Tom Clare - Pixel Empire Editor
Pick - Top 3 Pinball Video Games
Follow Tom on Twitter @pixelempire
#3 Psycho Pinball - (Megadrive) If my heart chose the others on this list, my head chose this one, in the sense that, whilst Psycho Pinball is perhaps a hard game to love, it’s an easy game to appreciate. Codemasters’ 1994 pinball sim was a classy effort, with super-slick scrolling, incredibly responsive flippers, fantastic visual design and an assured realism to the pinball’s movements that you wouldn't have thought possible from the Megadrive just a couple of years previously. Sweetening the deal was the inclusion of a trio of tables, all offering something a little different (the Wild West and its Blackjack mini-game remains a personal favourite), whilst it also offered the unique opportunity to jump between tables within one game. Not a play-all-day addictive experience in the mould of the next two, but a really good game of pinball nevertheless.
#2 Dragon's Fury - (Megadrive) Beginning life as Devil’s Crush on the TurboGrafx-16, Dragon's Fury raised the bar for 16-bit pinball titles with a grand vision and ambitious, elaborate design. The player was faced with a single, epic table comprising of three tiers, before facing a barrage of miniaturised foes in the main area of play, and then tackling a fantastic and extensive array of bonus screens, with what amounted to mini-bosses as the player dueled with dragons, shamans and flaming, er, men. Indeed, it was equally memorable for its ghoulish title screen and creepy fantasy styling, which made it that bit cooler than its contemporaries. Accessible from the get-go but with a huge array of scoring opportunities, Dragon's Fury had style, swagger and most importantly of all, substance.
#1 Pro Pinball: The Web - (Playstation) If I had my way, I'd likely have picked three Pro Pinball games for the list, although I fear things might have got a bit boring for everyone reading. The Web; Cunning Developments' first PP outing, may not have quite as perfect a physics engine (or as many aronaky options) as Big Race USA, but it has it where it counts: gameplay. One stunning table provides for weeks of play, and with so many mini-games and ways of going about scoring, no two games are ever entirely alike. The Web is gorgeous to look at and with no end of neat little touches, it’s a real labour of love for its creators, their passion shining through to this day.
Shane Battams - Pixel Empire Writer (Xbox specialist)
Pick - Top 3 Years of Xbox 360 Gaming
Follow Shane on Twitter @Steadysphere or his Blog http://steadysphere.blogspot.co.uk/
#3 2012 - As the console nears the end of its cycle, 2012 saw a slew of solid to great titles. Mark of the Ninja was a standout for sure, impressive considering it’s downloadable nature and independent roots. New properties have formed – perhaps beacons of what’s to come in the next-gen; through Dishonored while franchises saw excellent sequels in the form of Witcher 2 (a debut for the series on 360), Max Payne 3, Mass Effect 3, Tekken Tag 2 and Far Cry 3. Oh, and The Walking Dead was top-card too, drawing out emotions many thought they’d lost for games at this point.
#2 2009 - This was the third year of Xbox 360, and it was a great year for games. There seemed to be a strong mix of good sequels and new properties, as follow-ups of Forza, Street Fighter, Assassin’s Creed and Left 4 Dead tantalised those yearning for new games. Meanwhile, new properties such as Dragon Age and Borderlands began life in 2009. On top of all that, the best licensed game on the system came in the form of Batman: Arkham Asylum, which since has only been trumped by its own sequel!
#1 2007 - It had been a couple of years since the 360’s launch, and while 2006 was perfunctory (with the exception of Gears maybe), the console was finally getting some steam with one of the system’s best years. The arrival of Gears of War brought with it a new engine – the now common Unreal 3 – and it powered many of the best games from this year including BioShock and Mass Effect. Other hits include the story-driven The Darkness, the jam-packed Orange Box and tons more. Many of the best games on the system came out in this year.
Alan Passingham - Pixel Empire Writer (Amiga/C64 specialist)
Pick - Top 3 Commodore Amiga Games
Follow Alan on Twitter @sirclownfoot or his Blog http://clownfootsinversemidas.blogspot.co.uk/
#3 Civilisation (MicroProse, Sid Meier) - From tiny acorns do great oaks grow. That’s pretty much the legacy of the original Amiga version of Civilisation through to its current fifth iteration that has now seen it developed for ‘the consoles’. Still, Civ hasn't been all that much of an evolution, as the pure game mechanics of taking on a band of settlers to grow an all conquering civilisation via a strategy master-class was the foundation of this Amiga classic. Little has changed (albeit the 5th installment is less difficult to play owing to the ‘console’ factor), which means the original version is just as re-playable as any of its bigger brothers. Most importantly, there’s no other game out there that can beat Civ for its ‘just one more turn’ dynamic. And before you know it, it’s five o’freaking clock in the morning. Some of the best early morning hours of my youth and most of the summer of 1993 was spent on this bad boy, so obviously I’m not wrong. Civilisation is the best strategy game ever made.
#2 Sensible World of Soccer (Renegade, Sensible Software) - As marvellous as Speedball 2 is, Sensible Soccer probably has the greatest two-player mode ever created. Fast, frantic action that required quite a bit of skill to master made for an absolute bun-fight between argumentative brothers trying to determine which of whom was king of the motherf**king universe! Sensi would always prevail in revealing a who was the actual grandmaster. Years of ever-increasing additions to what started as little more than a bare-bones footy title with exquisite gameplay made SWOS an absolute treasure. Difficulty, depth and endeavour created a multi-directional scrolling footy title that actually played like a real footy match. The now classic stick-men sprites, the ball that refuses to glue to player’s feet, after-touch and killer sliding tackles have much to thank for the that, and whilst it is incredibly challenging to get the knack of it, once you do you’ll be a goal-scoring superstar hero! Incredible goals, frenzied gameplay, a huge management component that kind of gives Championship Manager a run for it’s money, Sensible Soccer is an absolute blast that makes both FIFA and Pro Evolution Soccer blush with embarrassment.
#1 Speedball 2: Brutal Deluxe (Imageworks, Bitmap Brothers) - Now over 20 years old and not only the best game released on the mighty Amiga, Speedball 2 remains king of the world. A phenomenal piece of gaming in every sense it has bastard hard difficulty; delicious multi-directional scrolling; a futurism design that would make Ridley Scott cream in his jeans; tons of ways to score making every match unique; Super f**king Nashwan; simple management content to compliment the hardcore in-game brutalism; bounce domes; the terrific score multiplier; league and challenge play; two player mode - perfect for squabbling brothers; robotic ambulances to remove players beaten to a pulp from the field of play; exquisite design in the arrangement of the Speedball arena; perfect introductory music; replays; the genius of making games only three minutes in length; super f**king quick sprites; on the money collision detection; and a scary AI that has been programmed to constantly piss on your cereal making the game insanely moreish rather than frustrating. Oh, and ice-cream. In other words it’s pretty much the perfect game.
Well, there you have it. 6 games and 3 years of gaming love jammed into one blog. Thank you to all the writers from The Pixel Empire, I'm sure you enjoyed there musings. Visit the site for more of the same, and also my pitiful ramblings too. It's the last day of the A to Z challenge tomorrow! Sob! Actually, thank f**k, I've seriously neglected my other writings. Anyway, Z is for Zero! Games which are poor, very poor, so poor that they are Zero Graders. The top 10 worst video games... Ever!