Friday, May 6, 2016

Top Ten Underrated 3D Platformers

Several weeks ago I compiled a list of ten of the most underrated 2D platformers of the past 20 years. Now, I'd like to delve into the third dimension, talking about those underrated 3D platformers. Because the genre isn't as well cultivated or as rich with games as the 2D platforming genre, I won't be designating a specific time period this time around. From well known franchises with under-appreciated entries to one-off games that don't get their rightful due, this list of ten underrated 3D platformers should have something for every jump and run fan.

10) Tak and the Power of Juju (PS2, GCN, XBX)

We kick off this countdown of underrated 3D platformers with a game that spawned a Nickelodeon television series and some sequels. However, Tak and the Power of Juju is still quite underrated and for some, unheard of completely. This colorful 3D platformer has you using a creative ability: the ability to interact with different animals to progress in the game. For instance, orangutans can influence trees to bend backwards and spring Tak forward to reach otherwise inaccessible places. Tak and the Power of Juju isn't perfect, but it's a wildly interesting and clever 3D platformer that isn't just for kids, albeit it's definitely meant for that demographic.

9) Secret Agent Clank (PS2, PSP)

The name's Clank... Secret Agent Clank. Join Ratchet's faithful friend Clank on a mission to clear Ratchet's name after he's caught stealing a precious gem from a museum. The game focuses on three different characters, offering different gameplay experiences. Whether it's Clank's platforming and stealth-based gameplay, Ratchet's arena-based combat, or Captain Qwark's atypical action scenarios, the variety in Secret Agent Clank is immense, and it all equals a secret mission that is definitely worth participating in, regardless of which version you play, home console or portable.

8) Jak and Daxter: The Lost Frontier (PS2, PSP)

The famed duo returns again in this originally PSP-exclusive title. Jak and Daxter: The Lost Frontier has a combination of gun-toting goodness and platforming-based gameplay that all adds up to a worthwhile adventure. When the world's eco supply is shrinking down to nothing, Jak and his comedic relief Daxter head out to see what the problem is. Like Secret Agent Clank, The Lost Frontier features three types of gameplay: Jak and Daxter together, special Were-Daxter levels, and ship-based combat. While The Lost Frontier doesn't reach the same highs as Naughty Dog's works, the game is quite the fun distraction for PSP and PS2 owners itching for an engaging 3D platformer.

7) Maximo: Ghosts to Glory (PS2)

A mix between the action-adventure genre and the platformer, Maximo: Ghosts to Glory expands on Capcom's famous and well known Ghosts 'n' Goblins series with this enjoying 3D romp. Ghosts to Glory takes the series into 3D territory with running, jumping, crouching, and hacking and slash zombies, skeletons, and so much more. However, enemies just won't stand there while you slice them up. No, they'll attack our hero as well, having him lose pieces of armor with each attack until he's in nothing but those iconic heart-filled boxer shorts! A difficult game that stays true to the Ghosts 'n' Goblins name, Maximo: Ghosts to Glory is a fantastic take on the formula Capcom had created so many decades ago.

6) Ape Escape 3 (PS2)

Generally it's the first Ape Escape from the original PlayStation and then ported to the PSP that gets the most attention from fans. It's understandable, as the game introduced the concept of dual analog gameplay to the PS1. However, the late release on the PS2, Ape Escape 3, delivers a lot of excellence and good times as well, regardless of whether or not it's as revolutionary as the original. The goal of Ape Escape 3 is the same: move through mostly nonlinear levels, catching monkeys through a variety of means. This time around, our heroes can transform into one of many powerful forms, able to hunt down and capture monkeys much more easily. Add in a Metal Gear Solid spoof that is its own mini-game, and you have a title that is perfect to monkey around with.

5) Rayman 3: Hoodlum Havoc (PS2, GCN, XBX)

This next game on the list is here because it's one of the least talked about entries in the Rayman series. Generally, fans relish the good times they had with Rayman 2, one of the most endearing 3D platformers ever created, or they talk about the more recent 2D outings with Rayman Origins and Legends. However, Rayman 3: Hoodlum Havoc, while not as important to the history of the Rayman franchise, offers so much stellar gameplay that it's definitely worth talking about. A colorful adventure that features Rayman and friends, Hoodlum Havoc plays just as well as its predecessor, this time offering five different, albeit temporary power-ups to enhance Rayman's arsenal of moves. Those evil Black Lums won't know what hit them when Rayman's through with them!

4) Ty the Tasmanian Tiger (PS2, GCN, XBX)

On his journey to collect the Thunder Eggs in order to free his family from another dimension, Ty the Tasmanian Tiger uses his boomerangs to defeat foes and solve environmental puzzles. The game features a multitude of expansive stages that are a pure delight to explore. Thunder Eggs are essentially the Power Stars of Super Mario 64 that grant him access to new levels and are acquired by completing various in-level tasks like saving five of a specific animal or maneuvering Ty's way through a platforming obstacle course of some sort. With different powered boomerangs such as ones that are lit on fire, ones that electrocute foes, and the like, Ty is one mighty Tasmanian tiger that is a force to be reckoned with.

3) Vexx (PS2, GCN, XBX)

While this next game on the list has an edgier feel to it, don't let that fool you. Despite its darker appearance (whether needless or not), Vexx for the sixth generation of gaming consoles is one seriously fun and well made 3D platformer. The main goal of our titular hero is to gather magical hearts in order to unlock new worlds to explore. Equipped with powerful war talons as his main means of attacking foes up close and personal, Vexx can also use these to swim underwater as well as occasionally take to the skies, Banjo-Kazooie style. If you can get beyond the edgy appearance of Vexx, you'll find a very capable and tight-controlling platformer that is more than worth sinking your teeth into.

2) Rocket: Robot on Wheels (N64)

Developed by the team that would go on to create the Sly Cooper and inFamous franchises, Rocket: Robot on Wheels might not be as well known as your Super Mario 64's and your Banjo-Kazooie's, but it's quite the terrific 3D platformer. The levels are sprawling and a blast to explore, the challenges and tasks to acquire the tickets needed to learn new moves and reach new levels are varied and fun, and the gameplay itself, having you control different vehicles to solve physics-based puzzles is enjoyable (Rocket was one of the first games with its own realistic physics system to influence gameplay), and the level design is terrific. Rocket: Robot on Wheels is one of many Nintendo 64 era 3D platformers that could be on this list, but Rocket is the one that plays the best.

1) Jumping Flash! (PS1)

Given the accolade by Guinness for being "the first platform video game in 3D", Jumping Flash! is quite the interesting game. It's a first-person perspective 3D platformer that has you leaping around levels searching for missing jet pods that have been strewn around the game's levels by Jumping Flash's antagonist. Our hero Robbit can leap while in mid-air up to three times, granting players the ability to reach high up platforms and areas. While in mid-air, the camera looks downward towards the ground, giving players the ability to see where they're going to land, a great implementation to make sure players land where they want to, especially considering the first-person perspective. Despite being one of the most important games in the 3D platforming genre, Jumping Flash! isn't well known or much talked about. A shame, considering how influential the game was and still is to this day.

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