I would much rather play a flawed game with personality and a sense of who it is, than a perfect execution of a soulless, boilerplate design.
I discussed Little King's Story previously, but I've only fallen more in love with it since. And after over 13 hours of play, that's a whole lot of love. It's by no means a perfect game, but it's a game with heart.
The boss fights are some of the best I've seen in ages. Each boss is a sovereign of a kingdom defined by its vice- too much television, booze, worrying, food, etc. Not only do the bosses have a ton of personality (conveyed in just a few seconds), but the fights themselves are themed wonderfully to the enemy king's vice. The approach through a hedge maze to the king of the Worrywart Kingdom features a series of small paintings describing the worries that plague most of us at different stages of our lives. It's an especially dark and affecting moment in a game that moves frequently from whimsical to somber.
As I said, Little King's Story is not perfect. Its save system is terrible, the difficulty oscillates all over the place, there is some filler content that the game would be better without. Sometimes the screen becomes too full of your citizens and enemies to really see what's going on. Perhaps worst of all, the targeting of your citizens' attacks (vital for the mini-boss and boss fights) is atrocious.
These flaws are relatively easy to ignore though, given how much spirit and charm Little King's Story possesses. The fact that I care about what's over the next horizon means I'm happy to tolerate problems getting there. So many games, even good ones, end up feeling like a slog once their thesis has been revealed. The spirit and personality of Little King's Story carry it further than the technical competency of multi-million sellers. No small feat for a little king.
I've also been playing a lot of Artificial Mind & Movement's Wet recently. It heartily embraces its 70s grindhouse film aesthetic, including film grain, a cinematically timed rockabilly soundtrack (including The Gypsy Pistoleros, Knock Galley West and The Arkhams) and interstitials including a brilliant notification of a $50 reward for information about anyone stealing the drive-in's speakers.
There's an unhealthy obsession with monkeys, evoking similar era films like Any Which Way You Can. Add a few personal nods, like the game's health power up being a bottle of liquor whose label features only "Québec" and four fleur-de-lis, a wink at AM&M's Québécois heritage, and Wet has a flavour entirely its own.
There are sequences in the game ("rage mode") where the game washes out to red, white and black and you're rewarded for dispatching as many opponents in sequence as possible. It ends up feeling like a combination between The Club and Mirror's Edge. It's also wholly cinematic, in a real "similar to cinema" sense, not in a "totally epic cinematic gameplay" way.
As you likely guessed, Wet is not without problems. The gameplay isn't tremendously deep; the combo systems are good, but it rarely reaches beyond the bullet time dynamics of Max Payne (incidentally, both Max Payne games are on sale at D2D for $5, MP1 and MP2). It also features some dodgy voice acting from Eliza Dushku as the protagonist Rubi (and I'm someone who likes Dollhouse and Dushku in general). But none of this seems to matter, as playing Wet is simply joyous. Wet is in love with the films and aesthetic that inspired it, much in the same way House of the Dead Overkill was. That fondness is palpable and infectious.
Given Wet is AM&M's first original IP title, I hope it does them well. Both critics and audiences tend to be more charitable toward flawless executions that tread the same familiar ground, and review scores and sales figures reflect this. It's a shame, because some of the games I've found to be the most interesting are not perfect. I'm happy to cut some slack to a game with personality and substance (which is very much not the same thing as "innovation," but that's another post). I wish more people were, as it might be easier for creators to be more aesthetic without worrying it will come at the cost of some people's jobs. There's nothing wrong with well executed games, and it's certainly a difficult feat to achieve, but it would be great if that wasn't the only thing that mattered when appreciating games.
Are there some other titles you've loved despite their flaws, simply because they were bold and interesting? The more light that's shed on these flawed but brilliant titles, the better.