#24. Alan Wake – The Poet and the Muse
Thankfully, the next game I threw myself into after FFXIII was far more fulfilling. Alan Wake is the game I never knew I wanted: a mystery horror thriller in which the main character is a more personable version of Stephen King. What Wake lost in repetitive gameplay it made up for in spades with the best atmosphere I’ve yet encountered in a game, something I realized as I found myself waiting in a cabin listening to the radio rather than pressing on through the night. I’m still not sure whether I was afraid to continue or simply unwilling to miss potential auditory gold. I am sure that Poets of the Fall are awesome, and their (extremely meta) role as The Old Gods of Asgard is the highlight of the game’s great soundtrack.
#25. ilomilo – Main Theme
Last January, while waiting for the slew of games that 2011 had to offer, I picked up a charming XBLA title called ilomilo. A puzzle game oozing with cute, it’s also surprisingly difficult, and as such I heard this song (and others like it) quite a few times as I pulled my hair out trying to figure out how to just get those two little guys back together again. My only real regret about ilomilo is that its cooperative mode isn’t online, because I’d love to share the experience with others directly. We’ll just have to settle for this recommendation, I suppose.
#26. Portal 2 – Science is Fun
Portal 2 was my graduation present to myself. I knew it was going to be great, I just didn’t know how great. Surpassing the original game was somewhat out of the question, but boy did Valve come close. Cave Johnson alone makes this game worth buying, and that’s just scratching the surface of a much longer, very funny physics-exploiting experience (now with fantastic cooperative play!). Added to all that: a high-octane soundtrack (available in its entirety for free!) that puts the original one’s to shame.
#27. Catherine – Pictures at an Exhibition
Yet it’s Catherine that wins my vote for best gaming soundtrack of…well, let’s just leave it at that. These remixed versions of classical music are frenetic and foreboding, just like the insane gameplay they accompany. Catherine is my pick for favorite game of 2011 (and that’s quite a crowded field, you know), if for no other reason than it was everything I wanted and very little of what I anticipated. It was extremely mature and engaging (there went my assumptions about dating sims), and presented by far the most challenging puzzles I have ever encountered in any game, ever. I kid you not; even Ninja Gaiden is actually a relaxing diversion after a session of Catherine. I have still not beaten the game on Normal. Those who master this game on hard have my eternal respect. Not that they could possibly exist.
#28. Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction – Ending Credits
Less challenging, but no less enjoyable, was the first Insomniac game I played this generation (and my first PS3 game!): Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction. I loved the old Ratchet games (they were synonymous with my PS2 experience for years), and was pleased to find much of the old charm and humor intact all these years later. I’ve never gotten into Insomniac’s more serious fare, but Fixman and co. are geniuses with words. On a more germane note, this game’s closing medley provided me with something past Ratchet games had not: music I wanted to listen to after the credits ended, and an insatiable urge to boogie.