The nights are so long these days (sorry, nights) that you could dress them up in angry forum posts and call them the delay between major Wii releases. Of the 12 Games of Christmas features we've done so far, this line-up saw by far the most chins stroked and calls placed in search of suitable candidates.
Surprisingly, the result is a sturdy list of interesting and diverse games, including at least one we expect to see yahooing and okey-dokeying its way up the highest reaches of our annual Top 50 Games list in just over a month's time. We didn't even have to delve into Dan's weekly Virtual Console Roundups for festive filler (although you could do worse than play The Legend of Zelda: A Link To The Past once you're done with these and the Queen's stopped talking).
As ever, it's a mixture of games on the shelves already and a few more lurking on release schedules waiting for Santa's elves to whisk them off to duplication on a river of mulled wine with a hop, a skip and a Great Escape repeat to poke them on their relentlessly clichéd way. Anyway, enough preamble. Play these when you're done toking along to whichever Connery Bond they broadcast opposite the endless videotaped church services no one cares about.
Super Mario Galaxy
- Release date: 16th November
Who else to lead our list? It's been so long in the coming that a worthy successor to Super Mario 64 still has us pinching ourselves, if not garrotting ourselves desperately with freshly dusted Nunchuk cables. Set out in much the same way, it sees you exploring the galaxy from a spaceship hub, hopping and double-jumping excitedly from theme to theme, constantly surprised and delighted by its audacity and almost complete refusal to flop lazily into existing archetypes.
Legend has it that Nintendo declined to show us its "next generation" Mario sequel at E3 a few years ago - in the days before we even knew about the Wiimote - because it was worried that people might steal its ideas. Well, they won't necessarily do that now, but that's largely because it's hard to imagine how you would copy Mario Galaxy without failing to live up to it. But enough hyperbole. It's out in just over a week, and it's the best thing on the Wii, so turn off the Weather Channel and buy some new batteries: it's a-time!
Eeeeeee! Mario and his evil counterpart Wario both feature in a recent three-part South Park story arc, where they can be seen fighting on opposing sides of a war for control of Imagination Land, in which (spoiler!) Kurt Russell gets raped to death by Christmas critters. Merry good.
Metroid Prime 3: Corruption
- Out now!
Not one that your humble Chrismaspondent has had time to absorb yet, but in Kristan's view probably the best thing released for the Wii this year that doesn't have an incongruous flying space-plumber in it. It's not too far off that though - except you're a curvy flying space bounty hunter called Samus, who seems to be on a similar path to the one she followed in the first two, excellent GameCube Metroid Prime titles - either of which would make a perfectly good Christmas present in and of themselves, while we're on the subject.
This one promotes the adventure elements that took a back seat to puzzling and shooting in Primes 1 and 2, but the controls are worth the most plaudits - mapping concepts that worked before to the Wii's fancy new control system with such efficiency that it is, in Dear Leader's words, "far and away the most intuitive, satisfying system anyone's come up with on a console". Is it that good? "It's that good." Good.
Prime rib: Last time I was home I was having dinner with my Mum and she asked me what was that Irish game she'd seen me playing. What Irish game, I asked? "The one with the spaceship and the plants." Still none the wiser, I asked her to try and remember a defining detail. "I remember," she slurred, "it's the one about Seamus Ryan."
Super Paper Mario
- Out now!
John struggled to decide whether this was a must-have on release, but if you ask me it's an oasis of woohoo in a desert of boohoo. Let us list, once again, some of your friends the Pixls: Carrie is a hoverboard for you to ride on. Thoreau can pick things up and throw them. Given that most games are written by soupy pillars of gibbered banality, it's nice to play at least one a year that makes you laugh for all the right reasons.
It's got a few problems. Level-knack being the main one, as it softens into a mush of under-developed 2D/3D ideas that pack a lot of punch to begin with and then bruise their knuckles and resort to repetition while they go off to find an ice pack. You're hardly going to stop playing it on account of these things though, because it's dominated by brilliant jokes that make up the difference. Which is sort of what we said in paragraph one, except this time with a caveat. This is obviously a subtle encapsulation of the game's latter-stage decline rather than the desperate flailings of an exhausted writer way past his deadline. Well, nine minutes anyway. That's a long time in the fast-moving world of Internet lists.
Who's line is it: Nintendo has palled around with Intelligent Designs and Alphadream in composing a few Mario & Luigi RPGs and Paper Mario games, but arguably the precursor to these self-deprecating adventures is actually a game for which Square was largely responsible: Super Mario RPG, released in the US and Japan for Super Nintendo, was jolly funny too, including some excellent hiding behind curtains.
Geometry Wars: Galaxies
- Release date: Late 2007
If the throwaway Geometry Wars Waves game bundled with Project Gotham Racing 4 on Xbox 360 is anything to go by, Bizarre Creations was right to try and extend the two-stick shooter formula it found so much success with on Xbox Live Arcade. Waves (amazingly deemed too insubstantial to actually be sold on its own) sees players trying to weave through increasingly nasty lines of encroaching enemies that weave back and forth like explosive cross-stitch.
Galaxies, meanwhile, extends the concept to fill out a range of levels - "battle grids" - across a single-player campaign, and even introduces multiplayer Retro Evolved. If Galaxies can recapture the precision of control and gorgeous, constantly varying action gameplay of its fabled predecessor, then it could be more than the cult hit Retro Evolved arguably remains despite its deep penetration among Live Arcade enthusiasts.
Sky ports: You may have heard that there's a DS version of Galaxies too. Well, they can be linked up, combine leaderboards and unlock content in one another too.
Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games
- Release date: 23rd November
Much as we love dear old SEGA, we didn't have high hopes for this. It's a sports game with the Mario and Sonic characters in it, among others, and has "mini-game compilation" written all over it (which is quite impressive when you consider how many words are in the title). But every time we hear more our cynicism drops a little, and the prospect of being able to compete as your Miis in a series of Dream Events has us tweaking most unpleasantly. We've spent 12 months building an army of Miis, you see. What else was there to do?
Other events for proper characters (like Bowser - rrrrra) include the hammer throw, running, jumping and all that nonsense, and controls will of course be Wiimote and Nunchuk based. 100 metres sprinting, for example, involves shaking the Wiimote and Nunchuk alternately in a sort of running action. Which raises an interesting possibility: is this the spiritual Track & Field successor that Kristan really needs so he can shut up about retro games and get down with the kids? It could be. Or it might still be rubbish. Hope not.
Need a little: One of the lesser promoted bits of Mario & Sonic is the random drug test game where you have to tie the Nunchuk cable around your upper arm, slap your veins a bit and then gradually draw the Wiimote back until [this isn't going to get the piece finished any quicker - Ed].
LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga
- Release date: 9th November
I still remember when I first played Lego Star Wars. It was another disc on the pile. I vaguely remembered some people at a trade show "raving" about it, but then people say the craziest things at trade shows especially when they're ten Rogue Ops for goodness sake what was I drunk? Anyway, Lego Star Wars involves guiding cute little brick men around the galaxy far, far away using hokey religions to reassemble Lego bricks in a beautiful, addictively gorgeous manner that revives your childhood love of building things without any actual graft.
Not only is The Complete Saga a welcome compilation of the first two excellent games (both of which were funnier than Kiefer is a pirate), but the Wii version allows you to use the Wiimote as a sort of imaginary lightsaber, which is exactly what Satoru Iwata and Shigeru Miyamoto designed it for even if they don't quite remember (they didn't need to see our identification). Here's hoping that Traveller's Tales keeps up the high quality of the first two, because if they do then you have something even better to do than doing Google Image Searches for Carrie Fisher when you inevitably watch Empire Strikes Back on Christmas Eve and "need to pop upstairs for a bit" afterward.
Luke be a Jedi toniiiiight: Ellie has a friend who, if I remember correctly, has a) written a book about Star Wars and b) genuinely thinks the Trilogy of Shame are almost uniformly brilliant and full of subtle nods and lines that tuck extremely cleverly into all the nooks and crannies left in the original three films. But he is a nice man so ridiculing him seems mean.
Tomb Raider: Anniversary
- Release date: Late 2007
Already one of the best games of the year on PS2, PC and Xbox 360, Tomb Raider: Anniversary is ready to swing and Keeley Hawes its way around the recycled Coke can innards of Nintendo's money-spinning waggle-slab this year. Eidos promised us in an email and everything. What makes it good? Well, the controls are almost perfect, the puzzles are massive, ingenious contraptions that never fail to amuse and you can shoot animals in it without somebody calling a vet.
And how can anybody resist investing in Keeley Hawes ongoing, meteoric rise through the world of British TV, cinema, mostly TV though and voice acting? Already involved in films we're all waiting for in 2008 like "The Bank Job", and attached to reprise her role as the voice of Lara Croft in the next game after Anniversary, it's surely only a matter of time before they officially oust fat-lips Jolie and the Top Shop one and make Keeley Hawes 100 percent Lara.
Timing: Tomb Raider: Anniversary actually came out 11 years after the first Tomb Raider.
Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles
- Release date: 30th November
One of the first games to take advantage of the Wii Zapper thing Nintendo announced in its big school assembly room thing at Not-E3 earlier this year, Umbrella Chronicles transplants the shambling zombs of its survival horror brethren to the Wii and asks: would it make sense to use the Wiimote like a gun oh actually we can just stick it in this plastic grip thing which looks a bit like an SMG and that'll do?
I had the pleasure of taking it for a spin at Not-E3, and either I wasn't very good at it (unlikely - I have completed over several levels in games), or something about the Santa Monica aircraft hangar I was standing in disagreed with it, because it crashed when I tried to unplug the Zapper and put it on eBay. Fortunately Kristan got some more time on it and declared it "undoubtedly a polished, well executed light-gun-style shooter, but it's one of those where you'll probably only be able to play in short bursts before the inevitable arm ache kicks in" with a snake in it.
Hyper Link: If you fancy practising for Umbrella Chronicles then you could always play Link's Crossbow Training, which has skeletons AND fruit in it and comes with the Zapper.
Rayman Raving Rabbids 2
- Release date: 16th November
During the shambolic UbiDays conference (where games were announced but apparently not announced, and vice versa, and then the beer ran out at the party after 15 minutes), Ubisoft's various executives made light of the occasional "wacky" rabbids animation beamed across the walls. If we'd been them, we would have made a bigger deal. We would probably have said things like, "HA! We told you it wasn't rubbish! But you doubted us!"
Well, it's true, we were a bit cynical about the first Rabbids when we first heard about it, but then it turned out to be alright. As Keza put it, it's "very good fun, especially in the right company" and "has a genuine sense of humour", rather than a lying one like ours. Good news, then, that there's a sequel out this month. And thankfully Ubisoft's ditched the rubbish PC version, etc, to focus on the systems with control schemes funky enough to match the mischievous "rabbids" rabidity.
Hutch control: We'd had enough of Rayman, but now we sort of miss him. Or perhaps we just miss Michel Ancel. Time for our yearly plea for another Beyond Good & Evil.
Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure
- Release date: 7th December (TBC)
Rumblings suggest this might actually slip to 2008, but we're going to stick it on here anyway in hope of affecting the coal-like hearts of whichever accursed humans might be conspiring to hold it up. We like adventure games - we make no secret of that, except when we're hiding from the people from the recruit agency downstairs - and the critical acclaim heaped on Capcom's latest left-field effort in the US, where it's already out, suggests we're in for the sort of treat we usually only get on our birthday (yes, Toblerone).
Compared to Gregory Horror Show and Phoenix Wright by our name-dropping editor in terms of its "quirky spirit of adventure", it sounds like an adventure game where your Wiimote is the physical embodiment of the props your character relies on to solve puzzles. Pick up a bell and you can ring it by shaking the remote. USE monkey WITH wrench this ain't. Although there is a monkey in it. Come on Nintendo! Give it to us this year!
Speaking of monkeys: I bought the DVD of Congo the other day for a fiver. I had seen it ages ago and liked it but couldn't find it on the, er, at my video shop. Well, it has killer monkeys, Bruce Campbell, a parachuting gorilla who can talk and paint and Joe Pantoliano wearing Hawaiian shirts. So I was right.
Rockstar Games presents: Table Tennis
- Out now!
I really liked Table Tennis on Xbox 360. It was cheap, cheerful, and surprisingly deep and rewarding. It was also rock hard in single-player, so it's a good thing Ellie is around to lose to me semi-regularly on Xbox Live. And now, on the Wii! Except there's no online play. And Rockstar doesn't send me games any more because I was mean to them. But still, if I ever go to her Lewisham deathtrap hovel and fancy playing a Wii game, I will fancy playing this, because the clever mixture of spin attacks and the game's gentle hand-holding for positioning combine in worthy fashion.
And hey, surely this is the archetypal Christmas Wii Sports game? After all, it's tennis. Even Gran understood that. And - you can thrash everyone at it, destroying their self-esteem and reversing the flow of goodwill Nintendo has created by making games about dogs and all that nonsense. Fight the power.
I did some sport once: I was on my primary school's table tennis team. We used to play in a huge room so we all did that trick of serving from really far back. Yes I've run out of ideas for funny facts. Stick it in your **** and ****.
Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock
- Release date: 23rd November
After nearly a year of people cooing over Rock Band and lazily forecasting the death of Activision's newly acquired Guitar Hero series, November's arrived and everyone's crawling back to the now Neversoft-fronted axe-matcher because, you know, it would take a lot of effort to cock this up.
Legends of Rock certainly doesn't seem to, and whatever you make of the track list the fact it's heading to Wii for the first time - among others - gives us the sort of excitement tingle usually reserved for when the pretty one who lives upstairs comes down to complain about the noise.
(It's all right, we know this sort of behaviour "heads in a bad direction". This is why we have Guitar Hero. And why she has mace, probably... You know what, that isn't funny, it's just sinister. The truth: we live beneath what occasionally sounds like a "hub" of Brighton's gay community.)
We did not have sexual relations with that woman: Because she is fictional. Not like Keeley.