For people like me, videogames are grand escapes into virtual worlds. But with so many demands on my time from running tabletop RPGs to feeding my baby child on the weekends, there are only so many worlds I can explore to the fullest. Here are the five games that I wanted to play whenever I could.
5. Pirates of Black Cove (PC)
I downloaded this gem from Nitro Games on a whim, and was rewarded with nothing but delight. Imagine Sid Meier's Pirates and Diablo put in a blender, with dash of the humor of Monkey Island, and you'll pretty much get a Black Cove smoothie - with a shot of rum. Sailing the seas in a ship you deck out with rewards and collectibles is endlessly fun, and the naval combat is a bit more forgiving than Pirates with instant-repair consumables at your disposal. The land side of things is fun too as you have to upgrade buildings to recruit different units of scurvy dogs to fight in real time battles. The voice acting is above average, and I smirked often at the cheesy drug references and pirate-speak. Even though the game is a little rough around the edges the overall presentation and art-style is superb. Pirates of Black Cove is as much fun you can have as pirate in a PC game without an eye patch, a peg leg and an irascible parrot on your shoulder.
4. Infamous 2 (PS3)
Cole's trip to New Marais is a helluva fun ride. The lightning-powered accidental superhero gets a melee upgrade with the custom-made Amp weapon and the addition of brutal hand to hand combat to Cole's repertoire makes Infamous 2 a joy. Add to that the pure fun of riding telephone lines and gliding over the gothic architecture of the New Orleans knockoff, and participating in the well-crafted comic-book morality tale is just pure gravy. Playing Cole as a good or bad guy is a nice diversion, but once you realize you get evil points for beating up street musicians, there's just no going straight. The user-created missions is a feature that got overlooked, but I dug how Sucker-Punch extended the life of their game by opening its tools to the masses. The combination of story, atmosphere and open world mayhem made Infamous 2 my favorite action game this year.
3. Memoir '44 Online (PC)
Pull the ripcord, it's time to paratroop into Memoir '44 Online. Based on the board game from Days of Wonder that I always wanted to try, Memoir '44 pits two opposing sides of World War II combatants in scenarios like Sword Beach or Pegasus Bridge. Players take turns playing cards to give orders to units and conflict is resolved using special dice that roll across the virtual board, so like all great strategy games, Memoir '44 is a satisfying mix of skill and chance. You can play against the AI or other players, and you can pay up to 30 bucks if you want to design your own scenarios, but I loved being able to fire up Memoir '44 Online for a quick strategy game fix. Stopping a panzer advance across the Rhone in the twenty minutes before my baby woke up from her nap was absolutely necessary to keep my sleep-deprived psyche sane this summer.