Gaming's Nine to Five
What brought our joystick the most joy this year
Just to make things more confusing, I've decided to choose the Top 5 video games for our No. 9-themed Top 10s issue. Don't worry, everything's numbered.
1) FREE BROWSER GAMES Cop-out? Maybe. It could be that I have a weekly blog column covering the world of games readily playable with a working Internet browser and an updated version of Flash. However, 2009 was not kind to the major players in the gaming world despite what you might infer from the Call of Duty sales figures. Most developers played it safe with their franchises. Meanwhile indie gamemakers were giving the year's best titles away. Some, such as Canabalt, were lightning-quick retro excursions and quickly grabbed up by the iPhone App Store. Others had one-of-a-kind gameplay, like Closure. But the real gem this year was from the mind of Edmund McMillen (among others), creator of list-worthy games like Meat Boy and Aether. Time Fcuk is an eerie 8-bit trek through time, space, and insanity with the standard run-and-jump archetype turned on its ear. Add the ability to create levels for others to play, and you have my favorite game of the year. Did I mention that it's free? See for yourself: www.newgrounds.com/portal/view/511754.
2) 'DJ HERO' All I need to say to piss everyone off is that DJ Hero is better than similar guitar-based games – I'm talking to you, The Beatles Rock Band. The creators of Guitar Hero didn't cut any corners on the quality of the original mixes (from DJ Shadow, for chrissakes!) or the plastic turntable peripheral. Take the financial plunge at $100, and play a rhythm-based game with music that is actually rhythm-based.
3) 'NEW SUPER MARIO BROS. WII' However many mediocre games are released for the Wii, Nintendo can always count on two Italian brothers to save the day. It's a dash of the original game mixed with Super Mario Bros. 3, except four people can play at a time. It also balances absurdly difficult levels with the ability to have Luigi (aka the computer) finish the level for you. It may be the weak person's way out, but, trust me, you'll want the option at some point.
4) 'UNCHARTED 2: AMONG THIEVES' Everyone's talking about Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, but Uncharted 2 was sexier, more engrossing, and just more fun. It's not the missing link between gaming and movies that some critics have called it, but it still deserves end-of-the-year accolades. And, be honest with yourself, when you want to have fun in front of your TV, do you want to play the gaming equivalent of Saving Private Ryan or Indiana Jones?
5) 'SCRIBBLENAUTS' This one gets the spirit award. The execution isn't perfect, but the audacity of the game's creators is laudable. Every level has a simple goal, but the fun is that you can write anything on your Nintendo DS to get you there. Anything. Think a cantaloupe can get that star out of the tree? Write it. Need a dinosaur to get you across a puddle? Why not? If you can think it – and spell it – you can play it.
Read James Renovitch's regular online column on free browser games, "This Week's Waste of Time," at austinchronicle.com/pip.