Slipped under the radar

Video games have grown immensely in popularity over the past decade, and sales expectations have increased in turn. 2011 was a great year for games. Heavy hitters like Modern Warfare 3 have already sold over 13 million copies globally. Or maybe you’re one of the 7 million non-violent types that danced through Just Dance 3 over the winter break.

Ten years ago, selling a million copies was a landmark achievement. Now, triple-A games with budgets mirroring the movie industry are becoming the norm. A million sales is barely a success, in some cases outright failure. But that doesn’t mean smaller games have disappeared. Two titles that probably flew under your radar last year are Shadows of the Damned [PS3 and XBOX360] and Ghost Trick [Nintendo DS].

Shadows of the Damned follows protagonist Garcia Hotspur’s quest to reclaim his kidnapped girlfriend, Julia, from the Demon Lord Fleming. Not as tough as it sounds considering Garcia is a seasoned demon hunter whose best friend, Johnson, happens to be a floating, talking skull that can transform into a variety of weapons. The game is a homage to cheesy, horror b-movies, even featuring a level straight out of Evil Dead. In classic b-movie fashion, this third-person shooter features a hilariously bad script. The dialogue will have you laughing from start to finish.

Ghost Trick is a different beast. You play as Sissel, a ghost with a case of amnesia, that has rendered you clueless to the circumstances that brought you to be murdered in a junkyard. As you try to unravel the mystery of your death, you realize that you’re at the center of a conspiracy that involves government officials, a shadowy organization, and local law enforcement. Boasting a colorful and beautifully animated world, the game is full of charm. Take for instance the detective who seems to think he’s Michael Jackson judging by his habit of dancing wherever he goes. The game plays as a puzzle game, as you possess various items in a stage with your ghostly powers in order to manipulate history and save other people from being killed.

Combined, these titles barely passed 500,000 sales. But despite their financial failure, they garnered quite a few year-end awards from various video game publications. Check these titles out for something different from the usual military shooters and dancing games.