Top 50 Challenge 2014 – Earth Defense Force 2025

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I’ve never played an Earth Defense Force game, but I’ve heard players sing their praises well before I met some of their fans here at Game Informer (check out Joe Juba’s review here). In many ways, it’s the Dynasty Warriors of third-person shooters. Lots of enemies on screen, lots of over-the-top action, but not a whole lot of input coming from the player.

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I totally understand the appeal of the game, and I was quickly charmed by its aesthetic without much expectation going in. The purposefully clichéd banter from the soldiers and civilians consistently cracked me up. I loved hearing the scientist come over the radio to remind me giant bugs are attacking, as if the giant bugs attacking weren’t enough to keep me up to date on the situation.

Top 50 Challenge 2014 – Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc

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There are some genres that are simply perfect for handheld gaming. I’ll always choose a console or PC for first-person shooters, fighters, and anything else that requires precision. Interactive visual novels, though, are simply perfect for the smaller screens.

Learn more about the Game Informer Fight For the Top 50 Challenge 2014.

This year’s Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc blends the investigation and intrigue of Capcom’s Ace Attorney courtroom melodrama with the high-stakes social encounters of Atlus’ Persona series. The setup is what makes it all worthwhile, and for that reason I’m glad that Kimberley Wallace chose to champion it for our Top 50 conversation.

Top 50 Challenge 2014 – Monument Valley

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I heard a little bit about Monument Valley before I recently played it for our Top 50 Challenge, so although I didn't know what exactly to expect gameplay-wise, I was intrigued. After playing the game, I can understand why people are talking about Monument Valley.

Learn more about Game Informer's Fight for the Top 50 Challenge 2014. Also, here's Jeff Marchiafava's original nomination of Monument Valley.

Monument Valley is a puzzle game in a colorful, beautiful, and mysterious world. Players must navigate the character through 10 levels (some with multiple screens) by manipulating parts of the level/world in order to lead the heroine to stand on certain switches and pass through doors. It's like a better-functioning Echochrome, where manipulating the level makes you see the 2D geometry in new ways to open up new paths. You'll rotate platforms, avoid Crows that block your way, make friends with a helpful totem pole, and test your perception.

Top 50 Challenge 2014 – Assassin's Creed Rogue

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Top 50 Challenge 2014 – Assassin's Creed Rogue

I used to love Taco Bell's Gorditas (it was a strange sickness); I ate them for lunch and dinner, and then dinner again. Gorditas fueled my college education, but I eventually consumed so many of the tasty snacks that I grew tired of them. I broke my Gorditas taste buds, and even now, I can't force myself to order one. My point is that too much of a good thing can eventually grow distasteful. That's how I feel about Assassin's Creed. The sequel fatigue began to set in around AC III, but I powered through Black Flag anyway. Rogue is a completely competent game, and it follows the series' formula perfectly, but that formula has grown stale. It's time for a new menu item.

Learn more about the Game Informer Fight For The Top 50 Challenge 2014.

Admittedly, I was dreading having to play this game after Wade issued the challenge to me. But I tried to go into Assassin's Creed Rogue with a sense of optimism, reminding myself of my love for the series – I 100 percented AC II and Brotherhood. This was also the game were you played as a Templar, so it was bound to feel a bit different than last year's model, right?

Top 50 Challenge 2014 – Kirby: Triple Deluxe

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I don't know who the Kirby fans are out there. There's Game Informer's Kimberley Wallace, but she'd be a fan of a wet towel on a bathroom floor if it was pink, so I don't know if she really counts. I vaguely remember enjoying Kirby: Nightmare in Dream Land on the Game Boy Advance, but most other entries strike me as a couple of notches above a LeapFrog game. I love the presentation of Kirby's Epic Yarn, but that appeal had little to do with the Kirby license. I was surprised by Kyle Hilliard's high review score for the new game this year, and I was equally surprised by how few people mentioned the game after release. When Kyle decided to champion the game for our top 50 games of the year list, I quietly raised my hand preparing to wade into the luke-warm waters of Kirby's next adventure.

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Top 50 Challenge 2014 - Thief

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Andy Reiner challenged me to test my stealth skills in Eidos Montreal's reboot of the Thief franchise? Did this game steal my heart? You'll have to read on to find out (Get it? I said "steal" my heart because the game about a guy who steals things...pretty clever).

I like to go into games with a positive attitude, but I didn't need much coaxing in this case. Thief was one of those classic cases of an earlier-in-the-year game I was interested in that somehow got neglected. In general, I think these Top 50 Challenges are valuable for making sure that our list doesn't skew too far towards the last four months of the year.

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Top 50 Challenge 2014 – LittleBigPlanet 3

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When trying to decide what the best games of the year are, it's easy to dismiss some sequels as more of the same. LittleBigPlanet 3 has suffered from that characterization since it was first announced, but after playing Sumo Digital's colorful platformer for a day (and a good chunk of the following weekend), I'm ready to weigh in on whether it should earn a spot on our Top 50 list.

Learn about Game Informer's Fight for the Top 50 Challenge 2014, happening today and tomorrow.

When Matt Helgeson championed LittleBigPlanet 3, I jumped at the opportunity to play it. I'm a big fan of the LittleBigPlanet series, but I must admit I was a little disappointed when LBP 3 was revealed. Not only had the sequel been handed off to a new developer, but nothing about the announcement trailer seemed all that different, with the exception of a few new playable pals to accompany Sackboy. However, once I started actually playing (which – go figure – is still the best way to judge a game), I realized just how many new ideas and features Sumo Digital has crammed into the latest installment.

The Wild Ride Of Just Cause 3's Avalanche Studios

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When we visited New York City for the December cover story on Just Cause 3, we were able to sit down with the co-founder of Avalanche Studios Christofer Sundberg. Flying over from the headquarters in Stockholm, Sweden, Sundberg tries to visit the New York branch of the studio every month to keep up on the development of Just Cause 3 and make the trans-atlantic studio feel more unified. Primarily known for the Just Cause series, Avalanche Studios has also created games like the free-to-play TheHunter, the downloadable Renegade Ops, and the studio in Stockholm is currently working on Mad Max. I spoke with Sundberg about the difficulty of maintaining team morale during low points in their history, cancelled games from their past (including a rumored Iron Man game from 2012), and their interest level in working on an established Square Enix property like Final Fantasy.

Watch the video interview with the co-founder of Avalanche Studios below to learn the highs and lows of the studio's history and why their future might contain more self-published games. 

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Top 50 Challenge 2014 - Alien: Isolation

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Top 50 Challenge 2014 - Alien: Isolation

As a fan of survival horror games from Silent Hill to Fatal Frame 2 (The best game in the genre ever), my interest was piqued when I found out I’d be playing Alien: Isolation. What could be more terrifying than crawling through pitch-black ductwork while a lethal alien stalks me? While I think the game struggles in terms of repetitive tasks and environments, somewhat unbelievable and forced dialogue and relationships with other people trapped on the ship, and gameplay in general, I have to give Alien: Isolation points for daring to do things in unconventional ways.

Learn more about the Game Informer Fight For the Top 50 Challenge 2014.

Resource and health starved, much of my playtime was spent slinking around on the ground attempting to remain silent, clinging to my radar device’s pings to alert me when the alien and other threats were close by. Going into the game, I thought most of the game would revolve around dodging the IP’s famous fiend, but the title does a great job of throwing other threats like the Worker Joe robots and stressed out survivors your way as well, making sure that every moment is filled with tension. However this playstyle has its faults – why even offer me the run option when I’ve got to stay crouch-walking in order not to wake the beast?

Super Replay – Resident Evil Code: Veronica Episode 9

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Super Replay – Resident Evil Code: Veronica Episode 9

Earlier this year we relived the Mansion Incident by simultaneously playing through both the 1996 and 2002 versions of Resident Evil. Months later we're still retreading the series' past, this time with the HD remake of the 2000 Dreamcast title Resident Evil Code: Veronica. We're joined by a special guest from Capcom as we return to Claire Redfield's second adventure, which shares surprising parallels with her new starring role in Resident Evil Revelations 2 (check out our cover story reveal).

Both Code: Veronica and Revelations 2 begin with Claire waking up on a remote prison island, locked away in a dirty prison cell. Resident Evil Revelations 2 producer Michiteru Okabe also says Revelations 2 has a strong focus on family - a powerful theme running throughout Code: Veronica as well. That's only the beginning of the many similarities we spot throughout our tense playthrough of one of Resident Evil's most punishing, lengthy entries.

Join Andrew Reiner, Ben Reeves, Kim Wallace, myself, and special guest Capcom community manager Brett Elston (check out Capcom-Unity here!) as we return to Rockfort Island.