Written by Ryan Johnson (RyanDJ) Saturday, 08 October 2011 11:00
By now, most gamers who follow Kinect or Twisted Pixel know the origin story of The Gunstringer (if not, it can be read here on Joystiq). A chance meeting not to be wasted, the developers took anything they could find and pitched it to Microsoft, hoping to get their foot in the door with whatever they had. Whether you think the game is good or not, one must admit that it is a unique concept. Many game companies stick to the tried-and-true, because after all, if it sells, it sells. Rarely, though, game companies take a chance, and we find something new and unexpected, thanks to people willing to take a chance. Twisted Pixel could have run from that meeting. They could have pitched something safe. They could have thrown out the Gunstringer's idea, then convinced Microsoft to go another way another day. However, they held on to it, and from what I've played so far, created a rich, unique world that makes you interested to continue.
So I now present to you Ryan's List of the wildest ideas that turned into pretty fun games. Each title has links to Amazon or Goozex if you want to get them for yourself.
1) Katamari Damacy: Before this series was well known, I remember the looks on friends' faces when I tried to explain why I loved this new game that they couldn't even pronounce. I don't know which was better, watching their face as I described it or as I showed them the intro video. The simplistic design of the controls: easy to pick up yet difficult to master, made anyone willing to try, and the upbeat catchy music sealed the deal.
2) PaRappa the Rapper: What some consider to be the start of the modern music genre, Parappa was the definition of how to take a simple concept and make it aesthetically pleasing and therefore insanely addictive. Just as Angry Birds has recently created a phenomenon by taking a simple physics game and making it fun via graphics, Parappa basically took Simon and dressed it up. That dressing came in the form of a paper thin dog trying to learn how to rap to win the heart of a flower, with the help of an onion, a moose, a chicken, a frog, a spider, and his own bladder. That unique flair drew us in so easily. I haven't played the game in years, but if you asked me to, I could quote a whole song. "Kick, Punch, it's all in the mind..." (the music genre can add many games to this list. Honorable mentions to Space Channel 5 for many of the same reasons, and to Guitar Hero to show us that we will release our inner rock star via a strange clacky piece of plastic.
3) Point Blank: This is the main reason I keep a tube TV around. Even with the extra video input the GunCon offers, HDTVs are not compatible. Most gun games followed the "you are a cop! stop bad guys" or "you are a in a bad place! stop the zombies" motif, and target practice games were simple. Throw in a hefty dose of silly, and host it with a couple of flap-jawed almost-Muppets, put in some insane party modes, and you've got a solid shooter that's worth dusting off the PS1 and dragging out the old tube TV for. (While I haven't played it, I do have to say Typing of the Dead appeared to draw in the "WTF" attitude with strangely addictive gameplay as well.)
4) Portal: One of the most infamous genre-defiers out there, Portal took a first-person shooter and took away all the shooting, yet managed to make an addictive game. The stark, dry atmosphere coupled with the dry humor coming from GlaDOS only served to add that much more reason to see it through to the end. The sequel, recently out, is one of my personal "must play before you die" titles.
5) Super Mario Brothers: I went back and watched Gone With the Wind wth my wife. We saw so many tired cliches through that movie that they felt cheesy. Yet when it came out, it was the original. It spawned the rest. It is the very reason the plots are cheesy. In very much the same way, Mario 1 spawned the "classic" side-scroll gameplay. It also created a magical world that we have visited ever since, where mushrooms make you grow, and you are out to stop a vicious dragon and his horde of turtles from kidnapping the (same) Princess (over and over), yet we never tire of the idea. Mario 1 IS gaming, and it deserves a place on this list.
Two additional games that people I talked to felt belonged on this list which I have never played, but apparently need to:
Tetrisphere: Tetris in a different dimension: on a ball. More action oriented than other Tetris fare.
Odama: a military strategy pinball game on the GameCube where you flip the ball at the enemy whilst yelling commands to your army.
So what is modern that could potentially offer us that same feeling? Where the developers ran with an idea that many would have shied away from, simply because they knew they could make it awesome? First, obviously, is The Gunstringer. Try the demo if you haven't yet. It's worth the attempt. Lollipop Chainsaw is out soon, and it appears to do more than put a bubblegum spin on the zombie killing genre. You get bonus points for offing the undead with flair and combos. Also, I am looking forward to Quantum Conundrum, a Portal-esque puzzler where you flip between dimensions such as normal, reverse gravity, slow, and....fluffy. How about you? These are the musings from my own mind, but I am sure there are other games that make you look at them funny when you first hear about them, yet offer such solid and addictive game play, it's a wonder they aren't outselling the latest Space Marine Blowing Up Aliens game right now. Drop a line in the comments if you have any games to add to the list!