A quick idea: who wants to talk about our favourite games across different downloadable services? Come on, it'll be fun! Come on. Look we're doing it whether you like it or not, so roll with it. First up is Xbox LIVE Arcade. You now have to stomach my super personal list of favourite Xbox LIVE Arcade Games. Thank you please for your patience.
1. Trials Evolution
I know what you're all thinking. This list idea was just a marvellous excuse for me to talk about how much I love Trials Evolution again! I wish my frontal lobe was evolved enough to think at that capacity.
Don't get me wrong, I am going to talk about how great Trials Evolution is, hoo boy, but it was just a coincidence. A very happy one.
Seriously though, how good is Trials Evolution? I can't imagine a world where this game, a masterpiece of tactile control and design, wouldn't be my favourite game on XBLA. It's an intensely personal choice, but Trials Evolution is a game that makes me feels as though I'm learning and digesting an actual skill. It's rewarding to learn it's rewarding to feel as though your progress was earned through hard work. Trials Evolution is a lot like Dark Souls in that regard. Good company to keep.
Throughout the week, with these lists, we're going to try our level best to focus on games that are exclusively available on the services we're talking about. But if we feel like a game was defined by a certain service, or is well known for being on one over the other? We might just allow it to slip in. It's my intensely personal list goddammit!
Alright, with that lengthy disclaimer, let's begin...
I don't care about what Jonathan Blow thinks Braid 'means'. I don't care what you think Braid means. I don't care if it's a metaphor for the atomic bomb, failed relationships, or a parody of Super Mario Bros.
Nope, I don't care. Sorry. I'm a philistine like that.
I just like games that make me feel smart, even if I'm really not that smart. That's the hook of Braid — challenge. Unlike Trials Evolution, where progress comes in waves of muscle memory, of physical learning, Braid's reward comes from an increasingly intricate of simple mechanics and how they can be exploited. You might argue that's equally as rewarding.
In short — Braid is about the 'aha!' moment. That's what keeps you coming back, even when you feel desperately, desperately stuck. Even when your resolve is being broken by puzzles so devious you can feel the physical toll it's taking on your poor, poor inadequate brain.
I like games like that.
3. Super Meat Boy
Super Meat Boy hurts. Super Meat Boy will give your thumbs blisters. It will then proceed to burst those blisters. Your thumbs will become bloated, pus-filled reminders of your inadequacy. That's what Super Meat Boy is. That's why it is the best.
4. Shadow Complex
I like Shadow Complex because Super Metroid. That's why everyone like Shadow Complex, right?
So Shadow Complex is, essentially, a really, really well put together Super Metroid clone — but in a world brutally starved of high-end Metriodvania titles, is that a bad thing? I'd argue no.
The design is still sophisticated. It looks incredible. And the feeling of slowly exploring, adding new abilities, transforming your perception of your environment — I love all that stuff. It probably my favourite 'style' of game.
I want more. Someone make more and hurry up about it!
The problem with doing lists like these is the overwhelming feeling you're writing flimsy, whimsical little sentences and paragraphs about video games that deserve better. So when I say that Fez is a brilliantly conceived game set in an universe that rewards exploration in the best way possible, I'm aware of how little value that sentence has, and how poorly it describes the experience of playing Fez: a game that feels like it reinvents something, but I have no real way of pinning down what that is exactly.
Many people get frustrated with Fez: with its confusing map, how vague the whole thing feels. I know I did. But I think what people need to realise is that you're supposed to get lost in Fez. You're supposed to get lost in the world. It's supposed to feel like a weird, intricate rubix cube that you somehow learn to navigate.
That's what makes Fez so interesting.
Did we get it right? Completely wrong? Let us know in the comments below...