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The games of January 2011

Platform: PC (Steam)

Tower defense games are fun and all, but Monday Night Combat puts a unique spin to the genre by mixing in a little Gears of War and Team Fortress 2 (or, you can think of it the other way around: adding Tower Defense to the Third-person Shooter). The clever setting, a play on the classic sci-fi idea of future sports being life or death, involves killing many a robot and other competitors as you defend your Money Ball from being destroyed. The smart sense of humor and colorful visuals kept everything light when it made a big splash on XBLAin 2010, so here’s hoping the transition to PC will be leave all the fresh fun intact.


Mass Effect 2

Platform: PS3
EU release: January 21

When Mass Effect 2 originally came out last January for 360 and PC, it was one of the easiest 10/10 scores we've ever awarded. For the uninitiated, Mass Effect 2 strikes a perfect balance between intense shooter action and gut-wrenching drama, set in a richly textured world on the brink of destruction. It's a must-own for science fiction fans, who will love exploring the depths of the galaxy and fighting to save humanity.

The only bummer about ME2 on PS3 is that PS3-only owners won't get to experience the first Mass Effect for themselves, but on the other hand, the PS3 version offers plenty of its own enticing bonuses. First, you get a recap of the story via a Dark Horse produced interactive graphic novel (see our recentmini-review of the comic), where you get to make all the high level decisions from the first game to set up the story for ME2. You also get bundled in a ton of DLC, including Kasumi: Stolen Memory, Overlord and Lair of the Shadow Broker. Plus, it's on one disc!

Platform: PS3
EU release: January 21

Initially announced as a bold new platform for console-based game creation, it turns out that LittleBigPlanet 2 is pretty similar to the first game, albeit with a beefier storyline (complete with cutscenes and voiced characters, as seen above) and a few new additions to Create mode. Those few additions, however, are so profound that they open what was already a deep level-building tool to all kinds of experimentation, enabling would-be creators to freely edit the laws of physics, play with perspective and create complex behavioral circuits that make the original’s winches and pulleys seem quaint, if not outright obsolete. Also, the addition of a few new toys – including cannon-hats, grappling hooks, fully controllable vehicles and extremely versatile Sackbots – makes this worth checking out even if you thought the original was kind of lame as a platformer.

Platform: DS

Only a fool would underestimate PopCap's ability at this point with the number of simple but addictive hits it’s developed. Plants vs Zombies was one of their newest franchises that just hit consoles last year and is now going portable (that is, outside of iPhone and iPad). A very simplified tower defense game, PvZ's undead-focused sense of humor and cartoony graphics draw you in while the gameplay keeps you hooked. With new features dreamed up for the DS release, finally people who don’t own a smart phone can enjoy it on the go.

Platform: PS3, 360
EU release:March 25

Kind of like a shooter version of Demon's Souls, Mindjack is a Third-person Shooter with multiplayer seamlessly woven into the single-player campaign (the main game is in the style of a solo campaign, but it's only single-player if you turn the multiplayer options completely off). At its core, Mindjack is a typical-looking third-person cover shooter, but its namesake mindjacking mechanic gives it a strategic twist. At any time during battle, your disembodied consciousness can float around and hack into any character not currently being controlled by another player, to take control of his or her body. You can use this ability any number of ways – to change character classes on the fly, to access a superior vantage point for sniping, and so on. Multiplayer works similarly, where anyone can hack into characters from your game and either help or hinder you. And if you're worried about griefers, you can set your campaign to friends only.