10 Great Games You Probably Didn’t Play in 2011, But Should

4. OIO

A beautiful and cheap side-scrolling indie platformer, OIO successfully mixes a cute aesthetic with a creeping sense of dread and danger throughout. As OIO, a little wooden guy lost in an unfamiliar land where his friends have all been turned to stone, you’ll have to solve various puzzles to traverse through the game and figure out what has happened. A haunting soundtrack works off the cute aesthetic to create a spooky atmosphere, and OIO manages to challenge without ever frustrating through the course of the game.

OIO maintains simple gameplay and gives you a few fresh tools with which to solve puzzles, like seeds you can shoot to create wooden beams that can help you cross gaps or even manipulate fire. It’s a fun little indie that doesn’t cost much and has a lot to offer.

3. Frozen Synapse

Turn-based strategy takes a lot of forms in games, but Frozen Synapse stands on its own for the degrees of brilliant complexity it brings to bear. You’re a strategist, controlling a group of gun-wielding fighters from a top-down perspective as they move through simplistic office building-type environments. Your job is to kill other enemies by giving your characters orders for each turn, and taking into account lots of different factors — like movement speed, cover, weapon type and more. How you use your team is key to victory, as is how you anticipate the movements of the other team, which happen simultaneously to yours.

Frozen Synapse doesn’t put a lot into graphics, but in terms of strategic thinking and attention to gameplay detail, it’s pretty well unmatched. The single-player campaign is a good time, but the game is really at its best when you play in multiplayer against (and alongside) other humans. The kind of strategic thinking a human player is capable of, coupled with Frozen Synapse’s deep rule set, makes for a lot of brainy, explosive fun.

2. Section 8: Prejudice

We considered this first-person shooter among the best of the year, and it really shows in multiplayer. Section 8: Prejudice combines sci-fi shooter action with jetpacks. Jetpacks, as we all know, are some of the greatest things ever, and in Prejudice, they don’t disappoint. But what’s really surprising about the game is its breadth — for a $15 shooter, it packs a full-fledged multiplayer mode and a decent, five-hour single-player campaign that makes it totally worth the money. Better still, it’s fun.

You’ll need three-dimensional thinking in Prejudice, because everybody can fly and everybody can drop on your head at any given moment. And with 32-player multiplayer support, there are potentially a lot of sets of boots aiming at your dome throughout the course of a match, especially since respawns take place at 10,000 feet. It’s a solid twist on the FPS conventions that are getting a little stale out there today, and who doesn’t like flying around?

1. Stacking

Double Fine’s downloadable title that hit the Playstation Network and Xbox Live Arcade this year is not to be missed. Period. It’s a puzzler with an unlikely premise — you play as a Russian nesting doll that can take over other nesting dolls by getting inside them. Certain dolls are needed to complete certain puzzles, some have special abilities (like pushing heavy things, coughing and farting), and all are goofy in their own various ways.

Stacking‘s aesthetic approach has little to be compared with, as well. Modeling itself after an early silent film (complete with the filmed look), Stacking takes place in what feels like the 1920s and is marked by great characters and locales from that era. One particularly great level has you on a cruise ship that contains at once a zoo and an ancient Egypt exhibit. There’s a ton of originality to go around here; if you haven’t downloaded Stacking, you really, really should.

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Know of a game that deserves recognition but might have gotten overshadowed during 2011? Let us know in the comments!

Follow Hornshaw on Twitter: @philhornshaw.

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4 Comments on 10 Great Games You Probably Didn’t Play in 2011, But Should

Jeremy

On December 8, 2011 at 12:02 pm

Cthulu Saves the World is awesome. It’s a shame the Section 8 devs killed their own game.

Colin

On December 8, 2011 at 1:58 pm

This is a great article. Thanks for this.

There are a few games in there that I haven’t tried but 2 games that I have played the absolute crap out of are Stacking and Frozen Synapse.

Frozen Synapse has just recently burst the 300,000 sales mark and it deserves all the credit it gets.

Geoff

On December 9, 2011 at 7:45 am

I can vouch for Payday: The Heist. It is as you say, intense, and flows really well. I haven’t played many tower defense games, but Orcs Must Die seems like one of the better ones.

Brutalisus

On December 12, 2011 at 10:40 am

Orcs Must Die is too easy. If you’re good at shooters you’re good at Orcs Must Die. I don’t really think it’s that great, it’s fun if you wanna play it for like 30 minutes at a time.