Shadows of the Damned is comfortably among the most ridiculous games I have ever played (and I have played, amongst much else, a kissing simulator in which you had to work your way up from kissing gimps in sewers).
How the most stratospherically mad game of the year came into being.
Goichi Suda has produced an amazingly eclectic body of work in his time. It includes a survival horror / erotic photography mashup, three games about lightsaber-wielding serial killers and an adventure title about a guy with a suitcase named Catherine. And yet he's still perhaps most famous for conducting interviews while on the bog.
"The concept is hope and happiness. That's what we pitched first," says Q Entertainment's Tetsuya Mizuguchi, sitting down after a Child of Eden demo to talk with us about his work in games so far. "It's like a spiritual sequel to Rez, definitely, but I wanted to have much more organic feel, not only digital, techno. I made it like a drama, a story, an emotional setting – it has songs, lyrics, words.
Don't play Patapon if you suffer from insomnia. It's even more difficult to sleep at 4am with a tiny monocular army's chants of PON PON PATA PON reverberating around your head. Your every input in Patapon 3 is echoed and embellished by a chorus of little voices, cheering and yelling and marching perfectly in rhythm, and the insistent beat drives on and on long after you flick the PSP power switch for the twelfth time, and try to drift off.
Ubisoft has been so busy porting Rayman 2, it's a wonder the publisher has any time left to spend on new Rayman games. Since 1999, this game has appeared everywhere – the N64 and Dreamcast, the PlayStation and PlayStation 2, the iPhone and iPad, PSN... And, most relevantly, the original DS.
There are two ways to go with re-release compilations. Either you create a Director's Cut and enthusiastically tart up the games, adding never-before-seen content, next-generation sheen and, you know, a widescreen option - or you leave them pretty much exactly as they were and try to make up for it with extremely nice packaging (a la the recent Mario 25 bundle).
In times of stress, I often turn to videos of kittens on the internet to make myself feel better. As such, Nintendogs + Cats provides a valuable service for me. You don't feel quite so bad about the state of the world after you've opened up a 3DS and tickled a puppy or a kitten for a few minutes. Purely as stress relief, this might actually be the most effective game I've ever played – it's way better than shooting at 12-year-olds over the Internet.
If you're on the outside looking in, the Pokémon series probably looks like the same game released over and over for 15 years, each time to fresh brood of gullible children. It's not a fair or correct assumption, but I can see where you're coming from.
The best games are often those that don't need to bulk out their premise with weak secondary mechanics. THQ's de Blob for Wii wasn't the best game in the world, but the idea at its heart is timelessly fun all by itself: colour in. How wonderful to see it back for another try, especially now that it's multi-platform.
Arise, amnesiac hero, the time has come! For you are the Chosen One, and it's down to you to defeat the eight guardians of the power of Arcana so that you can rule the realm. I'm deeply disappointed that a story so distressingly normal could emerge from the studio behind Deadly Premonition.
Sometimes it's comforting when you know exactly what to expect from a videogame. Mario Sports Mix has all the Mario sports hallmarks: Mushroom, Flower and Star trophies, infuriating random items, courts that make absolutely no sense (basketball on a sandy beach? Ice hockey on the lawn of Princess Peach's castle?), a wide cast of Nintendo characters with superficially differing abilities and special moves... The woiks. It's also got a tiny touch of Square Enix in the form of unlockable characters like Moogle and Cactaur, which you can steadfastly ignore if you're still a bit upset with Square over splitting with Nintendo in the nineties.
A series with as many epoch-defining entries as Mario is bound to mark a few special spots in your gaming history. My first videogame was Super Mario World. Super Mario 64 inspired me so much that I wrote my very first review about it, aged 8. But after that, as with any favourite series, it settled into a comfortable rhythm; you know what to expect, and you're delighted every time you get it, but it doesn't change your world any more. I didn't think that a Mario game could have that kind of impact on me again. But this year, it did.
It's been a while since there's been a portable Harvest Moon to rival Friends of Mineral Town, which was lodged in my GBA's cartridge slot for the whole of 2004. The series has ambled off in several different directions since, turning your farmer into a robot boy or or an island castaway or a spiky-haired amnesiac youth to spice up the process of building and tending to an agricultural empire, but it always loses something in translation. Every exciting new addition is tempered by some unnecessary annoyance, and they usually end up balancing each other out.
When I lived in Japan, there was a girl who came to my local arcade on Wednesday evenings to play Beatmania and Dance Dance Revolution. I would go to watch her (not in a creepy way – I wasn't hiding in a bush or anything).
When I first heard that someone was making a game set in occupied Paris, casting the player as a member of the French resistance, my imagination ran away with me. Like everyone else I've played a lot of World War II videogames, and I'm sick of brainlessly shooting Nazis.
For 13 years I've been wishing that somebody would make a great Harry Potter game. Hogwarts, with its magical secrets and hidden nooks, is a setting made for interactivity; I've always imagined that a talented developer could create one of the best adventure games ever made with this material.
The Sims 3 invites you to "Play with Life", inferring an impulse towards creativity and imagination, but I've never met any Sims player who isn't immediately compelled to create themselves – and nobody really knows why. It's the first thing I did when I played the Sims for the first time in 2000, sitting in front of the family computer.
If you're looking for just one game to buy with your new Kinect unit, you might feel like you're in a difficult position. Would you rather race pretend cars, or play imaginary football and tennis? Without spending upwards of another Ł70, you're not surely seeing the full range of the camera's potential. But you don't have to buy all of them to see everything that Kinect can do. There's another option, and Kinectimals is it.
Unlike Kinect Sports and Adventures, Joy Ride doesn't actually make you move very much. You can even play it sitting down with moderate success. You simply hold your hands out in front of you on an imaginary steering wheel and veer left and right, and your avatar will do the same in its little sportsmobile. There's no need to worry about accelerating and braking, as the game does that for you. You've got more important things to fret over, like how you're going to pay the rent after spending Ł165 on a magic camera and a racing game.
I've played games that have brought me to the point of existential crisis over my career choice before – Sonic Free Riders, most recently – but Game Dev Story makes me actively hate myself and everyone in my profession. I've been trying for ten game-years to develop a Super Mario Bros. or a Deus Ex or an Ico, you see, but I'm foiled at every turn by the damned reviewers.
Anyone taking the pulse of the rhythm-action genre right now is coming away worried. Even this time last year, sales of the genre's front man franchises were tailing off; now Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock's dreadful performance seems to be fulfilling the grimmest premonitions. High-street window displays are full of discounted plastic instruments. People are sick of pretending to be in a band, the stars seem to be saying. Something's got to change.
Okami is, in my estimation, the only challenger ever to have beaten Zelda at its own game. It shared Zelda's themes and its structure – exploration and discovery, gentle but absorbing puzzling, an unobtrusive but captivating narrative gently ushering you through a sequence of towns and dungeons whilst leaving you free to distract yourself.
An extra Kinect game is lining up for the Japanese launch alongside Sports, Dance Masters and Sonic Free Riders on 20th November. It's a new Brain Age game from Namco Bandai. This strikes me as an unlikely pairing. Kawashima's Brain Training is Japan's most popular DS brand; what's this new iteration doing launching with a new peripheral for (and there's no denying it) Japan's least popular console?
Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light has practically nothing to do with Final Fantasy. Certainly not modern Final Fantasy, in any case. This is nothing new for Square-Enix – you don't have to peer far back into the mists of time to find similar examples – and it's also no bad thing. For many, Final Fantasy has become emblematic of a genre still struggling to find its place in the modern world. Putting the name to a game that's not what you'd expect from it might help to redress that image.
Games have been attempting to make us feel like we're exploring a living cartoon for a large part of the medium's history, and some have achieved spectacular results. The Wind Waker-style Zeldas seem more suited to their expressive, beguilingly childish look with every instalment. Level-5's colourful, lively worlds are often bursting with animated verve, whether in Dragon Quest and Rogue Galaxy's animé cel-shading or Professor Layton's more laid-back but equally distinctive style.