2008: The Year in Review

Another year older, another year wiser, right? If I look back to the 2007 Year in Review, this little snippet catches my eye:

There’s far more games than time, and my records show that I’ve still got 63 games incomplete. Maybe I should consider making a New Year’s Resolution regarding the “incomplete” list? Something along the lines of reducing it to around 50? Hah – I’m nowhere near that naïve… a more realistic resolution would be to not let it blow out much further.

I think I used up all my wisdom right where I said “a more realistic resolution would be to not let it blow out much further” – because, at the time of writing, The List only shows 65 games incomplete – hardly a blowout at all! (Of course, this is largely due to a ridiculously productive December, which saw no less than five games get knocked off).

But let’s not focus on the numbers too much (however much they rule my life); let’s have a look at a number of pithy categories in which I can toss the names of the games that have touched me (oo-er) this year. Forgive me for recycling several topics from earlier compilations…

Disappointment of the Year: That Wii Fit hasn’t magically halved my weight. Bastard!

Proudest Achievement of the Year: Easy – Mutant Storm Empire‘s Black Belt Grandmaster. There’s a little bit of ninja in all of us, and World 4 Level 2 made me dig deep and harness that little bugger up good. An honourable mention should be made of No More Heroes and its deliciously difficult Bitter Mode.

Under-Appreciated Game of the Year: Everyone slated Microsoft’s choice of Undertow as compensation for a spotty Xbox LIVE service last Christmas, which is a shame – it was a thoroughly enjoyable shooter that really came into its own when played with online co-op on the hardest difficulty level. But, hands down, No More Heroes takes this award for being the game that everyone seems to be sneakily sliding into their Top Ten lists to appear edgy and cool, but which no-one bought. You bastards.

I’m-Still-Waiting Award: The PS3. Come on, tempt me with a game that I actually want to play! The closest it’s come so far is with PomPom’s Astro Tripper (which, given I’ve played Space Tripper to death, isn’t even that compelling).

Pulling Teeth Award: Bullet Witch‘s Hell Mode. All that effort for One. Fucking. Point? I guess that’s why I call myself O/C. Or maybe I’m just a beggar for punishment.

2008 Blast From The Past Award: Let’s give an award a game prior to this generation, purely because I have been – and will always be – catching up on my gaming history. Psychonauts? Killer7? Let’s go with the former; barely a single criticism can be levelled at Tim Schafer’s previous game, and my appetite is well-and-truly whetted for Brütal Legend.

Where Have You Been All My Life Award: Killer7. Because I can’t bear to let it go unrewarded (see above), and because it’s absolutely, completely, stonkingly brilliant.

Funnest Gaming Moment of the Year: Seven cars sitting at the bottom of the quarry in Burnout Paradise, side by side as at a drive-in movie, waiting for our online compadre to finally nail his barrel-rolls. A cheer goes up – he’s done it! – followed by a yell of “Car Cuddles!” as everyone proceeds to smash into each other, laughs and merriment a-plenty. Ten minutes later, the next Challenge starts :)

Multiplayer of the Year Award: Burnout Paradise – see above. Challenges, or simply smashing the shit out of each other, there was nothing that came close to the online experience of cruising Paradise with seven friends.

Bringing Indy To The Party Award: Braid, or World of Goo? Both displayed impossibly impeccable production values; tiny teams easily upstaged the bigger names. Goo gets this award, since it’s a shining example of what two people can do with a gorgeous demo; having said that, Jonathon Blow‘s contribution to the indy gaming community is far from overlooked.

Gaming Payback of the Year: No More Heroes, Bitter skill level, the third boss encountered – Shinobu. I’ve written about this previously, but this fight turned my gaming world on its head – previously, boss battles had been automatically deemed abhorrent in my little mind. Shinobu changed all that.

Earnest Navel-Gazing Award: Braid, for slipping a story of weight and depth into a brilliant game… even if most of it is hidden from those who brand Braid a “Mario rip-off”.

Best Game Writing of the Year: No More Heroes, hands down. It’s got no plot, and yet the paper-thin characters still manage to feel convincing, and the fast-forward exposition prior to the final boss fight is deliriously good. Proof that a good page trumps bad volumes.

Worst Game Writing of the Year: Mercenaries 2. Because, playing as the hot chick merc, you can pimp yourself as follows:

Chinese Contact: “Ah, welcome back mercenary. I have need of you.”
HCM: “Well you can afford me, let’s not waste time.”

And, as cool as that may seem on paper, it actually leaves you feeling a little icky. So you dress up in a chicken suit, drop a MOAB on a building, then sky-dive out a helicopter. It’s all good, right?

The Gasping Grin Award: World of Goo, end of World 3. I’ve no idea why, but the laughter and evolution of that level left me wrung out, in much the same way that Braid conjured emotion.

The Gasping Gasp Award: Braid, the final level. I’ve never felt a greater cognitive click.

Still Kickin’ Award: Rez HD. Into its eighth year and Rez is still as glorious as ever.

AAA-Title I Missed Award: Ummm, that goes to pretty much all the triple-A and mega-hyped titles released in 2008; pretty much the closest game I got to AAA was Burnout Paradise.

So there you have it, kids. My 2008 in a nutshell. Big props to Braid, Burnout Paradise, No More Heroes, Rez HD, and World of Goo, with belated kisses and cuddles to last-gen’s Killer7 and Psychonauts. These are the games that made the biggest mark on me this year, though honourable mentions should go to a couple of older current-gen games, Excite Truck and Mutant Storm Empire, for continuing to bring the fun.

“That’s a nice capsule summary up there, Pete,” I hear you say. “But I need something more concise. Come on then, you crapulent wordsmith: what was your Game Of The Year?”

I think you know ;)


Recently I bitched about the fact that I hadn’t knocked any games off The List lately; and now, a mere fortnight later, December is looking plump with Completion. First came Mercenaries 2, then Mutant Storm Empire, and this week saw the Pete-Completion of World of Goo and Dash of Destruction.

World of Goo has been an absolute delight. I was one of those who jumped through homebrew hoops to get their PAL Wii to chat with the US Shop Channel, purely to allow the purchase of this independent masterpiece. Goo picked up the Indy Game of the Year at last week’s VGAs, and was finally released onto the PAL Shop Channel last Friday – the very day I finally knocked off the last of those nasty, nasty OCD challenges. It’d be a tad fibulous to say that I enjoyed every minute – some of the OCDs are incredibly frustrating (leading me to question whether Goo is actually better suited to mouse-control, rather than Wii-mote) – but the sense of satisfaction from having all the OCD flags pop up is immense. Highly, highly recommended – get thee to the Wii store! …or just buy it for your PC or Mac.

A paragraph ago I mentioned that I’d Completed Dash of Destruction – the Doritos-sponsored advergame – this week. In truth, it took less than 30 minutes to see all it had to offer: a cutesy, but shallow, combination of Rampage and Crazy Taxi. With tongue planted firmly in cheek (constant references to its freely available GamerScore abound), it’s absolutely worth the price of admission – that is, free. Go on, kids, click this link and add it to your download queue… it’s cheerful, fun in its small dose, and costs nothing. And it boosted my Completion Percentage by 0.18%, so that’s nice.

The rest of the weekend has been taken up playing Duke Nukem on XBLA. My Completion target for this one is all levels + all secrets + all Duke-isms, and it’s going pretty smoothly (using the excellent 3D Realms walkthrough for reference). I’ve certainly got much further than I did when I had my dodgy copy of the game on the PC, and – with the exception of wishing the weapons had hotkeys – the controls don’t suffer at all from the conversion.

And that’s my task for the week of Christmas – finish Duke Nukem, and bring The List down to 64. Piece of cake.


Aside from a brief reminiscient blast through Ninety-Nine Nights (to test out the NXE’s dump-to-HDD performance with that title), most of the week was taken up with – you guessed it – World of Goo. I’m having a blast hammering through those OCD ranks on my second profile; only eleven left now, but one of those is the deeply unfair Bulletin Board System. Still, this actually feels like a doable endeavour, so I hope to knock the Goo off The List before the New Year.

The weekend, however, was a different story. At the turning of the page on the calendar for the last four months, I decreed that That Month would hark the Completion of Mutant Storm Empire; all that remained were some very gettable co-op multiplayer Achievements. I had an accomplice who pledged to assist in the endeavour, but every time we made a serious attempt we’d encounter some type of glitch: players getting stuck on walls, cameras zooming off in the distance, and other happenstances that could be used as an excuse for our generally poor play. Given that he was in the UK, and I in Australia, I attributed such glitches (except for the poor play, of course) to network latencies, and decided last week to search for a partner who was a little more local.

I peeked on the Achieve360Points forum, but couldn’t find a partner-seeker who’d already been sated; the Xbox.com forums yielded one potential match who, when contacted, claimed to have never played the game. Odd that it was on his GamerCard, but who am I to stalk? Eventually, though, I found a chap in Wales who enthusiastically agreed to help out and, after two big sessions on the weekend, we managed to get the 10x Multiplier and Millionaire Twins Achievements… thus allowing me to cross Mutant Storm Empire off The List. Cheers Edd! :)

Once that was done, however, I ducked back to help another pal out in his quest for Achievements. Today’s target? The O/C Gamer’s GOTY 2007, Crackdown. And fuck me, it’s still absolutely brilliant. We both cackled with unbridled glee as we romped through the easiest skill level, engaging in massive amounts of mayhem as we went; my Mercenaries muscle memory only helped in that regard as I kept mashing the reload and switch-weapons buttons inappropriately, leading to room-filling explosions rather than the intended close-quarters gunfire. If anything, I left that joyous session nostalgic – pining for the first time I encountered that world, the almost motherly embrace I associate with my growth and progression through the game.

And then I wonder – has anything made me feel like that this year?

The OCD Dilemma…

So I’m playing World Of Goo. As I mentioned earlier, I had 38 OCD ranks to acquire before I’d award myself Completion status. I’ve chewed through a bunch, whittling it down to 25, when I decide to give one of the later Level 4 stages a go. “MOM’s Computer” was its name, and it seemed fair game for an easy OCD ranking.

Unfortunately, it seems that there’s a teensy little bug with World Of Goo that prevents you from attaining OCD status on any but your first attempt.

Which is a bit of a bastard, really. I could start a new profile to ensure a clean sheets of OCDs, but that’s a whole ruck of additional effort… especially since I’d already managed a 9-second run on that evil prick “Hello, World” level.

So what do I do? Do I start the new profile, or carry on regardless?

I started the new profile.

Quick Notes…

Lordy! Posting to my own blog two days in a row! Who’d have thunk it.

But events warrant such outlandish action! For one thing, fire up your 360 and pop on over to Live Marketplace and download the latest Marble Blast Ultra map pack; it’s a mere 200 MS Points to buy, contains a bunch of new multiplayer maps (three of which are great, one is a shocker, and another scared me just to look at it). There’s another new Achievement wodged in there too, which is pretty easy to snaffle with a bit of online play. I really like this approach to MBU‘s DLC, and firing it up again today just demonstrated how lovely the gameplay is. Can’t wait for the next map pack.

After goading a mate at work into trying to pick my next Target Game from The List (go on, readers – what game do you think my focus should be on next?), I realised that I hadn’t updated it to contain World of Goo, purchased from the US Wii Shop via a bit of Homebrew Channel hackery. So I’ve rectified that omission and, inspired by typing the word “goo”, decided to fire it up again. And it’s still as brilliant as when I first laid eyes on it (then promptly ignored for a month).

The end of Level 3 is a real treat, right up there with the emotional brainfuckery of Braid – but without the headachey bits. And tonight I managed to finish the game – but I’ve still got 38 (fittingly-named) OCD ranks to snaffled before Completion. I’ll say it again – an absolutely fantastic game, well in contention for Game of the Year.

Speaking of which, at the moment my yearly highlights are Rez HD, Braid, No More Heroes, and World of Goo – with a bit of Burnout Paradise thrown in for good measure. What about you?

DukeMercenaries of GOO

…and so another week skates by, with so many lofty plans (like finishing one of the four longer game musings I’m working on) drifting by the wayside. And what did I manage to do with my week?

Well, not a whole lot.

Truth be told, it was a relatively glum start to the week. Work is going pear-shaped, the ex moved out, and anything else that could go wrong, did. For example: with the extra room in the house, I decided to create a little retro gaming shrine with the spare TV. “Aha,” I thought with a desperate gleam in my eye, “an opportunity to knock some of the Jaguar games off The List.” Alas, my video cable for the Jag has suffered one bend too many, and the only replacement I could find on eBay is now en route from England at the lazy cost of AU$40. Useless Jaguar sitting forlornly by the TV, I seek another platform, and dig out my “useful” Dreamcast (I have two Dreamcasts; one that has the GD-ROM “tuned” for Rez – and plays nothing else – and the other that plays everything except Rez). All plugged in, I fire up Jet Set Radio, keen to give it a concentrated playthrough that I neglected to afford it a few years ago. All seems good, until… it suddenly reboots. And again. And again, at a completely different point in play. So I surmise that the power supply on the “good” DC is on the fritz; looks like a transplant is in order.

There was glum news in the gaming world, too – new gaming darling Little Big Planet got delayed due to Muslim pressures over some background music. Astro Tripper (which, from this video, looks like a HD & tuned-scoring version of Space Tripper) was announced for the PS3, which I fear means that PomPom have turned their backs on the 360 & XBLA. And, despite my giddy excitement the other day, we won’t see No More Heroes 2 until 2010.

But some good stuff did happen over the last seven days; a friend finally picked up Mercenaries 2, leading to many co-op hijinks (and marvelling at the poor voice acting. Again). He managed to snaffle 260 GS inside an hour, and I managed none – but that’s OK. There’s still a lazy 150 points in the wings there that we can work on later.

Scanning The List, I noticed that Duke Nukem remained relatively untouched – if only because I find it somewhat annoying to play, and my current save-point sees me spawning with a mere 4% health, little ammo, and even less of a chance of getting out of the corner I’m stuck in. So I decided, instead, to try and eke out some online ranked kills – after all, there’s achievements all the way up to 500 kills, and my OCD won’t let that go. And – surprise surprise – it’s really good fun. Getting an eight-player duke-match going on the Stadium map is an absolute blast, and there’s a few other maps that are nearly as good. Yes, there’s the lag that seems to affect every XBLA game, but – long story short – I scored 507 kills over the weekend, netting all the online achievements… and actually enjoying Duke Nukem in the process!

There was one more Good Thing for the week… and, as Good Things go, this has lots of sweet whipped cream and a cherry on top.

World Of Goo.

It’s fantastic.

Yes, we antipodeans (and Europeans, for that matter… let’s just say “non-North-Americans”) have to jump through some hoops to get it (install the Homebrew Channel, and then work through these instructions), but the effort is more than worth it. Or just buy it on the PC (but then you’ll miss out on the delightful Wii control). It’s got all the immediate impact and cleverness and greatness of Braid, but comes from a completely different angle, tongue firmly in cheek. There’s times where I’ve completed a level and jumped up clapping; it’s just an utterly joyous experience. And building a Goo Tower, complete with little cute little flag-carrying clouds that tell me that my tower is the tallest in Australia, is like a Goo-ey form of Achievements.

Seriously, just go and get it now.