Good evening boy and girls and welcome back to my personal End o' the Year Awards, or as I call 'em, The Endies! I apologize for going AWOL yesterday, but I was stuck at the hospital for 13+ hours and didn't have the time or energy to write after getting home. So without further ado, here are the winners for day 2.
Music to My Ears Award
This award goes to the game that kept me on the edge of my seat, hands clenched in excitement to hear the next aural masterpiece. Whether it soothed my soul or lit a fire under my ass, this game had some fantastic tunes. To qualify for this award, a game must: 1. Have left me humming or whistling its music long after storing the controller safely in the overhead compartment, and 2. Make me seriously consider getting a hold of the soundtrack
And the Endy goes to...
Halo 3: ODST (360)
When you strip it down to the core, ODST is just more of the same. For some people that's a good thing, while to others it's simply maddening. However, even those who've had enough Halo to last a lifetime cannot deny the beauty of the ODST score, written by Martin O'Donnell and Michael Salvatori. It sets the mood so beautifully and reinforces the loneliness, and even despair, that you experience as the wandering Rookie. The Halo series has always had music that resonates with the player, but this is taken to a new level in ODST. The music comes and goes naturally, dragging you into darkness and forcing you into the light as the rain pours down on you. The humanity of being trapped in a world both human and alien, machine and organic, is made beautiful. To be truly immersed in a game, there must be a palpable atmosphere of tension, some chord that connects the real and the unreal, and this is where ODST and its impressive soundtrack succeed.
Runner-Up: Scribblenauts (DS)
Scribblenauts has the kind of music that will have you tapping your feet in rhythm without even knowing it. The soundtrack is retro, it's upbeat, and it's about as cheery as you'd expect from a game that looks like a cartoon come to life. And while it's unlikely that you'd let this music loop in the background as you do your homework or browse the internet, one can't help but smile as the bleeps and bloops make their way through those tinny little speakers. It also gets points as the sheer positivity of joyful tunes provide a stark contrast to broken gameplay that could make Mother Theresa chuck a DS.
Game the Year of a Previous Year Award
This award goes to the best game that I just now played through, despite it being available for quite some time. To qualify for this award, a game must: 1. Have been available for more than one year; 2. Make me say "Wow, they should make a sequel!" 3. Aged better than a fine wine.
And the Endy goes to...
Uncharted: Drake's Fortune
Ever since it was first released, I desperately wanted to delve into Nathan Drake's Tomb Raider-inspired acrobatic adventures. But I didn't. Time went by and I occasionally considered picking it up, but I was never truly motivated. Then something amazing happened: Uncharted 2 was released to unbelievably positive reviews. The OCD in me said I needed to pick up Drake's Fortune and give it a whirl so I could get to the second game. So I took the opportunity presented to me on Christmas break and discovered the truth surrounding Francis Drake's last days.
The game makes a fantastic first impression and four things jumped out at me in the opening moments: beautiful graphics, cinematic **** epic score, and fluid animation. The game is a technical masterpiece, even two years after its initial release. Sure there are a few games on the market now that look better (Uncharted 2 and Gears of War 2 for example), but the lush jungles and intricately detailed temples are still a sight to behold. The whole package can't quite live up to the promise of those first 15 minutes and the game drags in the industrial pits of the final few areas, but there is an overwhelmingly positive feel to it all. The climbing action and puzzle solving are fun little diversions, even if they don't add any real depth to the game. Hands-down, the worst parts of the game are the shooting/cover mechanics and the nearly endless stream of cannon fodder enemies that Drake must dispose of. Whenever I was gunning down the baddies, I always felt like I was just pushing through the boring gunplay to get to the next story event. Still, even with its problems, the Uncharted experience is top notch. The game will surely go down as a ****c of this generation and should be experienced by all gamers looking to be reminded why they fell in love with video games.
Runner-Up: Braid (XBLA)
The runner-up is the amazing, time-bending puzzle game, Braid. Everything about Braid just works. It's all logical, it all makes sense, it can be reasoned out... but it can't. The controls are simple and exactly what they should be, but the ways in which the player can manipulate the environment are often mind boggling. There are no real hints, instead each world's unique take on time is briefly presented at the outset and the player is left to his/her own device. Add in the amazing art ****and the winding music that betrays the depth hidden beneath the surface of this gem and it's nearly irresistible.
While solving all the puzzles and taking on the challenge mode are immensely satisfying (maybe more so than any game I've ever played), it is uncovering the true story of Tim that is at the heart of this masterpiece. He is searching for a love that is constantly eluding him despite being within an arm's length. This love will destroy Tim if he cannot reach it, but it could devastate his entire world if he does. The seemingly cliched story of human desire that is initially presented is a front. It goes so much deeper than the simple text and run-of-the-mill paintings suggest. Do yourself a favor and play the game, think about the story, and read up on what is really going on. You may find yourself surprised.
Closing Ceremony - Day 2
And so we come to the end of day 2. We laughed, we learned, and we encountered a much more serious tone than day 1, but we're stronger for it. The Endies will be wrapping up soon with an honest-to-goodness game of the year, so be sure to check back at least 12 times an hour. Until then.