Civilization Revolution (Xbox 360)
I'm getting old. There was a time when a 12-hour game of Civilization was just fine; however, now I have "responsibilities." Despite having as much trepidation about Civilization Revolution as anyone else who had played the Civ series from its inception, it was a blessing to find out that this console version wasn't just "Civ Lite," but a totally new series that retains all the strategy and addiction of its inspiration. Fast-paced and smart, Civ Rev is an actual revolution for the franchise. Having soaked up more of my time this year than any other game, Civ Rev deserves to be acknowledged for bringing a massive experience into a digestible 3- to 4-hour package.
Sins of a Solar Empire (PC)
Even on a mid-level rig, Sins delivers some gorgeous and ginormous space battles. It's a sight to behold as fleets, made up of hundreds of ships, clash without extreme framerate issues. The visual spectacle, combined with rather intuitive controls for such a massive game, speaks to the incredible job Ironclad (with publisher Stardock) did with this 4X RTS. Thankfully, the developer's hard work was rewarded at retail as Sins went on to be a PC sleeper hit. If Sins is what Ironclad can pull off as its debut product, I can't wait to see what it comes up with next. But first comes the Sins expansion, Entrenchment. Ironclad also gets bonus points for refining the Sins experience since release, with bug fixes and UI improvements.
World of Goo (PC / Mac / WiiWare)
Simple in design and beautifully executed. World of Goo oozes so much charm that indie developer 2D Boy could finance its next game if it bottled all the excess and sold it on the street corner.
Rock Band 2 (Xbox 360)
Everything that the original Rock Band lacked was put into this fully realized sequel. Almost every facet of the game was streamlined or enhanced to make the experience far more intuitive and friendly than its predecessor. Best of all, we could finally play "World Tour" online with friends. On top of all this, Harmonix continued to release new DLC tracks weekly, driving home that Rock Band isn't just a game, but a constantly updating music platform.
XBLA and PSN TITLES
- Ratchet & Clank: Quest for Booty - A little gem that takes an established franchise and delivers an appetizer for the next adventure. Great idea and well executed.
- Castle Crashers - Ignoring the epic fail of its online functionality not working for months, it still delivered one of the most enjoyable couch co-op experiences of the year.
- PixelJunk Monsters - As long as you play it with a friend (or significant other), the difficulty of this title is greatly diminished and becomes a wholly enjoyable time.
- PixelJunk Eden - This one takes a little bit more coordination when playing co-op, but for those who grasp the physics and controls, there's something special about Eden.
Valkyria Chronicles; Infinite Undiscovery; Tales of Vesperia; Patapon; Professor Layton; World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King.
- Super Smash Bros. Brawl (Wii): I love this game. Allow me to repeat: I LOVE THIS GAME. However, the way online matchmaking was handled made me stop playing it way before I should have. Getting an online game together with friends should not be such a hassle in this day and age. And so, my beloved Smash Bros. goes unused.
- LittleBigPlanet (PS3): Like politics and religion, I will not discuss this game in mixed company. People are too emotional about it. I'll just say that I don't get it.
- GTA IV (Xbox 360, PS3, PC): If only the story in the first half of the game kept its momentum to the end. At the midpoint, GTA IV lost its way. The (lack of) ending and bland final mission did nothing to bring closure to an adventure that started with a feeling of "this is a whole new GTA experience."
New Year's Resolution
Sending out vibes for publishers to pace releases better throughout the year (summer would be nice).