Year in Review: Part VI (Original and best!)
January 09, 2011

Part 6! Holy shit, I've been doing this way too bloody long.

Output's been okay this year seeing as I had to take a lot of time out for health reasons and started the year pretty sure I'd finish up commitments then throw the towel in on reviewing. Now 2011 has dumped the weight of a website on my shoulders and partnered me with phantom fellow staffers toiling away at irrelevance, I'll expect that mindset to battle away with burnout to see which forces retirment first.

Complaing disguised as a director's commentory follows from here:

Fable II (360) January 10th

I think I wrote the first complete draft of this in late 2010, then saved it for cheap alpha-marathon points. I wrote it when bored out of my brain late at night on scrap paper (no PC access) after being surprised at how much I enjoyed Fable II. I remain a staunch detractor of the first game (itís still rubbish, a recent reattempted play through taught me) so assumed this would carry through the series. Itís a reasonable assumption.

The reviewís purposefully abstract in a way that Iím secretly proud of and a way the rest of the world thinks is pretentious prattling. Thos that have read it, anyway. Itís been up now a year and has less than 400 hits.

Syberia (PC) January 16th

Near the end of 2009, I received a game pack that contained both Syberias and Amerizone. As a recovering adventure junkie, this pack presented me a chance to catch up on game I never managed to beat or play. I had Syberia 2 on the Xbox for years, but never got around to playing far in, likewise with Amerizone for the PSX. Now, I had to. It was my Job.

Syberia was the best of the lot by quite a large margin, and it gave me a lot to write about. I could never struggle through enough Amrizone to get a decent idea of it. I got to the second later.

FIFA '10 (360) February 3rd

Masters: I got FIFA Ď10 to review off Jason.
Me: Good for you. I like that one.
Masters: Review it for me, for I am cranky and lazy and I do not understand the offside trap.

And so I did. I figured Iíd later get revenge by making him review again on a semi-regular basis but, alas, I ended up doing the bulk of the work there as well.

Modern Warfare 2 (PS3) February 5th

Everyone else was doing it. I thought I might as well. It was entered in some tourney or another were it got some praise for tackling the gameís ambition to be more than it is, but lost points for exaggerating and spending too much time attacking the gameĎs ambition. Really, I reviewed it because, lets face it, stuff like No Russian and the gameís repeated attempts to be more than a game are kind of rubbish and we endure them because we know weíll get back to shooting bad guys again very soon.

Iíve picked the game back up again recently to root out the two last missions in special ops I didnít three star, and, after finally doing high explosives, Iíve only wetwork left to do. Stupid C4 barrels hiding in the last breachÖ.

Syberia 2 (PC) February 24th

The second Syberia, while not bad, is much more rooted in video game trope than the free-spirited first. I stumble over making the same point a few times during the body of the review, but it is a game hampered by the superiority of its predecessor. Everything aside from the graphics (which remain stunning) is a step back; the puzzles, the writing, the pay-offs.

Light's End (XBLI) April 2nd

After spending years with an offline 360, I finally figured out how easy it was to set Live up (so long as you donít wi-fi, which AOLís shared IP bollocks messes up, anyway) and spent the first afternoon pressing random buttons and going ďOoooh!Ē at what I could do. Though I spent most of my time playing Uno for reasons that still escape me, I did wander onto the Indie section and poke at random games. Somehow, I started a download for the trial version of this. Figured I might as well play it and was mildly impressed with the opening. It was cheap; I purchased the full download, and the rest of the game blew me away.

Really, it can be credited to my love affair with XBLI in a way. Itís not my favourite game on the service, but itís a creative experience no mainstream company will take a big enough risk to see out as a full release. You have to sift through a lot of crap to find these titles, but theyíre there, buried under the poor flash games and the rumble pad apps.

Nostalgia (DS) April 10th

Zig did a readerís choice tourney were the author could list five game they were open to reviewing. Nostalgia was a game I was picking at on the DS and the lowest personal want in the list of five I offered. As such, it was the one that Janus picked. He then no-showed said tourney, as did Suskie who I picked the game for, making me feel like I was the butt of a sadistic joke. So, pretty much as I normally do.

Itís a bit of a fly by. I rushed through the game as best I could and got my impressions down on paper. Itíll do.

Sam & Max 301: The Penal Zone (PC) April 24th

Ony a single word escaped my lips when I found I had another season of Sam & Max to do.


Enchanted Arms (360) May 3rd

Hereís a down side of getting my 360 online. I had a big old gamer score that I could convert to my gold account ensuring I had all my crazy achievements still live and active for the world to see and admire. Well, almost; the first half dozen games I had on there were oddly destroyed losing me much bragging rights. As such, I started playing through some of the ones I didnít hate again to restack them. I had to redo both Gears and a few others. Enchanted Arms was one of these.

When I beat it the first time, Zig had just finished his review on the game, and Midís was long up. A third review seemed pointless, so I didnít bother. On the second play through, I figured I may as well; I had things to say and I thought it came out pretty well. Somebody agreed; it was the first staff review to win RotW after the stipulations to keep it a user only contest receded.

Some time later, OD added his review of the game. If you made it this far in, Leroux, I think you know what you need to doÖ.

Silent Hill: Homecoming (360) May 10th

I had such high hopes for this game. I honestly expected it to be the franchise reinvention similar to what Resident Evil 4 did for Capcom. New developers at the helm ,promises of a this and that, screenshots purposefully picked out to look like the foggy hell that the original games made their cursed town swim in. What we did get is what happens when Hollywood takes a brilliant foreign horror film and Americanises it. This was Silent Hillís Wicker Man; it was much more Cage and THE BEES! than Lee and the performance of his career.

(That line now copywrited for future use)

When Iím not editing his reviews so heavily I might as well stick my name on the end and call it a day. Me and Marc chat a lot about Silent Hill. It might be the only thing we agree on . (He doesnít like Halo; I think Half Life 2 is a wandering around simulation with four billion physics engine puzzles involving see-saws) . Bashing Silent Hill 4+ is kind of what me and Boo used to do with Doom 3.

This was the SECOND EVER staff RotW winner. And won a horror review tourney by about 20 clean points. And cured cancer. Iím a record setter.

Get to tha Choppa (XBLI) May 20th

Impulse buy. Contains not one ounce of Governor Arnie or prawn-faced alien thrill hunters. It features zombies (of course it does; itís an XBLI game, after all) and a decent game spread too thinly over too long a span. It also contains a would be saviour in a helicopter who clearly hates you.

Props to the developers who added this 3/10 review to their website and twitter feeds. Even when Iím slagging you down, Iím bringing you into the limelight, Indie guys!

Peter Jackson's King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie (360) May 22nd

This was another game I revisited to regain lost gamer points. Iím obviously more anal about them than I realised. Unlike with Enchanted Arms, though, I wasnít really looking forward to it. Itís a ho-hum game with two or three goods ideas rehashed until the goodness is wrung out of them.

The punch line? The phantom GP glitch means I can never get the last 200 points to regain the 1000 I used to have.

Wings of Prey (PC) May 30th

Remember when I reviewed IL-2 Sturmovik: Birds of Prey last year? Do you? You should; it might have been the best thing I wrote in 2009! Well, Wings of Prey is the PC version the developers promised the people they leased the license from that they wouldnít make. Then they did. As such, I had to write the same review again. More or less. But only differently. Yay!

Sam Max 302: The Tomb of Sammun-Mak (PC) May 30th


Jewel Quest Mysteries (DS) May 31st

World: Youíve not done a pointless DS puzzle game in a while.
Me: I know! Iím starting to feel optimistic about reviewing again!
World: Not so fast! Here you go!
World: ALSO! It has a hidden objects game awkwardly shoehorned in!

Much whisky was drunk.

Uno (360) June 2nd

Unsure of what to review next, I did a readers poll of about five games. I threw Uno in on the end as a joke. ďNo one would make me review Uno!Ē, though I.

You made me review Uno. I still donít know how I didnít see this one coming. A poll for my next review is an idea left unvisited. Forever!

Lego Rock Band (Wii) June 13th

I reviewed this for a tourney Janus drafted up then never completed. It was a selfish tourney that basically asked us to recommend games he might buy with leftover birthday slush funds. Iíll take the chance to declare myself official winner now. Only myself and Ash showed. Congrats to Ash on his second place!

Iíve not actually played Rock Band for months now. The problem is that it was the Wii version I played and, as a male above the age of twelve, I have very little use for the Wii. It did win a RotW, though.


Every now and then, I tried to make good on my plan to kick out an indie review every week or so. I had been playing the hell out of Z0MBIES every time I entertained more than a couple of people and it quickly became universally loved. It ate into every other games time aside from FIFA because some things you do not mess with.

It gets played less and less now, but itís no less a genius bit of parodying that actually gets the idea that satire still has to be good enough in its own right before it can be funny and not just another victim of what its trying to lampoon. A lot of other games still donít seem to grasp this.

Dead Space (360) June 20th

Should have won RotW that week, but Suskie busted out his beat of the year with Alpha Protocal. Curse you, Suskie! It does remind me that I have a draft for the Wii version somewhere. And that I should get back trying to find a stream on the anime. Or find the comics.

A lot of work was made trying to make Dead Space a multi-media success. I, for one, hope it makes it. I kind of dig the Event Horizon vibes and how EA have resisted the call to succumb to b-move clichťs and instead work their socks off to scare the shit out of you. Iím looking forward to Dead Space 2. I look forward to very little!

Resident Evil 5: Untold Stories (360) June 27th

Iím trying to think of a story behind this one, but Iím coming up blank. Sometimes, I guess, I just play a game and then write about it afterwards. Weird.

8-bit Girlfriend (XBLI) July 3rd

Remember this phrase from an earlier snippet?

ďthat actually gets the idea that satire still has to be good enough in its own right before it can be funny and not just another victim of what its trying to lampoon. A lot of other games still donít seem to grasp this.Ē

Yeah. 8-bit Girlfriend fall into that trap hard. It falls hard and it never gets back up again. I wrote this to try and keep the indie game coverage up on one hand and to cover the pesky # slot on the other. If only I had known Id be later flooded with 101-in-1 games late in the year.

Sam & Max 303: They Stole Max's Brain (PC) July 3rd


Godfather II (360) July 7th

Itís the oddest thing. I own more games than Iíll ever play thanks to a compulsive drive to buy and then never use any obscure title Iíll see, yet Iíll still borrow games from others and then bump them to the top of the list. This was certainly true of Godfather II which was lent to me on a whim, and then tidily completed with commendable pace. Iíve even maxxed all the achievements.

Itís not really a great game, either; itís middle-ground and quite broken in execution. But itís done now

Armada 2526 (PC) July 11th

This is the best thing I wrote all 2010 and if you disagree, youíre wrong and I hate you.

Not enough people bought this game, and I take this as a personal affront. Go and buy the game now.

Aphelion (XBLI) July 19th

Realistic 3D sprites in a homemade game was a bit of a shock, but they have been attempted before in games like Zenhack. Sadly, theyíve been kind of poor, but Aphelion pulls them off well. Itís one of the more expensive XBLI games, but itís well worth the investment.

Shining Wisdom
(SAT) July 19th

You all suck for not reading this review; I poured hours into it, replaying the PAL version I own, reading and comparing the awful US script with it as I went. Itís something Iíve wanted to do for the longest time now and I finally got bored of thinking about it and busted it out. It took months -- months! -- and, as such, has been read by seven people and four spambots.

Breath of Death VII (XBLI) July 24th

Best RPG on the indie channel until they released their new one this week? Time will tell!

Like this review. Wrote it in one sitting and focused on how it parodies RPG tropes without falling prey of that it mocks. Somewhat ironically, was offered a review code from the developers after Iíd spent the whooping $1 to purchase the game outright. I didnít demand a refund; I wonder if I should have.

Their new RPG should trickle out as my next review. Hold your breaths and wait!

Sam & Max 304: Beyond the Alley of the Dolls (PC) July 31st


Clover: A Curious Tale (PC) August 9th

Downloaded the XBLI trial of this game before realising that I had a PC review code sitting in my inbox. Deleted XBLI version, downloaded the game, checked to see if it worked okay then, several hours later, discovered it had eaten half my day.

Really good homemade game inspired by a political quote from WWII on how easy it is to lead people like sheep. itís a game that gets more powerful as it goes on. It also has a cynical critic called Gary who complains bitterly about things and a maddeningly smug and arrogant fashion. I liked him best.

Worms XBA (360) August 16th

Another boring one here. I was playing a lot of Worms on XBLA. I wrote about Worms on XBLA.

Halo 3: ODST (360) August 31st

I spent ages writing this one and it languishes at the bottom of the hit list. I, like a lot of other people, kind of expected ODST to suck, so never bothered upon release. I picked it up cheap, eventually, and found the game overly competent and mostly enjoyable. I think sometimes you need to push yourself out of your comfort zone and try to do something more creative -- which is what Bungie very much did here. Some ideas work, some do no, but those that did will find their way into later works to be built upon and these that didnít have been tried and found lacking.

I donít regret my time spent with it, but recognise it as the weakest in the series.

Sam & Max 305: The City That Dares Not Sleep (PC) September 4th

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Well, at least thatís over.

The third season was, actually, brilliant. Telltale are seemingly hell-bent on reinventing the genre and are doing a great job of it. The entire series is so surreal and so intent on turning convention on its head it becomes a form of twisted abstract genius.

I was glad to have the third season in my inbox. Really! Roll on season four!

Oh, godÖ.

VF CG Portrait Series v.3: Akira Yuki (SAT) September 6th

I signed a contract in blood to review one of these a year in a futile attempt to regain my soul Iíd lost in a previous deal. Starting to think itís not worth it.

Broken Sword (PC) September 9th

It was my birthday. Rather than offer congrats, Jason instead asked me to review a game Iíd played and disliked on another platform. I signed, took the Steam code and then found it was region locked to the US. Dutifully, I bought the game, with my own money, played it, beat it, hated it, wrote this the next morning.

Itís a shame Lewis isnít around anymore, because he likes this abortion of a remix, and I would enjoy belittling him for it. I noticed he wrote a praise review for the title on a different site and mocked him a little about it there.

Top Gun (PS3) September 11th

Contains no beach volleyball. I found this especially odd.

Zombie Estate (XBLI) September 18th

By unspoken law, three in every four XBLI games has to contain zombies. Charitably, maybe one in every ten of these are good games. Zombie Estate makes a very valid stab at being the best of the lot. It even has Replay Value; thatís always a big plus!

One-credit beaten the hell out of this game, but the last couple of stages are hairy as hell. We beat it (two of the four player slots filled) by making a perimeter of turrets and plants and trying to last as long as we can inside it, then hoping we made enough of a safety bubble to set it all up again.

Resident Evil (PSX) September 25th

I wrote this back near the beginning of the year under mysterious circumstances. Then I posted it again here because it was a slim RotW charter and I wanted to make it worthwhile. Still didnít win!

Still, I like this review. Itís sometimes gratifying to look at the reasons why your favourite games havenít aged as well as your nostalgic sensibilities would have liked.

Halo: Reach (360) September 29th

Would have won that weekís RotW had Leroux not posted his entire backlog of killer arcade reviews.

Damn you, Lerouuuuuuuuuux!

Winter Voices: Chapter One (PC) October 1st

Rarely have I played a game I wanted to like as much as this one. It was so many things right; it was creative and artistic and it took its ideas in a completely new direction. It was also pretentious and very quick to congratulate itself on this. The text came in unmentionable clumps that laboured to say a simple thing as complexly as possible, then repeat itself.

Entered this in an obscure tourney where it lost valuable obscure points because Iíd written a news article about it previously alerting judges to its existence. Stupid judges. I won the tourney anyway with honourable partner, Zigfriend. There was no controversy included at all.

101-in-1 Megamix (PSP) October 12th

True is stupid because he could not run this PSN code because he lives in America. Stupid TrueÖ

Tasty Planet (PC) October 24th

Will is stupid because he took the wrong review code and left me with this Indie effort from Canada. Will is double stupid because it still took him forever to review the wrong code that he took while I finished this one up pretty quick. Stupid WillÖ

Mafia II (360) November 8th

Masters is stupid because he said this is one of the best this-gen games available. And it isnít! Itís very average and poorly written in a lot of places. At heart, itís a sandbox game, but itís a sandbox game that, while you can wander off and explore, it really doesnít want you to. As such, moving away from where the game wants you to be is nothing more than aimless wandering around with nothing to do.

I beat this game right off the bat on Hard mode without much trouble. And now I have no reason to ever go back. Stupid MastersÖ

Medal of Honor (360) November 10th

People out there would have you think that the single player is good and the multiplayer bad. This is wrong and people who say otherwise are the wrongest of all!

Iíve suffered through the tripe single player enough to squeeze the achievements out, but still spend a lot of time on the multiplayer. Itís the game that finally got squad based fighting right; even if youíre surrounded by useless idiots, you can make enough of a difference so that maybe youíll lose out in the end, but you can achieve enough to think your efforts worthwhile.

In other circumstances, Iíd be playing it right now. Iíve almost maxed out my special ops multiplayer character.

101-in-1 Sports MegaMix (DS) November 16th

This was about as welcome as the last 101-in-1 games but had the extra taint of being absolute rubbish. The first game had a kooky zaniness to it; this was just has a lot of half-baked ideas of how to make a bite-sized sports game then ensure it has ill-fitting touch screen functions added on.

recettear: An Item Shop's Tale (PC) November 27th

Had been quietly playing the hell out of this game since its release and working towards an eventual review when I thought Iíd played enough of the game. But it kept on surprising me with hoe deep it was, so it took a lot of playing to find that comfortable point. When I got around to spitting the review out eventually, it claimed a glorious RotW spot.

Kozu (XBLI) December 18th

Spite review. Joe might have won a RotW by default had no one showed, so I wrote this in a spare hour. Joe won anyway, but thatís mainly because Jerec never gives me wins on anything since the Metal Slug incident. I regret nothing.

Most recent blog posts from Gary Hartley...

honestgamer honestgamer - January 09, 2011 (10:06 AM)
Not bad for someone who was contemplating review retirement. Not bad at all! I hope your retirement works out for you... ten years from now! In the meantime, it's great to see you continuing to crank out reviews like these. Some of your selections have been great.

I was thinking about posting a list of my own for this, but there wouldn't have been all of the commentary. My contributions were spread out all over the Internet this year, especially with the launch of Gameroni. I still had around 42 or 43 reviews posted here (falling just short of your number for the first time ever), then I had 15 or 16 at Gameroni and another one or two elsewhere. The real culprit, though, is the 12 guides that I wrote. Those suckers take up a LOT of my time! They go toward giving me more time to write in the long run and I also get a review out of each one written, but in the short term they murder my review productivity. I did manage to hammer out around 60 reviews this year, my usual number, but it was a close thing and I may not quite get there in 2011. I may not even come close.

In 2010, the story behind most of my reviews is one of two things:

1) I got the game sent to me for review, either because it showed up without warning or because I requested it, and so I played it and reviewed it;

2) I wrote a guide for the game as a freelance assignment for IGN and when I was done, I also wrote a review to take advantage of my familiarity with the title by that point;

Anyway, I had more reasons than you did to keep writing reviews and sometimes it was difficult to keep going. I think we all consider retirement regularly at this point because we've been doing it for so long, but I do plan to keep going for another few years and I hope to have you and others writing along with me so there's some decent competition to inspire me to write my best!
wolfqueen001 wolfqueen001 - January 09, 2011 (11:32 AM)
Hahaha. I was wondering when you'd post one of these. I'm planning on posting mine soon, too.

A few comments:

You're welcome for Enchanted Arms.


It also has a cynical critic called Gary who complains bitterly about things and a maddeningly smug and arrogant fashion. I liked him best.

XD I bet you do. It's like they've known you all along!

Anyway, I have to echo Jason's sentiments about the retiring thing. I know I've expressed my thoughts on this plenty of times to you before, but as much as I'd like to see you continue, I won't blame you at all if you decided to quit it all. Truth be told, if you decided to continue, I'd rather you do it willingly and out of a sense of fulfilment rather than obligation or another job, but I know how you are with commitments. In any case, even if it doesn't look like it from this list, I'm glad you seemed to have taken things a bit more relaxedly than you usually do. I hope that helped with any motivational issues and that you'll always take a step back if things are getting too tough or tiring to handle.
EmP EmP - January 10, 2011 (09:18 AM)
Jason: I'm probably more open to writing this new years than I was last year. I made an effort to review things that I wanted to rather than had to when I can. Sometimes there's no getting around that, and it brought my tally down, but it's probably worth it. I figure writing what I might care about should priduce better reviews which, in turn, might allow me to spit out stuff people actually want to read. We'll see, I guess.

As for FAQ writing, I honestly don;t know how anyone can do it. I have a small number of mini-FAQs to my name and a half-finished Shining in the Darkness one that will forever stay parked. They ate up far too much time and were clearly not for me. Fair play to people who can stick with it -- though I can see how it would devour the want for writing elsewhere.

WQ: Taking it abit easier this year has helped a fair bit, and I've spat out more revirews that I'm happy with than normal. I'm going to keep seeing how this year goes and take it from there. I need to win the alpahmarathon again, anyway. Someone else winning that feels... wrong.
overdrive overdrive - January 10, 2011 (11:00 AM)
I know what you mean about FAQ-writing, EmP. When I first started writing about games, it was FAQing with reviews being this little side hobby gig. And then I realized that I was having far more fun playing games and tossing out my opinion of them than I was taking painstaking notes about everything.

Every great once in a while, I still get an email mentioning some little thing I didn't catch in either of my two completed guides. I'm just like, "No, not touching it...trash". I don't have my original files and have no desire to even pretend to care enough to edit. Reviews are still fun, but the thought of FAQing just makes my head hurt. And that's with me only doing guides for older games that tended to be more straightforward and stuff.

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