As part of multiplayer month here on The Whiteboard, I thought I’d first chime in with some of my most memorable co-op experiences this generation. Now doesn’t seem like the most appropriate time to chime in recapping anything this gen (when it’s actually over would be better), but hey its multiplayer month… so it’s happening now. While writing I actually thought of two more to add to my nice round five I had originally come up with, but I have decided to push those off to include in other blogs. I have had a ton of fun playing various co-op games this gen, so these are really only the tip of the iceberg, but I found these particularly memorable purely because of the fond memories I created with them or their relative uniqueness in the co-op space (they are listed in alphabetical order… I didn’t have ranking them in me).
Castle Crashers doesn’t reinvent the wheel. It’s a classic sidescrolling beat ‘em up, the kind that you played in the arcade back in the day updated for the new generation. It’s developer The Behemoth’s touch that makes it standout for me. Their trademark artstyle and humor is at its best here, but it’s also bursting with content. A fairly lengthy campaign for the genre with so many unlockables from characters with unique looks and magic attacks to various weapons with different attributes. And my personal favorite a plethora of animal orbs, little companions that float by your character and do things from attack enemies to spot hidden items in the environment all while looking hilarious (you can see the cat and giraffe versions in the above screen for example). It’s a fun game solo, but really shines with three friends either online or off.
Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light
When I first heard that Lara would be in some sort of downloadable game, my mind imagined something with the full production values I’d come to expect from recent Tomb Raider games, but just in a more bite-sized package (think Ratchet & Clank Future: Quest for Booty). Guardian of Light turned out to be nothing like I imagined and I couldn’t be happier with the results. The game takes on an isometric viewpoint, combat is done in the twin-stick style, and now you play alongside an ancient warrior named Totec. Despite the big changes from the typical Tomb Raider game, GoL still delivers on the puzzling, platforming and exploration the series is known for, just in a more arcadey package. What makes it excel as a co-op game is the fact that both characters have unique abilities which each has to use to help the other get through levels and solve various puzzles. Lara has a grapple that Totec can use to tightrope walk across and she can use him as anchor to pull herself up wall faces with it. Totec has spears he can throw into walls that Lara can hop on to get to new places as well. With a long campaign, lots of side challenges and unlockables (weapons and treasures that enhance your abilities), there is plenty to do, but it is the unique take on co-op that helps make Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light special.
New Super Mario Bros. Wii
I’d argue every game on this list is at its best in its co-op mode… except this one. New Super Mario Bros. Wii is certainly designed better for a singleplayer experience. But I still love the co-op so much and it is definitely my favorite of the various co-op platformers I’ve played so far this gen. Nintendo made the decision to make it so characters could not pass through each other like in say LittleBigPlanet. Instead, bumping into your co-op buddies knocks your friends around. Hop on them at the wrong time, you’ll knock them into a hole. Add in the ability to pick up your friends and throw them or even just chuck a shell at them and the possibilities for griefing your pals looms large. Some might hate the frustrations this can create, but I loved the madness and all the hilarity it brought. The game also kept track of how many continues each player used. At my house, we called this “The Shame Counter” which just added to the great mocking fun that NSMB Wii was for a group of four friends as we met up once a week to make our way through the game.
Portal 2 is truly a co-op experience like no other I have experienced. Portal itself is such a unique game. Those that know me, know that I vastly prefer platforming and puzzles to various forms of action. And with games becoming more and more action-oriented this gen and in some cases getting away from making players think, Portal’s focus on brain-teasing puzzles is extremely welcome. Portal 2’s co-op takes the kind of stuff you had come to expect from the singleplayer, both in the gameplay and humor, but adds a second player to the mix and just as importantly adds a second set of portals. Working together and even just figuring out which way to set up your four portals added a whole new layer of depth to Portal’s complicated, mind-bending levels and when I think back on Portal 2, it is the co-op that really blew me away the most.
Splinter Cell: Conviction
I blame no one for being disappointed with Splinter Cell: Conviction’s singleplayer mode. While I enjoyed it for what it was, I can see its many issues and how it might have gotten too far from the feel of the earlier games. What didn’t disappoint me were its various co-op modes. These felt more like classic Splinter Cell and they marked my first co-op experience with such a large focus on stealth. Whether it was the co-op campaign which featured completely different levels and characters than the singleplayer and acted as a prequel to the story featured there or the various challenge modes that had you sneaking through levels just taking out enemies with a friend, I came away very impressed with Conviction’s take on co-op. And that co-op campaign ending featured a cool twist that really caught me off-guard. I was on the edge of my seat until it finished. I haven’t been very impressed with what I have seen of Splinter Cell: Blacklist so far, but am holding out hope they deliver in the co-op space like Conviction did.
So those are co-op experiences that really stand out to me from this generation for one reason or another. I kind of sided with more unique takes on cooperative play as opposed to the myriad of shooter campaigns I’ve rolled through co-op this gen, but there were quite a few winners in that area too. What are your favorite co-op games this gen? And why do they stand out from the rest for you? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. Thanks for reading and be on the lookout for more multiplayer focused blogs over the course of the next month.