It's almost Thanksgiving! Well, in the United States. Canada already had their Thanksgiving back in October, as by late November pretty much everything is dead in Canada and the people cling to survival by a combination of willpower and hockey, trufax. And most of the rest of the world doesn't have this holiday at all. But still! No matter where you are, you can be grateful for at least one thing: a trip down Nostalgia Lane in search of the greatest games of yesteryear. It's a Wonderful JIG!
- Dolphin Olympics - Okay, granted, the sequel to this dolphin-flipping, action stunt game more or less blew the first out of the water, pun totally intended. The basic premise of using the keyboard to shimmy and flip your dolphin to rack up points through tricks, like an underwater Tony Hawk, is the same, but the sequel had more detailed background, more things to see up high, more interaction from sea creatures. So why would anyone play the first game? Well, there's a pureness, a simplicity of the first Dolphin Olympics that appeals to me. Whereas Dolphin Olympics 2 inspired manic button-mashing marathons in my attempt to reach the Restaurant at the End of the Universe, the first game is much lower pressure. Somehow, I feel pretty good about myself just doing a flip or two in the first game. "I loved this game, I found it very easy to put down" isn't a common praise of games, but I think it's the charm of this one. In this hectic holiday season, I like something that relieves my stress and that I can close the window on to go rescue an oven-full of cookies without even a twinge of regret. It's just a sweet, friendly game, and sometimes that's just my speed.
- Gateway - It was difficult for me to believe that this point-and-click masterpiece did not win its Casual Gameplay Design Competition, but it did earn an honorable mention and the Audience Prize. The test of time has more than proven Gateway's worth. Some games are like a snowglobe: you look at the scene, and you know that that's all there is to see. (And then you pick the game up and shake it really hard.) Other games are like peeking into a window into another world. You know there's more at stake, more to the story, than the little glimpse you're allowed, and it really fires up your imagination. Gateway is in this coterie. It's all the more enthralling because of the way the plot sneaks up on you, when up to that point it's just seemed like a plotless series of puzzles. It's too good to spoil, so if you haven't played this game yet, please do, and also check out the sequel.
- Ayiti: The Cost of Life - This life sim game is just as relevant now as it was in 2006. However, since this game is about grinding poverty in Haiti, that's not necessarily a good thing. Reading news articles about the cholera outbreak, I couldn't help but think of playing game after game of Ayiti. One game, I'd manage to eke out a pretty nice existence for the family; the next game, I'd watch helplessly as family members succumbed one by one to cholera, tuberculosis, and overwork, then died either from the illness itself or because with no one working, there was no one to buy food. And yet, the game never succumbs to cynicism, clinging indomitably to hope. The message I came away with is to open your eyes and really take a look around you at all the opportunities you've taken for granted, and to think about how to help people who haven't had the same opportunities. I can't think of a better message for the Thanksgiving holiday.
While we welcome any comments about this weekly feature here, we do ask that if you need any help with the individual games, please post your questions on that game's review page. Well, what are you waiting for? Get out there and rediscover some awesome!