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Murdered: Soul Suspect was about a ghost detective trying to solve his own murder, but there’s not a whole lot of mystery steaming off developer Airtight’s color-drained corpse. Recent games like Quantum Conundrum – while by no means bad – weren’t huge hits, there were layoffs, QC lead (and former Portal designer) Kim Swift took off, and Murdered never really built up much buzz. Times were tough all around, and it looks like Airtight wasn’t quite able to keep its head above water.
You don't realize just how good a gaming year it's been until you look back at all of the games you actually played. From physics puzzlers to ninja simulators, 2012's library was full of interesting, creative, unique experiences.
I played a lot of games last year. A few were bad. Most were good. Some were great. Those are the ones I'll remember: the games that stood out from the pack in memorable ways. So here are my ten favorite games of 2012. Presented in no particular order:
My personal game of the year, Virtue's Last Reward kept me up for many hours, many nights in a row. Though some—like Kotaku boss Stephen Totilo—have found the game's opaque puzzles and overwrought dialogue to be rather tedious, I enjoyed every moment of Aksys's chilling visual novel.
A wonderfully well-written role-playing game with pleasant British voice acting and combat that taught me how to enjoy running around and smashing the A button, The Last Story (not to be confused with Hironobu Sakaguchi's other work, Final Fantasy) is the year's best JRPG—if not the generation's.
I've written a lot about how Dishonored is a stellar experience, but really, all that matters is the Blink spell. There are few abilities in a video game as satisfying, as empowering, as totally game-breaking as an ability that you can use to teleport anywhere at any time. The world and art direction are just dismally gorgeous icing on the delicious Blink cake.
Let me sum up my feelings toward Persona 4 with an anecdote. A few nights ago, I was fighting one of the game's final bosses. After a solid 45 minutes of battling, I had taken him down to something like 10% health. I was following the same patterns: buff, attack, heal, rinse, repeat. I was ready for it to be over.
He uses one attack. Bam. My main character instantly dies. Game over. Time to start again.
If I was playing any other game, I might have quit and moved onto something else at this point. Instead, I went and killed monsters for an hour to make my characters stronger. Persona 4 is the worst. (Also the best.)
Rhythm games are fun, Final Fantasy music is fantastic, and there's something really special about a game that combines the two. Even when you're repeating the same songs ad infinitum, it's hard not to love the addictive, frenetic tapping of Theatrhythm. The name, on the other hand, is very easy not to love.
I enjoyed every minute of this first-person puzzler, wonky physics aside. I wish the ending had been more satisfying, but the journey was totally worth it.
Funny that the year's best Diablo game wasn't even called Diablo.
Forget the snappy controls and smart interface; the best part of Mark of the Ninja is that every stage feels like a puzzle with multiple solutions. Would you like to choke out that guard from behind or throw a smoke bomb so you can get past him without being seen? Ninja is a smart, tight, remarkably enjoyable game.
It's easy to complain about the "annualization" of video games—how companies like to milk a series cow for yearly sequels until the teat has run way too dry. But when it comes to Layton, I say bring it on: the professor's charming puzzle adventures just seem to get better and better every year.
Because shooting down pirates, running into the forest, finding myself face to face with a giant tiger, getting the hell out of dodge, finding a hang-glider, and using it to soar across the skies to safety was one of my most enjoyable gaming experiences in 2012.
Quantum Conundrum's Kim Swift (because I am tired of typing Portal creator) and her team at Airtight Games have undergone a startling epiphany—mobile phones can play games. They've launched Airtight Mobile to take advantage of this discovery, with the first of these "mobile phone games" dropping next week. It's called PIXLD.
From the official announcement press release:
PIXLD is Airtight's first release under the new Airtight Mobile brand, an innovative and unprecedented venture aiming to do the impossible: allow consumers to experience the joys of video gaming on their mobile telephones.
"Seriously, have you seen these things?" said PIXLD creative director Kim Swift, gesturing at Apple's sixth-generation iPhone. "They're like tiny computers. Tiny computers you carry in your pocket. So I'm all like, ‘I know this sounds nuts, but guys, let's put some games on there.' And they did. Bam."
Man, if only I had known this sooner I wouldn't have given away my smart phones to the homeless.
PIXLD is a stunningly simple match game in which the player is challenged to make blocks of similar shades of blue. Touching one of the small bits on the screen swaps the color of it and all the bits around it. You can see where that my pose a problem.
"Is it risky betting on an emerging platform like iOS? You bet. But I have a feeling Apple just might be onto something here," added Swift. "Buying a video game that you can play on your phone for less than a cup of coffee? That's just crazy!"
That is kinda crazy. Even crazier is the fact that PIXLD will be released next week on iTunes for the introductory price of $.99—half off of the price you can figure out using math (hint—add a penny to your end result).
We'll have more on PIXLD once we figure out how to put games on our iPhones. What, we just set them on top or something?
In the beginning, there was Quantum Conundrum, and it was… pretty decent, with occasional flashes of both brilliance and dimension-shattering frustration. However, in this era where games no longer come on tapes or frisbees, they are capable of producing new content from thin air – like a magician bending the fabric of reality to produce a bunny. And while Quantum Conundrum’s DLC won’t have any bunnies (that I know of), one of the two announced mini-expansions will center around Ike, who is somewhat bunny-like in stature. Meanwhile, the other pack, The Desmond Debacle, will be led by a drinking bird and feature “hours” of puzzle-solving. Beforehand, however, you’ll have to strain your brain to solve the diabolical Should-You-Buy-It Conundrum. Perhaps I can help you with that.
Delightful puzzler Quantum Conundrum will receive two new downloadable content packs this summer, publisher Square Enix said today.
Pack one, The Desmond Debacle, sticks you in a new wing of the Quadwrangle Manor to solve puzzles that center around the drinking bird Desmond. Pack two, IKE-aramba!, tasks you with rescuing the adorable Interdimensional Kinetic Entity (IKE), also in a new wing of the manor.
The Desmond Debacle ($2.99) - July 31 (Steam); August 14 (PlayStation Network); August 15 (Xbox Live)
IKE-aramba! ($2.99) - August 28 (Steam); September 11 (PlayStation Network); September 12 (Xbox Live)
So Alec declared the wonderfully whimsical Kim Swift’s (which makes her sound like some kind of circus magician) Quantum Conundrum “that most maddening, saddening breed of videogame – the Almost Success.” But what does Alec know? Maybe he accidentally clicked on James Bond: Quantum of Solace or a quantum physics lecture instead. So clearly, the only solution is to take it for a test drive yourself. And now, you can do that with a freshly fluffy demo that’s emerged from Steam’s magical vapors. But, uh, you may not learn quite as much as you’re hoping.
It's called The Super Dimensional Quantum Learning's Problems and Solutions Gametime Spectacular!!, and will put contestants in a replica of the game's mansion, complete with its weird dimensions like "fluffy" and "anti-gravity".
The show is coming soon.