Easily one of the best things to come screaming out of Taito’s big games-mouth since Rainbow Islands. Think Mario vs DK2 and Prince of Persia squeezed together in a fancy silhouette suit. Mr. ESC leads panicked people out of 2D rooms, using their abilities to shift boxes, hit switches and all that. And the DS stylus will take the stickiness out of the PSP game’s point-and-click controls.
Above: Rune Factory 2, Viva Piñata
Rune Factory 2
We’ve been championing farm-’em-up Harvest Moon for years - so when developer Natsume offset the familiar cow-stroking with proper dungeon-based battles in Rune Factory, it was like getting two puddings for dinner. In the sequel, you start out building a school - then play as your own offspring, wooing the girls just like your dad did in the first game. By the way, lucky Japanese purchasers will get a handy CD soundtrack and mini art booklet. We just tell you this kind of stuff to make you angry.
Microsoft spent a fortune trying to turn Xbox 360’s Viva Piñata into the next Pokémon. They failed. But Rare Ltd. - for it is they of Diddy Kong Racing and GoldenEye 007 fame - should have more luck on DS. Viva Piñata’s essentially a management game: you tend a garden until papery piñata animals move in, then dress them up and send them to mates via Wi-Fi. The original was aimed at kids, but bewildering complexity and too many text pop-ups made it as fun as Windows Vista. On DS, it’ll almost certainly be better.