24/7 Red Wings/Maple Leafs: Road to the NHL Winter Classic

I really love this series. I’ve watched the previous 2 seasons they’ve done, and if anything, really wish that it was a year-long thing that followed multiple teams, and not just this short 4-episode run that we get. It’s an HBO reality series that follows the 2 teams that will face each other at the January 1 outdoor Winter Classic match, and really tells a great story, showing the ups and downs of life at home and on the road. It’s really entertaining when they present the games themselves, as their mics pick up what the players are saying on the ice. Makes the games feel more real and intense then what you usually get.

NHL 14

I love hockey, and I love watching the Canadiens play – something I stopped doing for about 20 years, but got back into last year. The last time I remember really playing a lot of video game hockey is NHL 2K on the Dreamcast – we’d have hockey playing sessions in my living room, using a projector to screen the game on a wall. One of my friends is still an avid player of hockey games, and he’s been urging me to get back into it, and since NHL 14 was on sale recently at a crazy price of $15 on the PSN Store, I bit the bullet and jumped in. So far, I’m having an absolute blast. It took a few games to get used to the modern controls – using the analog sticks to aim and shoot – but once you’re into it, wow, is it ever fun. Although the Ultimate Team mode scares me a bit – basically, you build a team getting players as cards from packs, which you buy using in-game currency, or real cash – but the idea of it is really fun. I look forward to playing more of this online, and to hopefully get to a point where I can beat my friend.

Elysium

Even though I have so much love for District 9, I came into this with lowered expectations, because I’d been hearing from many people that it wasn’t all that great. Well, maybe it’s because of those low expectations, but I sure loved this. For me, it starts with the world design, as I really loved the construction of all the tech, robots, ships, etc. This is the kind of sci-fi design I really like. And I thought the action sequences were truly thrilling – and I would have loved to see more of those steadycam shots that were angled from behind the back of the protagonist. And those complaints about Jodie Foster’s weird accent? I thought it was great, giving her a sort of universal, post-global feel.

Colossatron

I hadn’t heard anything about this game before it came out, but seeing that it was from Halfbrick I figured it was definitely worth the buck, and wow, consider this another Jetpack Joyride-like addictathon. Such a great idea, to have you play a Zuma’s Revenge-type game, but making it so that you are arming a rampaging creature with a variety of weapons that affect the level of destruction you produce. So much fun.

Favorite Media of 2013

That is what I digged the most this year. Can you dig it?

For the past few years (see 2010, 2011, and 2012) I’ve been ending the year with a big ol’ post where I go through my favorite media of the year in a few key categories. For me, it acts as an exercise in looking back at what it is that tickled me the most during the year that was, and hey, it might give you some ideas on things you should check out. This year, remembering many of these things was much easier since I now keep a media consumption diary online — that would be my Debaser Tumblr blog.

So this is the best of the year?

Nope, not at all. This is a highly subjective compilation of my favorite things. Also, there’s a lot I haven’t had the chance to take in yet (I’m looking at you, Super Mario 3D World), and although in past years I’ve sometimes cheated a bit — basically, stuff that I didn’t get around to from the previous year — this year I made a point of sticking to things that really came out in 2013.

So here it, starting with a top 5 in alphabetical order, and then a listing of honorable mentions for each.

Favorite Games
Again, the thing to remember here is that these are my favorite games that I’ve played. I can’t play everything — or more importantly, I can’t afford to play everything — and there are also a few games that I just haven’t got around to yet, that I think I’ll really like (like Beyond: Two Souls and BioShock Infinite, which I only picked up recently). Also, I’m not much of a PC (well, Mac) gamer, so there are plenty of great indies that I do want to play, and I’m very happy that many of them are going to be coming out on Vita or PS4 (or both). The platform mentioned is the one I played it on (many of these are multi-platform titles).

  • Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons (PS3)
  • Grand Theft Auto V (PS3)
  • Super Mario 3D World (Wii U)
  • The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (3DS)
  • Zen Pinball 2: Star Wars Pinball (PS4/PS3/Vita)

Honorable Mentions: Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag (PS4), Attack of the Friday Monsters! A Tokyo Tale(3DS), Call of Juarez: Gunslinger (PS3), Final Fantasy XIV (PS3), Fire Emblem: Awakening (3DS), Guacamelee(Vita), Resogun (PS4), Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft Beta (Mac), Need for Speed Rivals (PS4), Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch (PS3), Rayman Legends (Vita), Spelunky (Vita), Tomb Raider (PS3), The Last of Us (PS3)

Favorite iOS Games
Last year I put The Walking Dead in the regular games category, but since I play all Telltale games on iPad, and it’s really the only way I want to play these games, I felt like it was time to put it in this category (along with the truly excellent The Wolf Among Us). People always say that iOS gaming is all about simple cheap games, but looking at my top 5, it’s really PC/console-like games that work great with touch that I tend to gravitate towards. I’m certainly ready and willing to pay $20 for a season (5 episodes) of The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us on iOS (and in 2014 I’ll do the same for The Game of Thrones and Tales from the Borderlands), and I’m glad that République has gone this route as well. Also, even though I had a lot of fun playing the free-to-play Plants vs. Zombies 2, I would have much preferred paying a standard $5 or $10 for it — and would have played much more — so it doesn’t get included.

  • République
  • Ridiculous Fishing
  • Shadowrun Returns
  • The Walking Dead: Season 2 and 400 Days DLC
  • The Wolf Among Us

Honorable Mentions: Battle of the Bulge, ColossatronJoe Danger Touch, Magic 2014, Nimble QuestSteve Jackson’s Sorcery!

Favorite TV
I always find it very difficult to come up with the top 5, but what I have here are truly the shows that I enjoyed watching the most, although my binging of Arrow and Fringe comes closely behind, and it was difficult to not put Mad Men in the top 5, a show I still adore. And speaking of binging, I’ve started watching more seasons of shows this way, foregoing watching on a weekly basis — I find it more satisfying and easier to follow — and so shows that I normally would include, like Boardwalk Empire and Treme, are not there because I just haven’t gotten around to watching them yet.

  • Breaking Bad
  • Eastbound and Down
  • Game of Thrones
  • House of Cards
  • Orange Is the New Black

Honorable Mentions: Arrow, Fringe, Girls, Inside Amy Schumer, Luther, Mad Men, ShamelessSpartacus: War of the Damned, Top Gear, Tron: Uprising

Favorite Movies
This always feels like it’s the most incomplete of categories, since so many great films come out at the end of the year, which means I’ll only see them in the coming months — so many of my favorite movies that I watched this year actually came out last year. But still, I think these are the 2013 releases that I enjoyed the most. And yes, Pain & Gain was just too fun not to include.

  • Before Midnight
  • Elysium
  • Frances Ha
  • Pacific Rim
  • Spring Breakers

Honorable Mentions: Don JonOblivion, Pain & Gain, RushSide Effects, Star Trek Into Darkness, This Is the End, Upstream Color, Wreck-It Ralph

Favorite Comics
This year I really found myself getting back into French comics, and not necessarily with new releases, although the weekly Le journal de Spirou is one of my favorite reads. I also find myself missing out on lots of great English releases — especially with graphic novels — and so the end of the year is always an excuse to go through the “best of” lists from various sites to find out what I missed. I think Comics Alliance has a really great one. Of everything here, Hawkeye and Sex Criminals are truly my favorite series of the year, followed by East of West.

  • East of West
  • Hawkeye
  • Sex Criminals
  • The Massive
  • The Walking Dead

Honorable Mentions: Fury: My War Gone By, Lazarus, Sweet Tooth, The Wake, Trillium, Velvet

Favorite Albums
Well, a big change this year in how I cover my favorite music. I usually always have a “favorite tracks” category, along with the “favorite albums” one, and for the tracks, I do a round-up of tracks that are not from my favorite albums. But this year, I found that I really couldn’t separate them. Sure, I’ve always been an album guy more than a singles guy, but I do have a lot of tracks I love — that I play on the Codex — and this year they pretty much all came from albums that I really loved too. And hey, there were A LOT of albums I really loved this year, hence the ridiculously long “honorable mentions” list, but these are really all of my favorite albums of the year. As I do each year, I’ll soon do a special episode of the Codex that covers all of this amazing music. Also, if I were to choose one album to rule them all for 2013, it would have to be M.I.A.’s Matangi.

  • Cold Spring Fault Less Youth (Mount Kimbie)
  • Matangi (M.I.A.)
  • Pure Heroine (Lorde)
  • Random Access Memories (Daft Punk)
  • The Blow (The Blow)

Honorable Mentions: Anything on Return (Toro Y Moi), Bitter Rivals (Sleigh Bells), Fade Away (Best Coast), False Idols (Tricky), La Musique Numérique (AM & Shawn Lee), Mala (Devendra Banhart), Miracle Mile (STRFKR), Modern Vampires in the City (Vampire Weekend), More Is Than Isn’t (RJD2), Night Time, My Time (Sky Ferrera), Paracosm (Washed Out), Performance (Outfit), Reflektor (Arcade Fire), Run Fast (The Julie Ruin), The Bones of What You Believe (CHVRCHES), Overgrown (James Blake), Wakin on a Pretty Daze (Kurt Vile), Wed 21 (Juana Molina)

Almost Human

After having learned my lesson from Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – a show I was excited about after watching the first episode, but that I quit with the second – I wanted to give Almost Human a few episodes before I write about whether I like it or not. The verdict? I do like it, but I don’t know if I’ll be able to follow forever if they don’t start building some sort of overarching storyline that continues from one episode to the next, as I don’t really like watching procedurals. But I like the futuristic world that is presented, and the two main characters are great. What I’m hoping is that, like Fringe, we’re just on a slow burn as they try to build an audience, before coming up with interesting multi-episode or multi-season stories.

République

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I will say, this is one damn cool game. I really enjoyed playing through this – takes about 2 hours to go through this first episode – and I really can’t wait for the next episodes to come out. My favorite aspect of the game is that you are not really controlling the character of Hope, but rather “spying” on her surroundings, using the security cameras to see what’s going on, and then telling her where she should go – and to also hack the environment. It’s a great idea, and really suits the touch screen controls. You get quite addicted to jumping from one camera to the next, finding the best way to get Hope through the rooms. I did encounter a few times where she didn’t go exactly where I was expecting her to go, which resulted in her getting discovered, but it didn’t happen too often. Very slick presentation too, and as a backer (through Kickstarter), due to the complications of getting the game to us, they gave us a few extra digital “feelies” that are quite nice, including 2 episodes of an interesting documentary on the making of the game, and a nicely designed PDF of a “book” from the game, that gives you cool narrative background on the world. I’m happy they went the episodic route – like with the Telltale games, I like being able to play through an episode in one sitting, getting the full experience in one shot – and I think they did a great thing when you finish the first episode to tease the next one with a short video preview, done documentary style. 

Sex Criminals

The main reason I started this Tumblr blog about a year ago was because I wanted to keep track of the media I consume, and also to make it easier to refer to what I enjoyed the most throughout the year, when it comes to writing up my “favorite media of the year” post, that has become a tradition for me. I’ve covered lots of games, movies, and TV shows, but unfortunately not enough comics, and I do regret that. One of my favorite new series to launch this year that I do want to make sure to highlight is Sex Criminals. Written by Matt Fraction with art by Chip Zdarsky, it’s pretty great so far (3 issues), and just so damn enjoyable to read. It’s hard to describe quickly, but yes, there’s a lot of sex in it, and by the end of the first issue, you’ll be pretty surprised by where things are going – and oh what fun that journey is turning out to be. Make sure to check out Matt’s Hawkeye too, by far my favorite mainstream/super-hero series of the year.

Scrolls

Right now, if you own a copy of Scrolls you can gift a copy to someone (until January 31). Big thanks to the person who gifted me the game, as I’d been wanting to try it out since its launch. It’s by Mojang (Minecraft), and is at its base a collectible card game, but the combat is done on a battlefield, and so positioning of the creatures you summon is important. I’ve played a couple of matches so far, and so far I’m really digging it. Too early to say if I prefer this over Hearthstone, although I think they’re different enough that you can really enjoy each for different reasons. Great presentation too. Of course, since I don’t do much gaming on my Mac, it’s something I would much rather be out for iPad, but I still plan on playing more of it.