Posts Tagged ‘games of the decade’

Games of the decade – Spelunky

2 March, 2010

Spelunker! Man-eating plant! precious stones! Killer frogs!

Well, this isn’t a surprise. Nor should it be. Of course, the tenth and final Game of the Decade is Derek Yu’s wonderful Spelunky, a game I’ve played probably more than any since first encountering it about eight months ago.

I probably don’t need to explain what’s so right about this game to anyone who’s had the pleasure of playing it but I’ll briefly go over why I love this game. Put simply, Spelunky is a platform game programmed around the philosophy of the so-called roguelike genre. The player takes control of a little chap in a hat with a whip (wonder who that reminds me of?) and explores the various levels of an underground cavern, grabbing as much gold and killing as many hideous monsters (including giant spiders, very giant spiders, cavemen, killer plants, exploding frogs, yetis and UFOs) as possible. In keeping with the roguelike philosophy, the levels are randomly generated and different each game, death can come quickly and there’s an emphasis on collecting gold and using it to buy extra equipment or, indeed, to amass for its own sake. There’s a scoring mechanism based around gold held at the end of the game, maidens saved (have I mentioned the maidens? No? Play the game and find out what I’m on about, go on!) and monsters killed. Since Version 1.1, it even keeps a text file filled with the sort of detailed gameplay stats nerds will love and non-nerds will pretend they’re not interested in.

It’s very hard to get bored of this game; I’ve tried, honestly I have, but it just keeps you playing. The random level generation means that every game is different and dealing with the various monsters, characters and problems that Spelunky throws at you never seems to lose its appeal. It’s probably the best game released in the last ten years and it’s free. The world shouldn’t work like this.

You can download Spelunky for free from here. If you have an XBox360, rumours persist that it will be arriving at XBox Live sometime in the near future.

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Games of the decade – Peggle

23 December, 2009

Yes, it's a bit twee. But please don't let that put you off. It's brill, honest!

Peggle is a funny one, part of a genre sadly known as “casual gaming” (simple games are not remotely casual – try playing Galaga for details) it looks a bit crap on paper – basically a pinball varient that, whilst entirely based on skill, feels more like it’s based on luck much of the time since it’s so hard to predict beyond a couple of bounces where the ball will end up. And yet its extremely simple gameplay, beautiful presentation and wide range of features make this a modern classic, easily for me one of the games of the decade.

The main reason that Peggle works is that it’s a highscore game. Unlike “hardcore” games which are often story-driven – all too often to the detriment of gameplay in the same way special effects films often spend too much time trying to dazzle and forget to tell a decent story (which reminds me, Avatar is out now) – highscore games are about achieving scores and either give the player a personal best to beat or, if they play with other people, an opponent to compete with and humiliate or be humiliated by.

And it’s in multiplayer mode that Peggle works best. Playing it on its own is like playing a high-tech version of an old-fashioned pinball machine; playing it with someone else is like competing in some kind of futuristic carnival game. It’s great fun aiming the gun and firing the shiny balls, trying to get the best angle to hit as many of the red pegs as possible whilst taking out as many blues as you can on the way; it’s even more fun when there’s someone else there to jeer as you bounce off a single blue and your ball careers into the gutter or gasp in annoyance as you hit dozens of reds and take out a cascade of blues before the ball makes a flukey landing in the bonus jar at the bottom for an extra ball.

Not everyone will like Peggle, some will be put off by its simplistic gameplay, some will dislike the somewhat “random” feel the shots can have if they’re not too good at judging how balls bounce. But I suspect most will see those as strengths, not weaknesses; a game that’s accessible and easy to play but takes real skill to master and yet is still a game where a novice can get a massive score with a lucky shot. There’s only one way to find out how you feel about Peggle and that’s to give it a try.