Winter Video Game Previews


World of Warcraft: Cataclysm

Blizzard's multi-billion dollar franchise is releasing another mind-numbingly addictive expansion just in time to engulf players' upcoming winter break. Deathwing's fiery return has reshaped the land of Azeroth, breathing new life into the old world. A level cap increase from 80 to 85 should keep players questing for quite some time, and the seven new dungeons and three raiding zones will keep the most avid raiding guilds on vent all day long.

However, once players reach that ludicrously high maximum level, they will find solace rerolling as one of two of the game's new available races. The tech-savvy, greedy greenskins known as the Goblins fall on the Horde faction while Alliance players will be tearing enemies apart as the vicious Worgen race.

Life ends for a few months when World of Warcraft: Cataclysm goes live on Tuesday.

Super Mario All-Stars 25th Anniversary Edition

The big N turns 25 this year, and the company's past two and a half decades has decisively shaped the gaming landscape. The legacy began with the red-capped hero who faced fear in its beady gorilla eyes all in the name of love.

Years later, Super Mario became a household name and the jump from 8-bit cartridges to their 16-bit counterparts allowed the Italian stallion to combine all of his success onto one golden cartridge. This coveted collection became the golden egg of every gamer's library; the four-in-one Super Mario All-Stars gave players the Mario fix they had been craving.

For gamers too young to remember the golden days of gaming, Nintendo has decided to rerelease this magical cartridge in disc form for the Wii, packaged with a 32-page book of Mario's illustrious history and a music CD of the series' unforgettable soundscape.

Shigeru Miyamoto gets a fat paycheck when Super Mario All-Stars hits shelves on Sunday.

LittleBigPlanet 2

Sackboy quickly rose to the PlayStation pantheon of gaming legend in the critically acclaimed LittleBigPlanet in 2008.

The game, known for its incredible level design, all-age appeal, and devoted community, will surely continue this trend in this up and coming blockbuster title. The level creator interface has improved tenfold, as players can design whatever digital idea pops into their heads and won't limit them to one style of gameplay. Players who wish to create a PS3 version of the original Contra starring a cute sack puppet will now have their wish fulfilled.

This ideal family game is not only age appropriate for the kids but for the parents as well. Controls are simplistic, puzzles are challenging but not impossible, and the game's humor is both witty and suitable for all ages. For the older crowd, friends can sync up via PlayStation Network to explore LBP's fantastical world together.

The series and its adorable mascot will continue to warm hearts this holiday season when LittleBigPlanet 2 is available to purchase on Jan. 18.

Dead Space 2

Visceral Games has created a game so frightening that it has many hiding under their sheets at night. Armed with his iconic plasma cutter, protagonist Isaac Clarke will once again venture in the darkness of space this winter season.

The game's unresolved ending will see its resolution quickly in the upcoming title, though not much else is known about this space epic. Players can expect screams, squeaks, and yelps as they transverse the horrifying space station that now is only identified as "the Sprawl."

The game's online mode will be a series high point, as players will combat one another in what is sure to be a nail-biting, jaw-dropping brawl. Combat will be brutal as plasma cutters collide and severed limbs drop to the sterile floor in a bloody mass.

The series will shock and horrify players next month when it's released on the Xbox360, PS3 and PC on Jan. 25.

Bejeweled 3

PopCap Games has been the creative genius behind some of the most addictive flash games to ever be produced, and undoubtedly its latest release will consume more time than any online game should, Warcraft excluded.

In 2009, PopCap Games struck digital gold with its comical, sensationalized zombie apocalypse, Plants vs. Zombies. The game has gone on to win numerous awards and has sold more than 300,000 copies on the iOS platform alone.

In the land of rotational jewels it seems as though everything has been done, but Bejeweled 3 proves that there are always jewels to organize in more ways than ever thought possible. Plus, its lower point price tag and near infinite shelf life makes it a definite stocking stuffer this holiday season.

Available as a digital download as well, Bejeweled 3 will take control of the casual game market Tuesday for whoever has the jewels.

E-mail: arts@ubspectrum.com