Best of 2014: 50 – 41
50. Crossy Road – Hipster Whale [Video Game]
I am not a mobile gamer, but this year has found me branching out and trying new things. I use my Nexus 10 tablet for reading, but at the tail end of the year, I decided to give a few popular mobile games a try. Crossy Road captured my interest immediately. The game takes the classic Frogger mechanics and makes it an endless runner. The game is easy to play, it looks colorful and it sounds good too. There are lots of extra characters to unlock, and using the different characters also changes the aesthetic of the board. It is a cool effect and an example of the excellent detail put into the game. Apart from minor issues with the controls at times, Crossy Road is a well made game with a lot of replayability. I find myself coming back to it every day and new updates continue to add characters in turn adding more reasons to continue to play.
49. Serial – Sarah Koenig [Podcast]
There are few podcasts as well known as Serial. Springing to the forefront of pop culture and becoming one of the fastest growing podcasts ever, Serial follows a fifteen year old murder case, reexamining the facts surrounding the convicted killer. By the end of the twelve episodes, my love of the podcast had diminished from its strong start, but I still feel like the producers did a lot of things right. The podcast follows a story with enough mystery and questions to make me want to continue to explore the facts with the creators. The presentation feels a bit one sided and unfinished at points, but I enjoyed the ride and the attempt. I look forward to a second season, and continue to read up on related news surrounding the podcast and case. Check it out here.
48. Wolf in White Van – John Darnielle [Book]
As a fan of John Darnielle’s music career with The Mountain Goats, I was ecstatic to hear that he had written a book. Wolf in White Van has its faults, but remains a solid debut novel. You can read more of my thoughts here.
47. Towerfall: Ascension – Matt Makes Games Inc [Video Game]
Towerfall was one of the few games on the Ouya that held my attention, so when an updated version came out on the PS4 this year, I was excited to give it a spin. Towerfall: Ascension takes the fun, chaotic multiplayer experience of the original and adds a cool quest mode with more stages and characters to unlock. In the game, characters take the role of a colored archer pitted against other players or the game’s AI on small, treacherous levels. Players can grab chests for power ups and use the varied level design to aid in the fight against enemies. The controls are precise and the level of skill needed increases as players progress in the quests. By the end, I was spending countless tries on levels to complete them, feeling an amazing sense of accomplishment once I did. Towerfall: Ascension is fun, challenging and fulfilling. It is exactly what I want in a video game. Check out this video to see the multiplayer in action.
46. Dead of Winter – Plaid Hat [Tabletop Game]
After listening to various podcasts on tabletop gaming, my girlfriend and I started a gaming night with friends and began to dig into the many games available. Dead of Winter had impressive word of mouth when it was released, making it hard to stay in stock. Luckily, I managed to find a copy on Cool Stuff Inc. The game is a cooperative survival game set in a world of zombies and the cold barren winter. The group of players pick an overall goal to accomplish while each individual person has a personal goal that cannot be shared with anyone else. Players take turns scavenging and killing in order to meet their goal by the end of the total rounds. On top of the basic gameplay, there is potential for one player to betray the others, a crisis in each round that must be thwarted and a crossroads system that triggers specific events if certain criteria are met on each turn. Dead of Winter is a complex game with a lot of moving parts. It is not easy and my gaming group has yet to win individually or collectively. However, the game mechanics are strong and each play through is diverse and different. It is a cool experience with plenty of replayability.
45. Throatruiner Records [Music]
The last couple years has seen my taste in music shift back to heavier output. Labels like Throatruiner have helped to satisfy my needs. Based in France, the record label is run by one man, Matthias Jungbluth. With eight releases in 2014, Throatruiner did not have a disappointing record in the bunch. Plebeian Grandstand, As We Draw and Nesseria stand atop the pack, but the other output is worth listening to as well. Fans of heavy music, should make sure to check them out. In fact, you can download the releases for free from their website.
44. Rabid Moon – Acid Fast [Music]
Often, listeners forget about music released early in the year. Newer albums takes the place of the older, even when the music is solid. Though released in January, Acid Fast’s latest album, Rabid Moon, stuck with me throughout the whole year. The fast paced, garage-laced punk rock created a sound that was easy to go back to again and again. Plus the length of the album kept me craving more by the end instead of feeling fatigued. Albums like that are hard to come by, and Acid Fast makes it seem easy.
43. Snowpiercer – Bong Joo-Ho [Movie]
This year, I have managed to see more movies than the last several. Usually, if I do not get out to the theater to see a movie, there is a slim chance that I ever will. Snowpiercer is a movie that I heard positive things about throughout the year. When I saw it available on Netflix, I knew I needed to check it out. Though the movie forces you to suspend disbelief and buy into its overall concept, the artistic style of the film is incredible. From the characters to the concept to the costumes and beyond, the world of Snowpiercer mesmerizes. If you can turn your brain down a little bit, then the movie is an excellent watch.
42. Black-ish – Kenya Barris [Television]
To be honest, I did not think that Black-ish would last long. In a time when TV shows get chopped after a couple episodes, I figured that the name and concept of Black-ish would not catch on in our current culture. Watching the show, the smart humor and layered performances of the cast surprised me. I was even more surprised to see that it became the number one new comedy of the season. I am happy that our culture might not be as closed-minded and fucked up as I originally thought. Black-ish follows a well off African-American family as the head of the house, played by Anthony Anderson, struggles to keep their ethnic identity amid cultural assimilation. The show manages to be funny and relevant without being too preachy. It is a great mix of humor and emotion, and the writing is clever. With its breakout success, I do not need to tell people to check this show out. But if you have not, then you should.
41. The Divination of Antiquity – Winterfylleth [Music]
I spent a lot of the year digging into black metal thanks to bands like Deafheaven releasing amazing material in 2013. Several bands stuck out in the genre with excellent back catalogs. Among those was Winterfylleth. Formed in England in 2007, Winterfylleth has released four albums with the newest out in 2014. The Divination of Antiquity is a great showcase to the band’s heavy, atmospheric sound. For fans of black metal, this is a do not miss release. For those outside the scene and willing to try something different, it is a solid starting point to the genre.