Sunday, 18 March 2012

Gaming's Greatest Guilty Pleasures

The world is full of amazing games yet to be discovered, played and enjoyed. And yet we all find ourselves playing bad games, oldgames and just plain annoying games again and again. It's like some sort of weird compulsion, a psychological need to punish ourselves.

So the IGN team gathered together and decided to reveal our gaming guilty pleasures.

Harvest Moon

Why I Love It 
I'm an urban creature. Harvest Moon's idealized vision of the rural life - perpetually smiling, happy cows, crops in neat rows, friendly horses, towns full of people whose day-to-day economy revolves around the gentle rhythm of harvesting and sowing - is enormously appealing to me. Harvest Moon sucks you into a world that's so much simpler and more pleasant than the real one. Here, all you have to do is work really hard, and you'll be rewarded with a nice life. And prize-winning chickens. 

Why I Feel So Guilty 
OK, so I've been playing these games for FIFTEEN YEARS now and they never really change that much, and yet I still can't stop. Over and over and over: plant potatoes, water potatoes, harvest potatoes deliver gifts of fresh eggs to the father of my desired betrothed, brush the cows, go to bed, save money, start again. Why don't I get bored of this, ever? Why can't I apply this admirable industriousness in real life? I dread to think how many hundreds of hours I've spent tending a virtual farm. I could have probably learned three more languages in that time. 

-Keza MacDonald 


Why I Love It 
As gamers, we all love to see bars fill. To level-up. To complete check-lists. This is the reason many of us have a near-Pavlovian response to Microsoft's brilliant "Achievement Unlocked" chime. It just feels good. It feels complete. Zynga has taken this positive reinforcement and constant sense of progress and distilled it into its most elemental state. Any time I have just a couple minutes to kill I know I can make a bit of progress in my Dream Zoo, or Castleville realm. Who cares if this progress is meaningless? Cheerful music played and fireworks went off. Plus it opened up yet another bar to fill. 

Why I Feel So Guilty 
Most of Zynga's games are nothing more than elaborate Skinner Boxes. I know that the constant positive reinforcement and steady drip of rewards are essentially cheap psychological tricks but I'm defenseless against them. After spending time playing challenging console & mobile games, I can't help but enjoy some of Zynga's "it is impossible to fail" social titles. 

-Justin Davis 

Mario Party Games

Why I Love It 
A board game I can play on my television without having to memorize complicated rules, lay out pieces or organize neatly in a box when completed? Yes please, sign me up. The Mario Party franchise has always been a fun drunken romp for a few friends. We get to laugh and argue vehemently over and over. The latest installment looks to be no exception. There's something about the randomly delivered assortment of frantic mini-games and stupidly colorful characters that keeps me playing. And unlike actual board games, none of my idiot friends can steal from the bank when nobody else is looking. 

Why I Feel So Guilty 
Fundamentally, the Mario Party games are horribly flawed and unbalanced. Beat the crap out of all your opponents in every mini-game and you'll still have a strong chance of losing in the end thanks to random chance. Mash every button, collect every coin and generally dominate every perceivable angle possible and a roll of the dice will send you spiraling back across the map to your doom. Playing Mario Party is like playing a sinister version of Mario Kart where the only items are blue shells. It's both a grueling exercise in patience and an utterly corrupt punishment for skill and ambition. I despise it with a radiating fervor. But hey, does anybody want to play Mario Party 9 with me? I'll bring the booze! 

-Brian Altano 

Bejeweled Blitz

Why I Love It 
It only takes one minute to play, has online leaderboards so I can compete against my friends, has great sound and flashy visuals and fast, fun gameplay. It's the perfect game to play while waiting in line, before going to sleep, and to help ignore the stares of that creepy vagrant twitching at the other end of the subway car. 

Why I Feel So Guilty 
There are so many other incredible games out there, yet I often ignore them to return to PopCap's match-three sprint. I've been playing this damn game for years. It's like eating the same meal at the same restaurant at the same table every night, even though the place is surrounded by celebrated world class eateries. 

- Charles Onyett 

Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII

Why I Love It 
Dirge of Cerberus continued a story I grew up obsessing over. It peered into the world of Final Fantasy VII and expanded on Vincent Valentine's troubled tale. More importantly, it blended the fun and challenge of shooters with the level-building in RPGs long before such a union was popularized with Borderlands. To this day, Dirge of Cerberus is one of the few games I played from start to finish twice in a row. 

Why I Feel So Guilty 
Most Final Fantasy fans look down on Dirge of Cerberus. It suffered from stiff controls and bland stage design. It also had enough Japanese melodrama to fill the oceans (which I welcome with open arms). Over the years I learned that when I admit to loving Dirge of Cerberus I get laughs of disbelief in response. Oh well, at least I had fun! 

-Ryan Clements 


Why I Love It 
I've been a Driver devotee since the 1999 original. As much as I equally adore the Grand Theft Auto series, I'm that guy who feels compelled to constantly remind people that Driver 2 did 3D in-car/on-foot free roaming out-of-car action before GTA III did. The car handling remained sublime, the collisions were suitably crunching, you could tip over cars with a forklift and the soundtrack was an absolute belter. Seriously; I even bought the CD. It lived in my car for weeks. Iggy and the Stooges, The BellRays, SLO-MO; I loved almost every track. 

Why I Feel So Guilty 
This game caused an incredible backlash. As good as everything felt behind the wheel, taking to the streets on foot was a disaster. Developer Reflections had been put in a position where it had no choice but to release the game, whether it was finished or not, and the game just wasn't finished. It was buggy, unrefined and (if my memory serves) plagued by at least one insane difficulty spike. I still may have a soft spot for it, but everything Driv3r got right combined with its severe shortcomings to condemn it to a middle-ground of tepid mediocrity. 

-Luke Reilly 

World of Warcraft

Why I Love It 
World of Warcraft fulfills that primal Diablo-driven urge in me for more and better loot. I've played for years with different friends, in different guilds and with different toons, and whether I'm running a friend's alt through Icecrown Citadel for the first time with my paladin or trying to dogpaddle my warlock through the Lady Sinestra fight in Bastion of Twilight without wiping, I absolutely love the strategy, the camaraderie and yes, the loot, WoW offers. 

Why I Feel So Guilty 
The grind, it will destroy your soul. And I should quit on sheer principle alone. WoW is like a slot machine that's set to never pay out. You can never win, you'll never be good enough, and if you take a break for a few months, your gear becomes so outdated you might as well roll a new character. Going back out to run Heroic instances after patches and level cap changes inevitably render those enchanted boots or that gemmed helm useless, pieces that took 10 raids to drop and win, feels worse than a knee to the nads. Yet… I can't stop. 

- Casey Lynch 

Naughty Bear

Why I Love It 
One of Podcast Beyond's most infamous inside jokes is how I have this strange and enduring love for 505 Games' Naughty Bear. We gave it a 2.5 on PlayStation 3, and yet I spent quite a bit of time playing it when it had just come out. Beginning as an adventure for Trophies, I ended up falling in love with the idea of a sadistic, angry and outcast teddy bear stalking and brutally murdering the very teddy bears who shunned him. It's hilarious. 

Why I Feel So Guilty 
Naughty Bear runs at like 10 frames a second (if you're lucky), and the gameplay isn't always very sharp, either. I feel so damn guilty playing Naughty Bear because I know that I really shouldn't like it. Objectively speaking, it's just not a good game. But I do like it and here's something weird - . I hope 505 Games gets a crack a sequel. 

-Colin Moriarty 


Why I Love It 
It's the croaking noise the Frogger frog makes when it successfully negotiates highway and waterway. That's the froggiest noise ever heard. I love frogs and I especially love that sound, that audible confirmation that I have guided my little frog across perils both urban and sylvan. Frogger is simple and it's fun and damn, it'sreally, really froggy. 

Why I Feel So Guilty 
I know it's an arcade "classic" but it's crap isn't it? The game, I mean. It's terrible. You just guide the frog through pre-determined difficulties, lazily picking up bonuses that don't really mean anything. Frogger starts off way too easy and then, suddenly, gets way too hard. Unfortunately, these subtleties were lost on me when I skipped school and spent an entire year in a launderette, playing Frogger. Now when I see an arcade unit, I have to play it. I feel guilty about this compulsion because this frog game stole my education and secretly, I blame the frog. Subconsciously, I want it squashed. That's not nice. 

-Colin Campbell 

The Club

Why I Love It 
There aren't a lot of games that blend leaderboard-style high scores and third-person shooting, so Bizarre Creations' The Club immediately gripped me. I caught the score bug and needed to see my name in worldwide bright lights. I almost achieved it too, passing 200th on the global leaderboard. I could headshot from across the map and land some seriously skilled kill streaks during online matches. The Club was super unique and featured all the OCD replayability of a good puzzle game. Sure it didn't look that great and wasn't the most precise shooter, but it sure was fun. 

Why I Feel So Guilty 
The Club wasn't a hit. From early in its life cycle it was clear that the arcade experience couldn't support the longevity of a popular online shooter. So why oh why did I spend so many hours and days blasting online opponents and crawling up the charts? I spent countless hours adding to my kill count, slowly approaching the achievement that rivaled Gears of Wars' "Seriously" with 10,0001 kills. After hitting at least the three-quarter mark, the servers died out and I was left with a useless skill: top tier aim in a game that no longer exists online. 

-Peter Eykemans 

Final Fantasy XIII-2

Why I Love It 
I'm a big nerd for JRPGs, and there haven't been many good ones lately. Eternal Sonata rocked and I liked Final Fantasy XIII more than most, but I've been starving for something I could really spend dozens of hours with. XIII-2 is unconventional, but its battle system is amazing, it looks incredible and it fulfills my need for long, confusing cut scenes. I spent over 90 hours playing XIII-2 to 100% completion, and I loved it. 

Why I Feel So Guilty 
Objectively, I know XIII-2 is a majorly flawed game. The story is a mess, navigating the Historia Crux is repetitive and the main campaign is brutally short. Spending so much time with XIII-2 caused me to neglect my ever-growing backlog of great games, and I probably would have gotten nearly the same amount of fulfillment if I'd just stopped after the main campaign. Also, the dumb temporal rift puzzles nearly made me want to quit gaming altogether. 

-Andrew Goldfarb 

Another Century's Episode 3: The Final

Why I Love It 
FromSoft's ACE3 is one of the top tier mecha games on the PS2 - not counting SEGA AM-2's Super Dimensional Fortress: Macrossor LostToys' Battle Engine Aquila. With a stable of one hundred mechs to choose from, plenty of missions and a built-in infinite ammunition "cheat," the game reflects my darkest desire to destroy what opposes me while operating a 15 meter tall, nearly indestructible weapon system without the need for logistical constraints. 

Why I Feel So Guilty 
Since the game is from the previous generation of gaming systems, I don't have that luxury of time to spend role-playing my sadistic Voyo fantasy. Admittedly, the game does get repetitive, as the fastest method to glass an entire level is to use a Gundam Mobile Tactical Enforcer and fry all matter with laser artillery rated in the tera-joule range. Damn, I love that smell … that ozone smell. Smells like victory. 

-Stephen Ng  



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