Trusted Reviews: Games of the Year - Part Two
Yesterday we took you through the first half of our Games of the Year. Now it's time for - drum roll, please - the final ten. For added atmosphere, just imagine Bruno Brooks is running through the titles while that guy with the gravely voice who does the numbers gets over-excited and turns his microphone reverb up to 10 (apologies to younger and foreign readers who missed out on the golden era of Radio One). Still, maybe next year we'll ask Bruno and his old mate to do this as a podcast, and then everyone will know what we mean.
OK. Back to business. Which of this year's greatest is sitting pretty at the number one position? There's only one way to find out.
10. Legend of Zelda: The Phantom Hourglass
As Stu said in his review, there's really only one thing you need to know: this is a fully-fledged Zelda game, ingeniously designed to run on the DS. A sequel to the Gamecube's Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, The Phantom Hourglass took the wondrous cartoon style of its divisive forebear and moulded it to work from a top-down view on the DS. It then worked in an ingenious control system that had you moving and fighting using nothing more than the DS touchscreen. Using these foundations, Nintendo then built an adventure with most of the depth and all of the magic of a full-sized console Zelda adventure. The Phantom Hourglass came jam-packed with ingenious puzzles, oddball characters and some enjoyable boss battles - all of them designed to make use of every function of the hardware. There remain a few questions over its size and its repetitive use of a central dungeon, but we're talking quibbles, not issues.
The Phantom Hourglass was a handheld game that you could still play in snack sized chunks, but that proved so absorbing that it was tempting to dedicate whole evenings to the thing. It's the sort of title that every DS developer should be dissecting in order to better understand how a handheld game should work - if anyone could produce a serious RPG using the building blocks Nintendo has created, they'd have a license to print money. More importantly, it's just one of those DS classics that every serious gamer ought to have played. If you haven't done so yet, make sure you do.
Fact 1: Crysis is the most technically advanced game on the planet. Fact 2: Crysis is the best looking game ever developed. Fact 3: Crysis is a powerhouse demonstration of how far you can push emergent gameplay if you can combine large, open levels, excellent AI and a solid real-time physics engine. If you don't look on Crysis in all its glory and feel a certain sense of awe at Crytek's achievements, then you're either too cynical or just too thick to understand them.
So why, then, isn't Crysis further up our hit parade? Well, the story is a bit clichÃ©d, the super-powers aren't quite as cool as they are in Crackdown, and the hideous caricaturing of the North Korean enemy makes some of the old Tom Clancy games look like models of cross-cultural diplomacy. However, none of these factors actually stop the game from being an incredible ride. What will, for the majority of our readers, are the remarkably high system requirements.
You can play Crysis on modest hardware, but only in the same sense that you could listen to Led Zeppelin IV on one of those cheap Â£9.99 MP3 speaker sets they sell in Tesco. You'd miss out on at least half of the experience, and not be so blown away. After a lot of discussion, we decided that any game that could only be enjoyed by a fraction of our readership wasn't a game that could rise any further in our chart. That doesn't mean we don't love you Crysis - we do!