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Weekly Top 5: Pleasant Surprises


In direct contrast to last weeks list where I spouted off a few games that I finished even though I hated them. This week I want to talk about some games that I took a chance on and wound up really liking. These are games that I didn't really have an interest in but still felt compelled to play, whether due to word of mouth, surprising reviews, cheap prices, or whatever the case may be, and found them to be very enjoyable experiences. As always, let's talk about some honorable mentions.


Honorable Mentions


You guys have heard me rant and rave about the Borderlands series, so I'll keep this brief. I had no interest in Borderlands before a coworker suggested the game to me. It went on to become one of my favorite franchises and played a role in my eventual marriage, so it's safe to say this one turned out better than I ever could have hoped.


Red Faction Armageddon

I really don't understand why Red Faction Armageddon got as much heat as it did. Yes, we all lovedRed Faction Guerrilla, it's one of the best games from early in its generation, and the destruction mechanics led us into some of the most epic and satisfying sequences in gaming. Armageddon is not that. I, too, wanted more of the same when it was released, but what we got was still a very fun third-person shooter. There were still some elements of Guerrilla in there, but I appreciated the change in tone from the open-world rampage to the close-quarters, survival horror-esque game that Armageddon was.

It's not the most original game in the world, you'll find much more enjoyment out of the Dead Space series, but Red Faction Armageddon is still a fine, fine game, and I disagree with its critics. Plus, you can unlock a unicorn that shoots rainbows out of its butt as a weapon.


5. Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom

The best way for me to describe Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom is as a fantasy buddy comedy. On the surface, it seems like nothing more than a low-budget action-adventure game from Namco Bandai, and I wouldn't blame you for making that assumption. But if you take the time to dig a little deeper, you'll find a game with an amount of charm that few games before or since have been able to replicate.

The unoriginally named "Darkness" has taken over the land, and it's up to a thief named Tepeu, along with a creature known as a Majin, to restore the land to its once prosperous state. The Majin, named Teotl, will aide you in both combat and puzzle-solving, and you can issue commands to Teotl to help you out in either regard. The game never gets too difficult, but you will occasionally need to take an extra minute or two to figure out the proper steps in order to progress.

One of the best things about Majin is that regardless of where you go, you can pick it up for only a few bucks, and it's well worth those few dollars.


4. Heavenly Sword

I bought my PS3 specifically so I could play Metal Gear Solid 4, but since I bought the system about four months before MGS4's release, I had to pick out a few games to play on it to hold me over. I bought the original Uncharted with the system, and after I beat that in a day, I was still left with a lot of time to kill. That's when I decided to pick up Heavenly Sword.

This was another case where I had heard mixed opinions, but I managed to pick it up on sale, so I took a chance and wound up loving the game. The game looks great still to this day, and features some of the best implementation of the motion control in the Sixaxis controller. I never tired of guiding arrows and catapulted rocks to their targets.

The game was shorter than a God of War, but the combat was just as satisfying, ranging from intense one-on-one encounters to Dynasty Warriors-like battles. The game is a bit of a forgotten relic from the early days of the PS3 and may seem a bit dated today, but at the time that I played it, I was happy with my purchase.


3. Driver: San Francisco

Have you ever seen the Double Dragon movie? Probably not. But if you have, do you remember how the medallion could be used to enter other people's bodies and control them? That's a major part of the plot in Driver: San Francisco. When I first heard about this game's existence, I thought "Wow, they're still making Driver games. Good for them." I had played the original on the Playstation, but that's the entirety of my Driver experience. I liked it, but never felt compelled to play future entries, especially when I saw that reviews scores for each games kept getting lower and lower.

So I was amazed to find out how many people were enjoying Driver: San Francisco. I was still skeptical, as I'm not a fan of driving or racing games, but when I finally decided to try it out, I found that it was much deeper than that. The ability to jump from car to car not only made the game a bit easier, but sometimes led to some puzzle-solving. With the jump (or "shift") ability, I never felt like I was being forced to make a perfect run. As long as I was able to shift out of the current body in time, I was safe. Sometimes you needed to jump into a car going the opposite way only to find another one to get back on track.

Then, naturally, there were the mandatory challenges, like drifting certain distances, distance driven on the wrong side of the road, distance traveled at top speed without an accident, etc. And no game involving cars is complete without plenty of jumps to ramp.


2. The Walking Dead Season One

I don't think anyone can honestly say that they saw trailers for Telltale's The Walking Dead and knew it was going to be as huge as it was. I know I certainly didn't, but the pre-release demo was enough to convince me to buy the whole shebang. At that point I had already stopped watching the show, and I've never read a single Walking Dead comic, but I was hooked on the game from the very start. I wish they would have had a more consistent release schedule, or that I would have known that the season pass would have been on sale before the season had even been finished, but those are small complaints to levy at a game that gave me an experience unlike any I had ever had before.

Yes, I've played games like Mass Effect where I had to make some tough decisions, but I never felt like my decisions in Mass Effect truly mattered in the end. Should I sleep with the supermodel Miranda or the punk rocker Jack? It doesn't really matter other than gaining a few more points on my achievement score. I also didn't have much attachment to any of the other characters. I understand why Tali's death is sad (oh, spoilers for Mass Effect 3, I guess), but I didn't care any more or less than I did for any other characters death.

In The Walking Dead, I had grown so attached to Clementine that I was prepared to make Lee do whatever was necessary to ensure her safety. In Mass Effect, I always did what benefited Shepherd while also doing my best to stay in the paragon ranking. In The Walking Dead, I always did what I felt was best for Clem, even if it made me the bad guy to everyone else. That's something that's hard to do in gaming. Videogames are a power fantasy. We all want to be the hero. We like leveling up, acquiring the best weapons, and usually have the mentality that all that matters is our own cause. But The Walking Dead made me take up someone elses.


1. Sleeping Dogs

Thank the Good Dude upstairs for Playstation Plus. If it weren't for Sony's subscription service, I never would have played a lot of games that I wound up enjoying, Sleeping Dogs being the most outstanding. If it weren't for the game being free a few years back (or later on Games with Gold), I likely never would have given Sleeping Dogs a chance. It became free at just the right time for me, too. I had just gotten married and my wife and I were settling into our first place together, so my funds were minimal, and you can't beat a price of $0.00.

A lot of people were really high on Sleeping Dogs, but I just wasn't interested in a Grand Theft Autoclone and could care less about a True Crime sequel, which Sleeping Dogs originated as. But with no other options and itching to want to play something new, I gave it a download and found that it was much more entertaining than anything I had ever done in a GTA game. The melee combat was very refreshing to see, taking the combat from the Arkham series and cranking it to eleven, providing the player with more options and environmental kills (because why wouldn't there be a random table saw in this alley?).

The Hong Kong setting and the culture therein were a nice change of pace from the typical metropolis we're accustomed to seeing in games of a similar kin, and the side missions are a welcome deferment from the story. The game was just recently remastered for the Xbox One and PS4, and while I don't find it necessary to double-up and play it again on the newer consoles, it still has my highest recommendation.

That does it for next week. Tune in next week when I choose another random topic and rank games according to how well they fit into that topic.

Find me in all these places:
Error Machine Podcast on iTunes
Error Machine Podcast on Stitcher Radio
YouTube page, where my friends and I occasionally do something funny.
The Twitter Machine

Thanks for reading.


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About TheDustinThomasone of us since 9:12 PM on 09.17.2009

Twitter: @TheDustinThomas

Greetings and salutations.

TheDustinThomas here, you probably don't know me, but I write things here on Destructoid from time to time. Occasionally I get on the front page:

The Most Inexplicably-Often Rented Games At Blockbuster

The Top 10 Videogame Pro Wrestlers

A Retrospective of Pro Wrestling Videogames from the Perspective of a Pro Wrestler

I'm also the host of a pretty sexy gaming podcast that I do with a couple buddies of mine. You can download and subscribe to it here. You should totally do that.

All of my games writing you can find on DToid, but I also write about other things on my personal blog. Here's my top 5 most read blogs:

Let Me Tell You About My $250 T-Shirts

Tempting of the Doon

5 Ways Getting in Shape Has Messed with my Head

Tim Lambesis: A Fan's Struggle to Understand

Why I Already Dislike Planet Fitness

You may notice that most of those blogs are somehow related to pro wrestling. Why? Because I spent 10 years as a professional wrestler before retiring in October 2013 due to back injuries. I actually wasn't too bad.

A bit about me? Well, obviously I love to write. It's not a paying gig yet, but I'm certainly trying to make that happen.

I'm a happily married man, and my wife is smokin' hot.

I have a huge, manly beard.

God comes first in my life above all else. I'm a leader at my church, as well as the head of our media department.

I've been a metalhead pretty much my entire life.

I'm also a die hard fan of The Simpsons.

Other miscellaneous fact.

Xbox LIVE:TheDust34
PSN ID:TheDust34


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