We've been blessed with some utterly cracking games in the platform/puzzle genres this year, so much so that, again, the shortlist is notable for its many absences - not because those games were bad, but simply because there just wasn't any room. Both LEGO and Mario had double returns this year, with NSMB2 and LEGO Batman 2 narrowly missing out on slots in the table below. We could have counted Journey amongst the contenders in this category but ultimately felt that there were finer exponents of "pure" platforming and puzzling - though the unbridled joy with which we glided and floated across the desert provided some of the most striking and unforgettable memories of the year. Fantastic marketplace titles such as Quantum Conundrum, Mark of the Ninja, The Splatters and Vessel didn't quite make the cut, though that says more about the abundance of quality this year rather than anything particularly disparaging about those two games.
It should be noted, too, that two of the very best platformers of the year arrived on iOS of all places. Written off in some quarters as a platform that would never be able to provide quality platformers, iOS served up the delicious double whammy of Beat Sneak Bandit and Rayman Jungle Run this year to silence detractors.
Put simply, if you were a platform/puzzle fan, 2012 was stuffed with win...
NB. Click on the thumbnails for price comparisons and the game's title for the relevant review where available.
In many ways, Fez reminded us of Portal. Both create moments of supreme frustration in the player at the limits of knowledge and understanding, and both provide exceptional payoffs when the player finally overcomes those hurdles. If you were willing to play the game and truly get involved, Fez rewarded you time and time again. With its simple conceit (and fantastic execution), Fez took a commendably mature approach to letting you discover things for yourself. It was a flawed work of brilliance to be sure (*cough* patches), but brilliance nonetheless.
LittleBigPlanet Vita was a triumph of handheld development, an unprecedented creative outlet that will remain relevant, varied and important throughout the console's lifespan. The campaign was great fun while it lasted, and once the community got into full swing, it literally became the last Vita game you'd ever need.
LEGO Lord of the Rings was charming and delightful, as all of Traveller's Tales' LEGO games have been. But it was also phenomenally authentic, with a humourous irreverence that proved simultaneously both utterly LEGO and absolutely LOTR. Superb fun with a friend, with some wonderfully cracking setpieces, it narrowly edged out LEGO Batman 2 to make this list. Made unmissable by having TT's LEGO pranks set to the RSC tones of Ian McKellen. And Boromir being killed with a banana.
New Super Mario Bros. U might not have proven to be a revolution, but its tight level design, unpredictability, new features and thoughtful MiiVerse implementation made it one of the most enjoyable Mario games in years. A nigh-essential purchase for early Wii U adopters despite not being a perfect ambassador for the new system.
A triumphant fusion of pure stealth, cerebral puzzling and technical platforming, Stealth Bastard Deluxe finally let us shower Curve Studios in money as they built upon their fantastic, free, retro-tinged stealth-em-up, making it an essential purchase for fans of both genres and one of the most exciting indie games of 2012.
Mike Bithell's Thomas Was Alone delivered a bona fide indie masterpiece that reminded us just how powerful, engaging and ambitious videogames could be...all via the medium of geometric shapes. But even if you didn't buy into that, perhaps it was "just" a really neat puzzle game with great voice acting and a killer soundtrack. Either way, you owed it to yourself to play Thomas Was Alone this year.
As well as being bastard hard, Trials Evolution was also enormous fun. Whether shaving nanoseconds off of your times, or enjoying the pick-up-and-play appeal of the multiplayer modes and racing your friends, Trials Evolution delivered ultimate satisfaction and boundless entertainment. Better yet, RedLynx took a leaf out of Media Molecule's book, providing a comprehensive level editor that has ensured that there's not been a week gone by this year without having engaged in some fast and furious motorcross platforming. Unmissable.
Frankly, any of the above would have been worthy winners, but for sheer replayability, consistent competition, ruthless challenges, addictive multiplayer, and that level editor, the prize had to go to Trials Evolution. Fez could boast more striking visuals and plenty of hidden treats, Sackboy's Vita debut was perhaps the finest in the LBP series, and Thomas Was Alone was without peer on the PC, but Trials just had everything. Not only that, but it managed to open its arms wider with Evolution, whilst still maintaining its teeth-gnashingly, furiously addictive hardcore appeal. It's been a mainstay since it first released back in April, and we wager that we'll be playing it long into next year too.