It’s hard to believe that we have just a little over a day left of 2010, and then on to 2011. This has been an unusual year for gaming, and all things related, from the return of Classic Gaming Expo and Tron, to every company joining the motion control race, there’s been a lot to talk about. While this won’t be as formal of a list as previous years, I still have a lot to cover.

Best Game (Retail)

Epic Mickey – It’s so good to see Mickey Mouse return to proper gaming form with a real adventure under his belt. It’s not the motion controls that make this game. It’s not the system. It’s the heart. Warren Spector poured his love and very soul into this game, and even with a few unfortunate issues such as a screwy camera, and some control and backtracking quirks, those are easily dismissed when you realize that we got a big name, big budget game that somebody genuinely cared for the source material, licensed or not. A remarkable title for whatever system you like to play.

Best Game (Download)

Super Meat Boy – Infinitely difficult and mean-spirited, but always with a chance and sense of humor, it’s hard not to love Meat Boy while simultaneously hating him. A funny game with a great sense of level design and immense amount of satisfaction when completing a level.

Pac-Man: Championship Edition: DX – Proof once again that there is still plenty of viable life in 30 year old concepts. Pac-Man does what he does best: Keep it simple, and adding what seems like such a basic idea (ghost trains), and getting the old gamer blood pumping in the process. Great fun and extremely replayable.

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World – Classic beat-em-up action with bright, well-animated sprites, fantastic music, and a real arcade feel to the on-screen antics. It suffers a little without on-line co-op, but it’s forgivable when sitting down to play this catchy and well-designed game.

Bit.Trip Runner – The Bit.Trip series has always been a gem in the Wiiware library, and this is no exception. Good old fashioned platforming with a tough difficulty, but fascinating visuals, and another solid entry in the world of Commander Video.

Best Game (Phone)

Robot Unicorn Attack – Hard to say what’s so “awesome” about this: The Erasure music, the rainbow streaks, the dancing dolphins, the intense challenge…. I shouldn’t have liked this game as much as I did, but the goofy elements came so well together that I’d be remiss in not giving it a nod.

Pleasant Surprises

Bioshock 2 – By all counts, this sequel never should have existed. The story was pretty well wrapped up in the first game, and I didn’t think that there would be anything left to say, do, or as well pulled off. And yet it was. While not as innovative seeming to me as the first game, it took the concepts from the previous title and did a nice job keeping everything consistent and a little more polished. There is the confirmation of a third game on the horizon, but the concept sounds promising, and just different enough to keep the series alive. It’s nice to see the first-person adventure idea survive past Metroid Prime.

Sonic and Sega All-Stars Racing – Shockingly, 2010 was Sonic’s year. Between this, Sonic 4, and Sonic Colors, people actually got a chance to like the blue hedgehog again. For all intents and purposes, this is a more diverse and balanced game over Mario Kart Wii. While I’m sure that comment generates some “blasphemy” from the more Nintendo faithful, I didn’t want to murder my controller or TV over the computer AI hitting me with a power-up. Losses seemed more fair and without resorting to 100 powerful weapons strung consecutively together. Plus, I got to revisit a handful of my old friends from my earliest Sega fandom days. Nice to see Opa Opa again. The sad part is that Sega killed any real chance for DLC when this game would have grown so well from it. Sega’s gotten better lately, but they still make a few questionable decisions….

Nintendo’s E3 2010 – What can one say? Nintendo really brought their game to the table. New Donkey Kong, new Kirby, new, new, new…. Not to mention the 3DS and a new Kid Icarus. Granted, you can’t downplay a new Super Mario Galaxy or Endless Ocean either, but 2010 was a great year to be a Wii gamer.

Tron: Legacy – While not a game, it’s history is based heavily in video gaming. I’ve covered this extensively over the year, so I’ll just simply say that it met all of my expectations for what I wanted it to be, and I couldn’t be happier as a ressult.

Kinect – I wasn’t sure what to expect from Kinect, but full body registry, voice and facial recognition, and a host of cool features made the whole “motion control” concept seem much more viable and immersive than it’s ever been. Granted, you need a lot of space to play games in, and the first offerings are clearly and heavily Wii inspired (though I’ll take Kinect Sports over Wii Sports any day, but Wii figured it all out in some gaming use areas, so I hope Kinect will do the same.

Most Disappointing

Game Room – To its credit, it at least updates more regularly and with more games than the Virtual Console, but Game Room is often buggy, lacking third party support, weird delays, developer layoffs, lacking standout titles…. The service has delved way too deeply into car/board/strategy games, which would be positively embarrassing to play on a modern calculator now. There are still solid titles left for the companies and systems available (even without licensed titles), but I can’t figure out what anyone is trying to do with the service anymore. Game Pack 12, however, has been the most satisfying it’s been in a long while, however.

Super Mario 25th Anniversary – For a series as storied, loved, and influential as the Super Mario Bros. series is, it certainly got a week anniversary package. A straight port of the Super Nintendo Super Mario All-Stars game (they didn’t even bother to change the SNES controller to a Wii one in menus), the games are fine and still playable, but it doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface (nor does the music CD or art book) of what the series has accomplished. I supposed we should expect the 30th anniversary of Donkey Kong to be celebrated next year with a retail disc port of the incomplete NES version, and call it a day.

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2 – The first game, for a few bugs, had an amazing story. This one offers fan-service cameos that don’t go anywhere, and raises more questions than may never be answered. Why they killed a potential third game is beyond me, but I think that title wold have held at least some of the head-scratching answers this one created. I wanted to love this one, and even learned to accept its premise, but it just… lacks… things.

Nintendo’s Repair Service – Another long story that I won’t go into, but if you get a repair package from a California based third-party repair company Nintendo has your system sent off to, I’d be afraid. Very, very afraid. Because if you care about your system data, and are crippled by the fact that 90% of it is completely non-transferrable, say good-bye to your data and your specific console. After this year, I don’t think I’ll ever trust Nintendo’s “repair” service again.

The End of 1 Vs. 100 – One of the 360’s most clever features, full of social interaction, a lot of fun, and you may have even learned from it…. The season ended, and it unmercifully died. If they didn’t want to keep the license, fine. Just don’t kill off the MMO game show and have nothing in place of it. I still look at my custom theme and achievement list and just sigh sadly that it didn’t go on past that last amazing season.

Like I said, even if I didn’t mention every game in its own category, I still tried to give a nod to “must play” titles. There are others, such as Tatsunoko Vs. Capcom, Pinball FX 2, Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep, Transformers: War For Cybertron, and X-Men Arcade that deserve the praise, but no matter what your gaming preferences, there were more than a few winning titles to play.

Happy New Year, all!

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