With so many mega-hits spread out across different platforms, it's been a busy year for gamers - particularly in the last few months. Though killer big budget titles have abounded in 2008, a small independently developed game managed to steal the show this year. World of Goo packed a one-two sucker-punch. It possesses a quirky charm and addictive puzzle gameplay that prevails over even some of the biggest and flashiest blockbusters. De Blob, another unusual and surprisingly creative game, brings a lot of fun to the Wii as well in a full-blown release.
PC gaming has been in good form in 2008. Crysis Warhead proficiently expanded on the original and optimized the gameplay to run on current-gen gaming rigs. The enhanced multiplayer component adds a lot of fun to the game, and bleeding edge visuals continue to push boundaries. Will Wright's epic Spore provides a truly engaging evolutionary journey. It's not perfect by any means, but its one of the more intriguing PC releases.
Though there has been plenty of awesome gaming moments this year, everything isn't all sunshine and roses. WiiWare has had a slate of some truly excellent indie titles, but the downloadable game service is also inundated with mediocre releases and some straight-up shovelware. There's still a lot of potential here, and I'm hopeful 2009 will continue to expand on the good and cut back on the crap. Additionally, some of the larger franchises on the Wii have simply not lived up to their potential. Harvest Moon: Tree of Life comes to mind. It's another case of second verse; same as the first - only with more issues piled on top to further dilute the fun. Animal Crossing City Folk is another prime example. The game is still incredibly fun, yet it's more of the same old-same old. For old franchises to continue to be successful, they need to add substantive improvements. Rehashed content just doesn't fly with gamers who've been waiting anxiously and patiently for these hits.
The PSP has also been a huge disappointment in general. The handheld is still a great pick for on-the-go gaming, but there just hasn't been much to be excited about this year in terms of games. Aside from a few big titles, the PSP has been in sleep mode. I'm concerned whether it will survive through the next year, without a booster shot of gaming goodness.
As I look back on the past year, it's clear to me that the future of the gaming industry is going to continue to experience tremendous growth. Reports indicate that adults now make up twenty percent of gamers. Recently, I have been playing Santa Claus on a local TV show, reading hundreds of letters written by children. I can safely surmise that at least half of them ask for gaming systems, and not just one, but numerous systems.
In my book, the DS is the clear winner, as is supported by industry data, claiming it to be the most successful system in history - a title once held by the GBA. Requests for other systems seem to be fairly balanced among the PSP, Wii, PS3, and Xbox 360. If these kids get their wishes, there is going to be an awful lot of new gamers in the market next year. Games such as Buzz! MasterQuiz, Mega Brain Boost, and, to a lesser extent, the trivia section of Touchmaster 2 are among some of the more compelling games that I've played this year. I've always been interested in trivia, although I'm far from an expert. These trivia and puzzle games stimulate my restless mind, and while they may not make me any smarter, I usually feel a little less of an idiot after a few hours of such mental gymnastics.
Easily one of the most impressive games that I played all year is not actually a game, but something that can literally be played. The Korg DS-10 is a software program that digitally re-creates the sounds of an extremely popular 70s synthesizer. Bands such as Flock of Seagulls and Kraftwerk used this instrument on their recordings. All of the filters, dials, oscillators, patches, buttons, and sliders have been faithfully reproduced as well as the sounds. This is one fat sounding instrument. This is no toy, all of the sounds are created using the software, they are not sampled.
This example just serves to show what creative and interesting stuff is on the horizon. I can hardly wait to see what the future holds. You can't look ahead while you're looking back.