#4 L.A. Noire (PS3, 360, PC)
Publisher: Rockstar Games – Developer: Team Bondi, Rockstar Leeds
Every year, Pads & Panels list of top games is dominated not only by quality titles but also by a special few that try their damndest to reinvent what we can expect from mainstream games. It’s no surprise that Rockstar Games has found itself perennially among those special few. This year’s offering from the publisher is L.A. Noire. In addition to a ridiculously detailed recreation of 1940s Los Angeles and a plot worthy of its name, L.A. Noire works to reinvent what we can expect from gaming by pioneering facial technology that allowed its creators to add in-depth, emotional interrogations to what might have otherwise been a simple third-person action title. The DLC support for the title cannot be ignored, but even without it, L.A. Noire would stand out as one of the year’s absolute best.
Best Handheld Games
Puzzle Agent 2 (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch)
Publisher/Developer: Telltale Games
As the sequel to the award-winning Puzzle Agent, this game follows Agent Nelson Tethers as he returns to Scoggins, Minnesota. In the first installment, Tethers solved the case of the incident at the eraser factory; however, something didn’t sit right with him after he returned to the FBI’s Department of Puzzle Research, so he headed right back to see what he could figure out about the “Hidden People” the townsfolk seem to disagree on the exisistance of and look for more clues about the disappearance of the factory’s foreman. The game reminds of Fargo with its quirky, dark humor, creepy undertones and, oh, the accents. This game is puzzle-based and features a variety of different puzzles and riddles. This is a great game for something silly and thought-provoking at the same time.
Where’s My Water? (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Android)
Publisher: Disney Mobile – Developer: Creature Feep
Where’s My Water? is a visually entertaining physics-based puzzle game in which the player has to get water from wherever it is to the pipes that go into Swampy the alligator’s shower. The other alligators in the sewer don’t understand Swampy’s affinity for being clean, so they tend to tamper with his pipes. The player can pursue several objectives for each level or simply try to get just enough in to pass the level. As with many puzzle-based games, there are some levels that are easy enough to be finished on the first try, whereas others take some planning and practice. Disney has created a real winner with this game, from its adorably quirky characters to the fun and addictive gameplay.
Aiko Island (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch)
Aiko Island is a physics-based puzzler with more than 125 levels, which take some real thinking to complete. On Aiko Island, the evil Red Aiko have stolen the cookies from the sweet Blue Aiko. It’s up to the player to pop the Red Aiko, getting rid of them, and return the cookies to their rightful owners without losing any Blue Aiko in the process. The levels become more challenging, with some requiring the use of ropes, TNT and/or cannons to solve the puzzles. Players collect cookies for goals completed on each level and can use them to unlock more levels. The island is colorful and visually fun to look at, and the gameplay is highly addictive. This game is a must have, but be warned, once you start to play, it’s almost impossible to stop.