Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Games To Make You Feel Festive

I wrote this last Christmas (2012) for Forces Of Geek but never got around to posting it on here due to it's seasonal nature. With just two weeks until Christmas now seemed like a pretty good time to post it!

Christmas is approaching and for most that means it's Baby Jesus' birthday - a day when we all get to eat copious amounts of Turkey, fight with our families and give each other gifts. We feel the need to immerse ourselves in that saccharin, card company Christmas that doesn't really exist. However, some of us (myself included) will spend the day playing the games we've received in a desperate bid to drown out the world, stay warm and dry inside and enjoy a rare day off work.

There's only one problem; most new releases fail to capture that festive spirit and lack a certain seasonal atmosphere. So here's my pick of the best games, old and new, to get you feeling Christmassy:

An abundance of snow and streets lit up with pretty lights makes Shenmue one of the most festive games there is. As the game progresses, the in-game shops start to put up Christmas decorations, it starts to get darker earlier - which really builds the atmosphere - and there's even a drunken Santa wandering the streets to top it all of.

If you've never heard of this game then shame on you and if you've never played this game well, I heartily recommend searching out a Dreamcast and pre-owned copy of it. Just make sure you only play it during December, as playing it any other month of the year feels wrong (believe me, I've tried).

 Check out 'Christmas on Dobuita Street' from the Shenmue OST:

Banjo Kazooie

When I think about Christmas games this is second to Shenmue. It's one of those games from my youth that fills me full of nostalgia and brings back memories of a Christmas past. This game isn't a seasonal game as such, but one level and its music in particular feels like Christmas should; Freezeezy Peak.

TimeSplitters 2
Another game that reminds me of the season to be jolly is TimeSplitters 2, specifically the Ice Station map. Perhaps made all the more Christmassy by the appearance of Snowman - the character who was brought to life by the wish of a child much like the kids classic Christmas film, The Snowman.

Of course if you play as Snowman, you don't really see him much. This means you have to destroy him - but hey, at least you saw him right? That's pretty Christmassy, right?... especially when you play as his enemy The Machinist and use a flamethrower for extra fun.... RIGHT?!

... He'll melt eventually, get over it.

Animal Crossing 
Seasonal games like Animal Crossing which are affected by the months of the year and the internal clock of your console are great to play during the Winter season. You can guarantee snowy weather despite knowing that it's a universal fallacy because it never actually snows on Christmas Day. So get your snowman building fix in while you can before I decide to take a flamethrower to them as well.

COD Modern Warfare
'Winter Crash' is only available only on the PC and is Christmas variant level adapted from 'Crash', adorned with pretty lights and heaps of snow. At the site of the downed helicopter is a huge Christmas tree complete with gifts. It's not in bad taste either, the whole thing is actually surprisingly beautiful. Plus, air strikes dropping presents instead of bombs?! Hell yes! This is my kind of war game, sign me up!

Christmas NiGHTS
This game is an extended playable demo of NiGHTS into Dreams. The gameplay remains the same except every single element changes to match the time of year (which rather cleverly for its time, was worked out by the Sega Saturn's internal clock).

In December, the whole game transforms into a beautiful Christmas setting, full of red and white costumes, huge decorated trees and unlockable presents.

Your objective changes too, rather than collect the four spheres like usual, this time you notice that the star from atop the Christmas tree has been stolen and so you must find it in order to save Christmas!

This game couldn't get anymore festive... let me reiterate, YOU SAVE CHRISTMAS!

James Pond 2: Robocod
I loved this game, it was popular in the UK and less so anywhere else but it was a lot of fun (especially if you're a James Bond fan!).

Remember how at the end of the last game you destroyed the evil oil company and your nemesis, Dr. Maybe?

No? Well... work with me here. The sequel to James Pond begins and somehow it turns out that Dr Maybe escaped the doomed fate you left him to and has fled to the North pole where he has taken over Santa's Workshop and brainwashed his penguins.

Your job as agent James Pond is to save the captive penguins, recover stolen Christmas gifts for the children and destroy your nemesis once and for all... and I haven't even mentioned the best part; you get to wear a robotic suit!

The code name 'Robocod' leaves a lot to be desired and you might have saved Christmas in Christmas NiGHTs but hey, James Pond saves penguins, Santa, children's gifts and Christmas, he's awesome.

Mario Kart 64 and Diddy Kong Racing
Two games that are great to play during the festive season specifically the levels Frappe Snow Land, Sherbet Land and Snowflake Mountain. Not only can you get the whole family involved - assuming you've managed to avoid arguments over who's playing as who, of course - but these icy levels feel wintry and full of Christmas cheer, just be careful not to drive straight into those damn penguins sliding all about the place. Listen to the music from the Snowflake Mountain in Diddy Kong Racing and tell me it isn't Christmassy!

World of Warcraft
For all you MMORPGers out there, it's time for the Feast of Winter Veil. This huge in-game event is something I love the idea of despite being someone who has never played WoW for fear of losing her life to it. Every December I start to get tempted... gifts, special festive items, mistletoe, gingerbread... it's almost like ACTUAL Christmas except I don't get to eat the gingerbread for real. On second doesn't really feel worth it now.

The Sims 2 Christmas Party (Or Holiday Party Pack) Deck your halls with winter items and Christmas lights and let your Sims await Santa and the joy he brings. Or... you could trap him in a room without windows and doors and keep him forever?! 

Ice Climber I'm just kidding... I hate this game. Of course, rather than purchase one the above games, you could use this time of year as another opportunity to catch up with Batman villain, Calendar Man in Arkham City. Alternatively, you could always preoccupy yourself with gifts from previous years like I intend to and replay Skyrim. Not a Christmas game per se, but the snowy peaks and idyllic settings of Tamriel will certainly get you in the mood for Christmas... minus the dragons.

Merry Christmas Everyone!

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