With the end of the year fast approaching, it’s time to go back and start catching up on all the gaming gems you may have overlooked. The titles on this list may not be GOTY contenders, but they’re all interesting enough to merit at least one look – and came and went quickly enough that you might not have given them that look when they debuted. If you want to be part of the water-cooler conversations they’ll surely inspire, though, dust off that rental account, take a (momentary) leave of Skyrim and give Nathan Drake a breather, and get ready to catch up on some of the most inspired (but missable) games of 2011.
8. Jurassic Park: The Game
Aficionados of adventure games like Dragon’s Lair and Monkey Island aren’t often catered to, and neither are fans of Jurassic Park. Telltale Games, the guys behind the episodic Sam and Max adventures, have them both covered with Jurassic Park: The Game. With a focus on quick time events and story, it gives fans a chance to revisit Isla Nublar with a narrative surrounding the events of Spielberg’s classic blockbuster.
Why it shouldn’t be missed: The kills. Besides being a decent example of an underserved genre, there just aren’t enough games where people are eaten by dinosaurs. JP has more than enough to go around, with dino-carnage ranging from hilarious to surprisingly brutal. If you’re the type of player who’ll get killed just for the death animation, this is your chance to indulge a cruel streak.
Reason it’s a rental: No matter how well executed, an on-rails adventure like JP doesn’t lend itself to repetition. (And JP, to be fair, is not particularly well executed.) One time through will likely be enough for even the most ardent Jurassic Park III apologists.
7. Spider-Man: Edge of Time
Developer Beenox’s Spider-Man: Edge of Time wasn’t a revelation so much as a rehash, borrowing the control scheme and sci-fi plotting of Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions, also from Beenox. While the latter is lengthier, Edge of Time has an amusing flair for the dramatic and the ridiculous. Val Kilmer voices an industrialist villain who pulls a Biff from Back to the Future, traveling back in time to give his company Alchemax a leg up on ruling the world. The result is a humorously convoluted web of time-traveling Spider-Men that plays more like a “what if” story than a true piece of Marvel canon.
Why it shouldn’t be missed: Most webheads will tell you that the high point of Spider-games was Spider-Man 2. Edge of Time is far from the open-world freedom of that title, but it’s still just plain fun to be Spider-Man. Playing as the wall-crawler is fast and splashy, if a tad generic, and the banter between Spider-Men is surprisingly witty. If you haven’t played a Spider-Man game in a while, there’s plenty of fun to be had here.
Reason it’s a rental: If you played Beenox’s Shattered Dimensions, you’ve seen most of what Edge of Time has to offer. There are some dramatic visuals, such as a dystopian NYC and a free-floating 3D credit sequence a la Panic Room, but they lose their punch after a while. Some players will enjoy the far-flung time-travel story, in which Peter Parker teams up with Miguel O’Hara, the Spider-Man of 2099, but it may annoy hardcore Spider-fans. Think of it as an appetizer for Beenox’s upcoming The Amazing Spider-Man, which will tie in with the upcoming movie and return Spidey to an open-world NYC, where he does his best work.
6. De Blob 2
The first De Blob was a Wii exclusive, but now Xbox 360 and PS3 gamers can enjoy the charm and inventiveness that is De Blob 2. You play as Blob, a bastion of colorful creativity in a world controlled by INKT, an evil color-draining force bent on making the world boring and drab. Your job as a Blob is to soak up colors and spread them across the land, like a wicked combination of decorator and graffiti artist.
Why it shouldn’t be missed: Despite its cutesy exterior, De Blob 2 is really a dystopian story – and Restoring color to the world around you is delightful. Few games let you have such a large and satisfying impact on your environment.
Reason it’s a rental: In the review above, Matthew Keast put it best: “Like an artistic mind, it's creative but structurally vague.” The color-coded gameplay is a concept worth exploring, but there’s not much urgency to the proceedings. The amount of time you spend with De Blob 2 directly relates to how OCD you are. Obsessive gamers could spend hours creating colorful worlds, while more goal-oriented players may become bored with De Blob 2’s lack of challenge. Also, if you played the original De Blob, the sequel will be little more than a fresh page in your coloring book.