To those of you wondering why I'm not including retail or even XBLA releases in this post: I'm not including the former because I have just one such game (Deadly Premonition) and I'm not including the latter because pretty much all of the XBLA titles I've purchased thus far are high-profile ones, and I'm trying to focus on under-appreciated releases in this series of posts. (Here's one that focuses on DS games you should have played, but probably didn't, and here's one that focuses on Wii games.)
1. Arkedo Series: 03 Pixel!--Can a more charming platformer be found via the XBLIG service? If so, I've yet to come across it. Even if one were to present itself to me, it wouldn't cause me to change my mind about the fact that Arkedo Series: 03 Pixel! is more charming than it has any right to be. How else would you describe a run-and-jump title that puts you in the, er, paws of a big-headed cat who has to--you guessed it--run and jump his way though a bunch of beautifully rendered (in blue and white) stages while avoiding assorted baddies. Admittedly, Pixel! won't win any awards for uniqueness (although it incorporates occasional mini-games in a rather clever manner), nor will it win any awards for length or difficulty, but who really cares when the overall experience is this tight, simple and fun?
2. Escape Goat--If you're looking to pick up a great puzzler-platformer via XBLIG, Escape Goat is your game. Why? It looks like a Genesis game--a good one, mind you--for starters. (It kind of sounds like one, too, now that I'm thinking of it.) I can't say it plays like one because, well, I don't believe I ever played a puzzler-platformer on Sega's 16-bit system. Regardless, this one is a joy to play. In part that's because controlling the main character--the titular goat--feels great, which makes traversing the game's many obstacles (it is a puzzler, after all) a snap, and in part it's because everything--the gameplay, graphics and music--comes together to produce a most captivating experience.
3. LaserCat--I recently said (in this post) this game reminds me of "Metroid with fewer enemies and with a collect-a-bunch-of-keys-to-save-your-friend element thrown in for good measure." I still feel that way, of course, although I've since come to the realization that I should have added at least one more thing to that admittedly odd description: LaserCat also includes a bunch of silly multiple-choice questions. (You have to answer them correctly in order to acquire the above-mentioned keys.) All of those things, combined with the title's Day-Glo graphics, make LaserCat a must-own XBLIG game, in this blogger's not-so-humble opinion.
4. Platformance: Castle Pain--I although I quite liked this game's follow-up (Platformance: Temple Death), I didn't like it as much as I liked the rather regal original. Both titles are well worth picking up, though, if you're a fan of platformers and if you're not afraid of a challenge. In regards to the second part of that last sentence: "Challenging" may not be the best word to use to describe Castle Pain. Much more on-point, in my opinion: "So tough you'll yank your hair out." You'll also likely laugh until you're hoarse (if you're anything like me), though, so apparently the developers of this one-level game did something right.
5. Wizorb--What more can I say about this wonderfully colorful game, which I've described on more than one occasion (including in this "somewhat gay" review) as "Breakout with a smidge of an RPG"? Honestly, I'm not sure. Well, aside from "whip out your credit cards and plop down the $3 needed to buy it, you cheap so-and-sos." Really, everyone with an Xbox 360 should own this Tribute Games release--even if they don't usually get all hot and bothered over brick-breakers or bat-and-ball titles (or whatever else you want to call them).
Honorable mention: Aban Hawkins and the 1,000 Spikes, Cursed Loot (aka Epic Dungeon) and The Most Addicting Sheep Game