As casual games reached a zenith this year, so too did the puzzle genre seem in better health than ever, with fiendishly tricky mind-melters blended into nearly every other type of game this year. Professor Layton returned to make train journeys easier, PopCap joined up with Square-Enix to breathe new life into the Bejewled formula, and Scribblenauts allowed gamers to rewrite the entire book on puzzle gaming, literally. It was a splendid year for platformers too, with Ratchet and Clank finishing their Future trilogy and a number of developers harking back to the heady old-school days of classic Nintendo platformers, with Shadow Complex channelling the spirit of Samus Aran, and the Big N themselves flattening the Mario Bros. back into 2D.
Check out all of the nominees below, and be sure to click on the thumbnails for more info and a price comparison if you've missed out on any of these gems :
The Wii has always been about accessibility, and this heartwarming little update from the NES original captured both hearts and minds with its glorious art design and compelling platform-puzzler gameplay. Plus it's the only game on this list with a 'hug' button, which is awesome.
PopCap had a good year, teaming up with Square Enix for this gleaming jewel puzzler that built upon the Bejeweled Twist engine and added a bunch of RPG elements into the mix too. Not too original perhaps, but with enough uniqueness and slick presentation to provide some sparkling entertainment.
True, it lacked multiplayer, but the PSP version of Little Big Planet was a staggering achievement, bringing everything we loved about the original and finally putting Sackboy in your pocket. Now you could enjoy physics-based platforming to the dulcet tones of Stephen Fry on the loo.
Exceptional artwork was just the beginning for the award-winning Machinarium. It's point-and-click puzzle-adventuring at its best, and it proved that a game didn't have to have an enormous budget to be beautiful and inventive. With many of the corporate big-hitters playing it safe, indie devs Amanita struck critical gold with this strikingly inventive new IP.
Despite being viewed as a step back by some, the Mario Bros's newest outing was still a brilliantly entertaining and wonderfully nostalgic platforming romp. True, it might not have trodden particularly new ground, but it was Nintendo doing exactly what they do best, and the results were impressive indeed. Plus, the four-player carnage was absolutely hilarious.
Professor Layton and his brand of fiendishly addictive puzzling returned again this year in a game that expanded on its predecessor in every way with more puzzles, multiple locales some slick animation and some cracking voice acting. And where else could you collect a bunch of toys to give a morbidly obese cartoon hamster a workout?
Ratchet and Clank's Future trilogy came to its conclusion this year, and it did so in style. With some of the best puzzling of the year coming courtesy of the timed Crank levels, and some innovative new elements such as the hoverboots and Bullet Time-activating Chronosceptor, A Crack in Time was a wonderful platformer for the PS3 that did pretty much everything right.
Emergent gameplay took a big step forward with Scribblenauts giving gamers nearly endless possibilities to manipulate and progress through the side-scrolling action as they saw fit. Scribblenauts pushed the DS to the edge, finally incorporating the touchscreen to perhaps the most mind-bending effect ever. Players could create pretty much any in-game object they desired making for bundles of what the ESRB called 'comic mischief'.
Chari Entertainment and Epic Games came together in beautiful harmony this year to create this barnstorming 2.5D side scrolling platform-shooter. Nicking some of the best bits from the old-school Metroid games of the past, Shadow Complex combined shimmering presentation with some nifty game mechanics, gunplay, platforming acrobatics, and the ability to break the sound barrier on foot and sprint across lakes. Oh, and adhesive foam. Lots of foam.
The HD full game rebirth of the fiendishly difficult Trials browser games proved to be just as devilish as the rest of the series. More realistic than the gravity bending biking antics of Elastomania, this was all about balance, patience, timing, and good old-fashioned hard-as-nails platforming. The hardcore crowd lapped it up, and electronics merchants made a fortune as TVs and monitors felt a frustrated sting as objects were thrown by frustrated gamers. You'd fail and fail and fail again, but you'd keep crawling back for one more attempt.