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In a season filled with behemoths like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, Assassin's Creed 2 and Left 4 Dead 2, a lot of smaller releases get completely lost. Games that don't have a big marketing push or name recognition are typical casualties, though the periodic success of titles such as Demon's Souls is encouraging. For most of these smaller titles, however, it's a quick trip from behind a glass case to the bargain bin. Here are three recent releases that are likely to be marginalized in the holiday rush. More importantly, here are three recent releases that I think deserve better.
Pinball Hall of Fame: The Williams Collection
If you're at all interested in video pinball, you should own this game. One of the problems I've had with other games in the genre is that the tables are typically designed for video pinball, and it shows. The usual formula is to take a theme, like spies or patriotism, and slap it on an incline. Add lights and bumpers and call it a day. The tables in the Williams Collection are all based on actual machines, and they don't have that odd generic feeling that you get from playing some of the unlicensed efforts. As much as I liked Zen Pinball, its selection pales in comparison. There are more than a dozen tables in the Williams Collection, and they play as closely to the originals as I remember. I played a lot of Whirlwind in college, and it's exactly as I remembered it. It's available on Wii, PSP, PS2, 360 and PS3. I have it on Wii and 360, and I'd recommend either of the HD versions over the Wii one. The tables are gorgeous, and it's great to be able to read all of the text on them and fully appreciate the art. (Gameplay is identical, aside from some exclusive HD tables, so Wii owners aren't missing out on much.) The game's $29.99 now, too, making it one of the best deals around. Provided you like playing video pinball, of course.
Way of the Samurai 3
Didn't I already write about this game? Yes, I did. After playing more of it, I stand by what I said before. If you're looking for a game with an interesting story, plenty of choices and a cool setting, at least convince a friend to buy this and immediately borrow it from him. It doesn't even approach the production values of a game like Dragon Age: Origins (surprise surprise), but I felt like I was making many more meaningful decisions in Way of the Samurai 3. (Maybe I need to play more Dragon Age.) With more than 20 endings, there's a reason to revisit the game repeatedly if you want to make sure you get your $39.99 worth.
This one's a bit of a stretch, but I'm adding it anyway because it's my blog. After playing Beautiful Katamari, I probably would have ran out of the door cheering if you told me that Namco Bandai was killing the franchise. Having to pay for content that was already on the disc irked me, especially since that disc barely contained a full game to begin with. Katamari Forever is kind of a greatest-hits collection that actually manages to rinse that foul taste out of my mouth. It's beautiful, and it has a ton of gimmicky filters that make the game look like a woodcut, a cartoon and more. The soundtrack is outstanding, with remixes of some of my favorite songs from the first few games. Yeah, if you're sick of rolling sticky balls this one's not going to change your mind. For those of us who lost hope after the last game, this is one step closer to redeeming the franchise that probably never should have become one in the first place.
What do you think? Have you been playing any smaller releases this season? Post a comment or write in your own blog and send me a link. I love giving attention to the underdogs whenever possible, and it would be great to shine a little spotlight on as many titles as possible.
Email the author Jeff Cork, or follow on Twitter, Google+, Facebook, and Game Informer.