Left 4 Dead - PC, 360
Half the time we were barely aware of what was going on in this frantic, squad-based zombie shooter, but we were having too much fun to care. One second, we're following our buddies through a darkened hospital, and then all of a sudden a horde of fast zombies tear through the walls and start swarming us from every direction. Then it's just a blur of shooting wildly in every direction, trying to take down as many of the creatures as possible while doing our best to respond to the yelps and barked orders from the other players.
And that's just one small example. We haven't even touched on the shock of suddenly being dragged away from the group and strangled by the wall-climbing zombies with 30-foot prehensile tongues, or the consequences of disturbing "witches," female zombies in underwear who sit around until you accidentally shoot them, at which point they'll tear you apart with their oversized claws. Assuming you can get a solid group together, this is easily one of the most kickass shooters ever made.
LittleBigPlanet - PS3
We're typically skeptical of the whole "Players, you can make your own game!" thing because it sounds way to much like the developers saying "Screw it. We're tired. You finish this. We're going to go get drunk." However, LittleBigPlanet is the exception. It's incredibly cute, the visuals with make you marvel over the mundane - we caught ourselves saying idiotic things like "it looks just like real cardboard!" and it's shockingly quick and easy to create almost anything you desire, then play through it with four players at a time. And there should be a ton of user-created content to keep you going.
Mega Man 9 - WiiWare, XBLA, PSN
We've already covered this gem to death, so forgive us if we just flat-out say that it's friggin' awesome. Wish the supposed DLC and extra modes were included in this build cuz that'd ignite even more fandom in our hearts. Mega Man 9 is a love letter, a pat on the back, an inside joke that many will love with all their might but most will shun for its archaic visuals and intimidating difficulty. If you're not immediately excited about Mega Man 9, from the moment you heard about it, chances are you never will be. It's possible younger gamers will give it a try and the cycle of devoted mega fans will begin anew, but our money's on the hardest of the hardcore freaking out and the rest pass it by.
Score: 8 (based on the core game alone)
Pure - 360, PS3, PC
If you're one of the many who's sick to death of the industry mantra that "brown=next-gen," Pure will be a pleasant surprise. Imagine an ATV racer with the insane speed and precarious drops of MotorStorm, but with bright colors and lush vegetation instead of mud, muddy rock formations and more mud. Pure's richly detailed tracks look fantastic at high speeds - if we let our eyes stray from our rider (a hot chick in pink, 'cause we're manly that way), we could make out individual daisies as they zoomed past, right before we plowed headlong into the mossy stone wall of a mountainside ruin. The midair tricks and thumbstick-assisted jumps to build speed boosts add a lot to the fun, giving the game an SSX/early Tony Hawk feel, and the multiple paths and rich variety in each long track kept us from getting bored. This is going to be fantastic.
Puzzle Quest: Galactrix - PC, 360, DS
Why bother reading this? The first Puzzle Quest was stupidly fantastic, and this is basically the same thing, only set in generic space land instead of generic fantasy land and with a hexagonal grid replacing the piles of round gems in the first game. Even with tweaks, this is still just Bejeweled with a storyline, but you're going to lose hours and hours of sleep to it again.
Ratchet & Clank: Quest for Booty - PS3
When we picked this up, it turned out the last player had abandoned it mid-level, and we couldn't figure out how to restart or what we were supposed to do. The lack of Clank took a little getting used to (Ratchet's not quite as mobile as usual), but we did get to try out Ratchet's new wrench features by picking up a fiery, explosive thing and lobbing it through a destructible wall.
Really, though, it's a Ratchet game - how much different do you expect it to be? It looks amazing - just as good as its full-sized predecessor, Tools of Destruction - and it delivers the same fine-tuned platforming gameplay that we've come to expect from the series. For $15, this promises to be a hell of a game.