Gamerly Musings

Where failed pitches go to shine.

Month: December, 2011

Game of the Year 2011: Best Social Game

Best social game: Dark Souls

I realize “social games” are considered their own genre of freemium Facebook games, but that’s not how I’m using the term here. To me, a social game is one that promotes social interaction, an no game has done that more for me this year than Dark Souls. I can’t even count the number of Dark Souls conversations I had on twitter of “oh crap, I can’t believe that just happened,” and “ try using this item there.” Part of it comes from the game’s challenge, which encouraged me and many others to seek out new strategies from friends, but there is also the sense of wonder when encountering something wholly new, both mechanically or visually in the game, that seemed to demand being shared. And of course, there is the sense of accomplishment when defeating one of the monstrous bosses that prompted every Dark Souls player to broadcast when that first damn Taurus demon was vanquished. It is a type of social interaction with gaming that I haven’t felt since playing Ocarina of Time in 4th grade, where one friend would discover the trick to a dungeon and share with the rest of us only for a different friend to solve a difficult puzzle in the next one. And for the out-of-game real world socialization it produced, Dark Souls is by far the best social game of 2011.

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Game of the Year 2011: Best Series Reboot

Best series reboot: Mortal Kombat

Franchise reboots are often treated as second class games or unimaginative cash-ins, but a good one is exceedingly difficult to pull off. It’s usually the result of either a series that has grown stale from sequelitis (see the newly announced Tomb Raider) or a series that has had too few sequels and is in need of a comeback (XCOM and Syndicate, I’m looking at you). For me, 2011 had two standout reboots that really nailed what developers should strive for: Rayman Origins and Mortal Kombat. Now, because of my general preference for platformers, I’d say Rayman is the better game, but Mortal Kombat is by far the better reboot. I was never really a Mortal Kombat fan; the bloody payoffs were only entertaining for so long before the realization set in that it was just too stiff and overly-mechanical with its reliance on memorized combos. But this year’s Mortal Kombat has finally won me over. Most special moves are easy to pull off and can fluidly chain into one another in any combination, which is my ideal fighting formula. Sure, all of the signature blood and guts are there, but for the first time I feel like Mortal Kombat is a truly mechanically sound fighting game even if its gory presentations were to be stripped away. There is also much to be said of its story mode, which has set a new standard for fighting games in its presentation. While the fighting mechanics rebooted the game series, the story mode essentially rebooted the cheesy films, adding much-needed and often ridiculous context to each fight. The moment Jax challenged Johnny Cage to a fight because he simply wouldn’t shut up is utterly brilliant. The best franchise reboots can keep the old fanbase happy while bringing in new players, and as a recent convert I can attest to Mortal Kombat doing exactly that.

Game of the Year awards 2011: A New Take

It’s that time of year when every game journalist makes a list of their favorites from the past 12 months. However, when writing my own entries, I found it exceedingly difficult to simply narrow down to a numbered list. How can I compare Mario 3D Land to Skyrim, to To the Moon, to El Shaddai, to Rayman Origins? There were so many games I loved this year, and each for entirely different reasons. So for my own blog, rather than a numbered list of my top 10 or 20 games, I have chosen select favorites and will attribute awards to them for the specific quality that made it my favorite of the year. This means that many genres and categories likely won’t be represented, but then again, I don’t claimed this to be an objective list of any sort.

Oh, and there will be spoilers. For some games it is impossible to discuss what made them so special without spoilers, so I won’t shy away from them.

Hope you enjoy it!

 

Best series reboot: Mortal Kombat

Best social game: Dark Souls