4. Stick It to the Man!
Well, I can definitely say that this was one of the year's most pleasant surprises. I mean, a puzzle-platformer that played like a combination of Super Paper Mario, Psychonauts, and a healthy spoonful of '90s animation? How am I not supposed to fall in love with something like that?
The game's lavish, stylistic aesthetics are enough to draw your attention, but what keeps you playing is the tale of our beloved schmoe Ray and the giant pink spaghetti arm that suddenly grew out of his head after an accident. Said arm grants him an array of fun powers, though, such as mind-reading, ripping apart buildings, yanking away stickers for later puzzles and having all of his world's dialogue replaced with the works of Ryan North (the current writer for Boom!'s impeccable Adventure Time comic book, amongst other things). And it goes without saying that all of this makes for one weird, trippy, and insanely fun platforming adventure you definitely need to check out.
Let me tell you what you need to know about Gunpoint: You control Richard Conway, hard-boiled spy who wears a pair of hypertrousers that allow him to leap thirty feet into the air and pounce on an unsuspecting security guard where you then proceed to punch him in the face two dozen times. If you need to know anything else, clearly there is some kind of communication error going on here. So, just in case, I'll mention the brilliant combination of stealth-like mechanics and hacking activities involved in addition to the terrific level designs, allowing for a nice variety of different methods to tackle your various challenges with as you perform heists and investigations for the highest bidder.
Speaking of which, the game's intriguing little murder mystery story deserve a little applause as well, and the clever writing, down to Conway's noir-laced, snarky dialogue, even more so. It basically just all boils down to a fantastic game that deserves all the accolades one can mention...even if you do have to work to make the title relevant.
2. Monaco: What's Yours Is Mine
Given that Monaco seemingly spent over three years in the making, winning awards and garnering acclaim in the process, we all had one question on our minds when the game finally came out this year: "Does Monaco live up to the initial praise?" And my reply was...well, I couldn't deliver a reply, because I was too busy being addicted to Monaco. A virtual heist flick played out in a 2D top-down setting, this is a game that takes various dashes of stealth games, Ocean's Eleven and Gauntlet and serves them up in one stellar dish worth sampling.
Make sure to bring some friends along as well, because experiencing the game's multiplayer is the best way to go here. Pulling off various capers with a group of friends and a wide variety of thief classes makes for some tense, thrilling, fun little moments you're going to want to go back to again and again...insert joke about stealing one's heart or something here.
...This was bit of a tricky one for me. Unlike my overall #1 Game of The Year (BioShock Infinite, a decision I stand by), there wasn't any one particular indie game this year that I felt immediately stood out as the year's best amongst its peers. But in the end, it was Guacamelee! that ended up winning the top honors here in the end, largely thanks to its vibrant, luscious, and inspired graphics and art style, first-class writing, characters, and sense of humor, and an all-around A-1 take on the "Metroidvania" genre.
Juan Aguacate's dimension-hopping adventure to save El Presidente's Daughter from the undead is a bountiful one indeed, packed to the brim with hefty infusions of Mexican culture and folklore, a wide variety of lands to explore and unique enemies to beat up in said lands, and a near-infinite amount of visual gags and easter eggs that will have you searching every square inch this world for some truly wicked and memorable sights. But more importantly, Guacamelee! is just the light-hearted, colorful, and all-around fun platformer that we absolutely need more often in video games these days. Truly a mind-blowing video game easily deserving of being called the year's best.
7X2&. The Stanley Parable
The Stanley Parable was also one of the year's most talked-about indie games, but this is a case that's...different. You see, describing the genius of The Stanley Parable would be nigh-impossible to do, as it is simultaneously a game and yet not a game, a deep story that really doesn't have a story, a commentary on interactive mediums that might not say anything, and it might also be some sort of meat product. It is weird, is what I'm trying to say, and yet it is also genius at the same time.
The only concrete thing I can say about The Stanley Parable is that...it's an experience. An experience that almost reaches some sort of gaming nirvana, and one that causes The Stanley Parable to go beyond a mere "normal" ranking system and into something you see here. It is unique. It plays by its own rules. It might be alienating and weird or brilliant. And you must play it. That is all.
Well, as usual, we hope you've enjoyed this latest look at some of the best the gaming world has to offer these days. If you have any thoughts about this year's crop of indie games or noticed any other notable titles we missed (and yes, we know we missed at least one notable one), feel free to let us know in the comments. So goodbye for now, and here's hoping 2014 is also a damn good year for indie games as well! Hell, the incredible '30s-animation-inspired run-&-gun game is a good sign already! ^_^
Previously by Kyle LeClair: