Yesterday we walked you through what will likely be some of 2010's biggest games - in several senses - in our roundup of shooters and racing games. Today we bring you a scattershot selection of games from genres that might not command the same public profile they used to, but could still quite easily suck up as much of your 2010 as anything else: fighting games, puzzle games and old-school (or, for that matter, new-school) arcade games.
This is as good a place as any to mention that we were going to bring you a section on music games, as we did last year, but there just wasn't enough to get excited about. Green Day: Rock Band, Lips Party Classics and some minor tweaks in an inevitable Guitar Hero 6 do not a thriving genre make, while the one intriguing prospect, Tetsuya Mizuguchi's QJ on Wii, has disappeared into the same twilight zone as its publisher Atari. With piles of heavily discounted Beatles and DJ Hero boxes currently clogging aisles in the high street, has the bottom fallen out of the music market?
There are scarcely any more one-on-one beat-'em-ups coming out in 2010 than music games, but this gladiatorial arena can usually only support one or two champions at a time in any case, so numbers don't matter as much as the punch they're packing. The end of 2009 saw former heavyweights Tekken and King of Fighters nursing their bruises as the mighty Street Fighter IV strutted around the ring. It will only be challenged by its own sequel in 2010, but there's a meaningful title bout brewing elsewhere...
EA Sports MMA
EA Sports isn't used to playing the unlicensed underdog, but it badly wants a slice of the mixed martial arts pie while it's still piping hot, so it will have to make do. A stack of fat brown envelopes has ensured the support of some of the sport's biggest stars and freedom from UFC rules should ensure fittingly no-holds-barred variety. MMA also benefits from Fight Night Round 4's superb tech - but not necessarily its great design, with EA Canada handing off to Madden developer EA Tiburon, which has no fighting experience. Just a contender for now.
Super Street Fighter IV
You don't get comebacks like last year's Street Fighter IV very often, although many might say Street Fighter had never really been away. Either way, Yoshinori Ono's gang of tireless iterators was hardly going to let the momentum slip away again, so we get this remix with rebalanced fighters, new Ultras, proper online lobbies, barrel-punching bonus stages, new tournament modes, a Replay channel with voice chat for frame-by-frame post mortems, plus Cody, Guy, Adon, T. Hawk, Dee Jay and new girl Juri (at least).
UFC 2010: Undisputed
THQ found itself with a bona fide chart-topper on its hands last year when mixed martial arts' exploding popularity combined with a quiet spot in the release schedule and a genuinely excellent fighting game in a perfect storm of sweaty tussles. The real heroes were the developers at Yuke's, an Osaka-based wrestling factory who put years of WWE games to one side and turned out, according to our resident expert Matt Edwards, "not only the best UFC game ever, but perhaps the best fighting system ever for a (wait for it) 'real-life fighting simulation game'." So the latest instalment goes into the clash with EA Sports MMA fully deserving its subtitle, although one wonders what meaningful advances a year can bring.
Also in 2010
Not much else to report, beyond the only slightly belated release of Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars at the end of this month, offering Wii owners a chance to join the 2D madhouse; PS3 and 360 owners can enjoy the European release of "outstanding achievement" and Edwards-certified 9/10, BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger.
Ellie writes: With the advent of the iPhone, PSN and Xbox Live Arcade, puzzle fans have never had it so good. Last year saw re-imaginings of old favourites such as Zuma and Bookworm along with sequels to contemporary classics like Boom Blox and Professor Layton. There were also some new arrivals in the shape of games like Scribblenauts and the excellent Plants vs. Zombies, which made it into our Games of 2009.
So what does 2010 hold? A whole host of new titles involving lateral thinking, strategic planning, intelligent problem-solving and matching coloured thingies up with other thingies of the same colour, no doubt. Here's our guide to the ones to watch, but bear in mind that there will certainly be more - we often don't hear about new puzzle games until they're almost upon us.
Professor Layton and the Last Time Travel
On: DS / Developer: Level-5 / Publisher: Nintendo / Release: TBA 2010
This third instalment in the Professor Layton DS series is already out in Japan but there's no word on a European street date. It's likely a question of when rather than whether, however, considering how successful the original games have been here, and we're putting our picarats on a release in 2010. The game sees Luke and the Professor time-travelling to the city of London as it is 10 years from now (monorails, robot beefeaters, brain chips instead of Oyster cards, etc). Once again they're tasked with solving all manner of puzzles while unravelling an even greater mystery and trying not to die of whimsy. Another treat for those who like their brains not just taxed but sent to prison for defrauding the Inland Revenue.
Puzzle Quest 2
Why not kick off with another addition to the match-three genre? The original Puzzle Quest was a big hit and the follow-up could prove just as addictive, though it looks to be an evolutionary rather than revolutionary instalment in the series. It's business as usual, the business being coloured gem-matching with an RPG twist. As the game progresses you build up your character and tackle enemies with different strengths and weaknesses, adjusting tactics accordingly. The sequel offers Instant Action, Tournament and Multiplayer modes, along with all-new weapons, spells and shields. Enough to keep veteran Puzzle Questers interested, then, and likely to hook new players in too.
On: Xbox 360 / Developer: Denki / Publisher: Denki / Release: 2010
Denki's no stranger to the puzzle genre. The studio enjoyed success with the fondly remembered Denki Blocks for Game Boy and, of course, Carol Vorderman's Mind Aerobics. So what's Quarrel all about? Think RISK meets Scrabble, to a Latin beat. Your mission is to create high-scoring words from a random collection of letters. The size of your vocabulary affects how well you perform in the rest of the game, which involves battling for turf across a big fat map. All this is accompanied by "Latin American, lounge and easy-listening sounds", according to Denki. Sounds intriguing, and definitely more exciting than Countdown. It's never been the same, Carol.
Also in 2010
Yet more RPG-flavoured gem-matching fun is promised from Infinite Interactive with Puzzle Chronicles, this one coming to both handhelds, Live and PSN; Picross 3D promises to test your wits (and probably patience) even harder with the introduction of prisms and cubes; and Echoshift, the Echochrome sequel where you solve puzzles by directing multiple ghosts of your character. And what's PopCap up to? All we know is the company recently trademarked the names Robodojo and Yetitrain. Hmm...
Something of a loose genre, this, but we hope a self-explanatory one: if a game's defined by a fast pace and a skill-based, score-attack style, it's in. It doesn't have to be retro or available on the consoles' download services, although these days, many are; Trials HD and PixelJunk Shooter are two recent, and excellent, examples of the modern arcade game. Once again, expect many more to surface over the course of the year, as XBLA, PSN, WiiWare, PSP Minis and the iPhone turn up unexpected gems with next to no warning.
Hello Games' sunny, coin-collecting motorbike stunt racer was game of the show for many people at last year's Eurogamer Expo despite being tucked away in a corner of the Indie Arcade, and it hasn't stopped turning heads since, most recently scoring a Grand Prize nomination for the 2010 Indie Games Festival. Its appearance on PSN and Live Arcade can't be confirmed yet, but Joe Danger is so slick and tightly tuned already, not to mention so much fun, it's a sure shot. Worth playing if only to see how completely different a game about driving a motorcycle off ramps can be from Trials HD.
Sin and Punishment 2
On: Wii / Developer: Treasure / Publisher: Nintendo / Release: Winter 2010
A cheeky inclusion this, since not only did we big it up last year but Keza's already reviewed it on import, but we just cannot get enough Treasure madness. Why? Because they're "the master artificers of the mind-bending shmup", we said back then (still proud of that one). "Sin and Punishment 2 looks like what would happen if a music visualiser developed sentience and tried to kill you," Keza said, and if you need any more convincing than that, you should check your pulse.
On: DS / Developer: Intelligent Systems / Publisher: Nintendo / Release: 28th March (North America), TBC (Europe)
WarioWare didn't invent the irreverent barrage of blipvert nonsense-gaming - that honour must surely go to the classic Bishi Bashi Special, unless anyone can think of an earlier example - but the Game Boy Advance original remains one of the purest, funniest, smartest and most self-aware games ever made. Nintendo's subsequently worn the idea with overuse, but letting you compose your own micro-games suits its slapdash aesthetic perfectly and should add the fresh twist it needs in 2010.
Also in 2010
The marriage between Super Monkey Ball: Step and Roll and the Wii balance board seems made in heaven, or a peculiar kind of hell, depending how you look at it; the magnificent Pac-Man Championship Edition is coming to PSP Minis; as is PomPom's survival blaster, Alien Zombie Death; OneBigGame's Chime puts an interesting twist on Lumines, for charity; Square Enix gets abstract-twin-stick fever and adds blood-spatter in the recently renamed Death By Cube; Mommy's Best Games puts extra lives on the screen in Shoot 1UP; Ubisoft's Scott Pilgrim movie tie-in is apparently a retro brawler; we know that there's going to be another PixelJunk on PSN, and it's probably going to be awesome; and something tells us we'll see SEGA's arcade cab After Burner Climax appear on the download services this year, although we can't put our finger on what.