The top 10 games of 2010
by Peter Locke
When Texture asked me to do a top 10 games of 2010 list, I asked them to clarify the concept for me. They said they didn't have to, because the details of the concept were totally up to me. So now, at the cusp of a new year, I present to you, dear reader:
THE TOP 10 MOST DISHONESTLY MARKETED GAMES OF 2010
You see, many games this past year had commercials that focused on all the wrong aspects of the…
…OK, you got me. I'm not doing that at all, though if I did that it would be pretty awesome. I'm just listing the 10 best games I played this year. Now, I didn't play a lot of the more popular games, as I just sort of stuck to the genres that I like best. This means that not only is this piece completely based on my opinion, it's also based on an opinion that was held back by the lack of variety in my life. But I never liked variety anyway; I always order the same exact items when I go to my three favourite restaurants and I only go to the cinema when I know all the details of the film I'm about to see.
In order of funkiest to grooviest:
10. GoldenEye 007: Wii edition
This is basically the only game I got this year that I bought before any reviews were written. It's a re-imagining of the N64 classic, with updated gameplay mechanics, updated graphics, motion-sensing controls that actually work pretty well (but you can use normal controls if you don't like them), and completely redesigned levels. It's incredibly fun, even without the complexity of most other FPS games. Everything, from the music that indicates how undetected you are, to the XP system that unlocks better guns the more you play online, is designed perfectly (or stolen from other games, depending on how you look at it). I've played the local and online multiplayer mode so much that I still haven't had time to finish the single player campaign, which is probably the case for a lot of the people who bought the game. I don't know if that means the single player campaign isn't up to snuff; it probably just means that the multiplayer is more stimulating than the developers thought it would be.
9. Super Mario Galaxy 2
I have a confession to make: after renting this game, I never actually bought it. Why? Well, I didn't think that paying $60 bucks to let three weeks of my life get sucked into the disc slot of my Wii was a good idea. This game is way too enjoyable for a guy like me; I'd probably wake up groggily from what I thought was a coma, only to find out my family had signed me up for addiction counseling. This game is the Super Mario franchise stripped down to its elements; concentrated into its most potent form. Every single level is like a different illegal substance. The only thing lacking in this game is the lack of control the player has over the lengths at which he'll play it. If you don't have a clock in the room when you start up a new save file, I guarantee that you will end up finishing the game in all three save slots without even noticing (and this game is longer and harder than the 24-hour surgeries that you hear about on the news). In short, please don't get this game unless you want to throw away your life.
Confused? You won't be after reading the instruction manual of this strategy board game. It's incredibly simple! Each player takes one of their tiles and places it next to one of the already placed ones. The goal is to form one of three shapes out of your tiles before the opponent does. The thing that makes it interesting is you never know if your opponent is simply blocking you from forming a shape, or forming a shape of his or her own. Plus, you can occasionally force your opponent to lose by having two shapes almost-formed at the same time. I can beat anybody at this game (who's playing it for the first time) before they can even figure out what strategy to use. Okay, so maybe it was released in 2003, but I bought it in 2010 and I needed to tell you people about it.
7. Pocket Legends
Wow, that game trailer has crappy music. Anyhoo, this game is on this list for one reason: It is a 3D MMORPG on the iPhone. If you don't know by now, and you should be deeply ashamed if you don't, MMORPG stands for Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game. It's an overly elaborate way to say, "I can pretend this game is reality, because it basically is". World of WarCraft, Lord of the Rings Online, City of Heroes, these are the kinds of games where you can ride over to the bar, have a drink with friends, then go and defeat an infinitely powerful unspeakable being from the depths of hell with your drunk friends. And you can get one of these games for the iPhone for free. Seriously, there isn't a price tag on this thing; you can play it for the rest of your life without paying a cent. If you want the world destroying, ultra-powerful items though, you're gonna have to pay a few dollars to acquire the special in-game currency known as Platinum. That's where they make their well-deserved profit, and boy do they make a lot of it. $49.99 for 5,800 useless, non-existent, virtual coins? Yes, please!
6. Pop Island Paperfield
It's capture-the-flag played between a team of military vehicles and a team of wild animals. 'Nuff said.
Not enough said? OK, how about this: it's $2 to download it onto your Nintendo DSi. It has a highly realistic simulated-orchestra soundtrack. It allows you to knock the flag out of your opponent's hands by throwing firecrackers at them. Need I go on? Well, I can't, because that's about all there is to this game. It's extremely fun though, and you only need one copy of the game for eight people to play together. The gameplay is simple and addicting, the music is sugary-sweet, and the graphics ain't too shabby either. As a bonus, if you've downloaded the prequel onto your DSi you get three extra levels and four extra characters! Of all the games on this list, Pop Island Paperfield is by far the most positive: the single player modes are 'joyful' and 'playful'; four of the songs in the game are called "Shining Shirts", "Let's Fun", "Playful Heart" and "We all Clap"; at the end of the credits the words 'CELEBRATE LIFE!' appear in flashing rainbow letters. It's really sad that the game gets boring after a while, because it seems like the developers tried as hard as they could to make the player happy.
5. Street Fighter IV: iPhone edition
If you're going to buy a fighting game, no matter what system, the best choice is usually a Street Fighter title, and Street Fighter IV on the iPhone is no exception. The game was released with only eight characters, and at first I thought that wouldn't be enough to keep my interest for very long. A month later, I was still playing it constantly, and then Capcom started releasing additional characters and levels for free as if to say, "CONSTANTLY ISN'T ENOUGH!" Seriously, even with the controls being simplified to fit the iPhone's touch screen, it's still the Street Fighter you know and love, except more convenient in every possible way. There's even an option to make special moves easier to execute for the people who can't perform a hadoken properly. Ten dollars might seem like a lot for a downloadable game, but consider this: the game clocks in at a weighty 360 megabytes, and considering how much there is in the game, that's surprisingly small.
This is one of those games that I like everything about, but don't play that much. Other people commonly say it's like crack cocaine, but I never really got to the point where I would play it regularly. Still, it's obvious to me that this is one of the best games of all time, and the game isn't even in the beta stage of development yet! It's basically a survival-in-the-wilderness simulator with a few supernatural elements and a huge amount of creative potential. You can harness the elements around you to build useful tools, powerful weapons, protective armor, enormous buildings, beautiful sculptures, underground mining complexes and even portals to hell. The game was almost completely made by a Swedish man named Markus Persson, and he and his teammates update the game with new features about once a month. Plus, every time you start a new game it's completely different, because an extremely complex algorithm randomly generates the entire world of the game. Go to http://www.minecraft.net/ and buy a premium account for about 13 USD. You can play in your browser or download it to your computer as many times as you want; once you've got the premium account you'll be given every updated version of Minecraft that Markus Persson (or Notch, as he's known on the Internet) ever releases, for free.
(Since this article was written, Minecraft has moved into the beta stage, which means that the price for a premium account is now closer to $20 USD. As well, game updates will only be free until release.)
3. Great Dungeon in the Skyhttp://www.kongregate.com/games/LordTim/great-dungeon-in-the-sky
That link up there doesn't lead to a trailer for the game; it leads to the game itself. Great Dungeon in the Sky is an interesting little flash game (which you can try right now for free if you want) that you could probably play for hours without seeing all it has to offer. There aren't that many levels, and the bosses aren't very different from each other, but this game does have one thing going for it: almost 300 characters to play as, all with different attributes and special moves. Unlocking them is as simple as finding them and killing them, and the levels always repeat multiple times in each playthrough, so you'll encounter most characters quite often.
There are a few rare ones and a few ultra powerful ones, both of which are still pretty easy to unlock if you invest enough time in the game. This is what makes the game so appealing: you're constantly being rewarded with a new character. Sometimes you'll find a favourite, but after a while you'll want to try out some of the new creatures that have become available. My personal favourite is the Great Spirit: he's got a magic missile, a fireball attack, an iceball attack, he can fly, and he can take 80 damage before he'll die. Did I mention that dying doesn't punish the player at all? You can retry the same level right away without anything being taken away. It makes you think: maybe games don't have to be challenging to be enjoyable!
2. Korg DS-10 Plus/Rytmik/ NanoLoop
Click here for three songs I made:
Nowadays, you don't need much to compose beautiful music. A DS (Korg DS-10 Plus), a DSi (Rytmik), or even an iPhone (Nanoloop) will do. As proof, these links lead to songs I made in a few hours in each of these programs. Korg DS-10 Plus is the most customizable, Rytmik is the easiest to use and has the largest sound variety, and NanoLoop is the most condensed and best for getting that classic 8bit sound. I predict that in the future, people will be composing music with their crotch zippers, their butter knives and their sunglasses. Seriously, with the way things are going, that wouldn't surprise me at all.
1. Super Mario Bros. Crossoverhttp://www.explodingrabbit.com/games/super-mario-bros-crossover
This is one of those games where, if it wasn't free, the creator would be sued for copyright infringement. Good for the players, but how is the creator going to make money? In this case, it's donations, and really, this guy definitely deserves them. Jay Pavlina recreated the original Super Mario Bros in Flash down to the last mushroom, but then added the ability to play as Link (from Legend of Zelda), Mega Man (from Mega Man, you doofus), Samus Aran (from Metroid), Simon Belmont (from Castlevania), Bill Rizer (from Contra) and Ryu Hayabusa (from Ninja Gaiden). They all play very similarly to how they did in their NES games, which means they don't really fit; picking a certain character for some levels can often make it ridiculously easy or thumb-blisteringly hard. By the time you read this, there may be another playable character added named Sophia the 3rd, which happens to be a military tank from the game Blaster Master. I really hope that you'll play this game, because it's a great way to relive your memories of multiple 1980s games all at once. And reliving the '80s, as we all know, is the best way to celebrate a new year. I pity the fool who don't phone home back to the future 'cuz I'm cuckoo for cocoa puffs!
Ultra Combo Finish!
Texture Magazine's videogame enthusiast
visits the tournament of his dreams
by Peter Locke
Professional Gaming isn't really respected by mainstream society. This is partly due to the difficulty people have putting it into a category. It requires way too much of your life to be a hobby, but it doesn't fit neatly into the definition of a sport. Among videogamers, it's considered the ultimate way to make money, but you can't live off the tournament winnings, so it's not really a job either. With that in mind, on Nov. 14th, 2010, I boldly stepped into what was (marketed as) the largest and most important 'fighting game' tournament that Canada had ever seen.
Now, if you're unfamiliar with 'fighting games', here's how most of them work. Two players will choose a character (or group of characters) that they want to fight as. After a few more choices are made relating to how the characters look and how they play, both players are ready to fight. Once the fight begins, there is one simple goal: to deplete the opponent's health bar(s) to zero. However, many games' characters can have dozens of different attacks and special moves in their arsenal, some of which can be used several times in the space of a second, so this goal is never simple in practice. Nonetheless, once it has been achieved by one of the players, that player gets a point, the health bars are refilled, and a new fight begins right away. This continues until one of the players (the winner) has scored a pre-determined number of points. Now, if for some reason this doesn't sound like a lot to be aware of, then consider that all of this usually happens in around three minutes.
The part of the tournament I attended used Super Street Fighter IV, or SSF4 for short, as the battleground. It's the latest game in the long-running Street Fighter franchise, and it's hella sweet (although I don't own a copy). Many internationally famous players were there, such as Daigo Umehara (often considered the best SSF4 player in the world; usually plays as Ryu), Mike Ross (a very laid-back American SSF4 player; usually plays as E. Honda), Ryan "Gootecks" Gutierrez (Mike Ross's cheery best friend; usually plays as Rose), and Justin Wong (often considered the best American SSF4 player in the world; usually plays as Rufus). It was a scientific impossibility for this to be anything but awesome.
After registering at a table in the corner of the venue, I immediately noticed how low key everything was. Seven rows of folding chairs faced towards a screen where the fights were to be projected. Behind the chairs there were half a dozen gaming systems lining the wall, on which about 15 people were practicing. The promoter of the event, a classy guy named Lap Chi, came up and introduced himself to my dad and me. Right behind him, Justin Wong was just standing there, deep in thought. I haphazardly spurted, "Hey, Justin Wong!" and he turned to me and replied with something halfway between a Hi and a Hey.
As I sat in a chair near the front, waiting for the tournament to start, I noticed a man in an amazing Guile costume waltz in with a vacant look on his face. Then, a woman in an even more impressive Juri costume strutted in as well. Her and Guile were interviewed by Gootecks to entertain the people watching the internet live stream of the tournament so they wouldn't log off before the fighting started. Then, Lap Chi interviewed Daigo with the help of a translator for the same live stream. As I continued to wait for an hour more, I started to wonder where Mike Ross was, but I noticed Gootecks was done interviewing so I came up and asked him a question. The answer he gave me changed the course of this article considerably (I was originally going to write this article defending Professional Gaming as a legitimate sport).
"What do you say to people who think that Professional Gaming is neither a job nor a sport?" I nervously voiced. He basically said that Professional Gaming isn't any more a sport than poker is, and possibly less. He mentioned that you couldn't really make a living out of winning tournaments, despite their usually generous cash prizes. "Whatever you call it, it's still serious business," he concluded. I sort of had the feeling that he didn't really like my question, and I don't blame him.
The author with Mike Ross.
More and more people trickled in, until the place was nearly full. I asked a guy next to me where Mike Ross was, and he startled me by answering, "He's right over there." I looked over and there he was, three meters away, playing Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo: HD Remix on somebody's Xbox 360. Naturally, I got a picture taken of him with me, and he seemed honoured to be treated as a celebrity. Suddenly, a voice over the PA system announced that the Team matches were beginning right away.
If you haven't seen any fighting game tournament team matches before, they're pretty simple. One of the members from each team is chosen to fight each other, and the winner then fights the next member of the losing team. When the three members of a team have been defeated, that team has lost. For the first team match, Team USA (consisting of Gootecks, Mike Ross and Justin Wong) went up against a presumably Canadian team called Salty Congee. Now, I know that 'salty' is fighting-game-lingo for angry, but I still don't know why the team had that name. Obviously, they lost without putting up much of a fight.
The next team match was amazing. Another Canadian team called Spiral Guys Fanclub (don't get that one either) had two of its members defeated by the first member of Team Japan, but the third Canadian, a Montrealer named JSMaster, playing as Balrog, defeated all three of Team Japan's members, including Daigo! After his final win of that team match, a huge chant of "CANADA! CANADA!" broke out in the audience. This was the high point of the whole event for me.
Next up was Team USA vs. Team Calgary. Lap Chi, the promoter I mentioned before, was on this team, and although he and his team members were pretty good, they were all beat by the first member of Team USA, Gootecks. Then, Team Calgary was beaten again by Team Japan. Next up was the double-length grand final team match, Team USA vs Spiral Guys Fanclub.
Tragically, JSMaster lost to Justin Wong very quickly. JozHear, the second Canadian member, almost beat Justin Wong but was defeated at the last possible moment. The third Canadian member, KillaCam, didn't even stand a chance. The second set of the grand finals was a repeat of the previous one, though JSMaster did a little better this time. Team USA was crowned the winner.
Next up was the Costume Contest. In third place, there was a tie between two women dressed as Cammy. In second place was the man dressed as Guile, and in first was the woman dressed as Juri. One guy had a pitch-perfect costume of Terry Bogard, but that character isn't even in any Street Fighter games, so he didn't win anything. He should've won first, though, because he performed Terry Bogard's special moves, opening line and winning stance so hilariously that he got even my dad in stitches, and he's never even played Fatal Fury.
As I was eating lunch (a caramelized-onion burger and yam fries), I noticed that the big guy next to me was playing Yu-gi-oh on a red Nintendo DS. We started talking, and he actually claimed to have seen every episode of the three Yu-gi-oh cartoon series. "The first series was the best, hands down," he explained knowingly. I wrote down in my note book, "Big guy next to me playing Yu-gi-oh on his Nintendo DS," and apparently he noticed, because he changed seats to the next row up.
The Singles Matches Tournament was about to begin. This was what everybody was waiting for. Justin Wong and a Japanese man named Air fought first. Air won the match with a Shinku Hadoken (a big ball of flaming energy that you can only use after building up a meter) that impressed everyone. Jozhear (the Calgarian from Spiral Guys Fanclub) and Gootecks played next. Jozhear played impressively as Vega, but just barely lost to Gootecks' Rose. JSMaster then played against another Japanese man named Mago. It was very close, but Mago clutched it out. After that, Mike Ross fought Diago. Ross showed promise in the start, but lost pretty badly. Ross was brought back for a match against Air, and even though Air played the same character that Daigo played, Ross beat him soundly.
Things were heating up as the audience realized there weren't many matches left. Gootecks, wearing a comical frown, barely lost to JSMaster. The crowd went wild at this point, because they realized JSMaster was Canada's last hope for a Canadian champion. In the next match, Daigo, who switched characters to play as Guile for some reason, barely beat Mago using a lot of midair grabs. JSMaster was then pitted against Mike Ross. After an extremely close match he just eked out a win. The whole room was so excited and tense that JSMaster had to leave the room for a few minutes to calm down for his next match.
This next match was between JSMaster and Mago, and wow, was it sad. JSMaster lost the first set of the match, and almost decided to switch characters before suddenly getting back his confidence. Unfortunately, Mago took the first round of the second set with a sudden 15-hit combo, and then patiently took the third round with another 11-hit combo. There was huge applause after Mago won, and it definitely wasn't for Mago. Both Mago and his opponent Daigo performed amazingly in the double-length grand finals match, but there wasn't that much intensity in the air any more. Nobody was surprised when Daigo triumphed and was crowned the champion.
After the closing ceremony, everybody was invited to Tubby Dog for a free hot dog, but me and my dad were too emotionally exhausted to hang out with these mental warriors anymore. We went straight home. I'm sure I missed a lot of gaming, joking and trash- talking, but I didn't want to risk ruining what is sure to be one of my most cherished memories.
If you want to get a feel for how the tournament went, watch these videos:
Nintendo Innuendo Crescendo
by Peter Locke
Here are three songs and six pieces of art, all made on a single iPod Touch. The songs were made in an 8bit music composition app called NanoLoop. This app, NanoLoop, is in my opinion the easiest way to make 8bit music, other than typing in “best kind of music ever” into a Star Trek matter-replicator. The pixelated art was made in a similarly easy-to-use pixel-art-making app called DotEditor. Half of the art is depicting stereotypical caveman society, and the other half is depicting stereotypical cowboy society. By the way, if you don't know what 8bit music is, please listen to the music before you look it up on wikipedia.
Oh, what the heck; click here for the wikipedia article.
Peter Locke - Glass Habit [mp3]
Peter Locke - Heart Grinder [mp3]
Peter Locke - Sailin' Club [mp3]
Six pieces of art
by Peter Locke
by Peter Locke
You might not know it to look at him — especially with the Joaquin Phoenix beard he’s been growing the last few weeks — but my renaissance man of a little brother is not only a wildly imaginative illustrator, but also a talented electronic music composer. This week he returns to Texture with two new songs composed on the Nintendo DSi, plus two chuckle-worthy black and white doodles.
Peter Locke - Muddle (mp3)
Peter Locke - Prolok (mp3)
Scream of Consciousness
By Peter Locke
For as far back as I can remember, my big little brother Peter has been conjuring up monsters, aliens, animals, robots, cyborgs, mutants and other bizarre creatures. These bonkers baddies are made all the bonkier w/ their melting faces, twisting limbs and tweaked pop culture and video game references, and they're all embedded w/ Peter's unique sense of humour. I can find them in every birthday card he or my family have ever sent me, and they’re tucked into nooks and crannies all around our family home whenever I visit, which makes me unexplainably happy. Here are a few of my bro’s latest creations, so when he’s off celebrating his retrospective exhibit at the MoMA or Tate Modern 20 years from now, you can remember this is as the first time you laid eyes on a Peter Locke original. – Jesse Locke