What’s going on this month? Within just the span of a few weeks we get:
- Geometry Wars 2 (XBLA)
- Pixeljunk Eden (PSN)
- Braid (XBLA)
- Bionic Commando: Rearmed (XBLA/PSN)
- Ratchet and Clank: Quest for Booty (PSN)
- Castle Crashers (XBLA)
Geometry Wars 2 and Braid are not just some of the best downloadable games I’ve played, they’re some of the best games overall that I’ve played all year. I loved the demo for Eden, but haven’t had a chance to purchase the whole game yet in the midst of the other great releases. IGN has already reviewed Bionic Commando: Rearmed, and while one review does not a game make (nor do several reviews sometimes), they say it’s the best downloadable game made so far. Certainly, Castle Crashers has been highly anticipated for quite awhile and R&C: QfB looks as high-quality as any previous title in the series.
Obviously, there are still some differences of what can really be done with a high-profile, big-budget game and the typically smaller-budget downloadable titles, but with games like Ratchet and Clank: Quest for Booty coming out, even that line is starting to blur. There’s no question about it, this is a great slate of games.
What’s most heartening about this list is that (outside of R&C) it proves that great 2d games can still be made for the current console generation. While Nintendo’s portable platforms have sort of been the place for great 2d gaming this ever since the 3d console revolution started, and XBLA, PSN, and the Virtual Console have sort of been a place for some quick and fun 2d-games, somehow this recent crop of games seems a bit different. In the past, I think these games were always held in sort of a “secondary” mindset. Games like Halo 3, Gears of War, and Bioshock were sort of the “core” game experiences to be had on the system and the downloadable games were just fun diversions to keep you busy between major releases. But Braid and Geometry Wars 2 are now the #8 and #13 ranked games on Metacritic respectively, holding their own against the big guns like Halo 3, CoD4, Mass Effect, Rock Band, and others. They seem like “core” experiences just like the others. So not only are these games “just” lower-budgeted downloadable games, they’re 2d AND ranked as high as some of the best big-budget, 3d, full $60 retail games. That’s impressive.
I’ll grant that these downloadable games are probably rated on a different scale than the full-priced retail games, even if reviewers try not to. Reviewers will tend to rate games relative to their market, meaning that a 9.0 DVD game is not necessarily the same as a 9.0 handheld game, which is also not the same as a 9.0 downloadable game. This, of course, makes some sense as you wouldn’t expect the same kind of graphics, for instance, in a handheld game as you would a console game, so in some ways what metacritic is doing here isn’t fair. Still, what other games have come out or are coming out this year that are likely to be as good as Geometry Wars 2 and Braid, or as highly anticipated (by the internet community at least) as Castle Crashers? I can probably count them on one hand.
And with these games as good as they are and already getting to the point where they can nearly match the quality of DVD-based games, does anyone seriously think that downloadable games won’t be an even bigger deal in the next generation? We all knew that downloads were the future, but I wasn’t sure that we’d quite be there yet with the next generation. It’s probably still unlikely that the next generation of consoles will completely forgo disc-based media, but it also wouldn’t surprise me any more if most new releases also had a direct download option as many PC releases have today now. It feels like something is starting with these games, and perhaps this is more indicative of why Braid is such a big deal.Posted in Jeff, Online, PSN, Xbox Live |