The games of February 2012

Vita launch and other big names means a short month of madness

February 8

Shank 2

Platform: XBLA, PSN, PC
EU: February 8

Despite alluring hand-drawn visuals and a fluid array of combat options, the original Shank hardly snared critical consensus, grabbing all sorts of critiques – including a merely decent score from us. Luckily, the muscle-bound hero (think Rambo through the lens of Penny Arcade) has a second shot with gamers next week, with a sequel that finds him battling an evil militia in a single-player campaign, which is sure to end with hundreds of cartoonish foes in the dirt. Beyond the new storyline, setting, and various tweaks, Shank 2 also includes a brand new co-op Survival mode, in which two online or local players battle enemy waves to protect weapons caches.


Platform: Nintendo 3DS

Above: This is the DS version, not the 3DS version, but it should give you the basic idea

Just a few years back, Myst – the immensely popular 1993 adventure game – was ported to Nintendo DS. In many circles, it was deemed a hot mess. With luck, the new Nintendo 3DS translation will be much more successful, as the hardware can no doubt run the ancient favorite, and the 3D effect might actually benefit a game in which players must rely on visual clues. We assume there's at least one person out there who buys each and every new handheld and immediately thinks, "I really wish I could play Myst on here." And that person is probably responsible for ports like this.

February 12

Zumba Fitness Rush

Platform: Xbox 360
EU: February 24

We said this back when the last entry shipped for Wii, but it still rings true now: Zumba is an absolute phenomenon. You might not care about a game that brings home the Latin-dance-based fitness program, but millions of other people out there sure did when the earlier versions hit. And luckily, Zumba Fitness Rush – the second Kinect-enabled iteration – actually looks like a big upgrade from the original, with 45 distinct routines, different types of music, and a new Dance Central-esque look that's a big step up from the amorphous colored blobs we saw in the original.

February 13

Rhythm Heaven Fever

Platform: Wii

Thank you, Nintendo. No, really! We didn't get the original Game Boy Advance entry in this fabulously creative music series, and when the Nintendo DS version launched here alongside the DSi hardware, it didn't exactly light up the charts. So with the Wii software lineup clearly petering out, we're very excited to see Nintendo stick with the series in the States. And good luck missing it on store shelves with that box art! Rhythm Heaven Fever looks like more of the same from past entries, which means rhythmic minigames wherein simple actions contribute to shockingly catchy compositions, and thankfully this late Wii release does away with motion controls for a buttons-only affair. Seriously, cheers for that.

February 14

Twisted Metal

Platform: PlayStation 3

Finally. More than a decade after the last console release, Twisted Metal is back in action this month in a dark, Mature-rated entry headed up by the two principals that kick-started the entire franchise: David Jaffe and Scott Campbell. Packed with online combat, a single-player campaign, and plenty of familiar faces from past entries – along with new helicopters and transforming vehicles –Twisted Metal sounds like a perfect blend of familiar elements and fresh twists. Plus, if you grab a copy from the initial run, you'll get a free download of Twisted Metal: Black (PS2), as well as a Sweet Tooth skin for the upcoming Starhawk.

UFC Undisputed 3

Platform: Xbox 360, PS3
EU: February 17

Impressive as UFC Undisputed 2010 was, the lagging sales and ambivalent reaction proved that making the mixed martial arts brand an annual franchise was probably pushing it. So after a year off, we're noticeably more amped to dig into THQ's latest fighting entry, which makes numerous tweaks and additions, such as the insanely brutal Pride mode (based on a Japanese league that UFC acquired). The new career mode streamlines the action and spends less time doting on dull stats, but as detailed in our recent preview, it seems a little conflicted with its direction. Still, we're looking forward to pummeling virtual strongmen again later this month. Catch you knuckleheads online.

Lumines: Electronic Symphony

Platform: PlayStation Vita
EU: February 22

Many of the PlayStation Vita launch titles start shipping on the 14th – flip ahead a day for Sony's own fare – including one of our most anticipated releases: Lumines: Electronic Symphony. Back when the original PSP launched seven years back, we didn't expect a colorful original puzzle game to suck away so many fabulous hours, but Lumines did just that. And though we've seen several additional entries in the years since, it's been some time since the last significant series release. Electronic Symphony looks to leverage the Vita's power with dazzling combos of dynamic backdrops and thumping beats (including several licensed favorites), and we expect its handheld nature to win us over once more.

Rayman Origins

Platform: PlayStation Vita
EU: February 22

What a drag, friends. We knew releasing Rayman Origins in the midst of one truly insane holiday season might endanger the colorful platformer's chances, and sure enough, the sales totals to date have been underwhelming. The intensely gorgeous throwback side-scroller deserves better, and here's an opportunity for us to show a fresh burst of love for the game. It's launching on PlayStation Vita in a couple weeks, and we have little doubt that Sony's new handheld can pull off the sparkling hand-drawn visuals that helped win us over on consoles. If you missed it last fall, don't make the same mistake again now – whether on Vita or any other platform.

Grand Slam Tennis 2

Platform: Xbox 360, PS3
EU: February 10

We gave Grand Slam Tennis on Wii a remarkably strong review in 2009, thanks to its Wii MotionPlus implementation and the nostalgic feeling it gave us of playing Super Tennis ages back. EA Sports has finally seen fit to expand the series to other platforms, and Grand Slam Tennis 2 expectedly supports the PlayStation Move, letting you swing the remote like a racquet to strike at virtual balls. Curiously, the Xbox 360 version doesn't take a stab at Kinect controls – but whatever platform you choose, you'll have access to a mix of current stars and former legends, 25 real-life Grand Slam moments to replay and a 10-year career mode to bury yourself within.

Tales of the Abyss

Platform: Nintendo 3DS
EU: Out

It's so easy to lose track of the myriad Tales entries, even with the titular studio recently being shut down by Namco Bandai. But Tales of the Abyss should be a familiar face to PlayStation 2 role-playing nuts, as this Nintendo 3DS title is a re-release of a 2006 favorite from that console. At the time, we opined, "Tales of the Abyss is nothing new… but there's a lot to be said for taking something existing and doing it right." European players already have this handheld port, but North American 3DS owners seeking a deep-dive adventure this month can seemingly safely turn to this upgrade for hours of stellar RPG goodness.

We recommend