Think local: the year's best video games made in Vancouver
It’s our own damn fault we haven’t tracked the best video games made in Vancouver before now. What’s distinguished the list of video games developed here in the past year isn’t the number, but the variety. Among the best are social, mobile, and downloadable games, as well as the expected console titles.
Best superhero game
Captain America: Super Soldier (Sega)
With their console tie-in for the blockbuster film Captain America: The First Avenger, Next Level Games delivered a solid action title that in the end had very little to do with the movie. Instead, the game is its own adventure. Next Level’s Captain America is a brawling acrobat in blue. He’s easy to control, it’s exciting to wield that shield, and it is in the combat that Super Soldier really stands out.
Best zombie game
Dead Rising 2 (Capcom)
The Burnaby developers formerly known as Blue Castle Games took Capcom’s zombie apocalypse and added a few unique and side-splitting elements to it. The weapon-creation mechanic, which has players combining a handful of gems and a flashlight to make a deadly laser sword, for example, gives the game a personal feel, and the variety of costumes gamers can put on motocross rider Chuck Greene adds a bit of levity. As goofy as it gets, though, the relationship between Chuck and his infected daughter remains real and touching.
Funniest adventure game
DeathSpank: Thongs of Virtue (Electronic Arts)
The second chapter of DeathSpank’s adventures has the same signature wit and refined game mechanics as the first. The downloadable console series was a breath of fresh air when it was released, acting as a tonic against the ultra-realistic and extra-serious games flooding the market. The irreverent art style only adds to the joy of the combat, which is simple and satisfying. Hothead Games’ title, designed by Ron Gilbert, set the stage for a bunch of other dungeon-crawler adventures that have since been released.
Best sports game
FIFA 11 (Electronic Arts)
In the last couple of years, the FIFA team at EA Canada in Burnaby has been going a bit crazy. They effectively rebuilt the soccer sim for FIFA 10, for which features like 360-degree dribbling were introduced. This made the game even better for last fall’s release, which brought in more realistic interactions between virtual footballers and a new passing system that is only as accurate as the gamer playing it, and finally let players control the goalkeeper. FIFA 12, which comes out on Tuesday (September 27), looks to be yet another improvement.
Best dragon game
Hoard (Big Sandwich)
Now available for Mac OS X and Windows in addition to Sony’s PlayStation 3 and PSP, Hoard has players become dragons and do the things dragons do: burn villages, collect treasure, kidnap princesses, and fight off would-be heroic knights. Your dragon powers increase as the size of your hoard grows, and you can decide whether to become faster, more durable, or a better fire-starter. As well, you can play with up to three friends, too, locally or online. It’s a clever twist on fairy-tale tropes, and it’s worlds of fun flying around, scorching everything in sight.
Best kids’ game
Lego Battles: Ninjago (Warner Bros.)
The gang at Hellbent Games have a great thing going on with their Lego Battles games for the Nintendo DS. This latest title is part strategy, part action-adventure, and it’s got easy-to-learn mechanics just like the studio’s last effort. Best of all, Hellbent has a knack for coming up with games that are intended for kids but, like all great children’s entertainment, speak to adults on a different level. Ninjago is loaded with pop-culture references and a winking sense of humour.
Best social game
Lil’ Pirates (Capcom)
IUGO Mobile Entertainment is at the forefront of iPhone game development, and this pirate-themed effort shows what the studio is capable of. The game has pirate captains sending scallywags off on missions to collect loot and experience, which can be used to improve and customize ships, crew, and clothes. It’s free to play but you can spend real money for that little extra something if you want. Get your Facebook friends playing with you for special benefits.
Best space game
Space Pirates and Zombies (MinMax)
A little bit real-time strategy and a little bit top-down shooter, this Windows game is also a lot of slickness. You are a space pirate, of course, and your job is to build a fleet and amass treasure. It’s what’s expected of a pirate. The galaxy here is made up of hundreds of star systems, so you’ll be playing this game for some time. You’ll be dealing with factions, modifying the ships in your fleet with new technologies, and ultimately fighting off a zombie scourge. With smooth physics and amazing outer-space graphics, SPAZ is a gem of a game.