I thought I’d write a quick roundup of the movies I’ve seen, games I’ve played, and books I’ve read this year. Note that not everything on this list may have been released this year, but I experienced them for the first time this year. Feel free to just skim the headlines if you can’t be arsed to read the whole thing. Without further ado…
The ‘Frosty’s Movie of the Year’ award goes to… Scott Pilgrim
This year, I fell in love with the Scott Pilgrim books, and the film version brings it to life with style. A fantastic ensemble cast, stunning special effects, and stays pretty faithful to the source material. The ending differs somewhat, but I think the whole thing works pretty well as a more concise version of the books. Good plain fun.
The ‘Runner Up Movie of the Year’ award goes to… Inception
Inception is about a dream within a dream within a dream. But is it really a dream? The film piles rules upon rules upon rules on you about the way the dream world works and just as you’re starting to get a handle on things, you’re told that actually, it doesn’t work in the way you’ve just been told unless it’s a Tuesday and the wind is blowing in a North-Westerly direction. Brilliant ideas and a brilliant film, but your brain will be frazzled by the end of it. Some nice ambiguities in the film mean that there’s loads to discuss afterwards.
- Sherlock Holmes
Came out in 2009, but I didn’t see it until early January, so it counts for me!
- The Brothers Bloom
Nice little quirky heist movie. The ending confused me a bit, but I think it was supposed to.
- Whip It
Hooray for Ellen Page! Fun movie about roller derby.
The ‘Most Engrossing Game of the Year’ award goes to… Mass Effect 2 (XBox 360)
Wow, wow, WOW. I’m not sure I’ve ever felt so connected to a game as I do / did to Mass Effect 2. The first game was great, but the second one built on it in spades. Tightened combat that borrowed a lot from Gears of War, gorgeous graphics, a deep and completely believable universe filled with diverse planets, locations, and alien races, a crew whose respect you have to earn and who you come to really care for, and of course an immersive story where everything is at stake and you know that if you make the wrong choices then you and your crew might not make it to the end. Utterly fantastic, and I can’t wait for part 3.
The ‘Game That Keeps Me Coming Back For More Because It’s Awesomely Fun’ award goes to… Just Cause 2 (XBox 360)
Just Cause 2 is just plain fun. A huge game world is your playground to do what the hell you want with. Fancy storming an enemy base, stealing a plane, attaching a jeep full of enemy soldiers to it with an elasticated grappling hook, flying for miles across a beautiful island, standing on the roof of the plane and admiring the view before leaping off and freefalling towards the ocean, opening your parachute and gliding to safety as your abandoned plane crashes into an oil rig and explodes in a ball of flames? Sure, you can do that.
The ‘Best XBLA Game I Played This Year’ goes to… Shadow Complex
Shadow Complex is an Arcade game only in name: the quality of the game is on-par with fully-fledged boxed retail games. It has great graphics, gameplay, and story, and sees you infiltrating a mysterious underground bunker filled with enemies. The length of the game is in a sweet spot where it’s not too long and not too short, and there’s also a lot to go back and explore once you’ve finished the main game. Highly recommended, and it’s still one of the best XBLA games available.
The ‘Best Gamey-Game’ award goes to… Super Mario Galaxy 2
Mario is gaming at its purest. It doesn’t try to emulate the real world, or offer you an immersive ‘experience’. It’s just good, clean, awesomely designed, ludicrous fun. And Mario Galaxy 2 improves on the original Galaxy (who’d have thought it was even possible) with a great range of new galaxies, improved game structure, and everyone’s favourite fictional rideable dinosaur, Yoshi. If you’re any kind of fan of video games, you must play Galaxy 2. It’s gaming at its absolute finest.
The ‘Mobile Game of the Year’ award goes to… World of Goo (iPad)
I only got this in the final week of the year, so it very nearly didn’t make it into the list. Believe it or not, I hadn’t until now played the full World of Goo before, only the demo. I loved the controls on the iPad – multitouch lets you drag about multiple goo balls whilst panning around the level all at the same time. The basic mechanics are great, and much like Popcap and Mario games new variations and types of goo ball are regularly introduced to mix things up a bit. To cap it all, the game has a brilliantly quirky setting and a nice little story that leads you through the game. I was engrossed from start to finish.
The ‘Sweet Zombie Jesus I Can’t Believe Those Graphics Are On A Phone!’ award goes to… Infinity Blade
On an iPhone 4’s Retina Display, Infinity Blade looks god-damned unbelievable. Stunning. Wow. It runs on the Unreal engine, and was made by Chair, the guys responsible for Shadow Complex. I can’t say the actual gameplay wows me in the same way, but it sure is pretty.
Dark, moody, and mysterious, Limbo starts quietly and offers you no explanation as to how to proceed. One ‘boss’ fight in particular was delightfully creepy. I felt the game was a little let down by its rather sudden ending, and that the mystery of the first half of the game (for example, glimpses of other people in the forest you’re in) didn’t follow through to the second half. But nonetheless, I’d recommend it.
- Red Dead Redemption
I still haven’t finished Red Dead Redemption, so I don’t think I can really give it an award. The setting is great, and there have been some truly stand-out moments and exciting missions, however for some reason I haven’t found it particularly immersive. I’m not sure what it is about it, but some of the missions felt a bit ‘grind-y’, and I felt always reminded that I was playing a game.
- Helsing’s Fire
Nice puzzler with a unique gameplay mechanic and high production values. I loved this game.
- Cut the Rope
Great, charming, physics-based puzzler, with a Lite version.
- Words With Friends
The best online Scrabble clone for iOS, and one of the games I still keep playing. There’s a free ad-supported version.
Fun, mindbending puzzle game. The free version, Trainyard Express, has a tonne of levels and… is free.
An extremely well done board game to iOS conversion, which just received an update with an iPad-native interface.
The ‘Awesomely Awesome’ award goes to… the Scott Pilgrim series by Bryan Lee O’Malley
I hadn’t heard of Scott Pilgrim until earlier this year, when the hype around the movie started to ramp up. I bought all 6 books in the series and loved every one of them. Really, if you’re reading this you probably already know all you need to know about Scott Pilgrim: he falls in love with a girl named Ramona, and must defeat her 7 evil exes. Infused with great characters, dialog, and some brilliant nods to geek and videogame culture, I can’t get enough of everything Pilgrim.
The ‘Ongoing Series of Books That I’m Reading and Really Enjoying’ award goes to… the Sherlock Holmes Books
I’ve currently read 23 of the 54 short stories, and 3 of the 4 novels in the Sherlock Holmes canon, and I’m really really enjoying them. My favourite collection so far is probably The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, and my favourite novel is either The Sign of the Four or Hound of the Baskervilles. The first novel in the series, A Study in Scarlet, was the weakest in my opinion – so don’t be put off if you choose to read that first. Highly recommended. I’ll finish off the series in 2011.
The ‘Most Enjoyable Novel of the Year’ award goes jointly to… The Magicians by Lev Grossman, and Mystery Man by Colin Bateman
I’ve actually just started re-reading The Magicians, such is the extent that it stuck in my head. It’s an amalgam of a lot of existing real world / fantasy fiction: many ideas are taken from the Chronicles of Narnia, and the main character attends a school for ‘real’ magicians which is hidden from non-magicians (which sounds a little Harry Potter when you put it like that). However, it brilliantly combines these elements and twists them into something new. The school, and indeed the magic performed feels much more based in reality than something like Potter, and it’s all a bit more grown-up, too. I don’t want to go into too much detail and give too much away, but something about the book just struck a chord with me. I got chills when you first meet the book’s main villain, and I love the idea of other worlds hidden away within our own. And of course, who doesn’t like to think that real magic could exist in the world. Really enjoyed this one.
I got this for Christmas, and just finished it before the year was up. It’s a darkly comic detective novel set in Ireland, and literally had me laughing out loud. The main character runs a mystery / crime bookshop situated next to a detective agency. When the detective agency closes down, its customers start coming into the bookshop looking for help, and… well, you can guess how it goes. Things are made more amusing by the fact that the main character suffers from pretty much every mental illness and physical ailment you can think of: he’s paranoid, asthmatic, allergic, has brittle bones, seems to suffer from OCD, you name it. My unexpected hit of the year, bookwise.
The ‘It Took Me Ages, But I’m Very Glad I Finished It Because It Was Awesome’ award goes to… Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke
Epic is the first word that comes to mind when I think of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. It’s a massive book. It details the revival of true English Magic to England in the 19th century, and is so richly detailed. I ended up listening to the audiobook (which was really well done), and thoroughly enjoyed it. Whilst it’s extremely long, I didn’t want it to end – so interesting was the alternate history it sets out. A must-read.
The ‘What A Pile of Shite, Why Did I Bloody Bother?’ award goes to… Wuthering Heights
Everybody’s miserable, the plot’s rubbish and I didn’t like any of the characters in the slightest. Sorry, Miss Bronte, but it was just terrible.
- Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stephenson
A true classic that I hadn’t read until this year. A good, fun, piratey romp with real danger, wooden legs, parrots, and buried treasure.
- The Inverted World by Christopher Priest
A rather different sci-fi book, recommended to me by @gimboland. Written by the same author who wrote The Prestige (on which the Christopher Nolan movie was based), The Inverted World tells the tale of a city which moves. Its citizens move it every single day along giant railway tracks which must be taken up from behind it and placed down in front of it. The book pulls you into this bizarre world, and keeps you guessing the whole way along as to what drives the city’s inhabitants ever onward.
- Moab is my Washpot by Stephen Fry
I’ve never really read a biography before, but I very much enjoyed Stephen Fry’s. Well written and engrossing, it was an interesting look into his childhood. Rather rude in places, so reader beware.
So there you have it! My top movies, games, and books of 2010. Did I miss anything out? Likely it was because I didn’t see / play / read it, but let me know in the comments. What were your picks of the year?