Coming Attractions: Fighting, Puzzle & Arcade
Puzzle Quest 2
On: Xbox 360, DS / Developer: Infinite Interactive / Publisher: D3Publisher / Release: Spring 2010
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.
On: TBC, but expect one or more of PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 / Developer: Hello Games / Publisher: Hello Games / Release: Spring 2010
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.