40. Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords
Rob Fahey: My flatmate played this almost every waking hour for about a month. I'm afraid to touch it.
Simon Parkin: This is what happens when Zoo Keeper and Bejeweled sit down to play Dungeons & Dragons. Implausibly, the result is greater than the sum of its rolls.
Matt Martin: A combination of two lovely geeky pastimes - matching shapes and D&D. I'm sure the AI cheats but that just makes me go back for more. But how come those vampire bats are so fucking hard?
Tom Bramwell: Actually, maybe Puzzle Quest is a close second to Slitherlink in my favourite-puzzle-games-of-the-year. Or maybe it's a close first? Either way, I poured an unbelievable amount of time into this. Nobody has taken an existing puzzle game concept and evolved it as impressively as this probably in memory. In the absence of a new PAL Fire Emblem, its daftly serious characters and lovely pictures were much appreciated too.
John Walker: I've only played the DS version, but boy-oh-girl, I loved it. I played it from start to finish in a fevered frenzy. It was Zoo Keeper (have I mentioned that I have the eighth highest ZK score in the world?) but with spells and monsters! Bah I say at your protests of Bejeweled. BAH! ZK all the way, baby. And so yes, PQ was littered with silly things, and the story was about as sophisticated as a particularly poorly educated lump of granite, but it made me a supremely happy bunny for very many spare hours.
Kieron Gillen: I ranted about Puzzle Quest's genius elsewhere, but it's such an elegantly beautiful thing that I can't believe someone didn't manage to make it before. It's as if someone took the wings of a bird and slapped it on a horse, and instead of just getting a flapping bloody abortion, they ended up with Pegasus. I can only applaud.
Alec Meer: I've heard it's great. Unfortunately I haven't been able to try it myself, as Kieron bloody Gillen has had my DS since September. Which in normal circumstances would make him the worst person in the world, but John fricking Walker has had my Watchmen graphic novel since 2003, so he's much worse.
Oli Welsh: I still haven't played it, despite the urgent entreaties of absolutely everyone. The fact is, I'm chicken.
39. Super Paper Mario
Nintendo / Intelligent Systems / Wii
Simon Parkin: There's a bit right at the start of Super Paper Mario. One of the game's characters asks you, the player, if you're up for saving the world. Most games take this for granted so it's nice to be asked. You can answer 'yes' or 'no'. Do the latter and it asks again. Reply 'no' to the question three times a row and the game takes you seriously and, without fanfare, closes down and returns to the start screen. I like that. I wish more games did that. The bad ones, mainly - of which this isn't one.
John Walker: When a game like Paper Mario scores an 8, it can end up feeling like a disappointment. Which is idiotic, because 8 is clearly great (it rhymes, you see). But this is the sort of game where you start expecting a 10, and then wonder why it isn't there. However, there are some wonderful sequences, especially the gecko level, spoofing fanatic gamers in a way you'd think Nintendo would be wiser to avoid (although those legions of players who the gecko represents are probably too far gone to realise). The 2D to 3D gimmick was never really exploited to a satisfying degree. Hopefully we'll see a second version that takes it to the next level.
Keza MacDonald: It was lovable enough, but it never really got off the ground for me - it had neither the platform purity of a classic 2D Mario nor the hilarity and ingenuity of Thousand Year Door, whose focus was on the role-playing. But it was a truly fantastic idea, exceptionally well written and really very enjoyable. It's been a really good year for the Wii, and this is one of its most innovative games.
Dan Whitehead: It's a rare game that actually makes me laugh out loud - a reaction usually reserved for anything Tim Schafer does - so the fact that this Pythonesque fantasy romp (yes, romp) had me chuckling like a mad old lady on the bus is reason enough to sing its praises.
Kieron Gillen: Its biggest sin was not being the game people quite expected - you weren't reeeeeeallllly that evil. Some were expecting GTA, and they got Pantomine Evil. If you can accept that and roll with it, it's a Pikmin-meets-Dungeon Keeper blur, and terribly witty. I'm also in love with all my tiny henchpeople, especially the ones with knives. And in the game!
Rob Fahey: Any game whose premise can be summed up as "Pikmin but evil" is an automatic winner in my book. It's a great concept. Watching your demonic minions run riot never stops being entertaining - and I loved the wicked sense of humour that flowed through both the artwork and the dialogue.
37. SingStar PS3
Sony / London Studio / PS3
Kristan Reed: The best version of the best karaoke game ever made. Nuff said.
Tom Bramwell: As someone pointed out to me the other day, it's a bloody good thing SingStore didn't work for us the other week or we would have lost a considerable amount of money. The occasional technical glitch aside, this is a very swanky package, put together in a manner that ought to satisfy even the most lifestylie of companions. When Eurogamer and friends tried to put on a karaoke night in London recently and there was a "booking malfunction", pints of wine and a night in with Sony's alternative did us proud instead. Well, proud's probably a relative thing.
Kieron Gillen: The only PS3 game I've actually played this year. Bar fripperies and sales on demand, SingStar remains fundamentally unchanged. As does oxygen, but I wouldn't want to live without either of them.
Simon Parkin: Karaoke iTunes: it's the future of music games and Sony London got there first. Kudos for that and, of course, for being pretty much the only rhythm action game with a front end and UI that looks like it was designed this century.
Oli Welsh: Thanks to SingStar, I have seen video footage of Ellie Gibson doing a Macy Gray impression in a giant sombrero at half past eight in the morning. It should be game of the year for that alone. Oh, and Pass The Dutchie.
36. Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga
Simon Parkin: There's something about Lego Star Wars - something that will no doubt also be present in next year's Lego Batman and Indiana Jones titles - that unites very young casual players with much older hobbyist gamers. It's only right that the combination of Lego with nerdish cinema IP should work that way, but finding a developer that could actually pull it off? Travellers' Tales was LucasArts's masterstroke. Fingers crossed for a Lego Watchmen in 2009, eh?
Dan Whitehead: My son has poured over 100 hours into this and, even with the horrendous two-player camera issues, I've had a whale of a time helping him along the way. It's helped to get him obsessed with both gaming and Star Wars, a feat my geeky fatherly encouragement never managed in five years. That's got to be worth something.
Kieron Gillen: The game which made me realise that someone I know involved with it must be spectacularly, impossibly rich. Which makes means that I must ask him for more drinks. Anyway - still smart, still quietly radical and a genuine family blast.
Oli Welsh: For me, the most life-affirming, heart-warming moment of the year in gaming was watching Jonathan Smith (Mr Lego Star Wars) demo this to an audience of small children in a cinema in Nottingham. They asked smart questions, and shouted at him because he'd got the wrong Fett, or forgotten some mind-bogglingly obscure detail about his own games. Kids are games' original audience, yet now they're ignored, treated with contempt and served up derivative rubbish by almost everybody. Except Mr Smith.
Kristan Reed: Come on, that's enough now. Can we move on from Lego Star Wars now? Brilliant the first time, still fun the second time, but this completist offering is only for those who missed the last two.
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