[I]Our Game of the Year list represents the thoughts of our hive mind, but what about the individual titles which slipped through the cracks? Our Staff Picks might not be GOTY material, usually because they're deeply flawed in certain areas, but they still managed to strike a chord with us in some way.
It took me a long time to finalise the choice for my honourable mention of the year. There have been so many games released in 2010 that deserve praise - some of which appear in our Top Games of 2010 - but others are less obvious. In fact, as I type this I'm stilling umming and ahhing over whether or not I've picked the right game. In the end I have plumped for a downloadable title, which probably reflects the amount of time I've spent playing digital release this year. While the likes of Limbo, Pac-Man CE DX, Hydro Thunder and Guardian of Light are all brilliant, the game I keep thinking about is Costume Quest.
Loving a game by Tim Schafer might not sound especially unusual, but other than Psychonauts I'm not his biggest fan, and to make it worse the combat in Costume Quest is turn-based. I hate turn-based. Yet, something about this little downloadable game hooked me and I found myself enjoying the fighting just as much as the adventure itself.
It helped that the story of a kidnapped sister on Halloween and the quest to find her is told so well, and that the cast of characters are both funny and entertaining. Schafer and his Double Fine studio have a knack of creating well-realised game worlds, and this is no different. While it's complete fantasy, with monsters stealing candy and children, it feels remarkably believable.
All the while you're fighting strange monsters on your bizarre night of trick or treating there's an overwhelming dose of childhood nostalgia wafting over you. In reality these robot, knight and astronaut outfits are nothing more than crudely put together bits of cardboard, but in the children's minds they transform them into hyper-realised versions complete with amazing powers. It's the game version of stepping into the mind of a 10-year-old.
I'd love to see how a kid would react to Costume Quest, as for me it's essentially a cartoon in interactive video game form. The set-up, the baddies, and the story - it's all perfect for a children's TV show. It wouldn't have seemed out of place if the Care Bears turned up in a car made from clouds and hilariously unlikely enemy Beastly was discovered to be behind it all.
On top of simply enjoying the experience, Costume Quest has lessened my hate of turn-based combat. It's no exaggeration to say I couldn't stand the Final Fantasy series when I was younger (and that includes VII), to the point that I was put off every RPG with the same battle mechanics. After playing Costume Quest I can't say I'll be rushing out to buy the next Final Fantasy, but I'm not quite as against the combat as I used to be.
This Christmas I'm pretty sure I'll also find some time to play through the festive-themed expansion, with the game's fun but simple gameplay fitting perfectly with the mandatory Boxing Day lethargy. Costume Quest is a remarkably simple game if dissected, but it's so charmingly put together, so much fun to play and one of the best examples of the download category released this year.
Check back over the Christmas period for our run down of the Top 10.