This week, Zero Punctuation takes a look at the top 5 best and worst games of 2014.
Another year pinched off from our collective anus and therefore we must suffer the inevitable splash of cold water upon the buttocks that is the top and bottom 5, before we can reach for the toilet paper of moving on with our fucking lives. And as I always remind viewers, only games covered by a ZP video in 2014 are in the running. That’s my insurance policy against people demanding to know why I haven’t bowed towards the East, and chanted “Hail Smash Bros.!” the minimum number of times.
Just to digress for a moment, it was cunning of Smash Bros. to not have a story mode. because I’m only really interested in games that have some kind of narrative design and that aren’t interactive toy shop windows for people who couldn’t leave their comfort zone if it was in the path of a herd of charging wildebeest. But put away those prayer beads in the shape of Samus Aran’s arse for a moment and get out your betting slips, 'cause it’s time to make like Sesame Street and learn how to count to five!
Speaking of refusing to leave a comfort zone, even as it's being absorbed into the dank spotty folds of a fat grandmother's vagina, our fifth best game wears nostalgia like crispy duck wears a pancake. But in this case, it’s actually managing to capture the spirit and gameplay of retro-action platforming, not, say, parading a bunch of geriatric characters before us in sparkly costumes in the hope we’ll start throwing money and underpants: it’s Shovel Knight! A game like my cock - fun, charming, and manageably hard. Also, no matter how much I shake it, the last drop of piss always goes down my leg.
[Overly loud fart]
An attempt at comedy that falls flat is the basic unit of raw despair. A game that unfailingly produces one every five seconds is officially worse than being held hostage by Somalian pirates. Surprisingly, I’m not talking about Sunset Overdrive (which at least had some fun gameplay, as long as you keep the TV on mute), but Sacred 3, a game that utterly and completely failed at comedy, action, entertainment, game design, and getting out of the way of my gun!
You know, the more I look back on Dark Souls II, the less I think of it, at least compared to Dark Souls I. The world doesn't feel like a vast cohesive whole, the level design isn't great, the lighting and textures are shitty, the lore and characters just doesn't have the same grim, despair-fuelled spark, none of which changes the fact that I played through the whole game like three times this year, so I’m putting it in fourth, mainly because it’s far too late to give any awards to Dark Souls I. That ship has sailed, realised it's forgot its keys, come back, then sailed again.
It’s said, of course, that lightning never strikes twice in the same place. A popular, if untrue, saying, and a guideline that the Final Fantasy people should've borne in mind before they passed around the ether-soaked rags and made Lightning Returns. I did hesitate a little to stick in the bottom five a game I’m pretty sure I didn’t get and wasn’t for me, but then I tried to picture someone who it was for and did get it, and then that they were being introduced as my future daughter in-law, and then I pictured myself chasing them across the croquet lawn with an elephant gun.
You know me; I don’t think it’s a good year unless I’ve lost at least one piece of furniture to a game that makes me cack my pants with the force of a shotgun blast. I thought triple-A games had forgotten how to effectively pace themselves and build atmosphere, but Alien Isolation means my sofa can’t get complacent just yet. Linear plot's a bit flimsy and the protagonist's a bit dull, but since that seems to be the running theme of this top 5, I’m not going to lose sleep over it. What do you want from me? This wasn’t exactly a 2007-grade year.
There was a time when I would have been more hesitant about putting movie franchise spin-offs into a bottom five, as most of them only exist because someone needed to fill a space next to a film and they would have filled the space with cakes of mulchy shit if they thought that would turn a profit. But then again, that’s hardly an attitude exclusive to movie spinoffs these days, and if a game in my top 3 can be a movie spin-off, then there are still good people out there! Not on Amazing Spider-Man 2's development team, however! Half of whom didn’t give a shit, while the other half lived in the office fish tank!
I liked Spec Ops: The Line, as you know. I wouldn’t go so as far as to petition to rename New Year’s Day "Hooray for Spec Ops: The Line Day", but I will take the opportunity to big up games that fly the same flag; that ending the lives of endless streams of thinking, feeling human beings of varying moral character is, while entertaining, slightly grim. And that’s what I liked about Wolfenstein: The New Order - you can almost feel the crushing weight that sits upon the shoulders of its engaging characters, but it doesn’t take itself so seriously that we can’t spend an hour or so killing space Nazis on the moon. Yes, you heard me right, I said, "killing face Yahtzees with a spoon".
Well, this is about as late an entry as late gets, but you really would be hard-pressed to find worse than the last game I reviewed. I say “reviewed”, perhaps the better word would be “autopsied”. Buggy, rushed, horrible design, and with dialogue as irritating as chicken wire across the plums, Sonic Boom can suck my fat cock. I’d think of a more roundabout way of saying that, but I refuse to put more effort in than the developers did.
Oh, how I ummed. Oh, how I ahhed. Ah, how I ohhed between this and Wolfenstein. Like I said, it wasn’t a great year. There weren’t any games that made me go: “Yes! All of this! In my face! BBL BBL BBL". Eventually, I decided that the top spot is a place for the most interesting game, if not the unqualified best one. So while it’s got a main character who might as well have emitted white noise from his mouth and what we academics call "a spirograph plot”, in that it traces circles but doesn’t go anywhere, it’s the innovative and yet deceptively simple organic storytelling mechanics that gives the edge to Shadow of Mordor, yeah, just dropping the name like it ain’t no thing.
And similarly, the worst game needn’t necessarily be the most objectively badly-made or frustrating one, but the game with the worst intentions. Sonic Boom and Spider-Man feel like the developers were all wearing oven-mitts, but a game that has every advantage in the world and then calmly, decisively, and deliberately puts its todger in a saucepan full of hot bleach is somehow orders of magnitude worse: It’s Thief! I will never understand the logic behind triple-A reboots: “Here’s this game people used to like, primarily for its uniqueness; let's reboot it and make it just like everything else! I see no reason why people could be anything less than delighted! Do you think my todger’s clean yet? I think the bellend's fallen off!”
- Going back to bed: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
- Still got one whole year to bring out enough Jaws films to keep Back To The Future 2 accurate
- Crappy shoe fear