20. OutRun 2006: Coast 2 Coast
Multi, Sumo Digital, Gamepage>.
Tom: Kristan's been off work a bit, so I've been organising all this [waves arms around]. One of my solemn duties has been to revisit as many of the top 50 games as possible and see if I feel like commenting on them. Of all the stuff I've tried, this one involved the most faffing (where is my Xbox? where are the cables? where is the annoying end bit that connects the console to the pad cable? where is the disc?), but also the one that lasted me the longest. It just loves being played. It's always picking up after you, holding the door open, making sure everything's as happy as possible. The very opposite of trying to find an Xbox after a house-move.
Kieron: Despite considerable peer pressure, OutRun 2 didn't click with me. Which makes me wonder why on earth the highly similar sequel had me squealing like the girl in the passenger seat when I played it to death. I'll tell you why: because I was a bloody idiot, and it's great. Best racing game since the last great racing game.
Mathew: The purest example of what driving games should be, not what they are. Rather than being a bore-o-simulator mostly about simulating all the details of tarmac and brake ratios, it simulates only the sheer pleasure of jumping in a ludicrously fast sports car that you could never afford and driving faster than is humanly possible. Outrun 2006 does have an occasionally annoying system of unlockables, but it's worth it.
James: I do still get annoyed by that '2', though. Really, what's wrong with a good old-fashioned 'To'. Bah, these young games today. Grumble grumble, etc.
19. Dragon Quest: The Journey of the Cursed King
PS2, Square Enix, Gamepage.
Kieron: Proof, if proof be needed, than console RPGs can have really rubbish titles too.
Dave: Boring but brilliant. So maybe paradoxically brilliant.
Simon: It's fascinating really. Dragon Quest VIII is a lumbering dinosaur of a game. It's everything about RPGs that people who hate RPGs hate - all masked by pretty, cel-shaded white flowers, Akira Toriyama and endless lush hills. It's charming but when did charm hide the vindictiveness of random battles for more than 10 minutes? In its exquisite localisation, it's well spoken - but when did class and professionalism make up for being plain out-of-date? It's a good RPG story but when was a good RPG story any much more than a series of predictable events leading to the same old conclusion? I don't know but, either way, I'm still in love.
James: The best Quest since Police Quest 3.
18. TOCA Race Driver 3
Multi, Codemasters, Gamepage.
Kieron: They're still making TOCA games? How quaint.
Oli: Motorsport done right. It's a little overweight and not every class works, but when they do, TOCA serves up the best technical close racing on any console.
PSP, Sony, Gamepage.
Kieron: I highly enjoyed the mini-furore around whether LocoRoco was racist or not in the gaming blogosphere.
Tom: JOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOIN! Bouncing around, trying to find hidden things without losing anyone. I loved that. Some of the little touches were sublime - like the square blobs overflowing from the end-of-level jam jar. But after a while the charm dried up, and I couldn't be bothered to go back through for the rest of the flowers. Worth playing through once though, definitely. Absolutely beams next to the high-percentage of jagged heartless dross that makes up the PSP back catalogue.
Simon: Katamari's six-year-old just-lost-my-milk-teeth cousin was built from the most perfect palette - shades of colour swatch made blob and given simple, brilliant videogame behaviours that made people who know videogames smile and people who don't quizzical. Playing LocoRoco was like being a kid again, rolling into Green Hill Stage 1, discovering what videogames could be about and the places they could take us. And as for the controversy stirred by hit-hungry bloggers? I finished the game and I'm still not a racist.
Kristan: In a year when the PSP's relevance has steadily declined to the point of alarming fake websites set up by Sony featuring the now-legendary with Cousinpete givin' it street stylee (cringe) we shouldn't forget the beautifully charming LocoRoco. Essentially a cute 2D platform-puzzler with blobs, it worked for the simple reason that it was perfect for bite-sized handheld gaming. Probably more charming than any other game released all year, the squelchy organic visual style and absolutely hilarious songs reminded me of how much mileage there still is in 2D gaming when it's designed with as much soul and artistry as this. If Sony could rewind a few years and not allowed the PSP to become the ultimate shovelware/piracy platform, we could be hugging the PSP to our chests. But instead, it has sat in its little lycra mitten and sobbed itself to sleep. If you were too disillusioned with the PSP to buy LocoRoco at the time, now's your chance - it didn't sell, so it'll probably be really cheap. You'll literally love me to death for recommending it, and you don't get a more cast iron guarantee than that.
Dan: A rare burst of originality for Sony's beleaguered handheld, all the more noticeable for its utter lack of sequelitis or remake fever. Admittedly, there's the suspicion that it's the sort of game you can probably play in Flash online for free, but let's not quibble. Instantly engaging to watch, intuitive to play and loaded with squidgy yellow balls of... stuff. What's not to like? More like this, please.
Luke: Games should make you happy. No game makes me happier than the dangerous cheerful LocoRoco. Gotta love them singing blob things.
16. New Super Mario Bros.
DS, Nintendo, Gamepage.
Kieron: They're still making Super Mario Bros. games? How quaint.
Alec: Included purely because the Goombas jump in time to the music.
James: Mario's penitence for shamefully plastering his mug over any genre that'll have him. It's good to go back to your roots sometimes.
Tom: This grew on me, and occasionally hit the peaks of other Marios - bending the logic of the old games to surprise the player, and create new challenges. But, as with all things, Yoshi's Island did it all just as well if not better ten years ago.
John: Just superb. It's hard to make intelligent analysis of a game that's just so ordinary, and yet so astonishingly good. They put the platforms in the right order again. Those confounded geniuses. The game also marks a point of maturity for the DS, where such a AAA release doesn't even contemplate worrying the touch screen (beyond the separate mini-games). It will be a while before the same sense is applied to the Wii, but it demonstrates that it's likely, and once people are over the novelty, the medium will offer us new all-time classics like NSMB.
Oli: I was expecting either to be bitterly disappointed, or for it to be my favourite game of the last ten years. Neither happened. It's no Super Mario World but then, what is?
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