Summer continued much like the Spring with lots of cheap downloads, more PlayStation Plus titles and a return to some old games I’d forgotten I even owned. Here’s the rundown of just about everything I played in Q3:
Haunt for Kinect
Microsoft added another square of advertising to the Xbox Dashboard and gave away Haunt for free just for clicking it. It’s awkward to walk in place to move around but lends itself well for spooky moments. I found myself slowly creeping down a hall in search of a mysterious phone. It’s a virtual haunted house carnival ride for kids is about the best I can say.
SimCity Social on Facebook
Excited for the legitimate SimCity sequel, I fell into Social’s Facebook game like many others. If it weren’t utterly torn apart to be sold back to you it could’ve been fun. Like any other social game it requires you to pay or bug everyone you know to play.
Renegade Ops on PlayStation 3
As much as I love the intricate details and destruction I really can’t stand playing this bombastic isometric twin-stick shooter. I knew that much going in but it was offered up to PS Plus members and I hoped the full game might be more fun… it wasn’t.
Trine 2 on Xbox 360
The entire game is dazzling to watch but only the first few hours are any fun. Too many unrefined mechanics get thrown in and bog things down.
Pac-Man Championship Edition DX on PlayStation 3
I already played the hell out of this on Xbox last year but was more than happy to tear it up when it showed up on PS Plus. A great combination of new and old arcade designs.
Kinect Disneyland Adventures for Kinect
Katy liked this when we rented it so I made it part of her birthday surprise. It was allegedly part of the PlayFit app on Xbox that tracks physical activity across Kinect games. It never did, and so I stopped awkwardly running around Disneyland embodied by a 9 year-old.
Free Kinect junk for Points and Props
Because they can’t honestly charge people for Kinect games anymore, Microsoft trotted out new adver-games. Stride’s Micro Lab Challenge had some neat object scanning and end-game dance videos and NASA’s Mars Rover Landing looked absolutely stunning while being an incredible pain in the ass to play well.
Spy Fiction on PlayStation 2
After having bought two copies of Swery’s directorial debut over the years I finally loaded it up. It’s a shameless crib of everything Metal Gear Solid with Swery’s charming brand of madness woven throughout.
Toki Tori on Steam
I bought this for super cheap during Steam’s summer sale because my computer can’t run anything but pedestrian 2D platform/puzzlers anymore.
The Binding of Isaac: Wrath of the Lamb on Steam
This was also super cheap during Steam’s summer sale and the first time I’d really got into Isaac. Something clicked this year and I finally came to appreciate the roguelike.
Wizorb on Steam
No matter what you do to Breakout it’s still Breakout and it still only works best when quarters are on the line. Love the art style and concept but I came to hate playing it.
Runabout 2 on PlayStation
News of a 3DS sequel led me back to the original and finally to Runabout 2 that I’ve had for years. It continues the tradition of bizarre, branching path, time-critical, action racing that only the Japanese can deliver.
Just Cause 2 on PlayStation 3
Another PS Plus bonus, I had already played some of this on Xbox and loved it. I dicked around on PS3, blowing up more stuff and raising chaos but needed the hard drive space and time for other games.
Spelunky free on PC
I couldn’t justify the $15 for the Xbox version and I love the pixel style of the original more anyways so I dove in at home and at work. It’s brutal, one-life-to-live, roguelike platforming that keeps me blissfully on edge.
a return to Eternal Darkness on GameCube
Katy and I watched a documentary about H.P. Lovecraft and it moved me to go back to Eternal Darkness. Yup, it’s still great, spooky and trippy fun that gets way too easy once you get the tome.
Kyuiin on PlayStation
I won a free Japanese PS1 game from Raptr, this one being a 2D sidescrolling shooter with kids who get sucked into a nightmare world and fly around on vacuum cleaners.
The Walking Dead 1 and 2 on PlayStation 3
The game lives up to its source and that’s both good and bad. The tension and characters are good but all your choices always boil down to the worst possible situations. I wound up not caring what I did because it’s Walking Dead and nothing ever goes well. Only played because PS Plus gave ‘em to me.
A World of Keflings and Avatar Famestar on Xbox 360
Microsoft rolled out their meta-meta achievement system, Avatar Famestar, so I checked it out on the only game we already owned. It adds weekly incentive to revisit old games and rewards you with more Avatar gear but didn’t drive me to stick with it.
Outland on PlayStation 3
I was always interested in the “Ikaruga as a platformer” concept and thanks to PS Plus I got to dig into it. It looks gorgeous and plays well but I just wasn’t in the mood to see it through.
Bloodrayne: Betrayal on PlayStation 3
I love Wayforward’s art design but hate the way their games control. While I was willing to give Bloodrayne a second chance through PS Plus I was more than happy to immediately delete it again.
Dust: An Elysian Tail on Xbox 360
The only good thing about Summer of Arcade was this wonderful little MetroidVania adventure with gorgeous art, a slick combat system (if a little repetitive), and a story to tell.
New Xbox 360 Dashboard Beta
I was so desperate for improvements to the Xbox Dashboard that I signed up for early access to the Fall update. Sadly it didn’t do much to address the sea of ads and managed to introduce even more sleaze. Pins are handy and Internet Explorer is functional but loading data is still a time wasting chore and Kinect continues to pick up unwarranted voice commands. This is the year that I officially turned against the Xbox 360.
glorious Road Rash and ESPN eXtreme Games on PlayStation
Messing around with live streams and capture hardware I spent a few days with these games and they’re both still excellent, fast, crunchy old arcade brawling racers.
Hono Bono Sangokushi Beta on PC
Of course the first MMO I really like would be in Japanese! An adorable, colorful spin on the Three Kingdoms with turn-based battles, recruitable teammates and its own FarmVille-esque social game built in. I really wanted to stick with it but not being able to read any of the text eventually drove me away.
Domino Rally on Wii
I was always interested in this game as a spiritual successor to Mr. Domino and when I found it on clearance, I bit. Sadly it is a shallow, linear game with little connection even to dominos themselves. Some really crazy stuff unlocks but getting to it requires slogging through a pretty boring game.
deBlob 2 on PlayStation 3
Another clearance find, this game bursts to life in colorful graphics and sound but it’s so hand-holdy that I gave up less than halfway through. Buy this for kids and watch them play it instead.
Pinball FX2 Vengeance & Virtue pack on Xbox 360
I played Pinball FX2 throughout the year but picked up this excellent pack of tables on sale. Moon Knight and Ghost Rider are both excellent, intricate tables with a lot of stuff to see and do.
Double Dragon Neon on PlayStation 3
My love/hate relationship with Wayforward continues as the style of Neon cracked me up but the actual playing was slow and boring. Their emphasis on animation priority in action games is always a bummer.
Scott Pilgrim vs The World: The Game on PlayStation 3
This was my last “freebie” on PS Plus and a game I’d played a ton of on Xbox already. It’s still a great, brutal 2D beat-em-up with beautiful art and music.
Mark of the Ninja on Xbox 360
Every bit of Tenchu or Splinter Cell done in 2D. I’m not crazy about the art style but the animations are satisfying and there’s always multiple ways to approach each encounter.
DropTowerDefenseR free online
I had my fill of tower defense with the original. Everything since has been a bore but I’ve come to like a few unique variations like this side-on 2D take. I found it on Pinterest of all places and got hooked on it for about a week.
FTL: Faster Than Light on Steam
The harrowing survival of a roguelike meets TWO kinds of space sim as you try to keep your crew and ship alive while constantly outrunning an armada. Despite its simplistic look it’s an incredibly tense game of strategy, skill… and luck.
Puzzle Arcade on Xbox 360
Katy has played more than me but for a digital jigsaw puzzle game it’s surprisingly captivating.
Dustforce on Steam
I finally got to play Dustforce thanks to a Humble Bundle and found out that even with a controller I just don’t like the way it feels. Great soundtrack though!
Tokyo Jungle on PlayStation 3
Not at all the game I was hoping for, it took a while to grasp its strict rules and roguelike tendencies to randomly punish you but I finally came around to enjoy it.