The DZ Awards 06: 40 – 31

Happy New Year! As you are reading this we are now on the march forward into 2007, a year which could very well be a great year for games – no matter which brand of console or handheld you own. But before we get ahead of ourselves lets take one final leap back into 2006 to hand out our fabled DarkZero Awards – that are quite possibly not very fabled and in all honesty no one really gets any award.

2006 has been a hugely entertaining year for anyone with even a passing interested in games with a varying list of titles getting release on a myriad of different consoles. Every genre seem to have had a relatively big release and even some new genre were created. As usual the DarkZero awards were formed by intense(?) voting from all our readers during the course of December and the Top 40 list you see below – and will see in coming days – is what they and in turn we think were the best of the best in 2006. Some of the staff even chimed in with a few choice quotes on each game to show how happy we were with the years offerings!

As we are a European based site this list solely consists of Euro releases in 2006 – meaning no Excite Truck, Okami. Pokémon Diamond/Pearl or any PS3 release will be included… so with that lets get started.

Although the game was first released way back in late 2005 on the PC it shows enough quality to appear in the 2006 version of our list by getting just enough votes to scrape in at number 40. In our review of the game we commented that “everything looks better in slow-motion…” maybe we were right! – just! (Read Our Review)

Aidan: One of very few truly disturbing games, F.E.A.R. is also an excellent FPS that shouldn’t be left aside. The addition of bullet time actually succeeds in enhancing the gameplay as real-time combat is mighty hard to master, and the gorgeous environments and freaky events all add up to provide a dynamic and emotional experience.

Thomas: Boo!

The game was almost universally laughed at when it was first announced but as the weeks went by and we got close to it released hype for the title was high. In the end we got a highly compelling game which needed much skill to get good at… another great game from Rockstar and defiantly a break from their norm. (Read Our Review)

Thomas: A true pick up and play title on a modern day console.

Jonathan: I enjoyed this a great deal in the beginning, because I seemed to be quite good at it, but then the novelty wore off and my confidence waned when I met the Swedish meatball that could not be beaten in story mode. Every time I went to my friend’s house to play it, we had hundreds of attempts at beating him to no avail.

Aidan: Rockstar presents Table Tennis – Great value for money, especially considering how cheap it sells for now in some places. With a good selection of varied players to choose from, and an intuitive and expansive control scheme, this is multiplayer rivalry at its best.

David: Table Tennis was the game that started video games way way back with Ataris Pong, but ever since has been severely neglected. But you can’t keep a good man down and, of all people, Rockstar have really brought the game in to the twenty first century. The game keeps the simple pick up and playability of its venerable predecessor, but adds nuances from more modern games to keep things fresh. Easily one of the best of this years sports titles.

While the normal version of Madden 07 did not make it on to our list – we are a European site what do you expect – the new fangled controls of the Wii version were enough for the game to scrape in at the second from last position

Thomas: No matter what version of the game I play Madden just seems like a load of people shouting and then everything turns into a clusterf**k with people running everywhere….why?

Another great game in the growing genre that is online first person shooters. So good infact that according to EA, there have been over 1 million rounds played since its release. (Read Our Review)

Thomas In my opinion the future rocks!… Where we’re going, we don’t need roads

Lumines in 720p and supporting 5.1 surround sound. Achievements, leaderboard and Gamerscore support but only in the bottom half of our list…(Read Our Review)

Dominic: Shinin, Shinin, Shinin, Shin…… Ah balls it’s not in this version of the game. Apart from the opening stage not been as memorable as the Shinin stage from the first game, Lumines Live! is still a great puzzle game and is just as addictive as ever.

Thomas: In my review I called Lumines Live! a money grabbing game and I still think so… If you needed any more proof it is that fact that I still can’t play the full game. It is still a good game though, well half a game.. well *sob*

Probably the most obscure game to ever enter our end of year GOTY list but a intresting title nevertheless. Toribash is a shareware release and is classed as a physics-based, turn-based fighter. The game is played by relaxing, holding, extending and contracting the various joints on your ragdoll with the mouse and then hitting the spacebar to advance time – thus performing part of the move as a result you get and intresting – but very different -fighting game to pass your time with.

Andi: I lost days – literally days – to this absolute gem of a game. Throwing your dummy into various poses before roundhousing the head of a rival clean off is a great feeling. Online play against friends only adds to the fact that Toribash is brilliant.

Sean: Toribash is a very special game indeed. A genuinely new idea (and we all know how thin on the ground those are these days) that lets you come up with some absolutely superb moves, with the important difference that they weren’t just activated by the press of a button – they all feel like they were planned for, and earned. This makes it one of the most satisfying fighting games you’ll ever come across, and with the demo being a free download, you’ve got no excuse not to check it out.

Thomas: I heard great things about this game but never took the time out to play it though… sounds like a great idea.

Prey was first announced back in 1995… it is in our readers GOTY list in 2006. Good things come to those who wait! (Read Our Review)

Thomas: The most underrated FPS released this year… but it could have being the most underrated of 1999 if they would just HURRY UP!!!

Aidan: Well, it certainly took its time. Prey’s a solid and fun FPS with some truly unique and interesting puzzles, enhanced by the use of portals and a spirit form to vary its more traditional elements. Whilst it does get a bit repetitive, with locations not really changing too drastically from start to finish, it does offer enough memorable moments to make it a worthwhile romp. Here’s to Duke Nukem Forever!

David: For the most part Prey is your bog standard FPS, the storyline is nothing we haven’t seen before, fight aliens to save the world, the weapons are standard fare for the genre. But it really turned the genre on it’s head, both figuratively and literally. Portals provided handy shortcuts, spirit walking made it possible to do things that could only be done co-operatively before, but the really big thing for me was the gravity manipulation. It really opened things up, with bad guys literally coming at you from all sides in the single player, and it worked extremely well in multiplayer too. Just a couple of things held this back, after a certain point you could never die, and the Doom 3 engines online performance, but hopefully they’ll sort those out for the sequel.

???????????????????????????????????????????, What? *breaks into song* (Read Our Review)

Matt: One of the best non-game games I’ve ever seen. Buy a copy, plug it into some beefy speakers and get a few friends round- whilst Electroplankton’s appeal wears thin very quickly, when you first get your hands on it it’s truly magical; it’s still not unusual for us to get out the bongos and a guitar and fire up the Rec-Rec room for some wonderfully simple four track recording. Magic.

Aidan: Though more of a short distraction rather than a full immersive experience, at its best Electroplankton provides some startlingly mesmerising and hypnotic melodies unlike anything previously released. Even random tinkering about can produce surprisingly good results, and Volvoice and Rec-Rec are some of the best inventions ever made ever. Fact.

Thomas: I’ve have being playing this on and off since it’s Japanese release way back in mid 2005… weird would be a word I’d use to explain it. Its fun but I don’t think we will ever see a sequel.

Andi: A truly wonderful musical tool or a completely pointless waste of money? Those are the two camps people fall in to when confronted with Electroplankton. It’s not going to win any fans with gamers who want gangs and guns, but for those looking for something creative and different – this will charm the pants off you within seconds of laying eyes on it.

Sean: One of my favourites, this. A series of wonderfully designed sound-toys for you to play with. Nothing more, nothing less. The experience doesn’t last long, but nothing will match the joy I experienced as I went through each type of plankton, figuring out what it did by prodding, stroking or blowing on it. Saying that, you might want to ignore my opinion – I blew 40 quid on an imported Japanese copy of Electroplankton back in 2005, so I dare say I’m just trying to justify the purchase to myself.

One of the biggest reason yet to sort out a Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection (Read Our Review)

Matt: Animal Crossing has been a favourite of mine for many years, and the DS version only truly adds one major new feature: Hats. But that and online play are enough to keep me more than happy, and i’ve spent many a lazy weekend this year chilling out with a few friends in my town or frantically travelling around the world looking for a decent price on turnips. Whilst being rather lazy in terms of adding new content for the DS version, it’s nice to see that a title which i assumed would never have gained any real coverage in the UK has now spread its wings. Here’s to hoping Viva Pinata can put Nintendo under pressure to make the next Animal Crossing games something really special.

Sean: Offered almost nothing new over the Gamecube version, but the fact that you could go online was basically enough. Animal Crossing is one of those games that can turn entirely mundane activities into a total joy. You can’t really sit on it for hours on end – the game’s specifically designed so that you can’t, in fact – but you can’t help coming back to it for at least half an hour every day. Wonderful stuff.

Jonathan: This was quite fun when I first got it, then I think I got bored of catching stuff to sell, to give the same guy my money back for an extension, or other items. I recently booted it back up and pulled out all the weeds, I shall have to see where I end up this time.

Thomas: The GameCube edition of this game almost made me shell out a import a US console to play it on… I saw sense though and got a freeloader instead… had great fun for 3 months and now… well now I guess there is lots of weeds. Never played the DS version.

The third episode of the Anno series is the first to ever show up on any our reader GOTY lists. (Read Our Review)

Chris H: Who doesn’t want to sail the high seas colonising islands, thwarting pirates, and calming civilian uprisings all whilst creating their own civilisation? I sure as heck do. I loved every minute I have played on this game, its a shame you can’t slow down time thus preventing yourself losing hours and days to this wonderfully captivating and well balanced strategy. Featuring beautiful graphics, wonderful characters and an intuitive, easy to use control method, Anno 1701 takes the complicated out of strategy and makes it a much more accessible friendly strategy than other games with heck of alot more personality than most RTS games. Without a doubt one of my fave games of 06.

Thomas: Ah no!