Have a Look at 2010's Top 10 Sleepers
Sometimes we can't play everything. And sometimes we're too focused on Madden NFL this or Mass Effect that, missing more-intrepid games. What's a consumer to do?
We've scoured 2010's offerings to come up with a list of top-rated, just-plain-cool-to-play games you probably gave only half a glance, or missed outright. When you're up for something new, give these a look in lieu of that ol' franchise blockbuster with its second or third sequel number tacked on.
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Amnesia: The Dark Descent
The Scoop: Amnesia: The Dark Descent; By: Frictional Games; For: Windows, OS X, Linux
It's another survival horror game! Because we really don't have enough of those already. But wait: It's the scariest survival horror game you'll ever play--ever-really-ever? Quite likely. Imagine playing in a creepy German castle inhabited by…something, and your only weapons are your wits. No, really, the game hands out tinderboxes and candles in lieu of guns, crowbars, or chainsaws. Play with the lights on, and keep the Xanax handy.
And Yet It Moves
The Scoop: And Yet It Moves; By: Broken Rules; For: Windows, OS X, Linux, Wii
Rip up some paper and slap a few moving pencil sketches on top, and you get And Yet It Moves, a quasi-puzzle game about running and jumping to get from one end of a level to the other. Enemies? Power-ups? Missing in action. They're not the point. What is, is figuring out how to navigate a world made of stylish tissue and scraps, at times resorting to tricks like spinning the screen 90 degrees to make your way. No time limits, flying turtles, or exploding body parts, just you, your wits, and a serenely flat, cutout paperscape.
Art of Balance
The Scoop: Art of Balance; By: Shin'en; For: Wii
Not the third album by obscure American metal band Shadows Fall, Art of Balance is another puzzle game in which you're battling that force Isaac Newton discovered. Think Jenga, but the other way around. Instead of pulling pieces out of a towering puzzle, you're trying to stack rectangles, triangles, circles, things that look like dumbbells, and other odd shapes atop each other without sending things tumbling. Zen-relaxing? Check. Co-op and split-screen versus support? Definitely. Family-friendly? Absolutely.
The Scoop: Castle Crashers; By: The Behemoth; For: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
Is it really a role-playing game if it's also a side-scroller? Why not, says developer The Behemoth, which trotted out this action-oriented game for the Xbox 360 in late 2008. The PlayStation 3 version landed in August this year, teasing in a few new features and giving the other half a chance to sample the cartoon-styled beat-em-up. Yeah, it's still about rescuing a princess, but don't let that put you off exploring some of the cutest monsters, deserts, forests, and wintry ice-scapes around.
The Scoop: Cave Story; By: Studio Pixel; For: Wii
You know how amateur bands occasionally imitate famous ones? Think of Cave Story as that, except here it's 2D platformers like Castlevania, Mega Man, and Metroid. It actually launched in Japan for the PC in 2004, but we're talking about the just-released WiiWare version, which updates the design, retouches the English localization, smartens up the graphics, and frankly plays better on a Wii gamepad than on a keyboard. It's also ridiculously big, and there's nothing wrong with that.
The Scoop: Joe Danger; By: Hello Games; For: PlayStation 3
Who wants to be Evil Knievel? Joe Danger, that's who. Imagine a stunt motorcycle game with actual physics, or at least better physics than any other stunt game around. The gameplay's as you'd imagine: Pull off loops and spins for star ratings and try to beat your own scores, or square off against others. Hello Games went for breezy instead of serious, meaning the levels range from straight up rubber-squealing sprints to platform-style leaps and bounds.
The Scoop: Limbo; By: Playdead Studios; For: Xbox 360
Limbo looks like a dark, brooding, existentially profound little platformer. It's not. In fact, it's really just a cleverly designed physics-based romp through a shadowy landscape that's ultimately as meaningless as a world full of walking mushrooms and question-mark boxes hung up in the air. Never mind that. You'll want to play Limbo because the puzzles are exceptional and the aesthetics unparalleled, and who cares if the only answer it offers in the end is "you won."
Shantae: Risky's Revenge
The Scoop: Shantae: Risky's Revenge; By: WayForward Technologies; For: Nintendo DSi
Purple-haired and sharp as a whip (the purple hair, that is, which snaps like one), Shantae is one of those 2D platform heroines you've never heard of, but a handful of gamers worshipped her when she debuted on the Game Boy in 2002. Risky's Revenge isn't a remake of that game, it's actually a sequel, and with its splendidly drawn, colored, animated, and scads of smartly designed levels, quite possibly the single best reason to pick up a DSi.
Super Meat Boy
The Scoop: Super Meat Boy; By: Team Meat; For: Windows, OS X, Xbox 360, Wii
If you cubed a hunk of beef, gave it arms, legs, beady black eyes, teeth, and the power to cling to walls, you'd probably call it Super Meat Boy. He'd then have to set off to save his girlfriend, Bandage Girl, from an evil archvillain named Dr. Fetus. Along the way, he'd dodge buzz saws, blades, and of course, salt, cruising through some 350 grueling levels. And then you'd have to play him yourself, because he just might be the best 2D platformer to come along in years.
The Scoop: Toki Tori; By: Two Tribes B.V.; For: Windows
Toki Tori involves a wide-eyed, telewarping chicken who has to round up pilfered eggs, using special powers. The version pictured here is actually the Windows remake of a 2001 Game Boy Color game, its chief virtue being a few extra bonus levels and the same enhanced visual touchup given the 2008 Wii version. The reason you've probably never heard of Toki Tori--and the reason to give this clever little puzzle game a try--is that it originally arrived just as Game Boy Advance hit the scene, stealing the spotlight.