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shaunmc Blog

Ghost Trick!

I would just like to mention that one of my very favorite games of last year, Ghost Trick, is now out for iPhone and iPad. It's pretty much the only DS game I've played to completion in the past two years, and that's saying something! I have a terrible attention span when it comes to portable games.

If that little endorsement doesn't convince you, I'm pretty confident this will:

This is Missile, one of the central characters in Ghost Trick. Missile is the most adorable dog you will ever meet in your life. Your entire life.

My Top 10 Games of 2011

The following list already appeared here, but I've fleshed it out with a few extra categories below. Enjoy!

10. Outland

I'm a sucker for Metroidvania games, but when you add in a beautiful art design and a novel gameplay mechanic like polarity switching, suddenly I go from being a sucker to being in love. In fact, I'm normally kind of a baby when it comes to challenging boss fights, but Outland had me going all the way through to the moment I terrified my girlfriend with shouts of joy upon beating the final boss.

9. L.A. Noire

Rockstar games are always a lightning rod for nitpicking and naysaying, but as a fan of open-world settings, I tend to enjoy their stuff quite a bit. L.A. Noire's recreation of 1940s Los Angeles was an incredible thing, to the point where I enjoyed just driving around the city and soaking up the sights. And while the interrogation system was pretty flawed, that didn't stop me from really enjoying the adventure game elements of the game's detective work.

8. Stacking

I really enjoyed the 10 minutes of this game I got to play before my girlfriend--normally not much of a gamer--ripped the controller out of my hand and proceeded to play through the rest of the game as I sat and watched, offering suggestions on how to solve its various puzzles. And while it may seem odd to put a game on here that I watched more than I played, its charming and whimsical sense of humor and ability to encourage couch teamwork was more than entertaining enough to earn a place on this list. Also, it had DLC called "The Lost Hobo King." How could I not put that on here?

7. Deus Ex: Human Revolution

If you know my tastes at all, you'll know that I'm a huge fan of engrossing atmosphere in games. Deus Ex, with its unique color palette and and buzzing sci-fi synth music, was one of my favorite examples of atmosphere all year long. And it certainly helps that I really enjoyed the story and gameplay as well, I suppose. Especially the part where you throw refrigerators at people.

6. Terraria

This one's kind of a bittersweet entry for me. I recently went in and played some Terraria for the first time since this summer and really disliked the ramped up difficulty level of the most recent patch. But for those 30-odd hours I played the game earlier this year, I couldn't get enough of its freeform adventuring. The visual language of 2D sprites was more appealing to me than Minecraft's worlds, and the allure of building up toward big boss fights kept me plugging along when I'd run out of ideas for things to build.

5. Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective

I had several reasons to ignore Ghost Trick: the only portable games I play anymore tend to be on iPhone, and I've never played a single Phoenix Wright game either. But I took a chance on Ghost Trick after Carolyn's review and it was one of the best decisions I've made all year. Its puzzles feel fresh and unique, it's got a terrific sense of humor, and dear God that soundtrack! Oh, and did I mention Missile? You could put Missile in any game and it would be a contender for my top 10 list.

4. To the Moon

I'll go ahead and get this out of the way right now: To the Moon is the closest I've ever come to crying while playing a video game. But to dismiss this as some sappy story would be a profound mistake, because To the Moon's strength lies in its emotional complexity. Its story of a dying man's memories of his late wife alternates between genuinely hilarious and charming during certain points, to bittersweet and downright heartbreaking at others. The whole thing is a powerful testament to the storytelling potential of video games that you really ought to play if you have four or five hours to spare.

3. Batman: Arkham City

Funny story: I didn't play Arkham Asylum until earlier this year. But I knew that with Arkham City coming out in the fall, I had to fill that shameful gap in my backlog post haste. So I did, and went into Arkham Asylum ready to continue Batman's fight against the Joker. Pretty good decision, right? Arkham City has one of the best combat systems of any action-adventure game I've played in the past 10 years, and the new open-world setting really lets you feel like a predator stalking your foes from the rooftops. It's just a stunning overall package that could easily be my number one game of year at any other time besides 2011.

2. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

I'm about 65 hours into Skyrim right now, and I've barely put a dent in the main story arc. I've just been getting lost in the landscape, taking on any side quests that come my way, and wandering through the world as much as I possibly can. Skyrim is just that kind of game, one that makes you want to take your time and soak up every last sight as much as possible. There's so much to explore and see and kill and craft that you need to take your time with it. And I think that's one of the things Skyrim does better than Oblivion. There are more stories and secrets to be found out there in the world, and you really don't want to pass any of them over.

1. Portal 2

Entertainment doesn't get any more pure than Portal 2. It's a game makes you smile one of those big, stupid grins no matter whether you're playing it or thinking about it six months later. That's the sort of game Portal 2 is. Pure bliss.

Runners Up

The Witcher 2, Battlefield 3, Driver San Francisco, Bastion, Rayman Origins.

Most Disappointing Game of the Year

Dragon Age II. Just a textbook example or rushing a sequel out the door far, far too soon.

iPhone Game of the Year

Tiny Wings! Not the objectively best game of the year for the platform, but certainly the one I had the most fun with.

A taste of Gamescom

Well, I'm back from Germany. Gamescom was, once again, an absolutely blast to cover. Exhausting as it was, the show continues to be a lot of fun--especially for the focus on PC gaming that you don't see at a lot of other shows we cover. Now, I could sit here and talk to you all day about the games I saw and the surprises that surprised me, but I don't think anything will summarize my experience at Gamescom this year quite like this video I shot on our last day there. Enjoy!

A Taste of Germany from Shaun McInnis on Vimeo.

Follow me on Twitter!

Just a friendly reminder that I probably won't be updating this blog a whole lot during E3. So if you want to "stay in the know" or "be hip to the game" or perhaps even "get with the times" then be sure to follow me on Twitter, where I'll be posting all my thoughts and anecdotes from the show next week. This would be a good place to click for that: @smcinnis.

You can also follow the rest of the GameSpot staff right here!

E3 2011 Video Blog!

I haven't updated this blog in forever, so allow me to make it up to you with a fancy video blog! Let's find out what the GameSpot editors are most excited about seeing at next week's E3.

If you're seeing this from the front page of my blog, click here.

If You Play It Backwards

I recently came across a blog called If You Watch It Backwards and got a real kick out of their humorous takes on movie plots viewed in reverse. (Example: If you watch Spider Man backwards, it's about a super hero who gets bitten by a spider and loses his powers.) So because it's my job to only ever think about video games and nothing else, I decided to throw together a few impressions of what certain video games would be like if played them backwards (with some help from Chris Watters, too). Here we go!

Mass Effect 2 is a game about losing all your friends until you die in a fire.

Halo: Reach is game about a lone wolf recruiting soldiers for a squad until they turn on him and kick him out.

Red Dead Redemption is a game about a rancher who's so fed up with his family that he decides to go ride horses by himself forever.

Pac-Man is about a little creature who tries to systematically cover mazes in vomit. He tries so hard that sometimes he barfs up someone's soul.

Assassin's Creed is about sprinting around the Holy Land/Renaissance Italy, reviving dead people, and then walking away like nothing happened. In doing so, you succumb to a progressive mental disorder that causes you to forget places you've been, lose motor function, and enter a hallucinogenic coma in which you are a regular dude from the future.

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is a game about a guy who rescues some dudes from a car accident on a bridge, and then they travel the world together.

Halo is a series about a diplomat named Master Chief who makes peace with a bunch of aliens and becomes memorialized by a later civilization called the Forerunners who build a giant ring in space after him.

Half-Life is a game about a dude from another dimension who just dreams of being a scientist and riding trams all day.

Crysis is a game about a guy who escapes an alien ship and then helps North Korean soldiers stranded at the bottoms of cliffs.

Homefront is a game about getting so fed up with traffic on the Golden Gate Bridge that you move to Colorado.

Section 8 is a game about soldiers who fight battles on Earth and then celebrate by jumping into space.

That's it for now. Feel free to add your own in the comments!

Done and done: Beyond Good & Evil HD

I vaguely remember playing Beyond Good & Evil on Xbox way back in college. I think it might have been my sophomore year. Distracted by studying and girls, I didn't get very far into the game--probably two or three hours at the most. I'm pretty sure I liked it, but aside from that my memory is pretty faint.

So, basically, I jumped at the opportunity to right past wrongs with the HD remake that just came out on Xbox Live. I finished the game last night--roughly 12 hours of play time--and really liked it. I didn't love it. But I did like it, and can certainly recognize why the game is so beloved by so many people. Since it's Friday and my mind is all scattered, I'll just cobble together some thoughts in bullet point format. Spoiler warning! I may or may not reference certain plot points. Here we go:

-- BG&E is a very sweet game. It's subtle with its story and characters, never really forcing the issue on who these people are and why they're doing what they do. You just kind of have to take the game's word on why the DomZ are so nasty and why we should trust Iris. But the sense of place and atmosphere are so delicately created that you don't really mind that. It's a pleasure simply to spend time in this world.

-- What an incredible soundtrack. There were times when I just cruised around aimlessly in the hovercraft listening to that piano, or loitered at Mammago to let that reggae song finish up. Just a standout collection of songs.

-- The camera is almost comically awful. No, it is comically awful. It's so bad that you have to laugh in order to keep playing the game, because otherwise you're going to break a controller. Was it more tolerable in 2003? My gut tells me no. A bad camera has always been a bad camera, right?

-- Certain parts of this game have aged really poorly, and I have to say that the stealth is one of them. Instant death when you've been spotted just doesn't cut it anymore.

-- Fortunately, the super-generous checkpoints alleviate that last issue. I don't care what people say, I love generous checkpoints.

-- I can't remember the last time I've had so much fun trying to explain what's happening in a game when my girlfriend walks by and asks what's going on. "See, I have to murder these flying scorpion things so that I can buy black market engine parts from Jamaican rhinoceroses and rescue my human-trafficked pig friend. On the moon. What, that's NOT obvious?"

-- Why is it that we haven't seen more games copy the spiral keyboard input? This has to be one of the most genius user interface elements of the past decade, and yet it hasn't caught on. The process of swiveling the analog stick to select a letter or number is miles above tap-tap-tapping on a virtual QWERTY keyboard.

-- Awesome ending. Does a great job of setting the stage for a sequel. Speaking of which, Ubisoft? Hmm? What exactly is going on here? I was pretty ambivalent when the sequel was announced in 2008, but now that I've actually completed the original game I'm suddenly much more eager. Then again, that might be the problem--too many people like me waited too long.