The DZ Awards 06: 20 -11

Pro Evo
The beautiful game… well the PS2 version was anyway! (Read Our Review)

Andi: Pro Evo is still the king of football and despite the 360 version falling somewhat flat, Konami still show why they are the champions with another beautiful game… about the beautiful game.

Joe: Widely agreed to be the best football simulation series umm… ever, it returned this year. It’s been improved again, and still seems to outclass its rivals on all gameplay fronts. I think the biggest testament to it was that I actually went out to buy a PS2 just to play this game (I wasn’t putting up with the 360 version…)

Naked War
Exposing itself to positing 19 in our list! No need to avert your gaze!

Matt: Not only one of the finest independent games of the year, Naked war is also one of the tightest strategy games i’ve played since Advance Wars. Charming and accessible Naked War hides ruckloads of depth beneath its cute exterior. Addictive, rewarding, and without a doubt my GOTY in terms of value for money.

Sean: Absolute perfection. Seriously. Naked War is without a doubt the most finely-crafted strategy game I’ve ever come across. Sure, it’s not gonna stretch your CPU to breaking point with its simple visual style (although that’s not really a criticism – it has a style of its own despite the lack of gloss), but to judge a game like this on its aesthetic merits would be to miss the point. It’s just so well-balanced, to the point that words can’t do it justice. It looks incredibly simple, but contains so much depth that you can play for months and still find yourself figuring out new strategies. And no matter how badly things are going for you, you can always, ALWAYS pull things back in your favour if you just think hard enough. Furthermore, the play-by-email system actually works a treat, as it combines the incredible depth with a dip-in/dip-out style of play, meaning you don’t have to be sat on your PC for hours on end in order to have a proper game. And let’s not forget the fact that it’s free to try it out, eh? Get to it.

Andi: The best strategy game in years and the most multiplayer fun I have had in ages. There is nothing I can say about Naked War that others haven’t already said before, so I will keep it simple. Addictive, fun, hugely rewarding and you can try it for free. I’m also 4 – 1 up in matches against Sean, which makes me BEST.

Dragon Quest
First released way back in 2004 in Japan its Euro release this year finally allows the game to break onto our list in 2006

Matt: Dragon Quest VIII was a shock to my system: Simple and uncomplicated it appears at first too basic to hold up as a modern RPG- But then it grips you, it’s a game that made me remember why i started playing console RPGs, not for stat and equipment tweaking and pages of numbers, but for the great characters and involving stories. Memorable, wonderful and beautiful with an incredibly refreshing English translation it’s a joy to play.

Sean: Just when I thought I was totally fed up with Japanese RPGs, this little beauty comes along. In all honesty, it does nothing new. It’s just a well-balanced RPG without any of the guff (I’m looking at you, Final Fantasy), and a cast of totally likable characters. Even the enemies are consistently charming, to the point that you don’t even mind the random battles. Lovely!

Dominic: Fun, comical, light hearted RPG that is very classic in gameplay, but lovely in looks and design. A instant RPG hit that probably won’t suit the new RPG gamer.

Andi: The tightest RPG to come out of the Square-Enix camp in some time. Kicking all the horrid chaff that has been plaguing the last few Final Fantasy games (Junctioning Systems? Sphere Grids? Pft.) to the curb and creating a beautiful world full of not just likeable, but LOVEABLE, characters – not just a bunch of generic Cloud V.2’s that have been spunked out in recent years – and you have a game that does very little new, but absolutely everything right.

Lego Star Wars II
The force is strong with this one, yes! (Read Our Review)

Sean: More of the same, but the original was such a wonderfully-crafted piece of game design that you really won’t mind. Blast through story mode with a mate, have fun jumping down bottomless pits for a a laugh and having inpromptu fights with one another, then go through the same levels again in free mode and realise that you really weren’t paying attention the first time, and each level is actually full of hidden secrets for you to find. The end result being that a three year-old can feel they’ve ‘finished’ the game, while more experienced players can go back and see what else it’s got to offer, should they want to.

Phoenix
No object from us for this inclusion on the list! (Read Our Review)

Matt: My train journeys wouldn’t be bearable without this absolute gem of a title in my pocket- sitting back thoughtfully tapping through piles of evidence looking for the piece of evidence that’s going to deal the final blow to a faulty testimony is one of the most satisfying gaming experiences I’ve ever had, and the rush of hearing the brilliant score turn up a notch when on the verge of turning around a seemingly hopeless case is absolute magic.

Thomas: Phoenix Wright should be everything I hate about a game… really it got lines after lines of text! I hate text! It’s got stupid cartoony characters! I hate that to! But for whatever reason it is a fantastic game to play! I really can’t wait for the sequel!

Sean: Clicking through endless lines of dialogue and presenting the odd inventory item has never been quite so gripping. I’m not even being sarcastic. While the game does have the occasional design issue (it doesn’t appreciate you figuring things out before it thinks you should’ve, for example) and the investigation sections can drag at times, the courtroom battles manage to be wonderfully tense, and you feel like an absolute king every time Phoenix slams his hands down on his desk and points the FINGER OF JUSTICE. Now all we have to do is beg for a Wii version, complete with remote gestures.

Andi: The best book I have ever played. Yes, even better than City Of Thieves. Picking a hole in a solid testimony is just as satisfying as any high score, record lap time or ranged head-shot. Take that, indeed.

Dominic: OBJECTION! This game should be higher in the list! Fantastic adventure game that is probably one of the best in it’s genre to hit a Nintendo system.

Vegas
It would be a sin if this was not somewhere on the list!

David: Rainbow Team make their next gen debut, and after a lot of worries after Lockdowns knackered netcode expectations weren’t high. But the worries were unfounded and despite still having problems online the good points far outweigh the bad making this one of the best shooters of the year.

Thomas: The cover system was much better than Gears in my opinion! Dang overrated Gears!

Ha Ha Baldy
The best bald guy to appear on our list… don’t say that to his face though! (Read Our Review)

Sean: “Oh, but I don’t like stealth games!”, said absolutely everyone. IT’S NOT A BLOODY STEALTH GAME, ALRIGHT? What Hitman: Blood Money is, is the perfect distillation of what the developers have been trying to achieve since they made the first Hitman about eight years ago. While there is always a ‘best’ way of finishing each level, there’s still tonnes of replay value to be had as you go through each level over and over again, plotting out different ways of taking down your targets. Because this is what Blood Money really is, when you get down to it – a stylish, violent, and wonderfully well-designed puzzle game.

GRAW
Easily the best acronym of the year… perhaps ever! GRAW!!! (Read Our Review)

Thomas: GRAW was the first 360 game I honestly 100% enjoyed playing from beginning to end… although the launch line up was hyped as being fantastic no game really grab me but when this finally hit store shelves in March my 360 purchase was instantly justified!

Rabbids
Ubisoft’s Monpellier brings gaming icon Rayman back in a quirky adventure where earth is overrun by a horde of manical leporids. The catch? These fuzzballs love to dance.

Matt: One of the strangest titles of 2006, the rabbids are the most horrendously creepy images of bunnies since watership down- but despite this they still have so much charm that it’s impossible not to love them. Laugh out loud humour and tight minigame design make this a great party title worth picking up for the dancing games alone if you’ve got a pair of Wiimotes and nunchucks.

Wil: Only a couple weeks back I celebrated my birthday. Who would have thought that in the presence of Halo 2, Wii Sports and Super Smash Bros Melee, Rayman Raving Rabbids would be the most popular choice? Nevermind minigames like “Bunnies like to dance”, it brought a fresh air to time trials. Really, you’d have thought we were in a football club judging the amount of cheering happening whenever a rabbit is drowned in orange juice. Does Rayman support animal cruelty? Just enough to bring us all together.

Jonathan: A hilariously fun game to play, on your own or with some friends. It made my dad give me some weird looks when I’m waggling my arms about to milk a cow, but it’s a whole heap of enjoyment and I’m glad I chose this at the Wii launch instead of Red Steel. Bunnies can definitely dance, I can’t say the same about me though.

Dead Rising
We <3 Shopping! (Read Our Review)

David: Capcom really couldn’t go wrong with this one, could they? Despite the dodgy save system and unreadable text thousands of zombies in a shopping mall stocked with the most unconventional weaponry was bound to be a winner.

Joe: When I got the demo to this, I was very, very excited. A fresh, exciting way to play a game. When I got the game, the concept remained excellent, but I have to say I got extremely bored with the Story and the endless annoyances I had to put up with. Maybe it could be improved for a sequel?

Andi: Ropey controls, text unreadable on a standard TV, terrible characters, awful bosses and one of the worst save systems in recent memory – but it is still really, really good fun, proving without a doubt that it is impossible to screw up a game about thousands of zombies.