45. The Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar
Codemasters Online Gaming / Turbine / PC
John Walker: It's quite clear that Tolkien was ripping off Blizzard, and he should be ashamed.
Kieron Gillen: It's a solid enough MMO, but that it's included only shows what a weak year it's been for the genre. That the first thing I think of when I look back on my time with the game is the fact you can play the instruments on your keyboard says how genuinely uninspired it is. It's like your favourite bits of the books being Tolkein's terrible songs or something. And the hobbit-forming puns! Man!
Rob Fahey: It should, by all rights, have been a total car crash of an MMO - but LOTRO was actually that rarest of things, a polished, playable and hugely enjoyable MMO at launch. It's not about to kick WoW off the throne, but it's a damned good second option, and a great place to start in MMOs for those who haven't touched gaming's equivalent of Class A drugs just yet.
44. Tomb Raider Anniversary
Kristan Reed: Okay, the 360 port wasn't nearly as good as it could have been (though did have achievements as a nice carrot...) but based on the PC version, this was, along with Uncharted, the best action adventure of the year, and thoroughly deserving of its 9/10.
Jim Rossignol: Seriously?
John Walker: Approaching the game with no nostalgia for the original (I began my journey with Lara with TR2, which was also a completely wonderful game), it certainly felt a little more hollow than Legend. Losing the crew may have given the game a more solitary atmosphere, but it also lost the wonderful sense of humour that had been added. Thankfully, the level design was superb, and while the T-Rex encounter was a boring boss, the rest of the game, and especially that level, offered a proper joy of exploration. But bring back the gags.
Tom Bramwell: Based on my experience hopping through the first quarter of this on the PC (the port for which is amazing, by the way), it's good, but John's right that it feels quite lonely and humourless. Kristan vehemently disagrees with me when I criticise it, so let's do some more of that: the Xbox 360 release is technically appalling. Next to Assassin's Creed's engine, it's gone flying into a cocked hat so hard it's knocked the bottom out and sent wicker flying into my eye, and now I'm dead. So, er, play it on the PC. Perhaps with Radio 4 comedy on in the background.
Microsoft / Big Huge Games / Xbox Live Arcade
Tom Bramwell: I have no idea whether this is good, but I would like to say that Carcassonne definitely is!
Rob Fahey: Personally, I thought the Live version of Catan was a bit disappointing. It's a great game, but it just didn't translate terribly well onto the console - in stark contrast to the brilliant version of Carcassonne, which was a perfect example of how to make board games work on Live.
Alec Meer: Not quite as riotously entertaining as the boozy tile-collecting and arguing about sheep I occasionally meet up with a few Settlers-loving friends for, but pretty damn close, even down the AI suddenly getting stroppy. This is the kind of thing I want to see more on Xbox Live Arcade, not poxy Pac-Man and Double Dragon remakes.
42. Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions
Square Enix / PSP
Simon Parkin: Old, grouchy and mean to the kids this, the grandfather of Nippon Ichi's upstart SRPGs, is still a bewitching place to visit. Its mechanics are solid, reliable and just flexible enough to be interesting; its story is ambitious, verbose but compelling; it's diminutive sprites and artwork fizz with life and personality. If it weren't for Disgaea this would comfortably be the system's best title.
Rob Fahey: Arguably one of the best things ever to come from the Final Fantasy franchise. It was great to go back to FFT after almost ten years and discover that I hadn't been remembering it through rose-tinted glasses - it really was as complex, involving, beautifully presented and utterly addictive as my memory claimed.
41. Picross DS
Nintendo / DS
Tom Bramwell: Slitherlink is my puzzle game of the year (but did it make the top 50? FIND OUT LATER), but Picross is a close second. For the uninitiated, a certain number of squares on the big grid in front of you are meant to be shaded in, and your only clue as to which ones is a sequence of numbers next to each row and above each column, which tell you how they will be grouped without giving away the actual position. When you solve the puzzle, the result is a silly little picture. Hence Picross. The DS implementation doesn't make the best use of the screen - offering a zoomed-out view that forces you to squint and a zoomed-in view that gets too close - and the punishments for mistakes, as opposed to errant guesses, are harsh, but the act of playing it is almost endlessly rewarding. The promise of downloadable puzzles hasn't been realised as well as it might have been - unless it's improved considerably since I last glanced - but with so much on the cart you'd have to be seriously moany to complain. Like me.
John Walker: If I had my act together, I'd have attempted a coup of Picross DS to have it replaced with the latest Illust Logic from Slitherlink gurus Hudson. While Picross DS offers all those charming extras like daily puzzles and various downloads, there's something far more comfortable and entertaining about Hudson's Japanese-only version. So I thought I'd hijack this comment to promote it, and simultaneous pitch a review to Tom and Kristan.
Kristan Reed: Best puzzle game on the DS for me.