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Defunct Games Picks the Top Ten Games of 2014
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on January 05, 2015   |   Episode 80 (Show Archive)  

2014 was the year when everybody realized that ice water is incredible cold, John Travolta decided not to prepare and the world's hypochondriacs collectively worried they had ebola. But beyond the silliness, 2014 also offered gamers a lot to cheer about. And no, I'm not talking about that Kim Kardashian app.

Between reviews, previews and recreation, I played close to 200 games in 2014. Sadly, that's just a fraction of what was released over the last 12 months. Even if I didn't tackle every game released last year, I feel like I played enough to form a list of the year's best games. Some are major releases you'll find on other top 10 lists, while others you may have missed because they flew under the radar.

Rogue Legacy
[ System: PSN - Release: July 30, 2014 ]

Up first is Rogue Legacy, which made its console debut in 2014. This is an outrageously clever action/platformer with just enough roguelike hooks to make it one of the most addictive games of the year. The concept is simple enough. It's your goal to race through this Metroidvania-inspired castle tracking down bosses and picking up money. But when you die, it's game over. Not only will the castle generate a new layout, but you'll need to choose from one of the fallen knight's brave offspring.

This is where the fun comes in. Every character is a little different, with some suffering from game-changing maladies. For example, a character suffering from vertigo will see the screen upside down and have the controls reversed. Some characters are near-sighted, which means that much of the screen is blurred. And then there is the occasional heir that feels like they are The One, seeing the castle as a futuristic neon design. And thanks to the roguelike elements, Rogue Legacy is a perfect fit on the PS Vita. This was a strong year for smaller games on Sony's handheld, as you're about to find out from reading this list. [Read full review]

Wolfenstein: The New Order
[ System: Multiple - Release: May 20, 2014 ]

Looking back on it now, Wolfenstein: The New Order shouldn't have come as a surprise. For one thing, the Wolfenstein lineage has been shockingly strong, with most games in the series receiving praise from even the most skeptical critics. What's more, it comes from a team made up of the creative minds behind two other high-quality story-driven first-person shooters -- Chronicles of Riddick and The Darkness. And yet despite this pedigree, I went into this alternate reality shooter fearing the worst.

Between the incredible pacing, memorable characters and diverse locations, Wolfenstein: The New Order won me over. Here's an action game that gets the shooting mechanics right, even going as far as to make dual-wielding relevant. It's fast and always changing, constantly veering into science fiction territory. And best of all, it spends a lot of time creating a perfectly realized alternate reality full of subtle touches. In that sense, Wolfenstein is a lot like BioShock, another first-person adventure I adore. I would love to see what this team could do with a story-driven Doom.

Futuridium EP Deluxe
[ System: PSN - Release: September 30, 2014 ]

Futuridium EP Deluxe is the perfect example of the type of game you rarely see on modern consoles. This is a psychedelic mix between Star Fox and Sega's influential arcade classic Zaxxon, creating one of the most visually arresting games of 2014. The goal is to shoot down these blue boxes and advance to the next stage. While that may sound simple, the game becomes deceptively difficult thanks to the increasingly complicated level designs.

It's impossible to talk about Futuridium EP Deluxe without noting how great it looks. On both an artistic and technical level, this is one of the best looking PlayStation 4 games I've seen all year. With a heavy use of neon and clean textures, the art style has shades of future chic circa 1985. It all comes together to create the kind of space shoot-em-up for people who normally don't like this kind of game. It's simple to get into and the levels are full of surprises. Futuridium EP Deluxe is not to be missed. [Read full review]

Sunset Overdrive
[ System: Xbox One - Release: October 28, 2014 ]

Do you remember that cool Rock Band 2 opening cinema where a bunch of hip musicians fight on top of moving cars? Sunset Overdrive is that brief cut scene brought to life as an over-the-top open world action game. It fuses punk's rebellious spirit with action mechanics that feel like a cross between Crackdown, Jet Set Radio, and Ratchet & Clank. It's the kind of recipe that can go bad in hundreds of different ways, and yet Sunset Overdrive manages to stick the landing.

Even if some of the jokes fall flat, I love the game's sense of humor and colorful characters. The world is a blast to traverse, thanks in large part to the grinding mechanic. Best of all, the action is punctuated by a selection of wacky (yet effective) guns. There are a lot of clever ideas in Sunset Overdrive and it continues to top itself from one scene to the next. And the moment Buzz Osborne showed up to save the day, that's when I knew Sunset Overdrive had a guaranteed spot on my top 10 list.

Pix the Cat
[ System: PS Vita - Release: October 7, 2014 ]

Now here's a game that came out of nowhere and really blew me away. Pix the Cat is an intoxicating mix between Pac-Man, Chu Chu Rocket and the classic Snake game. It's a high-energy roller coaster ride that sees the titular character racing through a number of expertly crafted mazes on a mission to save the helpless ducklings. As simplistic as the concept is, I found myself hopelessly addicted to this game for weeks. I kept playing and replaying Pix the Cat until I had unlocked everything ... or until my fingers couldn't take any more.

Despite the simplistic play mechanics and retro look, it's not immediately clear what makes Pix the Cat so much fun. The first few stages are good, but nothing compared to the higher difficulties. What's more, the game offers several modes that radically change the rules, featuring dozens of puzzles to solve. And don't forget about the daily challenge, which goes a long way to extend the life of the game. One small caveat to this recommendation: The PS Vita port is the best handling version of Pix the Cat. While serviceable, the PlayStation 4's controller doesn't seem as tightly tuned as what you get on the handheld.

[ System: PlayStation 4 - Release: August 12, 2014 ]

I have long maintained that I don't find video games scary. Sure, some games have well-crafted jump scares and others are great at setting a spooky atmosphere, but few are genuinely scary. Knowing that I'm just playing a game breaks the illusion for me, so I have a hard time getting worked up in horror games. But that was not the case with P.T. This mysterious download was not only an effective ghost story, it was the first video game to make me put down a controller in terror.

While many of the games on this list take you across the world and into space, P.T. is set entirely in a single L-shaped hallway. We learn the details of a grisly murder through solving obtuse puzzles and exploring the detailed surroundings. And with each loop through the hallway, the creators find new ways to make your hair stand up on end. There are legitimate complaints to be leveled against the more frustrating puzzle designs and the questionable solutions, but I can't overlook how this game made me feel. Whether or not P.T. holds up as a puzzle game is irrelevant, as it is the only game to give me a genuine fright.

[ System: PS Vita/PS4 - Release: January 21, 2014 ]

Between Sunset Overdrive, OlliOlli and Destiny, 2014 was a big year for grinding. In many ways, OlliOlli is the skateboarding game I've been waiting for. While I appreciated what Skate brought to the table, OlliOlli is the first game in a long time to capture what I loved about Tony Hawk's Pro Skater. By stripping the concept down to its essentials, creator Tom Hegarty has developed a game that is all about pulling off tricks and landing huge combos.

Released in January, this was one of the first games I reviewed in 2014. And even with a barrage of huge releases on multiple systems, I couldn't get OlliOlli out of my head. I played it every day in hopes of eventually completing every single challenge the game offered. And when it finally hit the PlayStation 4 in August, I started the journey all over again. The gameplay is simple to learn, but will take hours to completely master. And when you finally do find your rhythm and perfect the large library of tricks, you'll discover an endlessly satisfying experience that is great on all platforms. [Read full review]

South Park: The Stick of Truth
[ System: Multiple - Release: March 4, 2014 ]

Between the numerous delays, turmoil at THQ and South Park's lousy track record on home consoles, I feared The Stick of Truth was going to be yet another high profile disappointment. But somehow Obsidian pulled it all together to create a role-playing game as authentic to the source material as I've ever seen. As cliche as it sounds, it is often impossible to tell the difference between the long-running TV show and the game. The Stick of Truth nails the look, writing and sound of the cartoon in a way I've never seen before, and is a real high water mark for games based on TV shows.

Beyond being a spitting image of the source material, The Stick of Truth is a solid role-playing experience that brings a few new ideas to the roundtable. I'm a big fan of the interactive combat, and enjoyed all of the appropriate changes made to the items and special attacks. The game is dripping with personality and full of cameos from the show's 18 seasons. It also gets away with more raunchy humor than I've ever seen before, including a number of insanely offensive situations that will send the easily outraged to Twitter. Hopefully the success of The Stick of Truth will bring forth a new era of cartoon games. I would pay just about anything for a series of adventure games based on Beavis & Butthead. Or better yet, Daria.

The Swapper
[ System: PSN - Release: August 5, 2014 ]

Every year brings dozens of science fiction games, but few have the impact of The Swapper. This game has one of those ingenious gadgets you can't believe didn't exist prior to this game. It's a gun that allows you to not only create four identical clones, but swap bodies in order to solve puzzles and find a way off the deadly space station. The fun comes when you've mastered the cloning mechanic. With a little practice, you're able to float around stages and command his environment with superhuman powers.

As a puzzler, The Swapper is a real brain-teaser. But where it really shines is in its setting and atmosphere. From the moment you get dropped off on the unusually quiet space station, there's a real feeling of isolation. Something terrible happened here, but it's not entirely clear what. The game's story is haunting and will stick with you for years to come. It's a triumph every bit as good as Portal. Just don't go in expecting a lot of jokes. [Read full review]

[ System: PS Vita - Release: February 11, 2014 ]

You know how everybody is losing their shit over the new Star Wars trailer? Well, that's how I feel about TxK. Tempest 2000 is not just something I like; it's a game I love with every fiber of my being. The shooter is a timeless masterpiece that I would put on my list of the ten best games of all time. So given my unwavering love for Tempest 2000, you can imagine my excitement when I discovered that TxK is better in every way.

For as chaotic as it often appears, there's a certain beauty to TxK's presentation. From the way the levels seem to flap in the wind to the colorful backgrounds moving to the techno beats, everything about the experience is mesmerizing. Beyond the visual improvements, Llamasoft has made some important additions to the core mechanics. Many stages will move around, changing shapes right in the middle of a tense firefight. The levels in TxK shake, rotate, expand and morph into different designs, all in the hopes of messing the player up.

If you didn't like the arcade game and can't figure out why the Jaguar sequel was a big deal, then TxK may not win you over. But I'm not one of those people. Tempest 2000 is one of my favorite games of all time, and TxK is even better. Of all the games featured on this list, it's this one I will still be raving about twenty years from now. [Read full review]



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