We’re all a little too familiar with the RPG formula, but did you ever wonder what it’s like to run an item shop in a world filled with dungeon explorers? That’s Recettear’s clever hook, as you operate a store that caters to average people as well as above-average adventurers, and it’s all about reaching peak profitability. Its slick anime-inspired visuals and cute script make it a surprising and welcome change of pace from what we normally expect from a JRPG.
Telltale Games, when not making CSI games, delivers some of the best episodic gaming there is with series like Sam & Max and Tales of Monkey Island. This year they gave some new series a chance with its “pilot program,” where a new title is given a shot with a one-off episode for download with the possibility of getting a full “season” of episodes. Puzzle Agent was the first to receive this honor, and its distinct humor, visuals, and “Professor Layton plus Twin Peaks if it were sillier” feel left many hoping they haven’t seen the last of this escapade.
Robot Unicorn Attack
To be honest, most the internet is so lousy with Flash games that it’s difficult for any exceptional ones to get noticed. However, even in the relatively strong field of Adult Swim titles, Robot Unicorn Attack shines, literally. As your pretty, robo-unicorn runs on rainbows as fast as it can, leaping over perilous pits to 80s classic Always by Erasure, you can’t help but smile as the tune hits its apex when you get that next burst of star power. Getting a high score is serious business, so even if you aren’t cool enough to appreciate its looks, Robot Unicorn Attack will hook you all the same.
Best multiplatform downloads
Double Fine makes some of the best games that too few people play, and after the so-so sales of Brutal Legend, the developer decided to give smaller, downloadable games a try. Costume Quest was the first and hopefully the next three DLC games it puts out will be just as witty, cute, and cleverly designed as this one. Taking the classic RPG formula and setting it during Halloween, three adorable trick-or-treaters battle real monsters to save their friend. CQ was a perfect example of what downloadable games can be when a talented developer decides to commit to the format.
Pac-Man Championship Edition DX
The first Pac-Man Championship Edition came out a couple years ago and it shocked me with just how many wonderfully new things Namco could do with its mascot. You’d think the devs would’ve run out of ideas then, but DX took Pac-Man to a whole new place. The neon looks and thumping soundtrack of Championship returned, but this time it was all about getting as many ghosts to chase you as possible, until Pac-Man had a tail of 30 or more behind him. Courting that danger is all worth it when a power pellet appears and you turn around to eat every single ghost while your score explodes. With a multitude of different modes and settings, Pac-Man DX was one of the most rewarding titles all year.
Scott Pilgrim vs the World
Movie games usually suck because the developers don’t understand what fans of the film want, but Ubisoft got Scott Pilgrim exactly right. The film and comic Scott Pilgrim vs the World is brimming with love for old games, with some special affection for old beat-‘em-ups like River City Ransom, and the game follows in RCR’s footsteps perfectly. With awesome sprite-based graphics and a jaw-droppingly good original soundtrack by chip-tine band Anamanaguchi, SPVW seemed to be plucked out of our dreams of what the perfect Scott Pilgrim game would be.
Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light
Many doubted that a twin-stick, co-op based downloadable was the right place to take Lara Croft, so it was a real shock what a fun experience it was. With either one or two players, the sharp graphics supported great gunplay, platforming, and puzzles that kept you hooked the whole time. It was a great way to pass the time until Lara’s real reboot next year, now if only the online co-op didn’t get delayed for months.
Super Meat Boy
I’ve written so many kind words about Meat Boy that there’s little more to say. The best 2D platformer all year? Yup. Incredibly funny? Sure. A great deal for the huge amount of outstanding content you get? Certainly. Made with love and dedication in every pixel, Super Meat Boy might be one of the toughest games you’ll play all year, but it earns your devotion with every single death. By your 2,000th quick defeat, you’ll only love it more, because when you finally beat a particularly tough level, you know you earned it. Whether on XBLA or PC, it’s one of the best packages all year.