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The strangest games of 2011

From nightmares about sheep to boulders with faces, PC Advisor unearths the most original games of the year

At any given point, the top 10 biggest selling games in the country will be dominated by shooters, racing games and sports games. If we're lucky, we get a solid, substantial RPG every few months, and what seem to be the biggest games at the start of a year generally end up being the biggest games by its conclusion. However, simply because the vast majority of publicity clusters around the same small handful of games doesn't mean that the fringes of the industry have nothing to offer.

Every year, dozens of great games are released only to quickly fade away, beloved by the few impassioned gamers dedicated enough to follow them, ignored by everyone else. Of this group, there are a rare few that are so idiosyncratic they strike you as like nothing you've ever seen before - it might be the art style, a particular game mechanic, or the whole damn game, but there are games that go against every received idea about commercial appeal.

And every year a few of them break away, striking a nerve and becoming word-of-mouth success stories. Deadly premonition did it last year, so this year we'd like your help in making it one of these.

El Shaddai: The Ascension Of The Metatron

Developer: Ignition Entertainment

You may not know the name Takeyasu Sawaki, but as one of Capcom’s leading character designers you’ve almost certainly played the games he helped shape – including Okami and Devil May Cry. El Shaddai: The Ascension Of The Metatron is his first game as project lead: unsurprisingly, it looks incredible; somewhat more surprisingly, it’s essentially a beat-em up adaptation of the Book Of Enoch, a relatively obscure ancient religious document. Throw in the vocal talent of Jason Isaacs and this is shaping up to be one of the most distinctive releases of the year.

 El Shaddai: The Ascension Of The Metatron

Catherine

Developer: Atlus

The Atlus RPG franchise Persona is one of gaming’s best kept secrets, and Catherine is its development team’s first game for the current generation of consoles. An intense psychological and erotic drama, the game flits between the protagonist Vincent struggling through a relationship with two different women, and his nightmares, where he dreams of being chased by demonic sheep. You heard me: sheep. There are shades of David Lynch to the narrative, but the gameplay is split between controlling the flow of the story and puzzle levels where Vincent has to escape his night terrors.

Catherine

Rock Of Ages

Developer: Ace Team

Chilean studio Ace Team made quite an impression with its debut game. A surreal first-person brawler called Zeno Clash, it signalled the arrival of a truly distinctive voice while heralding the prospect of even greater things to come. Enter Rock Of Ages, an inspired fusion of Desktop Tower Defence and Marble Madness where one player sets out obstacles, and the other tries to roll a ball through them. But there’s a twist: the ball if the boulder from the Myth of Sisyphus, and each of Rock Ages levels is based around a different period of art history, from Ancient Greece to Romanticism, by way of Rococo. 

Rock Of Ages

From Dust

Developer: Ubsioft Montpellier

Eric Chahi is one of the gaming’s great enigmas. He’s the guy who developed the 1991 classic Another World almost single-handed, from design document to box-art. He made another game in 1998 - the disappointing Heart Of Darkness - and then left the industry, disillusioned, to travel the world. Standing on the lip of an active volcano in 2004, he felt the overwhelming desire to create a game that expressed the power and majesty of nature, and the result is From Dust: a cutting-edge God game where you have to manipulate a remarkably well simulated island to help its inhabitants to survive.

From Dust

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