35. Zack & Wiki: The Quest for Barbaros' Treasure
Capcom / Wii
Tom Bramwell: I'm not sure if anyone has played this except for Keza, but when she described it to me on the train on my birthday it sounded amazing.
Kristan Reed: How to do adventure games in 2007. Makes me want to cry a little bit, really. Thank you Capcom.
Keza MacDonald: Zack & Wiki takes something you know - a point-and-click puzzler - and turns it into something wonderful and fresh and funny and full of the unexpected. The only thing that kept me from giving it a 9 is that I'm fairly certain that its cerebral, sometimes playfully obscure puzzling lacks universal appeal, but in retrospect, the only people who wouldn't like this would be FPS retards or people too old to understand the point of all this motion control. This is what I envisioned the Wii doing; if more people had played this, it would have easily made it into the top ten. Still, it's out here next year, so it will get the praise it deserves. If any bugger actually buys the damned thing.
34. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trials And Tribulations
Capcom / DS
John Walker: A secret: I still haven't finished the last chapter. I'm pretty much there, on the last court scene. But I can't bring myself to complete it. I play it pretty often, another half hour here or there. But if I end it... that's the end of my Phoenix Wright games. There's no more. Believe me, I'm more excited than a chipmunk filled with helium about the next Ace Attorney game, but it won't be about Nick and Maya, and that's almost too sad to bear. So for as long as I don't complete this last chapter, I've still got them. That's a testament to this game. It's a beautiful climax to the trilogy, bringing back favourite characters from the first two games, introducing fabulous new ones, and most of all, going deeper into the back stories of the prosecution attorneys, and Maya's family. If more of the useless idiots that write for this site had played this game, it would be top five. But they are useless idiots, and therefore haven't, so it is dumped in this idiotic 34 position. Useless idiots.
Keza MacDonald: John Walker is right about everything, and also terribly handsome. I'm deeply sad about Apollo Justice taking over the reigns for the next instalment. Somehow I doubt he'll have the same loveable, puppy-dog incompetence as Phoenix.
Kieron Gillen: OBJE... nah, that one's done.
Oli Welsh: I'm going to miss him, I really am. Apollo Justice has a lot to live up to. I love that there's a game series out there where a casting change can break your heart.
33. Half-Life 2: Episode Two
Kieron Gillen: That the latest instalment of arguably the finest PC first-person shooter ever was the least essential part of The Orange Box only shows what an incredible offering it was. We live in a Golden Age, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
Dan Whitehead: Getting the Little Rocket Man achievement was one of my highlights of the year. That makes me cool, right?
John Walker: It's so great that we can trust Valve. There are developers we look forward to seeing games from with high expectations. But with Valve, we know their games will be great. Really astonishingly great. I'm fairly shocked to see Ep Two this low in the chart, and wonder how this has happened. It's by far one of the best games of the year, and a demonstration of why the linear, single-player shooter is still one of the best mediums for character development and storytelling.
Tom Bramwell: See, I don't know. I played the first hour or so at Valve when I was over there reviewing Portal, and got up to the bit in the mines just after you've done the siege bit with the Vortigaunts, and I wasn't exactly amazed. I felt Half-Life 2 had been overlong, albeit amazingly good, but Episode One took a while to get going, and I haven't gone back to do this properly yet. I will probably take my 360 home and do it at Christmas and then repent, but the fact that there is a Half-Life game in existence that I am not prioritising over every single other thing else feels significant.
Kristan Reed: A big improvement on Episode One, but I'm starting to come to the conclusion that I want to wrap up the Half-Life 2 story now. After seeing Portal and Team Fortress 2, I can't help but want Valve to keep doing new stuff because, basically, the excitement they appear to be able to generate when they do new things is almost beyond anyone else. Episode Two is, without doubt, a very fine shooter, with an exceptional climax, but the rest is slightly spoiled by the feeling of over familiarity. Still, as part of the amazing Orange Box, it's an essential purchase.
Rob Fahey: Valve proved that they could do gameplay which isn't just corridor- running with the stunning final battle of Episode Two - it's just a shame they made you run through so many bloody corridors to get there. It's still got superb atmosphere, though, and even if the HL2 formula is starting to wear a bit thin, the story has notched up a gear - so roll on Episode Three...
Alec Meer: I dug the character work, but never got the sense of thrill I did from HL1 or even Episode One. I suspect I'm just a bit bored of gravity guns now.
Sony / Evolution Studios / PS3
Dan Whitehead: I normally hate driving games, but I really loved MotorStorm. Not sure if that means it's a really great driving game, or a really rubbish one.
Tom Bramwell: It's not rubbish. It's been supported amazingly, too (if this is to be the fate for PS3 exclusives, then hurrah). Races feel epic, precarious, interesting, different. It's not the best racing game ever, but it's probably the best new arcade racing game of this generation.
Kristan Reed: Never understood the appeal - Dirt was a far, far better driving game, and SEGA Rally did the track deformation stuff much better. I really did want to like it, too. Sorry guys.
Tom Bramwell: A new record for Kristan there - got to number 32 before I found his opinions offensively inaccurate.
Matt Martin: The most racing fun I've had all year. Loud, obnoxious, tight and messy racing gave me a real buzz. Plus, the AI driver known as Beast? I used to work with the guy it's named after - hello Beast, your game is nice!
Tom Bramwell: Are you a sixteen-year-old girl on Facebook? Bloody trade.
31. Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock
Alec Meer: Paint It Black! I don't care about the rest of it.
Tom Bramwell: In the run-up to launch, this was rather unfairly brushed aside by neophiles giddy with anticipation for Harmonix's Rock Band. Particularly unfair, as Tony Hawk foreverers Neversoft actually did a very good job. For me, there's a brick wall towards the end of Hard mode, but then that's why there's a Practice mode. For some that's not enough, so it's a good thing Rock Band appears to have been designed for complete wimps. This has songs chosen specifically for their guitar elements, so they aren't as crowd-pleasing as the Rock Band line-up, but if you ask me it looks nicer, feels slinkier, has a better guitar co-op mode and a much nicer guitar peripheral. So certainly buy both in the end, and don't feel bad about picking this up before Christmas even though Rock Band is only a matter of weeks away.
Dan Whitehead: I found this to be a pretty big step backwards for the series. While the Harmonix titles felt like a simulation of how guitar playing actually works, this iteration felt like...just another rhythm game. The track list is patchy, and unevenly spread across the tiers, and there are too many moments where you can't really see the connection between the notes you can see and the ones you're hearing. The opening of Kool Thing, for instance, is just a mess. And while I like the idea of a battle mode, the fact that you win by spamming your opponent with power-ups rather than by being a better player is just wrong, wrong, wrong. So while it's still great because it's still Guitar Hero, there's no way it should place higher than number two.
Kieron Gillen: I was underwhelmed by this - the competitive modes were just plain rubbish, the choice of songs questionable in terms of everything without an enormous guitar solo in being kicked out (GH1 having two-minute songs was one of the many things which made it a purer pop thrill) and far too much Yank focus (when the sublime version of She Bangs The Drums was hid as an extra track, something's gone wrong with the world) and so on and on. But it's still Guitar Hero, and the best stuff rocks as hard as it gets.
John Walker: The songs are just far too long. I'm not a fan of the series, and honestly you can just go and **** yourself if that's a problem for you. But I can say for certain, having enjoyed watching other people play the first two games, that the songs are far too long in III.
Keza MacDonald: After John's comment: The songs are "too long"!? That's just the length that they are in real life! That's like complaining that the radio plays too much of a single!
Kristan Reed: More of the same, obviously, but a great track list and some superb refinements. The new wireless guitar really is rather lovely, too. Shame I'll never be any good at it.
Keza MacDonald: To the world: stop complaining about Battle Mode. It's not as if it's replacing Face-Off and Pro Face-Off, which is where the battle lies for hardcore players anyway. If you want a battle based on pure skill, go for Pro Face-Off. If your Medium-player other half has no hope of ever beating you, then Battle gives them a chance. Anyway, this is easily the game of the series for me, and fixes Guitar Hero II's half-implemented co-op and numerous other, less obvious deficiencies. I much, much prefer the tracklist, the online works brilliantly, the downloadable content isn't a shambles, it's hard enough to provide a challenge even for those who've been playing these games for ten hours a week over a period of years - there's basically nothing wrong with it, and I can only conclude that the general indifference towards it is a combination of Rock Band excitement, the crippled PS2 version and the sad fact that everyone else might be getting a bit bored of Guitar Hero. This is a sublimely focused, professionally produced piece of pure gaming, and loses nothing that Guitar Hero offered before.