Action & Adventure
Castle Crashers — $15
It’s a pity it took the Behemoth’s Castle Crashers nearly two years to debut on the PS3 despite its initial 2008 release on the Xbox Live Arcade. It’s one of the best side-scrolling beat ’em ups on any platform, founded in a fantastically absurd medieval world of magic and knighthood, and bolstered by shinning character progression and a quirky sense of humor that remains authentically crude from start to finish. The plot isn’t anything spectacular — it revolves around four knights who must reclaim their respective princesses, overthrow a dark sorcerer, and retrieve a stolen gem — but the chaotic gameplay and crisp, cartoonish flare help produce a standout that easily exceeds lead artist Dan Paladin’s previous work with Alien Hominid. It’s challenging, whether playing alone or with up to three other players locally or via Xbox Live, and produces ample replay value given the sheer amount of unlockable characters available and additional content.
Shadow of the Colossus — $10 ($5 with PlayStation Plus)
Considering the entire premise of Shadow of the Colossus revolves around the merciless slaying of 16 giant beings known as Colossi, it’s somewhat ironic to call the HD remake of the former PS2 title a strange beast. The plot is intentionally full of holes and trivial obstacles, leaving the player with a wide-open sense of wonderment and a sole goal to track down the aforementioned beasts in the hopes of bringing a girl back to life. The larger-than-life gameplay was—and still is— unparalleled, whirling around breathtaking atmospheric landscapes and epic cinematography, while essentially redefining what a boss battle can be. Encounters with the various beasts are puzzling, laced with swelling musical tension and often long-fought combat scenarios, and offer an almost cerebral experience at times. The drawback? The game is still too short despite the framerate and general visual overhaul.
Journey — $15
Thatgamecompany’s Journey often seems more like a work of art than a game, but who’s to say they can’t be one in the same? You play as a lone, red-cloaked figure traversing an enormous wasteland, constantly moving through fallen remnants of a once-thriving civilization toward an ever-foreboding mountain constantly spewing a ray of light from its peaked crevice. Other players occasionally wander into your world—and you theirs—but you cannot speak to them, nor do they feature any sort of identifying tag. Yet, it’s the lack of a coherent narrative and dialogue that make the gorgeously-crafted title that much more intriguing. The Grammy-nominated soundtrack is fittingly dynamic and enthralling, regardless of you’re gliding through the desert or sliding through an ancient temple, but the game is plagued by its short, three-hour duration. However, if wanting more is the only the only notable drawback featured in our Journey review, then I’d say the PS3 exclusive is in pretty good shape.
The Walking Dead — Free
With an entire media franchise currently in full swing, it’s safe to say Robert Kirkman’s award-winning zombie series has become more than a mere comic. The storyline, founded in partnership with Telltale Games, follows convicted criminal Lee Everett and a young girl in the events preceding the story of Deputy Sheriff Rick Grimes & Co, with a detailed plot dictated and tailored by the player’s actions and various decisions within the world. The dialogue is superbly executed, as are the frantic action sequences, and the character design is some of the best we’ve ever seen in a title. It’s true the controls can be rather sluggish, the fixed camera angles an utter nuisance, but the game is adorned by gorgeous, cell-shaded graphics that manage to make a ravaged apocalyptic landscape look inviting (a feat hard to do with the undead). Check out our full-length Walking Dead Game, Season 1 review for a detailed look as to why the game garnered our first perfect score.
Tokyo Jungle — $15
If there ever was a title on our roundup where one-of-a-kind gameplay had the ability to trump graphical presentation, Tokyo Jungle would be it. Set in post-apocalyptic Tokyo more than a decade after human abandonment, players can take on the role of 50 different animals as they attempt to survive on the mean streets using a combination of stealth and combat. The Survival mode is lengthy and laden with unlockables, while the time-consuming Story mode offers a set of specified set of scenarios and encounters pertaining to differing, individual creatures. It’s a game of routine and rank, governed by time and food, with plenty of challenges to spare. The overall mechanics can be lackluster and grueling at times, whether playing as a grazer or a predator, but the bizarre and outlandish nature of the title are what set it apart. Take a look out our Tokyo Jungle review, but trust me, you’ve likely never played anything like it.