Games that (pleasantly) surprised me

A set of games that I figured would possibly be OK, probably would suck, but actually turned out to be pretty cool!

List items

  • Metal Arms has a ton of character and charm to it. It's also a surprisingly difficult third-person shooter. The animation was very smooth, and the main character's swappable arms gave you a lot of different weapons and tool combinations to play with. However, you never felt terribly overpowered against your enemies. Just as soon as you'd pick up a more powerful weapon, you'd face off against more powerful enemies.

  • Golden Sun (and it's follow up GS: The Lost Age) were conceived as throwbacks to good old fashioned 16-bit SNES RPGs. They succeeded brilliantly at it. The dungeons had many puzzles, ala The Legend of Zelda, while the combat was reminiscent of Dragon's Quest. However, the developers also added some modern touches to the game, like very deep character customization and impressive summoning/special attack visuals (for the GBA).

  • Psi-Ops looks like about a dozen other "special agent" games on the market. Even during its first level, Psi-Ops feels like a bad Splinter Cell rip-off. However, once you begin to unlock the main character's special abilities, the game becomes a lot of fun. They could've built a game off of the telekinesis power alone. The graphics, while a bit plain, ran amazingly smoothly. The effects from the powers were especially pretty to look at.

  • I grabbed this for $5 out of a bargain bin, expecting the ports to be crap and the presentation to be minimally done. However, Capcom did a great job with this collection, even if it highlights how quickly the series dropped off after Mega Man 3.

  • I grabbed this game for $9 out of a bargain bin, and figured that I'd probably overpaid for it. While the game doesn't really have too much variety (after all, all the Hulk does is smash stuff), I found plenty to like. First, just moving around the city, The Hulk completely destroys everything he comes near. Even something simple like climbing buildings involves massive amounts of property damage. The Hulk had some seriously nasty-looking moves, and he was always just a bit uncontrollable, as he should be. This game didn't set the world on fire, but it was a very well executed take on The Hulk and laid the template for more recent superhero sandbox games, like Infamous and Prototype.

  • While I have enjoyed survival-horror games, I can't say as they're my genre of choice. Typically they're slow, plodding, have poor controls, and aren't all that scary beyond simple jump scares. Dead Space, however, is amazingly presented and realized. There's an outstanding attention to detail in every part of the ship, and the game itself features very tight controls and much more variety in environments than I expected from it being set on a single ship. The visual style is simply mindblowing when you first see it, and it stays strong throughout. Dead Space is truly superb.

  • I don't really like FPS's. I've dabbled in competitive multiplayer with the Halo series, but none of it ever really clicked with me. Borderlands, however, quickly became an obsession with me. The art style and tone of the game, combined with the focus on constantly getting loot hit that sweet spot in my brain that made me have to keep playing long after I should've stopped and done something more productive. The action itself was also top-notch with very responsive controls, a good challenge, and a lot of nailbiting moments where I was sure I was going to die. It shows how strong the game was that the co-op was still thriving, even on the PS3 long after the game had come out.

  • Arcade-style driving games are another genre that I don't really enjoy. Driver: SF is something else, though. The car switching mechanic turns the entire concept of a driving game on its head and allows you to zip around from activity to activity in an instant. The story and 70's cop show presentation are engaging throughout and really help this game stand out from similar games.