Could this be the biggest video game release week of the year?
It's got to be up there. Although by far the week's top release is long-awaited superhero stunner Batman: Arkham City, that's by no means the only game competing for the contents of your wallet. There's plenty more out there -- especially if you're looking for something a little more family-friendly than the Dark Knight's dark doings.
Read on for all the details.
Batman: Arkham City (Xbox 360, PS3)
Giving gamers the irresistible chance to don the black cowl and flowing cape of Batman himself, Arkham City is going down a storm with critics. Indeed, it's already one of the year's best-reviewed games -- and some are calling it the best superhero game ever made. Get the bat-scoop right here.
Best for: Grown adults who still nurse Batman fantasies. Be honest, that's most of us.
Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure (Xbox 360, PS3, Wii)
Part Pokemon, part Diablo, part action figure. If that doesn't sound like the perfect recipe for a glassy-eyed, engrossed tween, we're not sure what does. Innovative Skylanders pairs cute action figures with a "Portal of Power" that plugs into your console or PC; drop a figure on the portal, and it appears in your game. As your characters battle their way through a colorful world of floating islands and fiendish enemies, they'll earn coins, win items, and gain experience -- and all that's stored on the figures themselves, so you can take them to a friend's and pick up right where you left off. We think Santa's going to be packing a lot of Skylanders in his sack this year.
Best for: 6-11-year-olds; obsessive collectors; man-children with a taste for colorful desk ornaments.
Rocksmith (Xbox 360, PS3)
In the words of top rockers Radiohead, anyone can play guitar. And while that's undoubtedly true, if you've tried to master the axe from playing guitar video games, you'll know it's not quite as easy as Thom Yorke makes it sound. Rocksmith takes a new approach: you can plug any old guitar — a real electric one, with strings and all -- into your PS3 or Xbox, and use it to learn how to shred through 50 tracks from a diverse selection of artists.
Best for: Floppy-haired teens who can't muster the enthusiasm for proper lessons.
Ratchet & Clank: All for One (PS3)
Co-operative play is the name of the game in the latest in the Ratchet and Clank series, also out this week. Supporting up to four players, drop-in, drop-out, online and off, the focus is on a stress-free multiplayer experience that plays a bit like the celebrated Lego console games, although critics are saying Ratchet & Clank makes a better job of it.
Best for: Large families, Sony die-hards, Lombaxes
The Sims 3: Pets (Xbox 360, PS3, PC, Mac)
You've got to hand it to the folks behind The Sims: not only do they know how to make a seriously addictive soap opera simulator, they also know how to give an expansion pack a snappy name. This one lets your Sims adopt cuddly pals and engage in all sorts of pet-related hijinks. It releases across console platforms as a standalone game, too, even boasting Kinect support on Xbox 360.
Best for: Sims fans. Animal fans. Sims fans who are also animals. Anyone with a PC that won't run The Sims 3.
Professor Layton and the Last Specter (DS)
You have $100 to spend on six games this week, and each game costs $50. If a train left Chicago at 1:45 and a boat left Antigua at 9:15, how many apples do you have left? Solve that riddle and you have proven yourself worthy of playing the latest in this brainteasing delight. Or, you know, you could just go buy it.
Best for: Mensa members, Nintendo junkies
Bejeweled 3 (XBLA)
Layton isn't the only puzzle pro heading to homes this week. The foremost name in match-three gem destruction makes it way to Xbox Live, letting you obsessively demolish gems from the comfort of the couch.
Best for: Puzzle gamers who would like some Achievement points, thank you very much
Tropico 4 (Xbox 360)
Banana republic management game Tropico 4 came out on PC earlier in the year, and hits Xbox 360 this week. While it's not exactly action-packed, it is remarkably good -- the delicious tropical theme is handled with aplomb, and the underpinnings of the game's economic gameplay are sensibly streamlined, whether you side with the communists or the capitalists.
Best for: #occupywallstreet protesters who want to show the world how running a country should really be done.