Seven Underrated PlayStation Titles from 2013
For the PlayStation brand, 2013 was a year that delivered a series of fantastic experiences. We fought the Gods, executed Clickers, learned the mysterious roots of Aiden, and even experimented with classic 3D platforming. But whether it was bad release timing, a small player base, lack of buzz, or even that the game was overshadowed by bigger news, there were many games that were equally as good as their best-selling counterparts that didn’t get the recognition they so deserved. As we find ourselves in the quiet time of January with new releases few and far between, why not take a look back at some of the best experiences you may have missed in the past year? Doubtless, there are many more, but these are the seven I’d be quick to recommend to anyone who wants to catch up on their PlayStation gaming.
Ratchet & Clank: Into the Nexus (PS3)
Released on November 12, 2013, Ratchet & Clank: Into the Nexus is one of those titles sent to die in the firestorm that was the next-gen console launch. It’s because of this that the game was largely overlooked and became little more than a blip on the radar, when it in fact was deserving of a fair amount of praise. The beloved Ratchet & Clank series has struggled to find its place over the years, but was able to recapture the magic of its PlayStation 2 glory days with Into the Nexus. A wide array of upgradable weapons, unique platforming, fun story, and all-new worlds to explore made this a fantastic return to form for our heroes, and one that Ratchet & Clank fans would be remiss to not check out.
Thomas Was Alone (PS3, PS Vita, PC)
It’s a great game on its own, but Thomas Was Alone is especially notable because of the fact that it managed to make its players care about different-sized colored rectangles. Yes, smart writing and clever gameplay mechanics allowed for players to actually experience an emotional connection with a series of shapes, and finely-tuned puzzles gave the player a great challenge that was just as satisfying as it was fun to solve. For all its simple elegance, the presentation in Thomas Was Alone is especially noteworthy, with a clever voice over performance from the narrator and a soothing experimental soundtrack that complements the gameplay well. It’s great to play either in a long session or in short, digestible chunks, making this a fantastic selection both on a console and a handheld.
Dragon’s Crown (PS3, PS Vita)
Controversial character design aside, Dragon’s Crown really is an aesthetically striking game that fans of old school RPGs would likely enjoy. Many of the game’s action-based combat systems call back to a time when side scrolling levels met with fast-paced gameplay, and the design of the game is impressive, with different feels and handling native to each character, a comprehensive loot system, and smart ways in which to level up your characters. The story is a bit excessive and rote at times, but Dragon’s Crown is not necessarily a game you play for the narrative. Vanillaware’s games are no laughing matter, and Dragon’s Crown is yet another fantastic game in their strong library.
Velocity Ultra (PS3, PS Vita)
The PS Minis space might be a place dominated by strange experiments and shallow games, but Velocity was a mini that appeared out of nowhere to prove that not all that’s small isn’t worth playing. Essentially a vertically scrolling shoot-’em’up (or “‘shmup”, if you must), Velocity mixed up the genre by employing a smart teleportation mechanic that made levels into a smart puzzle. A remake of the original, Velocity Ultra gives us the same fast-paced and smart gameplay as before, but brings with it overhauled visuals and those trophies the kids these days are so fond of. It’s a great experience to play in small bursts that will lend itself well for rides on the bus when you’re trying to avoid the glance of creepy strangers.
Mutant Mudds (PS3, PS Vita)
Retro is a styling so many independent developers love to use nowadays, and Mutant Mudds is an example of how this can be done well. With frequent callbacks to the 8-bit era and even some token Game Boy and Virtual Boy references, this is one title that will quickly strike your nostalgia nerve. It’s not much more than running, shooting, and jumping, but the foreground/background jumping abilities allow you to traverse levels in an inventive new way that really mixes things up (and you didn’t hear it from me, but the 3D functionality on the 3DS actually uses this to even greater effect than the Vita. Shhhhh…).
DiveKick (PS3, PS Vita, PC)
As much as I love to play them with friends, I’m terrible at fighting games. My timing is off, I have little to no capacity to connect my own strategy to my on-screen character, and staring at combo lists ellicits the same stomach churns of nervousness and confusion as complex algebraic formulas.
As such, I found myself strangely attracted to DiveKick for all its simplicity. See, DiveKick is a two-button fighting game that stays dead serious to its promise. The game only uses two buttons for everything, including scrolling through menus, selecting your character, and fighting. Once you’re in mortal combat, one button controls a jump, or “dive,” while the other controls a kick. The goal is to avoid your opponent’s attacks while perfectly timing your own to score a one-hit kill. Fun presentation, a great sense of humor, and a stripped-down mechanics system makes this a game accessible to hardened fighting game veterans and clueless button-mashers like myself.
Rayman Legends (PS3, PS Vita)
Okay, so this game probably got a fair amount of buzz, but its greatness was cut short by the bevvy of blockbuster releases and next gen console launches that succeeded it. As such, I fear that it probably didn’t get its due credit and likely wasn’t played by as many as it deserved.
Rayman Legends is a sequel that takes the stunning art style and tightly-crafted platforming of Rayman Origins and remixes it with a series of fantastic music-themed maps and all manner of new levels to explore. Like Origins, there’s an inherent charm to Rayman Legends that makes it exhilarating to take in and damn fun to play, making it a must-play for anyone who owns a PS3 and a Vita.
Any other titles you’d add to this list? Share them in the comments below!