3. CRUSH (PSP)

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Some say the PSP's greatest problem was a lack of original games, claiming that most of its library was made up of watered-down ports, remakes, prequels, and spin-offs. And I partly agree. But sometimes true originality appears at the most unlikely of places. While there were plenty of stellar titles to choose from, like the Lumines, LocoRoco and Patapon franchises, Crush beats them all.

The player controls Danny, a young man who suffers from insomnia. He seeks help from Dr. Reubens, who tries to help him deal with his repressed memories with a device he invented: the Cognitive Regression Utilizing pSychiatric Heuristics, or C.R.U.S.H. because the name sounds way cooler. The device allows Danny to enter his own subconcious in an attempt to find and fix the source of the problem. It's even trippier than it sounds.

In this puzzle-platformer, the player has to navigate through the levels by controlling not just the character himself, but also the camera, which can be changed in multiple ways (all four sides, plus top-down). The view is so important because, with C.R.U.S.H., Danny can turn his subconcious world into either 2D or 3D, manipulating his surroundings accordingly. A platform too tall to jump onto can be walked onto in top down 2D mode, for example. There is always a solution to every seemingly impossible problem in Danny's mind. It's all a matter of perspective. 

Each 'world' represents a painful chapter in Danny's life: A beach symbolizes the heartbreak over a girl named Tina; a fair level shows up because Danny was once abused by thugs in a similar place. I'm holding out for the sequel set in the subway, where I can deal with my hatred towards that old lady who made me miss my train by walking really slowly down the stairs.

The presentation is brilliant, everything looks so surreal and dream-like, and the soundtrack fits this theme perfectly. It's like Super Paper Mario and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind had a baby. A depressing, mind-warping baby. 

 

4. Sid Meier's Civilization Revolution (PS3, X360, DS)

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Save for a Playstation port of Sid Meier's Civilization II, the console world was long without a taste of the uncut narcotic gameplay Civ was known for. Civilization Revolution changed all that.  With beautiful graphics, fantastic characters and deep strategy, this game was a huge victory for console gamers everywhere.

The 16 world leaders were different not just in their AI behavior, but, for the first time in the series, each nation had unique bonuses based on their history and culture. Greeks automatically start with democracy, Romans build roads for half the price ('all roads lead to Rome' and all that), Spain and England have naval combat advantage, and Gandhi has the power of being a complete dick.

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No two nations play the same way, forcing the player to figure out what national advantage they can exploit the most, and do it fast. Enemy AI adjusts itself based on how you behave during the game, holding grudges when blackmailed, and constantly demanding technologies and money when it feels it has the player cornered. The lower difficulty settings offer plenty of help to learn the basics without resorting to calling them a Ninja Dog, while Deity difficulty offers more than enough challenge.

On top of that, experienced units with many victories under their belt get unique designations and bonuses. My personal favorite is the Ninja Tank, which is exactly as rad as it sounds. The NT gains a bonus when fighting against a city, which the game refers to as "infiltration." Let me make this clear: this game features ninja tanks that sneak around and assassinate whole cities. This is the kind of mind-blowing shit only The Sid could come up with.

Call it "Civ for Babies" all you want; CivRev could destroy an evening just as fast as any other game in the series. Let's hope the IOS/Android sequel released in 2014 will eventually be ported to consoles and handhelds at a later date. Until then, we'd do well not to forget the original CivRev.