11 Games You Should Have Played in 2009
Like insects that only live for one day in their winged form, or the haunting, whimsical films of Nicolas Cage, videogames are ephemeral by nature. They have their one, shining moment -- typically on a Tuesday -- and by Wednesday morning, poof, into the ether they go, never to be heard from again.
It's sad, really.
I feel it's my personal duty as a gamer to dig those forgotten titles out from under the avalanche of copies of "Tony Hawk: Ride" and "Madden NFL 2004" and "Let's Tap." It's my job as a celebrator of this medium to rescue them, to give these games shelter inside the dry warmth of an Xbox 360 or a PlayStation 3 (if only for a night or two), and to love those beautiful, misunderstood and misbegotten games that never really had their day in the sun.
Here are 11 games from 2009 that never got their day.
11. "Wolfenstein" (360, PC, PS3; August)
Notice the glowing blue skull-faced Nazi zombie on the box cover. If this doesn't scream BUY ME to you, then I'm totally de-friending you on Facebook, you unfeeling jerk of a person. This is probably my favorite box cover of 2009. Yet no one bothered to judge this book by its cover; or play this game. Part of the blame has to go on Activision. It didn't really promote "Wolfenstein" at all, and kind of just let it out the way that someone might pass gas in church. (Quietly.) But the single-player campaign, while cliched at times (lots of Nazis standing around red barrels), is still ridiculously fun. And bonus points for tossing in the weapon of the year -- the Particle Cannon -- which, quite literally, melts everything in its path.
10. "A Boy and His Blob" (Wii; October)
This is the artful story of a boy and his white blob friend from outer space. The game gets off to a slow, low-key, artful start, which I'm sure many critics never made it past before deciding to toss this game in the crap heap. I say: Stick with it. This is one of the most charming, most endearing, and best of all, funniest games of the year. Give it some love.
9. "Overlord II" (360, PC, PS3; June)
Sending your Gremlin-y Minions off to terrorize villagers was sublime fun in "Overlord," and it's even more fun in the sequel. Credit writer Rhianna Pratchett for penning some of the year's funniest dialogue. And the sight of seeing the Overlord slump into his throne for the first time? Priceless.
8. "Soulcalibur: Broken Destiny" (PSP; September)
I was really pretty burned out on the fighting-game genre in 2009, with the sole exception of this surprising effort from Namco Bandai. I loaded it up with the lowest of expectations on a road trip to PAX last year, and wound up playing it obsessively for days. And the inclusion of God of War's Kratos? That's gravy.
7. "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" (360, PC, PS3, Wii, PSP, DS; May)
Yes, it's a third-person action game. Yes, it's pretty dull and borderline crappy by most standards. Yet I found myself returning to this game again and again in 2009, especially during those midnight-to-3-a.m. gaming sessions, when I don't want/need to have my brain or my fingers taxed too much. If you're looking for fluff, you can't do much better than this.
6. "Wet" (360, PS3; September)
My attraction to the game's star, Rubi Malone -- Hi, Rubi! -- was enough to get me through the game's awkward training levels. And while the whole operation ultimately proves to be more style than substance -- including a final boss battle that turns out to be a non-starter -- when the style is this good, who cares? This was another game that I found myself returning to during the wee, small hours.
5. "PixelJunk Shooter" (PS3; December)
The words "PixelJunk" and "Q-Games" have become synonymous with humble little addictive games of incredibly high quality. (See also: "PixelJunk Eden" and "PixelJunk Monsters.") And this one is no exception. Take those bottles/cans from your awesome New Year's Eve party to the redemption center and use the money to buy this game. (It's $10.)
4. "House of the Dead: Overkill" (Wii; February)
As a general rule, all light-gun games should be ignored until further notice . . . with the glorious exception of this one. The game's seedy milieu and B-movie-caliber characters -- hello, Papa Caesar -- coupled with some decent shooting action, makes this game the equivalent of a good Chinese dinner. In other words, you'll feel full after 20 minutes of gameplay, but you'll be hungry for more in an hour or so.
3. "Wanted: Weapons of Fate" (360, PC, PS3; March)
This is one of those junky throwaway movie/comic-book tie-ins that we've all trained ourselves to ignore. The shooting action is fairly pedestrian, until the game gives you the ability to curve bullets. For anyone who has ever been annoyed by an enemy who refuses to come out from cover, this ability was made for you. Also worth mentioning: the thrilling shootout aboard an airplane, which might be the second-most exciting level of the year (after "Uncharted 2's" train level).
2. "Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time" (PS3; October)
It's easy to understand why you might have overlooked this one. Sony and Insomniac have been pumping out superb R&C games on a regular basis for eight years now. In fact, no series in history has probably ever released so many titles of such high quality in a shorter period of time. This one is the best yet. The Clank-centric time-manipulation puzzles alone -- which are as good as anything in "Portal" -- are worth the price of admission. Bonus points for my second-favorite weapon of the year: Mr. Zurkon. Buy it. Play it. Love it.
1. "The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena" (360, PC, PS3; April
Sure, part two of the disc -- "Assault on Dark Athena" -- is uneven and overly difficult. But the original, up-rezzed "Chronicles of Riddick" stands tall as one of the great action games of all time. If you haven't played it, man, are you ever in for a treat. And if you have played it, play it again. Trust me, you've forgotten how good it is.