What a Year!
A Year In Review

By Jorge Figueiredo - December 31st, 2013

The images in this article are 100% recycled from other articles. We care about the environment.

It has been quite a year here around the offices of Toronto Thumbs. Honestly, this has probably been our busiest year yet! 2013 was a year full of firsts for us, and we hope that you have enjoyed the ride! It has been pretty damned busy as of late, and a few things have contributed to some delays in the review schedule – so the beginning of 2014 is going to bring a slew of Xbox One and Playstation 4 game reviews. In the mean time, it’s party night! So let’s take a peek and see what kind of craziness happened over the last 365 days…

Biggest Surprises

Personally, I tend to sink a fair amount of time into videogames (if you haven’t guessed). As I have a number of different commitments, I have to be pretty smart about how I spend my time. It is a foregone conclusion that I will always disappear for weeks at a time while playing games from the Assassin’s Creed or Ultimate Ninja Storm series’1. Games from franchises like Forza Motorsport and Gran Turismo naturally take more time to review than other games thanks to the various nuances contained within (reviews forthcoming). This year, though, was full of games that completely took me by surprise. More often than not, I found myself looking at the clock during a play session wondering how it got to be so late!

The Last of Us was so gripping that I thought the breath was being squeezed right out of me. I found myself having to fetch the box of tissues from the other room during some of the more emotionally intense scenes. I am a huge fan of Naughty Dog’s stuff – but this one just locked in the lovin’ for the folks at that company. Seriously, Naughty Dog could make their next game about a pile of poop and I wouldn’t care – because The Last of Us was so freakin’ amazing.

Dear Disney: please take my money! KTXBAI!

Disney Infinity was another game that I spent way too much time playing because it was so much fun – and even more so thanks to the fact that it’s a perfect family game! Smallest Thumbs and I have pretty much unlocked everything in the Toy Box mode that there is to unlock – and we have completed a few of the Play Sets as well. Disney did a great thing when they introduced a figure-based set that gives players the ability to step into the shoes of some of their favourite Disney characters. The stroke of genius? Allowing different characters from different Disney titles to hang out together in the Toy Box worlds. Throw in robust multi-player, free iOS and PC apps to modify your Toy Box worlds (from the cloud), as well as the possibility for some cool new (and old) characters? Yeah. You have yourself a winner.

Nintendo sent me a digital copy of Animal Crossing: New Leaf to review, and I think I have spent over a zillion hours playing this game. Just when I think that I have seen it all, something new pops up out of the woodwork. It’s one of those games that you can check into every few days for a half hour to an hour and just enjoy the rewards of the hours of hard work that you put into it. What’s even better now is that Smallest Thumbs is playing her own copy (that Santa brought her for Christmas), so I get to enjoy the journey twice!

I love zaniness and hilarity. I also sometimes think that I should be wearing a monocle and a top hat, twisting one of the ends of my moustache and laughing maniacally. Oh no. Wait. I only think that when I am playing Battleblock Theater! Oh man, when I first started playing this game, I had to watch the introduction about ten times – just so I could memorize it and recite it to friends. Then, when I got into the game proper, I enjoyed the hell out of it. Sully and Scott came over once for a videogame night and we spent so much time playing this game that I thought it was our new career! Also, the game has the best trailer ever!

Oh man…Some of the most hilarious and awesome DLC ever…

While we’re on the topic of hilarious games, if you haven’t checked out Guacamelee!, you really need to! Seriously, every gamer on Earth needs to play this game about a Luchador who can do physics-defying moves and shift between the land of the living and the land of the dead. Oh yes, and he can also turn into a chicken.

There are certainly a lot of other games that were really cool – but we can’t write about them all. Well, actually we already did!

New Consoles!

Yes, the Playstation 4 and the Xbox One launched last month to much fanfare. These machines are each fantastic, and herald a new age of videogaming. Seriously – just check out some of the ridiculous graphics, sound and physics in some of the new games and you’ll understand what I’m talking about. They are a treat for the senses and make me really excited about 2014!

The obligatory picture of the PS4.

Both consoles released with a limited number of titles – to which there was a lot of whining. Apparently, I am missing something because it actually takes me time to finish games. Apparently everyone has an unlimited amount of money to spend and some kind of mutant ability to completely finish games! Really, that’s the only explanation that I have for people that are expecting more than a few titles at launch. I, on the other hand, salute both Sony and Microsoft for marketing campaigns and delivery executed fairly well! Keep up the good work!

Speaking of Xbox One and Playstation 4…

One of my biggest pet peeves is when someone asks me which platform they should get. While I respect that people ask for advice, I sometimes wonder why people don’t prepare more in terms of thinking about the repercussions of their actions. Someone once asked me what console they should get, and I gave a recommendation – only to have the person come back to me and tell me that one of the games they really wanted to play was for the other system. Um. Yes. Right.

The obligatory picture of the Xbox One.

Look, on paper, the Playstation 4 is theoretically more powerful; but, it is (at the moment) a gaming machine that happens to have a few apps for other stuff. Meanwhile, the Xbox One is a media hub, and they have worked hard to ensure that you know this – on the other hand, Sony could add stuff as time goes on to match Microsoft’s offerings! It’s a Catch-22 in terms of deciding which one you want based on feature sets. But! There is a surefire way to know the best console and I am going to share this secret with you.

Take a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle. Write “PS4″ at the head of one column and “XBO” at the head of the other. Now, look up the upcoming games lists for each and watch the trailers for those games. I’m not talking third party offerings, of course – I’m talking platform-exclusives. As you make your way through the different trailers, write down the ones that you like under the appropriate platform heading on your piece of paper. Then, when you are done, add up the number of games in each column. The winning console (for you) is the one that has the higher number out of the two in terms of the games that you liked. See? It’s not rocket science.

Getting Into a Video Game

This game is coming out in 2014! It looks great!

This year I was honoured to be able to do voice work for a cool game coming out from Phantom Compass called Rollers of the Realm. If you haven’t heard about this game, or are curious to read about it, Ricky wrote a bit about it a long time ago2. It is a fusion of pinball and RPG – and it looks like a lot of fun. Obviously, we can’t really review it. It is probably not a good idea for us to write a review about it when it comes out, as people may think that our opinion is skewed (although, to be honest, if we didn’t like it, we would probably say so). That being said, more people have tried it at different events and the overall opinion seems to be very positive. Be sure to check it out in 2014, and perhaps you can guess which voices I did (my voice is in one of the trailers, if you wanted to get started early). The game page is here.

Smallest Thumbs!

This year, Smallest Thumbs took on more of an active role, bringing her unique viewpoint to the articles that we write. On top of talking about stuff for TIFF kids and the Ontario Science Centre, she turned her youthful eyes to Hasbro and Mattel toys! For those of you who are looking to figure out if your kid might like something, or if you’re looking to grab a present for a kid of someone that you know, be sure to check out our page! We review things as a duo to give you different perspectives. Be sure to check back as Smallest Thumbs turns her youthful eyes to some videogames for kids!

Two smallest thumbs up!

Our Partners!

We wouldn’t be able to operate if it wasn’t for our contacts in the various industries that we deal with. It’s nice to have folks that are always showing us cool, new things that our readers might be interested in! It’s also nice having their trust and understanding with what we write – as what we say might not always positive (see: Sully). That being said, we try to be as constructive with our criticism as we can be. Well, constructive and amusing, anyway.

Big thanks go out to our partners! Thanks for a great 2013!

Our Awesome Staff

Toronto Thumbs is pretty much a volunteer outfit. One of the reasons is that I don’t have money to pay people for their work. Of course, the more important reason is that this attracts people who are truly passionate about gaming. Sure, from time to time we take on water on this crazy ship of ours – but that’s what the bailing bucket is for (and as the years go on, we have learned to use it far more expediently). In all honesty, the current group of crazies that occupy the electronic typewriters are the most awesome people that you will meet. They are all busy as hell doing a ton of stuff – but they take the time to get the job done and it is something that I will appreciate more than they would ever know.

Thanks crew, for being you!

There will be plenty more of this in 2014, I guarantee!

Our Readers!

Last, but not least, and possibly the best thing about running this place, is you! Yes! We really wouldn’t be able to do this if we didn’t have such a great group of people reading our site! There have been more comments this year, more e-mails flying around between us, and a lot of pats on the back from you at various events. We try to do our best to make sure that you know how awesome you are (that’s usually in the way of contests and giveaways – but also hugs and high fives) – but please, please, please remember: we treasure the fact that you read our site and value your comments and feedback! Don’t ever stop!

This article was lovingly proofread by our friend Scott from Gaming V2. You should visit them, too!

1 – Woe to the iteration that sucks (because I will not be shy about expressing disappointment).
2 – Since that time, Ricky has done some quality assurance in the way of playtesting for this thing.

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