Best of the Rest: Chris' Picks of 2008

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Best of the Rest: Chris' Picks of 2008

Penny Arcade Adventures: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness
It's almost a no-brainer if you know me: Take the Penny Arcade "universe," send it back in time, turn it into an episodic video game – blending old-school adventure and Final Fantasy-style turn-based RPG mechanics – and then have PA's Jerry Holkins (aka Tycho) handle the writing while adventure-game legend Ron Gilbert pitches in with design. Oh, and then release it on every platform under the sun, including Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, Xbox Live Arcade, and PSN. Perfection.

Oh, and the first installment was really great (I'm still working through Episode 2).

God of War: Chains of Olympus
It's God of War, but portable. So what? With Chains of Olympus, Ready at Dawn has proven, once again, that not only are they one of the few developers consistently turning out worthwhile PSP games, but they're capable of making that portable platform sing. Let's hope they really do reconsider PSP development.

The World Ends With You
This is the only DS game on my list and, to be honest, I haven't even finished it yet. But that's okay, because I still want to recognize the creativity and quality of The World Ends With You. In 2008, amidst an unprecedented flurry of re-releases, it's easy to forget that Square Enix was still producing fine, original content.

Beyond Good & Evil
But Chris, BG&E came out half a decade ago in 2003! Yes, reader ... you're right (good memory!). But if Justin can pick a board game (those don't even plug in, mind you) then I can pick this famously overlooked gem. With Beyond Good & Evil 2 in production after, well ... a half-decade of groaning from the fan community (and a string of Rayman Raving Rabbids games we assume were designed by Michel Ancel as penance for poor sales of BG&E), I had to finally sit down and play the original. And what I found is one of the most charming, well-written, well-acted action-adventure games I've ever played; a Zelda game for those of you bored by the latest crop of Zelda games.

World of Goo
I don't mean to underestimate 2D Boy's accomplishment here in anyway, but World of Goo is the best Wii game released in 2008. I say that having played mostly the Mac version, and having chosen Goo as the top IGF game last year – but in a year that didn't offer much for the "core gamer" on the Wii, World of Goo emerged as a robust, impeccably produced, and immediately accessible game and it did so on the Wii's mostly overlooked (for good reason!) WiiWare service. Bravo!

Sure it's not a game, but it does run on my GameBox 380, and that's good enough for me. When thinking about gaming "gateway drugs" – those seemingly innocuous introductions – we're often reminded of Wii Sports or the like. Well, you can add Netflix to that list. If my XBL friends list is any indication, Netflix is now the most popular application on the entire console, game or not – and if my personal, anecdotal experience is any indication, that's not just 1337 g4m3rz watching "All Dogs Go To Heaven." That's a family movie, friends.

Disappointments Or I'm Not Angry ... Just Disappointed
  • Star Wars: The Force Unleashed: After being wowed by the tech demos – and excited by the prospect of a newly energized LucasArts, once again focused on creating best-in-class video games in-house – this sloppy action game epitomized disappointment.
  • Castle Crashers: One of my most anticipated titles of the year – purchased immediately on launch day – has gone almost entirely unplayed because of a broken multiplayer component that took four months to fix. I'm eager to finally play it with friends, but it's 2009 now. So, Castle Crashers makes my list of '08 disappointments.
  • Resistance 2: As someone who was grossly underwhelmed by Resistance 1, I had hoped Resistance 2 represented a far more mature sophomore effort from the FPS-newcomers at Insomniac. There are some interesting things going on in multiplayer and co-op, but the campaign is a snoozer.
  • Metal Gear Online: Metal Gear Solid 4 was one of my top picks of the year – and Metal Gear Online is not only comically overvalued (you were not going to sell this separetely in the US, Konami!) but the laughably cumbersome Konami ID system serves as a pointed reminder that many Japanese developers really have no idea how to make a successful multiplayer game.
  • Mass Effect DLC: I wasn't disappointed in "Bring Down The Sky," the first (and only!) piece of Mass Effect DLC released to date. I am, however, disappointed in the lack of subsequent packs and BioWare's absolute silence on the matter. What's the deal, BioWare?
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