28 Strange Games for 2008

vashivihan

Let There Be Rock
Oct 24, 2007
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t’s often said that the mainstream games industry is pushing quirky games to the edge of extinction. This is a lie. There are more weird and wonderful games than ever before, and they become weirder and more wondrous every year.

To prove the point, we’ve gathered a list of 28 Strange Games that are due out in 2008. They’ve all got something different and unique to offer, and all of them are worth checking out…

1. Aquaria

The concept: An action adventure in a richly detailed underwater environment.

Why it’s different: Aquaria gives you the impression of being immersed in a vast, internally consistent eco-system. Colourful life-forms roam through the non-linear environments, and the main character, some kind of mermaid/sea devil called Naija, can interact with them by singing.

Why it’s worth playing: When they switched from 2D to 3D, the mainstream Ecco The Dolphin style games lost a good deal of their naturalistic charm. Aquaria is taking it back. Aquaria is gorgeous.

2. Beautiful Katamari

The concept: Roll up everyday objects in a magically sticky ball to please your father, the King of All Cosmos.

Why it’s different: So far, there has only been one line of games in the roll-up-a-magically-sticky-ball category. This claim to uniqueness is amplified by a freaky art style: the main character appears to have a bon-bon for a head. With the debut of the Katamari Damacy phenomenon on the Xbox 360, its uncanny challenges and unsettling graphics are beholden to a whole new audience.

Why it’s worth playing: Rolling up every object you can in a Katamari is a lot of fun. It appeals to one’s sense of order to tidy up the game world, and striving for the biggest possible ball is an addictive challenge. Plus: it’s freaky to look at.

3. Braid

The concept: A 2D platform game where you solve puzzles by rewinding the flow of time.

Why it’s different: Unlike, say, the recent Prince of Persia games, time reversal doesn’t affect all objects equally – some stay where they are, unmoved by your time fiddling. Hence, complex puzzles arise from the simplest elements. The art style is refreshing, too, with backgrounds from edgy web cartoonist David Hellman.

Why it’s worth playing: Some games look so strange, and have such a genre-busting premise, that you can’t not give them a go.



4: Cooking Mama 2

The concept: Complete simple mini-game challenges to prepare delicious-looking virtual meals.

Why it’s different: Cooking Mama translates the random, offbeat nature of Japanese-style ‘bishi-bashi’ games into the kitchen. Each level is a cornucopia of colour, and each success is met with explosions of confetti, sparkles, stars, and dancing gingerbread men in little chef’s hats. It doesn’t take itself remotely seriously.

Why it’s worth playing: It’s deceptively difficult, and surprisingly addictive. There are 80 recipes to master, made up of 150-odd mini-games, plus the madness can be spawned to up to three other DS consoles for multi-player insanity. A substantial challenge.

Further reading: Review.

5: de Blob

The concept: As a bouncing blob, you must splatter paint on every surface in a world robbed of colour.

Why it’s different: Originally coded as a student project, de Blob subsequently earned a cult following on the internet. You move by bouncing, and the buildings of the urban environments you play in offer plenty of launching points, and plenty of surfaces to smother with colour. There are also elements of ‘synthenesia,’ as successful movements in succession create melodic patterns. To put it another way, you can ‘see the music.’

Why it’s worth playing: de Blob promises a relaxing, free-forming style of play with an all-ages appeal. It also borrows some ideas from Wizball, one of the best games ever.

6. Eternity’s Child

The concept: A side-scrolling platformer with nice painted visuals.

Why it’s different: The quality of the artwork in this title can’t be stressed enough. Luc Bernard’s project looks like a delightful children’s book come to life. For all the graphical power available today, it’s surprising how few games companies actually make games that are nice to look at.

Why it’s worth playing: Delectable graphics – all the signs point to a gaming experience susceptible to chemical enhancement.

7. Exit DS

The concept: A platform game where you guide civilians out of disaster areas to safety.

Why it’s different: Exit is such a curt, demanding challenge – it’s basically a puzzle game in a platformer’s clothing. The visuals are rendered in an atomic-era ultra-stylised fashion, like the end credits of The Incredibles. Funky jet-age presentation and ultra-lounge music complete the snazzy package.

Why it’s worth playing: It’s a difficult, lasting challenge with loads of levels. The PSP versions let you download new content; hopefully this feature will make it to the DS.

8. Fez

The concept: A pixel art platform game where you can play tricks with perspective to reach inaccessible areas.

Why it’s different: It’s a bit like Super Paper Mario, in that you can snap between different 2D perspectives of a 3D game world. Once locked in to a given view, perspective no longer has any meaning, and you can jump on ‘distant’ objects.

Why it’s worth playing: Sure, it’s another conspicuously arty, independent production, but it touches on a gameplay model seldom seen since the days of Nebulus.

9. Gravitation

The concept: A pixel art platform game with a moral about the creative process.

Why it’s different: Programmer Jason Rohrer’s specialty is making superficially simple video games that trick you into thinking about the big, serious issues. Gravitation mirrors his own creative process, with his abilities constantly hemmed in by a black fog of depression.

Why it’s worth playing: The pixel art is nice, the looping music is haunting, and the premise is deceptively straightforward. It’s freeware, too, and takes very little of your time; you’ll ‘get’ it inside of five minutes.

10. Grimm

The concept: A 24-part episodic adventure where you must purge fairy tales of their modern niceties, returning them to their bloody, Brothers Grimm roots.

Why it’s different: Blood, blood, and more blood. Free from id, free from EA, notorious game designer American McGee has been able to indulge in his goriest fantasies with Grimm. It was programmed in Red China to keep costs down, but we’ll let that slide.

Why it’s worth playing: Skewering political correctness is always worthwhile. The big question is whether this is the American McGee that made Doom, or the American McGee that made Bad Day LA.

11. Heavy Rain

The concept: A choose-your-own-adventure game with ultra-realistic graphics.

Why it’s different: Heavy Rain is the latest adventure game from Quantic Dream, the iconoclastic French development house that brought us Fahrenheit and Omikron: The Nomad Soul. They specialise in unsettling, mature subject matter, avant-garde visuals, and making games that rate highly and sell poorly. Little is known, but the character graphics are supposedly so advanced that they can act as well as real humans.

Why it’s worth playing: We’ll concede that Quantic Dream’s games have been consistently flawed and/or not to everyone’s tastes, but this one will be useful for showing off your PS3’s graphics, and writing highly opinionated forum posts afterwards.

12. Love

The Concept: A completely algorithmically generated MMO.

Why it’s different: Love is a collaborative, co-operative massively multiplayer online game being coded by a single man. Its visuals are not pre-rendered or drawn, but concocted on-the-fly by formulae. Oh, and the whole thing looks like an impressionist painting.

Why it’s worth playing: It’s a stupendously ambitious project, and so vaguely described it could actually be a hoax. Oh well – even if it crashes and burns, at least it looks gorgeous.

13. Major Minor's Majestic March

The concept: Using your Wii Remote as a baton, you must lead a marching band down the path to musical splendour.

Why it’s different: Not only is this the first marching band rhythm action game for the Wii, it is as far as we know the first marching band rhythm action game in history. The character designs will be by New York artist Rodney Greenblat, and the music and gameplay will be by Masaya Matsuura, who’s brought us top music games like Um Jammer Lammy.

Why it’s worth playing: This game sees the return of one of the most dynamic duos in gaming, the creators of Parappa the Rapper. MMMM is sure to feature catchy music, off-the-wall humour, and visuals that are unique and pleasing to the eye. Above all else, expect FUN.

14. Metal Gear Solid 4

The Concept: Tactical espionage action, now with porous factional fighting, optical camouflage, and more cyborgs and gay vampires than ever before.

Why it’s different:
MGS4-1.jpg

MGS4-2.jpg

MGS4-3.jpg

Why it’s worth playing: Do you even have to ask?


15. Multiwinia

The concept: A real-time strategy game where the virtual people of a computer world have gone to war. The multi-player version of Darwinina.

Why it’s different: Multiwinia mostly qualifies on the graphics front, evoking a computer world of neon vector graphics. The Darwinians themselves are stylised in the extreme, 2D cut-outs that appear to be made of just ten oversized pixels each. Their world draws from Tron, Wargames, and the gaming aesthetics of a forgotten age.

Why it’s worth playing: Introversion don’t do bad games. They don’t do anything unless it is artistically spectacular, intriguing to play, and unique.

16. Mystery Detective II

The Concept: A point-and-click mystery-solving adventure, where you have to touch just about everything. Known as ‘Touch Detective 2 1⁄2’ in the US.

Why it’s different: The characters seem to have stepped out of a dark and freakish parody of a children’s book, the kind the Addam’s Family kids might have in their library. The simple settings and conversation trees belie puzzles that are obtuse in the extreme. Extensive use is made of the touch screen, and the overall atmosphere is really something else.

Why it’s worth playing: It’s funny, challenging, and conjures up it’s own strange little world. A caveat, here – all reports indicate that it’s just as frustrating as the first Mystery Detective. If you were put off before, it’ll happen again.

17. N+

The concept: A physics-based platform action game. You control a death-prone ninja with a strict time limit.

Why it’s different: Today’s game designers all too often sacrifice game design on an altar of graphics. N+ is the exact opposite. The tiny size of the ninja himself means the static-screen levels are effectively huge. The high-speed play and killer robots make it an odd cross between Sonic the Hedgehog and Impossible Mission.

Why it’s worth playing: N+ will kick your arse. It’s really, really difficult. But as you learn to work the physics of the game world to your advantage, you’ll get drawn in to its infinite possibilities.


18. No More Heroes

The concept: A free-roaming mission-based action game with ten epic boss battles to conquer.

Why it’s different: It’s from the mind of Goichi Suda, one of the strangest game designers alive. The visuals and structure are a high-contrast parody of video games, and the hero is a parody of the men who play them. Violent and depraved, Travis Touchdown is the most morally dubious game hero since Duke Nukem – and just about the funniest, too.

Why it’s worth playing: The hack-and-slash action is quite good, the Wii Remote controls are innovative, and the story is hilarious – you’ll feel compelled to smash every challenge so you can move on to the next.

Further Reading: Hands-On Preview.

19. Odin Sphere

The concept: A 2D, side-scrolling RPG action game.

Why it’s different: Reports of the death of 2D gaming are greatly exaggerated. Odin Sphere leverages absolutely gorgeous jumbo character bitmaps to illustrate a deep and varied combat RPG. Each level is flat, but loops (like in Defender) adding the need for a degree of planning and tactical awareness. A principal form of attack is planting fruit that eat the souls of your enemies. Oh, and your hit points earn experience, too.

Why it’s worth playing: Odin Sphere has rated highly everywhere it has been reviewed, and even featured in a strip at Penny Arcade. Sure, we’re getting it a year after the Americans. So what else is new?



20. Patapon

The concept: A god game where you send an army of primitives to war against rival tribes and monsters.

Why it’s different: Your little men, designed by the French graphic artist Rolito, are giant eyeballs with little arms and legs. The monochrome graphical style uses a unique technique that makes everything look like shadow puppets. Oddest of all is the control method – rhythm action. You tap the face buttons to create a Congo-Bongo beat, changing your tune to give specific orders.

Why it’s worth playing: You actually feel like a god! Your Patapon followers chant like loyal children to your beat, fighting at your command and praising your victories. They love you, and it’s easy to love them back!

Further reading: Review.


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28 Strange Games for 2008

Think originality in gaming is dead? Think again…

by: James Cottee 06/03/2008

21. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Trials And Tribulations

The concept: A role-playing adventure where you become a lawyer.

Why it’s different: The Ace Attorney games have a distinct gameplay model, alternating between exploring crime scenes for clues and cross-examining witnesses in court. While many peculiarities of Japanese culture don’t translate perfectly, the slapstick comedy comes through loud and clear. The characters are great, the music is catchy, and the puzzles are devious.

Why it’s worth playing: Trials and Tribulations is the third in the Phoenix Wright trilogy, and wraps up the story with an epic, cathartic conclusion. The whole series is hilarious, addictive, and sick.



22. PixelJunk Eden

The concept: A cross between Spore and Bionic Commando.

Why it’s different: Those genres are seldom imitated, and we’re pretty sure they’ve never been combined. Towering, wafting microscopic plants are viewed side-on, as the player controls a speck that can shoot out a tendril to grab objects and swing about. Life evolves and forms all around, constantly creating new opportunities for exploration.

Why it’s worth playing: We’ve only seen a few seconds of footage – this game could turn out to be anything, really. But it’s from the same team that made PixelJunk Monsters, which is as good a pedigree as you can hope for in DLC innovation.



23. Professor Layton and the Mysterious Village

The concept: Plot progress results from interacting with eccentric villagers and solving their brain-teasing puzzles.

Why it’s different: You know those puzzles where there are a few matchsticks laid out to make a certain number of boxes, and you have to move, say, two matchsticks to make a different number of boxes? Everyone in the Mysterious Village loves the things, hence an extensive workout for the touch screen of your DS – and your brain.

Why it’s worth playing: The soothing visual presentation and the twisting story, but mostly for the puzzles.

24. Rez HD

The Concept: Soar through cyberspace, blasting enemy entities in time to the music.

Why it’s different: The basic game elements are stock-standard: it’s an on-rails shooter with multiple target lock-on firing, boss battles, and an adaptive difficulty level. Yet the game events don’t intrude on the trance soundtrack, only enhance it. The graphics are nothing short of stunning, too, echoing the high-impact sequences of TRON and The Matrix.

Why it’s worth playing: A game where aural and graphical fidelity are core to the experience is now playable in high-def with 5.1 sound. Not a groat of the 360’s power is wasted.



25. Riff: Everyday Shooter

The concept: A static screen shoot-em-up where you move your ship with the left stick and fire with the right.

Why it’s different: Everyday Shooter is structured like an album. Each level is set to a different (exquisite) guitar tune, and each level plays exactly as long as the track, regardless of how well you’re doing. Each level not only has different enemies, but a completely different chaining system. There are no explosions or lasers to distract from the music, and all the FX are guitar sounds, too. Oh, and the whole game was programmed by one man.

Why it’s worth playing: Because it’s awesome – we’ve been playing it in the office more than any other game this year. It’s cheap, too.

Further Reading: Review.

26. Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3

The concept: A Japanese RPG where you go to school by day and slay monsters by night.

Why it’s different: This Atlus title uses a novel character development system – you boost your monster-fighting stats by performing normal school activities. Also, said super powers are activated by shooting yourself in the head. No kidding. This oft-repeated, intentionally disturbing imagery naturally eclipses the game’s other noteworthy features (daring graphic design, stark lighting, pretty girls, dating game elements, etc).

Why it’s worth playing: Shin Megami Tensei RPGs have earned a loyal following for their involving combat. Persona 3 combines aspects of JRPGs and dating sims – two obsessive hobbies for the price of one!


27. Triggerheart Exelica

The concept: A vertically-scrolling shoot-em-up where you can swing out a grapple to grab enemies units. Once caught, enemies can be used to block incoming fire, or hurled back into the fray as projectiles themselves.

Why it’s different: Most vertically-scrolling shooters don’t let you do that. Also, the two ships you can choose from are ‘Mecha Musume’, a concoction and a fetish peculiar to Japan. They don’t look like space fighters; they look like pretty girls wearing bad Halloween costumes of space fighters.

Why it’s worth playing: Granted, it’s not actually that great, but Japanese weirdness brooks no compromises, and requires no explanation. Even if you don’t get it, there’s the perverse spectacle of it all.



28. Zack & Wiki

The concept: A point-and-click adventure with lots of problem solving.

Why it’s different: Zack & Wiki requires a lot of ‘lateral thinking,’ which is a nice way of saying that it’s ‘maddeningly difficult’ and it will have you ‘tearing your hair out.’ Places and characters are so chirpy and colourful it’s disturbing, and the motion mini-games contrast starkly with the merciless brain-bending. Like a cross between Monkey Island and Wario Ware.

Why it’s worth playing: It’s bloody strange, bloody challenging, and bloody hilarious. They may never make another Monkey Island, but 40-odd hours of this madness is a good substitute.

Honourable mention: Portal 2
Valve has confirmed the existence of Portal 2, but no other details are forthcoming. It could come out in 2009, or 2010. The guys at Valve make a fortune from digital distribution on Steam, so they never need to rush their games – Team Fortress 2 took eight years. We don’t know when, but we do know we can expect it. We can also expect excellence.

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Atomheart

M'bating to Z Suit Samus
Jul 30, 2007
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Skorp said:
I wish it said which system each of those was on.

Yeah, what were they thinking? That seems like a REALLY obvious oversight on their part. Silly Aussies.
 

CantGetAWii

WiiChat Member
Dec 22, 2006
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Wii Online Code
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Australia gets Zack and Wiki in 2008? I guess they do get things late, but thats quite late it seems.

Decent list though.
 
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