December wasn't exactly rife with game releases. Sure, WoW: Cataclysm made a splash, but most big holiday games came out in November to give Christmas shoppers plenty of time to pick up preferred bundles of digital joy. We all know that many publishers get cold feet during the fall as they see the big boys come stomping in to lay claim to the coveted shopping season, which means a lot of premium titles start to trickle in as soon as the new year has passed. And so we get to January, which is looking up for those who've already blown through those Christmas games and are hungry for more...
Lost in Shadow
EU release: October 7, 2010
Something about Lost in Shadow’s world reminds us of ICO, and that’s never a bad thing. In this “2D” platformer, you’re a boy who has been cursed to exist only as a shadow, and so you run and jump along the shadows of objects seen in the foreground. It’s a clever gimmick since shadows can move and change shape depending on perspective and the angle of light sources, and Lost in Shadow definitely takes advantage of these qualities. We’re hoping it can stand out from other artsy platformers like Braid and Limbo.
IloMilo is a cute, quirky puzzle-platformer starring Ilo and Milo. The story revolves around the two characters trying to reunite with each other, so as a single-player experience, you control both characters by switching back and forth between them. There are these strange cube-shaped creatures that need to be picked up and moved around, and different ones have different behaviors, all with the effect of helping each character move the other forward. It’s designed to get you really thinking in 3D space.
In this PSN release of an earlier PC version, players are tasked with navigating a surreal universe to collect pieces of something called Equilibrix in order to restore the (duh) equilibrium of space and thwart evil aliens called the G-Noids from conquering the universe. The trick is that you never stop moving, and the more stuff you pick up, the faster you’ll go. So it’s more of a collect-a-thon than a shooter. It sports over fifty puzzle-based levels, and for the cheap price of eight bucks it will probably get picked up in more than a few impulse buys.
Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective
EU release: January 14
Ghost Trick had us at "from the creator of the Ace Attorney series," but the gameplay in Ghost Trick is actually quite different, and more hands-on, compared to Phoenix Wright's mostly text-based quest for justice. You play as Sissel, a man who was brutally murdered, only to wake up as a spirit and see his own stone-cold corpse lying before him. He discovers that he now has the power to subtly manipulate objects by possessing them, and decides to use this "Ghost Trick" power to save other people from being killed and to solve the mystery of his own demise. You can go here to play the awesome demo and see how it all works.
Platform: PC, PS3, 360
EU release: November 12, 2010
This action-RPG has a unique setting that can be guessed from the title: Venice. In its world, Death walks amongst the living and the player takes control of Scarlett, daughter of Death, who must defeat the evil necromancer that brought Death to the land of the living. It’s heavier on the action and lighter on the RPG elements, but it still has character progression and the unlocking of various powers. The action is visceral, with the weapons having satisfying impacts and physically rewarding results. It already came out in Europe and so far has gotten mixed reviews.
Prinny 2: Dawn of Operation Panties, Dood!
Sequel to the ultra-hard platformer Prinny: Can I Really Be the Hero? and a continuation of utterly ridiculous game titles, Prinny 2 picks up some time after the first game left off: Etna’s still in power, but now she’s lost her panties, and so Prinny must come to the rescue! Prinny 2 features the same beautiful cartoony graphics and platforming, with some new toys to play with. Concessions have been made to the wimps who couldn’t handle the toughness of the original, so new powerups make this easier, and if that’s not enough, there’s a Baby Mode for mega-coddling.
Kingdom Hearts Re:coded
EU release: January 14
Featuring a title seemingly designed to give search engines nightmares, Re:coded has also confused potential players. Is it a re-release? A sequel? Not exactly, but more like a remake of the episodic version that appeared on Japanese cell phones. It’s not just an HD polish though, because it adds new abilities to Sora and brings in features like (instead of traditional level/stat boosts) the “chip” system. Sora earns special “chips” that can be placed on a sort of “power grid” like field. By placing chips strategically, players can direct energy to devices that can be used to alter game elements like difficulty level and item drops.
DC Universe Online
Platform: PC, PS3
EU release: January 14
DC Comics fans are pretty damn excited about this one, and for good reason: it doesn't completely copy+paste the tired MMO template, and instead offers much more action-focused combat. Of course it features intense character customization so you can look how you want and have the powers you desire, like being able to fly or make super-jumps. Combat is intense with the need to stick-and-move, perform dodges, and pull off combos. The seat of your action can begin in either Metropolis or Gotham, allowing for sunny or gloomy atmosphere. In a similar fashion to the upcoming Star Wars: The Old Republic, DC Universe Online has progressive story-focused quests featuring talented voice actors to always make you feel like you're part of a comic book plot instead of just grinding mobs.
SpellForce 2: Faith in Destiny
EU release: April 30, 2010
Next to no information has been released about this standalone expansion to SpellForce 2: Shadow Wars, but for fans of the series (whoever you are), does knowing the details about an expansion to your favorite obscure RPG/RTS really matter? The original SpellForce 2 was well-received by critics and it has already had one expansion (Dragon Storm), so for the genre's niche audience, this one's probably a sure bet. The SpellForce games combine the character progression and equipment customization of an RPG with the tactics of an RTS - not too far off from Warcraft III, for instance. In the new expansion, your character can now ride dragons, and we must say there is never enough of that in videogames.