The Wii U
The first in the eighth generation of home consoles, the Wii U made it to shelves just in time for the 2012 holiday season. Nintendo’s latest console is its first to have HD output, but there’s a slow loading time for nearly everything. The system itself is sleek, and the newest addition, the gamepad, offers a new twist on console gaming. It allows one person a different view of the TV in what Nintendo is branding as “asymmetric gameplay.” While the gamepad’s touchscreen display is crisp, the controller is uncomfortable to hold for more than a couple hours and its charge depletes quickly. Despite these setbacks, the Wii U seems promising. Only time will tell if the Wii U can find its niche with hardcore gamers, and if the system can compete with the next generation of Playstation and xbox. —JJP
Just as WiiSports was bundled with the Wii to demonstrate the system’s motion control, Nintendo Land comes with the deluxe version of the Wii U to show off the gamepad’s functionality. Nintendo Land’s core set of games is much more complex than those in WiiSports. The amusement park game is a compendium of Nintendo’s most famous worlds — Mario, Metroid, Zelda and more—and features each player’s Mii in each world. One of the best games to play with a group is “Animal Crossing: Sweet Day” in which players with WiiMotes are animals who frantically run to collect candy while the gamepad player tries to catch them. If you have a Wii U and don’t have Nintendo Land, you should definitely purchase it. —JJP
Quietly released during the summer, Quantum Conundrum is a short puzzle platformer that is both hilarious and entertaining. The player is a nameless young boy who visits his uncle, Professor Fitz Quardwrangle, only to find him missing and his house in disarray. To rescue the professor, the player learns to switch dimensions using the Interdimensional Shift Devices. Like in Portal (Quantum Condundrum is directed by Kim Swift, of Portal fame), the end goal of each level is a door, but reaching it requires a great deal of puzzle solving and environmental manipulation. Though the game’s story is simple, the professor’s constant rambling in the background is entertaining, and will keep you smiling. —JJP
The Old Falter... (Mass Effect 3)
2012 was, at worst, a mixed bag for established video game franchises. Some did quite well: Call of Duty: Black Ops II was a pleasant surprise. Assassin’s Creed had a respectable return, and Borderlands 2 was one of my favorite games of the year. But in my mind, 2012 will go down as the moment when rehashing old successes stopped cutting it for game developers. It was the year Halo multiplayer got worse, all of the anticipation for Diablo III collapsed in a heap of disappointment, and when it became clear the developers of Resident Evil had absolutely no idea what they were doing. No game highlights this turning point more than Mass Effect 3. Barring the final few minutes when the game’s lead writer had a combination stroke/acid trip, ME3 was everything I hoped for from Bioware. But despite the fun and challenging gameplay, the dramatic storyline, and the clever jokes delivered by Seth Green, all it took was three poorly written minutes at the end for me to mentally cross out Mass Effect 3 as my game of the year. The lesson to developers: after 2012, if you aren’t doing anything different, then you damn well better be doing it perfect. —KY
...The New Press On (Indie Games)
2012 was not the year of the indie gamer. 2011 holds that distinction, with the release of Amnesia, Terraria, Bastion, The Binding of Isaac, and dozens of other highly successful titles. But 2012 is the year that proves 2011 was not some errant fluke.
Journey and The Walking Dead topped more game of the year lists than offspring of the big developers, and several other indie games found themselves in the running, including Fez, Spelunky, and Mark of the Ninja. This phenomenon is the result of a confluence of events, including the maturation of digital distribution, the expanded funding channels for independent developers, and the opportunity created by unimaginative established developers. But no matter the reason, the continued rise of independent developers is a very good thing.
There will always be a place in my heart for the $60, high-production-value, 20-40 hour epics that only a deep-pocketed studio can produce. However, the ability to log on to Steam, purchase a game for $5-10 and start playing immediately makes for the better value proposition. It’s not just that I’m spending a fraction of the money; it’s also that I’m often investing less time getting an idea of whether or not I’ll enjoy the game. And if I do enjoy it, there’s a good chance I’ll squeeze just as much playtime out of it as I would a Skyrim or Halo 4. —KY