If you read game sites at all, by now you've probably had more than your fill of cake and Weighted Companion Cube jokes. But Portal remains one of the best games to come out this year, well worth the price of the entire Orange Box just by itself. It's a darkly funny genre-bender of a game, and every minute of it is enjoyable. The only thing a reasonable person could still wish for is more of it - it's a short game by anyone's standards. And Ellen McLain's brilliant voice acting as GLaDOS makes me giggle like a schoolgirl.
My only regret is not experiencing the game on my PC. The Xbox 360's controls are awkward and the general ambiance of the environments seemed pretty drab and washed out.
Slashdot Engineer Scott Collins:
My favorite game this year (outside of WoW, I'm required to admit) was something of a surprise. It started at a chili-dinner party when a friend pulled a deck of cards out and said "Let's play Fluxx." Everyone else seemed to know what was going on, so I didn't require any convincing. It turns out to be a pretty fast-paced card game where you play: 'Action' cards, such as 'Pick a card at random from another player's hand'; 'Keeper' cards which are assets you collect to win, like 'The Brain', 'The Toaster', 'Dreams', 'The Rocket', et al; 'New Rule' cards that change play, like 'Draw 4' which changes the initial game of "draw 1, play 1" to "draw 4, play 1"; and 'Goals', like 'Milk and Cookies' meaning that while that is the current goal, the player who has played both the Milk and Cookies Keepers immediately wins. It ends up being a very strange and fun mix, something like Nomic combined with Uno. But that's not the end of the story.
The game was so much fun that when I got home I looked up the maker, Looney Labs, to buy a Fluxx deck for myself. There I discovered Zombie Fluxx.Zombie Fluxx adds a new kind of anti-Keeper: the Creeper; while the Keepers are things like 'The Chainsaw', 'The Can of Gasoline', 'The Shotgun'; the Goals are things like 'I alone survived', where if you have a Friend (Keeper), and the Car, and no zombies --- and everyone else has at least one zombie, you win. I managed to play Zombie Fluxx with all of my kids at once. At Thanksgiving, we had a game with three generations playing (just regular Fluxx though; I don't think Grandma and Grampa are ready for Zombies). The decks are designed so you can easily combine regular Fluxx and Zombie Fluxx for an even bigger game (and easily separate them again).
Patrick "Scuttlemonkey" McGarry:
This year saw a rather violent shift in my gaming appetites, as I decided it was time to kick the World of Warcraft habit.Any game that required too much of my time was avoided like the plague.That being said, the Wii's Mario Galaxy turned out to be my perfect game this year. So long have I been engrossed in the massive "pretty factor" of games (Quake, Doom, F.E.A.R., Warcraft, EVE, Empire at War, etc) that try to impress users with graphics, huge storylines, or tons of options that I forgot how great it could be just to find a simple game that offers a little bit of distraction and fun. Mario Galaxy really is the ultimate realization of the Mario franchise so far. It offers all of the glory of a platformer while offering several new twists.The first major expansion beyond the normal Mario world was their use of 3D and gravity. Many surfaces in the game acted as their own planet, complete with gravity well and the ability to traverse all sides of the object. There are also many fun manipulations of gravity throughout the game.Mario Galaxy also takes advantage of many unique controls available on the Wii to really make the gameplay interesting, without being overly hard.
Many games I have played recently really required a great deal of time to hone your skills to that "expert" level, and while that may be fine for a game with the scope of World of Warcraft, I shouldn't need that level of dedication for a simple platformer and Mario Galaxy delivers spectacularly. There were just enough challenges in the game to make it interesting but it was easy enough I could just pick it up and put it down whenever I felt like it without getting frustrated. The other major advancement Mario Galaxy has made was in cooperative gameplay. The new "co-star" mode makes it possible for you to include even the most staunch non-gamers in the Mario Galaxy experience. The co-star is given a cursor on the screen with which they can pick up power-ups, halt incoming enemies or enemy attacks, assist with stronger jumps, and even stun enemies for easy dispatch. Keep in mind that while all of these things are helpful if you happen to have a co-star, the game doesn't require you to have one, so that helpful individual can come and go as they please.
This makes it ideal for friends who drop by or loved ones that don't want to really jump in with both feet. All in all Mario Galaxy is a great casual game that can provide entertainment for just about any gaming appetite, definitely worth a look.
Rob "CmdrTaco" Malda:
My entry for game of the year is almost more about multiplayer gameplay. From fighters to first person shooters, there are just so many games out where I can invite a friend to join me, and then one of us crushes the other. Don't get me wrong, this is fun, but in many of those games, the person with the superior skill is bored while the less experienced player is defeated over and over again. It can get old.
Enter Rock Band. It might be the perfect party game. Someone drums, another plays bass, another lead guitar. And the most daring of any you takes up the USB microphone and goes nuts karaoke style. Instead of competing, you are a team. When one person fails out, another can bring them back by pulling off an overdrive move. And with the multiple difficulty settings, I can play on hard, while a friend plays on easy, and we can both be challenged and entertained.
It's hours of fun. It has problems: too many cords, not enough songs that everyone agrees on, and finding a spare guitar right now seems to be impossible. But each of those problems is addressable and doesn't take away from the fact that everyone can rock out for a few minutes. Everyone can be equals with a common goal and be challenged (well, maybe not people who have mastered expert mode, but I have no sympathy for you ;) It's got a steep price tag, but if you have 3 friends, it's worth it.
Michael "Zonk" Zenke:
My game of the year 2007 was decided during the 2006 E3 event.Mass Effect, at that point, was nothing more than a trailer about some space marine talking to an alien bartender. Years of patient waiting culminated for me in a 45 minute drive to the K-Mart in Portage, WI. Being able to buy a game a full week and a half before it releases generally is a special treat - moreso for me because of the chance to review the game before it came out. With a review in mind, I spent a full week leisurely exploring the world of Commander Shepherd, trying to stop Saren from carrying out his mad plot.
Over the course of that week, I was deeply, fully in love with the game. Yes, it's got some major flaws. The game's UI ranges from barely passable to amateur hour, and there are some honest frustrations to be voiced about character AI. Just the same, I was hooked, happily using the conversation wheel and Paragoning my way through the game's endless content. In some ways it reminded me a lot of Oblivion, my pick for last year's GOTY, in that the story fully drew me in. I've played Mass Effect quite a bit less than Oblivion; the exploration elements are just not as engaging.
But quality easily makes up for quantity, and my time with Mass Effect has been amazing. The moment that cemented this title in my personal hall of fame was actually the climax. Oblivion's ending is something of a 'whatever' - the joy there is in the journey. With Mass Effect, Shepherd's final confrontation with Saren is easily one of the most memorable gaming moments I've ever experienced. It's an incredibly fitting cap to the game's epic story and (somehow) actually makes me want to play through the whole thing over again.
Blemishes and all, Mass Effect is my game of the year for 2007. It reaffirmed for me the storytelling potential of western-style RPGs, and let me put to rest a burning anticipation I've had for quite some time. And, of course, now I can get ready for the next chapter in the series. When do you think Mass Effect 2 will be out?