So what was fourhman.com's Best Cheapest Game of 2010? Let's examine this year's, last year's contenders.
Entrants will be assessed according to Discount Value, Gameplay, and Presentation, and issued a final number for each category on a ten point scale. The final decision will be made by judge Clark, as usual. There are fifteen names in the running this year. Here's the first five.
Zen Pinball, PS3 (PSN download)
DISCOUNT VALUE: $5, part of a half off sale. So, originally $10, duh.
GAMEPLAY: Pinball. The same game as ever. You think it's going to be really easy and fun until the ball drains straight down the middle four times in a row.
PRESENTATION: A little garish, but very appropriate. Certainly more effort than you would expect out of a pinball game.
DISCOUNT VALUE: $50 at Target, normally $60
GAMEPLAY: A mix of other, more successful games, but painted in emo gore to appeal to the kind of emotional midgets who would likely never play those better games. Once you make peace with that, it's actually pretty good.
PRESENTATION: Art direction that can be defined as "something the dropouts doodled in study hall" will never find a toehold with me.
DISCOUNT VALUE: $5 shipping. This was the back half of the Darksiders deal above... if you bought Darksiders, you went sent Guerrilla for a nominal shipping cost.
GAMEPLAY: Lots of people went nuts for this "overlooked gem" in 2009, so I was psyched to get for sort-of-free. But geez guys, it's super boring and super ugly.
PRESENTATION: Not bad, but something about the menus and UI annoys me.
DISCOUNT VALUE: During PAX, the EA Store knocked this one down to $20 from $40. Shortly thereafter it went to $20 everywhere,
GAMEPLAY: Sub-GTA in a very cool Vichy France theme. Compared to sub-GTA in a boring-ass rock world theme (see above), it's brilliant.
PRESENTATION: Very nice menu design, excellent soundtrack.
DISCOUNT VALUE: A $50 sale at Toys R Us was the first mega-discount on a game that had been initially released at $120 the previous Christmas. Not bad for cool hardware and the only Hero game to be any good since Harmonix left the building.
GAMEPLAY: Fun stuff, although I never got great at the fader bar.
PRESENTATION: Expectedly hip UI gets grating, but it had Daft Punk just inches before everybody knew about Daft Punk.
Here's the next five contenders in this year's last year's Best Cheapest Game, as nominated and awarded by fourhman.com.
Revenge of the Wounded Dragons, PS3 (PSN download)
DISCOUNT VALUE: $5 down from $10 during a Spring PSN sale
GAMEPLAY: I thought "hey, I could always use a mindless side-scrolling brawler on the XMB." And so it was. Except for the part about me needing it. Incidentally, why are all these cheap PSN games a complete bitch with Trophies?
PRESENTATION: A tacky mix of Double Dragon and 1970s kung fu films. Oy.
DISCOUNT VALUE: $5 down from $10 during a Spring PSN sale
GAMEPLAY: OK. Unlike the heyday of PixelJunk Monsters, it has just never struck me as a gotta-play game.
PRESENTATION: I like the flat color finish, but hate the font choices. And I despise the name.
DISCOUNT VALUE: I got it for effectively $20. Amazon had it marked down to $30 from $40, and I used $10 worth of lingering Amazon store credit.
GAMEPLAY: Pretty much hate this on concept: NES-style RPG dungeon wandering. And dungeon restarting. And dungeon restarting. But I gave it a shot.
PRESENTATION: The world itself, however, looks fantastic. There's an amazing screenshot utility.
DISCOUNT VALUE: $5 at Five Below
GAMEPLAY: I really liked the original Elebits on Wii, but this one is way off mark. Lots of tapping and walking.
PRESENTATION: I don't even know if it has any presentation. No memory whatsoever.
DISCOUNT VALUE: $13.98 at Target. The very definition of an impulse shop.
GAMEPLAY: Better than expected. The free-roaming was cool, and the RTS stuff was nowhere near as lengthy as the Internet would have you believe. (Of course, the RTS junk IS the multiplayer, so I can see why people were annoyed by it.)
PRESENTATION: Best game menu this century.
And now, the final five nominations for fourhman.com's Best Cheapest Game Purchase of 2010. With these games rated, the judges can now begin the deliberation process and select the top three ranked games.
DISCOUNT VALUE: $20 at Target. I forget if the going rate at the time was $30 or $40.
GAMEPLAY: GTA with magic powers and lots of climbing. As far as my triumvirate of highly themed GTAs went in 2010 (The Saboteur, Red Faction: Guerrilla, inFamous), this one did the best at levying the theme and the gameplay.
PRESENTATION: I find "comic book style" cutscenes to be generally horrible, and inFamous had them all over the place. And I hate being told to spell the game's name in some dumb off-cap way.
DISCOUNT VALUE: $3.50 during a fall PSN sale. $3.50 is a price that quickly approaches nothing.
GAMEPLAY: It is rarely fun. And once again, the Trophies are all complete pissers.
PRESENTATION: Even on a big TV, this is a hard game to play and watch. It's an overhead view of watching gnats fly... then add to that the notion that you have to control the car as if you're sitting inside it. It severely messes with your head.
DISCOUNT VALUE: $7.50, half off during a fall PSN sale.
GAMEPLAY: Cute-fun instead of fun-fun. Controlling the bike can be fiddly, but having a level editor and video uploader is very Web 2.0.
PRESENTATION: Bright and happy, with oddly awesome music.
DISCOUNT VALUE: $30 on Amazon during Black Friday. Three days later, they sold it for $20.
GAMEPLAY: I find this one frustrating as hell. It's a lot of shooting, followed by more shooting, with nothing really substantial to it. I hate the monetary penalty for dying, and I hate the expectation that you're supposed to grind levels to proceed. I have other things to do, thanks.
PRESENTATION: I like the sketchy look to the graphics, but the stock characters and quests are dull.
DISCOUNT VALUE: $35 at Target on Black Friday. It's rare for a recent first-party Nintendo release to show up on sale (unless it contains the word "Metroid"), so this was a good, future-price-proof grab.
GAMEPLAY: Although I wish it was something I liked. I really haven't put a lot of time into it, and given my lukewarm feelings towards the first Galaxy, I don't know when I'll get back to it.
PRESENTATION: Still, nobody does cute like Nintendo.
Although the year 2011 seems barely underway, we already have four entries for the 2011 edition of Best Cheapest Game. Two of which I actually bought in the waning months of 2010, but since I have yet to rip the shrinkwrap, I'm pushing their noms into next year. Unless, of course, I continue to neglect to play them. No suspense here... I'm referring to Bioshock 1 and 2.
The other two early horses are Drawn to Life and Trauma Team, two Wii entries arriving after a year of almost entirely PS3/PSN nominations. Can either Wii game secure the 2011 win for the Nintendo team? Or will this month's sale price on Castle Crashers reduce them to second place finishers? We've got a long way to go to find out.