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This Month in Gaming - December 2011

While you're busy playing Skyrim, don't forget about these worthy releases on the other side of the holiday rush.

The Fall rush is over and the vast majority of the most talked-about games have seen their releases by now. Many publications have already begun tallying votes for their end-of-year awards. As such, while December seems decidedly quieter than the past few months have been, there are still some major releases trickling through before 2011 is at an end.

We kick things off with another major Mario release for Nintendo’s newest portable console. While last month hosted the launch of Super Mario 3D Land to rave critical reviews, Mario Kart 7 is the newest iteration in the popular racing franchise that dates back to 1992 when it made its SNES debut (oh the hours that game stole from us).

A major attraction to Mario Kart 7 is the fact that it’s the first 3D entry in the series, a visual device that works particularly well with racing games. It’s also one of the only top-flight games on a console starving for them, making it a near must-buy for anyone who plans on using the Nintendo 3DS as a gift idea for a loved one this holiday season.

The North American release is December 4th, but it has been hitting shelves in other regions worldwide since December 1st. As a result, many reviews have already come through and the game is sitting at a great 86 score on Metacritic. Have a 3DS? Here’s one way to justify the purchase.

  • Trine 2 [PC, PS3, X360] - December 6th

Trine was a positively received indie game released in 2009. A combination action and puzzle platformer, it was lauded for its attractive visuals and excellent physics-based puzzles that required the skills of three different swappable characters. It also got a lot praise for its drop-in/drop-out multiplayer where up to three players could join up and control each character simultaneously.

Trine’s success on the PC platform led to an appearance on the PlayStation Network where it received admirable attention. As of February of 2011, the game was said to have sold over 400,000 copies across all platforms.

On Tuesday, the popular indie game’s sequel Trine 2 will be released for the PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360 simultaneously.

World of Warcraft has dominantly owned the MMORPG market since 2004. As of this past November, there 10.3 million subscribers recorded. But no game can last forever, and World of Warcraft is said to be wrapping things up with their upcoming expansion. Once activity begins to dwindle, something will have to take its place.

Many think that its replacement will come in the form of BioWare’s Star Wars: The Old Republic. After several delays and a lengthy beta test period, gamers are certainly ready to receive it, and early pre-release reception has been positive across the board. And as this is BioWare’s first foray into MMO space, any delay is worth a stable release, especially since a successful MMO should run for at least half of a decade.

World of Warcraft has become famous for its status as a time vampire. Star Wars: The Old Republic might play host to the next bevy of similar storylines in the coming years. If MMOs are your thing and you feel that World of Warcraft has become stale, you might consider investing in The Old Republic early and getting a head start on the masses.

I Am Alive was ironically rumored to be a dead project many times over. Originally announced to be under development in 2008 for release in 2010, it changed development hands and fell silent. After resurfacing this past April with a “possibly late summer release” followed once again by no information at all, a launch trailer finally showed up in September officially identifying the December release.

Early looks indicate that I Am Alive is a post-apocalyptic game that draws environmental influence from the likes of Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, and gameplay elements of a refined survival-horror experience. The restrained combat is as much a puzzle as a visceral experience.

Even with so many delays and uncertainties surrounding this title, the result appears to be something truly unique and worth experiencing. We will find out for sure before year’s end, provided the release date holds up.

What the hey, why not get one more zombie-themed shoot-em-up out the door before 2012?

All Zombies Must Die is coming to us courtesy of Doublesix by way of Square-Enix. It’s a downloadable, four-player, co-op twin-stick shooter in which you and your friends can shoot at hordes of zombies.

Doesn’t really sound very unique, does it? Maybe not on the surface, but there are details setting this game apart, primarily in the form of RPG elements that introduce questing, leveling and crafting to the fray. With this additional depth and the confidence of a well-respected publisher, All Zombies Must Die might be not only a ridiculous shooter but also an addictive RPG for you and three friends.

Keep an eye out for these games this month as you make your way through the busy holiday!

Check out these retailers for your video game needs:

  • Play N Trade, 545 South Broad St., Lansdale. (215) 368-1955
  • , 2612 W. Moreland Road, Willow Grove. (215) 830-8505
  • Classic Game Junkie, 111 S. Easton Road, Glenside
  • GameStop, 1551 Valley Forge Road, Lansdale. (215) 631-1230
  • , 2333 W. Main St., Lansdale. (215) 855-4280
  • GameStop, 801 Bethlehem Pike, North Wales. (215) 412-2900
  • GameStop, Montgomery Mall, North Wales. (215) 362-2036
  • , 222 East Main St., Collegeville (610) 831-8732
  • GameStop, 1838 Bethlehem Pike, Flourtown (215) 836-5947
  • GameStop, 1495 Old York Road, Abington (215) 885-2069
  • , 2500 W. Moreland Road, Willow Grove, (215) 657-4341
  • , 44 E. Germantown Pike, Norristown (610) 279-2078

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