A high-definition update – with high-quality voice work to boot! – of the adventure gaming classic, Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition represents a sea change in how LucasArts treats its adventure gaming roots. Instead of squirelling them away in a vault while development continues on Star Wars title after Star Wars title, LucasArts is putting them up on Steam, and remastering them for a whole new audience, with the first Monkey Island adventure leading the charge.
I'll leave it up to several of my colleagues, who've also placed this shooter slash smasher on their Best of the Rest list, to elaborate upon this game's open-world (and destructible world!) appeal; instead, I'll point out that Red Faction: Guerrilla's multiplayer mode is a significant departure from the campaign's mechanics. Various backpacks grant you the ability to fly, to barrel through walls, to run quicker, etc. – combine them with the game's existing destruction mechanic and the Reconstructor to rebuild destroyed structures and you've got a very unique (and robust) twist on the core game.
Though A2M's grindhouse-em-up may be lacking in some key areas like polish, duration, and replayability, it does an admirable job compensating with fun slo-mo mechanics and style to spare. It's one of the pleasant surprises of the year, and a fine rite of passage for the Canadian developer better known for its uninspiring licensed games.
While The Beatles: Rock Band may seem like a particularly safe choice – It's Rock Band! With The Beatles! – I wanted to take this opportunity to acknowledge the amount of time I've spent playing the game, which itself is a testament to the quality of the game and the replayability of The Beatles' catalog. You've already heard each of these songs, what? ... a hundred billion times? Just how many times do you think you can play them before they start getting boring? A billion? Maybe two billion?
No game this year has more points, more exploding ramps, more helicopter boss battles, and more diamond skulls than 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand. It's a guilty pleasure, to be sure, and one best enjoyed co-op with one Justin T. McElroy by your side.
Resident Evil 5
While I enjoyed much of my co-op experience (playing this game solo robs you of experiencing what the game does right!) the terrible final boss, the comically inscrutable Resident Evil plot, and the at-times cumbersome controls combined to serve as reminders that Resident Evil 5 is not the groundbreaking game its predecessor was. While it provides one of the most robust co-op experiences out there, it already feels in need of a Resident Evil 4-style reboot.
Penny Arcade Adventures, Episode 3
As a fan of the first two installments, the now 14 month gap between Episode 2 and the still-no-sign-of-it Episode 3 is upsetting. What is it with Seattleites, video games, and Episode 3s?
New Super Mario Bros. Wii
The definition of "disappointment": Nintendo updates classic 2D Mario gameplay with a four-player cooperative twist ... then neglects to implement any online functionality at all. We all know Nintendo's Wii Friend Code system is about as poor a multiplayer platform as one could imagine (try to imagine a more obtuse way of managing multiplayer games) but games like Mario Kart Wii and Super Smash Bros. Brawl have shown that Nintendo is capable of providing a passable experience. While online co-op may not be the ideal way of playing NSMB Wii, unable to communicate the in-room excitement of couch co-op, it's more ideal than not playing it ... which is the experience I'm most familiar with.