Best Role Reversal
Feral Interactive, $45
What It Is: A strategy game in which you scare people.
Who It’s For: Anyone who roots for the bad guy in horror movies.
Why It’s a Hall of Famer: Being the hero all the time can get so boring. It’s nice to turn the tables and become the bad guy, and Ghost Master does exactly that. It turns out that bureaucracy is alive and well in the afterlife, and as an undead civil servant, it’s your job to scare the mortals who live and work in Gravenville. To do so, you employ a workforce of ghouls who scare the “plasm” out of living people, and plasm is the coin of the ghostly realm—the more you have, the more successful you are.
There are some tricks involved in scaring people, however. Some ghosts only work in certain locations, and some humans respond to specific kinds of hauntings differently. Also, each mission in this game features one or more objectives you have to reach to be successful, such as uncovering evidence of a murder or freeing a ghost from a trap.
Best Tension Reliever
Unreal Tournament 2004,
What It Is: A fast-paced first person shooter.
Who It’s For: Shooter fans who just can’t get enough.
Why It’s a Hall of Famer: Halo may have been the first person shooter that everyone wanted at the start of the year. If, heaven forfend, Halo wasn’t enough, Unreal Tournament 2004 kept them busy straight through the summer. Unreal Tournament 2003 was one of last year’s top picks, and with some new twists, UT 2K4 is on this year’s list too.
Another MacSoft creation, this game shipped almost at the same time as its PC counterpart, which has put—and kept, thanks to regular updates—Mac users on a level playing field with their Windows-using friends.
The basic formula’s the same: This is a gladiatorial combat game set in giant arenas, some outside, some inside. But for the first time, UT players can man vehicles – everything from hovering ships capable of raining death from above, to muscular 4x4s that make it just as easy to mow down your opponents as to shoot them. A new game mode called Onslaught tests out your team-building skills by making you capture and hold strategic points, and the Assault mode—missing from last year’s version—is back with a vengeance.
Voice communication, massive new maps, “Unreal TV,” which lets hundreds of players watch other players go at it, tons of mods, and a very active online gaming community all add up to an awesome first person shooter experience.
Best Use of Biofeedback
The Journey to Wild Divine:
The Wild Divine Project, $160
What It Is: A Myst-style adventure game that uses a custom game controller.
Who It’s For: People who are interested in mastering their body and mind.
Why It’s a Hall of Famer: It may seem strange that The Journey to Wild Divine is in the Game Hall of Fame, as the game itself left us with something to be desired, but this unusual and unique title left quite an impression, and it was without question one of the most memorable games of the year. The Journey to Wild Divine game is a Myst-style graphical adventure romp that’s full of beautiful scenery and puzzles to solve. But it’s how you solve those puzzles that makes this game so special.
The game comes bundled with a special USB controller that attaches to your fingertips. By measuring your skin’s galvanic response and your pulse, The Journey to Wild Divine steps you through exercises and games that teach you the principles of biofeedback and how to better manage your body’s own responses.
It sounds like hokum, but it really works: you may feel silly laughing out loud or singing while you’re playing, but the first time you see what’s happening on the screen actually change as you alter your breathing patterns or just start to think differently, you’ll be hooked. And you’ll realize just how important a positive frame of mind is to your body’s well-being.
Best Use of History
Railroad Tycoon 3:
What It Is: A real-time strategy game with railroads.
Who It’s For: Anyone who likes to play with choo-choos.
Why It’s a Hall of Famer: Poptop Software’s Railroad Tycoon series puts you in the role of a captain of industry: An entrepreneur who’s starting a railroad line. The nation will grow and so will your fortunes if you lay track right, service your stations effectively, and manage the flow of goods and passengers throughout your transportation network. Fail, and you’ll go broke and lose the game. You’ll get to play as Industrial Age robber barons and relive great periods of rail expansion throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, and you’ll even get a taste of what rail transportation might be like in the future.
This is the same formula that we’ve seen in previous installments of Railroad Tycoon. The franchise got a major overhaul with this year’s release of Railroad Tycoon 3, thanks to a new 3-D gaming engine and changes to the underlying economic engine that powers the game.
Though there’s a “sandbox” mode that lets you just lay track and operate locomotives around to your heart’s content, the real meat of this game is in understanding how goods and passengers move around the country and how you can help that endeavor—and how to play the market not only to increase your own personal fortunes and the stock value of your company, but how to drive your competitors into the ground or take them over with mergers and acquisitions. It’s a powerful combination that will keep you coming back for more.