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Designing on Christmas

December 25, 2008

I am Jewish by association, but my family celebrates everything and we get a big kick out of Christmas. However, this year I was too busy designing games and not making money to really buy anyone anything. My priorities have shifted and I actually enjoy more work more than regular life. Designing games is actually more fun for me now than playing them. It may also have something to do with the fact that, again, I’m not making any money so I can’t buy anything new so I’m left to play out my creations in my head until I get them working.

So, in honor of Christmas and video games, I thought I would give you my Top 5 Christmas and winter related games.

5. SSX Blur – This one passed by a lot of people but my god is it fun. The “one mountain” setting from SSX3 returns, but with even more gorgeous visuals, solid snowboarding controls, and music easily on par with past SSX titles. The one thing that turned me off was the controls for the tricks, which didn’t always read correctly since it was REALLY picky that you drew the right shapes. Since the Wii remote is known for being a bit jittery in nature, this kind of killed the game. I am hoping it makes a comeback or gets a sequel as soon as the Wii Motion Plus comes out, but for now, it’s at least worthy of the #5 spot.

4. Holiday Lemmings 93 – Granted, it was basically a reskinned Lemmings, but the Lemmings series is one of my all-time favorites, and if I could have Holiday Lemmings 93 on my PSP as well as the original Lemmings I would in an instant. I put it at the #4 spot because it didn’t change much from the original game or add any special holiday related items or jobs for the Lemmings, but it was still fun.

3. Indigo Prophecy – Calling this game chilling would be too much of a pun even for me. Opening with a murder on a blizzarding night in New York, Indigo Prophecy is one of the few games to really breathe life into the Adventure genre in recent years. It’s not very “Christmasy” in nature, but it gets the feeling of winter in the Northeast dead on. IG gets the #3 spot for being less than technically impressive, making the package not as fleshed out as it could have been.

2. Max Payne – You cannot talk about winter related games without talking about Max Payne. The game takes place on the stormiest and coldest night in New York history, and instead of staying in with a hot cup of cocoa, Max is out avenging his family’s death. At the time it was released, this was one of the best looking games around but it fell short because it took just a bit too long to be impressive compared to other games from the same year, namely Soul Reaver 2, which exemplified and perfected lip movement and synchronization, while Max Payne had none. Max Payne 2’s graphics were two steps up from the first one, but the lips were still stiff as all hell. However, since Max Payne 2 takes place in the rain and now the snow, the original gets the #2 spot.

1. Jazz Jackrabbit Holiday Hare 95 – Unlike Holiday Lemmings, JJHH was not just a redressing of the original game. Epic added new music, new items, new enemies, and new tilesets. There was a Holiday Hare in 94, 95, and one in 98 for Jazz Jackrabbit 2. However, 95 was the only one that actually felt, well, dark. The haunting techno remix of Carol of the Bells is gonna stay with me forever as one of my favorite tunes from any game (it’s actually very similar to the “Cold Day in Hell” theme from Jazz 2). From Christmas eve with devil rats to a nightmarish Lego world, Holiday Hare 95 easily takes the #1 spot.

Merry Christmas everyone!

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