About a week back I made a list of the Top 9 games so far of 08′, but I purposefully left off any of the myriad of download only games available on the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360. Why did I do that? Well, so I could make this list. The rules of the list I gave myself was to try to stay away from remakes (though a few made it on there) as those are subjective to whether you have nostalgia for them in the first place (and I’d like to think my choices that did make it will hold up whether you have nostalgia or not). Also, the games have to only be available in download form, so that leaves out all the Xbox Originals (Xbox 1 games available for download on XBL) and PSN games like GT5P and Warhawk because they are also out in stores on discs. It’s also worth noting that I just got Bionic Commando: Rearmed today, and the hour I put into it was absolutely awesome… it’s definitely a game that will end up near the top of this list, but having only played a bit I chose to leave it off. This list is not limited to 08′ releases like the previous list was.
1. Pixel Junk Monsters (PS3) – This game is purely a joy to play. It takes its basic concept from the many Tower Defense games you can find all around the instanets. But it adds a few subtle wrinkles, like an actual controllable character which you use to “dance” in front of your towers to help upgrade them, and collect all the coins and whatnot that the enemies who get mowed down by your towers drop.
It’s almost impossible to explain how this game works or is fun without sounding like a loon (unless you are a Tower Defense junky and then all you need to see is those aforementioned words). Luckily there is a demo available, I recommend you go get it. Now!
2. Puzzle Quest (Xbox Live) – Puzzle Quest started off on both the Nintendo DS and Sony PSP, but quickly made its way over to the Xbox Live Arcade. The basic premise of the game is “RPG puzzle game.” Confused? Yeah, I was too when everyone told me what it was and that it was great. But basically the story plays out like a typical RPG where you move about the land, get party members, etc… but when you go into combat instead of turn based combat like the typical RPG, you play a knockoff of Bejeweled where you knock out certain color gems to use attacks on your opponent. It is highly addictive and downright fun. A must buy for either your handheld systems or on the XBL.
3. Braid (Xbox Live) – Braid is one of those games, like Portal from The Orange Box, that can completely change the way you think about videogames. Braid is a platformer at its core, but as you play it becomes so much more. You can manipulate time, and you will have to do so often, to advance past some pretty mind bending puzzles. It’s the type of game that you know is smarter than you, but you will keep plugging away at it over and over trying to figure out how it is humanly possible to get past certain puzzles. This game certainly isn’t for the easily frustrated, but with some patience it is an absolute masterpiece.
4. Bomberman Live (Xbox Live) – Bomberman has been around since the days of the NES. It’s simple in design, you control one of up to 8 little guys that drop bombs that blow up bricks and other guys. The objective is, of course, to kill everyone else and not die yourself. This all plays out on a board that is only the size of your screen, so there is never any action out of your field of view. Add powerups like more powerful bombs and speed boosts and you have yourself a very twitchy yet strategy filled action games. There are also numerous modes if you get bored, like bombs that paint the ground and the objective is to cover the most real estate before the time runs out. The thing that sets Bomberman apart, and keeps it fresh, all these years later is the mostly flawless online play. But be warned, the guys that play on there are GOOD. As a newb you will get your ass handed to you, often.
5. Pac Man: Championship Edition (Xbox Live) – Pac Man CE is how you update a 20+ year old game. It still uses the same principles as the original… eat dots, eat power pellets, eat ghosts, eat fruit. But then it adds a whole new wrinkle in levels that morph as you clear them out. So there are no stages, per se, once you clear out half of the board and then eat the fruit that pops up on the other half, your previously cleared out half will morph into a different pattern and be repopulated with dots and power pellets. The game is played in timed modes, the point being to get as high of a score as possible. The updated in real time online scoreboards make this very, very addictive.
6. Commanders: Attack of the Genos (Xbox Live) – This game will appeal only to niche genre enthusiasts, but if you are a fan of turn based combat strategy games like Advance Wars (on the Gameboy and now the Nintendo DS) this game will be right up your alley. It features both an offline story (that sucks, but the gameplay is great) and online competitive play. Most of the missions offline (and all online) have you taking a small army around a map and capturing points so you can make more units and overwhelm your competitors that are trying to do the same. The game doesn’t break any new ground in the genre, but it is great fun if you like these types of games.
7. Worms (Xbox Live) – I first played Worms on the PSone. Back then, I was in college, living at home with this totally sweet couch in my parents basement. A bunch of friends would come over each night and we would drink copious amounts of beer, swim in my parents pool, hang out on their deck (which I helped build years earlier! RAWR!) and spend hours and hours and hours playing videogames. Worms was great because it is a turn based game that is really easy to pick up and play. Basically, you have a team of four worms who have various tools to kill the other worms on the map. There is a fair bit of humor, from weapons like exploding sheep to the funny accented voices the worms themselves have. All these years later, in my 30s, still living in my parents basement, this release on XBL is just as fun, but instead of friends coming over you can now just play it online. Good stuff.
8. Super Stardust HD (PS3) – Remember when I said I was in my 30s and I lived in my parents basement? Well, i was kidding about the latter part (I live in my girlfriend’s basement, figuratively). But, those who live up to that stereotype have become huge fans of the rebirth of the shooter in games like Geometry Wars and Super Stardust HD. The gameplay is simple, you control a ship that you move with one stick and you shoot in all directions with the other stick. There is a bit of strategy in that you have different weapons which are more effective against certain enemies or objects… but its mostly just visceral action fun. So why did I pick Super Stardust HD over Geometry Wars? Honestly, it’s because I am better at Super Stardust HD, which makes it more fun for me. The learning curve is a bit easier, and these old decrepit hands appreciate that. The addition recently of the new PSN Trophy system makes this game even more fun.
9. Calling All Cars (PSN) – Created by David Jaffe, who has Twisted Metal, Warhawk and God of War on his resume, this game isn’t quite what people expected out of him for his first next gen project. The graphics are very cartoony, something he now laments (I read an interview with him where he says that buyers were looking for something that pushed the PS3 hardware and he feels silly going with a simple hand drawn look). But even if sales were crap, and it’s about impossible to find people to play with online other than primetime…. the gameplay is gold. The premise is that you are driving a police car around somewhat small maps and you pickup criminals and bring them back to the police station. The problem is, that’s what everyone else is trying to do also, and if they smash into you or hit you with any of the powerups on the board you will lose the criminal and they will get them. It’s fast action that is tons of fun. It’s just a matter of whether you can find anyone to play with anymore. You can play offline, but it loses much of its appeal without other humans.
10. Castlevania: Symphony of the night (PS3, Xbox Live) – You can move this game to number one if you have never played it. I have, and while I really enjoyed playing through it again it isn’t as cutting edge as some of the other games on the list or highly competitive and online like the rest. But, what you have here is probably the best Castlevania game ever made (I’d put Castlevania 2 ahead of it, but I’m weird). The game has fairly deep RPG elements, and some difficult puzzles and the great action you can always expect from a Castlevania game.
So there you have it, the downloadable world of console games according to Mort. Did I miss some of your favorites? Am I completely stupid and you want to kick me in the face? Leave some comments below.