Pure (Disney Interactive: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC)

Dan AmrichDan Amrich
Community manager, Activision
Following a successful career in journalism, including a three-year stint as senior editor at Official Xbox Magazine (OXM), Dan Amrich joined Activision as social media manager. His title has since changed but his love of gaming has not. Amrich still blogs regularly under the moniker “One of Swords.”

I really liked Pure, the 2008 ATV racing game from Disney Interactive and developed by Black Rock Studio. It wasn’t a revolutionary concept — off-road racing with customizable and upgradeable bikes and an SSX-style freestyle trick and stunt system — but it did that concept so well and was such a polished experience that I found myself returning to it long after I’d reviewed it for OXM. I just popped it in again, and I’m still impressed with the lush visuals, zippy frame rate, and enviable draw distances as well as the overall accessibility — it’s pick-up-and-play fun from a team that had a great racing-game pedigree. It’s still worth playing, as the lengthy single-player campaign makes up for the empty online lobbies five years after launch.


Space Giraffe (Llamasoft; Xbox 360)

Jonathan BlowJonathan Blow
Independent video game developer (Braid)
Jonathan Blow released the critically acclaimed cerebral platformer Braid in 2008. He is currently developing the PlayStation 4 exclusive exploration-puzzle title, The Witness.


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My favorite game on the entire Xbox 360 console is Space Giraffe by Jeff Minter. Unfortunately, to know why it’s so good, you need to put some effort in, as the tutorial doesn’t do enough to show you why it isn’t just a Tempest clone with mildly different mechanics. But as you progress through the game’s 100 levels, seeing fresh and carefully considered game design, you’re challenged to go beyond what you thought were the limits of your senses.

Space Giraffe

Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom (Namco Bandai; Xbox 360, PlayStation 3)

Dan "Shoe" HsuDan “Shoe” Hsu
Editor-in-chief, GamesBeat
Dan “Shoe” Hsu was editor-in-chief of the widely respected gaming publication Electronic Gaming Monthly between 2001 and 2008. He founded the Bitmob website and gaming community in 2009 and is now editor-in-chief of GamesBeat.

I’m still surprised at how few people talked about this beautiful adventure. No, it’s not Game of the Year material — “Month,” maybe — but it was a unique experience that I tried to introduce to as many people as possible.

You know that dreamy, lost-in-this-world feeling you had when you played Ico or Shadow of the Colossus? Yup, Majin had that. The grand, fantastical locales are so wonderful to explore; the creatures are mysterious and frightening; and the bond between you and the titular gentle (but Hulk-smash powerful) giant is magical. I still remember exactly how he looked when he cowered in fear when I threatened to throw a rock at him. I felt legitimately bad, and my girlfriend yelled at me. That’s how real the loveable oaf seemed to us.

If you are a local friend and want to borrow my copy, just let me know!

Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom

Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse (Sega: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC)

Andy GavinAndy Gavin
Novelist and cofounder of Naughty Dog
Andy Gavin cofounded the video game company Naughty Dog in 1986, bringing the original PlayStation heroes Crash Bandicoot and Jax and Daxter to the gaming world. Gavin is now a novelist, having published two fantasy fiction books: The Darkening Dream and Untimed. He still finds time to talk about his gaming experiences on his personal blog, “All Things Andy Gavin.”

Classic platformers are few and far between, having mostly faded away as a major genre. So when searching for games with my 5-year-old, I came across the PS3 Mickey Mouse Castle of Illusion remake and ponied up immediately. The original, despite its kitchy Disney style, was one of the best Genesis games, and the new version does a nice job of updating the tech while maintaining the original flavor and basic gameplay. My only gripe is the sometimes lethargic framerate, but the art looks great, adding 3D that, for the most part, doesn’t distract from the old-school gameplay.

The challenge level is about right, but the mechanic of setting you back to the beginning of the level after a few deaths, reminiscent of my own Crash Bandicoot, can be frustrating. But the best part was watching my son orbit the room yelling, “We have to get Misrebella!”

Castle of Illusion

Civilization: Revolution (2K Games: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3)

Jon FlookJonathan Flook
Cofounder, Silver Dollar Games (One Finger Death Punch)
Independent studio Silver Dollar Games has a long history of producing unique Xbox Live Indie Games titles. Its most recent release, One Finger Death Punch, won Microsoft’s Dream.Build.Play award and is currently submitted for Greenlight approval on the Steam gaming network.

Civilization: Revolution is the best strategy game I’ve ever played on a console. Originally released in 2008 on Xbox 360, PS3, and Nintendo DS, it stands as one of my most-played Xbox games. My friends and I still talk about the epic matches we had online. A huge selling feature for me is the fact that you can finish a game in less than three hours, and for a Civ game that’s a major feat. I’ve played every Call of Duty on Xbox 360 and I have probably shot a million bad guys and counting. If you know Civilization, you’ll know it’s not all about fighting. Out of all the rounds, I played I only had a handful of domination victories. Playing for a cultural, economic, and technological victory is in my opinion what Civ is all about and was my favorite part about all of the Civilization games. For me this rings truer on the Xbox 360 because the majority of my Xbox games involve shooting someone in the head.

Civilization: Revolution brought a game typically played with a mouse and made it work with a controller. More importantly, it brought Civ from my computer desk to my couch. There’s one last thing Civ: Rev did for me. It welcomed newcomers like my sister and my wife by providing easy-to-learn, very visual, very intuitive gameplay, so much so that Civilization: Revolution was the first Xbox game my sister played and the first and only strategy game my wife has ever played. It was the perfect pace for them. It’s been five years since its release, and there’s virtually no online community left. But it’s a great single-player game, and I’m sure you can still find a copy used if you look hard enough. It’s an old classic that has had its day in the sun, but it’s worth a second look. You can find a great tablet version on the app store, but if you’re considering a console classic, I would seriously consider Civilization: Revolution.

Civilization Revolution

Life of Pixel (Sony Computer Entertainment: PlayStation Vita)

David JaffeDavid Jaffe
Game director/supernatural detective, The Bartlet Jones Supernatural Detective Agency
David Jaffe was director of the original the God of War and the Twisted Metal series. He is currently creating a mystery game for his newly formed studio, The Bartlet Jones Supernatural Detective Agency. David picked a PlayStation Vita game, as he thought it had also been released on PS3. It hadn’t, but we appreciated his pick so much that it stayed.

From the hilarious and deep Blood Dragon to the brilliant precision and level design of Volgarr, to the ground-breaking writing-via-set-design of Gone Home and the deliciously fluid and fun DMC, there were a host of brilliant games in 2013 that failed to make a significant blip on the collective consciousness of the gaming community. But out of all of these missed gems, the one I choose to point out to readers is a game on PSN called Life Of Pixel.

I loved the theme — you play a Pixel going through 2D side-scrolling levels inspired by game consoles dating all the way back to the Atari 2600! — and I loved the superchallenging gameplay. Is it a “hard” game? You bet it is! But it’s always fair, and the controls are — ahem! — pixel perfect! So when you fail, that’s all on you, sir. It’s a great game that I feel all gamers who dig a fair, fun, creative challenge should track down (it’s on Vita and maybe on PS3 by now [it isn’t — Ed.]) — especially those gamers old enough — like me — to appreciate Life Of Pixel’s video-game-inspired walk down memory lane.

Life of Pixel

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