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Lego Batman/Indiana Jones and Lost Odyssey

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2008 - The Dark Horses

Last week we ran through the ten games we expect to be the biggest of the year, but while racking brains for that list, we realised there were a lot of other games worth getting excited about, but which didn't quite have the same levels of hype as the titles in our Most Wanted. That's why we're following up now with a run-down of our 2008 Dark Horses. Those of you who saw our Consoles for Christmas feature in November will note that we've still not mentioned a few obvious contenders - the Final Fantasy XIII games, Resident Evil 5 and Empire: Total War, for example - but that's because we want to concentrate on games you might not be quite so aware of. It's going to be tough to match 2007's incredible run of quality games, but with titles like these out there, 2008 will definitely be a year to be reckoned with.
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Lego Batman: The Video Game/Lego Indiana Jones: The Video Game

Why get excited?

With the three Lego Star Wars video games, UK developer Traveller's Tales has proved they know how to build family-friendly action games that can please small kids and big kids alike. With the series expanding to take in the Batman and Indiana Jones franchises we're not expecting any major revolutions in gameplay, but if TT can maintain the same mix of pick-up-and-play fun, knowing wit and half-crazed genius, we'll be more than satisfied.

The Indiana Jones game takes the Lego approach to the three existing movies (though a few nods to the upcoming Kingdom of the Crystal Skull wouldn't surprise us). The Batman title relies on the comics, animated series and sixties TV show rather than the movies, so expect more Kerpow! than gothic gloom in this one. We guess Christopher Nolan's darker vision of The Dark Night isn't quite so ripe for Lego-fied antics.

Curb your enthusiasm?
With last year's Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga expanded bundle it was hard to shake the feeling that cash registers, not creativity, were driving the series forwards. We'd like to see a little more depth in the Batman and Indiana Jones entries.

ETA: Summer (Indiana Jones), Autumn (Batman).
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Lost Odyssey

Why get excited?
First, it's one of the few remaining Xbox 360 biggies that Microsoft has been touting since launch. Second, it's a chance for Mistwalker - the developer set up by Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi - to prove that it can out-Final Fantasy Final Fantasy. With a team that has worked on various Square titles plus the cult Shadow Hearts series, the game has a strong Japanese RPG pedigree, and like Final Fantasy marries superb CGI visuals with a sweeping epic storyline.

It even covers the same magic meets ‘steampunk' sci-fi ground. What's interesting is that - from what we've seen so far - the game looks set to integrate the cinematics more tightly with the actual RPG gameplay, making for a more coherent experience all round. Expect huge-scale battle scenes as well. The game looks undeniably beautiful, but can it match FFXII for depth and immersive qualities? Early reports from Japan, where the game launched in December, are encouraging.

Curb your enthusiasm?
Mistwalker's first Xbox 360 title, Blue Dragon, was an enjoyable but very traditional Japanese RPG, and Lost Odyssey is understood to stick to similar tried and trusted gameplay values. Will this make the game feel old-fashioned after FFXII and Mass Effect? Some previews have also described technical shortcomings - is Mistwalker asking the 360 to bite off more than it can chew?

ETA: February

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