Overall, this has been a really good year for games. Almost from January 1 we’ve been feed a constant stream of blockbusters and trusted franchises.
There’s also been a few genuine surprises. Games I really did not expect to be worthwhile when I started playing. Games I often expected to suck, but games I ended up loving.
Below are ten games released this year that turned out to be far better than the hype behind them suggested they would become. Click on the links to read Digitally Downloaded's full reviews (and thoughts) on these games.
Quite possibly the biggest game released this year, you know you’re in for a long haul when there’s a trophy for reaching level 500 and it's taken you eight hours to hit level 10. Eastasiasoft’s game is one I hadn’t even heard of before I logged in to the PSN to find it on sale.
Naturally I’m suspicious of any game I haven’t heard of prior to release – if it’s that great why wasn’t there a greater marketing campaign behind it? Luckily for me I took a risk and downloaded it anyway, because this is one of the most addictive grindfests I’ve played in years.
Battle Chess is like the B-grade zombie movie of Chess games – it hides an utter lack of depth behind an amusing premise. You don’t buy these games for their highly skilled AI, no, you buy them to watch chess pieces beat one another up.
Battle Vs. Chess turned that notion on its head. Here is a game with reasonably challenging AI and some really great alternative ways to play Chess. I play a lot of Chess games. This one somehow managed to land at the top, against all odds.
Fortune Street in America is a game I didn’t necessarily expect to suck, but given Nintendo character’s heritage in digital board games (Mario Party), I went in expecting a very simplified board game. When I heard there were no minigames I wondered what the point of this game was going to be.
Luckily it turned out to be one of the deepest Monopoly clones you’re ever going to find.
This is a unique game for me. I played the Japanese version and absolutely hated it. Then the English version came along and I really didn’t expect my opinion to be any different.
But it was. Pandora’s Tower has the most breathtaking, heartfelt plot in a game that I’ve ever experienced and I lost a lot of that thanks to a weak understanding of Japanese. And now Pandora’s Tower us up there with my favourite Wii games of all.
Like most people, I went into Lollipop Chainsaw expecting a terribly limited game that was more interested in selling sex than interesting gameplay.
So I was more than pleasantly surprised when I realised that Lollipop Chainsaw was a fine example of post-modernism self-referential plotting. Everything about the lead character, Juliet, is empowered, intelligent and genuinely funny.
The original Shinobido on the PSP was a buggy, dull game. The sequel, contrary to the popular critical opinion, is actually quite a lot of fun. It’s a simple stealth game and there’s the occasional moment of frustration, but for the most part the short-and-sharp missions structure works well for the Vita.
Following on from the PSP game, I really didn’t expect the improvement that we saw in this game. I’ve got my fingers crossed for a third game, because I really think it could go places.
A hardcore faming simulator? That was always going to be a niche game, and I went into this one expecting it to be really, really dull.
Luckily the opposite was true. There is something therapeutic from the game’s casual pace and travelling around an environment that looks a little like a model diorama.
The best comparison I can have to this game is the model train hobby. To most people it seems quite dull, but for the niche, there’s something compelling about the abstract recreation of the life of a farmer.
I played this game only after seeing the critical panning it go, and so I went in expecting a game that was essentially broken.
But it wasn’t. It is simply misunderstood – likely because of the name. People expected a hardcore, difficult game thanks to that “Ninja Gaiden” name. What they got was a graceful, elegant study in movement that was more about the spectacle than the challenge.
Which played right into the kind of game I like to play. I think this is the game where my personal opinion has differed the most to the game’s critical and mass-market opinion.
I can honestly say I didn’t expect much from this game. On paper and in screenshots it looked like little more than a Civilization clone, with fantasy tropes thrown in.
Considering how good Civilization V is, being an inferior clone is not really a good place to be. Thankfully, Warlock was more than a mere clone of the strategy giant. It shared some similarities, yes, but at the time time it had a soul and personality of its own, and thanks to some superb balancing, it was a great game to play in its own right.
This game took a long time to come out in Australia/ Europe. After getting slaughtered critically in the US I went into this game expecting a very bad game. Now, I don’t know if that extra time was used for further development, but Daggerdale is not terrible. It’s not great, and it’s a poor use of the Dungeons & Dragons license, but as a hack-and-slash, it’s a solid few hours of delving fun.
And that’s at for me, time to turn it over to the comments – have you ever started playing a game you expected to be quite bad, and then discovered that you actually quite enjoyed it? Let us know!