Best of the Rest: Ross' picks of 2008


Prince of Persia
I spent an entire day writing this one paragraph, trying to figure out how to best describe how I feel about the game. Two of the three words I wrote down -- poetic, elegant, artistic -- happen to be in Ludwig's Best of the Rest entry for it, and given that you've probably heard that angle ad infinitum from other sources as well, let me instead discuss the optional dialogue, which at times made me laugh as much as Monkey Island did years ago. Protip: Whenever possible, hit the "Talk to Elika" button until the camera stops zooming in -- trust us, you don't want to miss the I Spy conversation. No offense to my Joystiq colleagues, but it's a shame this didn't make it into the Top Ten.


Rock Band 2
Let's forget for a second that Rock Band 2 fixes all those problems I had with the first game (Multi-instrument avatars? Online World Tour? Yes, please.) At $60, you get 84 new songs and can still play all your old songs without having to swap discs. Throw in quieter drums, a self-calibrating guitar and take out all wires, and what's left? A truly evolved platform. More important than all this, though, is the weekly downloadable content. It's not always my style, but the selection is overall phenomenal. Now can I please, please, please get some Minus the Bear or The Roots to play drums with?



Grand Theft Auto IV
Best new addition to this game? Having a city so in love with GPS that they thought to put it in every car, motorcycle and ice cream truck. Beyond that, for better and for worse, it's the same GTA we've grown to love (or, for some, loathe) over the years.



PixelJunk Monsters
Sure, the hype of Desktop Tower Defense has long since faded, but in its place I found three new titles to fill that void. PixelJunk Monsters is the best of the trio, and more often than I care to admit I was planning intricate strategies for the co-op long before Left 4 Dead had me doing the same. The only knock was that playing it on PSP proved too laggy -- thankfully, there was Ninjatown for DS and FInal Fantasy: Crystal Defenders for the iPhone for my on-the-go fix.



Professor Layton and the Curious Village
Not just a very challenging collection of puzzles, what sets Professor Layton apart from its peers is a fanciful tale with many dark turns. I didn't just play for the Picarats -- although that was indeed a compelling reason -- I wanted to know how the story would progress. For the span of 30 days or so, this game did not leave my side. (Image Credit: Penny Arcade)


Honorable Mentions:
  • Burnout Paradise: Kudos to Criterion for its barrage of downloadable content, but let's be honest, the only thing needed for this game to succeed was cars flipping out and destroying each other -- it's a lot like ninjas when you think of it that way.
  • Castle Crashers: Simple, pick-up-and-play fun
  • Mario Kart Wii: One of the best in the series, if only the battle mode and online were up to par.
  • Fable 2 Pub Games: Screw the other two minigames, Fortune's Tower is incredibly addictive, even if I never really made much gold from it.
  • Peggle: Confession time: I didn't get around to playing this game until this year, just before my final exams started. I ended up graduating, but this addicted little charming didn't help. May God have mercy on my soul if this comes out on iPhone ...

Disappointments
These aren't necessarily bad games, nor are they games I won't continue to play (I will play them, for the most part) but here are some titles that I thought had a lot more potential than what was ultimately delivered.
  • LittleBigPlanet: I loved the beta, but the physics and controls proved too wonky in the end, and navigating through the user-generated levels for quality titles prove disheartening. With the new search and ranking options in the patch, though, my opinion is liable to change.
  • Spore: What I expect from Maxis is a game that doesn't end until I want it to. What I get with Spore is four phases that forcibly come to a halt way too quickly and have little to no impact on each other, and a space phase that didn't hook me like I had hoped.
  • Super Smash Bros.: Hooray for R.O.B., boo for the online system (or lack thereof). I was also hoping for a game that was on par with the frantic speed of Smash Bros Melee, the game I've logged more hours than any other in existence. Comparatively, this game felt like it moved in slow motion.
  • Too Human: I probably broke a record for most deaths in a single minute (about 8 or 10, even with the long respawns). There are so many things about this game that on paper seem totally badass -- a Nordic cyborg with two pistols, two swords, a crazy slide trick, hundreds of enemies to tackle simultaneously, and online co-op. It's not worth delving into what went wrong here, but I'm hopeful for the sequel.

New Year's Resolution
Catch up on some of the big games I missed this year (notably Valkyria Chronicles and Persona 4) and check out all the Team Fortress 2 updates so far. Try not to think about Brutal Legend too much. See Watchmen, no matter what the courts say. Also: Start that blog I've always wanted to do expressing my love for Swedish doorknobs (and no, I'm afraid that's not innuendo).

Take a Trip Down Memory Lane: My Best of the Rests for 2006, 2007

This article was originally published on Joystiq.