A game that was released in late June and then, it seems, somewhat quickly forgotten about. Singularity is an FPS in the BioShock vein, combining shooting mechanics with powers (in this case, a time-altering mechanic) that increase in intensity as the game progresses. As an American marine who’s helicopter crashes on a mysterious island, you inadvertently cause a time singularity that results in a future world where the US is under Russian rule. It’s flawed, but it’s fast-paced and has enough unique stuff going on to keep it interesting.
9. Picross 3D
This puzzler for the DS kept me coming back. Breaking blocks to reveal the shape hidden inside sounds like kid’s stuff, but the challenges actually became quite nefarious as the game progressed. There’s tons of stuff to do on this cart, including hundreds of puzzles, the ability to create and share your own challenges, and new downloadable grids each week. Addictive and insanely fun.
8. Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom
This endearing little game was sent to die in the pre-Holiday crush at the end of the year but I thoroughly enjoyed my time with it. A nameless thief releases a lumbering forest creature (the Majin) to help combat “the darkness” that’s oozing across the kingdom. Reminiscent of ICO in many ways with it’s co-op adventure. The combat is fluid and fun, the world is massive and varied, and the mystery at the heart of the conceit is genuinely compelling. It’s also got some of the worst voice acting in any modern game that I’ve played.
How do I describe Limbo? You run, typically to the right. When something gets in your way, you jump over it. Also, there’s a giant spider. With no real “story” in sight, Limbo might have easily been a case of style over substance. It’s world of shadows and lurking menace is, indeed, gorgeous and unforgettable. The gameplay, though, is a master’s class on how to take 2D platforming to the next level.
6. Battlefield: Bad Company 2
As a gamer who’s usually immune to the annual allure of shooters like Halo and Call of Duty, I find myself surprisingly engaged by the “band of misfits” in the Bad Company games. The campaign here was a ton of fun with memorable (and frequently hilarious) squad chatter and fast-paced, “always outgunned” shootouts that had my heart racing. The online multiplayer is no slouch, either: I spent a LOT of hours handing out medpacks to ailing teammates and killing baddies with a defibrillator. Good times.
5. Alpha Protocol
My failure to find the appeal in Mass Effect had me trepidatious about Alpha Protocol, which marketed itself as “The Espionage RPG”. I scored it on the cheap and immediately got sucked into it’s world of double crosses, secret agents, and liars-for-profit. A colorful and memorable cast of characters and a “nukes on the loose” storyline easily compensated for some aged graphics and clunky mechanics. Not a masterpiece, by any means, but significant to me as the first RPG I’ve even been able to play to completion. I thought it was a blast.
4. Splinter Cell: Conviction
I love a revenge story and Splinter Cell certainly does revenge better than any other game I’ve ever played. Untethering Sam Fisher from the operational constraints and gadgets that ruled his previous games was probably one of the smartest things that Ubi could have done to reinvigorate their aging series. You don’t so much feel like you’re searching for your daughter’s killers as you feel like you’re hunting for them. Inhabiting a lead character that’s simultaneously vulnerable and a deadly is an unequaled rush. I loved it.
3. Enslaved: Odyssey to the West
A unique take on an overused gaming trope (the post-apocalyptic world) is just the start of what Enslaved brings to the table. It’s also got complex characters with sincere emotions who have realistic conversations and relate to each other in a way that no other game has dared to explore before. Lofty stuff, I know. It doesn’t clobber you over the head with backstory and endless exposition; instead it unveils itself through interaction and experience. Memorable and compelling stuff.
2. Alan Wake
A psychological thriller the likes of which Silent Hill only aspires to be these days, the world of Alan Wake is nightmarish, bleak, and insanely fun. As a horror writer who escapes to a cabin in the Pacific Northwest to complete a long-awaited new novel, you find yourself immersed in nightmares of your own invention as the characters and scenarios from your work-in-progress come to life around you. The gameplay doesn’t do much that’s new but that’s not really why you’re here: it’s the characters and world that kept me pressing onward. Brilliant and seriously spooky.
1. Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies
No other video game has ever absorbed me in the way that DQIX did. I just could not shake this game in 2010: I traveled everywhere with my DS during the back-half of the year just in case there might be a few minutes where I could sneak in some more adventuring with my party of constantly evolving explorers. A massive world, hundreds of missions (and growing) and seemingly endless choices and options made this one of my smartest gaming purchases ever. It’s also completely unlike anything I’ve ever played before.