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Live Arcade 2009

2009's five biggest Xbox Live games

Here we are then, our five tips for what we reckon will be the best Xbox Live games of 2009. It's just around the corner...

FEZ

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The amusingly named lead designer of Fez, Phil Fish, thinks Super Paper Mario is 'terrible'. He's right, too. Sure, you could flip from 2D to 3D in the Wii's latest Paper Mario game, but it had only a minimal effect on how the game actually proceeds. On the other hand, the indie team from Quebec still working on the award-winning Fez, Kokoromi, are putting elbow grease into a puzzle-platformer which centres around 3D space in the same way Braid was built around the manipulation of time. Hit the triggers and the world rotates to allow the little pixelly hero, Gomez, to reach unreachable platforms and objects. Like Braid, it will melt your brain, and like Braid, it'll very likely be the platformer of the year.

DARWINIA +

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Virtual Reality was rubbish; so rubbish that nobody's willing to even attempt it, even though the technology has finally caught up with the ambition; so rubbish, that when a simulated life program contracts a virus, the whole world goes mental and starts killing the virtual inhabitants with giant digital spiders, snakes, and bastard red Darwinians. It's in the virtual world that Introversion's indie RTS plays out, both in Darwinia and insane multiplayer party-RTS Multiwinia, fated to be bundled together in one giant Live Arcade package as Darwinia+. Already, the PC version works beautifully with the 360 controller, making this tiny indie game the next great RTS hope for consoles.

THE DISHWASHER: DEAD SAMURAI

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Dead Samurai is violent, blood-smeared stuff - as every existing shot proves. Playing like a 2D Devil May Cry with guns and all manner of bladed weapons, The Dishwasher has been in development for an age, but will finally see release in 2009 with a full story mode and co-op play, multiple challenge stages, and an arcade rush mode, also with co-op support. Those lucky enough to notice got an early peek when Microsoft previewed half a dozen XNA games on Live in March 2008, and invariably found it to be fun, stylish, and - yep - massively, massively violent.

PEGGLE

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Admittedly, there's not much to Peggle other than aiming your little metal ball and firing it at a bunch of pins, yet somehow the game was seen as one of the best PC games of 2007, and that wasn't for want of competition. It sits comfortably alongside megabudget fare like Bioshock, Crysis, The Orange Box, and Call of Duty 4, and looks pretty good amongst such lofty company. Popcap's inventive twist on Pachinko is just skilful enough to make you feel like a champion, and just random enough that you'll always be thrilled by lucky bounces and cussing like an over-tired Dr Dre at your every misfortune.

KILLER INSTINCT

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The world suspects that Killer Instinct 3 is just around the corner. Rumours were fuelled by the arrival of three Viva Piļata animal cards based on characters from Killer Instinct and even a Christmas card sent by Rare to the press and a mention in Nuts & Bolts, but unless you're named Capcom, 2009 is a battleground no fool would enter a new beat-'em-up into. Killer Instinct 3 is as unlikely as a big-budget Battletoads revival, but a Live Arcade re-release for the original Killer Instinct is another matter. The HD makeover and cheap release worked for Soul Calibur - there's no reason why Rare's fantastically broken but utterly brilliant fighter won't be next.

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