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The Platinum Chalice Awards 2009

The Last Guardian’s sweet-as-hell boy and his giant griffin story hit us right here (if you could see us, we’d be gently placing our palms over our hearts) with an “aww” factor that rivals pictures of kittens and dogs cuddling together. Remember that tingly feeling you had at the end of ICO? How about your first dog…or anything you’ve ever loved (Tamagotchi perhaps)? Team ICO’s heart-pureeing project brings it all back, and with an orchestral score to make it that much more sublime.

If you haven’t seen the trailer, watch it immediately, and if you have, you’re probably going to watch it again. And if you’re as excited for the game as we are, you’ll want to read our unnecessarily comprehensive analysis. Now get your glassy eyes ready…

Prinny’s stubby little legs are so wobbly cute and his bulbous body is so huggable that it makes you want to just hold his adorably flappy flipper and walk around with him to make sure he doesn’t take a tumble. But part of his preciousness is his resiliency and determination in the face of adversity, so we’re content to root for him from the sidelines as he tackles life’s issues head-on in this seriesof five real-life adventures.

Two companies at the absolute top of the genres they’re known for, PopCap and Square-Enix teaming up for a puzzle-RPG seemed like a dream too good to even dare to wish for. But it happened! It really, truly happened, and it is glorious. Gyromancer keeps intact everything that was good about the original puzzle-RPG, Puzzle Quest (based on PopCap’s Bejeweled), yet somehow changes everything up enough that it feels totally fresh. The gameplay is deeper and more nuanced, and the twist mechanic (based on Bejeweled Twist) feels a bit trickier and therefore more satisfying than simple gem swapping.

While PopCap games don’t slouch when it comes to presentation, you can really see Square-Enix’s hand at work here in the massive amount of beautifully detailed art for each character, beast and location, as well as in the rousing soundtrack. Man, just wait ‘til you get to the last boss battle. That guitar WAILS.

Sun-powered plants face off against hordes of adorable zombies in PopCap’s latest ploy to make sure we never sleep. Cute visuals and simple mechanics may make it a casual game, but crafting the perfect combination of carnivorous vegetables and watermelon-launching catapults makes for one of the most addictive and hardcore experiences of the year.

Of all the worlds we visited in all the games we played this year, none matched the sheer creativity and originality of Brutal Legend. In a gaming landscape increasingly littered with me-too casual knockoffs, drab sequels and formulaic design, Brutal Legend stood out like a pink Mohawk at an accounting convention. With Brutal Legend, Tim Schaefer has given the shocker to the crusty old establishment and created a heavy metal wonderland.

Drawing inspiration from decades of heavy metal songs and album covers, Schaefer's world is logically consistent in its own delightfully demented headbanging kind of way. From the Screaming Wall to the Sea of Black Tears, the world of Brutal Legend is steeped in metal lore and populated by bizarrely appropriate creatures like lazer panthers and battle nuns. Legitimacy was further ensured by recruiting members of iconic metal bands for voice talent, burning Brutal Legend forever into the culture it so enthusiastically celebrates.

High fantasy may have done dwarves and elves to death, but Dragon Age managed to breathe new life into the genre that so many other games, films, and books have already tread, creating a detailed and compelling world that we can’t wait to explore further.