All I Want for Christmas 2010 (in Gaming)

It’s that time of year again where wishful lists are dutifully drafted before being checked and rechecked. That’s Santa’s job, you might argue, but I can’t take anything to chance. Not in a household where years ago, my wife quit frowning at the litany of digital bauble that dotted my list and began using common sense to appeal to my better nature. Did we really need a 5th 360 when a new dishwasher was demanding its way in? So, I stared down at my sweet little angels; my little boy Colin and daughter Aria, and realized quite quickly that these wee elves might be able to cobble the game carts I desire.
“Hey, I have no idea why Aria squeezed New Vegas in between The Littlest Pet Shop and Princess and the Frog discs but look at that sweet little face. Do you really want to say no that?”

That leads me to the safest domain on Earth, the Internet (or wait, is it a “wretched hive of scum and villainy? – I get them confused). Anyway – here I can ramble on with my Wish List in hopes that somewhere out there, Kris Kringle steers his peepers away from UpTreeSkirt.com to take a gander at my wish list and slot me over in that coveted ‘Nice’ list. As I own a 360 and a Wii, and game primarily on those two systems, I am going to pick two titles per system.

In the Comments below, let me know if my choices mirror yours or even better, what rates high atop you list in hopes it finds its way beneath your tree.

All I Want for Christmas 2010 – Xbox

2.   Enslaved

This game has had my attention for awhile based on its pedigree. After all, this is from Ninja Theory – the developers behind the PS3 exclusive, Heavenly Sword. While that title stumbled a bit with its pre-scripted combat, it’s cinematic eye caught mine.

With so many game developers aiming to ape Hollywood, Ninja Theory has taken the right track by drafting a gorilla of their own – bringing in King Kong himself, Andy Serkis, to provide motion-capture and help share the narrative flow to their games. For Enslaved they also drafted Alex Garland, the screenwriter behind 28 Days Later and the unfilmed Halo flick.

And that’s what I’m looking for in this game. I’m a sucker for third person exploration games but grow weary of simple “go here because I said so” story beats. The word on this title is that the narrative hooks you and spins a great yarn.  Stoke up that fire, ‘cause they got my ass in a seat.

1.   Fable III

I used to be the biggest RPG gamer back in the day but somewhere along the line I grew so weary of staring at pages and pages of equipment, sifting through loot and trying to decide what to keep or pawn while also hemming and hawing over where to spend my coveted experience points. The younger me craved that type of game but the older me seems to have less time for it. I want to get out and hack and slash while feeling like my character is developing without having to put so much work into it.

Now, we’ve seen the dumbing down of the RPG of late – with Final Fantasy XIII all but playing the title for you – and that might be shifting the paradigm a little too much to the extreme opposite of all that cumbersome micro-management. There has to be a good middle ground.

It’s there in the center that Peter Molyneux has grabbed hold of my attention. I was a huge fan of the first Fable, and while it didn’t measure up to half of Peter’s promises, it was a compelling action-RPG that got enough right. The 360 follow-up Fable II augmented the original title and stole countless hours of my time when it released a couple years back.

Which is why I’m dying to get hold of Fable III. I love the world Albion (coincidentally, the name of my street growing up) and that colorful fairy-tale vibe provides a nice splash of color in a genre that can get mired in the muck and gray. These games are just a lot of fun to play around in and I’m eagerly awaiting my return to Albion as I seek to wrest the crown and place it on my rightful head.

All I Want for Christmas 2010 – Nintendo Wii

2.   Donkey Kong Country Returns

In the days leading up to E3 2010, rumors were flying that we would finally learn that Retro, the Austin-based developer of the Metroid Prime series, would finally reveal that they’ve been secretly toiling away on a new Kid Icarus game. Well, that sentence did come to pass although it really should have been splintered into two rumors; as Retro was indeed working away on a top secret title, and Icarus would fly again (on the Nintendo 3DS) but they are completely independent of each other.

No, it turns out that Retro got to hand pick a title and they reached in to that barrel and pulled out the 800 lb gorilla. Apparently, several members on the development team were huge fans of the Rare-developed trilogy on the SNES and were dying to give it a go.

One thing I love about the Wii is that developers are finally using its weakness as a strength. Sure, it can render 3D gamescapes but they’ll never look as good as its HD contemporaries. So, developers need to use their tools and unique art design to confect eye candy. Which had led to some stunning 2D platformers – given rise to an game form that was thought dead in the mid-90’s. We’ve already seen Nintendo’s stunningly beautiful Kirby’s Epic Yarn and from what I’ve seen of Retro’s Donkey Kong Country Returns, they have taken the classic formula and given it a stunning coat of paint. This one will keep me glued to the TV this holiday season.

Besides, everything is better with monkeys.

1.      Epic Mickey

Epic Mickey is significant for reasons.

First, this is a AAA action-adventure title built specifically for the Wii that utilizes the strengths of the system to do things that prior to the Move and Kinect, might have seemed cumbersome on the other platforms. That it comes from a 3rd part developer, yet looks to have all the bells and whistles of an in-house developed title, is a huge win for the Wii and I’m hoping it sells a ton; if only based on Mickey’s good rep.

More importantly, It is a passion project of Warren Spector – the mad genius behind Deus Ex. Spector is on the same plain as Bioshock’s Ken Levine in my book. Akin to feature film directors, these guys are the auteur of the form – putting their all into building their playgrounds. It helps that Spector is a huge fan of classic Disney Animation, and the tale he’s spun  here (with forgotten characters returning to haunt the popular Mickey) seems like a movie just waiting to happen.

This is going to be epic.

Comments now closed (2)

  • Since we are already 3/4 of the way thru Fable III, I can easily say that the game lives up to expectations so far. There are positives and negatives to be found when compared to the previous installment, but on the whole, I am enjoying it. I think in particular, even though the interaction system is a bit jarring now, the one-on-one is very good in particular instance, and that is interacting with your family. The first time my character hugged his 5 year old daughter, I nearly shed a tear. I thought it was that well done. The tickle torture after that sealed the deal.

  • Agreed – I’ve actually found myself enjoying this Fable more than the last two which always left me a bit under-motivated to hunt down all the extraneous details. This time I feel more connected to the land and therefore more apt to actually do the side stuff. I’m really digging it.