Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Top 10 From 2012: Reviews

With 2012 now a distant memory, it's time to reflect on the year's greatest achievements and rank them in order of their success. Since I hardly ever play new releases, I can't compile a list of the top ten releases from 2012. Instead, I'll be highlighting some of my best articles from 2012. Shameless self-promotion with an opportunity to get some of my favorite pieces on the front page again. Huzzah.

This time I'll be ranking some of my reviews. Criteria for this category isn't which games I enjoyed the most, so much as which I enjoyed writing about the most and which articles I feel have the most profound statements to be made about their respective games. Continue reading for the full list.

Life in the Dorms is set in a freshman college dormitory, following the adventures of Dack Peeples in his first year at college. It's an adventure game, so most of the gameplay is based on talking to people and solving puzzles to advance the story. Some of the puzzles are pretty clever and most of them feel naturally part of the setting, but some aspects of the game's overall design are a little bit annoying. Either way, amusing humor and the unique setting make Life in the Dorms worth a playthrough. Read more of my words on the game here.

Revelations is the third and final episode in the Adam's Venture trilogy of non-violent adventure games for audiences of all ages. Despite its casual intentions, Adam's Venture is still a reasonably enjoyable game, boasting some great atmosphere and a nice hands on feel -- it's just disappointing that neither the puzzle design nor the story are enough to elevate the experience to anything more than mediocrity. Read more of my words on the game here.

Limbo received a lot of critical praise when it was released, but I wasn't so fond of the game myself. The graphics and atmosphere are enough to sell the game, simply because of how it looks and feels to be in this particular environment, but the second half of the game felt kind of lame, and the game's reliance on excessive trial-and-error (the kind where you have to die to learn the lesson) made certain sections more tedious than they should've been. Read more of my words on the game here.

Ben There, Dan That! is sort of an homage to and a parody of classic point-n-click adventure games. It plays in the same basic style, but the two protagonists seems vaguely aware that they're in some kind of video game-type situation and use their knowledge of how adventure games work to their own advantage, while questioning some of the absurd adventure game logic they employ in the mission to get back home in time to watch Magnum PI. Interesting premise, and good humor. Read more of my words on the game here.

The original Condemned is one of my favorite horror games because of its great atmosphere and its combination of scripted and non-scripted scares. The sequel, Condemned 2, kind of ruined all of the first game's best aspects by over-exaggerating the combat, basically turning it into more of an action game, and it also ruined any bit of plausibility the original game had -- a large part of what made the original such of a convincing horror game. Condemned 2 is decent, but a bit of a disappointment compared to the original. Read more of my words on the game here.

The Dream Machine is immediately distinguished by its claymation graphics, which look fantastic and add an extra special charm to the game, but that's not its biggest selling point. As an adventure game, The Dream Machine has an enjoyable story with excellent puzzle design. The characters feel natural and made me really care about what was going on, and I'm all too anxious for the next episode to be released. Read my full review in the May issue of Adventure Lantern.

The Sea Will Claim Everything reminds me of the kinds of adventure games I played as a kid, but in an intelligent, sophisticated shell. You visit the Lands of Dream through a special portal (ie, the game itself), a somewhat magical world of fantasy and technology, where you help the citizens of the Fortunate Isles overcome the political and economic oppression of their ruler. The actual gameplay is pretty simple and straightforward, but the atmosphere and premise were extremely immersing for me. Read more of my words on the game here.

I reviewed each episode as it was released and thoroughly enjoyed each one. Telltale's The Walking Dead remained very true to the nature of the comics and forced the player into numerous moral dilemmas that, although not altering the actual course of the game, had a huge impact in terms of how you role-played Lee Everett and how other characters thought of you. The final episode was a bit of a letdown, but the journey there was certainly worthwhile. Read more of my words on the game here.

I honestly didn't expect much from Deus Ex: Human Revolution, considering it was following such a great legacy over an entire decade later, but DXHR proved to be one of the more intelligent games I've played in recent years. But the more I played, the more I realized it still doesn't live up to the legacy of the original, mainly due to a ton of simplification in its RPG mechanics and the nature of the story progression. Read more of my words on the game here.

This 12,000+ word tome may be the most inclusive critique of Skyrim on the internet. Basically, Skyrim is mediocre at best as an RPG and showcases Bethesda's crippling philosophy of "quantity is better than quality." There's a lot to see and do in Skyrim, but hardly any of it is actually worth doing because so much of it is incredibly shallow. This game is vastly overrated and doesn't deserve its near-perfect review scores. Read more of my words on the game here

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