What I’ve Been Doing 28 Jan 2013 [FB/IB/F/BT/GO]
Jan 28th, 2013 by Dan


Doesn’t really fall in this post’s jurisdiction, but the BSO’s semi-staged rendition of Hairspray was AMAZING! (Photo by NathLussier)

Life is awesome. I saw a fantastic rendition of Hairspray at the BSO and I had a fun weekend. Things don’t get much better.


Hairspray – Put this on while I was falling asleep. Fun movie.


Justified – Y’all who think this is a hick show or haven’t given this show a chance because it takes place in Kentucky have no idea how awesome it is. Truly fun if you like gunplay and cop work.

Archer – Defnitely liked the second episode a lot more. The employee reviews are a great conceit.

Parks and Recreation – This show makes me smile. I can’t not love it because of that. Aubrey Plaza, guys! She’s the best.

Girls – A much better third episode has another great fight between Marnie and Hannah. Allison Williams is so charming!

The Mindy Project – Middling, but Allison Williams was there!


Django Unchained music, guys. It’s good.


A Confederacy of Dunces – I’m right on the cusp of seeing the final convergeance of the farce. Much funnier and better than I thought it would be at the start. I’ve got a real appreciation for this book’s tightly plotted narrative.

Video Games

The Cave – It’s not knee-slapping hilarious, but it’s witty and I totally dug it. Still got four more characters to take through the cave…

Sim City – Don’t think I can talk about this, but I got in the closed beta.

What I’ve Been Doing 23 Jan 2013 [FB/IB/F/BT/GO]
Jan 23rd, 2013 by Dan


Fun fact: The blonde in this picture is Julia Stiles! (Photo courtesy emrahozcan)

Wow guys, this is pretty late, huh? Sorry bout that!


Silver Linings Playbook – It may be the most accessible Oscar nominee to watch, but that doesn’t preclude it from being just astonishingly well acted. Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper turned in fantastic performances. I have a hard time imagining a person who would dislike this movie.


New Girl – Who thought I’d ever utter the words, “I’m gonna miss Olivia Munn…” Loved the pogo stuff from this week’s ep.

Archer – I didn’t really love the first episode, but it cracked me the hell up. Great stuff.

Happy Endings – I really dug the “other friends”. It’s a stock conceit, but Happy Endings usually puts a unique enough spin on that type of thing where I don’t mind it.

One Piece – I’ve got something like 260 episodes to go to catch up to the present.

Girls – The premiere was really strong. The second episode less so, but this show is still top notch. Some shows have unlikeable casts that aren’t believable. I know a lot of these people…


I really dig “Apocalypse Dreams” by Tame Impala


A Confederacy of Dunces – This book is really starting to come together. The cast is converging and it’s all gonna culminate on this political rally. I can’t wait.

Video Games

XCOM: Enemy Unknown – That free Second Wave DLC is super awesome, but man are its modifiers tough. That Red Mist one makes it near impossible, but I love it anyway.

Sleeping Dogs – Not really grabbing me. I should just burn through to the end…

Hotline Miami – Beat the main story. Pretty fun game. The bonus missions are tough, but I think I’ll manage. Gotta get the secret password too.

Borderlands 2 – Still having fun, but it’s tough to get everyone together sometimes. I really should take the time to level up Gaige since she’d be more fun to play, I think. On the flip side, the healer role I kind of have with Maya is fun too.

FTL – I came so close to getting the Stealth Ship. I don’t want to talk about it…

What I’ve Been Doing 14 Jan 2013 [FB/IB/F/BT/GO]
Jan 14th, 2013 by Dan

The main guy in Virtue’s Last Reward (Photo courtesy Giant Bomb)

This past weekend was a haze of parties and Virtue’s Last Reward. The good news is that I beat the game and had fun at all the parties, but the bad news is zzzzzzzz…




Justified – So happy to have this show back. Raylan is such a badass. Loved the shot to the airbag. I’m really interested in seeing where this season goes. It looks like IA is gonna really get on Raylan’s ass.

Happy Endings – Pretty elaborate episode chiefly centered around making jokes about inappropriate-sounding use of the word “come” and a jerky making circle :cough: circle jerk :cough:. Still fairly hilarious and I’ve got like two episodes still on the DVR!


Two tracks for you today.

First off, who the heck is Bonnie Bear?

Yeah, that’s Bon Iver’s “Perth”. I love that guitar.

Then we’ve got the credits song for The Walking Dead game. It’s just got a sweet sound to it. Not sure if my association with the game makes it stronger…

Alela Diane’s “Take Us Back”


A Confederacy of Dunces – More hot dog shenanigans. I’m coming around on the book, but I’m also taking it a little too slow.

Video Games

Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward – It’s so hard to talk about this game without spoiling everything that makes it so incredible. Trust me, guys, this game’s story is just awesome. I’m officially a fan of Kotaro Uchikoshi now. It’s the kind of story that makes you think and that makes smart use of its mechanics.

FTL – Died in a fiery Engi Cruiser wreck. Not enough offense.

Borderlands 2 – Our posse is starting to get pretty strong, but the game is also getting a lot harder. Really digging the slag/other elemental combo. I think it helps tremendously with damage.

XCOM: Enemy Unknown – The Second Wave DLC came out allowing you to customize additional really tough XCOM rules and…I got my ass kicked on my first attempt. This next game is going a little better, but I think the soldier I named my guy after just bit the dust.

Saints Row: The Third – I think we played this during this week, right, Dave? Co-op campaign is loads of fun, but I wish I heard David’s character in cutscenes or that we were both present. Loads of fun.

February: Scarlett [Fukubukuro 2012]
Jan 11th, 2013 by Dan

It happened sooner than we all expected, but February marked the birth of my beautiful young niece, Scarlett. Her birth was not without incident or challenge, but I can happily say that she’s doing marvelously now and she’s growing faster than I can even really wrap my head around.

That’s the scary thing about kids to me. I’ve been around for nearly 27 years and it’s all felt like a blink in time. One second I was a kid in Miami and now I’m an adult in Baltimore. Just like that. Scarlett was born premature and she was tiny. She’s still rather small, but she’s nothing at all like she was almost a year ago. There’s a personality there. She can kind of babble and walk with support. This was a girl I saw on a ventilator unable to take in real food.

Crazier still is that Scarlett’s not even my daughter. I find myself freaked out at the prospect of her growing up in this crazy world all on her own and I’m not even responsible for her. Mostly it makes me think about whether or not I could actually handle taking care of an actual human being. Raising it to be a person and hopefully guiding them along the right path. How do you even approach that kind of thing?

When I look at Eric and Danielle I don’t really worry about it. They’ve always acted more mature than their age to me. What’s there to adapt when you’ve acted like you were in your mid-30s since you were 22, you know? There’s a balance that I don’t really understand yet and I suppose it really has to do with how you want to spend your time. Since neglecting your children and your job aren’t really options if you want to not be a deadbeat, then everything else is a question of sacrifice. The balance doesn’t seem impossible. I’ve got plenty of friends, like Sean and Jessica, who still find the time to be social human beings while having children. Even my own parents found the time to see their friends and party with family (much to their children’s boredom).

Family life is obviously a distant worry in my mind considering where I am today, but the prospect of handling it seems more doable and more terrifying the older I get. Seeing friends happily married and friends already divorced or struggling through their newly-made vows doesn’t make it any easier (and I’m sure I’ll get back to this topic for Lee and Yin’s wedding), but when I see cute, tiny little Scarlett smile and laugh…that’s when I start to understand the reason why people undertake this madness.

Scarlett's Crazy Hair 2

Photo by Eric Mesa (DJOtaku)

Music of 2012 [F]
Jan 9th, 2013 by Dan

Colorful Dream

They’re not a real band, but I think you get the idea.

The biggest change in 2012 for me was the rise of Bandcamp and Soundcloud. Sure, I still bought plenty of music from Amazon or Google, but an increasing amount of the stuff I picked up came from the individual himself. I mean, why would I expect the Fez soundtrack to occupy a spot in Amazon’s mp3 store? Thanks to Bandcamp, I can just pick it up almost directly from the artist.

2012 also marked the year that genre walls were officially smashed for me. I think the only stuff I can’t really tolerate is noise metal. Just about everything else can penetrate my cold, black heart and move me to sing and dance.

I certainly never would have guessed that I’d be listening to so much hip hop and R&B back when I started this blog in 2008. It was all punk, rock, and ska, but now I cast a much wider net.

Top Artists of 2012

1. The Beatles (409)

This has been a mainstay of every list since the catalog re-release back in 2009. There’s not really much more to say about how incredible this band is so I’ll instead comment on the fact that I listened to them ~1,100 fewer times this year than last. I really spread out my music time this year…

2. The Weeknd (333)

I can’t remember what month it was when I discovered the trio of mixtapes just waiting for me online, but I will say that The Weeknd opened my eyes to R&B in a way I would have thought impossible. Without him I guarantee you that Frank Ocean would not be on this list. Everything about his music is simultaneously sleazy and sexy and so wrong it almost feels right. “High For This”, “Wicked Games”, and “House of Balloons/Glass Table Girls” are all stunners.

3. Sambomaster (サンボマスター) (326)

Another mainstay ever since my Japan trip. My understanding of the lyrics approaches zero, but I feel like I understand everything Takeshi Yamaguchi is trying to say with that heartfelt, almost mournful, sandpapery voice. As cheesy as it sounds, it speaks to my soul, man.

4. Frank Ocean (270)

Think about this: I didn’t get channel ORANGE until November. Everybody’s talking about this record, I know, but allow me to say that Ocean penned and crooned the best album of the year. Nothing tops this in 2012, guys. Nothing.

5. Jonathan Coulton (269)

Some people would have you believe that Coulton is a novelty singer best enjoyed in small doses. Some people are wrong. Coulton’s earlier work may lean on a geeky, nerdy motif, but, like I said last year, Artificial Heart really takes him to a new level.

6. Disasterpiece (240)

I listened to a lot of game sountracks this year thanks to the ubiquity and ease of Bandcamp. Disasterpiece’s moody, quasi-ambient work on Fez proved spooky, lonely, and mournful while also igniting that spark for adventure. It’s all synth-y, but the notes never feel quite right, which is pretty much what Fez is all about.

7. Yoko Kanno (202)

I bet you’re thinking that this is all Cowboy Bebop music. You’d be wrong. Kanno’s work on the jazz tunes in Kids on the Slope opened my eyes to a genre I’d ignored for most of my life. That medley in the culture festival? Pure. Magic.

8. George & Jonathan (184)

One of their tunes was the theme to Polygon’s podcast, The Besties, and the album, Beautiful Lifestyle, struck just the right balance of playful and fun without getting obnoxious.

9. Regina Spektor (152)

I fell for What We Saw from the Cheap Seats as hard as a person could for an album. “All the Rowboats”, “Firewood”, and “How” are all so stunningly beautiful that I want to be listening to them right now…In fact, I think I’ll go put them on.

10. Rodrigo y Gabriela (151)

The first entry that confuses me about being on this list. I still dig their stuff, but I don’t really remember listening to it that much this year.

11. The Civil Wars (136)

I’m really worried about the state of this band now that they’ve canceled their tours. What will I do without Joy Williams’ beautiful voice? I hope they figure it out.

12. Kanye West (129)

The current king of hip hop, as far as I’m concerned. Yeezy goes big. Even though I haven’t loved his collab stuff as much as My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, I can’t help but come back to this guy time and time again.

13. Fall Out Boy (126)

So few bands know how to craft a tune as instantly catchy as these guys. Too bad they broke up.

14. Eirik Suhrke (119)

You may be wondering who this guy is. He did the music for Spelunky, a genius take on the Mega Drive soundchip that gives me that extra push to hit retry on the off chance that I get that sweet sax tune in the Ice Caves.

15. Tsunku (つんく♂) (114)

If I had properly tagged my Rhythm Heaven Fever music earlier in the year this number would be much higher. Academically I understand why other people might not love all the music in Rhythm Heaven, but in my heart I can’t understand why any awesome person would hate it.

16. Childish Gambino (113)

Part of that hip hop kick this year. Donald Glover is pretty awesome.

17. Nintendo (98)

You know what? I think that this 98 is supposed to be added to the Tsunku tally above. Hear that, Tsunku? You should be 7th.

17. Jim Guthrie (98)

The composer to the Superbrothers soundtrack knows how to make a sweet groove. Seriously, go check it out.

19. OK Go (97)

“Needing/Getting” will always be a favorite of mine because I’m a hopeless romantic (emphasis on hopeless).

20. Jasper Byrne (95)

The Lone Survivor soundtrack is responsible for this play count. It was equal parts creepy and beautiful and I couldn’t stay away last winter/spring.

21. Alex Cuba (91)

Man, that afro is cool, isn’t it? There’s a clarity and richness to his voice that soothes me and makes me feel funky.

22. Hannibal Buress (88)

Is your name really Hannibal? These plays are thanks to two of my favorite stand-up albums that I got this year. That Buress dude is pretty funny, y’all.

22. Ana Tijoux (88)

Saw her live this year. That was awesome. Her ability to spit rhymes in Spanish is mind boggling to me.

24. Juan Luis Guerra (85)

I wonder what percentage of these come from “Niagara en bicicleta”? (Answer: ~26%)

25. Kendrick Lamar (84)

I picked up good kid, m.A.A.d city at the same time (or close to it) as channel ORANGE and figured that it would definitely win, play-wise. Didn’t quite go like that, but trust that Kendrick Lamar’s rhymes are equally awesome. Definitely check out that disc.

Top 10 Tracks of 2012

1. The Weeknd – “House of Balloons/Glass Table Girls” (23)

It all sounds so drug-addled and sexy, but in a dirty way. This was the first track I heard by The Weeknd and the rest is history.

2. Juan Luis Guerra – “El Niagara en bicicleta” (22)

Quite possibly my favorite song ever? I honestly have no idea how it didn’t make the list last year.

3. George & Jonathan – “Little Marcus” (21)

The aforementioned former theme to The Besties. It doesn’t overstay its welcome and it’s super pleasant. A great little tune.

4. Carla Morrison – “Compartir” (20)

I would have expected “Una salida” to have this spot, but this is also a fantastic love song by a beautiful vocalist. Carla Morrison has this sweet, delicate voice that just breaks your heart while you listen to her. I absolutely love her and this song.

4. Neon Indian – “Polish Girl” (20)

I think I own two Neon Indian songs, but this chillwave track puts me in a spaced out place where I can’t not love it. Put a gun to my head and I wouldn’t be able to describe what makes this song so special, but I think it really does speak for itself.

6. Regina Spektor – “Small Town Moon” (19)

It probably ended up with the most plays by virtue of being the first track on her new album, but “Small Town Moon” is no slouch. It perfectly sets the mood for a thoughtful, beautiful album.

6. George & Jonathan – “Street Monsters” (19)

There’s really no good explanation for how this track got up here. It’s funky and it’s quick and I guess it got lucky compared to the rest of the album.

6. Frank Ocean – “Bad Religion”, “Pilot Jones”, & “Pyramids” (19)

And the list closes out with my three favorite tracks from channel ORANGE. All three of these are perfect in their own way. Be it the soulful poetry of “Bad Religion”, the simple hook of “Pilot Jones”, or that sexy electrofunk of the first half of the epic “Pyramids”, they all land so unbelievably perfectly on my ears that I’m shocked they’re not higher up on the list.

Celebrities Read Mean Tweets Part 3! [ER]
Jan 9th, 2013 by Dan

This is totally my favorite Jimmy Kimmel segment. Love watching the reactions. I wonder if they come in with pre-selected tweets or if Kimmel’s crew supplies it for that first reaction.

Anamanaguchi’s New Video “Meow” [F]
Jan 8th, 2013 by Dan

Do you like Anamanaguchi? No? Well it’s not your blog.

What I’ve Been Doing 7 Jan 2013 [FB/IB/BT/F/GO]
Jan 7th, 2013 by Dan

Zero Escape

The cast of Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward (Picture courtesy: SegmentNext)

I finished 999 last week and I thought, “Should I wait a bit before picking up Zero Escape?” Then I ordered it and got it on Friday. Man, I’ve spent something like 10 hours on it already. I’m loving all the new thought experiments, the prisoner’s dilemma, and the quantum aspects of the story


Not this week.


The Amazing Race – About 3/4 of the way through S1. I think there’s 2 or 3 episodes left. I’m curious as to who’s gonna stay ahead.

SNL – “It’s origami. That’s Spanish for swan”. Great line. Medium episode.

Portlandia – Caught the first episode of the new season and the one with Ronald D. Moore. Decent show, but it’s not going to bust your gut.

Happy Endings – A few mins of this until I got to the tipping car salesman part.

Homeland – Finally went and watched the last three episodes of the season. Holy cow! I want next season already! It wasn’t the strongest sophomore effort, but it sure was exciting. Can’t wait to see what they do next year.


Heard about this song on All Songs by Josh Ritter. It’s pretty good. I’m really starting to enjoy all these breakup songs.


A Confederacy of Dunces – Hot dog cart Ignatius!

Video Games

Borderlands 2 – My mechromancer is starting to be way more interesting than my siren, but the siren has great group healing abilities, so I might stick with her anyway.

FTL – Why can’t I ever trigger the stealth ship event?

Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward – This game has completely grabbed me, just like 999 did. The storytelling is so interesting that I’ve been up until like 2 or 3 each night playing it. This is a 3DS visual novel that I’m playing at home on a Sunday at the expense of Borderlands 2, mind you, but it’s so cool. The genre’s not for everyone, I know, but trust me, this game is neat.

January: New Car [Fukubukuro 2012]
Jan 7th, 2013 by Dan

It’s one of those rites of passage in growing up, isn’t it? Your first car purchased entirely on your own with zero parental involvement. Plenty of kids are forced to hit that milestone in their teens, but I was lucky enough to get old Murray (as I called my old, grey ‘99 Toyota Corolla) for free from my folks when I graduated. We had adventures. All kinds of good times, really, but when I got back home from Christmas last year it was time to say goodbye (look, I know I “technically” got my car in 2011, but it was the 30th and that’s close enough!).

My new ride is a sleek, black Mazda3 named LeChuck. He is everything that Murray was not. Power everything, sunroof, a powerful engine…I used to feel bogged down when I ran the a/c in my Corolla. Now my engine has some real pop. I honestly have zero regrets with this car and that’s a rarity for a big ticket purchase, you know?

I guess until I buy a house or get married, that’s kind of the biggest thing I’ve done since I graduated and got a job. It was the last big tie to home and certainly a huge tie to the Daniel I was before 2012. That car was ratty, but reliable. Now I try to be a little flashier, a little more mature. Where I let maintenance milestones just whiz on by in the Corolla I’m on top of my game with the Mazda.

In the first year of ownership I put about 23,000 miles down on the odometer. LeChuck and I went to Ithaca for a beautiful wedding. We went to Pittsburgh to see the beautiful PNC Park. Our travels took us out to Lehigh Valley, PA and Boone, NC. There were countless trips to York, PA to visit Tiffany and a trip up to New York to watch the Big Red after she broke my heart.

Some people don’t like road trips or driving. I’m no gear head, but it’s really my preferred method of travel within a reasonable distance. Being on the road gives me time to think about where I am and where I want to be (not literally) or listen to podcasts and music. I’ve had long, meaningful conversations with friends that I rarely get the chance to have in person. I’ve sat in silence as my passengers slept or did their own things. I’ve had arguments and stewed passive-aggressively. It goes without saying, but none of that is possible without LeChuck. Some look at their cars as a means of conveyance or a tool, but I look at it as a staunch ally that gets me where I need to go. Look, I know that sounds dumb, but I love my car, man. Cut me some slack.

2010 MAZDA 3, LA Auto Show 2008

(Picture by Harvey-Harv)


Video Games of 2012 [GO]
Jan 4th, 2013 by Dan

Miami Marlins at Pittsburgh Pirates - PNC Park 21 Jul 2012

Even the Pittsburgh Pirates played video games this year.

Knock on wood, you guys, but I managed to get through 2012 without having all my video games stolen from my house while I was sleeping [EDITOR’S NOTE: It’s 2013 now, you dummy. You don’t need to knock on wood]. Should that even be an achievement?

2012 seems to be a shift in the status quo. Perhaps it’s because the new console generation hasn’t yet kicked off, but I feel like fewer and fewer AAA, big budget titles have been grabbing my attention lately. Of the 56 games on this list I feel like very few (about 12) were big, huge landmark games. Maybe that’s not all that different, but it feels different…

Also, like last year I do count games on this list that did not launch in 2012, but that I played, started, or beat in 2012.


Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective – The weirdest thing about my time with this game was that I chose to play it in Spanish. It was fine practice and, off the top of my head, it taught me two Spanish words I had no use for before playing it (sotano and cachorro, meaning basement and puppy/cub/kitten, respectively), but it also featured very funny writing by Phoenix Wright’s creator and a bizarrely complicated story for such a slight-looking game. In fact, 2012 was kind of a year of interactive fiction, as you’ll see, so it’s appropriate to see GT get top billing. It’s also worth mentioning that the animation in this game is spectacular.

Rayman: Origins – Also known as the game where Min and I attained Super Saiyan level for the first time. No lie, guys, the treasure chest levels and the final Level of the Dead or whatever it was called was a zen-like achievement for the pair of us. If New Super Mario Bros. isn’t your bag, but you think you might still love platformers then you absolutely need to try this game out.

Chrono Trigger DS – Yeah, I played this in the 90s. Yep, it was my first RPG. The DS port added some marginal sections, including an epilogue that sets up for Chrono Cross in the most depressing way possible, but it also came with a new translation that I thought was interesting and brought some freshness to an otherwise “solved” game for me.

Earthbound – I wish I’d spent more time trying to replay Earthbound, but I just didn’t. Heck, I don’t think I got too far past meeting Buzz Buzz…Still love this game.

Cave Story + – How I long for dynamic difficulty level changing! Cave Story + is a fantastic Metroidvania-style pixel shooter, but my hubris determined I would play on the hardest difficulty, which means I’m stuck on Monster X until I can get my skills down pat.


Final Fantasy XIII-2 – Remember how everyone’s favorite character in FF XIII was Lightning’s sister and some guy no one ever saw in FF XIII? Wait…those weren’t your favorite characters? You don’t want to play another 40 hours as those chuckleheads and watch Snow, Hope, and Sazh from afar while playing a nearly incomprehensible story? Too bad!

Saints Row: The Third – I feel bad for you if you’ve never played Saints Row: The Third. I felt bad for myself for not having played it sooner than I did. For maximum awesomeness be sure to give your boss the Latina voice. It’s priceless. Seriously though, this game is the best open world game I have ever played. Period. It’s absurd, ridiculous, and nonsensical, but it’s winking every step of the way and I’m right there with it.

Rhythm Heaven Fever – When I first started writing this list I forgot that this little gem came out in 2012. Can you believe it?! Min, I know you don’t understand the appeal here, but this is honestly among my favorite game of this year. Did I spend $80 importing the soundtrack from Japan? You betcha. Goddammit this game is so good. It’s a must play for anyone with a Wii (or a Wii U). Seriously, go buy it. It’s incredible.

Devil Survivor 2 – Man, the Megrez fight is so stupid and I’m not properly equipped, demon-wise, to tackle it, which is why I never beat this game. It’s better than DS1, mechanically, but I just need to sit down and grind my way out of this and I really don’t want to have to do that…Bonus points for also pretty much being Evangelion


Mass Effect 3 – Hoo boy…What a shitshow this game’s release was…I wish I’d beaten it faster than I had because by the time I reached the ending, well, the internet had practically exploded with criticism. I spent more time wading in comments sections and forums defending the artistic integrity of a game that I honestly didn’t find that impressive compared to the rest of the year’s releases, but it just rubbed me the wrong way to see the fanboys demand changes from Bioware. I mean, whine all you want, but so long as Bioware doesn’t cave– What’s that? You say they did cave? They did change the ending as a response to fan whining? My respect for Bioware and this game flew out the window the second that happened. As far as I’m concerned, I played the real Mass Effect 3, but I never got the chance to enjoy it. Now that the doctors are gone from Bioware and the company is soliciting advice on what direction to take Dragon Age III, I find myself thinking, “Man, what happened to Bioware?” It’s a real shame because Mass Effect 3 was actually quite good.


Shadow Complex – Way late to the party on this one, but I was feeling that Metroidvania itch and, well, this game kind of scratches it. I hate the third dimension they added to the gun because it makes aiming a pain. Other than that it’s fine. Serviceable, really, but it also gets credit for being the first “autolog” type game that I can think of.

Jamestown – I don’t play a lot of vertical/horizontal shooters. Jamestown just happened to be out in a lull and I owned it from a Humble Bundle. It’s enjoyable enough and I dig playing it with multiple people, but it’s not going to set the world on fire. Playing the story in “funny” mode is fun too because the alternative is almost obnoxiously self-serious.

Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP – Cool music and a cool aesthetic, but it controls weird on the PC. I wish I had an iPad for stuff like this and that I put more time into this game.

The Walking Dead – I thought about separating this out into episodes across the series, but it seems cleaner to talk about this game in one fell swoop even though I started it in April and finished it in November. I know I said that Rhythm Heaven Fever was the best game of this year, but The Walking Dead is actually the best thing to have come out this year. I’ll grant you that it’s more interactive fiction than game, but even that’s not that important, really. I mean, would putting more puzzles in this adventure game make it any better? Of course not! The Walking Dead is the success it is because it’s a character-driven story of the likes we haven’t seen before. Lee Everett may not be making the galaxy-defining choices that Commander Shepard makes on a daily basis, but the stakes always seem higher as he does his best to shepherd young Clementine through a world that only gets worse and worse for everyone. That last scene in the jewelry store as Lee coaches Clem to safety…It touched me (and I’m sure most anyone who played it) in a way that nothing else this year could. I’m not being hyperbolic when I say that everyone should play this game. It’s brilliant.

Fez – Speaking of brilliant, Fez has that in spades. We’re talking about a game where every detail feels deliberate and mysterious. That’s not an exaggeration either. With maybe one exception, there’s not a single puzzle in Fez that you couldn’t necessarily figure out in some way from clues in the world. They might be obscure, difficult to interpret clues, but they’re there. Add in a soundtrack that is hauntingly beautiful and a rotating mechanic that is as fun as anything else you’ve ever done and you’ve got the most interesting experience of 2012. I can still pull up intense memories of the empty solitude of some of the screens and the fitting music that made me feel isolated, alone, a little scared, and a little excited to discover a cube or an anticube. Fez was awesome, guys.


Diablo 3 – I’ve had this talk with Min so many times, but maybe I didn’t understand what Diablo was before I played D3. I’d only ever played D2 with my brother or a few friends. It was a small-scale endeavor and Torchlight, its closest analogue for me, was a single-player affair. There was no Auction House there to circumvent loot drops or other players to set up trades with on forums. There was the purity of the RNG and the thrill of the hunt. Diablo 3 awakened that feeling inside me that activates when I feel like I’ve been cheated. It was like I took the red pill and I saw the Matrix of the game for the first time when I realized what I’d have to do to beat the game on Inferno. I’ve never felt like a game’s systems were so transparently evil before (I don’t play Facebook games) and Diablo 3 soured me on Blizzard as a developer. Maybe next year you’ll see an entry about Heart of the Swarm, but as of right now, thanks to Diablo 3, I plan on never spending another cent on a Blizzard game (unless a new Warcraft RTS comes out. I actually like those).

Tropico 4 – Min likes to tease me about being an evil dictator when I play this game, but it’s much more complicated for me. When I play Tropico I don’t exercise my ability to rig elections or execute citizens at will. I do my best to be a benevolent leader and resist the control/interference of the US or USSR. I do my best to make the tropical paradise that I feel my people have been denied. It’s a deeply (and weirdly) personal experience for me. Plus the music is pretty sweet.


The Binding of Isaac: Wrath of the Lamb – Yeah, yeah, expansion pack for a game that I played relentlessly last year. I don’t care, guys, it was almost a new game with how much it added. If you read my blog and you tried/enjoyed FTL, you really should check this out.

No More Heroes: Paradise – I think I’m at assassin #7 or #6? It’s got its purposefully tedious parts in it and it’s so stylized that it’s hilarious, but it lost some steam with me and I never finished it. Whoops.


Spelunky – Forget what that other guy said about the best game of this year because Spelunky is awesome. It’s so sharp in the way that it plays. Die and it’s almost 100% your fault. Brutally difficult, endearingly fun and funny, and tightly controlled. I only wish I had more friends to play local multiplayer with.

Penny Arcade 2 – Not as funny as PA1 and not as fun as PA3

Penny Arcade 3 – PA goes 16-bit RPG. The combat is frighteningly difficult, but the game is tons of fun because of it. These new classes are super neat. It’s like they figured out all the boundaries to RPG combat and sharpened them to a knife’s edge. Really interesting, but easy to bone yourself with bad class selection.

Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion – Each game takes forever, but playing a few matches with Min was tons of fun.

Greed Corp – Did not like. Sorry, Eric.

Puzzle Agent – Tried this before I went down the Professor Layton rabbit’s hole. Surprisingly funny and surprisingly well-written. I’m fairly certain that these didn’t sell well enough to keep making them, but I really enjoyed the setting and the story. Very cute.

Max Payne 3 – I’m the guy who’s never played a Max Payne game before so when I play this grimy, glitzy, greasy shooter I’m unburdened by Payne’s history. There’s no comparison to the way it used to be or the way I wanted a sequel to be. It’s just an awesome shooter with a dumb, but neat story. Brazil is here to stay as a setting and even though Rockstar characters are all deplorable assholes who I hate, I had a soft spot for Max and Giovanna. Pretty solid shooter.

Sonic Generations – Modern Sonic games suck. All of them. Everyone who thinks Generations is “not that bad” or “good” is wrong. You’re wrong.

BIT.TRIP.RUNNER – A rhythm game! I didn’t realize it before I tried it. The first boss fight sucks and I stopped playing after it. I hear that was a mistake.


Persona 4 Arena – I got a little bogged down by being forced to play other perspectives before finishing the main narrative, but the continuation of the Persona story was solid enough to make me interested in the game, even if I didn’t really care for the fighting mechanic. Guys, who knew a fighting game could have a sweet story?

Driver: San Francisco – Didn’t get enough in to say anything definitive, but I don’t really like the car mechanics.

Trine 2 – I don’t think either of these Trine games are for me, but I’ve only ever played 5 hours of a Trine game ever. It’s the physics model. I don’t like the imprecision in a platformer. I had the same issue with Little Big Planet.

Iron Brigade – The most frustrating networking experience of 2012. It’s a shame too because Min, Lee, and I should have loved playing this.

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive – Goddammit I love me some Counter-Strike. I didn’t put that many hours into this, but playing it with Simon and some of the old War Cry guys was awesome. If you have any interest in shooters, but you don’t play this…well I don’t understand you.

Orcs Must Die 2 – Not the best tower defense game, but I think I’m under 10 hrs with it so maybe it picks up?

The Last Story – Got so bogged down writing about this with David (remember that feature?) that I never continued it. Lots of promise there with characters that seem deeper than your usual anime bullshit, but I need to give it another 20 hours to be sure.


Mark of the Ninja – The tightest stealth game (mechanics-wise) you will ever play. Seriously, man. It’s pretty boss. The story is fairly dumb, but playing it is so much fun that you can’t help but smile. A solid win in my book.

FTL: Faster Than Light – I’ve recorded 31.5 hours of me playing this game as of when I write this sentence. A game that has such tight mechanics that you can’t help but love it. This was the year of roguelikes for me. FTL plays like the space sim you always wish you had. I don’t see myself getting bored of this game until I unlock all the ships. That won’t be for a while because I’m somewhat terrible with some of the ships, but I do love me this game.

New Super Mario Bros. 2
– More Mario platforming. Not the most inspired Mario game, but it has its moments. Not gonna set the world on fire and, like the first one, not my favorite Mario game.

Torchlight 2 – I can’t really claim to have played this game since the first day was a clusterfuck and I didn’t get past the menu screen. Had tons of fun chatting with Min and his cousin though.

Borderlands 2 – Until the very end of December I was the only one of my close video gaming friends who had this game. As a solo affair (and even as a group affair), the early parts of this game are pretty terrible/boring/tedious. In a group I’ve enjoyed playing this tons more. It’s just fun to have three friends rolling around Pandora with you. I hope we keep playing.

Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy – I love rhythm games. I love Final Fantasy music. This game is beautiful and perfect and could only be made better with more FF VI music.

Kirby’s Dream Collection – Picked it up to own Kirby Super Star. Played a bit of that with Min. Lots of fun, but not gonna set the world on fire.


Professor Layton and the Last Specter – Played it for a few minutes because it was the only sequel I could find in the store. Based on those few minutes I bought the rest of the franchise.

Pokemon White Version 2 – I wish I hadn’t pushed Min and David to get Black and White because the Version 2s are so much better. There has never been a better put together Pokemon game. I’ve sunk over a hundred hours into this game playing it Nuzlocke style and I still have yet to defeat the Elite Four or Team Plasma. I’m not kidding, guys, this is the closest you can come to a perfect Pokemon game.

XCOM: Enemy Unknown – Ok, for realsies now, guys. This is the best game of the year. Just so much fun to play in Classic Ironman mode where every mistake is locked in place and humanity hangs in the balance. Tactical, turn-based combat has never been better implemented and every system works well. My only gripe is that you “can’t fail” the final mission in the sense that losing it sends you to the start. Losing an Ironman run in the final mission would be brilliant (and sadistic), wouldn’t it?

Professor Layton and the Curious Village – It has a fairly ridiculous plot twist that almost makes zero sense and doesn’t hit with any oomph, but you’re supposed to be here for the puzzles anyway. They’re fun and the characters are charming enough that I’m more than happy to spend hours upon hours just completing brain teasers.

Need for Speed: Most Wanted – I wish this was more Burnout Paradise instead. I don’t like the way the “campaign” is laid out with the unlocks for all the cars. I hate how I have to earn nitro every time I swap cars. It’s just not as good as the Burnout stuff. I’m sorry. That said, it’s so much fun to race at top speed in real-world automobiles. Super fun.

Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask – The 365 puzzles (one a day) and the fact that I bought it digitally are what keeps me coming back to this game over and over again since I haven’t yet beaten the previous iterations. Solid puzzle work and a great 3DS package, but I can’t wait to actually see the narrative.

Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box – More Layton, but on a train!

To the Moon – The Walking Dead kind of ruined this game for me. Everyone was lauding it as this grand, mature narrative, but then The Walking Dead goes and does something truly spectacular while To the Moon failed to really hit with me. The twist was neat and I dug the story, but I didn’t find it to be as amazing as I’d heard. It’s solid storytelling in a mediocre engine package, but it’s worth checking out for sure.


Hotline Miami – Certainly the game that’s inspired the most cackling laughter in me. Just brutal, ugly, sleazy, and weird. Hotline Miami has a kickass soundtrack and relentless gameplay. The bosses are kind of obnoxious, but it plays fairly sharply and I’d recommend it to almost anyone.

Nintendo Land – Fantastic in group settings, but somewhat lacking as a solo endeavor. I’m happy to own it and I think asynchronous information/capabilities makes for way more interesting games than the same old stuff we’re used to, but without a group to play this it can get a little boring.

New Super Mario Bros. U – Haven’t put a lot of time in it, but the course design is definitely superior to the DS version. Can’t wait to beat this with Min, but I’m not breaking down any doors to play it.

Donkey Kong Country Returns – I’m only two worlds in, but it feels slighter/weaker than the old DKCs. We’ll see how it pans out, I guess.


Sleeping Dogs – I’m getting open world fatigue pretty early in this one. Unlike Saints Row: The Third, this is more serious and I feel like not being ridiculous is to its detriment. Sleeping Dogs’ dating system is ridiculous and the cop story is fairly predictable, but I’m in love with the Hong Kong setting and the fact that this is a game not taking place in LA, NY, or Miami. Also really nice to see non-white protagonists. The Batman fighting style is neat, but, like I said, already hitting open world fatigue.

999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors – I’m glad I played and finished this before the end of the year because it’s absolutely brilliant. Any game that uses the mechanics of the system its on is an instant plus for me and the final puzzle/revelation is brilliant. How many games make you think about morphic resonance and information transfer like this one? Just the fact that I found myself thinking about philosophical questions like Locke’s Socks/The Ship of Theseus and that it ALL MADE SENSE was really brilliant. Look, visual novels are divisive, but you shouldn’t let that get in your way. 999 has one of the neatest stories of the year (2010) and it’s easily one of my favorite games this year.

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