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December may offer the true climax of the holiday season, but in terms of new game releases, it's very much the calm after the storm. Most of the giant blockbusters of the season made their way out between September and November, but the final month of 2011 isn't barren by any means: big releases like Mario Kart 7 and Star Wars: The Old Republic lead the pack, while system-specific versions of some notable recent titles also find their way to store shelves. But if you read this over and don't see anything on the horizon that works you into a tizzy, surely November's overstuffed lineup holds a few leftover options to consider.
Platform: iPhone, iPad
EU: December 1
Even a full year after its release, Infinity Blade is still widely considered the top showcase title on both iPad and iPhone – but the anticipated sequel is poised to take its place. Built around the same swipe-based dueling mechanics, Infinity Blade II expands on the formula via less linear storytelling, scads of new weapons and items, and super-slick visuals that put the iPhone 4S and iPad 2 to fantastic use. Epic Games and Chair Entertainment (Shadow Complex) know a thing or two about delivering wickedly polished action experiences, and based on what we've played so far, Infinity Blade II seems special even beyond the bounds of touchscreen gaming.
Platform: Wii, Nintendo 3DS
The last major Jaws game to grace consoles – 2006's Jaws Unleashed – was a pretty ridiculous bit of mediocrity, with sequences where the titular fictional shark would, say, grab a keycard to open some nearby door. As such, we don't have the highest of expectations for this new entry, Jaws: Ultimate Predator, especially with a Teen-rated Wii iteration. But the prospect of a Mature-rated 3DS release admittedly piques our interest, especially since it's developed by n-Space, which has turned out some stellar handheld titles in the past. Being a sleek, underwater killing machine – how could it go wrong? Oh, right: Jaws Unleashed.
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Face Racers was announced way back at the start of the year, but in choosing an early December launch date, it's saddled with the unenviable fate of being a 3DS kart racer hitting stores mere days away from Mario Kart 7. Photo Finish does sport the unique feature of putting your face on the driver, but supports only half the players for multiplayer (four total) that MK7 allows, and doesn't seem to push the hardware very much based on the available footage. We haven't played the game just yet, but our comrades at sister publication Nintendo Power didn't think much of it. And have you seen our Mario Kart 7 review? Good luck, Face Racers.
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
We came away from E3 pretty impressed with Nano Assault, calling the shooter "probably the sexiest-looking 3DS game we’ve seen so far." We'll see if that claim still holds up once we dig into the final version, but even if not, this successor to the DS’s Nanostray franchise looks to thrill 3DS owners with blast-a-second gameplay against huge bosses across a variety of play styles. Unlike the top-down look utilized by the past entries, Nano Assault seems to take cues from the likes of Super Stardust HD and Star Fox in different missions, which should keep the action lively throughout. And at $30, it's cheaper than the average 3DS game.
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
EU: December 2
We might as well cut to the chase here. Did you catch our review of Mario Kart 7? We gave the wildly anticipated entry a whopping 10/10, calling it "THE game the 3DS has been in dire need of," deeming it worthy of a system purchase for those who haven't yet nabbed Nintendo's latest handheld. Mario Kart 7 builds upon the strong foundations of the past entries with 32 total tracks (half new, half updated classics), as well as hang-gliding and underwater racing moments plus slick 3D visuals. Got a 3DS? Buy Mario Kart 7. Need a 3DS? Get one, and then get this game.
Platform: Nintendo Wii
EU: January 6 (as Boom Street)
The Itadaki Street franchise started all the way back on the original NES in Japan, but two decades later, we're only now getting our first stateside entry. Redubbed Fortune Street, this four-player Wii game is more Monopoly than Mario Party, serving up an economic experience in which competitors buy, invest in, and sell properties while working their way around a game board. But Fortune Street is a more strategic option than ol' Monopoly, and better yet, the game includes a mix of Mario and Dragon Quest characters to play as, along with online play via the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection. Check out our hands-on preview for more on this curious niche release.
Platform: Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, 3DS, PC
Already out alongside the film in Europe since October, The Adventures of Tintin arrives in North America next week on a variety of platforms. Tintin serves up side-scrolling action/platforming missions as both the title character and his dog, Snowy, along with cartoonish flight and motorcycle segments, plus a set of bonus local co-op levels. The Steven Spielberg-directed CG film looks pretty fantastic, so we're hoping the adaptation bucks the trend of less-than-stellar movie games. Of course, since it's already out in many places, you can get an early heads-up on review scores thanks to our pal, Metacritic.
Platform: Nintendo Wii
Ubisoft's Drawsome Tablet for Wii looks nearly identical to THQ's uDraw Tablet – introduced this time last year – and expectedly, both support their own separate libraries of compatible games, thus splitting the kid-targeted market. But the Drawsome arrives with a couple perks, namely its $60 price point ($10 less than uDraw), its larger 8.5-inch drawing surface, and inclusion of two separate games: Drawsome: Sketch Quest and Drawsome Artist: The Smurfs. It'll be interesting to see if topping the competition on pricing and features helps Ubisoft make a big impact, but we're most curious to see if it really improves on the uDraw experience.
Platform: PlayStation 3
EU: December 9
Just Dance 3 made its debut on Xbox 360 and Wii back in October, but for whatever reason, the PlayStation 3 version is just now about to hit stores. And aside from using the PlayStation Move controllers instead of Kinect or Wii Remotes, it looks nearly identical to the other releases, with its familiar brand of lightweight dance gameplay, ultra-vibrant animated sequences, and more than 45 licensed songs, such as "Forget You" and "Baby One More Time." Dance Central 2 seems to be the surefire, can't-miss dance game of the season, but if you're only rocking PlayStation 3, then Just Dance 3 may be the next best option.
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