Polly's Game Awards Thing 2011
For Games Not Necessarily Released In 2011 SUPER YAY TIME!
by Polly

I did something this year that most folks who know me would say is highly unusual. I played a fucking assload of videogames. I probably played more games this year than I have in the last two or three years combined, and get this shit, almost none of them have a release date older than say, 2005'ish. It's no big secret that me and the state of modern videogames haven't agreed for some time, but for some reason, the stars aligned and the right prayers were said somewhere, and I ended up playing and reviewing a hell of a lot more recently released titles, rather than falling back into my old library of 8 and 16-bit gems. I'm really not sure what clicked where or how it all turned out the way it did, but this year I seriously enjoyed me the hell out of some videogames.

So, for the first time ever in the site's history, I'm going to do a bit of my own "Best of the Year" awards piece for the site, and as you've probably noticed I've asked some of my friends to do the same. I'm approaching this a little different though, and I'm sure most of the other contributators are as well. See, most of the games I played and took something from this year weren't necessarily released this year, so think of it simply as "The Best/Worst Stuff From Games I Played This Year" and not just a rigid run-down of only the most recent titles.

With that said, let's give 2011 a good kick in the ass on out of here and get this thing started!

Biggest (Dual) Shock of 2011
Now Only Moderately Squabbling Analog

About a year ago I wrote quite a bit of a bitch fest about dual analog controls. It's a concept I really just couldn't get my head around and it frustrated me that I was missing out on games everyone else seemed to be enjoying with ease.

Earlier this year, it somehow all clicked together when I randomly downloaded the Bulletstorm demo on PS3 expecting to delete it moments after I was off the title screen. I don't even know why or how everything started to fit together, but around the fifth run through that demo, my aim was steadying, and movement was starting to feel right. Thinking it was a fluke, or that somehow this game managed to have good looking and aiming sensitivity when others didn't, I tried the Killzone 3 demo as well, and sure enough, I was still able to make those damn sticks work right.

Since that time, I've gone from awkward fumbling and constant strings of curses to being...well...competent with the damn things, and have been able to enjoy many games I previously hadn't. It's doubtful I'll ever win any kinda headshot competition with dual analog controls, and I'm probably the lousiest shot in Gears ever (I'm sure decoy wouldn't argue, having watched me Hammer of Dawn my-fucking-self), but the barrier is gone. I don't know how and I don't know why, but when I look back at the year of gaming I've had thanks my brain somehow wiring itself right, this surely is more of a shock than anything else gaming could have pulled out of its pocket this year.

Of course, this award now almost nullifies my previously linked bitch fest, but well...it's an evolution, I suppose. This list certainly wouldn't exist had I not been able to play the games that are on it. So there's that!

Runner Up:

Imagine playing a Sonic game these days and it being really fun. Fucking shock.

Best Contra Moment of 2011
Gears of War 2: Intestinal Fortitude

Alright, onto the GAMES!

And so, we kick off the end of the year the same way we started 2011 by doing the only god damn thing I know how to do: Find a way to tie everything into some kind of Contra reference.

Gears of War 2's campaign was initially a pretty dull affair for me. The first eleven chapters really weren't pulling me in the same way that the original game's opening segments did. And then....Delta Squad gets swallowed the hell up by the Riftworm, a giant subterranean city-sinking worm that the player had only been taunted with brief glimpses of prior to becoming its main course. Eaten out of the fucking sky in a helicopter by a god damn worm bigger than a skyscraper. If that's not Contra, then what the hell else is? It's a segment that would no doubt give our boy Bill Rizer a murderboner lasting no less than four days.

What follows is an excellently crafted sequence of the squad trudging through the insides of the giant earth-sinking beast and literally ripping it apart from within. With organs pulsating, blood and other nasty bodily fluids (and gases) threatening to thin Delta's ranks, and plenty of little alien critters running around, this portion of the game is what would easily amount to any Alien's Lair re-imagined with modern technology, ending in a boss encounter where the team must fend off swarms of little alien buggers while severing the main arteries from the Riftworm's heart. I'm more specifically reminded of Contra 4's Harvest Yard and its various "alien innards" stage hazards, but about any Alien's Lair would work. When the team finally exits through a hole they created while carving their way out with chainsaw bayonets, literally soaked in blood and guts and whatever other goo encountered, they seem genuinely traumatized by the experience, almost in a "let's just never talk about this again" kinda way.

The atmospheric soundscape, musical cues, and grotesque graphical presentation all come together perfectly here to create a fairly disturbing scenario that honestly makes me excited to see what a modern 3D Contra game could be.

Best "Hey, I'm Playing An Action Movie" Game of 2011
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

Continuing with the high-action theme, I finally got around to playing the first two entries in Naughty Dog's oft-hyped PS3 blockbuster Uncharted series this year. My significant other had played through them long before I ever gave them a chance, and after a good few months of nagging and me finally having a mental breakthrough on how dual analog controls work, I buckled down and ran through both games in the span of about four days. While the first game was a great start, I feel they really nailed what they wanted to do with Uncharted 2 almost perfectly.

Set pieces, set pieces, set pieces. That's all you really have to say about Uncharted 2. Naughty Dog wanted to make everything as big, bombastic, and over-the-top as they could, and they succeeded on a level that I feel has yet to be topped by anything else in videogames. The best part about Uncharted 2 is that you're actually participating in the shit that would be relegated to pre-rendered or in-game cutscenes in most other games. For better (and admittedly sometimes worse) you're in control of moving the action movie forward, and when things pan out with you pulling off all Nathan Drake's crazy-ass stunts, the Michael Bay'esque action sequences and intense traversal sections really do get the blood flowing.

On top of the great action set pieces, the Uncharted series is also widely praised for its acting, facial animation, and top-shelf dialog. Characters are instantly likable, believable, and witty, and conversations flow naturally in ways that Hideo Kojima could only dream of with his melodramatic horse shit. If you haven't yet played Uncharted 2 and are an action movie junkie like me, then you owe it to yourself to give this one a whirl.

Best Co-Op Experience of 2011
Hard Corps: Uprising

Though the game has its fair share of flaws, Hard Corps: Uprising delivered the most fun when it came to running around and shooting shit with dudes I know. It delivered about 37 hours worth of co-op fun, in fact, which is crazy considering I don't really like playing games online with people much, and even more amazing considering that the game is only about an hour long.

A vast majority of that time was spent playing with our good friend Beepner, however I managed to get in a good bit of play time with decoy octopus and Crono Maniac, some dirty Canadians, as well as some real life friends and an oddball random or two.

What's amazing is just how seamless and smooth the online play for this game was. Save one or two hiccups here and there and a crash every so often, lag was a rare sight and dropped games were few and far between. The final two stages were in no way meant to be played with more than one player, but we still trudged through it and managed a good time in the end. Because that's what hard-as-nails "NOT REALLY" Contras fucking do.

Runners Up:

Gears of War 3 perfected a formula and Serious Sam is just fucking nuts chaos. Great shit.

Best Return To Form of 2011
Sonic Generations

Yeah, color me fucking shocked here. If you'd have told me a month ago that in the closing hours of putting final edits on these lists that I'd have a change of heart and be granting a Sonic The Hedgehog game any award other than one named "PLEASE JUST FUCKING GO AWAY" or "SHIT I WILL YELL ABOUT EVEN THOUGH I DIDN'T BUY" I'd have made it a personal mission to hunt you down and find 10,000 cocks to smack you in the face with.

Now, maybe I'm jumping the gun here having not completed Sonic Generations yet, and by doing so I'm not giving Mortal Kombat its rightful place under this heading, but I just couldn't help myself. I've completed six of the nine main zones as well as 50% of the side challenges, and I honestly can not believe the fun I'm having. Everything about this game, from visual and audio quality to level design, feels so absolutely spot on. Along with Saints Row: The Third, I'm finding it hard to think of a game that cuts most of the bullshit and just says, "Hey, play me, feel good, and have fun!"

Generations doesn't feel in any way weighed down by the terrible crap that damn near every installment since Adventure has. There's not any real sense of the game taking itself too seriously (though it is completely self aware), no forced mini-games that are just padding to make up for a lack of real content, and most importantly, Sonic's dumb friends that only furries give two shits about are nothing but NPCs you'll interact with and occasionally run optional trials against. Hell, most of the game seems optional other than clearing the main stages with each generation of Sonic once and doing a challenge or two to open the next area. The funny part however, is that I haven't skipped a single challenge yet. Most of them are really worth playing and will require a good bit of skill to complete.

Again, I may be premature in calling this award the way I have, but really. Sonic Generations has provided nearly eight hours of quality entertainment already, and I'd say that at the very least, that's worth the $10 I paid for it. THIS is a trend Sega needs to continue if they want to make their mascot relevant again.

Runner Up:

Mortal Kombat provides the kind of robust and accesible package ALL fighting games need to learn from.

Best Story and World of 2011
Deadly Premonition

Twin Peaks. There, I said it so nobody else has to. The comparisons are so trite at this point that I feel sick having even made it myself, but there ya go. Shut up.

Deadly Premonition seemed to come from out of nowhere when it was released here on the 360, and became instantly infamous for being hotly contested as either "The Best Game Ever" or "The Worst Game Ever." Its popularity only increased when Giant Bomb began an Endurance Run for it, and that's where I initially heard about it as well. It is because of that series of videos (the Vinny and Jeff versions to be precise) that I picked up a copy of the game. I didn't even have an Xbox 360 at the time.

The amount of development and careful planning that went into Deadly Premonition's persistent world of Greenvale is almost staggering. Every NPC in the city has been given their own personality, has unique voice acting, and operates on their own daily schedules. Each in-game day is 8 hours long in real-time, so you seriously do get a real-world feel from the way life in Greenvale is presented. Greenvale is one of the few worlds in videogames that feels truly alive and brimming with new things to see and do. There's a ridiculous amount of content for the player to explore with tons of side quests, story bits, and mini-games to keep you busy, and you're given the keys to this nearly free-reign exploration about an hour into the game.

On top of that, you've got an amazing cast of main characters whose roles play out in ways you wouldn't typically expect, and an elaborate murder mystery that only becomes more and more disturbing as you unravel the threads holding it together. Don't go in thinking you'll figure this one out in one or two chapters. Deadly Premonition is unpredictable as shit, and though it gets a bit heady near the end, it's all the better for it.

Yeah, the gameplay is pretty broken and janky most of the time, and combat is an absolute snore, but that's not why you should be playing this game. You should play Deadly Premonition because it has a lot of fucking heart and soul. And because SWERY is a goddamn genius! Isn't that right, Zach?

Runner Up:

The key to Bastion's stunning beauty is its simplicity and how all its elements fit together perfectly.

Best "Please Stop Making Me Do The Same Thing" Game of 2011

Truth be told, Sucker Punch's inFAMOUS is a pretty rad game. The super powers are crazy as shit, urban traversal is fun on a bun, and the combat overall is pretty solid. Take my word for it, you should totally play it. It's dirt cheap now too, so it's a light pocketbook investment to be sure.

Unfortunately, the game suffers from the same thing that other open-world "sandbox" games do: You're just doing the same shit over and over until the next story mission opens up. Granted, a lot of the side missions and various item collecting (fucking BLAST SHARDS AND DEAD DROPS, MY OCD WILL NOT LET ME STOP UNTIL I HAVE ALL OF YOU!) are planned out and executed better than other games in the genre, however the problem winds up being that the game drags on for way too long. This, of course, means that you'll be performing these same activities ad-nauseum for hours on end until you actually complete the storyline. Even those shining beacons of hope story missions begin to blur into ho-hum by-the-numbers tasks by the time you reach the final portions of the game.

Another big problem is the lack of enemy variety. You've seen pretty much everything the game has to offer once you've moved onto the second district of the city, only when you're there the enemies have different skins and models and require more punishment to take down. It kinda stops being fun when you're not in much danger anymore because enemy behaviour never changes throughout the course of the game. It got to a point where I just didn't wanna play it any longer, and finally finishing the game felt more like a chore than the "FUCK YEAH, I'M A SUPERHERO" feeling that I should have gotten.

Runners Up:

Both have a severe lack of variety that really bogs them down, especially in the enemy department.

Mounted Turret And/Or Vehicle Sequences

I'd wager that 75% of the games I played this year featured at the very least one mounted turret shooting gallery sequence, a pointless vehicle sequence, or a bastardized combination of the two. And you know what? Every. Single. God. Damn. One only succeeded at pissing me off or boring me to god damn tears.

Uncharted, Bulletstorm, Mass Effect, Gears of War, you name it, it's there, and it fucking sucks. But what's the problem? Shouldn't being able to easily mow down doods with a limitless supply of rapidly dispensed lead be fun on a bun? Yeah, it should! It has been in the past! It's not anymore! You've beaten this one happy fun-time murder spree to death by cramming it into everything. WHY THE FUCKING HOLY FUCK DOES FUCKING SHADOW COMPLEX HAVE TURRET SEQUENCES? WHY DOES THE GAME END WITH ONE? IT'S A SIDE SCROLLER FOR FUCK SAKES! Please, just fucking stop.

And vehicles...hoooooo hooo hooho ho ho hoahahahahhaha hahahha GOD DAMN VEHICLES. Wanna see my "Interest" meter in your game plummet through the bottom of the fucking scale in less than a second? Put me behind the wheel of a vehicle. I'm not even kidding. I almost instantly want to quit playing a game entirely because I know that any vehicle sequences your dumb game decides to force me into are going to fucking suck.

Other than Halo, there hasn't been a single instance in any game I've played where I thought "HOO BOY THIS SURE IS TITS! I WANNA DO MORE!" And you can tell vehicle sections are such throwaway nonsense ideas, because they almost always ONLY appear in a game once and that's that. All vehicles in games are only allowed to control like ass, and it's almost guaranteed that you'll fail whatever vehicle mission you're on at least three times before finally getting it right. Unless we're talking Gears of War 2's frozen lakes, which I saw decoy fail no less than 20-25 times. Yes, I forced him to drive. I literally dropped out of the game and forced him to invite me to his just so I didn't have to be the driver. No, I'm not sorry. Again, please, just fucking stop.

I know that with mounted turrets you just want me to sit back and look at all the scripting you put into a particular set piece, and that with vehicles you're secretly trying to kill me with a stroke, but this madness has to end. Someone needs to take a stand!




That's about all I can muster. Please. JUST FUCKING STOP IT!

Runner Up:
Retailer-Exclusive Pre-Order DLC (I could bitch way too long for this to be here today.)

Best Soundtrack of 2011

Ya know what? I don't even have to do much explaining for this one. The proof is right up there. Fucking GO AND BUY BASTION'S SOUNDTRACK RIGHT NOW!

Though I only got around to playing Bastion only about a week ago, its amazing soundtrack has been what's stuck for me the most. Blending elements of folk, trip-hop, and any number of other made-up genres you wanna start throwing around, Bastion's soundtrack absolutely floored me the first time I heard it. The music in the game is just as integral as its unique visual style and storytelling techniques to telling its story and immersing you in its world and characters. I feel Bastion's audio suite handles this task better than any other game I've played in recent memory. Even if you've never played Bastion, it wouldn't be hard to close your eyes and imagine exactly what its world looks like and what it may be like to live in just by the story the music itself tells without the aid of lyrics in most tracks.

Seriously, you might as well just start the player at track 1 and let it keep going while you finish reading my nonsense. If anything, it'll certainly make the trip a hell of a lot more pleasant.

Runner Up:

Chunky fat-ass riffs + Bitchin' solos + GUNS GUNS GUNS. What more do you want?

Biggest "WHY CAN'T I STOP DOING THIS?" of 2011
Mass Effect 2: Mining

This one got me a lot of weird feedback while I was playing through Mass Effect 2 back in September. People were strangely bewildered at how much relaxed enjoyment I got out of strip mining the shit out of every single star system ol' Pollyanna Shepard came across. When the game originally released, it was largely agreed upon that this was easily one of, if not the the worst aspect. "Tedious and boring busy work shit," they said, and I can see that they were probably right, but for some reason I couldn't help myself. Any new missions received were not only a chance to advance the story and explore a seemingly limitless universe, but also a chance to gut entire galaxies of all their natural resources for my own personal gain and amusement. (Pollyanna Shepard is a bit of a dick, and that's just why I just love her to bits!)

There's no glitz, no glamour, and nothing really visually striking about this throw-away mini-game. I'm not even sure if the word "game" qualifies here! It's just moving a target cursor around the 3D model of some fictional planet with a funny name, pressing the left mouse button, and watching my numbers in the lower right increase. That's all it is. Numbers. I never saw my vast stockpiles of Element Zero or Iridium represented in any way while pimp-walking Pollyanna's fine ass around the Normandy. All those hours I spent draining every planet I came across to "Depleted" status probably seem like the biggest waste of time ever. Maybe even comparable to my previous tirades against Gamerscore and Achievements. By the end of the game I'd purchased damn near every weapon, biotic, and tech upgrade I could get my grubby mitts on, and my element reserves were still at or hovering around the six-digit mark. I didn't even need this shit!

So what was the point? I really can't say. I simply found the activity relaxing, and I could NEVER resist the urge. The Collectors and the universe had to wait. My numbers still weren't big enough. And they never would be.

Runner Up:
Collecting Blast Shards in inFAMOUS
Zeke can wait, I need more shinies!

Biggest "Welp, You Sure Blew That" Moment of 2011

I'm providing a bit of a spoiler gate for this award just in case you happen to still be playing Catherine.
Scroll down until you see the red text indicating that spoilers are over. Scroll REALLY FAST!

In its pre-launch stages of sexy trailers and drip-feeding bits of information and plot points, Catherine looked and sounded like it was going to deliver something interesting and unique to games: An actual grown-up and mature storyline that hit on relevant issues. Not just because of its seeming rampant sexaulity, but because the subject matter was so down to earth. Even more interesting that it was being delivered by a company who brought us otherwordly adventures like the Shin Megami Tensei series.

Catherine was to be the tale of Vincent Brooks, a man-child in a relationship with the orderly and sophisticated Katherine, who had both her shit together and her sights set on finally setting down. Vincent's world gets flipped, turned upside down, however, when he cheats on her with the mysteriously alluring and relatively care-free vixen Catherine, and things only get worse when Vincent finds out that Katherine is now pregnant with his kid.

What would have indeed made for a very grown-up storyline that covered mature issues that could likely be related to by its audience (the consequences of infidelity and lack of responsibility well into adulthood) instead gets flushed down the dumper when the game's final hour reveals that Catherine is a succubus, and all the "bad" things Vincent did were for the most part all in his head. It's almost like the writers were trying to absolve Vincent of any wrong-doing, and throughout the course of the story, it almost feels as if Katherine is being painted as the bad guy in the relationship for wanting Vincent to either shit or get off the pot. The unique premise is entirely wasted by the writers, who obviously blinked at the last second because trying to be "mature" may be a little too deep for an otaku audience that only wants to ogle sexy girls composed of various fetishes.

There were also many attempts to pass off the game as being full of tough moral choices, which really only turned out to be simple A or B answer questions that get asked in between stages of the main game, which have almost no influence over the game whatsoever. No decision that the player makes can change Vincent's course of action in any situation, and though the game will pause briefly during some cutscenes to give you the impression that your choice might mean squat, he just does whatever he wants to do anyway. He has no choice, after all, because that's the only script the game has. The only part of the game that does change is the ending, but with as stupid as the story becomes in the final couple of hours, none of them really fit or make much sense. The only ending I drew from Catherine was that it was a frustratingly huge waste of potential.

And there's no Erica ending. Talk about really botching it!


Lifetime Achievement Award of 2011
Phantasy Star Online

...or more appropriately, the "I'm Never Gonna Stop Playing This Fucking Game, Am I?" Award of 2011.

It has officially been ten years since I started playing Phantasy Star Online. Dreamcast version 1? I was there. Import of Dreamcast version 2? You bet. Version 2 on PC import? There too. Epiosode 1 & 2 on GameCube? Hai desu! BlueBurst Japanese Beta Test? Indeedily-do. US launch of BlueBurst? Fuckin' why not? Schthack private server? Been there, done that. Now own my own private server for friends and myself to play whenever we want? Yes, I do.

Simply put, PSO holds a very important place in my gaming history, my personal life, as well as my place on the interbutts. Everything and everybody has changed over the years. A lot of good, and a lot of bad. PSO's always been there. Still the same as it ever was. Always reminding me of the good times we had together.

It's a game whose gameplay I may tire of and not touch for six to twelve months at a time, but I know I'll always come back to it eventually. And when I do, it'll always make me feel good and be a fun time for all involved.

Biggest Disappointment of 2011
Alice: Madness Returns

Now let's not get our panties in a big ol' bunch, or the cart before the horse, or whatever. Alice: Madness Returns isn't a shitty game or a bad game or the worst game I played all year by any means. I plan on reviewing it in the future, so I don't wanna spoil too much right here, but I feel I can safely say that though the runner up in this category is by far a worse game, this one is the one that stung the most. Not because it was a bad game, but because it failed to live up to my, and likely many fans of the original's, expectations.

There probably weren't many people out there as excited as me the day this game came out. In fact, the day I went in to pick it up, the cashier had already made up his mind that I was there for Duke Nukem Forever because "man you can totally microwave a rat in it, it's the coolest thing ever! XD XD XD" He actually asked me if I was SURE this is what I was here for. But yes, this was probably my most anticipated game of 2011, and I realize that some of those expectations may have been what ultimately let me down, but this is a two-way dance, and Alice: Madness Returns is certainly responsible for its own failings.

While the adventure started off great and the game left a fantastic first impression with stunning visuals, unique storytelling, and a really zippy and fun combat system, Alice unfortunately had shown me all of her fancy tricks by the end of our first couple of hours together. By that time, I'd barely completed the first world, and there are six more worlds remaining, each clocking in at around the two and a half to three hour mark. It's great this day and age to run into a game that'll take you quite a while to complete, but there's just not enough meat on the bones to keep one sustained, and unfortunately Alice grossly outstays her welcome. A sense of tedium begins to set in around the halfway mark, and by the final world, I was rushing as fast as I could trying to complete it because I wanted it to be over. It's not how I wanted to feel about a game I'd waited ten years to play, and spent the last five or six being teased with.

Again, I still had a good amount of fun with the game, but it drags on so long and offers so little variety that it can wear one down. I'll take part of the blame for building it up in my head as an almost "be all, end all" title, but Alice: Madness Returns delivers on its end of this unfortunate bargain as well.

Runner Up:


Most Offensive Game of 2011

What, no Duke Nukem Forever? Surely, that'd be a shoo-in for any award with the word "offensive" in the title or even "worst", wouldn't it? Yeah, you just made a typo, didn't you Polly. Better edit that so we know what your real entry for this award was, right? BZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZT! I DON'T THINK SO, OVER-REACTING INTERNET GEEK! Truth is, Duke Nukem Forever isn't nearly as awful a game as most make it out to be and Ico is definitely the most offensive game I played this year and was damn close to being the worst.

BUT POLLY! EVERYBODY LOVES ICO! IT'S SUCH A HUGE STATEMENT FOR VIDEOGAMES AS ART! IT'S SO DEEP AND BEAUTIFUL! Well, FUCKING WRONG AGAIN, over-reacting internet geek, a vague attempt at something resembling a "story", nigh braindead puzzle solving, shitty combat, and frustratingly stupid AI isn't anything I'd consider beautiful. If tolerating the kind of bad game design Ico exhibits is what passes as "beautiful" and awe-inspiring, give me the fucking Duke any day of the week.

Gameplay issues (mostly) aside, what offends me most about this game isn't the terrible camera, clunky-ass combat, and shit puzzles one has to bash their poor brain against in order to see the journey through to the end. No, my main gripe with Ico is Yorda, the game's helpless, pale-skinned, barefoot princess the player must lead around like a helpless braindead slug.

Now, I'm no super feminist by any means (just ask anyone that knows me) but for fuck sakes, could you paint a more weak, helpless, feeble, and demeaning portrait of a woman? Yorda seems even more helpless and stupid than Princess Toadstool (I will never call her Peach), because I like to imagine that if she was journeying around Mushroom Kingdom with Mario, even she'd have the good god damn sense to pick up a fire flower every now and then and lay waste to a Goomba or two. Yorda...doesn't do jack shit other than stand around helplessly crying to be saved when a shadow monster decides to make off with her. You come across many weapons throughout Ico's mysterious castle with which to defend yourself, and often there's just a huge pile of them laying there to be taken, but she never has the common god damn sense to pick up something and just fucking swing it. Even when our hero does it right in front of her, it never pops into her dim little head to grab a stick and help out. She just stands around looking at the ground, waiting to be led by the hand toward the NOT BAD PLACE TO BE STANDING RIGHT NOW.

Yorda has to be led around EVERYWHERE by hand. The poor thing can barely cross a room on her own without the player forcibly dragging her every agonizing step of the way. She is a dainty and feeble-minded girl, after all. And oh fucking lordy the fun one will have trying to get her to climb up and down ladders. My breaking point with the game was when I watched Yorda try to negotiate the complicated labyrinth of a ladder for ten minutes straight, climbing down and then back up. It was at that point that my patience had hit its breaking point and I'd decided that Ico had insulted me enough.

In the end, I'm just not artsy-fartsy enough, I guess. I just play games worth playing.

Polly S. Hate's Game of the Year 2011
Portal 2

Well, this one's likely not much of a surprise to some. And though I can freely admit the game's faults and almost blatant cash-grab, playing it real safe story confines and retread, Portal 2 is my personal game of the year, it turns out, for well...a lot of personal reasons.

Not to sound like a sulky teenager's LiveJournal entry gone awry, but 2011 was not the greatest year for the ol' Polly. It was one constant terrible thing and struggle after another for the entire first half of the year, and it admittedly didn't get much better for the second half. But toward the end of that dreadful and scarring first half of the year, there was one little game that came along and helped make the bad things in my world not seem quite as bad for just a brief moment of time whenever it was booted up. That game was Portal 2.

Portal 2 did for me something that I hadn't had the urge or reason to do for a good four months: It made me laugh again. Like sincere, healthy laughter that makes you forget all your troubles for just a few brief moments and maybe even helps you realize that it's okay to enjoy things again. For all the shortcomings one can think of when it comes to the game's story, Portal 2's writing and characters are now near and dear to my heart, and in a way I feel are responsible for helping me want to begin climbing out of the rut I was and still am in. Most importantly of those, that little dunce of an AI core, Wheatley, whose endless banter and blundering about the Aperture Science facilities never once failed to bring a smile to my face, leaving me laughing like an idiot at 2:00 in the morning. GLaDOS and Cave Johnson were right on the mark too, she with her constant chiding, interesting character arc, and state-of-the-art potato body, and he with his maniacal tirades and descent from high-minded ambition to utter insanity. Every right chord was struck, and it felt like the game was simply daring me to not enjoy it, knowing I'd fail that test every step of the way. Good on you, GLaDOS, you crafty minx.

Of course there's the gameplay, which worked hand-in-hand with the equally brilliant script, turning my brain inside out with each and every new test chamber or traversal puzzle encountered and all those fancy new gels to play with. It was never frustrating being stuck in Portal 2, it was more like the game was motivating me on two fronts: to complete it, and to get up and start thinking again.

This final entry for the year may be overly sappy and too personal for some, but I ain't even care. To some, videogames are just a past time where you log-in, kill some dudes, and talk shit with your bros. Portal 2 reminded me that they're also that important bit of escapism one needs from time to time in order to relax after a hard day of work, enjoy time with friends, and most importantly, taking a brief respite from the awful shit life sometimes likes to throw at us.

Runner Up:

Seriously, Bastion is fucking good. Go play it!

So, there you have it! Polly plays games again! Who knows how long this trend will last? I've certainly still got a shitton of games on my plate, what with that massive Steam backlog, a new XBob 360 to doink around with, and plenty of Wii and PS3 games I've still yet to get around to. Will I even have anything to say for 2012? I guess you'll just have to tune in a year from now and find out!

Thanks for reading!

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