NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams (Wii) | Sky Concert
In this very hit-and-miss game, the low-points are very low and the high points are stratospheric. None more so than this majestic level where you must fly as NiGHTS, nudging musical notes in time to the backing music to perform the melody from the Dreams Dreams theme song.
Doing it perfectly (not just acceptably) makes it sound better, as a chorus of Nightopians appears alongside you, adding their voices to the song. We know it sounds crap, yet the reality is that it works beautifully. As one of the NGamer staff said: "That bit is as good as anything in Super Mario Galaxy". We agree. If only the rest of the game had got it so right. We can dream.
Odin Sphere (PS2) | Valkyrie, Chapter 1, Act 5: “Raging Dragon Belial”
Our breath was taken away by every screen in this lavishly hand-animated action game, but if we had to choose just one level to recommend, it would be the first real boss battle. You’ve been used to lush forests and crazy-proportioned characters like King Odin, but nothing can prepare you for the moment when Belial, a massive, multicolored dragon so big he doesn’t all fit onscreen, lumbers into view. The first time we saw this beauteous leviathan, we didn’t know whether to fight him or just stare at him. Then he started trying to bite us in half and we stopped our gawping.
Psychonauts (PS2, PC, Xbox) | The Milkman Conspiracy
Literally every level in this darkly brilliant platform actioner is a must-play. We're not kidding. But if we have to choose just one, it's the level that takes place inside the paranoia-addled brain of security guard Boyd, a freaked-out conspiracy theorist.
The level takes place in a typical suburb as laid out by MC Escher and viewed through the eyes of Tim Burton. The roads float in space, twisting and turning back upon themselves like asphalt pretzels. Every house is filled with rakish angles, but is otherwise '60s-era pastel and perfect... perhaps too perfect. Lawn flamingos hide cameras, monotone-speaking Men in Black are everywhere, the sweet-but-threatening girl scouts are a secret society, and nobody will speak openly about the milkman.
As if this crazed atmosphere isn't enough to melt your marbles, the gameplay pulls some nifty tricks, too. You can rail-grind the telephone wires, and the Men in Black will let you pass if you hold a particular item (say, a stop sign) and pretend to have the same job they're miming. Add in a pitch-black area you navigate by psychically remote-viewing yourself through a night vision security camera, a clever "sniper rifle in the book depository" reference, some crazy "nightmare" sequences, and a truly memorable boss battle, and you have the best level of one of the best games ever.
But seriously: you suck if you don't play this entire game. It's downloadable on Xbox 360 right now. Go.