Best downloadable games of 2011

Just because it’s not on a disc doesn’t mean it’s not great

The Binding of Isaac


The Binding of Isaac full review

Following up the excellent Super Meat Boy is no small task, and while The Binding of Isaac’s bizarre brand of miserable, scatological humor inherently limits its appeal, its a worthy successor. Combining Shoot em' Up and Roguelike elements, the game plays something like Gauntlet set in The Legend of Zelda’s dungeons. Isaac shoots his tears at horrible but cute monsters as he delves further into the depths attempting to escape his evil Mother.

Each level is randomly generated, and because the game eschews a traditional levelling system for randomly generated power-ups, it can be very difficult or relatively easy depending on how lucky you get. A lot of the power-ups also dramatically change how the game plays, adding even more replayability. New characters, bosses and items unlock as you play the game keeping the randomly generated aspect fresh much longer than you’d expect. Just like Super Meat Boy, there’s definitely a steep difficulty curve, but once the game clicks you’ll find yourself coming back for more.



Stacking full review

Farting on babies has never been as delightful a pastime as it is in Stacking. In fact, every bit of Stacking's old-timey world is a joy to explore, and experimenting with each nesting doll's ability – farting, vomiting and screaming to name a few – is consistently way more entertaining than it should be. Even by Double Fine standards, Stacking is ridiculously charming, and succeeds at delivering a heart-warming story about hardcore child labor and the power of working together.

Once you've grown tired of running around wreaking havoc and making other dolls crap their pants in terror (watching the sawdust shoot out of their butts still hasn't gotten boring), the puzzle-filled main quest still awaits. Stacking's crystal-clear puzzle design almost feels like atonement for the brutally obtuse gameplay of adventure games past. Finding all the solutions to each puzzle yields a satisfying sense of accomplishment because each one is carefully crafted to contain clear parameters, meaning you never have to resort to random guessing. And after you've solved a few toughies, you can reward yourself by donning the appropriate doll and punching a few elderly people.

Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP


Superbrothers Sword & Sworcery EP full review

One of the most exciting thing about games with small teams and a lot of dedication is that they're capable of making games that don't quite resemble anything else out there. Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP is one of those games. Opposed to designs that insist on forcing traditional control schemes into a touch screen only platform, S&S was designed with the touch screen in mind and as a result its methodical pace is one of its strong points. The gorgeous pixel art is another highlight, creating a lush fantasy world with its smart color palate and clever design.

Make no mistake, this is no hack n slash action game, it's a measured adventure that requires the player to soak it all in rather than bash in their enemy's heads barbarian style. Players bounce back and forth between the real world and a separate dream world, and the game isn't at all afraid to get into "arty" territory. And while the more Cro-Magnon may see "arty" and run the other way, S&S handles itself very well, letting the story, lush visuals and music drive the game. Any Adventure game fan looking for an experience with no real parallel would do well to break out their iOS device and give S&S a shot.

Orcs Must Die!


If there’s one genre that’s exploded in the last few years it’s Tower Defense. Generally, you play a defenseless/semi-defenseless rube who runs around setting traps for waves of enemies that march orderly down predefined paths. Orcs Must Die! says nuts to that and lets you blast the titular Orcs with crossbows, fire, ice and lightning as they haplessly stumble into your arsenal of traps. The game does a great job introducing new twists to keep itself fresh; new weapons, traps, enemies, and even level designs keep you on your toes and keep the game from getting repetitive.

OMD!’s lightheartedness also adds to its appeal, your goofball character and the Orcs themselves are good for some chuckles and help offset the cold reality of your green skinned genocide. Anyone who finds the average Tower Defense game a little dull will have a blast with OMD! Its clever injection of arcade immediacy into a strategic game gives it the crossover appeal that ensures almost any gamer will enjoy it.

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