Hi! I'm Sean and THESE are my TOP TEN GAMES OF THE YEAR TWENTY-TWELVE. I've avoided picking the same stuff as Andi, not because I disagree with him, but because you don't need to hear about the same games twice. Fucking Spec Ops though, Andi? Christ.
10 - Borderlands 2
Borderlands was great, this is better. Less-stupid enemies, tighter gunplay, a better script and a range of pretty incredible set-pieces make Borderlands 2 genuinely memorable, where it could’ve just settled for being competent but addictive. Hell, you could’ve just slapped “THEY MADE CLAPTRAP GENUINELY FUNNY THIS TIME” on the box and most people would’ve been happy. The game actually improves immeasurably on the second run, too - the sudden increase in difficulty demands some pretty creative use of your character’s abilities. Playing as Zer0, the game’s stealth/sniper/assassin dude, I instantly went from occasionally using my stealth cloak to hide from enemies, to intentionally deceiving them with my every move. Appearing from all angles and shooting/slashing the hell out of everyone before they even know what's hit them.
Borderlands 2 is some GOOD SHIT.
9 - Armored Core V
It’s hard to write about Armored Core without sounding massively bitter about the way the series is treated outside of Japan, but god damn I wish more people enjoyed these games. You all liked Dark Souls! And you were right to! Armored Core is by the same dudes, and shares a lot of the design sensibilities, yet nobody’s arsed. People say Dark Souls is great because of the way it refuses to hold your hand, yet those same people dismiss Armored Core for being too confusing and complex. WHAT
Seriously though, Armored Core V is fantastic. It has untold layers of depth, and expects you to spend as much time customising your mechs as you do using them. V also did an amazing job of scaling things back - previous iterations in the series had been getting a bit daft, with wildly-overpowered mechs that spent most of their time in the sky - and you’re encouraged to skulk around, using your mech’s sensors to get the drop on your opponents. Then there’s the operator mode, where one player simply watches the battle and orders their team-mates around, which sounds dull but is actually fucking fascinating. The only downside is that because nobody plays the ruddy thing here, the bulk of the online play - an innovative system of establishing bases and destroying enemy strongholds - is largely useless. But that’s your fault, not the game’s. Twats.
8 - Thomas Was Alone
Fans of the podcast know that I occasionally bang on about Jason Rohrer’s Passage. I do this because I think it does some really clever stuff by using its visuals and gameplay mechanics as metaphors for life, happiness, grief, the pros and cons and companionship, and so on. But, sure, I’ll admit that it’s not actually enjoyable to play, if that kind of thing is important to you. Enter Thomas Was Alone, a game that deals in similar gameplay metaphors but straps them onto a compelling puzzle-platformer. It’s a game about a bunch of computer programs on a network interacting with each other, represented by jumping blocks with their own unique characteristics and abilities. That the dynamic of the group closely resembles that of any human friendship group is surely no coincidence. The soundtrack is also rad as hell.
7 - FTL
FTL is a pretty cool videogame that you should consider playing. In it, you control a spaceship in none of the ways that sound fun (flying it around, pulling corkscrews and dodging lasers) and all of the ways that sound really dull (assigning crew members to different roles, putting out fires, managing the power levels of your ship’s systems.) Your first moments with FTL will undoubtedly have you staring at the top-down view of your ship, screaming “IS THIS IT?” but after half a dozen failed runs, the game’s complexity begins to reveal itself. Eventually you’ll find yourself unlocking marginally different layouts for your ships, and being utterly fascinated by how differently the game plays just because the rooms in your ship are rearranged a bit and you have different weapons. We liked it so much we did a video about it.
6 - The Walking Dead
If you didn’t cry over the Walking Dead game in 2012 you are not a cool guy and you should feel bad.
Only kidding! I didn’t cry at all during any of the game’s five episodes, although that was more because my girlfriend was sat with me the whole way through, and I have a hard enough time making her take me seriously as a human being as it is. But, bits of the game are very very sad indeed, with episode three in particular delivering a fairly devastating volley of punches to whichever parts of your brain normally prevent you from feeling overwhelmingly depressed. Games are often too busy being cool, violent or fun to be sad, so this is a good thing. Many are calling this their game of the year, which is fair enough, but for me the actual ‘game’ bits are a bit too shit. Still, you should play it if you like stories or crying. Also it's better than the shite TV show.
5 - Okami HD
SHUT UP HD REMAKES COUNT. Especially when most of you bellends never played the PS2 original. Okami HD more than makes up for the shoddy treatment of the game’s Wii port, and sets the new standard by which all HD remakes should be judged. Assuming for argument’s sake that you don’t think HD remakes are a terrible idea, that is. The game itself has barely aged a day, aside from its ludicrous flip-flopping between irritating hand-holding and the occasional bit where you’ll get utterly stuck, purely from having no clue where you’re meant to head next. But the Celestial Brush stuff is still pretty remarkable, and the combat is incredibly varied and robust once you start unlocking new weapons, moves and brush techniques. There really is nothing like Okami when it comes to actually sending the player on a fucking massive fairytale adventure, and it remains as essential today as it was in 2006.
4 - Journey
TRUE MIDNIGHT RESISTANCE FACT: I used to toy with the idea of walking the Camino de Santiago, an old Catholic pilgrimage route through northern Spain. Andi considered joining me, because we thought it might lift a curse placed on him by a dead Egyptian Pharoah. We never did it, and Andi’s existence remains damned. A friend who walked the Camino told me about his experience of meeting people along the way, not being able to talk to them because they couldn’t speak each other’s language, but just kind of appreciating them being there and knowing that all the pilgrims would look after one another if anything went wrong.
And then here’s thatgamecompany, with a game about going on a pilgrimage with other people with whom you can’t communicate, but you can help each other get around. Huh!
3 - Punch Quest
How many punches do you have? Most fighting games have loads of punches, while in real life I think I have just one. Punch Quest takes the middle road by crafting a wildly entertaining experience out of three punches - one up, one down, and one sideways. Like most of Rocketcat’s stuff, Punch Quest is another raised middle finger to all those people who claim you can’t make a deep, compelling, fast-paced action game on a touch-screen device. You’ll think you’ve seen all there is after just a few attempts, but over time you’ll notice your scores climb as you really begin to get a feel for the game, and your understanding of the powerups and combo system improves.
It shouldn’t really be remarkable that there’s a smartphone game that you get better at the more you play it, but then look at Angry Birds!
2 - Nintendoland
I know there’s a recession on and nobody’s got any fucking money for new consoles, but holy shit, if you needed selling on the Wii U’s concept then you owe yourself a trip to Nintendoland. Simply put, it has some of the most fascinatingly inclusive game design we’ve yet seen. The likes of Zelda Battle Quest and Metroid Blast give the gamepad player a role more suited to more experienced gamers, while the other players are given more focused roles that still have enough challenge and nuance to be engaging. In Battle Quest, slashing up monsters with your Wii Remote and blocking incoming attacks is easy to get your head around, but fun to do no matter your skill level. Picking up the gamepad and playing as the bowman, however, relies on the player being able to monitor the flow of battle and keep an eye out for pots containing money, and birds that heal you if you shoot them. Videogames!
Basically, it’s the most fun I’ve ever been able to have with people who don’t really play games that much. And that is a thing worth celebrating.
1 - Dragon’s Dogma
I worry sometimes that I come across like I think that anyone who hasn’t finished Dragon’s Dogma is a dick. I mean, I do think that, but making that obvious isn’t a good way to go about convincing anyone to play it. The problem is that it is a very personal concern of mine that you play and finish Dragon’s Dogma. If you don't, I will feel like I have let you down. Because as well as being largely brilliant throughout, with a genuinely inventive set of character classes and abilities that encourage and reward experimentation, and combat that’s sharp enough to be pretty fun even without the RPG guff on top of it, the game’s ending is quite unlike anything you’ll have experienced. Yes, there’s a lot of travelling between the same locations over and over again, which is a shame. But good god, it’s worth it. A lot of people think the game’s about killing a dragon and saving the world. And for a while, it is! But then you keep playing, and you finish it, and you realise it’s also about fear and shame and grief and God and Jesus and parenthood and videogames. It’s a game with themes and ideas that stick with you long after it ends, and on many levels makes a total mockery of the infinite void that is Skyrim. Not just my Game of the Year 2012, but an easy entry into my all-time top five games of all time ever.
Also you can shag literally anyone in the game apart from, like, three characters.