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A Change of Focus

If there’s one thing that Nintendo have become increasingly proficient at in recent times it’s apologising. Seemingly during every Nintendo Direct stream there’s a dignified shot of Iwata bowing and saying sorry for the slip of this or the delay of that. At first what was a very humbling sight is now so regular that I’d be shocked if it didn’t form the core of a Nintendo drinking game.

Last week, however, it wasn’t just his loyal fan base that he was having to eat humble pie in front of. During Nintendo’s quarterly policy and financial briefing he announced to investors that the Wii U, as feared, was dramatically underperforming. Expectations of selling nearly 10m consoles this financial year were slashed to a forecast nearer 3m, and it appears that such a drastic profits warning has caused one of gaming’s most noble of companies to take stock of their approach.

To them, that translates to focusing on what they have hitherto ignored: the gamepad.

Though there have been many issues with the Wii U since its launch, from the way it has been marketed to the dissipating third-party support, the most criminal to my mind has been the exasperating way Nintendo themselves have ignored the gamepad. It’s the unique feature of the system and yet – for reasons best known to themselves – successive flagship titles have shunned the extra screen, choosing to fill it only with maps or token buttons.

From the outset, pack-in Nintendoland showed its promise. From the tense hide-and-seek asymmetric multiplayer that was the Luigi’s Ghost Mansion to the frantic finger flicking and shuriken hurling of Ninja Castle it, much like Wii Sports before it, showcased just how the platform holder intended developers to embrace the system. And to their credit the likes of Zombi-U, Lego City: Undercover, and Rayman: Legends took full advantage of a second screen and offered early adopters a reason to feel buoyant.

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Since those early, possibly naïve, days what has been astonishing is how flagrantly the platform’s first-party have ignored it. Nowhere was this truer than in Super Mario 3D World. It used to be that whenever a new Mario game came out it would be guaranteed to take full advantage of the hardware, but when all the sizeable touchscreen was used for was to release a spare mushroom it seemed shocking. Furthermore, the uninspiring use of it as simply a horn in Super Mario Kart only serves to signal that hardware and software groups were obviously not in agreement as to the potential of the hardware. You could argue that both franchises are sticking to tried and trusted principles in a period of financial strife, but If Nintendo aren’t going to step up, who are?

It’s probably too late to salvage anything interesting for the imminent Mario Kart and Donkey Kong – which bizarrely shows nothing at all on the gamepad, a new low in the Wii U’s short history – but there may be hope for Super Smash Bros. It is a little further out and may also benefit from having a 3DS companion game to draw inspiration from. Nintendo need to get their designers together, lock them in a room, and give us all a reason to have their tablet lurking behind the telly and not to dismiss it as a poor man’s Vita.

As it stands they have been shamed by another Japanese giant. In just a few short months Sony have already shown how a bonus display can be used. Whilst they’re still promising that old classic the “rear view mirror” tack-on for driving games, its use as a remote control is superb. The ease at which I can lie in bed racking up high-scores on Resogun and attempting the passing challenges of FIFA embarrasses the token remote play options on the Wii U that are not only selective but operate with far greater restrictions. Woe betide if there are too many walls/floors/doors in between you and the console. Admittedly the Vita has the advantage of being a dedicated gaming machine in its own right but when the two of them are sat next to each other the gamepad feels horribly cheap, in both intent and build quality.

There are parallels too with the Xbox One’s Kinect sensor; equally underutilised it is also currently a bone of contention. Though handy in shortcutting through the Metro interface and for controlling your Blu-rays as you clean out your rabbits, at present it causes gamers to wonder why they’re dropping an extra £80 on a peripheral that is yet to shine. For many that I know the mistakes of last year’s E3 are now distant memories and it is purely a cost barrier that is stopping them upgrading their 360. Thankfully good things are definitely around the corner for Kinect, with both dedicated Kinect games and those featuring hybrid controls, but it is questionable whether the same can be said for the gamepad.

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However, where both the Kinect and the gamepad hold an advantage is that every single system sold will come bundled with one respectively. This may not seem like much of a plus but to a development team this is crucial. They’re looking to reach to sell as many units as possible and in doing so typically target the most sizeable install base – anything straying from the most prominent circle on the Venn diagram involves a cost that is less likely to be recouped. There are always exceptions, such as the dalliances with “Better with Kinect” and Sony’s own Move during the last generation, but for the most part you aim where there are fewest barriers to entry.

With both the Microsoft camera and Nintendo’s bonus tablet there are no barrier to entry. If you own that system then you own that peripheral and so each still have huge potential. When developing for either there is an assurance that writing a voice recognition system will not be wasted as everyone on Xbox One can use it, whilst that nifty dual-screen puzzle mechanic you have in mind will reach every player who picks up your Wii U release. Even at multiplatform studios it should allow the creative minds at studios to squeak with glee, assuming they can clear it with the bean-counters first. The same sadly can’t be said about the PlayStation 4 and the Vita, a contributing factor to the lack of rear-view mirrors.

In all cases it’s about focus. Microsoft have first-party developers dedicated to producing Kinect titles and have made integration of voice commands simple for any dev to pop in. Sony allows its remote play to operate at a system level, removing the need for any extra work. Both may have issues elsewhere in their fledgling systems but their hardware and its uses are at least consistent and dedicated. With Nintendo, sadly, there seems a lack of focus. With NFC Pokémon games, DS games on the Virtual Console, and an arbitrary remote play offering, it seems they are making their gamepad all things to all men. Except, that is, for the men (and women) that actually want to play something special on it.

The first step to resolving anything is admitting that you have a problem, and with Iwata now on the record it’s clear that Nintendo have acknowledged their shortcomings. I don’t expect immediate changes, though; most games are too large to suddenly drop in a revolutionary way to add legitimacy to such a device as a second screen and so it may be a while before we can see what changes are being rung.

Although if there’s one team I trust it’s Miyamoto and company. So whilst I may be knocking back the gin next time Iwata offers up his sincere regret about another delay, if it ultimately gives me a reason to charge up that slab of plastic, I’ll be ok with that.

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Pikmin 3 ::: Let’s Play

It’s been a mighty while since the last Pikmin and James has been having to suffice with the offering found in Nintendoland. That only whetted his appetite further and so here he is showing Ali found the newest instalment of Nintendo’s garden-based franchise.

Lego City: Undercover ::: Review

Lego games have steadily been getting larger. A long time ago in a game far, far away we were once blessed with a tiny cantina that formed our mini-fig’s hub world. Ever since then Traveller’s Tales have slowly but surely been growing their ambition: Indiana Jones had his museum; Harry Potter ran around Hogwarts and its grounds; and more recently the Hobbits toiled through a scaled Middle Earth to a blocky Mount Doom. All were impressive in their time but what Undercover achieves sets a new Lego standard.

To call Lego City a hub world would be doing it a great injustice; it’s a world in its own right. Streets filled with traffic criss-cross the map, flanked by towering buildings and minifigs out for a midday stroll. Residential areas filled with gardens and driveways give way to industrial docks on one side and a forest covered mountain the other. All the time all manner of cars, boats and trains make their way about town as you stand grinning like a buffoon in the centre wondering just what you can break first.

Though Grand Theft Auto may have done something similar over a decade ago, the childlike glee I find in watching these Lego folks stroll about town is unrivalled. It may be because I’m so used to branded experiences that seeing a “normal” Lego game is a novelty, but the charm that exudes from a city made of Lego can be seen built into every corner. Be it the tiny shop window displays, the snippets of dialogue you catch as you walk past others, or the comedy posters pasted onto billboards, each has a huge amount of care and attention lavish upon them truly flesh out the world.

This is helped further by the inclusion of some very large personalities. Until now the humour has always come from parodies on specific films, often giving sombre or dramatic moments a flippant retelling. Here there’s nowhere to hide as they tell their own tale of how you, Chase McCain, track down master criminal Rex Fury, but even before the end of the opening titles you know it’s going to be ok. Pulling in references from countless movies and mixing it with their own comedic writing they had me chortling before I even took control of Chase.

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It’s a theme that continues throughout and takes full advantage of being unshackled from a specific IP. Undercover plunders the archives of cop shows and cult films for sneaky references and gags, liberally sprinkling them about whilst managing not to alienate anyone who isn’t old enough to have seen the likes of Dirty Harry or Starsky & Hutch. It walks that fine Pixar-esque line, throwing in as much for adults as it does for kids and rarely fails. Where it does falter however is when its patently trying too hard, as a very tired Arnie homage proves later in the game.

Away from the cutscenes, it’s traditional Lego platforming fare, though split between the open world and the tighter, more controlled levels synonymous with the series. The latter unfold as you progress through the main story charting Chase’s pursuit of Rex, and it’s not long before circumstances have you swapping your police badge for miner’s overalls, fireman’s helmets, and an astronaut space suit as Traveller’s Tales take full advantage of all the Lego sets they can find. Whilst they fall into the usual Lego trope of each offering a unique talent, such as using dynamite or hacking down doors with a fire axe, the greatest relief is they’ve finally moved away from sending small children through hatchways.

However, although polished and up to their usual high standard, these self-contained levels do little to excite me as their formula is exceedingly well rehearsed. To a certain extent I feel I know exactly what’s coming and am going through the motions. Instead, where Undercover begins to sing is when you’re out in the open.

The city isn’t just well built but also chocked full of secrets. Stroll down any street and you’ll see ladders or disguise-specific actions trying to tempt you off of your current course. Some may be as simple as donning your thief outfit to break into a garage to steal a car, triggering a race back to the hideout before the police get you. Others may see you chain through most of Chase’s alter egos, taking you high above the streets collecting extra disguises, unlockable vehicles or mega-bricks. These rooftop detours are probably the most interesting as they lead you up and away from the city streets and allow you take in just how large and well laid out the city is. They’re a lovely piece of design too as one unlockable might lead onto the path of another, and another, and before you know it you’re a mile away from where you started.

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Embracing this unrestricted sense of platforming, free running is introduced to the series for the first time. Indicated by a smattering of blue and white blocks, they regularly appear on walls and fences across the land and encourage you to see where they might lead. Though effectively a rooftop time-trial, they show off some very slick animations, and if timed right you’ll be forgiven to thinking it’s Lego Mirror’s Edge as you fly around the city, bouncing off walls and sliding down zip wires.

With such a plethora of options – each disguise has a number of unique collectibles or activities on top of the car chases and foot races – it would be easy to miss things, but here the Wii U’s gamepad comes to the fore. Lego City’s police force are also issued a pad and holding it up in scanner mode will see Chase scan the area for secrets, marking them on the map for further investigation. Though not crucial to proceedings, it’s a nice added extra alongside the traditional map view that makes Undercover feel at home on Nintendo’s dual screen platform.

With so much going in its favour it’s a shame that I still have one large complaint. The Lego games are famous for their consistently well-executed co-op experience but here I’m left wanting. The technical pressures of rendering a full metropolis is far too much to have another viewport lobbed into the mix, and so whilst understandable it is a comparatively lonely experience.

Nevertheless, that shouldn’t detract from what has been achieved. For a long time, though amused by their takes on pop-culture, the formula was getting too stale for my liking. What Lego City does is blow that wide open. For the purists there are still the core missions, but away from those there’s whole world to explore. Take a sports car for a drive down to the harbour, run over rooftops in search of treasure, or just walk the streets and admire the mini-architecture on show.

There was a risk that such a venture would be style over substance but this is no lazy façade. The only thing lacking when compared to Grand Theft Auto are the guns. Yet what it has in spades over its more mature counterpart is so much charm that you’d wish Liberty City was made out of studs.

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Lego City Undercover ::: Hands On

We’ve all seen the Lego games. We know what Traveller’s Tales can do when given a tight, controlled level to fill out with their own brand of stud-based entertainment. But how are they with an open world?

Join us as we delve into the life of an undercover Lego cop, pushed to the edge, willing to dish out his own brand of justice… dressed as a gladiator and continually distracted by a festoon of collectibles.

Complete with Wii U gamepad picture-in-picture.

Stating the bleedin’ obvious

Did you happen to catch Nintendo’s conference this week? In an online presentation to the world they proudly announced that the sky is blue, that snow is cold, and baby bunnies are one of the cutest things on earth.

In an additional round of stating the bleedin’ obvious, they revealed that they were developing Zelda, Mario, Mario Kart and Smash Bros. games for the Wii U. Who would have believed it?

Sarcasm aside, whilst this news is going to surprise no one, their need to tell us seems only to point to desperation. With no footage on show of any of those four titles, it served more as a reassurance to Nintendo die-hards that their needs will be serviced in time rather than a proud unveiling of upcoming products. Perhaps worried about the ever-rumoured next gen offerings from its rivals it felt the need to seed its E3 offering earlier than ever. Although with next to no details behind any of them they appear just to be courting headlines.

The disappointing aspect of this for me was that these rather vacuous announcements hid far more exciting titbits. Nothing to do with a Wind Waker remake, fresh looks at Wonderful 101, teasers for Bayonetta 2 and a proper reveal in the form of a new Yoshi game all piqued my interest. Plus offerings from Monolithsoft and other developers close to Nintendo.

Wonderful 101 (formerly Project P-100) appeared full of pizazz, seemingly mixing Pikmin, Earth Defence Force and Saturday morning cartoons; Bayonetta, though not showing any in-game footage, showed sass that is much needed on the platform; whilst Yoshi returns for his first home console outing for 15-years. And coming from the director of Yoshi’s Island and the team that brought us Kirby’s Epic Yarn it makes me smile at the very thought of what they’ll dream up. The snippet on show looked like they’d used a woollen Yoshi and stop-frame animation and looked gorgeous.

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Of course, if you watch the whole presentation the Marios and Zeldas received very little air time, and yet merely dropping them in there seemed to do a disservice to games that did have footage or interviews. News such as this was obviously going to trump anything else but with no clips or release dates anywhere near them they seemed a cheap shot.

Half way through Iwata actually apologised for the lack of releases. Anyone with any previous experience of launches knows that developers work ridiculously hard to make a launch window, and if there’s any chance of doing so will burn the midnight oil to get their games out for that crucial period. As such, the next few months tend to be slightly barren, with those failing to make it out in time instead choosing to relax slightly and make their wares as polished and refined as possible.

Gamers expect that and what they should be shown are games available in the next few months, not years. In a barren period reassurance is what is needed that they’ve made the right choice. Whilst I in no way regret my Wii U, this Nintendo Direct does dent my confidence about it being a force in the short to medium term.

ZombiU ::: Review

Back in August I walked away from my brief bout with ZombiU distinctly unimpressed. An unresponsive combat mechanism and a clunky interface did nothing but alienate the user. That was no slight on the novel hardware (I’d just had a great time with Rayman on the same device), but rather the blame solely lay at the door of the developers. It was Red Steel all over again.

However, come the start of December, when I buckled horribly and broke into my penny jar to get a Wii U, I still held onto the hope that an extra couple of months incubation could turn things around. Yet even after playing through it, the answer isn’t clear cut.

Straight out the gate you’re still faced with the same punishing slowness that greeted me in the demo. Your movements are casually paced considering the undead are right on your heels, and you swing a cricket bat with such consideration that you’d expect the zombie’s skull to find the gap and head to the cover boundary for four. It feels wrong; there’s no urgency to any of your actions.

The difference between this and the demo however is that you have time to adapt. Fresh to the controls and asked to take down a veritable cavalcade of cadavers you would die horribly and repeatedly. At home, however, you have time to learn the nuances, adapt to the lethargic rise and fall of the bat, and find your feet in the world. Very aware of this, the early stages almost spoon-feed you zombies one by one in as low a risk situation as possible to get you used to it all.

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Of course, low risk is a relative term. A single zombie on their own can be handled simply, easily pushed back and pummelled into submission, but it can still rip your throat out in an instant should it slip pass your defences. It’s a game where – and I found this out on a handful of occasions – a lack of concentration can see the end of your adventure end before you can recover. It makes you approach every situation and each new room with caution as you learn to both fear and respect the undead.

Tackling more than one target at a time needs serious consideration as wading in waving your bat will only buy you slithers of time. If possible, outliers need to be dealt with first, or sensible use of flares (zombies like light, it turns out) paired with grenades and fire bombs to get rid of groups. These are no silver bullets, however, and a looseness in the controls never guarantee that these tossed objects end up where intended. Should things go even slightly awry, genuine panic can set in as you know that your default melee weapon is next to useless against multiple assailants, and running might only delay the inevitable.

As a fall back you do gain access to a series of guns, but this is no Call of Duty. As you play a member of the general public you have no formal weapons training and that tells in the aiming. Headshots will not come from popping a dot over a zombie’s bonce, they either require a splash of luck or for your enemy to be virtually on top of you. Not something to be advised.

Helping out in the quest for survival is the Wii U gamepad, acting as your inventory and your radar, each equally adding to tension in their own unique way. The former allows you to switch which weapons you have quick access to, though never pausing the game. Whilst digging around in your backpack the camera swings round to show you against the background. Even if there are no actual zombies in sight they play on the mind, and if there is then, boy, does that pile the pressure on your fingers to pull out the right item; flourishing a chocolate bar won’t quite work the same as a Molotov cocktail.

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When not rejigging your weaponry, the second screen alerts you to local threats. Creatures show up as red blips, allowing you to prepare for what’s round the corner. Yet almost cruelly it’s not just zombies but rats and crows, meaning you’re never quite sure what you’ll be facing. The sonar can also function as a scanner to try and help differentiate these from a distance, but line of sight is still required. Despite that, wandering down a corridor to suddenly hear a blip emanate from the pad can cause you to pause, whilst the sound of a chorus of blips reporting back can do more than that.

What all these component parts have in common is that none are flawlessly implemented. The inventory management can seem needlessly convoluted, your actions dawdling, the story full of holes. Respectively they have rough edges, minor failings that whilst never jarring are obvious enough to make you wish that ZombiU had had just a couple of extra months to get an extra level of polish. But by the same token they also add to the levels of tension and drama.

Not since the original Resident Evil or Fatal Frame have I felt truly unnerved playing a game. There are no cheap jump tricks on display here, the pressure and tension come from being pitted against a world that has gone to crap and the only object that you can truly trust is a faithful piece of English sporting equipment. The knowledge that you simply respawn back in your Safe House as a new character – though having lost all your backpack’s content – should the worse happen, does little to calm the nerves as you’re trudging around an unmapped sewer with a handful of blips that you prey turn out to be small and fluffy.

It’s a game that seems to have been built out of equal parts luck and judgement. For as much as I think the slow nature of the cricket bat’s rise and fall is a very clever feature, forcing you to truly understand combat and not just swing out wildly, there are many others that just raise questions as to how they settled upon that as a solution. Although either way it does not matter. Rather than question why what you’re playing is compelling there are times you should just stop over analysing things and settle in and enjoy it.

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Birthday Honours

At this time of year, as the Christmas trees come down and attentions turn to hot cross buns, award ceremonies are ten-a-penny with every magazine, show and website handing out accolades left right and centre. And by golly by jingo we want to get in on the action.

So whilst more reputable publications hand out Game of the Year plaudits, we present you with a list of those titles that have proven themselves enough to make the resurrected BIGsheep Birthday Honours.

Biggest Surprise: ZombiU

At Gamescom ZombiU and I did not get on well. In a noisy hall, shoulder to shoulder with fellow gamers, I attempted to get to grips with a seemingly clunky, cricket bat swinging survivor of the zombie apocalypse. He wasn’t a survivor for long. Neither was the next chap. Or the subsequent poor lady.

In the comfort of my own home, however, Ubisoft’s Wii U launch title came into its own. It wasn’t a game to excel on a show floor, but a considered title that required patience. In return it repaid you with a unique experience that could crank up the tension by merely placing a pair of blips on your radar.

In an era where most games seem to be going for a more instantly accessible and, some may say, dumbed down mainstream experience, ZombiU embraces being slightly obtuse. Now whether this is a design masterstroke or a pure accident it’s hard to tell but it’s come from nowhere to be the most surprising title of 2012.

Honourable mentions: Wii U, PlayStation Plus’s instant game collection.

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Most Likely to Make My Mind Melt: Fez

For a handful of us, our April was consumed by talk of glyphs. We had notebooks and smartphones full of pictures and scribbles as Phil Fish’s mind boggling platformer took over our mental faculties. It started simply enough, presenting itself coyly as an 8bit indie darling. Slowly, however, the truth was revealed and not only was it an inspiring mix of retro visuals and stirring platforming but a vessel that contained an entire new language that had to decrypted.

There was no bluntness to it, though. The language was part of the world, etched into the walls, with a subtlety that meant when its importance was revealed it made you look at the world from a completely different perspective.

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Greatest Multiplayer Experience: FIFA 13

As a concept it may not be revolutionary, but EA’s latest incarnation of the beautiful game is as polished as can be. Part of that comes from the various game modes: grouping each club’s supporters together and charting shared success; a collectible card game where you put your best Panini stickers against a friend’s; or online leagues that shows the best implementation of “True Skill” since Halo 2.

In the last twelve months though there has been no multiplayer experience that has topped getting half-a-dozen friends together and marching out onto the virtual pitch. Each of us takes a position – I like to think of myself as the digital Scott Parker – and attempt to work together in sync, watching for each other’s runs, sliding through through-balls, and hopefully working goals that even Messi would be proud of. Though sadly the opposition seem equally adept. The swines.

Honourable mentions: Nintendoland, Journey.

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Reaffirming My Belief That Games Can Just Be Pure Fun: Nintendoland

If there was a period that sold me on the Wii U it was the Monday lunchtime right after it had launched. A colleague had brought the machine, Nintendoland and a bagful of Wii-motes into the office and an hour later I was plotting a visit to GAME.

Some may say that Nintendoland doesn’t sell the Wii U as well as Wii Sports sold the original Wii, but that’s beside the point as the Luigi’s Mansion mini-game is almost worth the price of admission alone. A simple collection of games based around almost playground concepts, the collection excels at stripping away overly complex controls schemes and allows players to revel in the glee of tig for the modern era.

There are duds, but most either excel in multiplayer or reveal a surprising amount of depth or challenge when tackled solo. They’re simple, but when simple is done so well why overcomplicate matters.

Honourable mention: Super Mario 3D Land

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Most Interesting New Tech: Book of Spells

I’m always a sucker for technology that verges on the novelty. Last year’s obsession with Skylanders and its Near Field Communication toys proves that out. This year it was Sony’s Wonderbook that won me over; effectively a giant set of Augmented Reality cards bound in a cover and combined with an Eye-Toy.

As always, though, it’s how it’s used that makes it wonderful. Wonderbook’s ability to turn your room into a classroom at Hogwarts is achieved by more than simply rendering dragons on your coffee table. You get sucked into the magical castle, shown tiny paper-based dramatizations of spell’s histories, and transported to fantastical locations. At each you flick and swish your wand complete with all the sparkles you need to levitate toads and set Deatheaters on fire.

It may also help that there’s a Walking with Dinosaurs tie in coming later this year.

Honourable mentions: Vita, PlayStation Plus, Game Boy Camera.

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Most Likely to Make Me Miss My Bedtime: Minecraft

Sometimes a glassed walled lair hidden beneath a manmade volcano just has to be made. Then of course when that’s completed it needs attaching to the mine cart network so you can speedily reach the giant floating castle. Well, that would be if my giant floating castle hadn’t burnt down when I installed the fire pit. Next time: don’t use timber.

With each new construction the late nights were worth it. Not since Banjo Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts have I had a virtual Lego set that kept me up to the wee small hours as walls needed finishing, ponds needed digging, and giant squid needed herding.

Honourable mention: Wordament

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Oddest: Tokyo Jungle

Possibly the hardest fought category but by a smidge Tokyo Jungle made my mind boggle most. The sheer bizarre concept of playing as a Pomeranian, savaging cattle and courting flee infested mates doesn’t sound like a winner, but it worked.

It felt like a modern incarnation of Double Dragon but when you take into account the story behind the animal adventure the mind truly boggles. Time travels, future humans trying to save themselves by sacrificing the past, and golden retrievers declaring themselves king… I’ll never slag off the Halo storyline again.

Honourable mentions: Frog Fractions, Fez.

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Bestest Game: Journey

Hands down this was by far and away the best game, nay experience, I’ve had all year. It combined charming, mute characters with wondrous landscapes in a platform-come-pilgrimage that saw you gracefully slide down sand dunes, scale snowy peaks and soar through the blue skies above. It constantly changed, but never felt forced or jarring in its transitions just that it always wanted to take you on a new adventure.

More than that, however, it touched me emotionally. The beautiful story conveyed in such minimalistic ways joined with an online cooperative experience that seemed so unique but equally compelling to everyone I spoke to was moving. It may only be a few hours long but that time can be held up as the finest time that can be found in our hobby.

Honourable mentions: Witcher 2, Fez

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A Wii-U-Turn On Nintendo

Last week I finally managed to pin down why I was not enamoured with the Wii-U. For the first time ever I would not be pining for a Nintendo console on day one. Though this may in itself save £250 from leaping from my bank account, there’s a part of me that’s disappointed it’s come to this. E3 may have tried to dazzle me with Pikmin 3 and Zombi-U, but why was it not enough?

It’s not because of the lack of quality output on the Wii. I know others have said they felt “stung” by the Wii and its barren release schedule and don’t want a repeat performance with its follow-up. For every month that saw a Skyward Sword or Mario Galaxy there were ample more that saw nothing but shovelware and movie tie-ins. The quality of the first-party offerings were enough for me, though; enough to keep the Wii a fixture under the television. It’s not that.

It’s not because of the potential that within 12 months the Wii-U will once again seem like an outdated device. With as much as Nintendo put into proving that the Wii-U could handle the likes of Mass Effect 3 and Batman Arkham City, they failed to understand that at the same time they were indicating that their hardware had only just caught up to what Microsoft and Sony produced five-years ago. If the Wii-U launched this festive season, owners could probably expect a year worth of parity, pulling in the huge multi-format releases, before once again being outclassed by the rumoured next round of next-gen consoles. At that point would the third-party publishers again forget about it? It’s not that.

It’s not because of the technology. The concept of an extra screen is intriguing – just ask Microsoft about their Smart Glass – and in the hands of Nintendo’s creative minds there is a vast amount of potential. See how Mario 64 came from the analogue stick, Star Fox was brought to life with the FX chip, and Wii Sports brought living rooms to life using the Wiimote; Nintendo do interesting things with interesting tech. It’s not that.

What it is then, is that I own something very similar already.

When I watched the Zombi-U trailers, pored over the Pikmin demo and raised eyebrows at the Nintendo theme park, all I could think is that each one would be perfect for the DS/3DS. Having four Captain Olimars running about, tapping back and flicking Pikmin to do you bidding would be great on the go; sniping zombies as you held the 3DS up and used its orientational knowhow to train you sights; even linking up five handhelds over Wi-Fi to play a Nintendo-themed Pacman.

With each of these thoughts the disappointment grew. With both the DS and the Wii Nintendo seized upon something different; a new and novel way to interact with games. They produced unique experiences that you could not get anywhere else. What I see when I look at the Wii-U is a company playing it safe, combining the dual screens of their handheld with the waggle sticks with the best-selling console of a generation, but at the same time over complicating it all.

Put like that it may be hard to argue with, but with an attitude like that I find it hard to see a repeat of the Wii’s runaway success. Millions of “casual” gamers who bought in won’t care about an upgrade to their Wii Fit machine; the older players who just wanted to keep active with the odd session of Wii Sports bowling are hardly like to reinvest; and the cautious who were brought in by the simplicity of the Wiimote will now have a whole tablet to concern themselves with.

And me? Me, I have my DS, a very fine and hardy dual screen experience. My money’s safe for now.