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Gamasutra's Best Of 2008: Top 5 Overlooked Games
Gamasutra's Best Of 2008: Top 5 Overlooked Games Exclusive
December 10, 2008 | By Eric Caoili

December 10, 2008 | By Eric Caoili
More: Console/PC, Exclusive

Throughout December, Gamasutra will be presenting a year-end retrospective, discussing notable games, events, developers, and industry figures of 2008, from the perspective of our position covering the art, science, and business of games.

Previously, we tallied up 2008's top disappointments and downloadable titles. Next, we'll cover this year's top five overlooked games (with ten other honorable mentions), calling attention to high quality releases that went mostly ignored by mainstream consumers, the gaming press, and video game communities.

The games picked are the editor's choice, and are chosen from the titles released in North America during 2008's calendar year to date, with eligible titles spanning home consoles, handhelds, and PC.

5. Roogoo (SpiderMonk Entertainment, XBLA/PC)

Though its simple design and cartoonish presentation invited comparisons to Fisher Price's "Baby's First Blocks" toy, Roogoo was praised by reviewers for its fast-paced gameplay, challenging stages, and online multiplayer mode.

The casual title didn't generate as much buzz as some of the other innovative puzzle games released this year, like Electronic Arts' Boom Blox and Void Star Creations' Poker Smash, but Roogoo will have another chance to attract open-minded gamers in 2009 with Nintendo DS and Wii releases.

4. Culdcept Saga (OmiyaSoft/Jamsworks, Xbox 360)

Initially released in Japan in 2006, Culdcept Saga didn't make it stateside until February of this year. This strategy board game series -- often described as a mix of Monopoly and Magic the Gathering -- has never been popular in the U.S., but with its dated visuals and card-based gameplay, this was a particularly hard sell as a disc release to Xbox 360 gamers, even with its budget price.

Those who were able to look past Culdcept Saga's eccentric premise and dowdy 3D cutscenes, however, found an addictive and unique strategy experience with lots of replay value and beautiful card art.

3. Pinball Hall of Fame: The Williams Collection (FarSight Studios, Wii/PS2/PSP)

While many gamers marked 2008 as a blue-ribbon year for revivals of retro franchises -- MegaMan, Bionic Commando, and Space Invaders -- most quickly dismissed Crave Entertainment's collection of arcade classics, Pinball Hall of Fame: The Williams Collection.

The game offers ten (mostly) faithful virtual reproductions of Williams pinball tables from the 70s to 90s. Anyone who longs to hear the sound of a small steel ball rolling up an entry lane but doesn't have the time or money to purchase and refurbish a pinball machine, should definitely look into this anthology.

2. Pure (Black Rock Studio, Xbox 360/PS3/PC)

Without the name recognition that other racing titles enjoyed with their sequels this year, Pure's debut (and Black Rock Studio's debut under Disney's banner) went unnoticed by anyone who wasn't paying attention to reviews. Created by the same studio behind ATV Offroad Fury 3 and 4, naturally, this offroad racing title garnered a slew of top-end ratings.

Pure received near universal acclaim from critics, with many lauding its detailed graphics, exaggerated trick system, and reckless sense of speed. Unfortunately, not many gamers picked this up to enjoy those highlights themselves.

1. Soul Bubbles (Mekensleep, DS)

Soul Bubbles' goofy cover design and limited marketing budget didn't do the game any favors, but its Toys R' Us-exclusive release ensured that almost everyone missed out on this clever, polished title fitted for both casual and core players.

Gamers looking for an original and creative Nintendo DS title that takes advantage of the system's touchscreen would do well to try out Soul Bubbles. If you're specifically looking for something nonviolent or even more soothing than the typical game, even better!

Finally, honorable mentions for some of our favorite overlooked games in 2008 that didn't quite reach the top five go to: Shiren the Wanderer, Multiwinia, Yakuza 2, Civilization 4: Colonization, Blast Works, Princess Debut, Spin (iPhone), MLB Power Pros 2008, Sega Superstars Tennis, and Spider-Man: Web of Shadows (DS).

[Do you agree or disagree with these picks? Feel free to comment below. We'll pick the best reader comments on each list for our final retrospective, to debut on Gamasutra close to the holidays.]

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Casey Sheldon
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Valkyria Chronicles.

Simon Carless
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Casey - we @ Gamasutra actually discussed Valkyria Chronicles a lot and decided that it wasn't really overlooked, as such - there's been quite a lot of online buzz about it. However, this obviously depends on your definition of 'overlooked', so we definitely agree it's an awesome game.

Jesse Divnich
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Good call on Pure. Easily in the top 10 for all games this year. Best ATV game i've ever played.

Kale Menges
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I don't know how many hours I actually burned on Pinball Hall of Fame: Williams Collection. The first Pinball Hall of Fame was my most played game on the original Xbox, and I'm hoping that the guys at Farsight get the chance to do at least one more collection. Also, I was actually working at Spidermonk when development on Roogoo started, and I'm ecstatic to see the game get kudos like this.

Carl Chavez
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I really enjoyed the Williams Collection, and I hope Crave releases another one with games like Twilight Zone, Bad Cats, Terminator 2, Demolition Man, Attack From Mars, and Revenge From Mars.

Very few people I know who played Culdcept 2 own Xbox 360s. I'm not surprised Culdcept Saga didn't fare well, since it doesn't fit its target audience very well (relatively low-end graphics and sound, best for long-play, social group multiplayer instead of short-play, single-machine multiplayer). Perhaps the next version of Culdcept would be more suitable on Wii?

Civ 4: Colonization wasn't overlooked as much as ignored. It was a $30 mod for Civilization 4, and there are free mods (Fall From Heaven 2, as a shining example) that have better gameplay. There are many legitimate complaints about its game mechanics, like how you're penalized for improving your colonies and how you're forced to play a military game to win (there is no non-military victory condition, unlike other Civ games and mods).

Jake Forbes
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Culdcept is a gem of a game for the right type of gamer. I agree with Carl that Xbox 360 is the wrong system, but I doubt wii would be any better -- the DS is where this franchise belongs! With one screen for the board and one for your cards, it's a great match for the hardware, and the play cycle is perfect for mobile gaming.

Carl Chavez
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I just discovered that Culdcept DS exists in Japan. If it came to the United States, I'd be all over it. The multiplayer aspect of Culdcept was strangely broken in that all players could see all other players' hands and other private information (unless I yelled at my friends to turn away when it's not their turns!). Culdcept Saga on Xbox 360 fixed that by allowing players to play on their own machines, but at the expense of losing the social aspect of the game. Culdcept on the DS would gain the advantage of private game information without losing the social aspect (since it would be easy for a bunch of people to sit together with DSes in a lunch room or living room).

Sean Parton
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It's good to see that Blast Works got at least an honourable mention. I remember when there was first announced a title based off of the free Japanese game (of the name I can't remember), and when I downloaded and gave it a try, I immediately knew I was going to buy it's spiritual successor.

Will Kennard
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I loved Pure and it was totally pushed aside. I saw it in gamestation for 20 quid the other day and I felt sad.

Carl Chavez
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I would add Mount & Blade to the "overlooked" list. I think I've logged nearly 200 hours on it, but many people ignore the game because it doesn't look great and it wasn't hyped by the gaming media machine, and many stores don't even carry it, so it must be purchased and downloaded digitally.

Yannick Boucher
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Problem with Pure is that the market has CLEARLY had enough ATV games. Look at Motorstorm Pacific Rift, it suffered the same fate. It's not the quality, it's the subject matter. Forget about ATV racing, it's out for a while.