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9 underappreciated games of 2011

A few great games you might have missed from the year so far...

Chances are the highlights of your gaming year so far involve the likes of Portal 2, LA Noire, Killzone 3 and Dead Space 2.

They're the games we like to call 'noise makers'; the ones that get pushed all up in your business through marketing clout and take hold your precious gaming hours by force.

But what about the games that sit quietly, not flaunting how clever, pretty or fun they are? The games that politely wait in line for their turn in the limelight, only to get bullied right to the back by another blockbuster behemoth? Don't they deserve your attention?

Now that things are quiet on the game release front it's the perfect time to show a little love to some of these forgotten gems. We've put together a list of nine of the best games of the year so far that you might have missed...

OUTLAND
Ubisoft and Housemarque's Outland is best described as a platformer that mixes the puzzle and exploration gameplay of a Metroidvania with the polarity mechanics of Treasure's shmup Ikaruga.

The gameplay revolves around switching between Light, which is represented by the color blue, and Dark, which is red, energy alignment. This allows the player to pass through and navigate environmental hazards - of which there are many - of the same color without taking damage. The game's simple but elegant one-button combat mechanics also require players to switch to the opposite alignment of the monster to deal damage.

Along with excellent art, music and generally solid design Outland is a game that is essential for platform or adventure fans and one that everyone should at least dabble in.

BULLETSTORM
Bulletstorm takes its cues from classic shooters such as Quake and Unreal Tournament, games that prioritised having fun above all else. It has vulgar but likeable characters that go through an actual arc of development, a story rife with sci-fi cliches that usually end up being the butt of the the game's self-referential jokes and a gameplay mechanic that rewards experimenting with the brutality of kills.

Bulletstorm's Skillshots reward creative killing and maiming. An energy leash is used to manipulate the enemy around different environment and conveniently placed hazards give kills an extra shot of masochism.

Enemies can be kicked into spikes, thrown into blades, shot in the testicles and even have grenades wrapped around their body parts. Chances are if you can think up a horrible way to kill someone, the game can accomodate it.

The classic design sensibilities make Bulletstorm a refreshing, raucous change from the modern crop of shooters. Well worth a playthrough.

GHOST TRICK: PHANTOM DETECTIVE
Ghost Trick is an adventure game put together by Shu Takumi, the mastermind behind Capcom's Ace Attorney series. Like the Phoenix Wright games Ghost Trick makes it a habit of taking mundane scenarios and giving them a hilariously absurd twist.

It stars Sissel, a newbie ghost who has the ability to pull of Ghost Tricks by drifting between the normal world and the Ghost World. Sissel and inhabit the souls of different objects. This allows him perform simple actions that usually end up having an effect in the real world. In other words: he's a ghostly equivalent of an internet troll.

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