GamesRadar's Officially Annual Platinum Chalice Awards 2008

We’d seen pictures of Braid’s lush, captivating art style. We’d read about the time-and-phase-shifting gameplay and the brain-crunching puzzles. We’d even heard about the int-emo-llectual story. We were ready for all of that. What we hadn’t been warned about was the music.

Braid’s soundtrack wasn’t written specifically for the game. But like the best mix tape ever assembled, the music in Braid didn’t just compliment the mood – it created the mood, and played a huge role in giving the game its languid, dreamlike feel and peacefully melancholy atmosphere.

Above: Pure aural pleasure

Simply put, Braid without this music would not be Braid. If you don’t believe us, try playing the game while listening to Metallica or Fall Out Boy or anything else you have sitting in your CD player or iTunes account. Unless it’s Zoe Keating, you probably just broke the game. Jerk. Now, go download these soundtrack tunes to make up for it, and never question Braid’s music again.

“Maenam”, by Jami Sieber, from the album Hidden Sky. (opens in new tab)
“Undercurrent” and “The Darkening Ground”, by Jami Sieber, from the album Lush Mechanique. (opens in new tab)
“Tell It By Heart” and “Long Past Gone”, by Jami Sieber, from the album Second Sight. (opens in new tab)
“Downstream”, by Shira Kammen, from the album Music of Waters. (opens in new tab)
“Lullaby Set”, by Shira Kammen and Swan, from the album Wild Wood. (opens in new tab)
“Romanesca”, by Cheryl Ann Fulton, from the album The Once and Future Harp. (opens in new tab)

Sonic’s music is always hit and miss, though Chronicles is a definite hit. From somber background tunes to three battle song variations (each with its own style) to keep things interesting, we rocked to each and every track with the volume maxed out.

A few weeks ago we explained precisely why the new Prince of Persia is one of the prettiest (opens in new tab), if not the prettiest game of the modern console generation. Towards the end of that assessment we added an even loftier statement that said the new Prince game was on par with Zelda when it came to exploration and a sense of adventure.

We did not say that lightly. In our eyes, Prince of Persia is exactly what a new, HD Zelda could have been. The many temples, towers, caves and the sprawling overworld all scream “Zelda,” each one seamlessly linking into the next to form a cohesive world. Each piece of the map has platforming, switch and logic puzzles, and gimmicky boss battles that, if you’ve played any 3D Zelda, should feel awfully familiar.

Above: ICO and Yorda, Prince and Elika… why not Link and Zelda?

More importantly, Prince gives us a glimpse of what Nintendo could have done with Zelda, if only it’d take a chance and try something totally different. Imagine this game as it is, replace warrior Prince, sorceress Elika and villain Ahriman with warrior Link, sorceress Zelda and villain Ganon and poof, you’ve got a new game, new co-op dynamic and a new breathtaking world, all while retaining the same sense of adventure and wonder that Zelda always contains.

We loved the look and feel of Twilight Princess, but it played too damn similar to the Ocarina and Wind Waker. The series needs a shake up, and Ubi beat them to, in our eyes, the best direction it could have taken. Well, second best (opens in new tab).

LBP is a Nintendo game on a Sony platform. Reggie (opens in new tab)said it himself. The colorful, bouncy world and fun-for-everyone gameplay, not to mention an attention to detail Miyamoto would admire, all capture the “Nintendo Magic” that seems to elude most other developers. Maybe Nintendo should start knocking on Media Molecule’s door?

You can’t really call them “wannabes who got to be” since we probably spend more time serenading our eardrums with the homegrown fan jams found at OverClocked ReMix (opens in new tab)than listening to official game soundtracks. But there’s still a sweet bit of poetic justice in the story of a handful civilian maestros getting their music cleared for official use in the very game they were paying tribute.

Let this be a lesson to aspiring musicians: After hearing a fan mixed Street Fighter tribute album entitled “Blood on the Asphalt,” (opens in new tab)Capcom USA got a hold of the boys at OCR and asked them if they could handle the tunes for the upcoming Super Street Fighter II HD Remix. Did they think they were gonna say no?

Above: Fei Long, wins

It was like the stars aligned and twenty years worth of unrequited videogame fandom became all the more worthwhile. You can hear it now in the much beloved XBLA/PSN title, but you’d have to be an idiot to ignore this FREE download (opens in new tab)of the entire sixty-six track strong soundtrack.

Unlike Street Fighter, Castle Crashers didn’t have the good fortune of gestating in our brains nearly two decades. But the audible accompaniment to the best beat ‘em up in years is no less a triumph in our eyes, especially when you consider it spawned from an open casting (opens in new tab)call posted at the flash haven,

From catchy beats to epic swells, you can experience the wonderment of the entire grassroots undertaking right here (opens in new tab)at no charge.

Good God, how the tables have turned. Just one short year ago, EA was squeezing out annual turds of licensed laziness and cross-platform greed faster than we could score them with 5’s and 6’s. Today, Activision has emerged as “The New EA,” while this old workhorse became... well, pretty damned amazing! Your sports titles were still present and accounted for, but the Harry Potter-like refuse was given the finger and that anxiously awaited Catwoman sequel was put on indefinite hold, leaving the rest of its release slate with uncharacteristically fresh and exciting newness.

Above: Boom Blox, in all its non-sucking glory

Who’da thunk EA, of all companies, would restrain itself from dumping another party game on the Wii, and instead deliver something as rewardingly distinctive as Boom Blox? And surely, we weren’t the only ones who did a double take when EA announced they would also be sinking a substantial investment into innovative and original IPs like Dead Space and Mirror’s Edge. The results were stellar, and even the most jaded of game journalist couldn’t help but join in the critical standing ovation for the new leaf turned over.

Above: Love it or hate it, at least EA tried something new

And how was EA rewarded for its bold and risky foray into a new era of quality over quantity? Why, with less than expected sales, quarterly losses in the millions and a hefty round of employee shitcannings (opens in new tab). It looks as if EA went wrong by doing the right thing, and we have only ourselves to blame. At the risk of pointing the Ol’ Okami finger, we allowed Spore to become the most pirated game of 2008 and Mirror’s Edge to sell less than the two-year-old Wii Play.

Gamers: Hang thy head and shame - and brace yourselves for the return of tried-and-true crap throughout 2009.

Surprisingly, several triple-A titles weren’t unceremoniously dumped at year’s end. Metal Gear Solid 4, Battlefield: Bad Company, Civilization: Revolution, Tales of Vesperia, Ninja Gaiden II and Soulcalibur IV all enjoyed success when released during the usually dry summer months. And wouldn’t ya know it: each of those games sold relatively well.

Above: Men, we’ve found a new season… one with no holidays

This may come as a shocker to just about everyone who’s ever played or made a video game, but there are other months besides (opens in new tab)October, November and December. WE KNOW! It’s crazy to realize that games can steadily trickle to retailers throughout an entire calendar year, rather than being stockpiled as if autumn was some kind of nuclear winter. The worst thing you can read is some dev saying X game would’ve sold well had it been released at any other point in the year (opens in new tab).

Good news, dipshit! Now you can!