Ones to Watch:
Two music games? Seriously? Look, you're just going to have to trust me (and a slew of praise) on this one. It takes your favorite guilty pleasure pop and pop-rock songs (the ones you'd never in a million years admit to liking) and turns them into a rhythmic, screen-tapping competition against a constant countdown. It's a fun and frantic diversion with a selection of silly scenarios and charming graphics, as well as one heartfelt (if not a bit emotionally manipulative) sequence set to Elton John's "You're the Inspiration." Don't say I didn't warn you.
If you have even a passing interest in role-playing games, you owe it to yourself to pick this one up. Not only does it include all of the base game's expansions (Shadows of Undrentide, Hordes of the Underdark, and the Kingmaker mini-plots), but there is an absurdly vast library of user-created content out there to pillage and plunder. You can find something that scratches whatever itch you may have, be it comedic or serious, dark action or puzzling investigation. Further, it comes with the tools you need to make your own scenarios. There's a reason BioWare still uses this game's toolset to test many of its design applicants.
Now available either on the PC through various digital download destinations or on your home consoles in glorious high definition, Beyond Good & Evil was one of the most commercially underappreciated titles of the last console generation. After a weak launch, its price plummeted as it stuck ardently to retailers' shelves, despite sweeping critical praise for a game that seemed to have it all: Zelda-esque combat and exploration, a complex and engaging world with a unique and interesting back-story, anthropomorphic animals, and, most surprising of all, a strong female protagonist who was not cast as a mere object to be sexualized or scorned by the men in the game.
With its MMO sequel out the gate and sucking up players' time like no other, maybe it's time for you to take a step back and see where the story began. Based on the Star Wars d20 role-playing game system, Knights of the Old Republic is as much Baldur's Gate meets Star Wars as anything else. It's a long journey across varied and exciting planets (except Manaan) with a deep plot, powerful writing, excellent characterizations and one of the most genuinely surprising twists in gaming. Besides, you could probably use a break from Ilum about now, no?
Only on PC is this available as a standalone title, and so only on the PC does this qualify. Portal was, if anything, a neat bonus for those who were looking to purchase the Orange Box. It certainly wasn't the core incentive, with more weight falling on the highly anticipated releases of Team Fortress 2 and Half-Life 2: Episode Two. Well, of those three titles, only one has a sequel on shelves today. Portal was Valve knocking one out of the park, striking a surprisingly deep emotional chord with a story told primarily through implication. The character of GlaDOS is now part of the cultural zeitgeist and shows no signs of going away anytime soon, and the portal gun proved to be an exemplary weapon, relying on one's mind instead of one's reflexes to solve brain-twisting puzzles. If you haven't played this one yet, now's the absolute best time to do so.
Date: January 18, 2012
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central.*