The votes have been cast. Alliances have been broken. Tears have been shed. However, through a super secret voting and tabulation process that even we don’t understand, we present to you “The Malden’s Top Ten Games Of 2009”.
10 Retro Game Challenge (Nintendo DS)
Retro Game Challenge scratches two itches at once. First the fun of old Nintendo era games. And second, the nostalgia of everything that went along with those games. Unlike many retro remakes that take old games and give them a new coat of paint, Retro Game Challenge just flat out made some new games. But just like the old ones! And they try to hit all genres. Racing, space shooter, platformer, you name it. To top it off every game is presented as if it was right out of 1980-whatever.
Each game comes with a box and manual, complete with era appropriate artwork. To top it off as you beat challenges you’re rewarded with video game magazines that alert you to new games coming out on the horizon. I cant think of a game that simulates not only the games of old but the flow of information of the Nintendo era. Recomended all the way to space!
9 Dead Space: Extraction (Wii)
When the game was first announced, this sounded pretty cool. Then EA clarified it would be an “on-rails” experience, which made the remaining 4,017 “core” Wii owners groan simultaneously. If you had told me at that point that this game would boast an excellent story, I would have laughed. Well, in fact the game’s script, dialogue, and characters are the driving force in this lovely and terrifying experience. DS:Extraction is one of the best looking games on Wii to date. The weapons are fun to use, and the controls (simple as they may be) work exceptionally well.
8 Shadow Complex (XBLA)
If Retro Game Challenge was a love letter to our 8 bit past, Shadow Complex is an expensive valentine, effusing praise and chocolate all over Super Metroid. While the characters, story and setting fail to capture an ounce of the atmosphere of a Metroid game, developer ChAIR, managed to nail the progression, exploration and platforming that are all hallmarks of a Samus adventure. On top of the worship, ChAIR added fun 2.5D shooting and melee attacks to the formula possibly leaving their own stamp on this (sub?)genre.
So ChAIR, I’d love to see a sequel just leave the Nathan Drake clones at home.
7 Machinarium (PC)
2009 saw an adventure game renaissance of sorts. Various Monkey Island releases/remakes and Time Gentleman, Please! are among the many that came out this year. However, Machinarium was the only title to capture the hearts and minds of the Malden.
It’s a beautiful hand drawn animated experience with puzzles that will have you taxing the non-linear nerd logic parts of your brain. When frustration sets in you’ll be wondering, out loud, if this game was made exclusively for savants. Stick with it though and you will be rewarded. Few games in their entirety have as much charm as Machinarium does in just one of its metallic pinky fingers.
6 Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (PS3)
Game of the year just about every where else, Nathan Drake’s second adventure doesn’t even crack our top five. Yeah we’re that crazy. Regardless of where it places on our list, Uncharted 2 is an amazing thrill ride. When the game does give you a moment to catch your breath you can gaze upon some of the most breathtaking scenery that any game has ever had to offer. Oh, and it also has wonderful third person shooting mechanics, extremely likable characters and a fast paced action adventure plot straight out of Hollywood.
Perhaps our gripe is that it’s too perfect. Yeah, that’s it… so perfect as not to be trusted!
5 The Beatles: Rock Band (Xbox 360/PS3/Wii)
Rhythm games were at the height of their ubiquity in 2009. A trip through your local big box store or Gamestop would of had you bear witness to monolithic stacks of colorful boxes filled with plastic instruments. However, their revenue saw sharp declines and the Fab Four were not immune to this trend. Which is a shame considering what a lovingly realized and finely crafted tribute The Beatles: Rock Band is.
From the amazing opening animation to the in game art, this is definitely the most visually compelling music game to date. The song selection, while smaller than most initial offerings, is hand picked to give you a sense of progression through the band’s career. Ultimately it’s the production value and subject matter of this game that makes it worthy of our top ten. If 2009 is the swan song of the rhythm genre, I can’t imagine a sweeter note for it to go out on.
4 Street Fighter 4 (Xbox 360/PS3/PC)
Street Fighter IV, released in Feb 09, may be touted as they day that “Fighting Games are awesome again”.
SFIV brings it all back from the days when you first dropped your two quarters into the coin slot and selected the coolest character you saw. The robust selection of 19 characters, with plenty of old-school and a dash of some freshness, an all-new Ultra system and Focus Attacks along with the air-tight gameplay mechanics we’ve grown up to love…makes this a must have on any fighting or arcade gamer’s list
3 New Super Mario Bros. Wii (Wii…duh)
This poor sonofabitch had to walk a dangerous line..I dont envy Mario sequels. If you change it too much, the nostalgic faithful fans will revolt. If you don’t change it enough, then Nintendo is lazy because they’re just rehashing 20 year old games. Well it seems that the Wii iteration hit the G-spot for most of us because this fucker is flying off the shelves. It has an air of familiarity riding heavily on the SNES and DS designs, but added a genuinely new experience with the multiplayer co-op game play. Any game that gets my wife asking to play, for weeks, is a fucking miracle sent from God.
2 Batman: Arkham Asylum (Xbox 360/PS3/ PC)
Batman Arkham Asylum is what I would call “the perfect Storm”. It is a licensed property made at the peak of its popularity (hello Dark Knight) that turned out not just well, but made exceptionally well. It balances combat, stealth, and adventure elements with a well written story. Each gameplay element is crafted so well, that playing through the bonus “challenge rooms” can be more fun than the main campaign. If delaying games means we can have this kind of polish, then I say put everything on hold till its “perfect”.
The story, in my opinion, makes Batman AA stand out even more amongst the “game designers who think that they can write” material out there (i.e. inFamous/Prototype/ insert random AAA title). Having Paul Dini and the returning cast of Batman the Animated Series lending their voices also helps.
If you’re a fan of Metroidvanias or even Zelda, you should definitely check out Batman: Arkham Asylum.
And now the Malden’s game of the year for 2009…
1 Assassin’s Creed 2 (Xbox 360/PS3/PC)
First off, there is something I need to get off my chest. I didn’t like the first Assassin’s Creed. I liked the idea of it, the gorgeous graphics, the fluid controls and animation, but the repetitive style of the missions really put me off after a few hours. So you can understand that when I heard about the sequel, I was only mildly interested. But as information rolled out, I found myself being drawn back in to the world of assassins.
Assassin’s Creed 2 is leaps and bounds more entertaining than its predecessor. It has everything that I enjoyed about the first game and somehow ups the ante in all respects. The cities of Florence, Tuscany and Venice, (just to name a few) were beautifully rendered and full of lively residents. I actually enjoyed simply walking the streets pickpocketing people, just to see their reactions. The controls were fluid and natural and the buildings became small puzzles in and of themselves as the game progresses. Climbing viewpoint towers to unlock map sections was rarely a tedious task as in the first game. Controlling Enzio was elegant and effortless, allowing you to focus your attention to the surroundings, which made the myriad of chase sequences absolutely thrilling. The missions were varied, challenging, and by far the most improved aspect of the series. Ubisoft seemed to listen closely to the complaints about Assassin’s Creed and took them to heart. Every assassination feels different from the last, thanks to the progression of the story, but I do have to admit the difficulty level has been toned down. The guards in Assassin’s Creed 2 are not as aggressive while defending a target, but do pose a challenge when you try to hide. To compensate for this, Ubisoft introduced many more ways to kill your prey. My favorites are poisoning and killing from a haystack. But even with all these improvements, why is it that I finished this game so quickly?
The answer is the story. The characters, the voice acting and the plot are all top notch. Surprising actually, if you ask me. After so many years of murder simulators, fight simulators and thin-storied platformers, I was found myself becoming absorbed in the story and had difficulty putting the game down. I have studied history since I was a child, so it pleased me to see a video game tackling such an expansive subject as the Renaissance. Don’t be mislead though, the story is complete fiction with actual historical personages shuffled around for dramatic effect. Nevertheless, the main thrust of the story is absolutely fascinating. The game eases you in slowly, which could turn off some players, but the payoff is worth the price. I personally enjoyed the side story involving “The Truth” as told by another prisoner of the Abstergo Institute. Searching for clues to the “Pieces of Eden” became my primary compulsion to finish the game. I won’t spill the beans for those of you who haven’t played it, but “The Truth” video that you see toward the end of the game, perfectly sets up the nucleus of the next game of the trilogy. In the end, though, it is Ezio’s reactions to all that is happening around him that compels the player to finish the game. He is a fully fleshed out character, a rogue with principles, kind of like Han Solo in a way. Like all of us, (I hope), he is a flawed human being doing the best he can with his lot in life.
I highly recommend this game and it definitely deserves to the be Game of the Year in 2009.