We're not gonna lie – this is a sparse month for games. The biggest publishers are saving their biggest products for September, October and November, leaving August with a very short list to choose from.
Fear not, however, because scattered across the barren wasteland of the next four weeks are some very promising oases of gaming goodness. Some of these titles will be just enough to last through the end of summer, while others have the potential to keep you occupied – and happy – right through the fall, distracting you completely from Call of Halo or Fallout Rising 2 or whatever.
Here's August, then. See anything you want?
Castlevania: Harmony of Despair
EU release: TBA
Konami’s been recycling its Castlevania sprites for 13(!) years, so it’s becoming increasingly difficult to get excited about another (likely excellent) 2D entry in the series. Perhaps that’s why, for Harmony of Despair, they’ve decided to throw just about everything that’s ever existed into one massive, six-player vamp-off starring some of the series’ all-stars. Alucard, Shanoa, Soma Cruz and Jonathan Morris join a healthy stable of enemies, environments and bosses, all tossed into a time attack/boss rush hybrid game. It’s definitely against type, but it’s possible Despair could be the last time we see these characters presented in this manner, so also consider checking it out as a “last hurrah” kind of thing. (Oh hey, our review posted today! Maybe you should go read it.)
Scott Pilgrim vs the World: The Game
Platform: PSN, XBLA
EU release: TBA
You should be incredibly excited about the Scott Pilgrim game. Even if you've never read a single volume of Bryan Lee O'Malley's graphic novel geekgasm. Even if you hate actor Michael Cera and aren't at all excited about the upcoming film. Even if this is the first time you've ever heard of Scott Pilgrim.
Why? Because Scott Pilgrim is a comic written by a gamer, for gamers, with awesomely obscure references to retro gaming history strewn across nearly every page. And from what we've seen and played so far, the Scott Pilgrim game is emulating that exact same experience, with old-school sprites, arcade beat 'em up action between four characters, a chiptune soundtrack from TalkRadar theme musicians Anamanaguchi and callouts to classics like Super Mario Bros and Kirby.
(XBLA version releases two weeks later, on August 25)
Madden NFL 11
Platform: 360, PS3, Wii, PS2, PSP
EU release: August 13
After nearly 30 games and over 20 years, we shouldn't have to remind you that a new edition of Madden football is releasing this month. While the timing may be as predictable as ever, however, the improvements to the franchise this time around seem surprisingly robust. Not just better graphics and a new cover athlete, but enhanced play-calling that recreates the communication between a coach and his quarterback, as well as a fixed, more focused co-op mode that aims to make teaming up with your friends as fun, if not more fun, than lining up against them.
Monday Night Combat
EU release: TBA
This XBLA third-person shooter is sort of a cross between Team Fortress 2 and Warcraft III mod Defense of the Ancients. It takes round-based, arena shooter mechanics to a literal level, taking place sometime in Earth’s future when blasting people in the face has become a popular sport. It’s more family-friendly than Unreal Tournament with its stylized character models and total lack of blood. We’ve already played it for several hours, and it looks like it could be quite the addictive little co-op and online evening-waster.
MNC has a nice spread of classes, with familiar Assassin, Support, and Sniper roles, but also neatly breaks up the “soldier” class into three parts: Gunner, Tank, and Assault, which are separated into offense, defense, and balanced, respectively. Each class also has special abilities that can be leveled up during a match by spending money. Indeed, MNC being a proper sport, it centers everything on money: you collect it from killed enemies and spend it to build turrets. It has two main modes – Blitz is a version of Horde mode and is playable co-op or solo, but the meat of the game is its multiplayer mode – Crossfire, which mixes up standard objective-based shooting by adding in a steady stream of bots that trundle along “lanes” toward the opposition’s base – hence, the DotA comparison.