This year commenced in the best possible fashion. Unusually for the quiet season of spring, we received several highly acclaimed hits in quick succession. Things settled down in the run-up to summer, leading to what has been a sporadic winter. A few quality titles, the usual solid but unspectacular annual updates, and more than a couple of games ruined by publisher greed.
If only this year had continued the way it began, eh?
Of course, lots of hidden gems fell by the wayside over the past twelve months. Maybe not quite as many as years prior – the digital storefronts are a hubbub of activity nowadays – but certainly a few games deserved more attention than they received.
We’ve handpicked five below. They may not be outright classics, but you should certainly give them consideration next time there’s a digital sale on, or if you’re ever hankering for something different.
Slime Rancher – XO
New releases that debut as PS Plus/GwG freebies are often overlooked. It seems that the bigger gaming sites see little point in giving them the review treatment – presumably, their thinking is that these games are free, so gamers will download them regardless of quality.
PR firms and publishers tend to be lax when it comes to promotion, too. There’s no point in sending out review codes to the press for something that’s currently free, after all. Recent Xbox One freebies Runbow and SpeedRunners, for instance, have just two critical reviews on Metacritic. While Slime Rancher did gain more press coverage than those, it was still deserving of more attention. It’s one of those rare games that’s hard to pigeonhole, offering an experience far removed from anything else.
The idea, like the name loosely suggests, is to manage a ranch for slimes. Beatrix LeBeau comes clutching an upgradable vacuum, able to inhale anything in her path – the colourful titular slime balls included. Partly for research, partly for monetary gain – the slimes produce valuable crystals, known as Plorts, when fed their favourite foodstuffs. Ingeniously, there’s an in-game economy in place. Over time, common Plorts become less valuable, forcing you to explore the wilderness around the ranch to find rarer critters. Upgrading Beatrix’s equipment allows access to more areas, taking you deeper into the wilderness, with new items slowly unlocking as time progresses.
We spent around ten hours in Slime Rancher’s pastel-hued world before penning our review, and still felt that we’d only just scratched the surface. It’s a colossal, surprise-filled time sink, and easily one of the best family-friendly titles on Xbox One.