With those immortal lines one of the greatest Christmas movies ever committed to celluloid began. I’m talking, of course, about National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. The Chevy Chase starring comedy pretty much epitomised Christmas here in the Lolocaust flat. Since the explosion a couple of years ago we have managed to repair a few things, but we never got around to getting rid of that rogue tree branch that grew in through the window. Instead we have used it as a lair for the Lolocaust pet and now we have had to remove him from his pine-scented home to decorate it with tin foil and old penguin biscuit wrappers. Don’t worry about Vinny, he’s now snuggled up in an old Roses tin that has been lined with pages from the Littlewoods catalogue (Autumn/Winter 1992).
With our festive branch and enough stockpiled alcohol to fuel a mission to Mars we decided to sit down and give some though to what we reckon was the best of 2011. This is part one, in case that big title up there wasn’t descriptive enough.
So, 2011 eh? Well… Erm… It was alright.
Great games, interesting news and fun trips abound it was the year in which the Lolocaust went to Eurogamer AND a pier in Southwold to have our bodies groped by machinery (more on that in the next part).
So games. Well 2011 was a stand-out year with some incredible new games and some even more incredible mis-steps from the giants of the industry. Who would have thought that Battlefield 3 would have been stooped in Origin issues and a severely lacking single-player (especially considering how brilliant online was)? Who would have guessed that iD software would not change the world with post-apocalyptic Rage (well, most people)? Who would have guessed that Modern Warfare 3 would not outsell Black Ops? But along all of these shocks 2011 was the year of the indie game, thanks mostly to Steam and smartphones – not forgetting the numerous Humble Bundles – gamers of all ages could sample gaming from outside of the constraints of the corporations. From Bastion to Super Meat Boy; from Where Is My Heart to Minecraft indie gaming saw an explosion of great titles from smalled developers.
It was while we all sat huddled around drinking an assortment of beverages from Lidl we got onto the subject of our favourite games of the year, here’s what the Lolocaust staff members thought:
“Skyrim single player. Battlefield 3 multi-player.
Skyrim because it painted an immersive world better better than anything ever before!
Battlefield 3 because it made me feel like a cog in some crazy war machine.”
“Serious Sam 3. The Epic scale of the gun fights, OTT weapons and awesome sound track.
Simplistic, Action packed, focus on game play.”
“Game of the Year – Streetpass Functionality, 3DS
Alright, it’s not a game. But it’s in the game.
Living, travelling and working in a large city (and carrying the 3DS around at all times) allows me the advantage of experiencing a living, breathing videogame network.
Receiving any streetpasses is like a kiss in the darkness, a plutonic touch of the bum by birds of a feather – evoking a feeling of real life connection to a mostly (maybe completely) hidden network – hidden by embarrassment, distraction, or just the cloud of a busy life and the anonymity of large crowds.
You’re out there. They’re out there. You both make contact and as a result we all keep playing and collecting, you’ll dig out older games, you’ll quit AAA titles, you’ll check obsessively and repetitively for magical green LEDs – just to see who came a-knocking and just what they left you.
You’ll be proud and safe in the knowledge that you’re not a sad, lonely bastard wasting his time on the bus again. You’re one of a huge army of sad bastards, wasting your time.
But you’re not lonely. Not anymore.”
Clearly Dr Hock had been on the gin.
Ahdvd – late to the party due to the buses not running on time, or perhaps because he left a hat on the train or something said:
“You don’t want to know my game of the year then?! You’ll be VERY surprised… I’m gonna have to give it to… Gears Of War 3. Yes, that’s right, the game that I hated the beta of, that I said I wouldn’t get, or if I did would be for the campaign anod that’s it… Well, it fucking ruled me. Most fun I’ve had in multiplayer this year, in no small part to Horde (that and one of the funniest gaming incidents of Mr Bhall dropping the scoreboard on Stuart, oh for someone to have been recording that session, would have been one for the digital scrapbook!), and we’ll be playing it again once the year is over!”
Well, my favourite game of 2011 was probably Valve’s stonker of a sequel Portal 2.
When it comes to making a sequel to a conceptual game you are generally faced with two options:
1) Make more of the same
2) Enhance the original, add in new concepts and expand the world.
With Portal 2 they opted for the second option with a gusto, developing a narrative, a back-story, a ‘trip through time’ and managed to make rants about lemons all the more impressive. Toss in a chunk of co-op gaming for you and a similar-minded buddy and the voices of Stephen Merchant and J.K. Simmonds – along with the return of Ellen McLain as GlaDOS – and you have a heady cocktail of mind-bending greatness.
To wander around outside of the confines of the test rooms and see the huge spherical constructs that housed differing tests from different decades and never feel that you have seen too much is brilliant. Hell, even the ending suggests even more isolation than initially imagined.
But that’s not all folks, I also got fully into iOS gaming this year and have a cheeky second favourite in the form of Halfbrick Games’ Jetpack Joyride. Currently available for free (at time of writing) and rather brilliant, it has stolen days away from me since I first downloaded it. With the standard endless runner style of many iOS games, but with the inclusion of missions, challenges and upgrades the game is suited both for a quick ‘one go’ shot and an hour long marathon of endurance and endeavour. I really cannot recommend the game enough.
So there you go, our top games of the year – in our individual opinions – for you to look at and disagree with vehemently.
But what about films? Well I was asked by our friends at The Monday Movie Show website to write up a top ten of the year’s films and so I will show you my top five here and encourage you to go to this page to read the full top ten in all it’s glory. It’s been a great year for films and I’m pleased to see the Monday Movie Show doing it’s podcasty/websitey thing so well, all of us at The Lolocaust wish you a happy and successful 2012!
5) Super-8 – Now let’s be honest here, the talent that went into making Super-8 should have always resulted in a great film, but what I hadn’t anticipated was how polished the end result would feel. A Seventies love song through and through but all the better for it. The creature was scary – well PG-13 scary anywho – and the grown-ups were suitably troubled/untrustworthy/flawed as you should expect from a Spielberg-infused movie involving kids. The ending may have been too tidy for some, but the scale of the movie – the train crash and the battle in the town between the Army and the creature in particular. The blend of Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Cloverfield was to be expected, but actually worked brilliantly.
4) Life in a Day – If you ever want to see a masterpiece of film editing you can do a lot worse than seeking out this delightful little film compiled from thousands of YouTube user submissions all capturing a single day on Planet Earth. What could have been schmaltzy and too light was instead shaped into a perfect representation of the world as it is. The film is about the world and it’s people and if you can get through a viewing without feeling ANY emotion then you are dead. Move on, there’s no such thing as ghosts.
3) The King’s Speech – I have to admit that I put off seeing this film as long as was possible, and suffered through the throngs of people raving about how great the film was. As a firm believer in the damage hype can inflict on the viewing experience of a film I decided instead to wait for the Blu-Ray release and in that sense I was both wrong and right. The film is sublime. To take what is essentially a very personal account of a former King’s life and not make it a full-blown epic was the perfect decision to make. Instead the smaller locations, the emotive performances and the exceptional cinematography – courtesy of Danny Cohen who has worked on other great British films such as This is England and Creep – resulted in a vastly successful film that DESERVED it’s praise.
2) Dreams of a Life – Another documentary great that has yet to see a home media release – it should be out in March 2012 – and deals with the aftermath of a council breaking in to a property to find that the tenant they were going to evict had been dead for three years, sat in front of the television (that was still on), undiscovered for all that time. The body was left for too long for a cause of death to be established and as such the film looks at how and why this could happen. It’s a very sad and upsetting situation, but one that raises questions – the tagline on some posters was ‘Would Anyone Miss You?’ – about the care system in the UK and how it is possible for anyone with living relatives to be left for so long. It may not be the most jovial of subject matters, but then documentary films often work best with an emotive lynch pin and Dreams of a Life certainly has one hell of a pin.
1) Rise of the Planet of the Apes – When it comes to sci-fi movie series the ‘of the Apes’ films have always managed to remain somewhat popular even when poor sequels, questionable TV series and a shockingly badly handled ‘re-imagining’ (shame on you Burton). I’ve been a fan since seeing Heston drop to his knees on that beach all those years ago, but I have to admit I didn’t expect much from the prequel. Would it reside in the same world as Burton’s crock of shit? Would it try to be a retro-styled film fitting in with the visual aesthetics of the original series? Well a bit of both and something else. Telling the story of the catalyst for man’s end as dominant species on Earth through a rather close to reality tale of genetic research, systematic animal abuse and man-made woes Rise of the Planet of the Apes had one trump card up it’s sleeve in the form of every film fan’s favorite monkey man, Andy Serkis. The performance of Serkis as Caesar is as great as Gollem, if not better, and manages to make the transformation from genetically altered ape to leader of the uprising. With references to events from the saga (the loss of the spacecraft, characters on horseback and ‘that’ line of dialogue) it is both respectful and not afraid to subtly change some situations to make it all the more effective. The only criticism I have is the fact that the ending was re-shot to be happier. The original ending had Franco’s character be shot to death before a scene reflecting events earlier in the film would finish off the film. For Caesar to have the last emotional connection to human-kind ripped away from him would have made been more affecting and I hate the fact that the film was changed to be happier in the face of the near-extinction of the human race at the hands of the apes and their rather incompatible virus. Regardless of this I can’t think of many sequels that I enjoyed as much as Rise, especially given the other Apes mis-steps we’ve had to endure.
Finally we all drew straws and I lost so I have to be the one to do the ‘SHOUT GREGGS WITH US!’ video for the site – and I shall do it on New Year’s Eve, when – if all goes well – we will have the video clip timed to play just before midnight so that the cry of ‘GREGGS!’ is followed with a fireworks display on the telly and celebrations in the house! It’s an ambitious effort for sure, but one I’m sure will pay off. If not, I shall do one naked in my bath. So it had better be, for your sakes!