Happy New Year everyone. We hope you had a great holiday. We’re glad to be back with a new entry in our game of the year awards!
This year saw a great deal of 2D platformers. Both purely 2D and 2.5D platforms were widespread, and some (like Fez) even played with the 2nd and 3rd dimensions as essential aspects of gameplay. While full 3D platformers seem to be rare these days, the resurgence of the 2D platformer has been wonderful for fans of the 16 bit era. If you never really moved past Sonic and Mario World, 2012 had some games you probably want to check out!
Certainly the most critically acclaimed of the games here, Fez receive widespread praise. The only criticisms levelled at this deep and complex game were that it was littered with technical problems.
Despite its success, when we reviewed Fez we found its confusing and deliberately obtuse puzzles to be more of a novelty than a gameplay revolution. Still, it was a game with big ideas and a great central gameplay mechanic, and as such it has rated highly on many end of year best-of lists.
We already mentioned the majesty of Dust Force’s soundtrack, which we voted as the best of the year. The awesome audio accompaniment by LifeForce only enhances what is already a brilliant game. Challenging in the extreme, Dust Force demands that you achieve mastery to perform a perfect run through its levels. When you do though, few games feel more satisfying. Simply watching an expert play this game is entertaining enough, but the feeling you get when you begin to succeed yourself is almost as amazing as the soundtrack.
If there’s one game I spent most of the year telling people they should play (other than Lone Survivor) it was Intrusion 2. This fantastic Metal Slug/Contra inspired shooter managed the impossible; it stayed true to the game which inspired it while surpassing them in every way. While some may argue its not a platformer, it has just enough tricky jumping to make this list. I will also never miss a chance to tell people to play this game. I’ve said it before, but I will repeat here: this game has the best boss battles of any game ever made. No contest, Play it! Try the original here, but note that the sequel is much better.
They Bleed Pixels
In many ways, The Bleed Pixels is a gothic version of Dust Force. With the same pixel art style and challenging retro platforming, its Dust Force through a Tim Burton lens with the associated themes of blood soaked Halloween nights, dark haired girls with dark dreams and castles filled with monsters. It’s (still impressive) soundtrack doesn’t match the Dust Force’s and the gameplay itself is Meat Boy without some of the better ideas, but it makes this list because of its surprisingly dark themes and brilliant atmosphere.
Spelunky is the spectacularly challenging platformer that made gamers cry with frustration in 2012. Crucially, they didn’t stop playing. While some games set you up so you can’t fail, Spelunky’s designers take great delight in making it almost impossible to succeed. And its not because of their fiendish level designs; those are random. Rather, its the games systems of obstacles, enemies and traps that conspire to destroy your little avatar as well as your will to continue. But you won’t give up. Spelunky is simply too good to stop playing.
Mark of the Ninja
While big titles like Dishonored and Deus Ex may have tried to create satisfying stealth experiences this year, it was a 2D platformer that really got Stealth right. Conveying information about your visibility brilliantly through light and sound, Mark of the Ninja showed everyone else how amazing stealth gameplay can be.
And the Winner is… Intrusion 2!
Ok, so this is a little controversial, but the winner has to be the game I enjoyed the most, and having made this list by virtue of tenuously qualifying as a platformer, there’s nothing here to match Intrusion 2. I had fun with the rest, but Aleksey Abramenko spent more than five months working on just the final boss of Intrusion 2 and it shows. In terms of raw gameplay and exhilaration Intrusion 2 is the best game of the year for me. It blows everything else away.