It's a little bit early in the year for a "Game of the Year" post, but since it's just a short week until I sod off on holiday and don't update for a couple of weeks, I should up my post count now and give you something to read whilst I'm in the sticks. Since we're in the midst of the traditional summer lull, now seems like a good time to go over my favourite buys of the year so far.
Number One: Jade Empire on the Xbox. Without doubt, the finest RPG Bioware have made to date, which by natural extension puts it in the running for finest RPG ever. The ambience and vibe of the game are just peerless. It recreates the wonderfully mystical mood of recent Chinese films like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon or The House of Flying Daggers perfectly. It's devastatingly streamlined, accessible, not too long, has a great script and is purely just a joy to play.
Number Two: Meteos on DS. The UK version hasn't quite hit the market yet, and Meteos goes down as the first game I ever dared import, despite not being able to read a word of Japanese. I had a long running love affair with Tetris, and have an ongoing infatuation with Zookeeper, but Meteos comprehensively trounces them both, with an inspired blend of the key elements from both games. It's clearly not for everyone - to begin with it's such an overwhelming experience that the first five minutes will put a lot of people off, but it's one of the most compelling puzzle games of recent times. It's also the DS's first genuine killer app. If you own a DS, you *must* buy this.
Number Three: World of Warcraft. I'd always hestiated to get an MMORPG, on account of viewing the moment of signing up for a game subscription as something akin to passing the event horizon of a black hole. Say goodbye to your concept of time and the universe as you know it... Fortunately, WoW is a gaming singularity that won't leave your soul crushed and ripped into tiny pieces - it's an enchanting game, both aesthetically and in terms of design, that just keeps getting better as Blizzard roll out the updates.
Number Four: LEGO Star Wars on Xbox. This year I've really tried to get back to basics with my gaming, enjoying the simple pleasures for once. When it comes to simple pleasures, games don't get much more rewarding than this. Short and direct, this pushes all the right buttons to let you have the most amount of fun with the minimum amount of fuss. It's the best Star Wars game since KOTOR, and great fun in multiplayer.
Number Five: Freedom Force vs The 3rd Reich. A bit of a sleeper hit, this one. I remember not being too impressed by the demo of the original a couple of years back, but I chanced my arm on it for a tenner in the GAME sale a week or two back. It's usurped a surprising amount of time away from WoW, thanks to some fabulous presentation and the wonderfully deep character creation system.