Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 - The Highlights (Tetris_King)

As the year 2012 wraps up, it's sometimes good to look back at what was good or bad about the year. Below is what I thought were the best and worst things this year on the blog, with links provided to each review. As with before, these items are not in any set order.

Top Films of 2012

The Avengers
This has everything you could ever want from a superhero movie. The plot is easy to follow, the characters are well-balanced, motives are clear, and it has just the right mix of action, humor, and tension to make it all worthwhile. Though it's a better movie after seeing Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor, and Captain America: The First Avenger beforehand, that does not stop this movie from being made entirely of awesome.

The Expendables 2
Another movie made of awesome, The Expendables 2 takes everything that made the first movie enjoyable and ramps it up even higher. Admittedly, this is a movie where I actually think the plot, or what little of it there is, actually gets in the way of all the action, although it at least justifies what happens on camera. Even then, this film is practically made entirely of testosterone and contains some of the most badass footage you will ever see in your life.

Wreck-It Ralph
Wreck-It Ralph proves that a video game movie can not only be good, it can also be very creative. Instead of adapting a single game or series of games, it instead focuses on the video game characters themselves in an arcade as the primary character, Ralph, questions his role as a video game villain. The plot can easily be understood by casual and non-gamers alike, and there's plenty of subtle references thrown in that more experienced game players will appreciate. Whether it's the story, gaming references, or the nostalgia of the dying arcade, Wreck-It Ralph is a Disney movie that has plenty to offer for everyone.

Top Games of 2012

Asura's Wrath
If you thought you have seen the pinnacle of scale in a video game (God of War III, Bayonetta, etc.), you haven't seen anything yet. Over the course of the game, you fight one boss that's bigger than a planet and one whose sword can reach the moon and beyond when unsheathed (and with the DLC, that's only the beginning). The anime-style plot is a good setting for this sort of action, which by itself is very intriguing to see unfold. Asura's Wrath not only features a sympathetic protagonist, it also features some of the most concentrated rage you will ever see in fiction.

With an industry full of big-budget titles with intricate plotlines and deep gameplay, it's nice to take a break from all that with something more simple. Journey features controls that are easy to pick up and its desert setting gives the player a true feeling of isolation as they reach their destination. Though the game has no dialogue (and for good reason), you can still get a good grasp on the happenings of the world around you and what emotions it makes you feel. This is, put simply, a game that's required playing for any PS3 owner and an experience that you will remember for quite some time.

Penny Arcade's On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 3
I am a big fan of the Penny Arcade webcomic, and like many others I was happy to see news of the long-awaited third installment of the On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness series of games. Though the gameplay and developer are different, it does not stop this game from embodying the true essence of Penny Arcade. What's more, you can get a good story, great gameplay, absolutely hilarious humor, and a time-worthy experience, all for the low price of $5. It may not be the best game I've played this year, but it's definitely the funniest.

Transformers: Fall of Cybertron
High Moon Studios has topped themselves in regards to delivering a solid Transformers experience, which I appreciated as a major fan. The game delivers some high-quality graphics and story presentation, as well as some really great gameplay and characterization. For the Transformers fan, there's references abound, some of which may make you chuckle a bit. It's clear that the developers love Transformers, especially with the multitude of Generation 1 references and terminology, although it's best to look at this game as a tie-in to the amazing Transformers: Prime cartoon, since the events of the game are integral to the current continuity.

Top Disappointments of 2012

The Amazing Spider-Man
After some creative differences with Sam Raimi's run after the third movie, it was decided that a reboot was in order, primarily so that Sony could keep the Spider-Man license. (Note: Despite what you may think, this movie is not part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, nor can it ever be.) While this movie attempts to recreate the same experience, its webs actually snap in midair, followed by it falling flat on its face. Several plot threads go nowhere, events are either too contrived or convenient, and apparently "spider powers" now means "heightened awareness and mastery of parkour" instead of "heightened awareness and special powers akin to a spider". Though I did not think it was a good Spider-Man film, I will respect the opinions of anyone who thought differently, as long as they didn't just like it for deciding Spider-Man should be Batman. Of course, there's the chance of a sequel, so hopefully that is able to redeem this pile of spider guts.

As my fellow contributors can tell you, while this is a step back in the right direction for Pixar, it's certainly not the best. This is a story you have definitely seen before, and while Pixar has shown the ability to make that sort of thing interesting, this attempt at a mother-daughter bonding tale feels more generic at best, which I actually compared unfavorably to Finding Nemo, an earlier father-son bonding tale of theirs. Pixar isn't as innovative as they used to be, but it's still a good film for children and die-hard fans of the studio. I would suggest seeing this movie once, and even if you don't like it, at least it isn't Cars 2.

The Darkness II
I really enjoyed my experience with the first The Darkness game, based on one of Top Cow's flagship comic book titles, so I was hoping for an equal, if not better, experience with the sequel. In the end, while I thought the gameplay was really, really good (quad-wielding!), the story is really, really horrible. Jackie Estacado saw some great character development in the original game, but his character here felt like it had taken a major step backwards, having failed to come to terms with the death of a loved one from two years ago (I think hallucinations of your dead girlfriend warrant seeing a therapist). Still, this game is worth at least one play-through, if only for the feeling you get from being able to use four weapons at once against your enemies.

Quantum Conundrum
This game showed some promise when preview material got discussed, to where I even pre-ordered it on Steam for future DLC (and a few Team Fortress 2 items). In all the excitement, the game eventually begins to unravel by the end, its final levels failing to live up to the rest of the game and the ending feeling rather anti-climactic. Hopefully the eventual DLC will salvage my experience with this game, and while I do like John de Lancie as a voice actor, I don't think he was able to fully save this title.

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