Monday, December 31, 2007

2007's Games of the Year  

Since tonight is December 31st (and I’m not out partying my way into a drunken stupor) it’s officially the end of the year. So I’m rolling out my top picks of 2007 in no particular order-- except for the last one.

More details when you get there.

Anyway… Looking back at 2007, it wasn’t a year that stands out in my mind. I had to wrack my brain pretty hard for anything I played more than two months ago. Checking out Wikipedia’s “Games of 2007” page for a refresher, I saw a lot of so-so things, but very few that made me say “Oh yeah! Gotta include that one!”

To be fair, there were a few games that I meant to get to, but never did. Call of Duty 4 got a surprising (to me, anyway) number of nods. I’ve never been a fan of the Halo series, so Halo 3 went untested. Raw Danger was a niche sequel to one of my favorite PS2 games (Disaster Report) but the copy I bought new to support the developer is still in cellophane. I’m sure I’ll like Persona 3, and Rogue Galaxy had some wildly varied reactions, which piqued my interest. Level 5’s been on a roll since Dark Cloud 2, so I’d be pretty surprised if I don’t get into that one. I doubt Metroid Prime 3: Corruption would have made my list, but there was an outside chance.

So what about the games I did get to?

Super Mario Galaxy (Nintendo Wii) is a game-of-the-year shoo-in for a purely kinetic, throwback experience. It was very probably the best pure platformer (perhaps only pure platformer?) all year. It wasn’t the second coming of Christ the way some have portrayed it to be, but it revisits old territory with a new and interesting spin by way of the whacked-out gravity and high-on-‘shrooms level design. The story sucked and I didn’t appreciate a lot of the stars (out of 120) being assigned to lame time trials or other gimmicks that recycled levels, but regardless the game gets props.

Jeanne D'Arc (Sony PSP) was by far the most superb SRPG I’ve laid hands on in a while... a very long while. Nothing else came close to it in the genre this year, in my opinon. The mechanics were fresh and interesting, the character selection was focused yet varied, and the developers were obviously designing to the PSP hardware since it managed to avoid a lot of the technical pitfalls that plague so many ports. The PSP is really a great machine when developers work with it instead of shoveling foreign objects from other platforms where they don’t belong.

Portal (Xbox 360/Sony PS3/PC) was one of those rare instances when something was truly as great as people were saying. The mind-bending warping mechanics were fantastic, the story and setting were focused and tight, and the developers knew damn well when to stop; at around three to four hours, it was perhaps the shortest game of the year ever but it was solidly enjoyable all the way through. There’s a lot to be said for a game that ends before it makes a player sick of it.

Another Wii entry, Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure deserves a nod. Its old-school point-and-click approach was miles away from anything else that's been released lately, giving it a fresh, original feel. Polished, cute and charming, it could also be quite mentally challenging at times, which is something that a lot of games just don’t even attempt these days. It made a few stumbles (actually killing my character and necessitating a restart when I made a wrong move was a little too old-school) but it tried harder than most to avoid the insipid motion-control retardation that plagues most of the Wii trash out now, and there’s something to be said for a title that can legitimately make you feel not very smart at times.

Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords (PSP/DS/Xbox 360 Live) was absurdly addicting and a brilliant idea that doesn’t seem like it should have worked: taking a clone of PC shareware Bejeweled and marrying it to an RPG-like system complete with leveling up, magic abilities and quests. This game was the definition of playable.

The Red Star (Sony PS2) was a super-old-school character-based shooter that languished in development hell for a few years before limping unnoticed to retail. Created from a comic book property nobody’s read, the developers took the alternate-universe Russian characters and crafted a superbly intense and intelligently designed experience on what must have been half a shoestring. Don’t come unless you’re bringing mad skills, but anybody (like me) who was ever into these sorts of games should definitely come.

Last but not least, Mass Effect (Xbox 360) gets my top honors for 2007. It didn’t reinvent the wheel, but it hit a blistering home run out of the park and screaming into the atmosphere in terms of storytelling, characterization, cinematic energy, and the ability to get me so drawn into the game that I seriously considered skipping work while I put everything nonessential (like personal hygiene and eating) on hold. Without a doubt, this was the one game I enjoyed most all year. I gushed all over it in my review at GameCritics, and I’m doing the same here.

…So that’s 2007 in a nutshell.

Bring on 2008.

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1 comments: to “ 2007's Games of the Year

  • Anonymous


    There's absolutely no rush to get into any videogames as soon as possible, but I'd put Persona 3 among my best games of the year and I recommend anyone who don't own it to buy it, and anyone who already own it to unwrap and play it. Hehe.

    I liked it better than Final Fantasy XII, for sure.