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Written by Rob Schultz (human).

2012 in video games

From time to time, especially during Steam sales, I frequent the forums at CheapAssGamer. Last year, a little after all the hullabaloo had died down, I discovered one of their sticky threads, the Completed Games Tab. This is where users track what games they've played all year long, many of us trying to hit goals in clearing out our backlogs.

I suspect that CAGs are among the worst in having exorbitant backlogs, because for many of us, buying and collecting games on the cheap becomes the game. And being constantly on the lookout for a deal means buying something now when it’s 80% off, not next month when you might actually get around to playing it. (Never mind that in two years when you are ready to play it, that price will have dropped even lower.) For some CAGs, their favorite game is trying to own literally every game for sale on Steam. A few are getting pretty close.

So this year I signed up for the completed games tab, and I set myself a goal of 40 games completed. Here’s how I did:

January (4):
PC - Bastion - finished once - going through in NG+ for the other ending, achievements. 3/5 (How optimistic of me, I never made it through the second play)
PC - Medal of Honor (2010) - Glad it was only $2 from Amazon. The campaign was 4 hours long on hard mode. I expected this going in and thought for the price, short is fine, it'll be like a cool action movie. It was like Lions for Lambs: The Game. 2/5
PS3 - Conan - I was told this would be fun by someone that I hope was thinking of another game. I have never read the Conan books or seen the movies all the way through, but from this I gather it's the story of the world's worst swordsman, or perhaps a foot soldier separated from his regiment and quickly killed. Buggy, dumb design, bad acting, stay away. 1/5
PC - Zuma's Revenge (Adventure Mode) - Thankfully, neither this game nor Picross 3D have gotten the obsessive hooks into me the way their predecessors did back in the day. One level towards the end gave me a lot of grief, so I finished on my last life, which was pretty exciting. 4/5

February (2):
PS3 - Uncharted: Drake's Fortune (Platinum) - This was fun. Much more the 'action movie' experience I was looking for earlier. Hunting around for shiny treasure breaks the cinematic experience a little bit though. UPDATE: My first Platinum trophy! Played through Crushing mode, then went back to find the treasures I missed, then went back through to get the treasures I just got but didn't save properly somehow. 4/5
PC - Coinbox Hero - Just a little diversion. Not as much fun as Achievement Unlocked, from the same dev. Sure, it's weird to count this. 3/5

March (1):
360 - Crackdown - This was a little like Brink meets inFamous. Open city, people constantly shooting at you like crazy, story doesn't make a lick of sense. All I wanted to do was collect green orbs and I ended up killing a crazy amount of so-called "criminals." I ended up with 444/5 00 green orbs, 88/300 blue orbs, and 435/1250 gamerscore. I jumped everywhere on rooftops and barely got in any of the slow, fragile cars, so I'm not going to bother with the 16 driving achievements. Overall, more fun at the beginning than the end, since there was no more leveling up to do in the last third of the game, and the third borough is much less friendly to jumping around everywhere. 3/5

April (1):
PC - Faerie Solitaire - I won this on steamgifts. Played it extensively while doing some research tv-watching for a script. I've finished the story and got every achievement except the one for finding all the (randomly distributed?) pets. 3/5

May (1):
iOS - Hero Academy - Didn't think I'd stick with this as long as I did, but I've bought 2 expansion teams, racked up enough wins to get into the top 2000 players (of 170k or so) and got almost every achievement for the teams I have. The art design is terrific. 4/5

June (1):
360 -* TMNT: Turtles in Time* (Hard Mode) - Local Co-op classic. Almost no achievements. 3/5

July (6):
PC - Borderlands - Played as the sniper. This is like Diablo FPS - shoot and loot. And fetchquest. I'd gotten about 1/2-2/3 through a while back, and since lost the save game. Definitely got a little dull by the time I made it to about that point again. Doing all the missions meant I was perpetually a few levels ahead of the mission ratings. DLC awaits. 3/5
PC - Borderlands DLC: Mad Moxxi's Underdome Riot - This isn't beaten exactly, but I'm done with it. What a slog. 25 waves of enemies you can fight for no XP, times three, nets you three levels of 100 waves each. This expansion is like a 2 gallon bowl of Kellogg's Frosted Flakes. Iiiiiiiiiiiit's Tedious! 1/5
PC - Borderlands DLC: The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned - For contrast, this was lots of fun. I think I had more fun working through this self-contained module than I did playing the main game. Some nice design touches, couple good jokes, and that irritating Defiler. 4/5
PC - LIMBO - This was terrific. Interesting and stressful and worrisome and also fun. And there's bear traps! I like bear traps. Short, works with the 360 controller, puzzle platforming but not overly fiendish. Only picked up half the achievements on the first run, and finished it in one sitting except for pausing to recommend it to someone. 5/5
PC - Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet - Also pretty rad. A little like Pixeljunk Shooter, with looks not unlike Samurai Jack, with exploratory gameplay like Super Metroid. Maybe 6 hours to complete the story. Now I want to play the MP mode and go back to figure out how to get in the one area of the map I missed. 5/5
PC - Bulletstorm - This feels like an arcade game that should have a big rumbling plastic machine gun. Hopefully it's supposed to be a joke version of a Gears of War. Some fun set pieces and cool levels. Lots of quick time events. Lotsa bad dialogue. The AI companions love to stand between you and a target. It's lucky bad guys don't know to shoot barrels. Tricky plot, which made for a longer game than I'd expected. Beat the story in one 8-10 hour evening, mopped up some achievements the next day. Don't plan to try the multiplayer, but I got my $5 worth. (I guess that seems like a lot of negative bullet points, but they don't all have to be home runs. Singles and doubles are fun too.) Also: There's kind of an underlying Buddhist or Zen (I don't know either one from the sound of a hole in the ground, really) message to the whole thing, as various characters keep proclaiming that the only way out is through. 3.5/5

August (2):
PC - Hero's Adventure - A very short RPG from Terry Cavanagh. Almost scratches the itch I get from playing Torchlight or even Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet where I start to get the sense I'm not the good guy. 4/5
iOS - Tiny Tower - I'd been playing almost daily since February, when they had their scuffle with Zynga. I have done every achievement, and every mission. I have the zippiest elevator and a large surplus of coins and bucks. I have 170 floors, which is every floor plus one empty one where there's nothing left to build. The tower is at full capacity of citizens who are all working in their dream jobs and have a 9 skill level in that job. This game is DONE. 5/5

September (1):
iOS - 10000000 - some blog or another was raving about this, so I tried it out even though I don't especially like or feel good at bejeweled type games. Took about 4 hours to collect everything and win my freedom. Catchy song, although it reminds me of something else. 3/5

October (1):
PS3 - Heavenly Sword - The ending of this game would've made me cry. If I'd purchased it at full list price. As a goozex trade, it's a little better. Quite short, but that's a mercy. A God of War clone where every level of enemy can easily block you, and they all know unblockable techniques! That's in the button-mashing sword levels, not the almost-sci-fi gun and crossbow levels. Co-starring Bjork as your flighty little sister on the goofy, video-game inside jokey comic relief. 2/5

November (1):
PC - Frog Fractions - My next, apparently quarterly weird internet game. The first time I found it, I just lost a couple rounds and quit, but after someone else linked me to it again, I was impressed with just how far it went. Mathematical! 3/5

December (9):
Wii - Guilty Party - Silly, but fun. Kind of like Clue(do). Played through 2-player co-op story mode and then 1 versus game. We had a good time being detectives for about 4 hours. Uncovering clues, playing mini-games that were at first numerous enough to be delightful and then familiar enough to be dreaded, eating pudding, just doing all the things detectives do. Would have been kind of a drag at list price though. 3/5
Wii - Kirby's Epic Yarn - Played through in co-op. Finished the story at around 91% complete, telling myself I'll go back and collect the last few things. UPDATE: This time I did it! At about 18 hours, we hit 100% complete! Liked the variety. The ice skating and sledding levels were lovely. Decorating Kirby's pad is kind of boring. The soundtrack has songs that have a musical phrase here or there that strongly reminds me of various unrelated tunes, but it happens in like, constantly. 4/5
Wii - Batman: The Brave and the Bold - The way the training re-uses dialogue in the first 3 minutes had me worried for this one, but the dialogue turned out to be the best thing about it. It's a brawler with cameo-based special attacks like X-Men on the Genesis, and gets a little repetitive with some of the same goons and security robots apparently employed by a staggering range of villains. The quality of the levels and their humor declines steadily over the four episodes. Also, they contain an unusual number of Flash villains. Maybe the bat-villains were all licensed elsewhere. Huge plus for including the Gentleman Ghost, minor minus for him being kinda lame. 3/5
NDS - Picross 3D - Done! Finished it! I put too much time in back in the beginning of the year to not get this one on my list for the year. Finished every puzzle with 3 stars / no mistakes. Some of them took a while. 4/5
iOS - The Room - A puzzle box you open with your ipad. Or, like 4 or 5 of them. Really satisfying and delightful to solve, not terribly tricky. Worth a buck, and I gave one as a gift just now. The final chapter was a little dull compared to the earlier ones, but at the same time, I wish there had been several more chapters. 5/5
PC - You Have To Burn The Rope - You do. And I did. This won prizes? I feel like I'm just padding out my year-end stats. 2/5
PC - Gravity Bone - Yawn. 2/5
PS3 - Journey - I saw it through to the end, but I know I'm going to have to go back to look around more and maybe understand more of what's happening. It's great when there's a friend running around with you. I love the gliding / surfing around kind of moves. I dream about stuff like that. I was also delighted that I, myself, personally, referring to me, found the ending a little underwhelming. After all, it's about the Journey! (also, I played it twice. I see some people counting beating and rebeating a game, but I don't think I would count that in one year - I didn't for Uncharted. But I did count the Turtles game and I've played that before, so when I run through Journey in 2013, it'll be back on that list, I guess.) 4/5
PS3 - Papo and Yo - Very strong start - I really liked the way the initial interactions with the world made sense in a daydreamy, imaginative way. I wish that aspect had not only been the main subject of the game, but the main mechanic explored. I could have done without the robot, or honestly even the conflict of Monster (although of course Monster is the point of the thing) since I was having fun exploring the world. I think some of the puzzles stopped making 'on camera' sense, and especially needing to fix the robot to fix the problem with the monster caused by fixing the robot… The ham and odd message of the ending detract from the opening experience, which I was enjoying more than Journey. It's weird that this serious game on a somber topic comes with a 'collect all the fun hats!' new game+ mode. 4/5

Played and Enjoyed but not beaten, or essentially never-ending: Team Fortress 2, Left 4 Dead 2, Letterpress, SpyParty, FTL.

PC: 15 iOS: 4 PS3: 5 Wii : 3 360 : 2 NDS : 1
All Games: 30

I'd say this project was a success. I didn't finish 40 games, but I did play at least that many. 30 completed, with 5 that have no real end point, 7 more that are in some state of progress. I'm glad I kept up with it throughout the year. Of course, it's still a net loss on the backlog, or the shelf crowding, but there you go.

I kept track of some other stats while I was at it:
New-to-me Movies: 71
Seasons of TV: 30
Books: 11
Stand-up sets: 86