Fresh Meat is a weekly column now on GamingUnwrapped where Editor Jake T. takes a current event in the industry and comments on it in various fashions. 

What are sleeper hits? They are games that often fly under the radar, but offer a lot to anyone who takes the time to play them. Sleeper hits are often poor selling, because people are either afraid to try them, or didn’t hear about them altogether. An amazing example of a sleeper hit is Shadow of the Colossus on the PS2. It wasn’t until much after its release that it is now revered as a masterpiece. Sleeper hits are those games that aren’t Call of Duty or Uncharted that people will look back and remember 5 years from now, just as well as those mainstream titles. I thought I would spend this week a little differently, instead talking about my favorite sleeper hits from 2011 and ultimately picking my choice for Sleeper Hit of 2011:

Dead Island

This one is a mixed bag, I admit. I think it is worth mentioning because I had selected it as my “Sleeper Hit of 2011″ before it even came out, earlier in the year. The game had all of the makings of an under the radar game: a unique premise, an interesting way of tackling gameplay, and the lack of publicity that qualifies it for the title. The trailer for Dead Island was great at getting everyone very excited for what could be a great split between zombie slaying action and RPG elements.

Then it came out.

Dead Island may be one of my nominees, but it certainly isn’t the winner. Techlands game was glitch-filled, repetitive, annoying, and more or less a mess. Dead Island shifted from being one of the year’s possible sleeper hits, to being one of the year’s biggest disappointments.

 

Shadows of the Damned

Out of my nominees, Shadows of the Damned got the least publicity. In fact, I didn’t even know about it until a few months before its release. This is really surprising, considering one of the major selling points of the game is the pedigree behind it. Goichi Suda, Shinji Mikami, and Akira Yamaoka are all seasoned veterans of game development, and with all three at full power in this game, it is odd that it wasn’t as out there.

Centering around a badass latin demon hunter’s adventure into hell to rescue his lover, the game featured ridiculous amounts of dick humor and managed to procure a legitimately creepy environment. Suda was his most tame yet in this venture, presumably kept grounded by Mikami’s tongue-in-cheek Resident Evil backgrounds, but the Suda I love is still in there.

The game is great, however very similar to Resident Evil 4, which was to be expected. But as the least publicized out of my choices, this still doesn’t pass the test. It takes a bit more than low publicity and being a good game to really stand out as a sleeper hit. It takes determination, and OBNOXIOUS originality.

Catherine

I was following Catherine since I had first heard of it. Since the trials of it being denied US release, then for that to be repealed just a week later. Catherine is not just the most original game of 2011, it is one of the most original games ever made. The game combines amazingly deep and challenging puzzles with a very out of the ordinary story of seduction, misogyny, and adultery.

Leading up to its eventual release, people started really paying attention to it, but I never felt as though it left that realm of ‘under the radar. Catherine combines everything required to be the game that I will remember from 2011 as being different and worth the time. Catherine is the most logical choice for sleeper hit of 2011, and I recommend going to try it out… right now… go get it.

Just something I wanted to take a bite out of.