Firemint is iOS’s most exciting developer, and not because of a burgeoning release roster, but because it treats its relatively small selection of games with the utmost pride and care and applies to them the finest technology. Spy Mouse’s exquisite animation and Real Racing 2 HD’s console-rivalling 3D push Firemint ahead of the field, while the studio’s pioneering use of AirPlay Mirroring for 1080p TV output keeps it there.
Key game: Minecraft
Don’t let Minecraft reaching its official release fool you – it’ll never be finished, with each patch adding more potential to the blocky creative sandpit. That’s what Mojang trades on, using intimate knowledge of its vast fanbase to inform every decision, while never being afraid to go against the grain. Rich but thoroughly indie, powerful while accessible, if Mojang’s work represents the future of developers, players have a lot to look forward to.
Winner: Eidos Montreal
Key Game: Deus Ex: Human Revolution
Making a sequel to the beloved Deus Ex would have been a daunting task for any studio. But doing so as a newly established team, recruiting as you go, would have been – well, only Eidos Montreal could tell you how that felt. And yet its fine updating of Deus Ex in the form of Human Revolution manages to capture the original’s heady mix of player choice, firstperson action and character development while adding flavours entirely of its own. There’s Human Revolution’s distinctive visual design, which melds filigreed Baroque with metallic high technology, and its reams of carefully layered backstory, detail and side missions, which tell tales of discrimination and corporate irresponsibility in a richly realised world.
Bearing in mind the pressures that bore down on production, some of Human Revolution’s weaker moments – principally its poor boss fights – become more understandable, if not wholly excusable. The game’s numerous successes, however, exhibit more maturity, inspiration and skill than many established studios will ever achieve, while also demonstrating how the right creative team can work wonders when up against it. We have a feeling that the upcoming Thief 4 – another update of a much-loved Ion Storm series – is in good hands.