Pokémon Diamond and Pokémon Pearl
Haters be damned -- I'm a Pokéfanatic. As such, my Best of the Rest list wouldn't be complete without this year's edition of the handheld monster catching series. Sure, certain elements of the game haven't changed since the days of Pokémons Blue
(two of my favorite games of all time), but the things I love about the series remain intact, and in some cases, improved. The music is amazing, the number of the titular creatures are increased, and the Squirtles are bluer than ever. Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords
At first consideration, casual puzzle games and role-playing games seem like two great tastes that, together, taste like stale poison. Casual games are supposed to be short, singular experiences that you can pick up and put down when need be; RPG's require you to embed yourself into the couch so you can soldier on until the next save point. Somehow, Puzzle Quest
takes some of the best qualities of these two fields and blends them spectacularly, creating a clever hybrid genre. With the addictive character customization abilities of an RPG, and the even more addicting Bejeweled
-esque gameplay, they might as well have titled it Heroin: The Game
. The Bigs
To those offended by the lack of sports titles on our Top Ten list, I offer you this consolation. It might lack the realism of MLB '07 and MLB 2k7, but it makes up for it with over-the-top gameplay and arcade style controls. Add on an incredibly enjoyable career mode and some incredible Angels in the Outfield
-esque diving manuvers, and you've got the NFL Blitz
of America's greatest pastime.Crackdown
Crackdown, for me, was pretty hit-or-miss. The game was really only enjoyable when playing online co-op, and even then, the main story mode got pretty stale after a short time. Everything else, however, was buttercream. There's more ways to waste time in this city-sized sandbox than you could ever imagine, especially with the release of the "Keys to the City" content patch. I can't tell you how many hours I spent playing Crackdown Donkey Kong
, cackling at my teammate's futile attempts to climb a skyscraper as I dropped dump trucks on him from its summit.Disappointments
- Mass Effect (Xbox 360) -- Mass Effect is in no way, shape, or form an unpleasant experience. It's a great way to spend 20 hours. It's an incredibly deep galactic chronicle. It's an evolution of narrative in video games. However, it is a terrible game. Does that make sense? The elements that make it a video game are terrible. The gunplay is clunky and unresponsive, as are the rest of the combat controls. The character customization and equipment screens are cumbersome and remarkably confusing. It seems as if BioWare designed the game so that the action would be something that happens between conversations and story development, an unfortunate reversal of the usual video game formula.
- Guitar Hero 3: Legends of Rock (Xbox 360) -- Not only does it feature one of the worst soundtracks ever featured in a Guitar Hero game (I only really enjoyed about five or six of the songs), but Activision managed to mangle both the art style and sense of humor that I loved so much about the first two versions of the game. Sidenote: Rocks the 80s was also junk, but I wouldn't label that as a disappointment, as my hopes for a Guitar Hero game composed entirely of 80s music were decidedly low.
- Blue Dragon (Xbox 360) -- Somehow, the math just didn't add up. Any game being worked on by the creator of Final Fantasy and the developers of Chrono Trigger should be the most legendary RPG ever. How did Blue Dragon end up a repetitive, boring, ugly mess? We may never know.