Dec 272010

In my years of being on the internet, I have found that people are too busy during the last week of the year to be reading porn. I like to think that they are rushing about and fucking as many people as possible before the new year turns them back into office drones and school teachers. Whatever the reason, they usually aren’t reading my stories this week.

Free from the constraints of making smut, I thought I would share with you my top five games of the year. I’m a writer so I don’t have time to plat Everquest, Warcraft or anything else that is a second job. I do however need something fun, interesting and entertaining to play in between writing about blowjobs. I am also a cheap ass so I don’t like to spend 50$ on a 12 hour shooting game.

Game #5 Desktop Dungeons– This free game is very simple yet also terribly difficult. You create a character and enter a dungeon as big as your monitor screen. You walk around killing things, grabbing loot and leveling your character as you seek to defeat the big boss of the level. That’s it. Most games last ten minutes.

What keeps me playing this game every day is that as you defeat dungeons, you unlock new character classes and new equipment. The levels are random so in a lot of cases, you just can’t win. That’s okay as you can just quit and start a new game. You keep throwing players into this meat grinder of a game and when you finally do defeat a boss, it is like winning the lottery. You dance. You cheer. You look at the new character class that you have unlocked and you try again.

If you have ever played Dungeons and Dragons and wished you could play again, just without all the paperwork, other players and rattle of dice, then this is the game for you. So much fun for literally nothing.

Game #4 Eschalon Book 2– Back in the early days of computer gaming, we had lovely games like Ultima and Fallout where 2D worlds were wonderfully deep and filled with gameplay. Because it was 2D and turn based instead of processor hogging #D and real time, the designers could really invest some complexity and depth to their games. Now all of the complexity is put into realistic blood splatters.

The polar opposite of Desktop Dungeons, Eschalon Book 2 is a nice long journey into a fantasy world. You have stats. You have character classes and choices. You have boxes to open and monsters to kill. You have a story and a world to explore. Best of all, it is all turn based so slow pokes like me can make choices at my leisure. It is the kind of game we would have been playing in the early 90’s except it has been made with today’s technology.

My wife especially loves this game. She racked up 90 hours on it before she solved it. It is one of the few games that she has solved as she frequently gets too bored with games to finish them. This game has depth and it kept her interested all the way to the end. That deserves a medal in itself.

At 24.95, it is half the price of most mainstream games with ten times the gameplay time.

Game #3 Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!A Reckless Disregard for Gravity – This is a game where you jump off of floating buildings, weave in between psychedelic structures, flip off protesters, wave at your fans and spray paint graffiti on government buildings as you fall. You score points for stunts and but mostly you splatter against structures and wince repeatedly. It is a brutally fun good time.

I know what you’re thinking- “Shon, you’re an old fuddy duddy who plays turn based games! How can you have fun playing something that relies on reflexes to not turn your bones to paste?”

The anwser is that every part of the game is so much fun, I just keep coming back to it. The game opens with a statement; “Dejoban Games, proudly making computer games for 75 years.” It starts with a ludicrous joke. The menu screen plays muzak. The unlock section has a video with a cookie recipe. Giant billboards of employees appear while you are plummeting down great heights. The game designers looked at every part of the game and made it a joke. This attention to humor is a huge inspiration to me as a writer but it also makes for a fun party atmosphere. I mostly die in this game but it is still a good time.

It is also a good tight game. Falling feels right. It is exhilarating. Even screwing up is spectacular as you collide with flat surfaces at breakneck speeds.

Aaaaa etc is currently selling for 9.99 on their website.

Game #2 Delve Deeper – The King of the Dwarfs demands treasure. Because he also believes in competition, he sends multiple teams of dwarfs to kill monsters and each other as they struggle to be the team that brings back the most gold to the king.

This is the rare game that feels like a board game in the best possible way. You pick tiles to explore the caves and you move your team of five dwarfs like a war game. Unlike a board game, the computer takes care of all the annoying math as well as providing a really smart AI to play against. You come across treasure chests filled with random crazy shit like the world’s worse deck of treasure cards.

There are a few mechanics that really make this game shine. Dwarfs never die. They get beat down and go to sleep, but they are never eliminated. One on one, most of the monsters are pretty weak. When 20 monsters come at you though, you are in deep shit but you might still wear them down. This is a game where you will get treasure, the question is whether you will get more treasure than your opponents. It creates an atmosphere that you are really tough and powerful but are you smart enough?

Much like Aaaaa etc, this game drips with humor. You will take on dwarf teams named after the A-team or the boxers from the Rocky movies. Treasure is always interesting from the worthless painting of treasure to the epic like the Blue Belt of Holding In Your Stomach. The monsters are cute and the Dwarf King is constantly heckling you for more treasure. With over 100 uniquely named treasure items, you will always come across a fresh joke.

At five dollars, this game is a steal.

Game #1 Minecraft – Imagine that you are a castaway on a world rich with resources. You have trees that can give you wood. You have rock and iron quarries that you can make tools with. You have have pigs that you can hunt for food. You have sand to make glass, clay to make bricks and coal to make torches. You have no people to talk to but hey, you’re like Tom Hanks and Macgyver combined.

Which is good, because when night falls, zombies, skeletons, spiders and worse will come out of nowhere and fuck your shit up. You better have a house, a bunker or something that you can hide in because the night monsters will kill you. Day light will finally come and burn most of the monsters away but the rest you will have to kill with sword and arrow. The upside is that you will use their remains to make new things.

That is Minecraft in a nutshell. You build, you scavenge and you survive. There is no story except your story. There is no goals except the ones you make for yourself. Want to make a tower of glass and stone? Well you better dig up sand and mine some stone then. Want to make a watch so you know what time it is? You need to find some gold and the mysterious red stone then. It is a game where you have nothing that you need to do, but there is plenty to do once you decide what you want. It is a remarkably freeing game to play.

It is currently in beta but there is no game that I have played more this year. I have built roads and towers and a network of safe houses across the country side. Why? Because it was fun. Unlike Sims where you build houses with a few mouse clicks, here you build houses by mining the raw materials and then placing it brick by brick. I have spent hours building roads connecting my towers not because I received some sort of gold or experience award but because I was tired of getting lost in the hills near my castle.

The graphics are a curious retro blend of cubic blocks. It looks blocks and simple and yet I have seen sunsets and deserts that took my breathe away. There is an artistry here that just has to be seen to be beleived.

The game alternates between relaxing and tense. It is relaxing when I am building a beach house with a pier. It is tense as fuck when I am underground stalking a skeleton that I can clattering nearby. When you dig into the earth, you often find natural caverns filled with monsters and rare resources. Torchlight will keep new monsters from spawning but you gotta place that torch there first. When the pressure of cavern crawling gets to be too much, I retreat above ground and make a greenhouse so my farm can grow crops without sheep trampling it. It is a game that provides entertainment no matter what my mood is.

That concludes my list. Funny how four of these games involve fantasy dungeons and treasure. Also, every game was made by a small indy studio. These games are lean mean fun times designed to entertain, not secure a multi million dollar X-box deal. I hope you have as much fun with them as I have.

  2 Responses to “My Top 5 Games of the Year”

  1. Eschalon Book 2 is a fun game, though I haven’t really had a chance to play it. They have a Linux version, which I love, but I keep getting other games (mostly indie) and they get in the way. Plus, that whole Spawn of Evil thing going on which prevents long-term focus.

    Aaah! was a lot of fun, but I am very bad at it. :)

    For me, I would also add Aquaria, which was lovely, and Revenge of the Titans. I ended up laying World of Goo for quite a while, mainly because I donated to the Humble Indie Bundle every year (pay what you want for 5 games, usually near Christmas).

    I’ll have to check out some of those games. I’ve heard about Minecraft, but it seemed like one of those games that I would get sucked into, and I’m already struggling to actually write stuff. :P

  2. World of Goo might be the cutest game that I was complete rubbish at. Man it kicked my butt.

    Minecraft for some reason hasn’t stolen my writing time as a lot of the construction projects seem to give me plenty of brain power to daydream and work out stories. It’s just the act of quitting that can be hard to pull off :)

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