I don’t know about you but as each year goes by, it seems we’re getting more and more creative downloadable content. 2012 was no exception and if I could, I would give an award to each of the items below. Innovation, creativity, and most importantly, fun factor are the calling cards of each item in this list. I know many of you have The Walking Dead on your short list but I’m one of those rare players who just has not gotten around to playing it yet so you won’t find it below. Still, I feel like there’s quite a few worthy of this award so lets take a look.
And the nominees are:
I don’t know how but Red Lynx managed to improve an already addictive and fun game. Evolution basically takes the core game and expands upon it with new racing locations, better graphics, a more focused single player campaign, a massive track editor and a brand new multiplayer modes. Couple all that with the already addictive gameplay formula and you have a game that’ll keep you occupied for a long, long time. Racing your friends times have never been this addictive before. You may also want to bring a few more controllers with you for those hard and extreme tracks. Trust me.
Thatgamecompany is one of my favorite developers as they create some seriously unique experiences. Starting for flOw and then moving to Flower, Journey is their latest title and it doesn’t skimp on being unique and downright beautiful. Even though the game clocks in around two hours long, that shouldn’t stop you from playing this gem. Journey engages you and never lets up as the music and art style mesh together to form a really unique and personal experience. It also comes with a very interesting multiplayer co-op element as another player can populate your world though the only communication allowed is from a “ping” noise. It sounds strange but when this restriction is in play, it forces some really unique experiences from players. You can tell, Journey has been meticulously crafted and a definite labor of love.
Fez released this year with about 5 years worth of hype on it. When I first saw gameplay for Fez, it just about warped my mind. Here you have a very retro looking 2D game that presents the player with platforming and puzzles. If you get stuck in the world, you can turn the perspective so it’s like you’re looking at another side of a cube. This changes the landscape so platforms that were once so far apart are now touching. It’s a wild concept and one that really pushes a sense of wonder and joy.
Batman: Arkham City – Harley Quinn’s Revenge
I mean, getting more of a good thing is never bad right? I love Arkham City, and I even named it as my Game of the Year last year. Since that point, Rocksteady seemed to be content on releasing more challenge maps. Then they went dark and everyone thought that was it. As it turns out, that was not the case. Harley Quinn’s Revenge gives gamers another single player story campaign as it picks up after the end moments of the main game’s story (which I won’t get into for spoilerish reasons). While it doesn’t give Batman access to anything new in terms of gadgets but this is the first time, players are able to use Robin who does manage to mix up the playstyle from the Dark Knight. And hey, it’s more delicious Arkham goodness and in my book, that’s never a bad thing.
Mark of the Ninja
Coming from the guys over at Klei Entertainment who were responsible for both Shank games, Mark of the Ninja retains that beautiful art style but has gameplay that is about as opposite as you can go from Shank. Instead of being an all out beat-em-up, Ninja focuses on the shadows and stealth. You play as a ninja who has received a tattoo know as the “Mark” which allows the wearer special skills, though it’ll eventually drive them crazy. The biggest thing about Mark is that it’s a true stealth game presented in 2D. Klei manages to convey the normal difficult Stealth gameplay in a very informative design element so typical tricky elements such as sound level are presented with a radius. It’s this informative visual design element that really eliminates those frustrating mechanics. Players are also awarded points which help unlock additional things like new moves and outfits. The game plays great, looks great, and really revolutionizes the stealth genre.
Dust: An Elysian Tail
As I mentioned in a previous article, Dust was the game I had the least amount of knowledge about from this past Summer of Arcade promotion but when it was all said and done, it was easily my most favorite of the bunch. Dust is a labor of love coming from Dean Dodrill taking over three and a half years to complete. It’s a 2D action platformer which also employs RPG elements and backtracking similar to games like Castlevania and Metroid. It’s also worth mentioning that the art style is simply gorgeous and still puts me in awe just thinking that one person did this. It’s crazy.
It really was a great year for PSN titles and Sound Shapes is no exception to this fact. This is one of those titles which simply defies any description I could give it. It’s like a platformer and music game mixed together to form something amazing. You basically play as a blob looking to get to the end of a level. The catch here is that as you collect these orbs, more and more musical elements are added to the background song until you have something really complex and dynamic. It’s pretty much like the world you’re in is made of the music playing. Sound Shapes also brings big artists to the table creating different albums (represent levels) for the player to not only play through but experience. You’ll be playing through worlds inspired by Beck, Deadmau5, and Jim Guthrie to name a few. Each album has a unique look to it and takes inspiration from the music that’s being created. Not only that, the game comes with a level editor, a community section, and side content like Beat School and the difficult Death Mode as well.
I never thought I’d see the arcadey goodness of this over the top football game ever since Midway went under. EA grabbed the license, gave it to EA Tiberon and surprisingly them managed to release a game that stays pretty true to what we remember from back in the day. You have the same big hits, the same over the top plays, and the same addictive fun, especially when playing with friends. Madden this is not. Here, you’re going for 30 yards instead of the 10 for a first down and most of the time, scores will be in the high 40s. Blitz is a wonderful alternative to those of you that prefer crazy moves and huge hits to the realism from Madden.
And the award for Best Downloadable Content goes to….
Winner: Sound Shapes
This one was so close it went down to the wire. I found myself going back and forth between a number of the above games like Mark of the Ninja and Trials Evolution. Frankly, this is easily one of the most difficult awards to pick but ultimately I selected Sound Shapes. So what put it over the top? While it may not be technically the most impressive game on this list in terms of gameplay, it’s a game that is just something I’ve never experienced before and for me, that really was the deciding factor. Sound Shapes brought together fantastic music, beautiful visuals, and just a joy that pushed it to the front of the pack. It’s also a game where I didn’t mind missing a jump or redoing a section over and over because I was just having so much fun. If you haven’t checked this out yet on PSN, I emplore you to do so.