18. Boom Blox
EA / Wii
Oli Welsh: No game in 2008 caused me more physical pain than Boom Blox. My right arm basically locked up for a week. I will forgive it for being a superb puzzle-action game, totally intuitive, brilliant in single or multiplayer, and making better use of physics in gameplay than any "next-gen" release I can think of. I don't know how deep Steven Spielberg's involvement was, but even if it's purely by association he must be applauded for having a clearer understanding of the point of interactive entertainment than most game developers. Props to EA too, for not condescending to the Wii's hardware and audience the way every other third-party did - and, frankly, Nintendo itself at times.
Ellie Gibson: The most pleasantly surprising game of the year, for me, and one of the few Wii titles I would rather play than eat tumours.
Tom Bramwell: Since we let the Reader 50 go first this year, I'm tempted to moan about nobody voting for this, but I'd rather tell people to buy it. Apart from the ones I was paid to do, this is the only Wii game I've played for more than ten hours in the whole of 2008. It's probably dirt-cheap by now, too (yep: 15 quid or so). Go on, take a chance.
17. Mirror's Edge
Johnny Minkley: I lost patience with trial-and-error gaming many moons ago; but as smash-joypad-on-floor frustrating as Mirror's Edge can be, there's something uniquely thrilling and uplifting about a flawless run-through, which was enough to help me through the pain of repeated failure. I've seen better stories in Dear Deirdre's Photo Casebook, though.
Kieron Gillen: I'm going to be interested to read my peers' take on why this is lovable.
Kristan Reed: Certainly one of the bravest big-budget games to emerge this year, but the occasionally flawed execution left most of us punctuating our admiration with exasperation. Still, if games like this, Dead Space and Bad Company are what we can expect from the 'new' EA, the next few years should be interesting.
Oli Welsh: There's plenty wrong with Mirror's Edge - or at least, plenty that's not to everyone's taste, this being as narrow-minded and nit-picky a platformer as, say, the original Prince of Persia. But for sheer visceral, tactile, immersive, Pavlovian pleasure - making actions feel good to perform, in other words, which is surely as important a part of videogames as any other - it was in a class of its own this year. The sound and visual effects are incredible. I could just kick doors open all day.
Christian Donlan: So many problems but so many reasons why they don't matter. Banging through those red fire doors is probably by itself one of the highlights of the year for me. (But it has been a slow year).
Keza MacDonald: This is a very personal favourite. It's at its best when you're simply free-running, in the zone, picking out routes across white city rooftops. Mirror's Edge captures the urgency and exhilaration of running away better than film or videogame I have ever seen before. I very much hope for a sequel that puts the idea in a better context.
John Walker: Still waiting for the PC version. Waiting waiting waiting. WAITING.
Rich Leadbetter: Conceptually and technologically brilliant - I love Mirror's Edge. It would be great to see Capcom adopt a similar approach for the inevitable Strider reboot.
Tom Bramwell: I only got round to playing this properly after I'd put in my games for this list, or it would be higher, because I would have voted for it. The story's cack, the pacing's all over the place and the indoors bits are often dreadful, but it's one of the only games this year that wrote us a new mechanical dialect and did a few interesting things with it. Sitting around trying to figure out new Time Trial routes has occupied a ridiculous amount of my Christmas holiday. Also: I didn't have a phobia of trains before, but I bloody do now. Thanks DICE.
EA / Maxis / PC
Dan Whitehead: One of the year's biggest disappointments for me. I played it through once, half-heartedly started a few more games before admitting to myself that the Creature Creator was the most fun part. The odds of it becoming The Next Sims seem incredibly slim.
Oli Welsh: Spore's strength and weakness are the same thing - all the stuff it left out, all the stuff you can't do. It's half as interesting as it might have been, but twice as easy to enjoy, and it will reach ten times as many people this way. Never underestimate Will Wright's common touch; Spore did more to popularise and encourage creativity in videogames than the game which did all the shouting about it, LittleBigPlanet. The game that came with it isn't a classic, but it is a perfect vehicle, and it will probably still be selling long after everything else on this chart has faded from memory.
Jim Rossignol: Sorry, internet. I still love you, but you are so wrong about Spore. It was a beautiful thing. Okay, so it wasn't actually a great game, and the space endgame was nob, but as a lump of ideas and an example of what games might be, it's double exciting. In fact I think that, like The Sims, this game probably isn't actually for gamers at all - as was illustrated by my girlfriend's intense interest in manufacturing and evolving pink monsters. Wait - does that mean she's telling me something?
Kieron Gillen: An odd one. A confused and confusing design that I'm quietly amazed managed to come out of a major American developer. It's fundamentally a 4-8 hour process where you generate your creature followed by a 20-40 hour space-based wandering game of adventure, exploration and terraforming. Depending on your instincts and your nature, the time varies. Some just make ridiculous creatures. Some watch YouTube videos of a penis creature dancing. Some play the bally game. Some wonder what could have been. Some look in wonder and enjoy the thing that's rare enough to exist. It's quite the game. There's been a lot that's like parts of it, but there's never been anything quite like it as a whole.
John Walker: I liked the Creature Creator. I made a bonking couple.
Ellie Gibson: I just can't be bothered, sorry.
Alec Meer: It isn't exactly the same as the marketing said it would be therefore it is the worst game ever made. Anyone who dislikes Spore is entirely justified in doing so, much as I'd beg to differ. Anyone who hates it, however, is a bad-tempered meanie who fell lock, stock and smocking genome for the hype.
Tom Bramwell: Hindsight can be a painful thing when you write reviews on the internet, but reading back over my Spore review, I don't really disagree with myself. Approach it sceptically, expecting it to thrill and amaze you with its ingenious hooks, and you'll be disappointed, because you're the hook. If you invest yourself in each feature, the flaws rarely bother you. I started a game again the other day and found myself chased around the Creature phase and bludgeoned within half an hour. Spinning back to hurl some abuse, I discovered I'd been bumped off by my old sofa monsters, the Settee Alpha 5% Discount. I miss the week I spent reviewing Spore more than any other this year, for all the pain that followed. I'm sorry if you had a bad time with it by comparison.