Speaking of devastating simplicity, you can't get any purer a four-bit, four-to-the-floor retro rhythm fantasy than the third in the abstract Bit.Trip series, from Aksys. You steer a black dot around the screen, eating up staves of other black dots which grow yours in size, and avoiding fiendish patterns of white dots. You can bank your points and return to the smallest size at any time, although naturally there's a score multiplier for staying as large as you can get. That's it. Basic, hypnotic and free of motion frippery, hopefully this can overcome the difficulty tuning hiccups of the first two, and it's out very soon.
And Yet It Moves
The puzzle-platformer with a conceptual kink was an indie staple long before Braid came along, and since Jonathan Blow's sensational success it's become an epidemic. Several of them are coming to WiiWare, including this from Austrian student developer Broken Rules, already available on PC. Its regulation design quirk: you can pause your character at any time and rotate the world around him, through 360 degrees, in 90-degree increments.
The puzzle consequences - flipping the world to make boulders tumble out of your way, for example - fall into place perfectly, but the navigational challenges are something of a chore in the current build thanks to two fidgety and counter-intuitive control schemes (tipping a lateral Wii remote or pointing, clicking and twisting to rotate the screen). The classic controller will probably fare better, but it's the scrapbook-and-sketch visual collage that has the most charm. All being well, you'll see it in January 2010.
Max & the Magic Marker
Denmark's take on the puzzle-platformer has a much more conventional, kids-book look but is no less formally inventive. Recalling the iPhone's Trace, you can use the remote-manipulated marker to draw platforms for Max on the screen - or other objects in outline, which then assume a proper physical weight and fall to rest. You have finite ink to use at any one time, but can shake the remote to erase everything you've drawn and refill your mystical pen. The game's physical dimension is the most fun - drawing a platform of the right weight and shape to sit on a fountain and elevate Max to a high platform - but as with And Yet It Moves, the tuning of the controls and level design are less than perfect. Press Play hopes to have it out by the end of the year.
Super Meat Boy
Super Meat Boy, on the other hand, is tuned to perfection, as long as perfection in 2D platforming means crazy inertia and stupendously, unforgivingly cruel level design. Think Super Mario World's Star Road levels, only with more saw blades. A lot more.
This full realisation of a notorious Flash game is one of few platformers to fully ape Super Mario's control ethos, with a dash button, variable jump height and wall-kicks giving tremendous room for free-wheeling finesse. Levels are microscopically short, insanely hard and totally addictive, and the two-man Team Meat has vitally ensured that the restart is so instantaneous it makes Trials HD's look sluggish. A brilliant feature is an end-of-level replay that overlays all your dozens of failed attempts in one red smear of leaping, cuboid meat mascot.
"We want to punish, but we don't want to frustrate," says programmer Tommy Refenes, so you'll only need to complete two of every three levels to move on. One of the most immediate and playable games on show, this is a guaranteed cult hit when it launches in the first quarter of 2010.