5 | LIMBO
There are a lot of words I can use to describe PlayDead Studios’ LIMBO– genius, eerie, and haunting, for instance—but the more I think about this incredibly crafted game, the more I realize that all those words simply don’t do enough to describe the essence and feel of this Independent Games Festival standout. More than anything else, LIMBO struck me as being wonderfully macabre. It seems almost obsessed with the idea of death, not as a punishment for failure, but as a necessary and inevitable tool I needed to inch forward through each difficult task. In one weekend, I’ve seen the nameless child hero of the game electrocuted, dismembered, ripped to shreds, drowned, and beaten to death, which would almost be funny if it weren’t so unsettling.
It takes a powerful game to cling to your emotions long after you’ve turned the console off and gone about your day-to-day life, and in that respect, LIMBO is indeed mighty. As I played through the game this weekend, I eventually realized that the dark, dreary monochrome world in which LIMBO takes place was actually depressing me. The entire world of LIMBO, and the darkness, violence, and silence it contains, helped make LIMBO a downright chilling experience.
4 | Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light
Traditional fans of the Lara Croft series may be initially put off by her latest downloadable title, but don't let appearances deceive you, this version of the catacomb exploring heroine is one of her strongest yet. Instead of exploring a third-person, Uncharted-like world, the Guardian of Light takes place from an isometric perspective. You're still solving the same puzzles as always (move this block here, light that thing on fire over there), but this time you're doing it with a partner.
Online and local co-op ensures that you'll always have a tomb exploring buddy to explore the game with. And the puzzles are just as good single-player, since the game adjusts its difficulty (and puzzles) based on how many people are playing. Thing are a lot more arcadey in Guardian of Light as well -- not only is their a bigger focus on gunplay (you'll find an assortment of high-powered weaponry and tons of enemies to mow down), but the game tracks your score as well. It's a mash-up we wouldn't have thought would work, but this arcade-sytle action game is just as much fun as Lara Croft's previous best adventures.
3 | Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World
This retro-inspired brawler is a spectacular love letter to beat-‘em-ups of generations long past. Based on Brian Lee O’Malley’s graphic novel series of the same name, and released to coincide with Edgar Wright’s outstanding feature film adaptation, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World harkens back to the golden age of side-scrolling action games in all their pixelated splendor. Playing as eponymous slacker Scott Pilgrim, grumpy band-mate Kim Pine, “The Talent” Stephen Stills, or manic-pixie-dream-girlfriend Ramona Flowers, you’ll beat and bash legions of baddies native to the mystical lands of Toronto, Canada across seven varied levels. A must-download, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World also features a stellar soundtrack by 8-bit rock band Anamanaguchi, and some surprisingly in-depth RPG elements.
2 | Braid
While lots of conjecture has been made about the story behind Braid, it all boils down to a common plot often told in video games: you're a man against the world, trying to rescue a princess in a far away land.
However, Braid's special twist comes in the form of time manipulation. As you guide leading man "Tim" through world after world, you'll need to "rewind" time to solve puzzles embedded in every level. Sometimes, you'll need to correct an ill-timed jump off an enemy's head, and other times you'll die by falling into a trap. Luckily, even Tim's death can be fixed by simply turning back the clock a few crucial seconds, and the game quickly becomes more puzzle than platformer.
However, as you play through this wonderfully crafted game -- in several cases, literally turning back time to advance past various obstacles -- it eventually comes clear that the simple story isn't what it seems to be. Is Tim really the hero? What exactly is his relationship with the princess? And why can't Tim remember why he has to rescue her?
1 | Castle Crashers
Castle Crashers is wonderful not just because it's a great multiplayer game to play either on the couch with your friends or online, but because it does everything else pretty damn skillfully too. The basic premise is your standard beat-em-up formula -- a tried and true arcade style that's seen plenty of use over the years. The game deftly mixes in RPG elements (not only can you find stronger weapons, but your characters abilities grow the more you play as well), and you can use those beefed up characters to help you level up your friends as well.
Like a Looney Tunes cartoon, the graphics highlight random, scatalogical, and a little over-the-top violence, but the adorable drawings and helpful woodland creatures who assist your titular knights balance out the gore. And the music, an assortment of chiptunes and high-energy tracks, is good enough to listen to on its own.
Castle Crashers brings the beat-em-up into modern times with style, and if you like the work the developers did here, you should check out their first game, Alien Hominid, and be on the lookout for the upcoming BattleBlock Theatre.
This story, "The 15 Best PSN Games " was originally published by GamePro.