Hello, hello, Ladies, Gentleman and Khajits… my name, as you may know, is Oli J, head of The Filmic Type Place, Casual Gamer and Level 31 Nord on Skyrim (I’d be 32 if it wasn’t for that arrow in the knee, but that’s a meme for another day).
Today, given it’s near the years end and I am due an article on this fair website, I’ve decided to tell you, dear readers, of my Top 5 of 2011. Or at least I was, but there was so much to choose from I put off writing this article and instead carried on playing. But now I’m back! Thanks to a rush of inspiration (read: I got stuck) I’ve split my choices into two. Please note, these are my personal choices for the Arcade Games of 2011, so don’t be offended by the lack of Torchlight, From Dust or even Rock of Ages. So without further Apu…
OLI J (via the Filmic Type State)’S TOP 5 XBOX LIVE ARCADE TITLES OF 2011!
At number 5…
Full House Poker
In recent years Poker has become a big thing, whether it be on late night TV or via Zynga on social networks, or just a bi-weekly muck around for low stakes with your friends (shout out to Vito, Mr Lambrini, Double O and Disco). So naturally, Microsoft decided to jump on that bandwagon with this title: Full House Poker.
Utilizing your avatars, which is always a nice touch in my eyes, you entered a world of high stakes and loose chips… or at least you did 10% of the time. The rest of the time you played against people who would go all in on a pair of 2s, or could finish a game by doing the same yourself on a flush. While this does sound a “broken” system it did bring a certain joy to this players heart, and when you finally did get the challenge you got the sense of achievement, in both an emotional and gaming sense. Going to the wire with another player only to trounce them on the last card of the river would not only make you breath a sigh of relief while collecting your winnings, but also net you a healthy amount of XP and a couple of achievement G’s.
While I haven’t played Full House Poker for a while (hence being bottom) I did enjoy it a lot when I did, and may even cash in a few chips after this article…
Fresh in at number 4…
Joe Danger: Special Edition
For those PS£… I mean PS3 players reading this, there may be a slight chuckle. “Joe Danger?” they’ll cry, “Why we’ve been playing that for years! Keep up Xbox players!” Before retreating to bow to their Ebony Monolith of Commerce…
Ahem, anyway… Joe Danger has only recently come to the Xbox Live Arcade, but it has been worth the wait and arrived in a spruced up spangly Special Edition. For me, it’s everything Trials HD wishes it was. While that game prides itself on the challenge and real physics (and I should state it is a good game), Joe Danger brings a wacky, cartoonish fun to proceedings that make it the more inviting and dare I say it, fun stunt biking game.
After all, this is a game which allows you to play as a chimp, dress in a chicken suit or ride an ATV as Santa (if you have the DLC of course…). But crazy character models wouldn’t be anything without gameplay, and the courses and challenges in Joe Danger have enough of a difficulty curve to keep you invested for a long time. Timing that bunny-hop-into-mid-air-turbo-boost to get that last star may take you a few attempts, but once you get it… well, you want to take your monkey rider to the next course.
Surprising all at number 3…
Now stop. I know a lot of people are going to turn their nose up at this top 5 right now and suggest that Burnout Crash! was, at best, an “average” game. Simplistic controls, boring gameplay, overly challenging scenarios… Crash got a lot of stick from the gaming fraternity that I know. Well you know what? This is my top 5 and I happened to like this game.
Why? Well it’s for exactly the kind of complaints that people bring up. Yes the controls are simplistic, the game being designed for Kinect being the reason behind that (oh Kinect… but that’s a rant for another day…), but the simplicity gives a “pick up and play” feeling to the game. Jump on, steer your car into traffic and press a button to blow stuff up. Easy. And after all wasn’t that what the Crash games in Burnout were all about? The “boring” gameplay was applauded when it was in games like Burnout Paradise, watching yourself destroy countless buildings and automobiles with the simple, explosive use of your Crashbreaker. The destruction was a joy to behold and is more easily viewable in this top down style!
Yes, the star challenges verge on insanely tricky, but not impossible. Once you whizz through the game and acquire the Elite skin, the game starts to become a little bit easier to swallow. But still, at the end of the day… it’s causing massive explosions for points! What more fun do you need?
Just missing out at number 2…
For some games, all it takes is a simple concept. After all, despite all the bells and whistles some games have, it doesn’t mean they are significantly better in anyway. In fact, most of the time the added bells and whistles make the game worse in some fashion. Nope, sometimes all you need is a game where you direct a blob of mercury across a puzzle-filled maze. Mercury Hg is that game.
And it’s educational! Wait, come back! It’s educational in that the levels are made up of the periodic table. In fact, that’s Mercury Hg main hook: the levels are elements. Not that that means anything at the end of the day, as most levels are pretty same and there are no real themes which separate them. Not that you’ll care either, as you’ll be too busy trying to beat your time, get all the atoms on a level and keeping that blob of mercury intact until the very end.
Mercury Hg is a stupidly simple game, and like both Joe Danger and Crash before it on this list, it has a difficulty curve that is steady enough so that you don’t hit a barrier that puts you off going further. With the addition of fiendish challenge and bonus levels as well, it has a long life span to keep you going. Finally, in a nice little touch, the music playing (be it the peppy electronica of the games or your own installed tunes) affects the levels surface, bouncing your mercury about the place. I played mine to Nirvana, which made for an rather rocking gaming experience…
And running away with it at number 1…
For me, there was only ever going to be one Number 1 on this list. After all at first I was just planning to do a general Top 5 Games of 2011 and found myself thinking “I need to put an Arcade title in there, given I love Arcade titles”. And each time I thought about it, there was only ever one choice: Bastion
Bastion is an RPG in the old school fashion of RPGs. It’s isometric, giving you that top down, slightly tilted view that is reminiscent of games like Super Mario RPG. You get little blue shards which you can spend on tooling up your weapons, which consist of one melee and one ranged (as well as one “trick”, either a spell or an explosive of some sort). And you get XP from killing enemies. So far, so generic, right?
Well yes, but as we all know, it’s in the execution that a game succeeds. After all, thousands of FPS games could be summed up in the same fashion but the CoD series still endures after oh so many years. Where Bastion works, and wins above all others, is in its charm. Now I will say a similar thing in my Top 5 Games article with the Number 1 in that (here’s a clue: it’s not Duke Nukem Forever), but a games personality can make it seem like the best game ever made. Bastion has this in spades: from the Samuel L Jackson sounding (but Einstein looking) narrator, who cleverly narrates nearly everything you do to a T, to the fact that the levels build around you by rising from the ether to construct a path ahead, to the general story of a young boy helping to recreate a destroyed land. It’s just so beautiful to play, and with a glorious soundtrack accompanying it, is as close to making Video Games seem like an art form as possible.
Bastion makes you love playing games again. It reminds you of a simple time where Real World Graphics weren’t the be all and end all of what makes a good game. It’s simple, it’s fun and you’ll remember it for years to come. And it’s also my Xbox Live Arcade Game of 2011.
That’s it. Stay tuned for my Top 5 of 2011 coming soon, and thanks for reading.