Every year at around this time the internet is inundated with lists of games coming out in the next 12 months and punchy little paragraphs about why they're exciting. We're not dissing it – I mean hey, we're as bad as anybody! You've probably already read our Readers' and Developers' Picks, although obviously they were respectively your fault and awesome, so get over it.
For our own staff list, though, we thought it might be nice to deviate from tradition and identify forthcoming games that have caught and held our attention for personal reasons, and explain what it is that has managed to write them into our gaming plans for the start of the decade nobody is calling 'the noughteens'.
These aren't necessarily Game of the Year contenders in the making, then, and in some cases they probably aren't the ones we're most looking forward to playing. They're the ones we most respect though, as women and mothers, or the ones that are doing something a bit different that deserves our, and hopefully your, attention. Let us know your picks in the comments below.
Without further ado, over to our crack panel!
The Crack Panel Speaks
- Subject: Tom Bramwell
- Position: Editor
- Special skills: Spreadsheets, Viva Pinata
What is your pick for 2011? Rock of Ages
What is it? It's the next game from ACE Team, who made first-person dolphin-'em-up Zeno Clash. It's a game where you destroy things with a giant boulder throughout different periods of art history (Renaissance, Rococo, etc).
Why do you care? Mainly because of Zeno Clash, which began by inviting you to punt your eight-foot-tall birdlike hermaphrodite parent off a bridge and then got weirder, but also because Rock of Ages is one of those games you can sum up in a line, as the trailer duly does: "Destroy enemy armies and castles with a giant boulder." Who doesn't want a piece of that? Played PVP, it sounds like a kind of real-time tower defence for one player, who erects defences to save their castle from being smacked in the nose, while the other simply steers a massive lump of murderous rock on its way – a massive lump of murderous rock chiselled with a smiley face, obviously.
What makes you think it will come out in 2011? It says "Spring 2011" on the website, so it sounds like they've nearly finished pushing this particular boulder up the hill.
- Subject: Tom Phillips
- Position: Web and Video Admin
- Special skills: General editorial horseplay
What is your pick for 2011? Stacking
What is it? Tim Schafer-founded Double Fine's latest slice of Arcade fun and surely the only game ever to centre around an anti-establishment flat-capped Matryoshka doll. The diddiest of sizes, your wee hero is able to solve puzzles by stacking himself inside his larger fellows, giving you control of a huge array of characters and abilities.
Why do you care? For a start I want to watch varnished dolls (some with very impressive moustaches) totter about in their richly decorated art deco habitat. Also, Stacking's mission-based gameplay looks like an evolution of the developer's previous downloadable hit Costume Quest. A slightly warped logic is necessary to advance and there are now multiple solutions to each puzzle. Need to clear a room of wealthy dolls? Sneak in as a mechanic and watch the upper-echelons recoil at your poorness. Or, capture a pie-loving doll and stand by an air vent in the adjacent room to unleash flatulence, gassing out the tea-sipping gentry with your own definition of the upper crust.
What makes you think it will come out in 2011? With no sequel for Brütal Legend and Jack Black too busy at the cinema being pinned down by ropes and a tiny Emily Blunt, Double Fine promised a buffet of smaller games on a more regular release schedule. Less time to wait between Schafer-approved dollops can only be a good thing.
- Subject: Christian Donlan
- Position: Wherever is most convenient
- Special skills: Tea
What is your pick for 2011? 4Fourths
What is it? It's a four-player co-op game in which teams manoeuvre dinky little spaceships up and down the playing area in order to take out vast bosses. With a ship on each side of the screen, two players get to steer their vessels and two players get to shoot, so it's all about gleeful confusion. Or maybe teamwork. I don't know. It's made by Mikengreg, anyway, who created the luminous Flash and iOS masterpiece Solipskier, and it's currently in polished demo form and looking for a publisher. Or maybe Mikengreg hasn't updated the website.
Why do you care? Besides the delightful potential for friendly fire, it's one of those games that takes an ingenious idea – designers talk about teamwork a lot, but if you're not working together in 4Fourths, you're genuinely screwed – and wraps it up in a dazzling day-glo geometrical art style. Solipskier's astonishing use of colour alone practically propelled it into my top two for last year, and this looks equally startling. Plus, I can't stop watching the trailer over and over.
What makes you think it will come out in 2011? The fact that I'm 100 per cent pure sunshine optimist. If it doesn't, I'll just keep playing Leave Home, which is brilliant, looks a bit like it, and only cost me 80MP on Xbox Live Indie Games.
- Subject: Wesley Yin-Poole
- Position: News Editor
- Special skills: Trolling, sensationalising, tabloiding
What is your pick for 2011? The Witness
What is it? First-person puzzle game from Jonathan Blow, the brains behind enchanting Xbox Live Arcade game Braid.
Why do you care? In some ways The Witness (which Portal 2 might have been if it was an indie game instead of the EA Partners-published blockbuster it's guaranteed to be) smacks of being Blow's difficult second album. But having seen it in the flesh at the GameCity festival in Nottingham last year, I'm convinced it'll be a mind-bending winner. Also, there are no guns, and you can't die. Wrap that around your FPS head.
What makes you think it will come out in 2011? Jonathan Blow, who told me he's shooting for a 2011 release in a Eurogamer interview. There's a 50-50 chance it'll be 2012, though.
- Subject: Robert Purchese
- Position: Senior Staff Writer
- Special skills: Noise, hair, puns
What is your pick of 2011? Guild Wars 2
What is it? A direct sequel to an MMO - quite a rarity these days.
Why do you care? Guild Wars was inventive and brave. In 2005, things like a casually low level cap, no monthly subscription, AI companions, overarching instanced story and one giant world to house all players were forward-thinking ideas – real progression for the MMO genre. All that was achieved by a tiny team of former-Blizzard talent. It's a testament to their creation that Guild Wars not only survived alongside World of Warcraft but flourished, notching six million sales. That's why when we hear that the sequel will remove healers and tanks from the MMO template we believe it can work, among many other things. ArenaNet has done it before, with less people, time, money and experience.
What makes you think it will come out in 2011? Because it looks finished. It looked finished back in August 2009. Who else provides an extended gameplay video spanning all zones to reveal a game? There has been a delay since then, and no concrete affirmation of a 2011 date. But the industry expects! And if we haven't at least a Guild Wars 2 beta by the end of 2011, I will eat my hat.
- Subject: Ellie Gibson
- Position: Deputy Editor
- Special skills: Dancing, swearing, creating new life
What is your pick for 2011? TOKYO JUNGLE!!! Obviously.
What is it? Amazing, that's what it is. Tokyo Jungle is a side-scrolling platform game set in a post-apocalyptic landscape. "So what?" I hear you cry. "SHUT UP," I scream in your face, pointing out that Tokyo Jungle isn't just any old side-scrolling platform game. It is a game which scrolls from right to left. As if that wasn't enough, it is also a game in which you get to play a tiny dog in a woolly jumper who eats cats. Tokyo Jungle features all manner of other animals too, including lions, tigers, giraffes, chimps, chickens, hippos and dinosaurs. Key characters in the storyline include a thoroughbred racehorse. And you get to make them all chase, fight and eat each other.
Why do you care? I got to play Tokyo Jungle at the Tokyo Game Show last year. It was the best eight minutes of my life. The game was a big hit with other visitors too, boasting longer queues than proper games like Vanquish, Castlevania and MotorStorm: Apocalypse. Because who cares about silly old space monsters, werewolves and motorbikes when you can make an elephant rip off a crocodile's head?
Just as 2010 was the year of the dancing game, I predict 2011 will be the year of the wild animals fighting each other game. Or as I like to call it, the safari combat genre. ASLAN IS ON THE MOVE.
What makes you think it will come out in 2011? It's already out in Japan and has been confirmed for a European release this year. And if you close your eyes, cross your fingers and wish hard enough, all dreams really do come true.