Our Top 50 Games of 2005.
You so expect us to qualify all this. HA.
50 Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth
PC, Xbox / Take-Two / Headfirst
8/10 (Kristan), Game page
Kristan: Few people - if anyone - had this down on the radar of titles to watch this year. If anything, most people had given up all hope, after Headfirst's protracted publisher difficulties appeared to scupper the title entirely. Yet, released with little fanfare, zero pre-release hype and apparently no marketing budget either, it turned out to be one of the scariest titles to be released all year, inspiring the kind of palpable, palm-sweating tension that few so-called horror titles seem able to pull off these days.
Based on HP Lovecraft's legendary Cthulhu mythos, the game puts you in the shoes of an inspector who finds himself questioning his own sanity when he follows up the mysterious disappearance of a grocery store worker. With the locals evidently hiding something, you find yourself on the run and fighting for your life against a crazed band of determined lunatics. By no means perfect, but for horror fans that actually want to be scared witless for once, this is worth checking out - especially given its mid-priced release.
Kieron: It certainly was a good excuse to drag out the "Oi! Tracy! Get down here now." "Who is it?" "Someone called 'Cthulhu'." jokes.
49 Singstar 80s
PS2 / Sony / Sony Studios London
7/10 (Kristan), Game page
Kristan: Clearly Sony is taking the Mickey slightly by re-releasing the exact same product four times over with literally no technical enhancements, but the last two versions have had some achingly enjoyable tracklists, so we kind of forgive them for this mercenary tactic. As a concept it'll really only come into its own when it goes online and you can actually choose which songs you want to warble along to - at the moment there's way too much crap on every edition that no-one in their most drunken moments would be seen dead singing...
Tom: [Raises an eyebrow] All of you old bastards should be culled.
Kieron: Casual gaming? Trust me. Come around our house on drunken evenings to see my girlfriend and my rendition of "It's Tricky" (I'm Run and she's DMC), and you'll see that there's nothing casual about this gaming. The best Singstar yet - certainly far better than the lazy misfire of the Popworld earlier in the year. Rather than trying to please everyone, its focusing in on a period makes the best use of its 20 tracks. Same old thing again? Yeah, but that doesn't stop anyone jizzing over the near-identical fighting game or mushroom racing game every twelve months.
48 Project Gotham Racing 3
Xbox 360 / Microsoft / Bizarre Creations
8/10 (Tom), Game page
Kieron: Look, everyone! It's the future of videogaming. Quickly: Let me get out two hundred and eighty quid for a marginally prettier version of a previously released game. Great game, of course, but is this how little we expect?
Simon: Project Gotham 2 with make-up on. You seriously think anyone is going to care about this game in six month's time? You don't need a title from every console on this list you know...
Tom: Or every contributor's comments. Watch it.
Kristan: Got ever so slightly disillusioned with the ease with which you could breeze through PGR2, and this seems just as easy. In an eight-hour, 3am session last week I won 16 trophies yet felt absolutely no sense of achievement, and was irked by the availability of stupidly powerful cars right from the beginning - hence removing much of the reward of the original's genius structure. I'll try and crack the higher difficulty levels over Christmas, but given that most of the game is already unlocked, there's not much of an incentive. Maybe I'll go back to Gotham 1 and finish that off instead. Colour me underwhelmed.
Tom: I'm determined not to rehash review arguments in these comments, but I will say this: you're right about the cars and the ease of success. It sabotages the game structure. But I will have those platinum medals. I will. What happens on the track is fantastic; it's just a shame that you have to kind of build your own game out of it. Another thing that's a shame: one reflection for the whole of the London section. Seriously. I'm not talking about the cars - go into photo-viewer and compare any given glass-fronted building with the next. Still, the London Eye spins, which is nice. Just a shame my house isn't in it. I'm starting a "Millbank for PGR4" campaign right here. Think about it - if you do the Tate, you get MI6 in there too.
47 Space Rangers
PC / Excalibur / Elemental
9/10 (Kieron), Game page
Kristan: Interesting (Space) Celtic-related fact: I used to sit next to Chris Sutton in maths at school, and his dad was our PE teacher.
Kieron: If 2005 has been about anything, it's about deciding what actually matters to you in gaming. We can't have everything. You can demand it, but you're going to be perpetually disappointed by the basic machinations of the industry. Space Rangers looks like a melange of a half-dozen C-games circa 1999 and has been dismissed by more than a couple of people as just some shareware game. Great. Shareware was amazing and Space Ranger's glorious, boundless Pirates but in Space (with dozens of times more options) is amazing. I'd take a Space Rangers over a - to choose something higher up the list - a F.E.A.R. any day of the week. It's a great example of why PC gaming is still a glorious thing - as something like this would have never had appeared anywhere else. I love it, I love the memories that it's given me and I love Bonnie Tyler's "I Need a Hero". But that's irrelevant.
46 Lego Star Wars
PS2, Xbox, Cube, PC / Eidos / Traveller's Tales
8/10 (Tom), Game page
John: Bouncy! Happy! Woo!
Tom: Am I allowed to mention stuff further up? [No - Ed] Okay. With the exception of SOMETHING ELSE, it's probably the only other game in the entire list that appeals to every possible age group. It's simple, it's silly - it's also extraordinarily good fun. Using the Force to break up and then rebuild Lego blocks in one fluid movement has probably sent more pleasure shooting back up my thumbs than anything else this year.
Simon: The game based on the film that the film should have been based on.
Kieron: Upon hearing about Lego Star Wars, there's two responses you have immediately. The strength of each one alters a little depending upon the level of fanboy hormone's that's in your bloodstream. One reaction is, "Oh my God! How can that not be anything other than brilliant?" The other reaction is "Oh my God! How can that be anything other than utter rubbish?" That second, cross-marketting aware cynical voice is, for once, entirely wrong. While short, this is a brilliant piece of game design, full of wit and intelligence. It's not a kid's game. It's a family game. And from you playing co-operatively post-pub, to you sitting with your younger cousin to you playing it like the modern-day Head Over Heels it becomes once you know what you're doing when you're playing it through for the third time. it's a game for everyone.
45 WipEout Pure
PSP / Sony / Sony Studios Liverpool
9/10 (Tom), Game page
George: I really should have loved this. I mean, it's the best Wipeout, in my opinion, since 2097. And yet I've hardly played it. Maybe I'm [whisper it] too old for this sort of thing?
Tom: Mustn't rehash review, mustn't rehash review. Er, this is the best speedboat sim on the list. I love it.
Jim: I've loved it since 2097, and 2005 is no different. If you see what I mean.
Kieron: We sure do like those games we already own on a different format, don't we?
John: Isn't this some sort of lady's sanitary product? "Feel fresh all weeklong with WipEout Pure."
44 Kirby: Canvas Curse
DS / Nintendo / HAL Labs
8/10 (John), Game page
John: Or Magic Paintbrush. Or any number of other names. From out of nowhere, Kirby has managed to produce the most adept and visceral use of the DS's stylus, demonstrating that Nintendo's decisions do encourage innovation and reinvention. Remember the first time you played Sonic? Here's that moment again - a brand new way to control a platform game that connects with your mind and instincts.
Kieron: Now, we all know that the DS has clearly owned this year in terms of innovation, achievement and style in videogames. But - Christ - the names are just rubbish. If I popped down the road to a Bedminster shop and asked for "Kirby: Canvas Curse" I'd immediately be set upon by a group of youths and my hubcaps stolen. And I don't even have any hubcaps to steal.
43 The Warriors
PS2, Xbox / Rockstar / Rockstar Toronto
8/10 (Ellie), Game page
Kieron: Thankfully it didn't bring brown leather jackets and head-bands into fashion. At least yet.
Ellie: A highly enjoyable movie tie-in, for once, based on the cult film of the same name. Not exactly groundbreaking, but with so many combat options, opportunities to commit violent crime and a level that sees you beating a bunch of mime artists to death, The Warriors was undoubtedly one of my favourite games of the year. Plus, the fact that the game features the original locations, music and even actors from the movie makes it a real treat for fans. Leather waistcoats have never looked so good.
42 Killer 7
PS2, Cube / Capcom / Capcom
8/10 (Kristan), 7/10 (Tom), Game page
Kristan: Predictably misunderstood and cruelly under-appreciated, this cel-shaded shooter took a radically different approach to its art and control style, but the masses refused to warm to a game that was simply too hard to just pick up and play.
Almost deliberately hamstrung by a contrary approach to everything, persistence and patience revealed Capcom's grand experiment to be a far simpler, purer and more enjoyable a game than it initially appeared to be. Built with game mechanics liberally pinched from every Capcom game from Resident Evil to Devil May Cry, its multi-character approach was initially confusing, and the game did little to endear itself to players expecting instant gratification. But experimentation and familiarity with each of Harman Smith's personalities' unique strengths eventually marked this bizarre little title as something unique, memorable, and a little bit special. If anyone's wondering why so many games are the same these days, the failure of Killer 7 makes it clear. Sad but true, but most people don't actually appear to want games to challenge the accepted norm.
Jim: Beautifully deranged, but the puzzles are absurd. Light five candles to open a book to reveal a tiny engraving to move the shelves... WHAT? It's like they removed all sense of cause and effect. But yeah, what an experience. More games should aspire to such weirdness. (And a red gimp tutorial.)
Tom: It took me longer to figure out the structure of this than anything else this year, but in the end I couldn't get on with the aiming or that stupid brain head boss thing. Um. Fifth favouritest graphics of the year though!
Kieron: I saw this played very briefly when I was drunk a few weeks ago, and this Operation-Wolf-by-David-Lynch didn't appear make much sense. I'm reliably told that's how it's meant to be.
41 Castlevania Dawn of Sorrow
DS / Konami / Konami
9/10 (Tom), Game page
Tom: If Rob had written things for this list instead of sodding off back to Ireland to gun down sprouts, he might have told you that it was his eighth favourite game of the year. But he did bugger off, so it's up to me. I loved this. It's brilliant because it's so stupidly contrived. It's all cause and effect; brilliant (brilliant) level design that reacts in one place when you punch it in another. I loved it for the same reasons I love Metroid. If you've never given it a go, you really should.
Simon: It's good but the joke of DS functionality actually spoils the game in some ways. Plus, of course, it's the same game Koji Igarashi has been trying to recreate for nine years. But, once again, this is no Symphony of the Night.