The games of February 2012

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

Last month, we struggled to hit double digits in our monthly roundup of new releases, thanks to a remarkably barren post-holiday release schedule. But while February may be the shortest month of the year, there's absolutely no shortage of fresh gameplay on the horizon, as you can see from this list of 60-plus notable releases to set your sights on in the next few weeks. While the PlayStation Vita launch makes up a large chunk of that, fear not: the release slate is thick across the board this month, so you're sure to find something intriguing on your platform of choice.

February 1

Double Fine Happy Action Theater

Platform: Xbox Live Arcade
EU: February 1

As many gamers complain about the lack of stellar core play experiences on Kinect, Double Fine – a studio that commands attention from the staunchest hardcore gamers – pushes completely in the other direction with Happy Action Theater, an experience that, in many ways, hardly qualifies as a game. Many of the 18 Kinect-based activities in this XBLA download are more visual distractions than anything else, creating amusing illusions like a living room filling up with balloons or lava, or virtual birds landing on your limbs. It's lighthearted fare, but remarkably creative – and keep an eye out for little nods to Double Fine's previous work.

Rhythm Party

Platform: Xbox Live Arcade

Konami's latest Kinect-enabled dancing game eschews rigid choreography for an approach that lets you dance as you please to one of 10 tracks – so long as your hands or feet hit the right spots on the screen at the right time. Rhythm Party seems particularly notable for its brightly animated backdrops, which display scenes from nature, flashes of light and cute animals, each seemingly matched to a differently stylized onscreen dancer that mimics your moves. The track listing includes Lady Gaga, Bobby Brown, and… two contributions from Vanilla Ice, for some reason. Looks like an odd little offering, but maybe that'll help it stand out from the pack.

February 3

The Simpsons Arcade Game

Platform: Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network (Feb. 7)
EU: February 8

It's been a long time coming (almost 21 years, in fact), but the beloved Simpsons Arcade is finally arriving on consoles in all its unretouched, pixelated glory. A bizarre four-player beat 'em-up in which Homer, Bart, Marge and Lisa set out to save Maggie from a diabolical version of Smithers, it comes correct with memorable level designs, huge nonsensical bosses, team-up attacks and tons of sly references to the distant early years of The Simpsons. Whether you were a fan of this back in the day or just a Simpsons fan looking for a casual-ish button-masher, it's worth keeping tabs on; after all, there's a reason this is remembered as one of the few good Simpsons games.

February 7

Resident Evil: Revelations

Platform: Nintendo 3DS
EU: Out

Everybody's all jazzed about the recent announcement of Resident Evil 6, but wait! There's a full-fledged Resident Evil game due out next week, albeit not on a home console. Resident Evil: Revelations is a Nintendo 3DS exclusive, plus it supports the Circle Pad Pro attachment, which ships separately for $20 on the same date. Despite the smaller screens of the 3DS, Revelations does a surprisingly great job of capturing what made the recent console entries so thrilling, but does so with a pace that works perfectly in brief, on-the-go sessions. Still curious? Check out our full review of the game for a detailed breakdown of what to expect next week.

The Darkness II

Platform: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
EU: February 10

We were big fans of The Darkness, what with its comic-spawned tale of a mob enforcer charmed with supernatural powers, and moments that ran the gamut from quiet, emotional beats to sickeningly gruesome depictions of violence. The sequel has a new developer (Digital Extremes) and a more comic-stylized approach than its predecessor, but looks to expand on what we dug the first time around, thanks to a new quad-wielding feature and a violent Vendettas co-op mode. You can watch a large opening chunk of the first-person shooter here, or simply check out the playable demo for yourself on all three platforms.

Kingdoms of Amalur: The Reckoning

Platform: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
EU: February 10

When Kingdoms of Amalur was first revealed, the huge names attached to the project seemed the largest draw, including former Elder Scrolls lead designer Ken Rolston, fantasy scribe R.A. Salvatore, comic artist Todd McFarlane, and baseball pitcher Curt Schilling. But now that we've seen and played more of the game, what really stands out is its amazingly deep lore, which looks to reward players who thrive on thick narrative design, not to mention its God of War-like combat system and unique character development options. Not yet convinced? Watch our 45-minute Full Access Preview from last fall, and then grab the playable demo that recently dropped for each platform.

Jak and Daxter Collection

Platform: PlayStation 3
EU: February 17

Platform powerhouse franchise Jak and Daxter hasn't been heard from for a few years, apart from The Lost Frontier for PlayStation 2 and PSP, which followed the excellent PSP-exclusive Daxter. But while we yearn for a proper current-gen debut, Sony's Jak and Daxter Collection should do a fine job of reminding us why we loved this colorful odd couple. The set includes the original PlayStation 2 trilogy – created by Naughty Dog long before its Uncharted days – with each title bumped into high definition and outfitted with a slew of Trophies to snag. We're curious about the lack of Jak X: Combat Racing, but three classics for $40 still seems like a sound deal.

The House of the Dead III

Platform: PlayStation Network

We might be consistently underwhelmed by new titles that support PlayStation Move, but at least the controller's presence in several million homes makes it easier for publishers to re-release some choice old favorites. Case in point: Sega plans to drop decade-old light-gun shooter The House of the Dead III onto PlayStation Network next week, with follow-up The House of the Dead 4 set to follow at some point this spring. Don't expect any huge surprises here: it'll probably be the same horror-tinged blast-'em-up we played in arcades (or on Xbox or Wii) back when, but assuming it's appropriately priced, that should be a pretty fair proposition.

Fallout: New Vegas Ultimate Edition

Platform: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC
EU: February 10

If you're not still neck-deep in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and managed to miss Fallout: New Vegas when it debuted in 2010, now might be the time to jump in. Why? Well, besides it being an excellent (if buggy) post-apocalyptic open-world experience, Bethesda is about to release an Ultimate Edition of the game on all three platforms, which bundles in the original title with an extensive heap of premium downloadable content. In all, you'll receive about $45 worth of expansions and extra gear alongside the full original game, with the Ultimate Edition going for $49.99. Not a bad deal for months of potential adventuring.

Gotham City Impostors

Platform: Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network, PC

The initial prospect of a Batman-themed first-person shooter generated a large array of epic eye-rolls from gamers – and rightly so, considering the hero's history. But playing has often been believing for many skeptics, which have been turned into believers by Gotham City Impostors' unique take on online deathmatch battles, featuring over-the-top weapons and items used by wannabe versions of Bats and The Joker. With an art style that's more Team Fortress 2 than Arkham City, plus the guiding hand of F.E.A.R. developer Monolith, Gotham City Impostors looks to be an entertaining aside to the typical "Why so serious?" nature of the franchise. Check out our recent preview for more on these ludicrous copycats and their inventive arsenals.

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