Year in Review 2008: Q1

After the high water-mark of 2007 I had my doubts about 2008. During last years E3 the platform holders, primarily Microsoft, chose to talk mostly about the games that where coming that year leading up to Christmas and it seemed that all upcoming third party games where being pushed out then as well. With heavy hitters like BioShock, Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, Orange Box, Assassin's Creed, Super Mario Galaxy, Mass Effect, Uncharted: Drake's Fortune and Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction all coming out during the last few months of the year (along with countless other lesser titles) the pipe seemed next to empty. Going into 2008 the only games I was looking forward to (and expecting) in 2008 where GTA IV and Fallout 3.

I wasn't really complaining though, of those recently released games I had only gotten through BioShock and most of Orange Box, and so my first priority was finishing Mass Effect which had been my main focus for most of December. Mass Effect was a satisfying experience but ultimately a flawed game with amazing characters, dialog and back story but all to limiting game play and drab, empty environments with most planets having the same cookie-cutter layout.

I gave The Darkness a chance but it really didn't grab me, so after just a couple of sessions it went back on the shelf and I didn't pick it up again all year. Remains to be seen if I'll play it through before Djingis wants it back.

After a rather weak year for Wii on the software-side, 2008 started out well. With Super Mario Galaxy still a recent release it was followed by a mid-January release of Zack & Wiki. After just dabbling a bit with the former I chose to instead focus on the latter. Zack & Wiki remains one of the better looking Wii titles and although it's art-style has been heavily criticized as too kiddy, I quite like it and would gladly except more Wii games of that ilk. Besides, what makes Zack & Wiki more kiddy than Super Mario Galaxy or Wind Waker? I will admit that the cartoon style can be rather misleading though, as this is a very hard and unforgiving game and this juxtaposition is no doubt partly responsible for the games poor sales. I have yet to beat it, but this is no doubt one that I will be returning to.

The first indication that 2008 would be a strong year for digital distribution in general and specifically for XBLA came at the end of January with Rez HD. I had previously dabbled with the PS2 version but never really gotten into it, but with this HD-upgrade I started to see the magic of this title. It's one of those unique games that you can't help but wonder why there aren't more of. I managed to beat the third stage, unlocking the fourth which I never did on the PS2 but try as I might I have yet to get a good enough score to unlock the fifth stage which is said to be where the game really shows what it's all about. I'll try to get back to this one at some point.

Outside of gaming, 2008 was a significant year for me as I moved from Stockholm to Kiruna. The better half of three months was spent planing, packing, painting, tossing old junk, selling some stuff and buying new things. As February came to a close and the move was imminent I picked up Lost: Via Domus. Despite being fairly certain that it would underwhelm me, it remains one of the years stronger memories, partly because I was playing it sitting on the empty wooden floor of our old apartment with everything besides the TV and 360 packed up in the living room, and then finishing it sat on our familiar couch now in our new apartment with a view out the window of snow-covered mountains replacing the old-folks home I was used to seeing. Considering my low expectations of the game, it still managed to be rather entertaining and reminded me a lot of what the quality of games used to be back in the early to mid nineties (i.e. less refined and rough around the edges - I never understood those that missed the crackling and rasping of LP-records, complaining that the sound of CD:s was too clean, now I can start to see their point). Lost: Via Domus is by no means a gem, but well worth a play through for those who follow(ed) the series.

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