 2
Torchlight 2 is just a really bloody charming game. With attractive, colourful visuals, crunchy combat and buckets of loot, it’s a game that’s packed to the gills with expertly refined content for a dementedly reasonable price. Compare this to the other big hack and slash title released this year, Diablo 3. Blizzard’s game wants you to enter into a binding contract with strictly enforced rules about what is and isn’t allowed and why do you want to play offline anyway, and why would you want to mod anything and don’t you want to visit the auction house and spend some money, please?
Torchlight just wants you to play it and have fun.
17th=. Marvel vs. Capcom: Origins
In the niche boom of HD re-released fighters, Marvel vs. Capcom: Origins has been a much anticipated turning point.
For fighting veterans this is a packaged release of both titles in arcade perfect form - something that seemed unachievable. While for newbies, it’s a chance to own two hall-of-fame titles without the need to go console hunting. Above all else, although not perfect, the netcode is the best experienced yet not just in contrast to other HD re-releases but in comparison to current fighters.
With a dazzling attention to detail to extra features and setting expectations where they need to be, Marvel vs. Capcom: Origins is a title that deserves recognition and we hope that Capcom continues to uphold the same elements for future brawlers.
17th=. World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria
After the largely disappointing Cataclysm expansion, World of Warcraft naysayers gleefully prophesied that Mists of Pandaria would mark a continuing decline in popularity for Blizzard’s aging MMORPG. Mocked as a ripoff of Pokémon and Kung Fu Panda, many didn’t expect much on September 25th, when the gates to Pandaria opened to the world.
Now, several months into this new expansion, a murmur of happy contentment has blanketed WoW forums across the Internet as players explore some of the best content Blizzard has created to date. A gorgeous new Asian-themed continent, interesting new twists of lore and a versatile (and fun) new class are just a few of the new additions that are silencing cynics and buoying once-declining subscription numbers.
Oh, and it turns out pet battles are actually fun.
16th. Tales From Space: Mutant Blobs Attack
You may or may not be aware of this, but a device called the PlayStation Vita was released earlier this year. Yes there was a new Uncharted, but DrinkBox’s Tales from Space followup, Mutant Blobs Attack, quickly became the launch window darling - a feat all the more impressive as a relatively obscure download-only indie title. But, for vets of About a Blob there was little surprise, as DrinkBox returned with another rousing set of cities and lives to ruin as the titular blob. Plus, it’s the only game we could think of that lets you consume vast quantities of PBR.
15th. Lone Survivor
After his brilliant Silent Hill 2 demake, Soundless Mountain II, Jasper Byrne set out to make his own sidescrolling horror game. The result, Lone Survivor, is one of the most stressful games I’ve played in years. Taking inspiration from Silent Hill and Twin Peaks, Lone Survivor is the best kind of homage: a game that is truely respectful of its predecessors, but different enough to leave its own distinct twist on the genre. Play it for the scares, and play it for the overwhelming sense of dread, but also play it for the opportunity to drink lots and lots of coffee and read amusing cat comics.
14th. Binary Domain
That a French robot isn’t the best thing about Binary Domain only goes to show how accomplished the rest of its elements are. Its third-person gameplay may be par for the course but the wanton destruction of hordes of robotic foes never ceases to satisfy; the futuristic setting quickly established, providing plenty of memorable moments against the backdrop of its impressive aesthetic.
But it’s the story and characters where Binary Domain truly shines, which is especially surprising when you consider a first impression that doesn’t paint a particularly positive picture. Stereotypes litter every frame as the writing fails to inspire. But as it moves along and each character develops you slowly begin to fall in love with this ragtag group of robot hunters, compiled from across the globe. It has its flaws, failing to capitalise on underused concepts, but at its best Binary Domain is humorous, smile-inducing and surprisingly heartfelt. And that French robot is pretty good too.
13th. Spec Ops: The Line
The military shooter has long been subject to problems in regards to maintaining freshness, the expiration dates on its subjects barely last a few years before the newest idea is driven into the ground. It was like so with World War II games and it’s much of the same with modern warfare. On the surface Spec Ops: The Line is nothing more than an ordinary cover-based shooter, set against the backdrop of a marginally unconventional city in ruins.
Beneath the surface exists an eerie examination of morality and choice on the battlefield. This is the kind of military shooter that presents a scenario in which the best solution, the only solution, is to go in gung-ho, guns blazing. Only after the shell casings stop rattling at your feet will you have time to examine the collateral damage, both physical and psychological.
12th. Mark of the Ninja
Most stealth games give you some level of feedback to heighten your awareness – a meter of visibility or noise level – but many still feel like a game of chance rather than skill. Mark of the Ninja is the first I’ve played to avoid this pitfall by truly giving me full environmental self-awareness through multiple layers of well-designed audio-visual feedback. Your ninja’s shading indicates how visible he is, bubbles of sound radiate around him showing the audible distance of any noise produced, and cones of light represent the visual awareness of oppositional characters. That this cacophony of feedback doesn’t become overwhelming is a testament to Klei Entertainment’s balanced design and skill as 2D artists. And that such marvellous 2D stealth action gameplay is paired with an interesting tale of delusion and self-sacrifice certainly left its mark on me and the other Thunderbolt writers earlier in the year.
11th. Mass Effect 3
Each Mass Effect has its own unique tone. The first was a bright and peppy detective romp as Shepard hunted a vague set of clues throughout the galaxy. The second was a dark team building exercise. The third is a futile war against an enemy powerful enough to eradicate all life, something that they’ve already done several times by now.
Every planet Shepard lands on is a combat zone. Decisions having greater effect, now more than ever, truly making the experience your own. The first two games have built up to this finale, and it’s up to you to figure out who lives and who dies. And despite how attached you might be to your squadmates, to the returning cast, you can’t save everyone.
Keep an eye out for our top 10!