‘Tis the season! The season of lists! Lists. lists. lists. Holiday card mailing lists. Holiday to-do lists. Wish lists. Naughty lists. Nice lists. New Year’s resolution lists. Even now, as the year draws to a close we’re seeing ‘best of’ lists, ‘memorable’ lists. At that, gaming websites are posting their own 2013 lists. Many of them are console specific, although a fair number of them seem to be arbitrarily arranged. Indeed. The top slots are usually the heavy-hitters, the AAA titles, the games created by monolithic studios. While these titles certainly have their merits, for I have played a few of them, their redundancy on all these dang lists (even appearing on more than one console lists) can mean many different things. But may aim for this post is to not go there…
In fact: nuts to lists.
While I am certainly feeling retrospective, I only intend to name one title – An ‘Honorable Mention 2013’, if you will. In many award ceremonies, an honorable mention is usually treated as a side note to the ‘official’ lists of achievers; a coy pat on the back, ‘good try, sport! Here, have a plaque.’ But, to me, the honorable mention of this post achieves its success by maintaining a sure presence during the 2nd half of 2013. Despite its humble and small-time operation, this game refused to be eclipsed by so many of the games gobbling up these end-of-year lists – and yet, from what I’ve seen, finds itself on nary a one of them. Nuts to lists. Ladies and gentlemen, my Honorable Mention 2013 award goes to:Available on iOS, Android and Windows, Hill Climb Racing is a simple 2D platform game. The player drives an assortment of vehicles across an assortment of stages. Each vehicle has its own traits and each stage has its own conditions. You earn currency on each stage by collecting coins, performing feats, and breaking distance records. The currency you earn is then plugged back into upgrading the vehicles already unlocked, or unlocking new vehicles and stages. The turn is over when you either run out of gas or flip over and crack the driver’s neck; from what I’ve seen, the stages themselves do not run out.
Now that I re-read the last paragraph I am startled at how bland the game looks – insignificant, even. This observation only affirms the intangible greatness of Hill Climb Racing. It is a charming, cartoonish (and free) game that my entire family enjoys. Your scruffy little driver man, Bill Newton, will earn his way into your heart. You make do with what you’ve got, and when you earn that final stepped upgrade, or unlock a new level, it feels like an achievement. If you feel like you’re grinding for coins, turn the game off and come back to it later with an inevitable recharged enthusiasm. Enjoy the ride. Part of the appeal – besides the fantastic music track in the menu screens – is the child-like giddyness you feel when mixing and matching cars with stages. Our family discuss absurd-sounding strategies: Try driving a tank on mars; try the Formula 1 race car on the rollercoaster tracks. A fond memory I have is driving a tour bus, with substandard shocks, up a mountainside. The outcome of such a silly goose endeavor is seen here:
Simple and fun – and that’s it. What’s more, game creator Fingersoft often provide updates with new levels and cars to unlock (In this last update Bill Newton is even donning a spiffy Santa outfit that stays spotless even as his car gets splattered with alien planet muck.) Hill climb Racing doesn’t try to outdo itself. You can pick it up and set it down at your leisure. It is low commitment but wildly entertaining. The game stands strong on its own two legs, and stands tall apart from all those greedy 2013 AAA games. I raise a new year’s toast to Hill Climb Racing: Here’s to another wild twelve months.