Getting Some Play: 2011’s Hidden gems

Welcome to Getting Some Play — the spiritual successor to Sarah Warn’s excellent Good Game column — where we’ll take a look at the latest releases, news and developments in the world of video games.

Quiet December

For an industry so obsessed with the “holiday” release season, December – the month when the actual holidays take place – is always deathly quiet. After the insane rush of September, October, and the grand crescendo of November, it can be a relief; but if you’ve actually had your chance to play the big games, it can be pretty boring, too.

December is also the time when just about every outlet decides on the very best (and worst) that the year has offered, alongside a preview of the next year’s most hotly anticipated games. It’s a rare time of reflection for mainstream games press, and actually a whole lot of fun to be a part of, especially if you listen to spirited “best-of” discussions on podcasts like Giant Bomb.

Certainly, we’ll get to that fun here on Getting Some Play, but first, I wanted to highlight some of 2011’s most deserving (and overlooked) titles. They didn’t have marketing budgets to compete with Skyrim and Batman and Gears 3, but these little hidden gems are still worth your time and gaming dollars, especially if you’re looking for something fresh to play during the lull.

Rochard – This is a fantastic, utterly overlooked physics-based platformer with unique, gravity-bending gameplay and a fun story. Definitely give this a try if you like puzzles with your “hop and bop” action.

Dungeons of Dredmor – Even if you’ve never played a “ rogue-like” RPG, this is a rock-solid dungeon-crawler dripping with humor and packed with abilities and items to craft. This may be the ultimate laptop distraction for holidays with the family or long travel days.

Bit.Trip.Complete – The complete series of minimalist, 8-bit style Bit.Trip games, which all combine simple, hardcore arcade mechanics with rhythm elements. A must buy for nostalgic gamers and chiptune lovers.

Rayman Origins – An utterly gorgeous platformer that released in the midst of the brutal holiday release glut, Rayman’s game managed to charm the pants off of almost everyone who played it. It’s a bit like New Super Mario Bros. with simultaneous multiplayer platforming, and a lush, cartoony style.

SpaceChem – A wildly addictive iOS puzzler based on fanciful chemistry. Impossible to get out of your brain once it sinks its claws in.

Stacking – This was one of the most unique games of the year. In true, quirky Double Fine style, this is an adventure/puzzle game starring Russian Matroyashka stacking dolls.

Outland – Another gorgeous platformer in a year that was well stocked with excellent genre examples, Outland stands out for its class and style.

Incoming

See the opening paragraph of the column – there isn’t much going on for the rest of the month. However, the one really huge game is a doozy. On the 20th, Bioware’s hotly anticipated new MMORPG Star Wars: The New Republic drops, taking with it, the social lives of many, many Star Wars devotees.

Trine 2, which has been out on PC for a few days now, comes to the consoles in this time period as well – on the PS3 on Dec. 20 and the 360 on Dec. 21 The sequel to the excellent platformer/adventure title with three interchangeable characters, we can expect good things from Atlus’ latest import.

Until next time, readers – peace, love, and happy holiday gaming!

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