The Best of 2009
Next up on the Rollin' look at 2009 is the wonderful world of video games. In addition to the caveats introduced in the first week's post, the video game post needs one additional major admission. I'm a Nintendo boy through and through, always have been, probably always will be. I don't have any other systems and I have no desire to (unless Natal delivers or the XBox can become a true media center). The point is, take this list with a big old boulder of NaCL, because I am far from a hardcore "gamer" and this list is more of a "cool games I played on Nintendo systems that you might enjoy as well" list as opposed to a true "best of".
Let the listing commence!
6. Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box - Technically this is the second game in the series but it's the first I've played and I instantly regretted missing the first as this transported me back to 5th grade when my entire world revolved around riddles and brain teasers. It's paradigm shift after paradigm shift wrapped loosely in a story of a detective teaching a young apprentice how to find unique solutions to complex problems. This and the first game (Professor Layton and the Curious Village) are on the Nintendo DS and, as you would expect, use the touch screen very well. The puzzles range from split second easy to "I can't believe I still can't figure this out 3 hours later, this is a kids game right?" hard.
5. Art Style: Orbient - The art style games are available on Nintendo's downloadable channel (Wii Ware) and are a collection of simple, yet addicting, concept pieces. This one involves using gravity to collect moons and planets while traveling through several different universe concoctions. Using only two buttons, one to gravitate towards other bodies and the other to repel against them (sounds like a weird dating sim, or maybe just a subtle Jersey Shore reference), you must navigate deftly through space to accomplish each task. What's great is that it manages to nail the tricky frustration index, where it's just difficult enough to give you a sense of accomplishment when you succeed, but not so difficult that you launch your controller into orbit and never play it again.
4. Defend Your Castle - Another Wii Ware game, this one is from the genre of games known as Castle Defense games (the title may have given that away). Castle defense is a genre that I usually loathe, because it often feels like a game built on busy work and futility. There is no winning, only postponing of the losing, and all of your actions are simple staving off the inevitable collapse of your empire. Yet somehow the simplicity and art design of this one cuts through that and becomes addicting and fun.
3. New Super Mario Brother Wii - I love this game for two reasons, nostalgia and family. It's nice to see the old school Mario side-scroller come back into vogue with the New Super Mario games (both on DS and now Wii) and as much as I love Super Mario Galaxy (which I still consider one of the best games of all time), nothing gets the nostalgia juice pumping like jumping Koopas on the way to a flagpole slide. The family aspect is another great addition as this is easily the best "fun for the whole family" game we have ever owned. Not only do all ages love it, but all ages can play together without much frustration. This is because of some new game mechanics that allow the game to still be challenging for older players while younger players can just jump around having fun.
2. Bit Trip Beat - It should be fairly evident by now but I'm loving the Wii Ware. This makes number three on the list and means half of my list is coming from Nintendo's online offerings. Maybe it's because they are simple, or maybe it's because they don't cost much, but whatever the case, Bit Trip Beat is an indescribably fun and compelling experience. It's like a breakout or pong styled game but with a techno beat and hypnotic visuals that go along with the gameplay. It's hard to describe, but it's kind of like a rhythm game mixed with a sideways Missle Command. Just download it already, my head hurts just trying to explain.
1. Wii Sports Resort - A lesson in taking something amazing and making it amazinger. Nintendo showed it had a grasp on what made Wii Sports (the first official Wii game) a hit by producing this follow up that not only advances the technology (the Wii motion plus is MUCH better), but also exceeds the fun and re-playability of the first. What the game really excels at though is sheer mass. There are so many sports and options of play within each that you could spend hours just trying to play each of them, let alone trying to get good. Of the many new options sword play and basketball are fun, but it's the archery where I think the game really shines. Everyone is likely to have their own favorite activities here, but it's hard to imagine someone not enjoying something that this disc has to offer.