Game of the Year 2014

Mario Kart 8 (Nintendo, 2014)

A fairly easy decision for my favourite game of the year this year, Mario Kart 8 is responsible for completely rejuvenating public interest in the Nintendo Wii U. Before it was released, the writing was on the wall – purchases had slowed, there were no good games on the horizon and all the good games had been played to death and had limited replayability value (apart from maybe Super Mario 3D World).

When Mario Kart 8 was released, it came with an offer of a free downloaded game from the Nintendo store, allowing everyone to access one of 10 games on top of the physical release of Mario Kart 8. This included New Super Mario Bros, The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD, Nintendoland, Pikmin 3 and The Wonderful 101, all of which are amongst the best on the platform. For £40 it was a no-brainer. I know quite a few people who took Nintendo up on this offer, and are now some of the most avid Wii U players I know. For those already on board, it was a nice thank for for sticking with them whilst they got the first must-have game ready.

Tanooki Mario

Quite simply, the game itself is excellent. Nintendo have taken everything that was great about the series so far (fast paced action, brilliant courses, screwing over your friends), got rid of all the things we don’t like (two drivers in a kart, difficult controls on the Wii), added in one critically much-wanted new feature (online support) and pulled it together perfectly to make one of the best games of the last five years.

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Coming out just as we approached summer, it was the perfect game to play when you had loads of friends over and wanted a way to take the fun into the evening. People were digging out their old Wii remotes and hooking them up. What people were seeing was sublimely animated and mind-bending course designs, excellent control responses, some highly detailed replays and fast paced action focused on fun.

Moreover, there has been an additional DLC pack with three extra playable characters (Link, Tanooki Mario and Cat Peach) and eight additional courses (including the as-annoying-as-you-remember SNES Rainbow Road). This has further extended the replayability and given everyone a few more options to prevent getting bored. There will be a similar DLC pack in May, centred on the perhaps less popular Animal Crossing game, but I’ve already pre-ordered it so I’ll be enjoying it either way!

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It’s a pick-up-and-play classic and it so far hasn’t grown old, and with online support the popularity promises to carry on for years to come.

Runner up: Bayonetta 2 (Sega, 2014)

This game really annoyed me. Set for release in the “launch window”, the delays kept coming and we’ve eventually received it two years after originally planned. Having expected to be playing this and Rayman Origins (which was also delayed for over a year) on my new launch day Wii U, I was a little underwhelmed with how much use I was getting from my console for the first year or so.

Two years have gone by since the expected release. Was it worth the wait? Well, just about. The package was great and we got the first game included (though most of us already had it), and it wasn’t as expensive as I expected.

Bayonetta looking better than ever

Crucially, the game – which I’m yet to finish – plays like a dream. It’s much easier than the first, probably to help new people into what was quite a tricky series, especially for the average Wii U gamer (which I think we’re supposed to assume is a casual gamer who, in this case, has bought Bayonetta 2 by mistake instead of Nintendogs). Much like the first, the graphics are stunning. They’ve really gone to town on the intricate designs, especially with the main protagonists and end-of-level bosses. My 360 Bayonetta looks decidedly plain in comparison.

As expected, it’s a game on an epic scale and it genuinely is a lot of fun to get stuck into. Couple this with Mario Kart 8 (and Super Smash Bros.) and you have three fantastic reasons to go for the Wii U over Xbox One or the PS4, which are still struggling to find their feet.

Mario Kart 8, Bayonetta 2, Super Smash Bros. and the Wii U console are all available to buy now. For those wanting to add me as a friend on Wii U, my user profile is Hutchie.

Upcoming Crowdfunded Films Preview Part Two: AVGN The Movie

I’ve been following the foul-mouthed ranting reviews of terrible old video games by the Angry Video Game Nerd (portrayed by James Rolfe) for many years. They’re one of my go-to videos on the net when I have 10 minutes to kill and want a sure-fire way to give myself a shot of humour. For someone who grew up with these infuriating games, seeing him struggle to play through Silver Surfer or Wayne’s World is a hilarious blast from the past and if you’ve not seen them I heartily recommend you check them out.

One thing you will pick up on if you watch his videos is just how much he knows about his subject matter, and it doesn’t stop at video games. I remember being blown away by his cross-referencing of the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles TV series with the classic horror films they were paying homage to. There is no way he could have looked any of these up; he just knows his stuff.

So when he announced he was doing a movie based on The Nerd, I was immediately excited. The subject matter – his quest to unearth the legendary hidden ET Atari cartridges in a landfill in New Mexico – is ideal. At the time the film started production, these cartridges were one of the biggest myths of the video game industry and the story had taken on a life of its own. Some believed it was a complete fabrication, whilst others were convinced they were buried somewhere. Nobody knew how many would be found if they were ever located, and many doubted the increasingly renowned story.

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What has been frustrating is the recent unearthing of the Atari cartridges, itself documented a the Zack Penn film to be released later this year. I personally thought it was a shame the myth was proven to be correct (to some extent), as it meant the speculation was over. It was terrible timing when the AVGN film was so closed to completion, but it hasn’t deterred Rolfe from powering through and completing his first big-budget feature film. Indeed, he posted a blog post on the week the cartridges were unearthed discussing how he felt about the excavation and he raises some interesting points.

It has been released in the USA already and has been receiving solid reviews. It looks like it’s aimed directly at his already vast fanbase. For newcomers it might be a little alienating, but staying true to his character is the most important thing here. The effects were something he has poured over and the team have done an excellent job with a comparatively low budget. So much love and care has gone into the film already and I can’t wait for the UK Blu-Ray release early next year [1].

The AVGN Movie is out now to stream from Vimeo via Cinemassacre, the home of AVGN.

[1] I’m a complete snob when it comes to picture quality and resolution. I know how much effort has gone into this film and I’m not about to short-change myself and the filmmakers by streaming over the internet. My connection is so bad (thanks BT!) that I know it would wipe out a whole evening waiting for it to load. I’d rather just wait. In the meantime, I’ve noticed he’s uploaded a new AVGN review (an increasingly rare event). In fact, this one (Tagin’ Dragon) is part of a series of reviews called “The Twelve Days of Shitsmas”, which promises twelve AVGN reviews over the next twelve days. Clocking in at over one hour of running time, Christmas really has come early!