Wishlist: The Casual Gamer

XBox 360 with Kinect XBox 360 with Kinect

Last year, the PS2 was my console recommendation, based on the assumption that “Casual Gamer” readers are either relative non-gamers, or already own whatever console(s) they really want. This year, coming to the end of the lifespan of the current generation of consoles, prices are down, game libraries are deep, and there’s really no reason not to pick up a Playstation 3 or an XBox 360. As a game system, Blu-ray player, and Netflix streaming hub, my own PS3 is the most important device hooked up to my TV. However, for the entry-level gamer, or the advanced gamer looking for something different, I’d recommend the Kinect. I’m still not totally sure that motion control will ever take over gaming, but it really doesn’t need to. Having had the chance to (finally) try the Wii, the Playstation Move, and the Kinect, I’m willing to say that if motion control has a future, it’s the Kinect. The Move is a genuine advancement over the Wii (to be fair, so is the Wii Motion Plus), but only the Kinect is able in a single device to let players use hands, feet, body, and head as inputs. I’m not one much for dance games, but I’d argue that only games using the Kinect are even worth the name. Microsoft is selling a bundle with a 4 GB hard drive for $299, but installing the Kinect takes up nearly that much space by itself, so spending the extra $100 for the 250 GB bundle is really worth it.

PSN cardXBox points card Playstation Network card
XBox Points card

One of the big reasons that I’m recommending the XBox over a PS3 is the vibrancy of XBox Live Arcade over Playstation Network (also, to my knowledge, XBox Live wasn’t hacked this year), but both PSN and XBox Live Arcade have a lot to offer, from downloadable supplements to games your favorite gamer already owns, to games like Limbo (which finally came to PSN after being released for XBox Live Arcade in 2010). PSN also has a lot of Playstation 1 games available on PSN, and they’ve started to add PS2 games, which may finally, finally make my old PS2 hardware obsolete. (I’m not holding my breath.)

Arkham City Batman: Arkham City

I don’t play enough new games to feel comfortable arguing for Arkham City as the best game of the year — for a better discussion on that subject, check out Slate’s Gaming Club or Gamasutra’s Top Ten of 2011 — but as a self-avowed Batman fanatic, Arkham City just nudged out Portal 2 as the most fun I had playing this year. (It was close. Really close. Portal 2 is great. In fact, I might just change my mind if I can finally coordinate schedules with someone and get through the multiplayer levels.) The main storyline was fun, if not as tight as Arkham Asylum, but it was the Riddler that really made the game for me. I chased down all the Riddler trophies in Arkham Asylum, and the audio of the Riddler’s arrest was fun, but having to solve new puzzles to rescue kidnapped medical workers in Arkham City was a far, far better reward for my obsessive-compulsive pursuit.

It’s not exactly a top ten list, but The Ico and Shadow of the Colossus of the Collection and the Heavy Rain: Game of the Year Edition are well worth picking up. You may already have Heavy Rain or Shadow of the Colossus (in which case the re-releases aren’t worth an additional investment), but Ico in particular has been nearly impossible to find, and giving it an HD release is just good karma.

Gavin Craig is co-editor of The Idler. You can follow him on Twitter at @craiggav.

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