Staff writer Andrew Passafiume shares his thoughts on five recent games you should play but probably missed. Do you agree with his selections? What are your under-the-radar favorites?
The Sky Crawlers: Innocent Aces (Wii)
This is a game that completely took me by surprise, and one that is relatively cheap now. Innocent Aces is the first and only game based on the Sky Crawlers anime, and it takes full advantage of the Wii’s motion controls, adding a new layer of depth to what could be just another flight combat game.
Although you can use the Classic Controller, once you get accustomed to the motion controls, you will realize just how intuitive they can be. And with plenty of variety in the missions, lots to unlock, and a nice supporting cast of characters, this is one Wii game that is not worth missing.
Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon (Wii)
Fragile Dreams is an RPG at its core, but it is wrapped around in a post apocalyptic horror world full of ghouls and ghosts. Although Fragile Dreams is not a game for everyone, with a very bleak and sometimes incredibly depressing atmosphere and plenty of backtracking to be had, it has a lot going for it as well.
The story is compelling, the characters are all very likeable, and the world (despite its really sullen nature) is really intriguing to explore. The combat is far from excellent, but it does its job well enough, and you will find yourself intrigued enough by this setting to want to continue exploring until you reach the very end. And despite it being an RPG at heart, it is a fairly short game for its genre, so it never gets too bogged down and continues to move at a fairly fast past right until the final fight.
Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing (360/PS3/Wii/PC)
I never thought that a complete Mario Kart rip-off starring Sega characters would work, but Sega and Sumo Digital’s racing title is full of charm and plenty of fun to be had. It takes the basic kart based racing structure established by Mario Kart, but puts a very fun Sega spin on everything. It doesn’t do many original things, but it manages to refine the formula and make a racer that I consider even better than the latest Mario Kart title.
There are plenty of characters to choose from, a lot of them being from Sega classics that only the most die-hard fans might recognize. Sadly, the game failed to sell that well, but I think those looking for a nice Mario Kart alternative will find a lot to like here.
The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom (XBLA/PC)
This is a genius little puzzle game that reminded me a lot of 2008’s indie hit, Braid. This game revolves around Mr. P.B. Winterbottom and his endless quest to steal and consume pie from all around the world. On his journey, he encounters an evil pie and somehow gains the ability to create clones of himself. The story is ridiculous, but it makes for a very entertaining game.
Using Winterbottom’s new ability, you are able to solve many tricky puzzles in five different worlds. Each world has a specific theme to it that lends itself to puzzle solving, and they all take quite a bit of practice to get down. Like Braid, the game will fill you with a true sense of satisfaction once you solve a difficult puzzle, and it’s just the perfect length for a downloadable release.
Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love (PS2/Wii)
This is still one of the best games of the year so far, and it definitely stands out from the crowd as being one of the very few “dating sims” to ever be released stateside. The game is definitely very heavily focused on the social (or dating) sim aspect, but it never feels dull or boring as every character you encounter is brimming with incredibly charming personalities.
There is a strategy RPG portion, which isn’t based on levels but instead your relationship to the other characters. You will be able to perform certain moves which will either deal more or less damage depending on how close you are to each character you perform them with. It’s a fantastic system that seems to work no matter how you decide to play the game. Whether or not we will ever see another Sakura Wars game released outside of Japan remains a mystery, but you owe it to yourself to check out this buried treasure.