With work almost over for a few days, and every digital distributor on the planet unleashing its latest sales, it’s time to sketch a picture of 2010 using only its best games. In other words, it’s the annual Friday Game Awards.
Game of the year 2010
Super Crate Box
Platform: Mac, PC
The thing about hi-scores is that they’re meant to be, y’know, hi – yet five minutes spent with Vlambeer’s perfectly-pitched arcade shooter will probably see you nursing a personal best of just seven or eight points. It will also almost certainly be enough to keep you plugging away all night, however, as you explore one of the most brilliantly balanced games in years. With a thoughtful and tactile weapon set, a handful of excellent enemies – who only get more dangerous if you try to ignore them – and a scoring system that ensures everything keeps moving, this is elegant, explosive, and truly unmissable.
Developer of the year 2010
Between the hazy Kubrickian dreams of Flotilla and the classroom rampage of Air Forte, Brendon Chung has had a very good year. A weakness for animal cameos might be emerging as something of a calling card, yet – recurrent penguin head-shots aside – the creator of Gravity Bone is losing none of his ability to surprise. He gave us real-time space combat and acrobatic geography quizzes in 2010: who knows what 2011 will bring? (Zombies, apparently, but I’m still genuinely excited about it.)
Most entertaining source of confusion
Developer: Tech Arts 3D
A Japanese Indie Game that sees you frantically flinging down floor plans, Tech Arts 3D’s schematic-‘em-up has a crisp engineer’s quadrille presentation and a strangely appealing habit of throwing players into a match with little or no explanation. Proof positive that games don’t have to make much sense in order to shred your nerves efficiently, Madrism is a puzzley head-rush that manages to be both giddy and austere.
Best use of Chopin
Developer: Rolf Fleischmann
An unexpectedly heated battle for this category in 2010: Solipskier uses a Prelude to brilliant effect whenever your cross-country run comes to an unfortunate end, but it’s the numinous majesty of No, Human that really lodges the Polish tinkler’s keyboard works in the brain. Cosmic billiards would be pretty good fun without Nocturne number 1, of course: with it, however, the game becomes as vast and unsettling as the universe it invokes.
Most pleasant surprise
Developer: Chair Entertainment
It sounds like a make of disposable razor and looks like a sales pitch for the Unreal Engine 3, but Chair Entertainment’s latest turns out to tap a surprisingly rich vein of quick-fire fun. Punch Out!! by way of a few sucking chest wounds, this weighty swordfighter offers both a smart use of the iOS touchscreen, and a looping structure that’s ideal for DLC embellishments.
Format: Flash, iOS, Android
Burglary, adultery, or a particularly unpleasant diagnosis: Solipskier will see you through almost anything with a smile. Mikengreg’s gleeful tracing time-waster blazes a rainbow path across stylish graphite snow accompanied by little more than a points meter, a handful of stunts, and a pair of oversized headphones; while there’s plenty of strategy on offer, the game’s real value is that it’s a mood-enhancer like no other.
(Incidentally, if you’re interested in Solipskier, this fairly recent developer post-mortem on Mikengreg’s blog is both informative and pretty)