Friday, November 26, 2010

My Top 20 Favourite Games Of All Time (#16-20)

I was inspired to come up with this list by a co-worker of mine (see: Finchy!). And by 'inspired' I clearly mean "I wasn't clever enough to think of doing this myself, but now that he's done it, I'ma gonna do it too".

Much like he does, I should stress that these are my 20 favourite games of all time. I'm not saying that these are the best. I can pretty much guarantee that you will see some and vigorously disagree with me. That's fine though. At least you're reading this (see: SUCKAAAA!). I should also point out that as I am an old man with a severely debilitating brain disease (I drink a lot), my memories of specific points about some of these games may be a bit off.

Without any further ado, I present #16-20.
20. Maniac Mansion (NES)

A bloody classic, in my books. Any game that can poke fun at while simultaneously cherish old comic-horror movies of the 50's is a winner with me!

Basic plot is as such: Titular mansion is inhabited by mad scientist and his crazed family. They kidnap comely teenage girl. Comely teenage girl's boyfriend and friends unite to try and rescue her. Hilarity ensues.

Maniac Mansion was of the point-and-click genre, wherein your cursor could be used to highlight various objects on the screen along with actions such as Talk To, Walk To, Push, Pull, Give, yadda yadda. I bloody loved these kinda of games growing up. Something about the freedom of having all these actions available to you made you feel like you were really IN the mansion. Ok, not really, but it was damned fun to try and give a hamster to a giant purple tentacle. (that is, if you don't attempt to "dry" the hamster in the microwave. Yep.)

The game also had a large cast of characters, all with their own skills, personalities and weaknesses. You played as any combination of 3, and you had to choose wisely so that all your skills complimented each other (funny enough, the nerdy one that looks a bit like me was the most skilled. YEEEH BITCHES!). They could die, get kidnapped, or suffer various odd fates, and it was this variety of characters and outcomes which really makes this game memorable for me. It was a videogame equivalent of a Choose Your Own Adventure book, and frankly, any videogame that allows you to blow up a hamster in a microwave (and then witness the mortified reaction of the kid who owned it) is guaranteed a spot on this list!

19. Arcade Side Scrollers (Arcade)
Ok, this is a bit of an 'umbrella' entry, because it covers a couple games that, in my mind, all deserve a place on this list. Specifically, I give props to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, X-Men, and Golden Axe).

What these games all had in common was that you could get together with a couple friends at an arcade (or play by yourself, if you were me and had no friends...hence this list), and blow a whole months allowance worth of quarters, all in the name of moving from left to right and unleashing all holy hell on animated sprite-villains of your choice.

Back in my day, we had one joystick to move your characters, and two buttons: a punch/kick and a special attack button. If you were lucky, you could combine these in a handful of ways and perform some KRAYZEE moves (usually the screen would flash and a few enemies that used to be there would now be lying dead on the ground)

What made these games so special was that they were so fun and so vibrant that they were basically giant quarter-vacuums. If you died it was always a life or death scramble to fish another fistful of quarters out of your corduroy shorts (don't judge me) before the Continue? screen went away. But you kept plugging away, thrashing your way through wave after wave of enemies, fighting the occasional outlandish, screen-filling boss, cheering on your friends (or yourself, silently in your head...) as they whooped ass. It was great fun.

Not great fun: being stuck playing as Dazzler in X-Men. Seriously. Ooh, watch out. I'll sparkle at you. Weak sauce.

18. Uncharted 2 (Ps3)

This game is pretty straightforward. Thrills-a-minute action adventure game, starring gruff but charismatic loner on a voyage to uncover ancient treasure. Simple stuff really.

The reason this game ranks on my list is because it's so motherloving entertaining, it's almost a sin. If Moses could hike himself back up that mountain and find a new set of commandments, he would find "Thou Shalt Not Play Uncharted 2", because anything this much fun must be a sin.

The game itself is gorgeous. Playing it on my big-ass, fancy tv all in hi-def glory is basically one giant orgasm of my eyes. The amount of detail put into this game is ludicrous. I'm not just talking about the areas in which you play, but if you stop and look around, every facet of the world around you is so painstakingly realized, you'd swear it was real life. I remember the first time I played it, and in the opening chapter I stopped at one point simply to pan the camera around and take in the surroundings. Places that you will never actually visit in the game, just far off vistas. Nearly photorealistic. Eyegasm.

All the characters in the game have so much individual personality, so much charm (or lack thereof, with the villains), it's as if this game was starring major name actors. One of my favourite moments comes early on, when you're scaling a wall to climb atop a building. Suddenly your partner shouts out something like "bad guy! above you, above you!". You grab said baddie by the ankles, yank him off the building where he plummets to his doom...and your partner says, deadpan "bad guy! below you, below you!". I damned near wet myself. It's a 3 second blast of cleverness you don't often see in games, and it's something that carries through the whole game.

In terms of actual gameplay, this game never lets up. From the first moments, you are constantly on the go, shooting and jumping and exploring and puzzle solving and ducking and punching and trading witty bon-mots and dying (A LOT) staring at your partner's ass and dodging and smelling yak ass and kicking a ball away from's exhausting how much there is to do in this game! You are constantly being engaged and entertained. One of the most heart-stopping, unbelievable moments in the game is when you are in a building, shooting baddies, when a helicopter blasts the building with rockets. Suddenly the building is collapsing WITH YOU IN IT, and you keep on playing, running and gunning as the floor you are standing on tilts and drops and desks and books are flying around you... words cannot express how insane this scene is. It only lasts about 10 seconds, and when it was over I physically had to re-start breathing, because I'd stopped. No other game has done that to me!

17. Mortal Kombat 2 (SNES)

Fatalities. Babalities. Friendships. Acid pits. Spike pits.

I enjoyed Mortal Kombat 1, I did. Unfortunately for me, I had a SNES, therefore my version of MK1 was so sanitzed and de-awesomed, the characters didn't bleed, they sweated. You can just imagine what kind of neutered fun that game was.

MK2 roared back with a bloody vengeance, and for the first time, I felt like I was playing a 'grown up' game. It was so violent (for it's time), so bloody (ditto), I was shocked, appalled, and couldn't stop playing.

MK2 had such a wide ranging roster of kombatants, you could hardly ever get bored playing it. True, this is where the MK series really began it's palette-swapping instead of creating truly new characters (Scorpion, Sub-Zero, Reptile...we get it! Lin Kuei clan! Oy!), but at the time it was original and awesome. I always loved that it was real people playing the kombatants too. It made it so much more icky when they died their various deaths.

Perhaps it was morbid that I was so fascinated with this game. Things like Kung Lao sawing his enemy in half with his razor hat or Baraka hacking up so-and-so in an armblade frenzy was just so unexpected to see back then. People could still be shocked by something in a videogame, and I loved it for that reason. Sure, the fighting mechanics were a bit wooden and it was never much about the combos as it was "trade hits until someone dies", but it was simple and it was efficient and unpretentious. And maybe, just maybe, you would spare your foe and turn him into a baby instead of eating his head. (although I can bet that I wasn't the only one who desperately wished that you could perform a Fatality on a recently babied Babality!)

16. Super Castlevania 4 (SNES)

I played this game for hours upon hours upon hours. I barely remember the story (a Belmont of some sorts off to whip the shit out of Dracula). I only know that it was fun beyond all reason and that's good enough for me.

I'd always liked the earlier Castlevania games, but they always felt very limited, very stiff. What this one did was it seemed to free the series up and make it truly feel like an action game. Leaping and whipping and hurling boomerangs never felt so immediate in the series.

Man oh man, what I remember most was possibly the most useless move ever put into a videogame. Normally Mr. Belmont would snap out his whip to kill the various ghouls and nasties. However, if you held onto the attack button, he would continue to hold him hand out with the now limp whip dangling there. You could push the arrows on the directional pad and he would gently flail about the whip in a spinning, jerking manner. It was basically like an arthritic grandmother wafting her hankerchief in the air. It was weak. You had to allow enemies to essentially walk into you (and since it was so weak, it would never kill them). It served absolutely no purpose whatsoever. Yet there it was, available to me to do. So I did what any kid would do: I flailed. I died SO MANY TIMES because I wanted to see if I could successfully complete, well, anything by wafting about my whip. No surprise here; I never did.

Something about the fact that the game presented you with such a flagrantly useless ability always struck me as being oddly amazing. Sure, the game was fun and it had killer graphics (for it's time. OOOOH SHIT! THE ROOM IS ROTATING!!), but what I will always remember is me/Belmont, standing in front of a crushing wall of undead deathmonsters, whip determinedly fluttering about in front of me, convinced I would beat the game like this.