GOTY 2016

James Langston's Game(s) of the Year 2016

Well I hope you all enjoyed 2016. What? You didn't? Why not? Oh yeah, all the bad shit that happened. Bar the surprise sporting summer success (I am of course talking about the Olympics and Paralympics, not the ****ing football), everything else was bad.

It's a good job we can fall back on videogames then. Actually, this was difficult, as I've not actually played that many games that came out this year, with most of it taken up by Fallout 4. Nevertheless…

Honorable Menitions:

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD

Look at that bridge! Exciting! Adventure!

One of the best games ever, made even better. Hurrah! However, my old man brain thinks the original only came out 5 minutes ago, so perhaps a bit too soon to be called a new game.

Pac-Man Championship Edition 2

Oh good, I'm being chased by everyone. Only Clyde has got the lethal "how dare you" though.

Once again they've improved Pac-Man. 36 Years later! This time round, the ghosts become disappointed by your rudeness. Wonderful game, but perhaps a little slight.

Dark Souls III

Aargh! I mean.. Heaarghllo!

Another release of software from From Software, another perfectly-executed video game challenge. But I worry that, having personally experienced its predecessors in only the last couple of years, I've become a greedy jaded gamer - there may be a few too many recognisable nods to those games to make it truly spectacular.

Also a sneaky shout-out to Repton 3, which has just been released on Android. But again, that's a re-release, so it's a bit cheaty. Plus, motion-based touch controls are no way to play a twitch puzzle game.

Jimbob's Game of the Year is: Day of the Tentacle Remastered

Do you remember the 1990s? The chances are, if you were born before the 1st January 2000, the answer is this: "yes".

If you were actually old enough to remember the decade - and perhaps some of the one before that - you'll remember that cartoons were a big deal. The 80s were notorious for TV animation being by-the-numbers, systematically-produced shit, usually designed to sell plastic crap to kids, and only allowed to exist on respectable airwaves by shoehorning in an educational message of sorts. He-Man once told us "reading is fun".

And then, with the falling of the Berlin Wall (and possibly just as important for democracy) The Simpsons came along. Not long after that, Nickelodeon's animation department sprang to life, giving us Ren & Stimpy, The Rugrats, Doug, and many more. It was like nothing we'd seen before, or at least, not for a very long time. It would be a bit much to call this new wave of cartoons "beautiful". What they were however was full of expression and character, rather than the stock facial expressions of Filmation's previous decade; the quirky style of this new wave, backed by writers and artists who, for the first time in forever came up with new stories to tell, succeeded in its attempt to make animation memorable again. The cartoons of this era are remembered fondly for what they were, as opposed to novelty segments in "remember the 1980s" talking heads shows.

Purple Tentacle, you'd better leave that whisky alone.

The point of these first two paragraphs is that Day of the Tentacle has the 1990s drawn all over it. The wavy abstract style certainly appealed to legendary backdrop artist Peter Chan. After finding his intricately-detailed artwork for Monkey Island 2 went to waste once converted to the VGA resolution of 320x200, he switched to a much simpler, Klasky-Csupo-esque style for this new project. This was most definitely the correct choice. The game stood as one of the great markers of game "style", not only as an example of amazing 2D graphics (just prior to the dawn of 3D and the need for game developers to start learning all over again), but also as one of the first truly memorable games to have fully voiced dialogue, thanks to Interactive CD-ROM (ask Lex from Jurassic Park about that). The dialogue was not only audible, but truly funny, thanks to Tim Schafer's slightly askew brain, and the effort to find proper voice artists. When I played this round my best mate's house, it was like nothing I'd seen before.

This era, rather than becoming stale with repeated attention, has since faded into obscurity. A lot of the LucasArts games made during this era don't really work on modern PCs, no matter how much you try DOSBox and Virtual Machines and the like. So this game (and even more so its previously-successor-but-now-predecessor Grim Fandango) were lost to time. Day of the Tentacle Remastered isn't just some excuse to get people to pay money instead of passing around an old CD; it's a necessary way of allowing a decent amount of 2016's gaming population to play what was considered a classic.

It's Dead Uncle Ted! He's like Beedle, or Siegward, or something.

But was it worth it? Does it still hold up? Well, the giveaway is that I've nominated it as the Game of the Year, despite it being a remaster of a 20 year old piece of software, which is a tad controversial. Of course nostalgia has something to do with this decision; despite the game being a funny and light-hearted adventure - and I don't know if I should admit this - when I saw the LucasArts rectangular transition "wipe" during the opening cinematic, a lot of memories came back, and I was actually a little emotional.

But what is it? You should know. But I don't. Right:

The sequel to the original SCUMM adventure Maniac Mansion (which is itself playable, via a computer contained within this game), the story starts when the Purple Tentacle (don't ask), fuelled by the mutating powers of a dodgy water supply, decides to take over the world. His (thankfully still sane) Green Tentacle buddy sends a help note to his old nerdy friend Bernard, in order to remedy the situation at the mansion. Cue a series of errors that result in mansion owner and mad scientist Dr. Fred attempting to send Bernard, and his new mates Hoagie and Laverne (sorry about the friend chain), briefly back in time in order to stop the tentacle before he starts, which also goes wrong, stranding the rotund Hoagie back in time to hang out with the Founding Fathers, and the ditsy Laverne sent into a dystopian future, in which Purple Tentacle's plan has worked and humans are treated as lowly pets. What follows is an object-combining exercise in order to bring the friends back to the present with Bernard, and then to stop Purple's reign of terror. The time-travelling mechanic is used to great effect, in which fiddling around in the past causes the Mansion to change in the future. In fact, Laverne's quest can't even start until Hoagie convinces George Washington to do a "famous thing he did once".

All of the founding fathers have much-copied classic 50s comedy voices.

So that's you up to speed with the game. But what... SHUT UP

There are potential problems of choosing this game, with its jocular attitude, to be remastered. When I say Bernard's current time is the present, I actually mean 1993. Luckily, with only a few technological items looking a bit old-fashioned, most of the puzzles, and more importantly the gags, still hold up today. More or a potential problem is the game style itself. Point-and-click adventures died with the turn of the millennium, despite a few attempts to bring them back (most notably with Size Five Games' Ben There Dan That and Time Gentlemen Please, both of which are heavily inspired by this very game); the supposed evolution of the genre has resulted in natural selection favouring Telltale Games, who initially created episodic successors to some of the LucasArts stable, before their current path of decision-making stories.

This guy's a direct descendant of Benjamin Franklin.

My personal Tippity-Tap Hot-Take? I think that style of game isn't quite as adventurous as the critics would claim. This makes me even happier that this game has come back and has been as successful as could be expected. Point-and-click adventures do have a place; it seems that, like with films, we discover that we've been missing a genre if it goes away for a while. It really does hold up. The graphical style, originally designed to handle limited technology, looks amazing when re-scanned into HD; you'd describe it as "stylised" if you didn't know its past, and just assumed it was made from scratch this year (this perhaps can't be said for the other remastered LucasArts adventure, Grim Fandango, in which, given its creation at the dawn on 3D, the HD textures are still wrapped round a lot of mid-90s angularity and pre-rendered backgrounds; this is still an excellent game however). So I don't feel bad about calling this the (by which I mean "my"; calm the fuck down) game of 2016, even though it was also my game of 1993.

In fact, the whole game system is a great advert for point-and-click adventures. Despite the outlandish characters and sci-fi setting, the puzzles are logical. I only looked at GameFAQs once, and even then I kicked myself for missing something that was blimmin' obvious. For the few stodgy moments that do exist, and have been spotted in the last 20 years, DoubleFine choose to acknowledge them within trophies and achievements, and also in the optional developers' commentary mode, which I'd recommend switching on during a second play-through. It's where I learned about the backdrop anecdote at the top of the page (and you can enjoy the audio while being able to whizz through the game in about an hour the next time round).

There is a talking horse in a stable, but upstairs. SCHAFER!!! *shakes fist*

If I was to throw down some negative points, the future mansion isn't quite as exciting as the previous periods, but this is just a by-product of the stark "feel" of the tentacle's totalitarianism. And the original Maniac Mansion, should you try it, isn't nearly as forgiving as its sequel. But the fact that this exists - at all - is a great thing, given that it was once an obsolete treasure; ideally we'd see more of this sort of thing being re-made, rather than a game of 4 years ago being HD-ified despite already technically being in HD. Even better news is that another update of a wonderful LucasArts game from this era, Full Throttle, has just been announced, alongside DoubleFine's sequel to (yet another beloved cult hit) Psychonauts. Guys, when you've finished all that, how about a third trip to the mansion. Please?

Laverne's famous quote: "Yoo-hoo - Mr. Tentacle Guy!" Wait, why didn't I just grab that screen? I am bad at this.

2016 has been a year of misery and disgust. It would seem appropriate that, as an incorrectly-coloured thing wants to take over the world, this game about time travel has, in effect, travelled 23 years through time to us. It brings with it hope - hope for a time when just having a laugh was acceptable, and not every word was tinged with the fear of more angst. I think this paragraph is more clever than it actually is.