Staff Favorites 2011: Alice's picks

Bulletstorm Bulletstorm is, essentially, Painkiller creator People Can Fly's stab at making Video Games: The Video Game. Dropped into a ludicrous world for a ludicrous reason, you're sent off to kill people in delightfully gruesome ways to earn points. Blasting some fellow's legs off with a shotgun nets you 25 points, for example, while shooting a chap in the laughing gnomes then finishing him off with a boot to the face earns you a far more respectable 100 points. Why? Because video games. Bulletstorm is thoroughly daft and puerile in tone but unlike most video games--which also are--it's well aware of this, making it a strange sort of clever. The daft plot bounces merrily along, not feigning any more depth than it has, slicked by a torrent of childishly pleasing cussing and grand set pieces. The skillshots are nonsensical, but they're fun. The thing is, right, beneath everything, Bulletstorm is a really solid shooter. Lack of jumping aside, it's lovely and meaty with some top-notch guns, and skillshots tempting players to do more than simply shoot faces. You kill people in fun ways and then a lady threatens you and your chum that she "will kill your dicks." And to think that I almost skipped it entirely because of the tedious marketing and dull demo!

Child of Eden from developer Q Entertainment

Child of Eden Had Child of Eden been a $15 XBLA and PSN game, it'd have been adored. Strictly speaking, it's an on-rails shooter in the vein of Rez, but colour, shape and sound all build into a euphoric experience. You move through gorgeous abstract spaces, blasting abstract enemies, with each shot adding to the rising score. Early on, you drift through space attacking a star-whale, which then bursts back into life as a glorious phoenix, spewing colour and music which rise and glow and there are these colours and that noise and the music and then video clips come in on top and there's so much to see and hear and see and hear and see and it's breathtaking. All I did was move my cursor to shoot weak spots, but the experience left me genuinely shaky. You guys, there are some beautiful things in this world. And so it goes for around two hours or so, meandering through splendid scenery with lovely things to see and shoot. Unfortunately, Ubisoft released Child of Eden as a full-price retail game. Yes, it's lovely, but it only takes around two hours to complete, and most people simply aren't willing to pay for that. A lovely thing, handled poorly. Shame.

Johann Sebastian Joust from Copenhagen Game Collective

Johann Sebastian Joust It didn't matter that we were chatting, drinking and laughing together only three minutes ago. As we stood there, face to face, a few meters apart, PlayStation Move wands raised, we were enemies. Two minutes ago, five others were still in the round, and we'd formed a sneaky alliance, but we were too good, we bumped the others off too cleanly, and now we'd have to duel. After ten seconds standing in silence, our faces twisted with indecision, I raised my controller and charged. JS Joust is a competitive multiplayer game for up to seven players, played with PlayStation Move controllers in plenty of space through a laptop you don't look at. Each holds a wand, and is knocked out of the round if it's jolted enough, so you move around carefully, hoping to slyly knock another player's controller--or the players themselves--while defending yours. Think of an egg and spoon race without the race and with more shoving. Every so often, the music speeds up and wand sensitivity drops, so you're relatively free to swing wildly. No rules govern how shove-y you can get, leaving it to players to silently form a consensus through playing. It's fascinating, then, when a new player joins the circle and everyone discovers just how much friendly violence they deem acceptable. Joust is one of several new games which offer the joyous physicality of playground games, combined with complex rules that can't really work without technology--see B.U.T.T.O.N. too. The few rounds I've played were honestly some of my best video game moments of the year. While technically Joust hasn't been officially released yet, it's been made available in various way, so you may well find it at a games event near you. If you see it, do go and shove someone for me.
"You forgot..." Let us stop you there! This week we're revealing the Shacknews 'Staff Favorites,' which are titles that didn't quite make our 'Best of 2011' list. This week we'll also be revealing our Honorable Mentions, games that almost made our 'Top Five of the Year' (those are coming next week). If you see a game on this list, it means no amount of arguing, hair-pulling, or crying was enough to get it to be featured on our overall 'Best of' list. Let's agree to disagree! Despite that, these were great games in another stellar year of gaming.