In the gaming world, there is a lot of talk from gamers about game studios being “overrated.” Fans and haters of different critically acclaimed studios battle it out on forums all across the internet in a never-ending flame war over which studio is overrated or why another studio isn’t.
What about the other guys, though–the game developers that bring us great titles but don’t necessarily get the appreciation or attention they deserve? There are some that bring up how underrated a developer may be, but for every one of those, there are thousands of gamers saying a developer is overrated. Well, in these “Underrated" articles, we are going to take the time to name developers that could be considered underrated and tell you why they deserve your time.
In the year 2000 Tim Schafer left LucasArts in the hopes of starting his own successful games studio in San Francisco, California. Not soon after, fellow LucasArts employees David Dixon and Jonathan Menzies joined Tim and in July of 2000 Double Fine Productions was born. Tim Schafer had a lot of connections within LucasArts, and after a few months of game development in his new studio more people quit LucasArts to join Double Fine. In 2005 Double Fine launched Psychonauts on the PlayStation 2, Xbox, and PC and it made quite an impression on critics and gamers alike.
Psychonauts featured a zany unique story involving a camp made especially for kids with psychic powers. The main character Raz is one of these psychically gifted youths and once he discovers something is wrong in the camp he investigates. The story of Psychonauts gave Double Fine a lot of room to craft very unique, innovative, and difficult moments of platforming and puzzle design. Psychonauts was received very well by critics but the sales were unfortunately poor.
Lucky for us, the poor sales of Psychonauts did not change how Double Fine chose to develop games unlike anything else we had seen. In 2009 Double Fine launched Brutal Legend on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Brutal Legend met with very positive review scores making it yet another critically successful launch for Double Fine.
Brutal Legend delivered a unique-epic-adventure that followed the heavy metal infused journey of Eddie Riggs after he dies and goes to the underworld. The narrative in Brutal Legend continued on with the same type of unique craziness that was in Psychonauts but Double Fine improved on the formula and made it much better. Brutal Legend had better characters, better jokes, and better backstory which gave the developers a lot to work with in terms of gameplay.
With Brutal Legend Double Fine tried to add a little bit of just about every genre into the game. One of the impressive additions to the gameplay was the Real-Time-Strategy elements. Normally playing an RTS on a console is fairly challenging, but Double Fine managed to make the inclusion of RTS style gameplay work even on consoles. As any RTS fan will tell you, this is quite a feat. Despite a great story, even better gameplay, and solid review scores Brutal Legend went on to achieve only mediocre sales. Double Fine was undeterred by the mediocre sales of Brutal Legend and just one year later launched Costume Quest.
Costume Quest is a slice of nostalgia with the classic turn based role-playing formula but it has that Double Fine flare that both the studios previous games benefited so greatly from. Costume Quest tells the story of a normal Halloween night that goes incredibly wrong when monsters invade and take your sibling. You must then rescue your sibling before the nightly curfew kicks in and you lose your sibling forever. The story of the game is enjoyable, but its the gameplay that really makes this game stand out.
In Costume Quest you walk around from level to level doing small quests, acquiring new costumes, and fighting monsters. Once you get into a fight with a monster the game switches to turn based combat mode where you take turns attacking each others party. The ability to acquire new costumes adds great variety to the gameplay as each costume comes with its own set of skills. There are also RPG character building elements to Costume Quest. The main character and the characters that join your party level up as well, making you stronger in combat.
Double Fine is the type of studio that is unafraid to take chances and deliver something fresh and unique. It has consistently proven itself as a games studio that can create new and interesting games with tons of different gameplay elements in them, yet they never feel muddled or gimmicky. This is not an achievement to be taken lightly and should be respected.
Earlier this year in April Sony approached Double Fine about developing on the PlayStation 4. Nothing has been announced yet, but Tim Schafer has said that the employees of Double Fine are looking into the system. Time will tell if Double Fine is working on a PS4 title or not, but if the studio is, then we all better be ready!
Check out our Brutal Legend game gallery for news, screenshots, and more.
Next week, we will talk about another developer that we believe is considered underrated. If you missed out on last week’s installment of Underrated, check it out right here. Do you think this studio could be considered underrated? What studios do you think are underrated? Let us know in the comments section below and be sure to come back for next week’s installment!