This completely overlooked gem came out to zero fanfare in the autumn of last year, but when the Christmas rush had died down and we got around to actually playing the thing, it revealed itself to be a charming, tense third person shooter. The development body TIGA was moved enough to rate it their game of 2005, if that tells you anything. It was never a game about startling originality (it's a WW2 game, after all), but the more you played it, the more the degree of choice shone through - your route, style of play, and in which order you tackled objectives. It really is a very solidly designed title and worthy of inclusion here.
What did we think? 7/10
Compatible with 360? No - despite what the list say. It loads, but that's it.
You'll like it if: you like thoughtful, well-designed shooters.
A word of warning: the visuals aren't all that impressive.
Grabbed by the Ghoulies
It's always been fashionable to bash Rare's comical beat 'em up - mainly because of that price tag, but it's a title I still refuse to trade in - partly because I know I'll get about 20p for it, but partly because I've always had a soft spot for what is a charmingly ill-conceived game. At face value, guiding a young boy through a haunted mansion armed with an inflexible one stick control system sounds terrible, but for some slightly irrational reason it just works far better than it should. It also has a visual style all of its own and a typically Rare polish that makes you want to play it. As with so many Microsoft-published Xbox exclusives, it was released at completely the wrong time (just before Christmas, again 2003....) and bombed never to return. But even now Rare's oddball beat em up is one of the most stylish, loveable games on the Xbox, full of charm, simple but fiendish gameplay, and a progression system that really ramps up once you get into it. Never was worth paying full price for, but as a quirky, charming piece of entertainment, it's well worth a few quid if you can find it.
What did we think? 8/10
Compatible with Xbox 360? Ooooooui.
You'll like it if: You give it a chance. It's not a bad game by any stretch of the imagination
A word of warning: The control system really is an odd one.
Toejam & Earl III: Mission to Earth
Oh look, another Sega Xbox exclusive which absolutely bombed for no good reason. Actually, looking back, no platform game ever sold very well on Xbox, so the fact that this was a solid 7/10 was lost on even most of the fans of the genre, busy feasting themselves silly on the PS2 gobbling up the marginally better fare to be had over there. But if you're an absolute platform junkie, then you might be surprised just how good Toejam & Earl III really is. Sure, it ticks all the generic platform boxes with endless collectable items, but in this case the premise was actually quite a laugh, tasking you with tracking down the 12 sacred albums of funk. Really, my main beef at the time wasn't so much about the game - which was solid - but the Ł40 price tag, which seemed over the top for a game like this back then. Nowawday, though, you'll easily pick it up for next to nothing, in which case, happy hunting...
What did we think? 7/10
Compatible with 360: Not yet.
You'll like it if: you can't get enough collectathons, and you were fond of the original Megadrive titles. It's quite amusing, too.
A word of warning: It's hardly the beacon of innovation.
Thirteen was definitely an unlucky number for Ubisoft in winter 2003, as XIII was one of a number of superb titles that got trampled in the Christmas rush that year. Based on a Belgian comic (that I'd never heard of) this stealthy first person shooter stood proud in its own right as something a bit different. Comparable in theme to The Bourne Identity (and others), you find yourself washed up on a beach presumably left for dead, only to spend the remainder of the game piecing together who you are and why everyone wants you killed. Perhaps the cell-shading was a little overcooked for some people's tastes, but it had a charm, atmosphere and style all of its own. Check it out.
What did we think? 8/10
Compatible with Xbox 360? Yay. Lucky.
You'll like it if: You want an FPS with a decent storyline that wants to do things differently from all the rest.
A word of warning: Some rage-inspiring difficulty kinks. Just ask Tom's joypad.
Breakdown was one of the only Namco Xbox exclusives, and in the build-up to its release in summer 2004 it really did look like it had the potential to be a real must-have title. When it came out, however, reviews weren't particularly kind and didn't really take to the whole first person punching thing (Riddick did it much better a couple of months later) or the slightly floppy feeling controls. The visuals, too, didn't really push the Xbox in a way that made it seem like a true Xbox exclusive. But, you know what, I saw this looking lonely in Game Focus the other week for about three quid and I snapped it up because I'm a hoarding kleptomaniac that has to have obscure rarities kicking around my shelves. It's not necessarily a purchase as an example of a great game, but as a curiosity for those interested in the many Xbox oddities, it's well worth the paltry price you'll pay for it these days.
What did we think? 5/10
Compatible with Xbox 360? Broken.
You'll like it if: You haven't got particulary high expectations and you like owning obscure games.
A word of warning: It's flawed in many ways.
OutRun 2 and OutRun 2006: Coast 2 Coast
Hello. Tom here. Kristan has asked me to pop these on here as he forgot about it. So anyway - wait, what? Oh I know, who could forget OutRun 2 or Coast 2 Coast? It's only the most enjoyable arcade racing game since forever. Yes I do think Kristan's rubbish. Does he eat cats? Yes all the time. It's okay though, because I'm getting my own back slowly. For example, I gave his son a cuddly Tails toy, and took pictures of him holding a sign saying 'Help! They feed me wood!'
What did we think? 9/10
Compatible with Xbox 360? No (both). Perhaps it was too coastly.
You'll like it if: You're human Coast 2 Coast has online play too.
A word of warning: I won't like you if you don't.
Mashed and Mashed: Fully Loaded
Probably one of the most overlooked multiplayer racing games in recent years arrived last summer to little fanfare and proceeded to sell very little. It was actually an expanded, cheaper version of the original from the year before, but, sadly, the buying public snubbed it on both occasions. But those who took the plunge discovered one of those rare pick up and play gems that didn't take itself too seriously, and came into its own in four-way multiplayer. Any similarities with Micro Machines were absolutely intentional, especially given that Supersonic developed that one, too...
What did we think? 7/10
Compatible with 360? No
You'll like it if: post pub four-player frivolity sounds appealing.
A word of warning: The camera is a bit of a git sometimes.
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