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Rolando • iPhone • Hand Circus • www

Just squeaking in in the nick of time, and covered very recently at great length, I again won’t repeat what I’ve just said except to say that Hand Circus created the first true other-handheld-quality iPhone exclusive that will give the Phone/Touch-less real pause in considering their 2009 mobile upgrades.

(And, I should note, at the risk of getting too repetitive, that the combo of illustrator Mikko Walamies and Mr. Scruff‘s breakbeats — two people who had yet to contribute this directly to a game — that plays no small part in making Rolandoland as fantastic a world as it is.)

Touch me I'm slick: ngmoco/Hand Circus's Rolando – Offworld
Hand Circus's Rolando rolling ever nearer – Offworld

Soul Bubbles • DS • Mekensleep • www

Since I said this just as succinctly as I could here in a Thanksgiving wrap up of my top titles for perfect postprandial tryptophan-induced sedate-gaming, let me repeat myself here:

Developer Mekensleep was taken to task by a number of enthusiast reviewers for a perceived lack of difficulty in its DS debut, but its underlying old-world and naturalistic environments basically demand more leisurely exploration. That’s not to say that the game doesn’t have its own difficulties, or that complete runs of its levels are anything approaching a cakewalk. Soul Bubbles keeps its difficulty in places for you to seek it out if you want it, but leaves you free to enjoy yourself without it, making it one of the more suitably relaxing (and unfortunately underappreciated) games for the handheld.

Space Invaders Extreme • DS • Taito • www

Taito has celebrated Space Invaders’ 30th anniversary (yes, we are getting that old) with via every avenue it can muster from toy tie-ins (from Mori Chack’s Gloomy Bear to Sony Japan mascot Toro to soundtracks, but nothing has come close to as wonderful as its Space Invaders Extreme.

A basically unassailably perfect reimagining of the original’s gameplay, Extreme is a pure audiovisual assault (see: above) that never bends or breaks but consistently bolsters its design with powerups, new patterns, and brilliant end bosses, and MIDI-times it all together to each level’s particular beat. It’s not the first time Taito has had fun with its classics, but it is the best.

Space Invaders evolve on Japan's mobiles – Offworld
Space Invaders Extreme for XBLA comes with retro extra – Offworld
Space Invaders about to Get Even on WiiWare – Offworld
PlayStation Network getting besieged by Space Invaders Extreme …

The Last Guy • PS3 • SCEJ • www

A shining example of the kind of beautifully cult designs that only Sony inspire and support, The Last Guy comes from the same Denki Groove-related team that created the PSP’s part-time-job slacker-nightmare minigame collection Baito Hell 2000 (known in the West and also available for download on PSN as Work Time Fine [W.T.F.]), and in fact extends one of those games.

Rather than W.T.F.‘s peace-time protest theme, which saw you running from house to house riling and rallying neighbors to lead to a city square demonstration (all the while avoiding marching lines of riot-cops), The Last Guy has you as, appropriately, the last superhero savior of Earth collecting citizens to lead to drop-ship landing pads to escort humans off an alien-infested planet.

And, as you can see above, its unique twist was that every level took part in a real life satellite-imaged neighborhood from around the globe, lending a special bond to the place as much to the people. News has been especially quiet since the game’s release on whether we might see expanded levels in more locations, but in the meantime, you can get much of the same play on any web page with The Last Guy Everywhere, even including, say, Offworld itself.

World of Goo • WiiWare/PC • 2D Boy • www

Finally, truly one of the best of the year and one that mercifully didn’t go quite as under-appreciated was 2D Boy’s World of Goo. As with N+, the game was another perfect example of how to take a freeware game commercial, 2D Boy did a masterful job of creating a lush, fully realized world from a snapshot image.

Every part of World of Goo felt fun, from the sticky trails in simply moving the mouse pointer to manipulating the puckish tar balls themselves, to seeing the structures they built wobble and shimmy under their own weight. In rare form, even Nintendo of Japan made mention of the game as a benchmark for what the WiiWare service could inspire in indie developers: WoG seemed to embody everything that made gaming wonderful in 2008.

At the core of the World of Goo – Offworld
2D Boy's World of Goo: The community updates – Offworld
Ragdoll Metaphysics: Ten Things That Made Me Glad To Be A Gamer In …
Ragdoll Metaphysics: 2008 And The Indie Renaissance – Offworld

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