Kami’s Mid-Term Top and Bottom Five Games of 2013

And this years winners are...

The best and worst so far…

And so here we are again, halfway through another year.

It’s been another one of those years so of course, it’s time for the mid-term report of the best… and worst games I’ve played so far. So let me begin, for the moment, with the best games of 2013 so far, the ones that have made my year quite enjoyable and pleasant. Of course, I have rules when it comes to this, so…

* It has to have been released any time after 31st December 2012.
* It has to have been released in a PAL region.
* It can’t be a straight port or remake.

With those rules in place… the top five! Now, I had some also-rans. Monster Hunter 3: Ultimate came very very close, and is a worthy game in its own right, but it just didn’t quite make my top five list. Poker Night at the Inventory 2 also came somewhat close, because time spent in the company of GLADoS as a card dealer is time well spent, especially her trademark pithy put-downs, but the game isn’t quite as good technically for me as the first one. So that was out. And I still have yet to play Lego City: Undercover and Animal Crossing: New Leaf, so I can’t really speak for those games at this moment. Here are the five games I have enjoyed the most so far this year;

roguelegacy#5 – ROGUE LEGACY (PC/Steam, £11.99)

Straight into the swing of things is this entertaining and cheap little indie offering from Cellar Door Games (I do hope this wasn’t made in a dark and dingy basement!), a pleasing blend of classic platforming action, Metroidvania stylings and Rogue-esque randomisation. Heroes have randomly generated traits that help and hinder in equal measure, and it ensures that traipsing through the castle is rarely dull, as each trait offers new secrets, patterns and unlockables as well as the old addiction of collecting masses and masses of gold coins. Sometimes it pays to stay low-key and just focus on doing a couple of things really, really well. This is one of those classic examples that will stand out in a market full of attention-seekers because it just seems like a blast. And it is.

ninokunitop5#4 – NI NO KUNI: WRATH OF THE WHITE WITCH (PlayStation 3, £34.99)

JRPG’s may be a dying breed but by golly it’s a breath of fresh air to play a really good one, no matter how scarce they are in the modern era. Ni No Kuni is a collaboration between Level-5 and the masters of whimsical animation, Studio Ghibli. It’s a tale of a child struggling to come to terms with the death of his mother; a death that is tragic, and makes him feel like it is his fault. Then he discovers another world where there may be a slim chance of saving his mother after all, and so begins a sort of strange blend of monster battles and gorgeous locales that always feels rewarding and charming in equal measure. The childlike wonder and imagination is second to none, and reminds you that games are about fun first and foremost.

bioshockinftop5#3 – BIOSHOCK INFINITE (Various Platforms, £29.99)

BioShock Infinite is more traditional than it would rather like us to believe, but it doesn’t matter because it takes a huge narrative gamble on Elizabeth and hits the jackpot big time with it. Whereas Rapture was dark and enclosed, Columbia – the floating city high above the clouds that is super-patriotic – is bright, airy, spacious and deadly. It fluffs some of the basics, like explaining Vigors and bridging a couple of snappy plot holes, but the multitude of jokes, the modern songs played in a very old-fashioned 20’s/Carnival way, the genius Lutece twins and Elizabeth drown out most little niggles and keep you thoroughly entertained, delighted and challenged throughout. A brilliant step in the right direction for the genre and gaming in general.

gunpointtop5#2 – GUNPOINT (PC/Steam, £6.99)

And again, simplicity has its rewards with the stylistically-interesting Gunpoint, a game made on a budget of $30 and has been so successful its creator has said he can “give up work as a concept”. Yeah, it’s nice for some people, isn’t it? Gunpoint isn’t too rigid and, surprisingly, isn’t too challenging but that would be missing the point of this stealthy spy puzzler. It’s a joy to play, charming and interesting, great fun and reminds you that HD visuals and super-expensive graphical and orchestral budgets don’t always lend themselves to a great game. Sometimes, it’s the silence. The patter of the rain. The pause. Thinking. A fantastic game, and one whose success is completely well deserved. Great.

lastofustop5#1 – THE LAST OF US (PlayStation 3, £39.99)

And the best game so far is The Last of Us. A survival horror game that really does emphasise the survival and at times the horror. It does go a bit to pot at the end, and that’s a damned, damned shame and something that I imagine the chaps at Naughty Dog are crying into their cornflakes over every single morning they wake up, but for the most part it does very much what The Walking Dead did last year; it weaves a tale, a believable and interesting narrative that isn’t always easy to like, but thrilling and exciting all the way through. And there are very few games that I will complete three times over in quick succession. It’s fourteen hours of brilliance. And even then, it’s not quite enough. I smell a sequel in the future.

And the bottom five.

Now, again, there have been some proper stinkers this year. Resident Evil: Revelations HD is perhaps the most incredible example of how NOT to do an HD remake of a video game, and destroy any credibility or awe that may have been left residually on the original handheld game. Fuse was also truly dire, and I have spoken about how daft I find it making a game to the tastes of a twelve-year-old market when the game itself is rated 18+. The logic of that fails me. To add to this, there have been some dramatic indie failures too; Canabalt HD reminds us that you can’t just make anything HD (as if we needed to be reminded of that) and Deadly Premonition: The Director’s Cut was also a largely very broken game, but I still maintain it’s better to get the XBox 360 version and try that and just pretend the buggy PS3 port never actually happened.

Anyway, onwards with the fail!

neverwinterbot5#5 – NEVERWINTER (PC, Free To Play)

It hurts to put this here because there is plenty to like about the core game. It’s just there’s so very much more to dislike elsewhere that you can never quite escape that sensation that the whole exercise has been built from the ground up to fleece people of their money by inconveniencing them often and repeatedly, and then saying, “We noticed you have lockboxes in your bags taking up valuable slots. Would you like to buy some keys? Or another bag? Or perhaps you might want to craft some armour by buying some materials?” If this is the future of free to play MMORPG’s, then you may as well murder the whole bloody genre now and be done with it because this isn’t a future I personally will ever be happy to get behind. It’s a real shame too. Because without the stupid cash-shop stuff, it’d be a pretty nice game.

walkdeadsibot5#4 – THE WALKING DEAD: SURVIVAL INSTINCT (Various Platforms, £24.99)

The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct is a game made on a non-existent budget in the space of ten months, and by golly does it show. It’s not pretty, chock full of bugs and glitches and was so terrible that they didn’t even use in-game footage to sell the product; just the voice actors of the TV show desperately pimping themselves out, asking us to buy it. The sad and most disturbing thing though is that there is a genuine charm that runs throughout the game, there’s a frisson of genius lying just out of reach, tempting and tantalising. Had these people been given more time and a bigger budget, this could have been truly spectacular and easily the equal of the Telltale games. As it stands though – it isn’t. It’s not even close.

startrekbot5#3- STAR TREK: THE GAME (Various Platforms, £29.99)

I actually like the movies and seeing as I am a total squealing fanboy for Benedict Cumberbatch, I wouldn’t ordinarily say a bad word about Star Trek. But there comes a point when you just have to accept something is way below expectation, and in turning Star Trek into another bro-fest third-person shooter with uninspired visuals, a plot that borders on painfully dull and controls that feel like your hands are being eaten alive by rabid Sehlat, it’s another example of a poorly thought out, cheaply-done licence that has become largely the bane of the year so far, as everyone is desperate to capitalise on big-name movies or TV shows and ultimately forgets that a bad video game is not really great promotional material. You’d think they’d have learned this lesson by now, surely?

acmbot5#2 – ALIENS: COLONIAL MARINES (Various Platforms, £29.99)

The top two of this list aren’t going to be of any real surprise, so let’s get this over with. Aliens: Colonial Marines is a game sold on the back of a lie. We were shown demos and trailers and screenshots of a product we were all thrilled about, and really excited to get our hands on. The end result was starkly different and looked like someone had knocked it up in a couple of months. All of the things we stood in awe of in that demo –  the intelligent Xenomorphs, the crisp friendly AI, the lighting and the scenery and the general sensation of it all – none of it was in the finished product, which was a bare-bones boxy title full of glitches and errors. Randy Pitchford still tries to maintain the demo was “just a promotional tool”. Yeah, and it wasn’t representative of the end product at all. Ergo, one very pissed off gaming community.

ridetohellbot5#1 – RIDE TO HELL: RETRIBUTION (Various Platforms, £29.99)

But nothing compares to the mess that is Ride to Hell: Retribution, a game that is so awful that words fail me. This game was ditched in 2009, presumably because someone grew a conscience, and Deep Silver decided to dig it back out of the ground and thrust it into the market. This wouldn’t have been acceptable in 2009, and it’s even less acceptable now as we end the generation. I mean, it’s fundamentally broken at a core level. The game constantly fights against you and seeks the cheapest, most stupid methods in order to prolong the misery that is a game that wouldn’t have been considered pretty at the end of the PlayStation 2 era, let alone at the end of this one!  It’s just a ghastly, nasty game and I can’t imagine anything being worse than this. Dear god, please, don’t let anything be worse than this…

 

 

And that’s my mid-term top and bottom fives.

It will be interesting to see how many stay in the end of year lineups because, aside obvious candidates, the year has been great but you just get the sense there’s some holding back going on.

Titles I’m going to be watching out for in the coming months are, obviously, Grand Theft Auto V (I’m not normally a fan but hey, I’ll grant you that it looks phenomenal!), Rayman Legends (If it meets its supposed August release), Watch_Dogs (Obviously, this is kind of the big one for most of us this year!) and of course we have the launch fare of the PlayStation 4 and the XBox One to contend with as well, so there’s plenty of scope yet to be thrilled, excited and amazed.

So some or none of these may end up in the end of year list. Well, aside Ride to Hell: Retribution. Anyone who releases a worse game than that this year may have to go into protective custody due to the sheer hate that such an abomination would generate…

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