2014: Ten of the best

I wrote a whole bunch of stuff this year, though as ever it was mostly reviews and previews and list features of various forms. Ideally, I’d like to produce more longreads in 2015 – not least because that’s the kind of stuff that tends to get people actually reading your work, as opposed to scrolling to the bottom, looking at a number and violently disagreeing in the comments – but this year I’ve rarely had the time or space to do so. Nature of the beast when you’ve got debts to pay off and ongoing illnesses to worry about, I guess, but that doesn’t make it any less frustrating.

In fact, it’s been a pretty crappy year from both a personal and a professional standpoint, with a few things (particularly in the past few weeks) making me realise that I have a long, long way to go as a writer. Still, there were highlights – I was nominated for two Games Media Awards and had a brilliant time at the event despite losing in both categories, I was proud of the work I contributed to the Virgin Media/EGX website (42 features in three months) and I spent most of the year writing for the best games magazine in the world, including my first ever cover feature.

Though I think most of my best work this year was in print, here are ten online pieces I wrote in 2014 that I thought were pretty good:

The Making Of: Tearaway – I visited Media Molecule in Guildford to talk to them about their charming papercraft adventure. The feature is better in print – not least because it’s supported by several rare or unseen assets – but it still reads pretty well online.

The Last of Us: Left Behind is a masterful, affectionate and poignant farewell – It really is, you know. Here I talk about how a two-hour slice of downloadable content became one of my games of 2014.

Scram Kitty and his Buddy on Rails review – Edge-Online all but ceased operation this year, which brought an enjoyable semi-regular freelance gig to a close. For a while a small group of freelancers got to pitch reviews to the website that might not necessarily make it into the print version. There was no room in the mag for this review of DakkoDakko’s inventive Wii U shooter/platformer, but it was a fun one to write.

The Making Of: Super Mario 3D World – bridging the gap between Mario’s past and present – I was never going to pass up the opportunity to pick the brains of some of Nintendo’s finest designers. Though this was only published online in May, the interview was conducted in early Feb, during which I all but implored Hayashida and co. to make a game based on 3D World’s Captain Toad levels. “If enough fans express such enthusiasm, we’d consider doing something with this feature in future,” he replied. Ten months on…

The story of Hello Games and how it coped when disaster struck – I’ve visited Hello Games twice now to write about No Man’s Sky, including this year’s Edge cover feature, though this feature about the studio’s background and its response to the infamous flooding came somewhere in between. I was struck in particular by Sean Murray’s optimism and undying enthusiasm for the project, despite such an awful setback. Its recent appearance at PSX was a testament to the indefatigable spirit of the Guildford studio.

Monument Valley review – In which I attempt to capture the reasons I like ustwo’s celebrated smartphone puzzler and also why I think it’s been slightly overpraised. I think I made a decent fist of it.

Rollercoaster Tycoon 4 Mobile review – I had little choice but to give both barrels to Atari’s godawful freemium ‘reboot’, though when a game is this bad, there’s a certain cathartic pleasure in putting the boot in. A couple of people told me this was one of the funniest reviews they’d read in a while, which is always a nice thing to hear. Our job as critics is to entertain as well as inform, after all.

How Sega is Rejuvenating its Classic Games – I’m hoping I’ll get more chances to write for Kotaku in 2015 because it’s the kind of site that allows you a little more leeway to cover more obscure stuff. This interview-feature I wrote, in which I spoke to Yosuke Okunari about how he and Sega’s M2 studio went about porting a range of arcade favourites to the 3DS, was one of my most enjoyable projects of 2014.

Melodious Motoring: The Music of Mario Kart 8 – Earlier this year I took my first full week off in six years. Or at least that was the plan. In the event, our holiday was curtailed when we returned to attend a funeral, and I spent the best part of the second day there writing up this piece about Mario Kart 8’s fantastic soundtrack. I didn’t get much of a break, then, but at least I got a decent feature out of it.

Super Smash Bros. for Wii U review – I’m not the best judge of my own work, but a very well respected games writer emailed me out of the blue to say how much he enjoyed reading this, so I’ll take his word for it. Needless to say, not everyone in the comments agreed, but there you go.

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