Now I must hold my hand up straight away, be completely honest and tell you that I’m going to cheat here. Like many college students in an exam situation, I’m going to see the relatively straightforward title of “Game of the Year,” but interpret it in my own way so that I can answer it how I want to. So while many might see the title in terms of the best released game of 2009, I’m going to consider it to mean the best game I played in 2009. So don’t you all start writing in and telling me off in terms of the game’s release date. My take on the question also makes life easier for me; due to various work changes and large home improvement challenges, I didn’t get time to play as much as I would have liked in 2009. Admittedly, if I could I’d play games all day, but sadly I won’t be able to do that if I don’t pay the electricity bills. So if any game developers are reading this – come on guys, isn’t it about time you created a game that earns us a living while we play? I’m not sure how much longer my super-ego can persuade my id that time spent at work is not lost game time. Still, my id being as strong as it is, I did get some game time in this year. So my candidates for best game (I played) in 2009 are:
Castle Crashers (XBLA)
Now this might reveal something about my personality, but there’s something about watching cute animals have death-inflicting bowel movements that appeals to my dodgy sense of humour. If, like me, you find such bizarre scenes funny, then you’ll love Castle Crashers‘ epic medieval multiplayer adventure. Single player is funny, but multiplayer for me is like being told a really funny joke in a room full of laughing gas. For me, at a price of 1,200 Microsoft points, Castle Crashers provided great value and a constant stream of belly laughs (which probably gave my stomach a better workout than a resentful hour at the gym). I loved the fact that while it was a platform scroller, it offered so much more. The graphics, humourous characters and storyline, along with just the right level of game options, were quite addictive to me. Just figuring out the right attacks to silence myriad differing enemies kept my tiny brain enthused. At one point I remained airborne for more than a minute (with a frenetic punch of random buttons), which resulted in my taking out a number of enemies without touching the ground.
Panzer General Allied Assault
Having already established that my brain output is negligible, it will come as no surprise that my next game nominee is one in which the mechanics are simple, but the gameplay is deceptively deep. The game has tanks, explosions, cards and dice; all appealing in their own right, but devastatingly addictive when combined. I like games that are based on strategy, with a risk element added in to keep me on my toes. Panzer General succeeds in drawing you in with a cunning combination of challenge and unpredictability; it has the capacity to wipe the smug “I’ve got it in the bag” from your face in seconds. It’s a game in which you have to decide if you want to pulverise the enemy at a risk of having no defence when they try to stamp you into the ground. The random roll of the dice can also flip a game on its head and produce a groan of despair or a high-pitched squeal of delight (obviously a significantly more manly squeal in my own case). It’s a game that for 800 points is a great investment for gamers like me, who dip in and out rather than get the luxury of mega-48-hour playfests.
IL-2 Sturmovik: Birds of Prey
The last nominee is actually a new game released at the end of this year. I nominate it as it actually persuaded me to hang up my infantry boots and steel helmet and leap from Call of Duty: World at War into the adrenaline-packed skies of Birds of Prey. OK, not permanently, but enough to realise there is a game world outside World of Warcraft. I had never tried a flying-based game before, but having taken the plunge (I suffered quite a few plunges in game) I can say it was quite appealing. I thought the multiplayer WoW was frenetic, but Birds of Prey‘s online multiplayer takes manic to a new level. So if you like guns, going really fast and shouting “tally ho” really loudly, I would fully recommend it. From sinking enemy ships, trailing bombers and strafing ground targets to the standard dogfights, the game is pretty engaging. I somehow miraculously managed to stay in the air for 40 seconds with both wings sliced in half and my cockpit choked with oil smudges. But admittedly, it all ended in tears when I crashed into a small Italian village.
So amidst fanfare and drum rolls, my game of the year is…Castle Crashers. The thought of small, multi-coloured, tin can-sized knights running around causing death and destruction still makes me smile.