In what is rapidly becoming a seasonal feature, I am once again going to reveal my top 5 games for 2009. We start with the 5 great games that nobody played: a collection of games that passed under the radar or that sold poorly.
Anno: Create a New World
Shamelessly overlooked by most of the gaming press, Anno: Create a New World (or Dawn of Discovery in the US) is the first Anno game to have been specifically designed from the ground-up for the Wii. The result is a first rate Civilisation-style game with arguably the best control system yet devised on a console. Playing the game with the Wii Remote and Nun-chuck is simple, intuitive and an absolute pleasure. If only all games were as well produced and designed as Anno: Create a New World.
Dead Space Extraction
The Wii has hosted some excellent games this year that cater for all gaming tastes. Dead Space Extraction is the year’s surprising twist on the survival horror genre. Mislabelled by those who haven’t played it as “on rails”, Dead Space Extraction proves to be both intelligent and frightening in equal measure. Clever use of cinematic techniques and brilliant voice acting add depth and quality to the presentation; whilst the level design and ammo conservation deliver tension with the frights.
Swords & Soldiers
Wiiware has really taken off this year and has seen some remarkable independent games - such as the Bit Trip series and Art Style: Orbient. However, the real star was this unusual 2D side-on real-time strategy game. It could well be the best real-time strategy game conceived on a console. Its design overcomes the limitations of using a control pad, whilst retaining all the necessary features for a fun and challenging strategic game. What makes Swords and Soldiers really stand-out is the charm and humour of the characters, which are clearly inspired by Hagar-the-Horrible.
Who wouldn’t want to be a dictator and run their own mini Cuba? Think of it: cigars, mojitos, and all night salsa! Tropico 3 is a clever blend of Sim-City and Theme Park set in the 1950s Caribbean. Available for both the PC and Xbox360, it made a refreshing change to the “flash-bang-wallop” that most of November’s games were all about. With a wonderful soundtrack, decent graphics and more satire than an episode of “Have I Got News For You”; Tropico 3 is a real winner.
A combination of a devalued “Hero” brand, a high price, animosity towards Activision and some bizarre marketing decisions (Emimen and Jay-Z - their music is hardly in it) has put off most people. It is a real pity as DJ Hero is an absolute gem and goes a long way in refreshing the tired rhythm game genre. DJ Hero’s eclectic soundtrack has music in it to sort all tastes, whilst the combination of tight controls and excellent mixes makes for a really enjoyable game. Even the Turntable peripheral is solidly constructed and well designed – aside from a slightly loose cross-fader.