For students, summer is usually a time without pencils, books and teachers’ dirty looks. Unfortunately for those without classes or a summer job, it is often also a time without anything to do.
Video games are a popular and perfect way to waste time, but most gamers have already dominated every level of Halo to death and destroyed every alien in Resistance: Fall of Man a hundred times over.
Here are some unsung heroes of the video game world to distract you during the endless summer months.
Playstation 2: Katamari Damacy and We Love Katamari
The concept of rolling a colorful ball around various scenes to pick up things including sumo wrestlers, cows and skyscrapers as they defy physics by gravitating to it may not seem like a brilliant idea, but that’s exactly what happens in the Katamari games — and it’s addictive.
There is no serious plot behind the game, but the single-player campaign tells an entertaining story, illustrated with intentionally cartoonish animation.
The main character is called “the prince” and, following instructions from his royal, flamboyant, rainbow-loving father, he spends his entire life rolling up completely random stuff with his brightly colored katamari (Japanese for “star”).
This is the entire point of both Katamari Damacy and its sequel, two of the most original and entertaining games on the market, certain to suck up plenty of hours of summer boredom.
Playstation 3: Valkyria Chronicles
A rare PS3 exclusive, Valkyria Chronicles was released by SEGA in late 2008 but never got the promotion it deserved. With a lengthy war-packed story line, this game is a perfect choice for summer play.
Though classified as a tactical RPG, the game features a unique battle system, which plays like a mix between a classic RPG and a first-person shooter. It has a turn-based combat system, but the screen focuses in on a selected individual during his or her turn, giving the player direct control over the unit’s aim.
The game’s visuals are stylized, to say the least, and the story plays out like a painting in motion. The artistic merit is in nice contrast to the game’s somewhat dark story line.
The game sold well in Japan and was praised by critics. It is worth a handful of useless summer hours to experience the beauty in both the game’s art direction and its play.
-Runner-up: Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune
XBOX 360: Burnout Paradise
Burnout Paradise is the fifth in a series of games whose whole point is to crash into other cars to create the biggest possible wreck of twisted metal and fire. The difference between this game and all the others, however, is that its races and crash mode can be started at any point during the game. This is not a game for people who like to color — or drive their cars — inside the lines.
Burnout Paradise introduced a free-roaming world to the series. During a race, players can drive any route of their choice to arrive at their destination.
After a crash, players are able to keep driving and causing mayhem — as long as they can keep all four of their tires. Players can even use motorcycles after downloading the bike pack.
With an insane amount of downloadable content, including a cops and robbers pack being released April 30, and events based around online multiplayer, Burnout Paradise is sure to impress itself on players and keep them entertained all summer.
-Runner-up: Eternal Sonata
The Wii has no lack of mindless, time-consuming party games, but most are popular remakes of classic games such as Super Smash Brothers or Mario Kart. Elebits brought some much-needed originality to the system, which won it both Best Action Game and Most Innovative Design for the Wii from IGN in 2006.
Players might be reminded of Pikimin, as the games have many similar elements, but Elebits adds a more beautiful design and the use of a Wii remote. Instead of a miniature man in a space suit, the main character is a little boy named Kai, who is left alone by his parents to fix an unexplained power outage.
Kai is not a fan of the Elebits and uses his parents’ “capture gun” — which the player controls with the Wiimote — to capture hiding Elebits and steal their electricity. Levels are completed when enough watts have been collected, and the game progresses by moving from rooms in the house to areas in the city.
Elebits is able to register players’ specific movements of the Wiimote, unlike most Wii games, in which players can complete events simply by wildly waving their arms around. The nunchuk is used to move, duck and stretch, while the remote is used to open drawers and doors and smash items against the wall.
The game is worth a few hours just for the fun of it, but its novelty and charm will keep players coming back for more electric fun.
-Runner-up: Dewy’s Adventure
Patapon was released by Sony and solely for Sony, and created by Pyramid and Japan Studio. Japan Studio’s earlier releases, like Siren, were never big hits, and never very good. But Sony hit the jackpot with Patapon, a rhythm based tactical strategy game that names the player god.
The player is given the responsibility of commanding the army of patapons, a creature that looks like a big eyeball, through various war chants and beats. The game was rated at 9.2 by IGN who called it “one of the best rhythm games ever released.”
Though the concept is simple, the levels are not always easy. Players are given opportunities to build up their army and create new types of warriors through musically based rituals.
For continued fun all through the summer, Patapon 2 will be released on May 5.
What started out as a flash game created on DeviantArt became an online sensation, spawning YouTube videos and McDonald’s commercials. Few people are aware however, that this game was made available on the DS.
The concept of the game, drawing lines for a little boy on a sled to travel on, is perfect for the DS’ stylus and screen set up. Since the levels are literally created by the player, the number of possibilities are endless, making it the perfect portable game that can be enjoyed the whole summer and played anywhere, no headphones required.
-Runner-up: Professor Layton and the Curious Village
Psychonauts was created for consoles but back in 2005, but is now available through Steam for PC gamers. The game is highly underrated among gamers, despite the overwhelmingly positive reviews from critics and predicted sales.
One speculation is that the screenshots from the game turned potential players away. To be sure, the graphics of Psychonauts cannot hold a candle to the games on today’s systems—but the game is worth so much outside of its outdated images.
The story is set at a summer camp that is really a government training facility for psychonauts, or soldiers who fight with their extraordinary mind abilities. The main character, Raz, escapes his circus life to join them only to find that the kids and the camp are having their brains stolen.
The story is original; the graphics, though outdated, are colorful and fun and the gameplay works like most adventure games, but features special psychic power abilities like pyrokinesis.
What really gives Psychonauts its charms, however, is the dialogue and direction. The game is funny. The interactions between the characters have several laugh out loud moments. Players will learn to love the characters and that is what makes this game genuinely fun to play all summer long.
-Runner-up: Universe at War