Sports & Recreation
Zen Pinball 2 — Free
I wouldn’t call the digital-pinball marketplace exactly burgeoning or robust. Despite the lack of titles however, Zen Pinball 2 still offers one of the best virtual pinball experiences on any platform (new or old). The user interface is streamlined and concise without being overwhelmingly busy, while offering a notable selection of virtual tables to purchase or import from the game’s predecessor, Zen Pinball. Although the game doesn’t pride itself in being the most accurate pinball simulator –that title is better reserved for The Pinball Arcade and similar offerings – it still boasts remarkable in-game physics, flashy animations, and a score of lifelike sound effects guaranteed to evoke an unsung nostalgia for the seizure-inducing machines of the ’70s. Additionally, leaderboards and customizable controls help add replay value to an otherwise straight-shooting title, while the Star Wars and Marvel only up the ante on all things geeky.
NFL Blitz — $15
The original NFL Blitz was a novelty in that it had the uncanny ability to entice a selection of gamers who weren’t necessarily sports fanatics. Midway’s updated rendition sports many of the same trademark components — the crazy tackles, limited playbook, the wacky unlockables — while dropping some of the more controversial hallmarks of the game. Yet, although the iconic late hits and post-play pileups are no longer in effects thanks to official NFL intervention, pass-interference and other borderline-shiesty aspects of the game remain intact. The cartoonish animations and overall gameplay mechanics remain grounded with arcade-style aesthetics, whether taking on your opponent in a seven-on-seven grudge match or battling through a team of robots in Blitz Gauntlet, and there are enough additional game modes to make the title feel fresh despite its throwback appeal. The controls are also simple and familiar, the two announcers comedic as ever, and yes, you can still play in Big Head Mode.
Wipeout HD — $8
Saying Wipeout HD is still the same, cutting-edge combat racer it was in ’95 isn’t selling the game short. It was a landslide upon its initial debut, featuring a fully-licensed techno soundtrack and futuristic racing elements, thus helping solidify the genre as something other than purely a niche. The presentation is pristine and polished, abetted to a stunning 1080p visual overhaul and further enhanced by a yawning single-player experience. However, it’s also an immaculate repackaging of the original, meaning the content is essentially nothing new. The same ships, tracks, and music all make a return, along with the challenging campaign mode and competitive multiplayer options, but they do so at a blistering 60 fps. We can’t promise you’ll prefer the motion controls over using the classic analog sticks, but Wipeout HD remains the first-rate, white-knuckle, anti-gravity racer it was always was.
Hot Shots Golf: Out of Bounds Complete Collection: — $25 ($20 with PlayStation Plus)
Don’t let the adorable characters and borderline-twee nuances belie an otherwise fantastic title. The Complete Collection builds upon the every previous Hot Shots game, incorporating traditionally-arcadey gameplay mechanics and the series’ trademarked unlockables, while offering welcomed, three-button-tap alternative to the stale meter system that’s been featured in virtual golf titles since the get-go. The cartoonish visuals are detailed and sharp, whether engaging in the single-player mode or opting for an online tournament with up to 50 players, and there’s enough zestful variation among the courses to give each its own personality and strategic advantages. Although game modes are fairly limited, each single-player offering can also be played online, allowing players to customize a unique avatar and enter online lobbies where they can link up with other players. The best part? Lag and disconnections are almost nonexistent given the title’s undemanding constraints.
NBA Jam: On Fire Edition — $15
I could spend the next 150 words rambling on about the hallmark merits of NBA Jam: On Fire Edition — the razzle-dazzles, the boom-shakalakas, etc. — but I could never sum it up with the matching eloquence and and blunt reality of IGN‘s Tristan Ogilvie.”If you take a bowl of fruit, boil it down to chunks of pulp and add a little sugar, you get jam. Similarly, if you take the sport of basketball, boil it down to chunks of dunks, douse it in kerosene and set it on fire you get NBA Jam, arguably the greatest arcade sports series in the history of awesomeness.” It’s a bit of hyperbole, but Ogilvie is right in many ways. The latest edition in the recently-revamped arcade franchise sports a hodgepodge of unlockable content, fluid animations, improved game modes and plenty of Tim Kitzrow’s iconic commentary to go around.