Did you know that none of the WiiWare games Nintendo has published were developed in house? Well, it's true.
The amazing Art Style titles, for instance, were developed by Skip Ltd., while Dr. Mario Online Rx was developed by Arika. Even the Pokemon WiiWare titles were "outsourced"--with Ambrella handling My Pokemon Ranch and Pokemon Rumble and Chunsoft handling the as-yet-unreleased-outside-of-Japan Pokemon Mystery Dungeon games.
Second parties aren't the only ones picking up Nintendo's slack--third parties like Capcom, Frontier, Gaijin Games, Hudson Soft, Konami and Square-Enix have helped make WiiWare the distinguished download service it is today.
That trend looks to continue in 2010, thanks in large part to the following third-party titles:
1. And Yet It Moves (Broken Rules)--Now this is a platformer with panache. For starters, there are the game's superficial aspects: The protagonist has been drawn with pencil and the worlds he progresses through look like they're made of ripped and crumpled paper. And then there's the gameplay, which allows the player to spin the world in 90 degree increments in order to solve puzzles.
2. Bit.Trip Runner (Gaijin Games)--I only recently tried the first Bit.Trip title, Bit.Trip Beat, thanks to the free demo available on the Wii Shop Channel. Truth be told, I'm not (yet) very good at it, but it doesn't really matter because I have a blast even while I'm getting my butt kicked. I'm hoping Bit.Trip Runner, which Gaijin Games is calling a "rhythm platformer," is a little less hellacious, but who am I kidding? I'll buy it regardless.
3. Heartbeat (Capybara Games)--I know next to nothing about this game, but I want it anyway. What I do know: It's being made by Capybara Games, the company responsible for a pair of critically lauded titles you may have heard of: Critter Crunch and Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes. As far as I can tell, Heartbeat is a bit more abstract (OK, a lot more abstract) than Capybara's previous products. In fact, it looks more than a little like Nintendo's esoteric Electroplankton. If Heartbeat contains even a smidge of that cult classic's sublimity, it'll be well worth whatever it ends up costing.
4. Max & The Magic Marker (Press Play)--I've been salivating over this game since it was unveiled early last year. The only way I can describe it is to say that it's like a wicked mashup of Kirby Canvas Curse and Crayon Physics. Who wouldn't want to play a game like that? What seals the deal (for me, at least) is that it oozes cuteness and charm. Yep, it's my kind of game all right. Thankfully, it seems I'll be able to buy it soon enough, as it was just released in Europe. (Here's a trailer for the title, in case you've never seen it in action.)
5. NightSky (Nicalis)--Before I say anything about NightSky, I have to mention that I'm also awaiting (eagerly) the release of two other Nicalis games: Cave Story and La-Mulana. That said, I'm awaiting the release of the moody NightSky with even more eagerness. I can't even say why, really, as once again I don't know much about the title--other than it's a pensive, physics-based platformer. Assuming the finished product expands on the premise on display in this early trailer, I'm sure it'll be worth picking up.
6. Zombie Panic in Wonderland (Akaoni Studio)--Full disclosure: I'm not a fan of shooters. At all. So why am I excited about the release of this one? I know this is going to sound crazy, but I love the fact that at least one of the game's environments is filled with what looks to be cherry blossom trees. Also, the main character wears a pink scarf while wielding a machine gun. And then there are the zombies--which are an incongruous combination of creepy and cute. Yeah, I think this might be the first shooter to earn a spot in my heart (and on my virtual game shelf).