The most recent game I’ve completed is de Blob 2 for the Xbox 360. I was sad to read that this game just hasn’t sold all that well (mainly due to having very little marketing), and so far has it been considered a flop by its publishers, THQ. As it stands, we probably won’t see de Blob 3.
Maybe I’m partly to blame – I rented de Blob 2 from LoveFilm rather than buying it, so despite my great enjoyment of the game, I haven’t helped their cause in any way.
Of course, THQ has a long history of churning out shit games that sell just because of the license they have/console they appear on. Every year we are ‘treated’ to the latest instalment of WWE Smackdown vs. Raw, which is probably the most enduringly bad series of games the world has ever seen. No, I’m not being one of those guys who criticises games because it’s wrestling – I’m a big wrestling fan – but rather, I criticise them because not only do they never fix the same basic problems that other wrestling games had licked in 1991, but THQ made the conscious decision to give the WWE franchise to Yukes instead of AKI.
Anyone with an N64 will remember WWF No Mercy – a game so good that it actually won the Game of the Year in 2000. Everyone still talks about how they wish the Smackdown games were more like No Mercy. So you would probably ask yourself ‘Why did they go with Yukes?’ The answer is because the Smackdown series was on the more commercially successful Playstation console and sold more copies. So as a legacy we are left with a far inferior game.
I’m going off on a tangent there, but the point is, the success of a game is reliant upon many factors other than how good it is. For example, if you were to release a game tomorrow (March 25th 2011) it would be trampled over by the release of the 3DS and the IPad 2. Similarly, loads of publishers delayed games so they weren’t released on the same general period as Modern Warfare 2.
Other factors include the country a game is sold in, the console it is on, the willingness of the publisher to market it effectively, how good reviews it gets (and I’m fairly convinced that some games get generously positive reviews over others) and the competition the game faces within the same genre.
So I’ve gathered a list of games which I think you probably haven’t played for one-or-more of these reasons, but you really should. Note – these aren’t in any sort of order.
12: De Blob 2 (Xbox 360)
Starting with the game that motivated this article, de Blob 2 is a bright and colourful platform/puzzle game just released on the Xbox 360 and other platforms.
In it, you control ‘Blob’ – a happy-go-lucky…erm…blob – who is battling to bring colour back to a world controlled by an oppressive regime of Nazi Blobs who have turned everything monochrome. Blob and his friends rebel against the regime by painting all the buildings/people that live there.
It sounds a bit silly, and it is; but that’s part of the charm.
The game combines free roaming 3d worlds with side scrolling 2d platform action and there is plenty to keep your attention. There are 12 levels in all, and in each you have the basic storyline to get through with up to 17 optional added missions to complete afterwards as well as a host of collectibles to find.
Oh and there are elements of strategy to it as well…
Firstly you are battling against a clock. If the time runs out you have to start again. But by doing some of the side missions as you go, you can collect time bonuses. Once you have finished the main story in each level, the clock stops to allow you to finish the rest of the optional challenges in your own time.
Secondly, there is some basic strategy when it comes to painting things. Sometimes you need to paint buildings or splat enemies with a specific colour – i.e. purple. To turn yourself purple you have to colour yourself in with blue and red paint. This probably sounds less fun and challenging than it is.
All told, the game lasts about 20 hours, and considering the game has already fallen below the £20 mark, that is good value for money for a single player game.
11. The Bigs 2 (Xbox 360)
In the UK we don’t play baseball. And so mainly, games publishers don’t bother to release baseball games here. Of course, in the UK we don’t play American Football, Ice Hockey or Basketball much either and that doesn’t stop EA and 2K Sports releasing those games here either.
Yes, you can import baseball games if you want, since a lot of them are – surprisingly – region free, but if you don’t want to go to that trouble and would rather buy a baseball game that is available in the UK, there is only one option – The Biggs 2.
The Bigs 2 is to baseball what NFL Blitz and NBA Jam are to American Football & Basketball; an arcadier ‘Pick-Up-And-Play’ take on a sports game.
That’s not a bad thing though because it means you have a less complicated control system, and a more ‘fun’ style. For example, the pitcher can make a super human catch by the player pressing a specific sequence of buttons displayed on the screen (e.g. X Y B B). The challenge is that you only have a couple of seconds to do it in.
If you’ve ever played any of the NFL, NBA or NHL games you’ll know that to get the most out of them, you really have to know the rules of the sports. I still don’t know what ‘Icing’ is on NHL and why I keep getting called up on it. And the less said about the over-complicated rules in NBA the better.
Baseball is far easier to get into in comparison. Anyone can play it and you don’t have to consult a rule book before you start.
For the single player, Bigs has a fun and extensive career mode. You start off playing in the Mexican League, work your way back to the Majors and end up in the Hall of Fame. And it’s not just about winning the games either; you have challenges that you must achieve in each game to be able to progress (e.g. hit a home run with a man on every base). Also, when you beat a team you can actually take their best player for your own line-up. So it makes the career mode fun – something sports games (and I’m looking at you FIFA 11) do struggle with.
There are also some good mini games in it as well, including Home Run Derby (you have to score points by smashing up Times Square/Tokyo/Los Angeles) which can be played both as a single player or competitively against an opponent.
All in all, The Bigs 2 is a very worthy sports game for someone looking for an unassuming and fun game to play.
10. Street Racer (SNES)
We’re going way back in time here to 1994 and the release of a shameless Mario Kart clone.
I’m not going to say this is the best game out there. Even though Mario Kart had the promotional powerhouse of Nintendo behind it, it was still the better of the two games.
But Street Racer deserves recognition for having one particular game mode that hasn’t ever been seen again in games of this genre – a battle royal.
All the racers start off on a floating platform without any walls and the aim is to drive around and try and knock the other drivers off. What a superb mode it was; my friends and I played it for hours on end. But no other racing/driving game has ever used it since, and I just don’t know why.
You can track down Street Racer on an emulator. Give that mode a try!
9. King of Colosseum 2 (PS2)
You’ll note my disdain above for the Smackdown vs. Raw series. There is just so much wrong with it. For a start, most of the time you just drag your opponent into a certain part of the arena and watch a cut scene of a move. Then there is the god-awful Money in the Bank Ladder Match that never ends because to win it the wrestler has
to set up a ladder in the middle of the ring, climb it and grab the briefcase suspended above the ring. The problem with that is that there are 5 other wrestlers in the match who will never let you do it. So victory absolutely relies upon the other 5 wrestlers accidentally not realising you are climbing the ladder.
And how can we forget the top rope moves. Even if your opponent is standing up, you will try a flying legdrop or a splash; and it’ll defy the laws of physics by hitting him. The game is riddled with the same flaws it had 10 years ago, and they never bother to fix it.
Wouldn’t it be great if there was a wrestling game out there that both looked good (for the time) and played it out like a sport?
Well there is – King of Colosseum 2.
When it comes to wrestling games, most people say ‘Let’s have a cage match/ladder match/Streetfight/Royal Rumble’. Nobody wants to play regular singles or tag team matches. They are boring!
But not in KOC2.
KOC2 only has a handful of game modes. There is singles match, tag team match, title match and a sort of Survivor Series style match. And it doesn’t need anything else because of the depth of play. Each wrestler has around 45 moves from a grapple position alone. Think about that. I played the demo of THQ’s latest insulting effort ‘WWE All-stars’. It would seem that each wrestler has about 3 moves. KOC has the large amount of grapple moves, then a host of weak/strong striking moves, moves off the top rope, corner moves, diving moves to the outside and submissions/striking moves to a grounded opponent. It is a deep game.
Also, unlike its US counterparts, you don’t have an endless supply of finishing moves which you can build up to by smashing people with weapons or doing taunts. You have between 3 and 5 ‘Powerballs’ (the amount depends upon the ability of the wrestler) that you can use to do finishers (of which each wrestler has around 10) or even use to kick out of a pin-attempt if you think that you’re done for. For some of the better wrestlers, there are also super-finishers that require two Powerballs to use.
The game accurately reflects the way these guys wrestle in Japan. While in the USA, wrestling is considered Sports Entertainment, in Japan – even though it is choreographed just the same as in the US and the punters know it – it is taken a lot more seriously.
The beauty of the game lies in the matches themselves. I’ve had singles matches against a human opponent last for well over 45 minutes, and not in the ‘Oh my god, when will this end’ way of the aforementioned Money in the Bank matches.
You build up slowly, doing the ‘weak’ moves like bodyslams and chops all the way to the crescendo of battering each other with your finishers. And the crowd gets into it. They react to the moves you do and cheer or boo depending upon how well you are perceived to be performing. The real kicker is that at the end of each match, you get a match rating out of 100. So the game rewards you for co-operating with your opponent to provide the most artistically rewarding match possible.
Being able to win and defend titles also brings a replayability level to it as well.
Oh, and this isn’t a button mashing game either. It requires a bit of skill and timing to play it well. This does mean new players will struggle at first, but the ends justify the means.
This is hands down the best wrestling game engine ever, even though it’s not the only wrestling game on this list (we’ll get into the reasons why in Part 2).
Oh, and by the way, for those who status-boost-moan and try and play down wrestling games, we all know your favourite guy in Tekken is King because he does suplexes.
8. Super Mario Strikers (Gamecube)
We’re big on football in the UK, and the football game market is dominated by two powerhouses – FIFA and Pro Evolution Soccer. Well, I say that, but PES has been pretty poor for a while and is being supported almost
entirely these days by Fanboys.
The problem with football games is that to be able to play them well, you have to understand and watch football. And not everyone does. But that doesn’t mean they don’t want to play football games. Take my brother for example. He’s doesn’t like football, but quite enjoys football games. The problem is he doesn’t have that level of understanding of when to pass and who to pass to, to be able to compete with those of us who watch and play football ourselves.
I’m sure if I played against an American who watched and played their sports, I’d get thoroughly humiliated at Madden, NHL, NBA etc.
Alternatively there will be people who like football but don’t play console games much. If they want to play a game against their mates who regularly play FIFA, it wouldn’t be fun for them because they just won’t win.
So there needs to be a game that appeals to all of these types of people – where they can all play on a level playing field.
Step up Super Mario Strikers.
Played under 5 a side conditions, this is to football what the Bigs is to baseball. With very easy controls, power-ups (in a similar vein to Mario Kart), no free kicks (you can foul to your hearts content), power shots (if you manage to press the button combo quick enough you can score a goal worth 2) and a quick time limit (5 minutes max) this game is accessible to everyone and still a hell of a lot of fun.
It’s a Nintendo game so I imagine it sold well, but I doubt it sold that well with the FIFA/PES fanboys who only want ‘real football’.
But then games are supposed to be fun. And without question, even though it really doesn’t accurately represent football (though some of the ridiculous challenges on this can be seen on a Sunday afternoon in Soccerworld) Super Mario Strikers is a lot of fun.
And before anyone thinks of buying the Wii version of the game, the Gamecube version is streets ahead, mainly because it doesn’t rely upon unnecessary controller waggling to justify its host console’s existence.
7. Rick Dangerous (Atari ST)
Games used to be harder than they are now. There was less to do back in 1989 so you didn’t mind playing the same levels of a game over and over and over again like you would now. Today if you couldn’t progress in a game you’d think ‘Sod it’ and move onto something else.
I think the idea of having to play through a game in one go now is completely alien. We’ve got checkpoints all over the place. Does that make games better? Well probably; but it did mean that older games could be shorter in length and represent a greater challenge.
There are some great examples of that, such as New Zealand Story, Rainbow Islands, Indiana Jones 3 (The Action Game not the Adventure one), Dynamite Dux (maybe that’s stretching it a bit) and Night Hunter. I also remember being absolutely thrilled to beat Double Dragon 2 on what must have been the 900th attempt.
But one of the hardest and best of these games was Rick Dangerous; an Indiana Jones-style side scrolling platform game made by the same people who would later make Tomb Raider.
It combines being very hard with very addictive.
Oh, and it has a brilliant musical score as well – for a game.
Here’s the beauty of Rick Dangerous. You can play it for free at http://rickdangerousflash.free.fr/
It doesn’t get much better than that!
Look out for Part 2 of this rundown in the near future.