Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Third (Semi Annual) Golden Lotion Awards

It's that time of year again. When articles about video games start with it's that time of year again. 2016 is at its end, and hundreds of new games have come and gone, millions if you count Steam releases. Like most years, a lot of crazy shit has happened. Controversies, disappointments, firings, hirings, instant classics and total dogshits. We're now living in a post-VR, post-"Pro" versions of consoles, post-Nintendo games on phones world. We're at the event horizon for video games, and I think anything could happen from here on out. Will consoles even be a thing in five years? Will we all reject real life in favor of a virtual world filled with nonstop supermodel hookups and infinite Taco Bell gordita supremes? I don't know. 

In the middle of all the craziness, a few notable games managed to find their way into the world. And in 2016, a game actually being released as a full, realized product is worthy of an award in itself.

Without further ado, here are the winners and losers of this year's Golden Lotion Awards.


How hard can it be to not betray the hopes and dreams of a rabid, fickle fanbase? 


Here is an example of a game that has no place in today's world. Shooting monsters and shit with a meathead grunt of a main character with ludicrous guns and over the top violence is SO 1990s you guys (sorry Gears of War...). What could you even do with a new Doom game to justify its existence. The answer, as it turn out, is to just make it Doom.

Making Doom, an idea so simple it's a wonder no one's thought of it before.

Doom 3 was a decent game, but it made the questionable decision to try its hand at being a more atmospheric, slower paced horror game. Doom (2016) understands the visceral thrills of running at 1,000 mph shooting guns at fast moving enemies and not even stopping to reload. It's old school design smartly paired with modern trappings. Unlike most of today's linear shooters, it keeps the locked doors and backtracking intact, and adds hidden collectibles and upgrades to make exploration worthwhile.

Silver Lotion Winners: Hitman, Uncharted 4: A Thief's End, Ratchet and Clank, Gears of War 4


All you had to do was make a perfect game, and you COULDN'T EVEN DO THAT!

WINNER - Mighty No. 9

A long time ago, Capcom was a publisher putting out Mega Man games like there was a bomb in the building that would go off if they ever released less than one a month. Around the turn of the decade they must have figured they were releasing enough bombs of their own that it wasn't a problem, because since then the once iconic video game franchise has been quietly retired.

All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in Rain Man's stage...

Hope was given in the same form that the bloated corpse of every has-been game franchise rises these days, Kickstarter. In 2013, with former Capcom bigshot Keiji Inafune's name and reputation attached, Mega Man in everything but name Mighty No. 9 was pitched and the campaign was an instant and massive success.

And that's when the troubles started.

Now, I'm not one to put much stock into the idea of curses, but holy goddamn maybe there was a reason Capcom kept Mega Man locked away in some abandoned corner of their HQ. From the very beginning of development, there were signs that Mighty No. 9 was having problems. And it just never really stopped. Everything from design decisions, delays, community management, delays, backer reward mix-ups, delays, advertisements and graphical downgrades marred this game the whole way to release. It seemed like Inafune was running the video game version of Springtime for Hitler. Then the game actually came out, and was by all accounts just a pretty crappy game all around. Which is really the least surprising thing about the whole debacle.

Silver Lotion Winners: Star Fox Zero,  Dead Rising 4, Metroid Prime: Federation Force


It's OK buddy, just do better next time.

WINNER: No Man's Sky

This game will probably go down in history as the biggest disappointment of a game ever made. And really, it never deserved what happened to it. It was a game made by a small team with big ideas. They reached for the stars (pun fully intended with no regrets), and they didn't quite make it. With any other game that would be no big deal. The "mining rocks and not much else" genre is huge right now. No Man's Sky would have found its audience somewhere. With Sony pushing the game as a AAA mega blockbuster, and fan hype shooting into orbit (again, I knew exactly what I was doing), the weight this little-space-game-that-could had to bear absolutely crushed it. As it stands now, with death threats, accusations of lying, and calls for legal action, the developers will have to go into hiding for years before even thinking about making another game. And for a small group of folks who just wanted to make a cool thing, that's gotta suck. 

Silver Lotion Winners: Virtual Reality, Playstation 4 Pro


GOTY 3034

WINNER: The Last Guardian

With 2016 at its end, we close out another year of Sony conveniently neglecting to mention where the hell The Last Guardian is. If they are just going to cancel it, just cancel it already. Stringing fan along with vague "It's still being worked on" every other year is just c-




Well look who looks like a damn fool, The Last Guardian is totally legit for sale now. With a box and everything. And it isn't even a burning garbage fire of a game even. I don't even know what to think anymore.

Silver Lotion Winners: Mirror's Edge Catalyst, wait that came out too? What is going on here?!, OK how about Final Fantasy XV? Wow really? That damn game has been in development for 10 years, one generation and name change ago, Alright alright, Beyond Good & Evil 2 is still never coming out right? RIGHT? OK good. Well I mean bad because I think it would be a cool game but it wins this award. All of this award. Gold, silver, bronze. All of it.


Gotta catch 'em all! You know, until we add more.

WINNER: World of Final Fantasy

Square Enix is no stranger to trying a little something different with its Final Fantasy series. If there's any possible way they can shove a little FF into another genre they'll do it, call it a spin off and send it out the door so fast your ATB bar ain't even got time to reload.World of Final Fantasy is a throwback fanservice filled game with monster collecting and chibi characters. Unfortunately somebody decided to release it just before the real Final Fantasy game.

Silver Lotion Winners: Pokémon Sun, Pokémon Moon, Pokémon GO

And now we stop for a moment to honor some of those we lost this year.

And now back to the awards.


Not often, but sometimes,  a game comes out of nowhere and surprises you

WINNER: Stardew Valley

There's a thriving market for "games that are sort of like other games that aren't being made anymore" right now. When it doesn't work, you get Mighty No. 9 *. When it does, you get Stardew Valley. Games like Animal Crossing and Harvest Moon introduced people to the idea of simulator/social gaming. There's a town you're new to, you talk to the wacky townsfolk, and you hit trees or something until you're rich. Stardew Valley does all of that good stuff, and adds just way more depth to everything. The game is similar to something like Persona in that you have a limited amount of time in a day to develop skills or progress your relationships, and like a Deadly Premonition for example, the townspeople are on their own schedules and have their own likes and dislikes. You can mine, or don't. Fish, or don't. There's things to fight, treasures to find, birthdays to celebrate, businesses to save,  farms to farm. There's just an overwhelming amount of things to do in a town that starts to feel like home. Also, it was made by ONE GODDAMN DUDE.

Silver Lotion Winners: Hitman, Doom, Overcooked


Seriously, this game.

WINNER: Battlefield 1

Honestly, it's surprising as hell to me that this game is even in the discussion of my favorite game of the year. If there's anything at all to say about myself as a human being, it's that I don't like playing multiplayer games. I suck at them, I don't have fun doing the same actions on the same map over and over again, it's just not my idea of a good time. And yet, and yet, I've always had a soft spot in my heart for the Battlefield franchise. Since the first one in 2002, I've been utterly fascinated by the freedom of a large scale military sandbox. Mostly playing against bots even, for the actual competitive nature of it was of little interest to me. Then eventually the bots were removed as an option and I was forced into the chaos engine of online. I played these games casually, a round or a few here and there. Still bad at it, but still too fascinated by the emergent possibilities to just totally ignore it. 

Then DICE announced Battlefield 1. With the modern and even the near future setting totally mined of any interesting possible scenarios, they decided to rewind back to World War 1. A war that, although it was the single most defining event of the modern era, almost no video game's even tried to portray. It's been a long held theory that World War 1 would be too boring for a shooting game, taking place largely in a trenched stalemate. But, well, Battlefield 1 is amazing. Even if it's not perhaps the most realistic portrayal of The Great War, it is definitely an effective glimpse into the madness of one of the miserable times in human history. It's bloody, it's muddy, it's dark, everything's on fire. people are screaming, dying, calling for their mothers. And then there's the guy trying to ride a horse up a tree. It's still Battlefield, after all.

With all of the possibilities for total nonsense that implies.

Even beyond the game itself, what stands out is what it brought out in me. In school, our coverage of WW1 was limited to "Franz Ferdinand was killed and then things were bad for a while". The American education system at work. With this game approaching, I wanted to fill myself in on World War 2's not as popular older brother. I've dedicated a large chunk of my time reading books, watching documentaries, movies, and listening to history podcasts. I've become sort of obsessed, and it wouldn't have happened without Battlefield 1.

*Don't actually get Mighty No. 9