Tag Archives: wii

‘Witcher 3,’ ‘Fallout 4’ lead top 10 games of 2015

Associated Press video game critics Lou Kesten and Derrik J. Lang’s favorite titles of the year featured monster hunters, treasure hunters, guardian spirits and murder suspects:

LOU KESTEN

1. “The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt”: This role-playing drama from Poland’s CD Projekt Red set a new standard for weirdness when it sent his hero in pursuit of a flying ghost fetus. For all its baroque touches, “Witcher 3” boils down to a domestic drama about a jaded warrior and his impetuous adopted daughter — and it’s quite moving.

2. “Fallout 4”: The latest epic from Bethesda Softworks crams in a bunch of genres — role-playing, first-person shooter, even a civilization-building — and veers from hilarious black comedy to heartbreaking tragedy. It’s most memorable for its haunting vision of humanity somehow surviving after nearly destroying itself.

3. “Super Mario Maker”: Nintendo gives its fans all the tools they need to build two-dimensional challenges starring Mario and his crew. Somewhere out there, kids are learning the ropes on their way to designing the games we’ll be talking about 20 years from now.

4. “Ori and the Blind Forest”: This melancholy yet action-packed adventure follows an orphaned spirit creature as it tries to restore life to a devastated woodland. It’s the year’s most beautiful game — and one of its most challenging.

5. “Her Story”: Viva Seifert plays a young wife with a missing husband in this time-hopping mystery that takes place entirely within a police interrogation room. I’m not sure it’s even a “game,” but creator Sam Barlow’s clever plotting and Seifert’s nimble performance combine to deliver a knockout tale.

6. “Rise of the Tomb Raider”: Chapter two of the franchise reboot finds young Lara Croft searching for the secret to immortality. It’s at its best when the Tomb Raider is, you know, raiding tombs, with clever environmental puzzles that work your brain cells harder than your reflexes.

7. “Pillars of Eternity”: A character cursed with mysterious visions tries to find out why babies are being born without souls in this indie role-playing game from Obsidian Entertainment. Fans of old-school classics like “Baldur’s Gate” and “Planescape: Torment” will feel right at home.

8. “Undertale”: This lo-fi project from Toby Fox turns game conventions upside-down. A human child is trapped underground — but instead of killing all the monsters he encounters, he can negotiate with most of them. It’s a thought-provoking approach, and one I hope more big game publishers will notice.

9. “Rock Band 4”: The ultimate party game returns, inviting you to jam anew with all those fake instruments that have been gathering dust over the last five years. The ability to download songs you purchased for earlier versions is a huge bonus. (“Guitar Hero Live,” which streams its tunes, is pretty good, too.)

10. “Until Dawn”: A bunch of teenagers plan a weekend at a secluded cabin. What could go wrong? This thriller initially looks like dozens of slasher movies, but it twists all the familiar tropes into something perversely original. Throw in a witty performance by TV’s breakout star of the year, Rami Malek of “Mr. Robot,” and you have a nasty little horror gem.

DERRIK J. LANG

1. “Fallout 4”:  Despite its unforgiving density, “Fallout 4” was the year’s most captivating title. I wanted to stop returning to Bethesda Softworks stylish version of a nuclear-ravaged Boston and the staggering array of choices it presented, but I couldn’t stay away from carving out my own destiny in this special role-playing saga.

2. “The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt”: From the bonus swag in the box to the gratis downloadable content, the third installment in CD Projekt Red’s sweeping role-playing series is as much of a love letter to fans of monster hunter Geralt of Rivia as it is to the fantasy genre as a whole. This majestic entry should be remembered for years to come.

3. “Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain”: After a stunning 28 years of crafting “Metal Gear” games, Hideo Kojima’s open-world coda brought the walls surrounding protagonist Snake down for the first time. In a year overstuffed with open-world titles, “Phantom Pain” was the most technically flawless of them all.

4. “Her Story”: Sam Barlow’s voyeuristic mystery is a rarity. The game features a provocative performance by actress Viva Seifert and gameplay that almost anyone can engage with because it involves simply searching for words on a screen. If more developers created games like “Her Story,” the medium would be taken more seriously.

5. “Rise of the Tomb Raider”: Lara Croft is on a roll. After a much-need reboot of the treasure hunting franchise, developer Crystal Dynamics keenly avoids a sophomore slump with a snowy, survival-focused second installment that meticulously builds on what made 2013’s “Tomb Raider” an adventure worthy of the iconic heroine.

6. “Ori and the Blind Forest”: This luminescent platformer did something that no “Super Mario Bros.” has ever accomplished. It made me tear up — and that’s not just because it’s so darn difficult. Moon Studios managed to artfully balance intricate riddle solving with an emotional tale about loss and discovery.

7. “Sunset”: While most games tell war stories from behind the barrel of a gun, “Sunset” dared to do so on the other side of a mop handle. Yes, it sounds boring to play as a housekeeper tasked with cleaning — and snooping around — er boss’ penthouse. Belgium developer Tale of Tales made it a strangely evocative interactive experience.

8. “Splatoon”: With an overreliance on a certain bouncy plumber, Nintendo has long been guilty of playing it safe. That totally changed this year with the introduction of the loveable paint-wielding squid kids. A splashy aesthetic and adrenaline-pumping action helped “Splatoon” successfully roll over all other multiplayer shooters.

9. “Batman: Arkham Knight”:  Rocksteady Studios’ apparent swan song  in their incredible “Arkham” series finally unleashed the Dark Knight across all of Gotham — complete with the Batmobile at his disposal — without sacrificing the cerebral storytelling or majestic fluidity of its well-oiled predecessors. Ben Affleck should take note.

10. “Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate”:  After last year’s buggy and boring edition set amid the French Revolution in Paris, Ubisoft’s stealth series rebounded in 2015 with a jolly jaunt to old England. A brilliant recreation of Victorian London — right down to the pubs — was a spectacular playground for quirky twin gangsters Jacob and Evie Frye.

A Closer Look: Stream-box gaming is a mixed bag

As gaming consoles such as the Xbox and the PlayStation diversify into video, social media and other non-gaming apps, it seems only fair that streaming TV devices start nudging into gaming territory.

Amazon’s Fire TV and the Roku 3 both offer a multitude of games, alongside apps to stream video on the big television screen from services such as Netflix and Hulu. The game offerings — some free, some for a fee — are a mixed bag thus far, ranging from solid to silly.

Here’s a look at the experience for both:

• Amazon Fire TV ($99; optional game controller $40):

The Fire TV is an ideal type of multimedia streaming box to bring gaming to the living room. It has a quad-core processor and a dedicated graphics chip to speed up gaming visuals. It pumps all that out in high definition at 1080p.

Games such as “Riptide GP2” and “The Walking Dead” are graphically pleasing, with engaging action and fast-responding controls. These aren’t merely dumbed-down versions of games for other systems, such as personal computers and Microsoft’s Xbox One. The top-tier titles on Fire TV play as smoothly as they do elsewhere.

The games are affordably priced, too, starting at 99 cents and going as high as $10 for such games as “Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse.” Most of the paid games are $3. You can usually use the regular controller that comes with the Fire TV, but the $40 game controller, with thumb sticks and trigger buttons, is a necessity for the best action games.

Because the Fire TV uses a version of Google’s Android system, you’re also getting a slew of casual games. Game developers, however, tweak their apps and make them available through Amazon’s app store, so you’re not getting everything available on Android phones.

The game categories to choose from include action, adventure, board games and kids, but not all of them have a substantial library. For instance, the kids category has only five titles. That’s pretty paltry. It’s something Amazon might want to address if it wants Fire TV gaming to take off.

Duds such as a Dracula-themed video pinball game are a waste of space. The initial download is free, but the game will try to nibble you to spend 99 cents apiece for pinball theme add-ons. Most importantly, the game play has an awful amount of lag. The flippers don’t flip the instant you press the buttons on the remote, making it frustrating to time your shots at all.

In all, the Fire TV is a great choice for streaming video. The gaming component doesn’t embarrass itself, but it doesn’t excel either. If Amazon can lure a few more top-flight game developers, Fire TV could become more appealing to enthusiastic part-time gamers.

• Roku 3 ($99):

The Roku 3 device offers a ton of games, but they range from very good to downright awful. It leans heavily toward casual gaming, meaning puzzle and word games with an occasional faster action title thrown in.

For instance, I had a great time playing “Angry Birds” on the Roku 3 using its Wii-like motion-sensing remote, which is included. I’ve played “Angry Birds” on many phones, tablets and traditional computers, and this beats them all. I simply held down the “OK” button on the remote and stretched the bird back on the slingshot by pointing the remote to the left. It’s intuitive and beautifully displayed in 1080p high definition.

I went to the games channel on the Roku 3 to see the available titles and found most of them priced at $1.99. I’m willing to experiment at that price, enduring a few bad games to find a couple of winners. But some of those puzzle and word games look, feel and play awfully dated. I do praise Roku for stocking a 99-cent version of the old-school classic “Rogue.”

I settled in for a demo session of “Pathogen 2.” Level One started with me flying a little spaceship inside the patient’s femoral artery and trying to shoot down green gobs of pathogens. It’s like “Asteroids” but with molecules. I quickly finished the first two levels and then got the nag screen asking me to pony up cash for additional levels. It blatantly asks, “Why would you deprive yourself for less than a buck?”

And that really is the key with much of the game selection on the Roku 3. Pricing something at 99 cents — or even $1.99 — often made me think, “Why not?”

All of this makes Roku 3 at best a delivery system for casual games. Roku has only 86 games available and needs more heavy-hitter titles alongside “Angry Birds” to truly compete against the Fire TV’s 365 titles, or for that matter my Android smartphone.

‘Dishonored’ tops diverse year in games

The video game universe in 2012 is a study in extremes.

At one end, you have the old guard striving to produce mass-appeal blockbusters. At the other end, you have a thriving community of independent game developers scrambling to find an audience for their idiosyncratic visions. Can’t we all just get along?

Turns out, we can. For while some industry leaders are worried (and not without cause) about “disruptive” trends – social-media games, free-to-play models, the switch from disc-based media to digital delivery – video games are blossoming creatively. This fall, during the height of the pre-holiday game release calendar, I found myself bouncing among games as diverse as the bombastic “Halo 4,” the artsy “The Unfinished Swan” and the quick-hit trivia game “SongPop.”

Some of my favorite games this year have benefited from both sides working together. The smaller studios get exposure on huge platforms like Xbox Live or the PlayStation Network. The big publishers seem more willing to invite a little quirkiness into their big-budget behemoths. Gamers win.

1. “Dishonored” (Bethesda Softworks, for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC): Arkane Studios’ revenge drama combined a witty plot, crisp gameplay and an uncommonly distinctive milieu, setting a supernaturally gifted assassin loose in a gloriously decadent, steampunk-influenced city.

2. “Mass Effect 3” (Electronic Arts, for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii U, PC): No 2012 game was more ambitious than BioWare’s sweeping space opera. Yes, the ending was a little bumpy, but the fearless Commander Shepard’s last journey across the cosmos provided dozens of thrilling moments.

3. “The Walking Dead” (Telltale Games, for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC, iOS): This moving adaptation of Robert Kirkman’s comics dodged the predictable zombie bloodbath in favor of a finely tuned character study of two survivors: Lee, an escaped convict, and Clementine, the 8-year-old girl he’s committed to protect.

4. “Journey” (Thatgamecompany, for the PlayStation 3): A nameless figure trudges across a desert toward a glowing light. Simple enough, but gorgeous visuals, haunting music and the need to communicate, wordlessly, with companions you meet along the way translate into something that’s almost profound.

5. “Borderlands 2” (2K Games, for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC): Gearbox Software’s gleeful mash-up of first-person shooting, role-playing and loot-collecting conventions gets bigger and badder, but what stuck with me most were the often hilarious encounters with the damaged citizens of the godforsaken planet Pandora.

6. “XCOM: Enemy Unknown” (2K Games, for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC): A strategy classic returns, as the forces of Earth fight back against an extraterrestrial invasion. It’s a battle of wits rather than reflexes, a stimulating change of pace from the typical alien gorefest.

7. “Fez” (Polytron, for the Xbox 360): A two-dimensional dude named Gomez finds his world has suddenly burst into a third dimension in this gem from indie developer Phil Fish. As Gomez explores, the world of “Fez” continually deepens, opening up mysteries that only the most dedicated players will be able to solve.

8. “Spec Ops: The Line” (2K Games, for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC): This harrowing tale from German studio Yager Development transplants “Apocalypse Now” to a war-torn Dubai. It’s a bracing critique, not just of war but of the rah-rah jingoism of contemporary military shooters.

9. “Assassin’s Creed III” (Ubisoft, for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii U, PC): A centuries-old conspiracy takes root in Colonial America in this beautifully realized, refreshingly irreverent installment of Ubisoft’s alternate history franchise.

10. “ZombiU” (Ubisoft, for the Wii U): The best launch game for Nintendo’s new console turns the Wii U’s GamePad into an effective tool for finding and hunting down the undead.

Runners-up: “Call of Duty: Black Ops II,” “Darksiders II,” “Dust: An Elysian Tail,” “Far Cry 3,” “Halo 4,” “Mark of the Ninja,” “Need for Speed: Most Wanted,” “Paper Mario: Sticker Star,” “Papo & Yo,” “The Unfinished Swan.”

What were your favorite games of 2012? Share them on Twitter at @wigazette with #games2012.