We're still a good month-plus away from the insanity of the pre-holiday season, but things are starting to pick up in the dog days of summer, as August delivers a large number of big-name releases on both the retail and digital sides. Big franchises and charmingly promising originals both populate the list, and nearly every week has a couple of titles that we're truly excited about digging into. And if you're looking to satisfy an itch for a new gadget, don't forget that the Nintendo 3DS XL launches on August 19. We'll remind you of that further into this feature, of course, so start reading – and let us know in the comments which games you hope keep the rest of your summer burning bright.
Platform: Xbox Live Arcade
EU: August 1
Due out today, Deadlight was definitely one of our most anticipated entries in the latest Summer of Arcade campaign, with its fantastic, shadowy aesthetic and side-scrolling spin on the ongoing zombie-blasting craze. We had a chance to put Tequila Works' title through its paces and post our review earlier this week, and while we had plenty positive to say about its look and feel, we came away less impressed by an irritating blend of trial-and-error platforming and spotty controls. As our review notes, we still found it a fun game with stellar moments, but "in the end the style stands tall, and the substance is but a shadow of what it could have been." It's out now, though, so give the demo a spin and see if it strikes you differently.
Platform: PlayStation Network (Vita/PS3)
EU: August 7
Sound Shapes is the latest project from Everyday Shooter wunderkind Jonathan Mak, but unlike that transcendent and largely self-created twin-stick affair, he's got quite a bit of help for this gorgeous PlayStation 3 and Vita platformer. Rolling and jumping through the world, you'll create music as you trigger happenings in the world, with beautifully distinct worlds backed by even more memorable beats. In addition to original tracks, Sony and Queasy Games have collaborated with artists like Beck and Deadmau5 to create unique stages, plus there's a set of stages inspired by iOS smash Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP – and you can make your own songs/stages, to boot. Scope out our latest preview for much more on this promising PSN release.
Persona 4: Arena
Platform: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
EU: August 31
Traditional Shin Megami Tensei: Persona games are typically lengthy, deliberate affairs, but that's all changing with Persona 4: Arena – a fighting game of all things. Developed by Arc System Works, a studio that knows a thing or two about creating fantastically strong and well-animated fighters (see BlazBlue, Guilty Gear), Persona 4: Arena collects characters from both the titular entry and Persona 3 and pits them against each other in epic battle with expectedly pretty results. BlazBlue isn't exactly the most accessible fighter out there, but as our recent hands-on led us to believe, Persona 4: Arena looks like it has both accessibility and depth down pat, making it a potential crossover hit.
Platform: Xbox Live Arcade
EU: August 8
You know Scribblenauts, the adorably creative game where you use words to create items to solve various puzzles? While developer 5th Cell is still hard at work bringing that series to fresh platforms, its next release is arguably quite different. Hybrid, part of the Summer of Arcade promotion, is a third-person arena-style online shooter with jetpacks, spawnable drones, an anti-gravity cover system, and all sorts of futuristic violence. Surprised? Hey, we were too, but as our developer demo from this spring shows, Hybrid looks like a lot of fun, and it's a fresh take on the genre with just a $15 price point attached. Considering the inconsistent start to Summer of Arcade, it could be the shot in the arm this usually stellar promo needs to bounce back.
Platform: PC (Steam)
EU: August 8
When it came time to assemble our list of the absolute best iPhone games a couple months back, picking Hero Academy wasn't a hard decision. Created by Robot Entertainment (Orcs Must Die!), the game blended elements of tactical RPGs and asynchronous turn-based multiplayer for an experience we likened to both Final Fantasy Tactics and Words With Friends. Luckily, Steam users will be able to get in on the fun next week with this new iteration, which includes cross-play with iOS, plus unlocked teams are available on either platform. And it has one very huge, awesome bonus: a Team Fortress 2-inspired team, which will no doubt propel this already-rad game to new heights on Steam.
Legends of Pegasus
EU: August (TBD)
Legends of Pegasus is Kalypso's entry into the 4X (explore, expand, exploit, and exterminate) space simulation genre, courtesy of upstart developer Novacore Studios, and the PC release spotlights a small fleet of warships that finds itself sucked into an unknown alien galaxy in the year 2231. The game includes three races with a total of 12 playable factions, plus a massive tech tree that lets you dig into hundreds of technologies to create custom ships. We only wonder whether a game this meaty launching just weeks after another 4X space sim – the quite stellar Endless Space – will have genre fans struggling to find enough spare hours for both.