Alternative Magazine Online: The Best of 2011 Roundup/Awards

By Marty Mulrooney

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Following the success of the previous AMO awards in 2009 and 2010, Alternative Magazine Online is proud to present our top picks of the best films, games, books, graphic novels and music of 2011!

Best Films

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1. Drive “Drive is a heart-pounding triumph. It takes a pulpy crime story (based on a novel by James Sallis) and transforms it into a work of art, a collage of sights and sounds that will burn into your retinas and stay with you forever. Ryan Gosling is incredible, his decision to have Nicolas Winding Refn direct a stroke of genius. In lesser hands, this could have been throwaway. Instead, it’s a masterpiece and probably the best film of 2011.”

super8poster 2. Super 8 – “The story doesn’t quite hold together once the sickly sweet, E.T. reminiscent finale arrives… but it doesn’t really matter. Stick around during the end credits to see the real reason why Super 8 is one of 2011’s best films – I can imagine each of the child actors involved in this project going on to do truly great things. A funny, heart-warming, scary and exciting film that is destined to become a bona fide classic in years to come. They just don’t make them like this anymore!”

hannaposteruk 3. Hanna – “Hanna isn’t anywhere near the perfect film. Based on a spec script, there are numerous plot holes if you look close enough and the core storyline, involving the creation of super-soldiers, is nothing particularly new. However, with Joe Wright at the helm and Saoirse Ronan offering a career defining performance, an otherwise typical action flick takes on an almost otherworldly quality. The inclusion of dark fairytale imagery in the style of The Brothers Grimm is an apt one and The Chemical Brothers offer a perfect musical match: you will likely find yourself whistling ‘The Devil is in the Details’ for days afterwards. A bold, inventive take on the action genre that manages to make substance out of style.”

Best Adventure Games (PC)

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1. Gray Matter “For every complaint, there is a guaranteed moment of perfection where any small faults simply fade away, overwhelmed by the sheer quality of the overall experience. Perhaps not Jane Jensen’s greatest game, Gray Matter is still one of the finest adventure games I have ever played. A worthy successor to the Gabriel Knight trilogy that will hopefully give birth to a few sequels of its own, Gray Matter is destined to become an adventure gaming classic.”

Back To The Future The Game 2. Back To The Future: The Game – “The video game medium has allowed the narrative to twist and turn in new and exciting ways that simply wouldn’t be possible with a traditional celluloid sequel. A film-to-video game adaptation done right, Back To The Future: The Game may well grow to become Telltale’s greatest gaming achievement yet.”

jurassic-park-the-game 3. Jurassic Park: The Game – “If you hate QTEs, by all means steer clear. Everyone else should be able to look past the occasional glitch and the lack of difficulty to enjoy what is undoubtedly the best Jurassic Park game ever made, yet no doubt destined to become the most underrated.”

Best Indie Adventure Games (PC)

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1. Gemini Rue – “Some slightly clunky combat sequences coupled with the occasional niggling control quirk – you cannot freely access your inventory for example – may stop Gemini Rue from achieving absolute perfection, but don’t let any of that put you off. Joshua Nuernberger has proved himself a true visionary and Wadjet Eye Game’s involvement has only served to accentuate the experience as a whole. Without a doubt, this is already one of the best adventure games of 2011; visually, aurally and thematically stunning. A phenomenal achievement.”

TheJourneyDown 2. The Journey Down: Over The Edge – “The best thing about all of this? It’s free! Although nothing has been announced about future instalments, The Journey Down: Over The Edge doesn’t cost a single penny, which is pretty incredible considering what a quality experience it offers. One of the only downsides – and it’s a pretty major one actually – is that the entire game only lasts a couple of hours. Also, there are no voices, although Bwana’s utterances of “Yeah, mon!” do a pretty good job with text alone. Finally, the cliff-hanger ending is decidedly bittersweet; if I have to wait another five years to find out what happens next, I’ll cry. One of the most essential adventure gaming experiences of the past few years.”

To_the_Moon-poster2 3. To The Moon – “This is yet another shining example of an indie developer, free from the shackles of a mainstream gaming studio, weaving pure magic. A lovely game with a story so well told that the minimal gameplay can surely be forgiven – buy this game and let yourself be moved by pixels and sprites that have taken on a life of their own.”

TheBlackwellDeception 4. The Blackwell Deception – “The Blackwell Deception is a welcome addition to one of the most enjoyable adventure game series ever made. It can sometimes become unclear what you should be doing next and missing a clue can often result in aimless wandering – but for the most part the story unravels at a brisk clip that continually excites and delights. Yet the real reason you should play The Blackwell Deception is for Rosa and Joey – an adventure gaming duo made in heaven. A polished, engaging adventure that, although not short by any means, is over far too soon. Roll on Blackwell number five!”

Best Console Games

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1. Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception (PlayStation 3) – “Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception is the quintessential PlayStation 3 game. It has it all: breathtaking graphics, glorious sound, stereoscopic 3D (if you have a TV that supports it), and rock solid gameplay that makes you feel like you are Nathan Drake. What’s more, it has real heart. There are some slight niggles but ultimately, lessons have been learnt: there are no annoying boss battles to be found and endlessly spawning enemies are ancient history. Naughty Dog have perfected the Uncharted formula with Drake’s Deception – the characters are so likeable and real that the player’s emotional investment immediately skyrockets. Without a shadow of a doubt this is the best mainstream game of 2011 – a phenomenal achievement.”

portal2 2. Portal 2 (PlayStation 3/Xbox 360) – “Overall, Portal 2 is a difficult game to fault. Although it may appear very similar to the original game upon first glance, it does plenty to diversify itself and feel different. I have not mentioned most of the new locations and plot developments within this review simply because they comprise the vast majority of what makes Portal 2 feel so enjoyable and surprising in the first place. It needs to be experienced fully rather than merely read about. In short, PlayStation 3 gamers shouldn’t pass this game up. Not only do they get the PC version for free, they can rest assured that regardless of which version they are playing, they are experiencing one of the greatest video game sequels ever made. A strong contender for game of the year, regardless of platform.”

batmanarkhamcity 3. Batman: Arkham City (PlayStation 3/Xbox 360) – “Batman: Arkham City is a tremendous sequel and an incredible game. Arguably offering an even more superior Batman experience than the recent Christopher Nolan films, fans of the Dark Knight and his extensive comic book universe couldn’t have asked for more. Sadly, Mark Hamill has confirmed that this will be his last ever performance as the Joker – a true shame, although it makes possible an ending that is memorable, hard-hitting and strangely poignant. Rocksteady Studios have not only created one of 2011’s best games, but the greatest superhero video game of all time. Essential.”

deadspace2limitededitionps3 4. Dead Space 2 (PlayStation 3/Xbox 360) – “Isaac Clarke is destined to become a gaming icon: he is a strong leading man that has hopefully now risen above being noticed merely due to the coolness of his various engineering suits. Add to this a surprisingly gripping storyline, breathtaking graphics and improved gameplay – as well as extensive weapon and upgrade options that add immense replay value – and we already have an early contender for game of the year. A sci-fi horror gaming classic.”

Best Books

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1. Plugged by Eoin Colfer – “This is an action packed, hilariously dark thriller with plenty of mystery to spare. Dan McEvoy could certainly support multiple sequels if Eoin Colfer decides to pen them: as a protagonist, he is reminiscent of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher… on crack. A phenomenal page-turner of a book that offers one of 2011’s best reads so far.”

idontwanttokillyoucover1 2. I Don’t Want To Kill You by Dan Wells – “The resolution of I Don’t Want To Kill You is stone cold perfection. Upsetting, shocking, poignant and fitting, I doubt fans of the series will walk away disappointed after reading the closing chapters. I was initially unsure about the supernatural element of I Am Not  A Serial Killer, yet lo and behold, it has panned out beautifully over the course of the subsequent two sequels. I hope John Cleaver returns to the written page again at some point in the future. Climbing inside his head has proven to be a scary, darkly humorous and surprisingly heart-wrenching experience. Already one of the best books of 2011.”

missperegrineshomeforpeculiarchildren 3. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs – “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is a modern day masterpiece that is as much a joy to hold and look at – Quirk Books have seemingly spared no expense if the luxurious presentation and premium paper quality are anything to go by – as it is to read. Occasionally scary, often funny and always downright charming, it comes as no surprise that the film rights have already been sold to 20th Century Fox. With a sequel recently announced for release in the Spring of 2013, there has never been a better time to get acquainted with Miss Peregrine and her home for peculiar children. One of a kind, this is an utterly compelling and truly unforgettable book.”

shelterharlancoben 4. Shelter by Harlan Coben – “There are some complaints, but they are minor at best. The bad guys can seem a little generic at times and the mystery of Ashley loses some of its impact simply because we get to know her so little. However, as the first instalment of a brand new series, this is a stellar effort. The characters successfully endear themselves to the reader and the twists, whilst extremely well-hidden, click into place beautifully. I have only scraped the surface of what is really going on plot-wise in this review. What’s more, the ending is spine-tingling and shocking,  which bodes well for the next book! Shelter is a gripping little thriller than should be bought and read as soon as possible, regardless of the reader’s age. Superb.”

midwinterblood 5. Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick – “Midwinterblood is a tough book to review, yet an absolute pleasure to read. It takes seven seemingly separate stories and weaves them together until they become inseparable. It isn’t quite as profound and hard-hitting as White Crow was before it, but then again this is a much vaster book in both ambition and scope – characters come and go very quickly due to the fast pace and constantly shifting narrative focus. Ultimately, Eric and Merle are the real lifeblood of Midwinterblood: they transcend traditional definitions of love and in the process transcend death. Marcus Sedgwick has written a breathtaking love story with Midwinterblood that further cements him as one of the most talented authors writing for young adults today. An exquisitely executed read.

Best Comics/Graphic Novels

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1. FOOTPRINTS #1 by Joey Esposito and Jonathan Moore (Comic) – “FOOTPRINTS #1 is a superb example of an independent comic book done right, passion bleeding from every page like a beheaded Yeti. Joey Esposito’s writing is accomplished and tight, imbuing each character with a personality that fits like a glove. Jonathan Moore’s artwork is the perfect compliment to Esposito’s story, offering dark, detailed and stylised glimpses into an alternate reality that smashes together fantastical creatures with noir sentiments.”

turfcover 2. Turf by Jonathan Ross and Tommy Lee Edwards (Graphic Novel) – “To conclude, Turf is one of the best graphic novels I have read this year. It would be easy to write Jonathan Ross off from the outset – he is mostly known over here in the UK as a TV presenter and talk show host. However, he is also a self-admitted nerd and comic book geek and his passion oozes from each and every page.”

thelistener 3. The Listener by David Lester (Graphic Novel) – “The Listener offers a unique blend of fact and fiction delivered in an original, unique style. Although the often profound dialogue may prove to be an obstacle for some readers, those willing to delve deeper will discover a story worth reading. It is somewhat revealing that the final words of the main story are “I don’t get it.” David Lester has created a graphic novel that won’t be accessible to everyone, but that stands as a powerful work of art nonetheless.”

Best Music Album

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Name It What You Want by Tristan Clopet – “Name It What You Want is already my favourite music release this year. Although it is filled to the brim with many musical influences, Tristan Clopet has managed to create a unique sound that is unmistakably his, and his alone. His lyrics are poignant and insightful, his vocals bittersweet and dynamic, his band perfectly in sync at all times. Name It What You Want? Best indie album of 2011.”

Best TV Show

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The Killing: The Complete Seasons One and Two (DVD) – “The Killing grips like a vice from episode one, with each subsequent episode only further tightening the screw. It’s all too easy to throw superlatives at this show – it really is one of the greatest crime dramas ever made. This is a show that rewards intelligence, plunges to the darkest depths of human emotion and punches to the very core of what makes great television in the first place. Avoid the US remake, embrace the subtitles and watch a masterpiece safe in the knowledge that it doesn’t get much better than this.”

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Filed under Alternative Musings, Books, Film, Games, Music, Television

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