ATTENTION: The year 2014 has concluded its temporal self-destruct sequence. If you are among the escapees, please join us in salvaging and preserving the best games from the irradiated chrono-debris.
Threes is ingenious. Its simplistic presentation belies beautiful, thoughtful design and butter-smooth mechanics. Threes isn't a matter of "less is more," it's fully encapsulated and pushed to the limits of what it intends to do, providing hours upon hours of repeated gameplay on that four-by-four tiled screen. On top of the brain-teasing numbers game, writer Asher Vollmer, illustrator Greg Wohlwend and composer Jimmy Hinson infuse Threes with personality, giving the numbers voices and faces, and tipping Threes from "Fun" to "Absolutely adorable. And, of course, fun."
The first episode of The Walking Dead Season 2 is perhaps the best that Telltale has ever been. There was a lot riding on that one, following the triumph of Season 1 – the protagonist would be Clementine, beloved Clementine, and the writing had to hold up separately from the narrative momentum of those first five episodes.
The rest of the season was similarly brilliant, for the most part – my issues with The Walking Dead Season 2 lie almost solely in the final episode, wherein the fragments of Telltale's narrative formula are on clear display. Still, Telltale is a master of point-and-click drama and The Walking Dead Season 2 proves that the series – and Telltale – is far from dead.
Timing is a bitch. I truly believe that if The Talos Principle had launched just a little earlier in the year, it would be all over Joystiq's Game of the Year list. It's a puzzle game wrapped in a philosophy lesson and littered with questions of morality, humanity and technology – yet it's still light-hearted, it's still quirky, it's still fun. The puzzles are wonderfully balanced, deep thoughts allowed to simmer while players complete light-bending or block-stacking riddles. The Talos Principle is tense and gorgeous, and it somehow doesn't become preachy, even with all of the talk about gods.
Damn the rules – Towerfall for GOTY 2014! Technically, it came out in 2013 on Ouya, so this one is out of the running for 2014's lineup, but Towerfall will always find a happy home with me. Towerfall is local co-op at its finest, featuring retro sounds and design, and a fast-paced, competitive platform. Each round of Towerfall usually ends in loud cries of, "Did you see that?!" or "No way, that was amazing!" and every level, co-op or competition style, is charming and unpredictable.
I will be playing Towerfall for years to come, guaranteed.
Murasaki Baby performed a miracle – it made me OK with the Vita's rear touchpad.
This little game snuck into my heart in 2014, featuring that odd little girl with her upside-down head and heart-shaped balloon wandering the terrifying and strange roads of a Tim Burton-esque universe. Murasaki Baby takes full advantage of the Vita's controls, using every bit but never over-using a single mechanic. The platforming and power-switching designs are absolutely on-point, and Murasaki Baby is a must-play game for anyone with a Vita. It's weird, kind of sad and insanely happy – but mostly, it's a great game.
[Images: Asher Vollmer, Telltale, Devolver Digital, Matt Makes Games, SCEE]