Game of the Month, July 2011

Winner: Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon

Do we dare to add a so-called “Budget Title” into our semi-serious pantheon of the years’ greatest games? We dare indeed! What Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon lacks in Triple-A polish and overall innovation, it more than makes up for in slap-happy thrills delivered at a mile a minute. You could call Insect Armageddon “dumb,” but to us, it’s like the Grindhouse of games, as it cheekily embraces everything you truly want to experience in a balls-nasty shooter, while shrugging off next-gen crutches, like *bleh* character development and story, that needlessly elongate what should be interactive entertainment first and foremost.

Above: “KILL ‘EM ALL! (Now with Jet Packs)

EDF is already well aware it’s a B-grade game, so it doesn’t bother with all the pretentious padding that modern games have tricked you into believing is actually important. Yeah, the game doesn’t set out to do anything new, however it’s borrowed the solid third-person shooter mechanics from several dozen great games that’ve come before, and refined them all splendidly for its own simple purposes. Kill waves, and waves (and WAVES) of giant insects. Now don’t stop ‘til you get enough!

Above: There’s an Achievement/Trophy for killing 25,000 of these and you’d be surprised by how effortlessly you might unlock it

Of course, all of that aforementioned same praise could be lavished upon the last entry in the cult-tastic, blisteringly Japanese EDF series, yet Insect Armageddon does kicks it up several notched by adding crucial new features. Online is no longer ignored, and co-op with buddies drastically enhances the nonstop insecticide one thousand fold. Plus, the added option of upgradable classes, featuring battle drones, jetpack equipped-soldiers, and turret-laying scouts, are enough to make you forget that you’re essentially killing the same handful of enemies over and over.

Look, this month had no shortage of noteworthy titles to choose from. Bastion, Ms Splosion Man,Catherine, are well worth cheering for. Hell,NCAA Football 12technically got a higher score from us! However, we’d like to point out how rare it is for a “Professional Gamesz Journalist” to play something to 100% completion for the purpose of a review, and then continue playing it from home afterwards. Well, Chris is still playing it every day! That’s how deep EDF: IA has its mandibles in us.

Runner-up: Catherine

It can be described as, perhaps a bit uncharitably, Q*bert with boobs. And yet, the description sticks, because at its heart, Catherine is indeed an action-puzzle game, one that involves all manner of blocks, obstacles, and challenging encounters. But Catherine is so much more. It’s a game about growing up, about facing the fear of settling down, about measuring the saucy vice of infidelity against the serious virtue of love. It’s about nightmares populated with boxer-short-clad, sheep-horned men facing the same challenges as hero Vincent Brooks. It’s about choices, with Vincent chatting with his friends in anime cutscenes, responding to text messages from his girlfriend Katherine (as opposed to his temptress, the titular Catherine), and answering queries in a nightmarish confessional booth — all of which come together to affect the final ending(s). So sure, it’s a puzzle game with pretty pictures. But it’s also the most mature game of the month, and we mean that in a very good way.

Aug 1, 2011

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