Smile and Nod

Smile and Nod: Games to Ease the Summer Drought

Russ Pitts | 9 Jun 2008 17:00
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For the rusty nail of games I recommend these five forgotten gems. You may have heard about them before. You may have even played one or two. You may also see this list and immediately run screaming to the hills afraid that I'm one of those guys who keeps threatening to drag you to the art house cinema to watch movies where Japanese girls get murdered to moody music and bad subtitles.

Relax. I like the new and shiny as much as you. But I do this for a living. When the rivers run dry, you need somebody who knows where to find the water. That's what we're here for.

Sid Meier's Pirates

This one is as solid as any of his games, and if the Civilization Revolution demo has you in heat over Sid Meier-style gameplay, Pirates will satisfy.

I was one of the naysayers who thought it'd be impossible to translate Sid's "one more turn" style of gameplay to a game about sailing, swashbuckling, looting and dancing, but he did it. I spend most of my time sailing the high seas looking for Spanish galleons to engage (and destroy), but, according to Sid Meier, there's more to piracy than ... piracy.

In this game, you have relatives to rescue, revenge to exact, governors' daughters to dance with and marry and a slew of fellows to duel. Plus, just like in GTA, you can jack any ship available and even customize it. Entire days can be lost with this game, and thanks to some voodoo trickery of Meier's, it ages remarkably well.


We bang this drum a lot at The Escapist and elsewhere, but we do it because we care. And also because nobody played the damn thing when it came out, and that's a crime.

Story: check. Varied, interesting gameplay: check. Brilliant writing, acting and art: check. Fun: check. Bacon: check. This game has it all. And yet, for every notation on the list of its awesomeness I've had people lay a thousand excuses on me why they wouldn't enjoy it. "I don't like platform games." "Colorful characters turn me off." "Fun bores me." Whatever.

All of it amounts to me telling you something rocks and you should play it, and you objecting to be told what to do. Fine. Don't play Psychonauts (pictured). Keep bitching about how there aren't any innovative games out there while those of us who know where they are point at you and laugh at your ignorance.

Most people will add a giant "but" at this point, but as far as I'm concerned, With Psychonauts there is no "but." Game reviewers are hardest on the ones they really love and so, even in the face of near perfection, find the need to criticize. Psychonauts is beyond reproach. It's a golden god of games and everyone should play it.

Try it now before Brutal Legend, the latest game from creator Tim Schafer, comes out later this year starring Jack Black as a rock roadie who harnesses the power of a mystical belt buckle to travel to an alternate land where rock has the power to ... seriously, if that bit alone hasn't convinced you Schafer is a mad genius, nothing will. Psychonauts is a work of the master in full form.

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