When you think of "the holidays," you probably think of December. Not game publishers – when the year's most lucrative shopping season is at stake, they can't afford to wait that long. Thus, the overwhelming number of releases in September, October and November... all vying for your December dollars.
But what if you've miraculously managed to both buy and complete those dozens of games already? What if, somehow, you're ready for more? This is what December has to offer…
EU release: December 24
This is one of those games you really need to see in motion before you can appreciate its potential. Check out the video above… What resembled a cheap Flash game in screenshots is revealed as a deviously difficult physics-based puzzler in which you must not only rotate the game world around the object of focus (ala LocoRoco), but also understand how three forms of water (liquid, solid, gas) will react to those changes. Gamers looking for a real challenge this Christmas might want to start here.
Platforms: PC, Mac
As Bob Dylan once said, “The Azeroth, it is a-changin"… Or something to that effect. Blizzard has promised that Cataclysm will be the biggest expansion in World of Warcraft's history, radically altering the landscapes and major cities, many of which have been relatively untouched since the MMO's arrival over six years ago. We’re not talking a few new NPCs here and a new hut there – huge fissures have torn the Barrens apart and other zone are now almost totally submerged.
Why bother gussying up these old areas? Well, you’ll need to grind through them again if you want to level up your new Goblin or Worgen (humanoid werewolves) avatar. These two new races are one of Cataclysm’s biggest draws, and both of them come with new home territories, racial skills and abilities. As with every World of Warcraft expansion, expect new raids, quests and items, as well as a streamlined Guild interface and upgraded class builds/specs.
What?! That’s not enough reason for you to cripple your social life and reactivate your account? Here’s another 50 reasons you should check it out. Good luck resisting now, sucker!
Platforms: 360, PS3, Wii, PC, DS, PSP
What the hell is going on in TRON: Legacy? Some of that will be established in TRON: Evolution, the game that bridges an almost thirty-year gap between the two TRON films. You play as an anonymous system monitor created by Flynn, and among other things, investigate why exactly there are two Jeff Bridges of incredibly varied age.
Of course, you’ll also mount a light cycle, along with other vehicular surprises. Most of the action, however, unfolds like a Ubisoft platformer. Imagine the parkour wall runs and grappling of Prince of Persia, with a rhythmic combat and counter system a la Assassin’s Creed. Now set that in the luminescent ENCOM mainframe and… well, we'd guess that’s enough to already have TRON nerds completely sold.
Platforms: PC, Mac
After playing Peggle and Plants vs Zombies nearly nonstop for the past three years, we've learned to never underestimate the power of PopCap. If the casual game developer claims that gem-grouping in Bejeweled 3 is truly different enough from Bejeweled 2 and Bejeweled 1 to hook us all over again, we're inclined to believe them.
New ways to play include Quest, an adventure with objectives and minigames; Lightning, a quick-match time trial; and Zen, a never-ending meditation mode with relaxing music and affirming visual cues… that was designed as a stress-relief tool in conjunction with biofeedback scientists. Yeah, the world is gonna lose a lot of time to this one.
Platforms: Wii, DS
Told you December was sparse!
EU release: December 3
The 25th Anniversary of Super Mario Bros reaches its apex with the rerelease of Super Mario All-Stars for the Wii. Cynics may scoff at this rerelease of a SNES compilation of four old Mario games, and it’s true that the original versions of Super Mario Bros 1, 2, 3 and Lost Levels (aka Japanese Mario 2) are all available on the Wii’s Virtual Console. Still, getting enhanced versions of some of the greatest games of all time is probably worth the value price of $30 alone, as you’ll get the spun gold of platforming perfection from NES classics that are gussied up in “advanced” 16-bit graphics. And the set includes bonus items like a CD of Mario’s greatest songs from the last 25 years and a booklet filled with behind-the-scenes info.
Platform: 360, PS3, PC
It’s natural that there’s a little ire between Battlefield and Call of Duty fans – the FPS genre tends to breed some competitive, zealous fans. While CoD fans have Black Ops to tide them over for the holidays, EA is going the other route and offering a DLC expansion in the form of BFBC2 Vietnam. Containing four new maps, new Vietnam-era weapons (including a flamethrower), new awards and new Achievements /Trophies, the expansion definitely has a different feel than the modern era combat. Given the huge amount of free BC2 content EA has already given out via the VIP system, it seems more than fair to introduce paid DLC. Would you like to know more? Check out our hands-on preview right here.
(PC version releases three days earlier, on December 18. In addition, the free VIP Map Pack 7 will be available to all platforms on December 1.)