2010 Calvin Awards: Best Videogame
February 8, 2010
In last year's recap of the top ten videogames, I joked that Halo 3 probably would have won the vote again if it had been made eligible for a second straight year. I remind you of this fact in order to emphasize how strong our top ten is for the current year, because Halo: ODST, a worthy successor from Bungie that featured a voice cast reunion of our beloved Firefly, failed to make the top ten. Yes, the latest Bungie masterpiece only missed by one vote and yes, that's probably because the single player campaign mode can be beaten in about six hours. Still, the staff of BOP is notorious for spending a significant portion of the weekend in Team Slayer on Xbox Live. If we like ten videogames more than a Bungie game, you can be certain that all ten of those titles are must-own games for your collection.
When Arkham Asylum was released back in September, it is a miracle that this site's content production didn't grind to a complete halt. So complete was our obsession with the first videogame to understand what makes a superhero cool that we would spend hours and hours in discussions about how to solve various puzzles and rack up the highest combo totals. This Batman adaptation somehow redeems a franchise that has had so many bad games that you may have come to believe that Joel Schumacher was put in charge of the development process. After no fewer than 15 years of frustrating failures, Arkham Asylum reminds us of the year the Tampa Bay Devil Rays suddenly became a World Series team. The game's triumph is that much of an out of nowhere situation.
Our staff's jubilation in discovering each and every new Batbelt upgrade created a two week period of extended euphoria. We would rush to tell one another the locations of various Riddler solutions in order to ensure that all of us beat the totality of the game's most difficult challenge. Arkham Asylum is the rare fighting game that punishes button mashing, enforcing playing discipline to pick and choose the proper moments to throw a punch. Even better, the game's silent takedowns foster an environment of extreme player satisfaction. What other videogame affords the player the opportunity to enjoy the increased heartrates and creeping paranoia of a room full of thugs as they are gradually eliminated? Arkham Asylum was recently placed in the Guinness World Records for being the highest praised videogame of all time. Who are we to disagree? The title that finally (!) makes Batman fun to play is our choice for videogame of the year.
Despite our passionate support of Arkham Asylum, its victory in this category was narrow. The game it barely edged for the title is one whose history is the most storied in the industry. Coming on the heels of 2006's New Super Mario Bros., a DS game that celebrated the legendary gameplay that has made Nintendo billions of dollars, New Super Mario Bros. for the Wii quickly earned a place in our collective hearts. Depending on one's perspective, this is the first such side-scrolling Mario game for a non-portable console since Super Mario Bros. 3 was released almost 20 years ago. For some of our staff, that 19 year and nine month gap represents almost their entire lives.