As downloadable games get better every year, it’s no surprise that the days of brick and mortar stores seem numbered. 2010 saw a host of new downloads both big and small, good and bad. Whether they were bite-sized ideas done to perfection or had production levels that rivaled full games, players with internet connections were really blessed this year.
Follow me as I take you down a digital memory lane of this year’s best, whether console exclusives, on Steam, multiplatform or whatever. Also in here somewhere is recognition for the best add-ons and some dubious honors for the download games that let everyone down this year. So plug in your Ethernet cable and get ready.
PSN didn’t have a huge amount of exclusives this year, but Joe Danger stood out big time. With a play style of trial and error through increasingly demanding stunts similar to Trials HD, Joe distinguishes itself with its violently fun sense of humor based around stuntman injury. Using the level-creator you can put the would-be Lance Murdock through an unending number of stages, and there’s always the need to stay competitive with your friends on the leaderboards. Even at its $14.99 price there’s enough content to keep you playing and pulverizing Joe over and over again.
Auditorium HD really surprised us. Coming out near the end of the year with little fanfare, this puzzle game drew us in with its visuals, but the sound is where it really shines. This unique, abstract puzzler is hard to describe, but once you get into it and even end up enjoying the Move controls, you’ll see it as one of the top downloads of the year.
Twin-stick shooters are a dime a dozen in the world of downloads, but this undead nightmare from the developers of Super Stardust HD really mixes things up. Zombies and high caliber graphics to make up for the familiar play style and top down viewpoint, and aside from a steep learning curve, Dead Nation one of the best PSN originals in awhile.
Alundra/The Arc of the Lad
This is a special and very biased entry for the PSN-exclusive section. Back in the PlayStation/Saturn days, one of the few US publishers giving weird, super-hardcore Japanese games a chance was Working Designs. It unfortunately closed years ago, but this year their wonderful localizations of games like Alundra (a crazy hard Zelda clone) and classic RPG Arc of the Lad came to PSN thanks to a deal between Monkey Paw Games and former Working Designs exec Victor Ireland. Can the Working Designs’ versions of Lunar be far behind?
Dead Rising 2: Case Zero
For as many great download games PSN got, XBLA was the king of downloadable games this year. For example, look at an exclusive like Dead Rising 2: Case Zero. Even though Dead Rising went multiplatform, 360 got the first taste of the zombie title in this short-ish prologue. It lasted long enough to give you a preview of the zombie slaying fun without outstaying its welcome, and the $5 price tag was one of the best deals on XBLA all year. Here’s hoping next week’s equally 360-exclusive Case West is just as good.
Monday Night Combat
Like twin-stick shooter, tower defense games are pretty well represented in the world of downloads, but out of the few good ones this year (Darwinia+ and Toy Soldiers to name a couple) Monday Night Combat was the finest. The slightly twisted sense of humor helped, but MNC’s best quality was mixing class-based, third-person shooting with online teamwork for one of the richest and most deceptively simple strategy games all year.
Music-based puzzle games are nice, particularly when they have new songs by major talents like Phillip Glass and Moby like Chime does. You know what’s nicer? Charity. The best game to date by Zoe Mode (mostly known for perfectly acceptable karaoke games) all the proceeds of the $5 dollar game went to a good cause. This addictive, melodic mix of Lumines and Tetris didn’t need that edge to sell you on it, but every little bit helps.
Many games were great this year, but few grabbed you and stuck with you like the hauntingly beautiful Limbo. Everyone that played it was bewitched by the black and white journey of one small, fragile boy through a dangerous world filled with giant spiders, brain-controlling bugs and murderous children. It was a mysterious, puzzling delight all the way to its enigmatic ending and showed just what talented developers can achieve with enough independence. Perhaps the best download all year (don’t make me choose between it and Super Meat Boy!), memories of Limbo will linger for a long time.
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