Christmas pudding is fantastic. To expand, in this already tired analogy, Christmas pudding represents great games – the Fallout 4s, the Destinys, the Uncharteds. Eat too much pud and you’ll be overwhelmed by its rich mass. Sometimes you need to push the bowl away and try something else.
That’s where average games come in. They’re the palate-cleansing refreshment after too much calorific awesome. I’m talking about games such as Binary Domain, Spec Ops: The Line and Dead Rising. They’re hope-filled sevens and slightly-great eights, swollen with fine ideas but home to an imperfect design decision or two.
Dead Rising is a useful example. It gets so many things right. There’s a palpable sense of despair, and it embodies the trope of humans being the most dangerous thing in a zombie apocalypse. Few things in games feel quite so satisfying as seeing the sun rise after a night spent surviving a furious undead onslaught. But it’s also a game that asks you to clock watch, where you’re constantly under pressure of missing an important appointment with chainsaw clowns and exploding cultists. Because of this, it’s possible to miss huge chunks of the game thanks to shoddy timekeeping.
But far from being failures, I’d argue these zany decisions give us a wider appreciation of games. Dead Rising would have been better without the need to constantly check your Casio, but it would also have been boring. We’re incredibly lucky to have games made to such exacting standards, but it burdens us with a sense of uniformity. How many modern games have detective vision, iron sights or towers to capture? We need the wild, slapdash invention of middling titles of Dead Rising’s ilk.
More than this, these games give us something no big budget, 10/10 game can: context. They remind us about the difficulties of game development, and help us appreciate the polish of every first party title. Do yourself a favour and take a break from Christmas pudding. Try some nut roast instead.
This article originally appeared in Official PlayStation Magazine. For more great PlayStation coverage, you can subscribe here.