Eric’s 2014 Game of the Year Picks
What a busy, busy year I had in 2014. I moved into a new place on a lake, set up a couple of dreamy game rooms, and focused on my cardiovascular health. I built a bench, rode a stationary bike for 6 hours for charity, and even created my very own, surprisingly playable card game. I wrote a handful of (what I think of as) solid features for PSNStores.com. I made new friends and bolstered old relationships. On the job front, it turns out full-time teaching is a 12+ hour a day job; one that stretches across the day and rests like a sleepy cat. My after-school Literacy and Gaming club continues to grow and help students write better. I even taught a bit of programming to young’ns, a practice that awoke the digital creator in me. I also played some videogames. While I might not have played as many different games as I wanted to, I did get my hands on quite a few titles. Here is an easy-to-read list of games, complete with links and pictures to avert any ideas of fleeting. You better not be thinking about fleeting…
Top five PSN games of 2014, in no particular order:
If Velocity were a hotdog, then Velocity 2X is a decked out chili dog fit for only the fastest of hedgehogs. If Velocity were a tiny crab on a beach, scuttling back and forth for its life, then Velocity 2X is a giant enemy sea monster, wreaking havoc on unsuspecting island villages… in a good way. To treat Velocity 2X as simply a sequel would not do it justice. The addition of a solid story and platforming mechanics transformed this series into an interactive tour de force. From the overhauled visuals to the bass-bumping soundtrack to the heart-pumping gameplay, Velocity 2X is an experience not to be missed.
Just typing the name sets the title tune playing in my mind. What a joyful package Sportsfriends is. BaraBariBall scratches that Smash Bros. itch with a dunk-the-ball twist. Hokra will force the most shallow of acquaintances to work together as a team. Super Pole Riders slaps smiles onto the faces of players and onlookers alike. And then there’s Johann Sebastian Joust, the abstract keep-away game that is playable by nearly anyone, regardless of familiarity with video games. Sportsfriends is a game for every 2-4 player occasion, one that does not rely on intricate graphics or complex control inputs to succeed. I’ve played it with family, friends, and students, all to the same warm reception. Long live local multiplayer.
Speaking of local multiplayer, Towerfall: Ascension came out last year. Sinking hours and hours into its campaign, trials, and, of course, frenetic multiplayer gives me the authority to definitively write that Towerfall on PS4 kicks unfathomable amounts of ass. My friends and I haven’t been at each other’s throats in this capacity since Smash Bros. Melee. The simple controls act as open arms to the hesitant gamer. The depth of play leads to fierce competition for the top spot.
Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition
I was happy when I was given a reason to play through Guacamelee! once more. I was elated when I found the upgraded version to be more fully-formed. If the original game were a jalapeño, then STCE is a stuffed jalapeño, oozing ground beef, queso, and bacon. You can tell I’m writing this article right before eating, can’t you? Anyways, the inclusion of the original’s DLC (costumes, El Infierno challenges) fit nicely with the addition of new areas and enemy types. If you haven’t played Guacamelee! yet, this is the definitive version. I wouldn’t be offended if you left your screen right now to go download/play it.
There are some games that make you want to throw your controller with considerable force. Sometimes this rage spawns from absolute frustration and defeat at losing hours of your life, and sometimes this rage comes from knowing you nearly succeeded against implausible odds. I have played a lot of 1001 Spikes. After beating the entire game on Vita and PS4, I speedran the Ukampa levels because I sometimes have a cruel definition of fun, I guess. The level design and simple notion of high jump vs. low jump makes for a thrilling adventure through initially impossible challenges. To succeed requires not only a decent amount of trial and error, but also the resolve to traverse the multitude of deadly traps in succession. The multiplayer gets silly, too.
With its wonderful, colorful visuals, Chariot might at first seem to be targeted to a more casual gameplaying audience. After pouring dozens of hours into it, I can say that Chariot is for all gamers. It is challenging yet fun for those who weren’t born with a controller in their hands. For the hardcore type, Chariot is a wildly difficult affair; one that will test the players’ controller and communication skills. I still can’t believe that The Dreambreaker’s gold medal is 30:00.
I always love when a game challenges my idea of what gaming looks, sounds, and feels like. Metrico is more than a hardware featurefest, showing off the Vita’s many inputs. It’s a strange trip set in a weird world controlled by statistics. Wait a second, that sounds like real life! Metrico forces the player to question how to play, something that few games do successfully.
Pix the Cat
A score-chasing, puzzle completing, multiplaying mashup of arcade goodness. Pix the Cat dominated my Vita and PS4 for a solid chunk of time. I love its bright art style and the way each game feels like a new opportunity to top leaderboards or unlock more content. Remember the resolve required to get through 1001 Spikes? You’re going to want some of that for Pix the Cat.