News from the Playbox

The Best of 2008

For December and Beyond...

December 14, 2008
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Yeah, Christmas is almost here! Oh, what a wonderful time for gamers, especially with so many top-quality games to find under the tree.

Now, if you’re shopping for the gamers in your life, you may be wondering what’s the best thing you can put under the tree for them. Well, I thought I’d help you out with your holiday gaming shopping with these five recommendations, my top five picks from 2008. They’re listed in no particular order and represent what I thought were among the best games with the broadest appeal for gamers today.

  1. Burnout Paradise (Xbox 360/PS3) – Not only is this a great racer in its own right, but Criterion has done an amazing job of keeping the experience fresh with new add-ons. They’ve added new events, new cars, new motorcycles and next year they’ll add a new island and some new offline, multiplayer modes. The speed is intense, the challenges are fun, the online integration is second to none; if you have a gamer who loves to race, this is THE game to get for them this Christmas.
  2. DeBlob (Wii) – Gamers often lament the amount of sequels turned out by the gaming industry and how there aren’t enough original games. Of course when an original game does come out, gamers don’t buy it because it isn’t simply more of the games they’ve already played and love. Well, DeBlob is one of the best third-party, original games to come out this year. It’s a bright, colorful platformer with some decent puzzles and some seriously addictive and fun gameplay. Add in some interesting multiplayer components, and you have a game the whole family can enjoy and a new character they’ll all love.
  3. Boom Blox (Wii) – Take the game of Jenga, mix in some Steven Spielberg, and you get one of the best party games of the year. Spielberg’s game makes excellent use of the Wiimote’s motion capabilities and is full of unique, fun puzzles of a Jenga fashion. When you get four people together to play, you have one of the best multiplayer games currently available on any system.
  4. Madden 09 (Wii, Xbox 360, PS3) – For the sports lover you can’t go wrong with Madden. This year’s edition is one of the best so far this generation. Sharp visuals, deep gameplay, the all-new Madden IQ and adaptive AI and gameplay, smooth, fluid animations; Madden 09 is the ultimate football-lover’s game. It’s not all rosy, however, with some minor limitations in uniforms and customizing online games, and a throwaway online league setup. On the Wii, you get stellar motion controls, unique and really fun multiplayer modes, the actually-pretty-good All-Play mode so even noobs can enjoy the game, and all of that in addition to what the other versions offer. Granted it doesn’t look as sharp, but it’s the fun party version out of three.
  5. Prince of Persia (Xbox 360, PS3) – For the adventure lover there’s this excellent reboot of the Prince of Persia series. To be honest, this was a toss up between the Prince and Tomb Raider, but the unique, fluid movements through the levels combined with some truly lovely visuals and engaging combat gave the edge to the Prince. Lara’s new adventure is decent, and to be honest has better, more challenging puzzles, but it doesn’t compare with the grandeur of the Prince’s adventure. Some of the unique changes may be tough to get used to, but I think you should at least give the Prince a chance.

So there are my top picks of the year to help with your Christmas shopping. Now, I’m sure some of you are probably wondering “Where are the REAL big hits from the year? Where are the GTA IV’s, the Gears of War 2’s, or the Fallout 3’s? These are the games everyone is raving about.” True, but to be honest, I couldn’t in good conscience recommend those games to anyone. You can see why in my full reviews at the HJ Playbox, but suffice it say that some (like GTA IV) aren’t as good as everyone says, and the others just don’t seem like they would make good gifts during a holiday that’s celebrates joy, generosity, kindness, light, and life.

It was incredibly difficult to narrow my list to just five games as so many top-notch games released this year, but as 2008 comes to a close, these are the ones that stuck the most in my mind.

Well, hope you all have a Merry Christmas, a Happy New Year, and lots of fun gaming during this awesome holiday season.

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