My alternative game awards 2014

Or! An excuse to mention a bunch of games I forgot didn’t get around to talking about in my Games of 2014 posts.

Best 6/10 game: Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved

I think Music Evolved has problems with its structure, its presentation and, well, Kinect, but it is a game I’ve returned to on a number of occasions since reviewing it. I think I like the idea more than the execution, but if you can switch off the desire to beat your best scores, it’s actually a lot of fun. In a lot of ways, it reminds me of DJ Hero, though it’s less rigid, giving you more creative control in how you remix each song.

Best old game that isn’t actually an old game: Shovel Knight

It’s as if a supergroup of developers from Capcom and Nintendo were sent back to the 8-bit era to make a game, and then returned to the present day to hand it over. It’s not slavishly retro in the sense that it looks too good to be a NES or Master System game and that it borrows a few contemporary design ideas, nor is it needlessly punitive like a lot of these old-school platformers can be. It’s challenging but rigorously fair, and buzzes with character and humour. Lovely.

Best remake: Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty!

Just Add Water’s lovingly crafted tribute to the original Abe’s Oddysee was built with a clear-eyed affection for its source material, but an awareness of how things have changed since, with a series of small but smart tweaks that made it more palatable for modern audiences. Looks fabulous, too.

Best remaster: 3D OutRun

It’s OutRun. In 3D. I needn’t say any more, really, beyond inviting you to read >>this<< piece I wrote about how Yosuke Okunari and his team at M2 spruced up a clutch of Sega’s arcade classics for 3DS.

Best game that didn’t get released over here: Rusty’s Real Deal Baseball

This, perhaps more than any of the other games featured here, is the reason for these awards. It’s a succession of really simple, really addictive baseball-themed twitch arcade challenges framed by a darkly sad story about a middle-aged store owner struggling to provide for his 12 kids. You get the first game for free, and can try before you buy the others, but you can also haggle the prices down by completing objectives within the ones you own (though you’ll feel guilty for doing so). Yes, Nintendo’s idiosyncratic approach to freemium turns the process of paying into an oddly compelling meta-game. Pity it didn’t bother to tell anyone about one of the most distinctive and inventive games it’s released in years.

Best football game not made by Konami: Soccer Physics

PES 2015 was the best football game of the year, but for pure entertainment value, Otto Ojala’s one-button slapstick iOS kickabout was hard to beat. I honestly can’t remember any game that has made me, my son or my wife laugh as hard as this. It is monumentally stupid and all the better for it.

Best half of a game: Broken Age: Act One

Cor, this was a treat. Three or so hours of classic point-and-click fun with sparkling dialogue, lovely art, terrific voice work, strong characterisation, great gags and an intriguing story. Sure, the puzzles were pretty rudimentary, but it feels churlish to grumble when so few other games in 2014 gave me the warm and fuzzies like this did. It’s a bit like finding a beloved old jumper at the back of a cupboard and finding out it’s even softer and cosier than you remember. Roll on Act Two!

Best game I stopped playing as soon as I’d finished reviewing it: Titanfall

I played Titanfall for two solid days at a review event and had a whale of a time. The guns are fun, the maps are great, the controls are wonderfully tight, and it has the best first-person jump in any game since Metroid Prime. And you get to stomp around in a giant mech suit! What’s not to love? And yet I’ve never felt any strong desire to go back to it since. Is it that immediate gratification that means it lacks long-term appeal? Despite its new ideas is it just a bit too close to the traditional online multiplayer formula to have the stickability of, say, a Destiny? I honestly don’t know. Answers on a postcard.

Best bit of Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z:

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