Yes, we’re unoriginal enough to have a “best of” list too, but we’re not focusing on the stuff you might expect. In fact, only two of our games came in a box, the rest being cheap downloadable experiences that offered more fun, originality, or style than anything else. It’s either a good sign of the indie experience gaining some traction, or the sad, all too familiar style of those big budget blockbusters. With that, we begin with number five:
It’s no surprise that a comic aimed at the very culture we know and love produced a video game that does everything right. Sticking with a traditional genre, the misunderstood beat-em-up, Pilgrim lampoons, appreciates, and pay homage to this industry’s history. No doubt the dazzling pixel art and addictive chiptune music set an early precedent once the start button was hit, but everything about Pilgrim lived up that same expectation. Tightly wound controls, satisfying combat, and recently added online multiplayer just give this small effort additional cred, and we give it the cred it rightfully deserves right back. It’s a shame the movie didn’t catch on too.
It figures that this spectacularly written title fails to find the industry’s gaze, muddled by major players like Halo and Medal of Honor. Crammed between those high-end releases was this Andy Serkis-starring play on the Chinese legend of the Monkey King. Enslaved takes place in a destroyed world, one that bucks the current trend of desaturated color for a vibrant world teeming with plant life. Within, the player smashes killer robots via an engrossing, satisfying combat engine, leading up to an ending that is as mindblowing as this entire experience. It’s polished, and the character interaction is marvelous.
Mich can be said for the silhouette, haunting as it can be. Limbo uses it to every advantage, tasking the player with traversing a world without explanation and where the possibilities are endless. Without that needless backstory, the game space opens, allowing creatures and designs to thrive on their own, with their own logic, and with their own style. The puzzle/platform elements are slick, not necessarily meant to stop the player cold, but spend more time inside this stylized environment. Who wouldn’t want that? Depressing as it may seem at times, Limbo doesn’t rely on fun, but emotion and tension, rare qualities that should be praised.
Last year it was indie darling Miner Dig Deep; this year, it’s Radiangames Crossfire. To get it out of the way, Crossfire is brilliant in a way few games are, taking a simple concept and adding only minimal elements but altering the game drastically. At its heart, Taito could sue this Space Invaders-inspired title, but their franchise could never achieve this level of intensity. Crossfire lets you flip up behind the enemies, raining down fire from above. The aliens grow in intelligence to this tactic, setting up reflectors or firing in diagonals. It’s the perfect blend of a classic and new age shooter, the striking neon visuals flinging sparks as well as bullets. The polish is amazing, and the throbbing music a perfect accompaniment.
Say what you will about Nintendo in the modern day; their platformers are still the best, and Epic Yarn is even better than that. This is a beautiful, dazzling 2D experience, Kirby turned inside out, losing his familiar powers as he traverses a world of fabric. So well realized is this world that the fantasy effect is utterly convincing, the type of style you expect from Hollywood, not a lowly console ragged on for its lack of visual prowess. Epic Yarn’s gameplay is magnificent, smooth and precise, like every game in this franchise.
Epic Yarn is different though in that you can’t die, a bold and brave decision these days where the absurdly difficult platformer is becoming a sub-genre all its own. Its demeanor is calm, allowing the player to soak it all in, from the level design to ingenious ways the world is utilized. It even lets those seeking challenge collect items, lost when hit, further opening Kirby’s world to additional experiences. That’s what you’re always yearning for more of in Epic Yarn.