Destiny is the week’s colossal launch, but it’s not in this week’s post because servers just went up yesterday. There are plenty of other big releases to pick up the slack, though. Even though it seems as though the Stanley Cup Finals just ended, NHL 15 cross-checks its way onto shelves as a harbinger of the upcoming season. If swinging virtual clubs, rather than hockey sticks, is more your thing, you’ll want to check in at The Golf Club. There is also a new DLC for Pinball FX2, with Guardains of the Galaxy and The Walking Dead-based tables, and JRPG fans can jump on the weirdness that Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair has to offer.
Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair
(Vita, $40, Mature)
It’s tough to pull off a comedic mystery in any medium, maybe most of all video games. But Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair manages to pull it off, painting a cast of surly and lively characters set in a failed tourist trap known as Jabberwock Island. You play as a teenager stopping by with his class for a field trip, and you and your classmates are quickly sucked into a slew of mysteries with life and death at stake.
As you work your way through the quests, it’s easy to get lost in the oddball environment and the engrossing social structure. The psychologically rich dialogue and animations are the high points, with combat and fetch quests serving only to slow you down as you plug your way through the story. At least there are few stubborn puzzles to trip you up and artificially stretch out the game. There is no shortage of deep, entrancing JRPGs for the Vita, but this one is near the top of the heap.
The Golf Club
(PS4, Xbox One, $35, Everyone)
If you’re looking for a solid, no-frills golf game, The Golf Club is your answer. Those used to the heavy broadcast-style presentation, real-life courses, tournaments and pros of EA’s Tiger Woods series — which has now dropped the Tiger name and taken the year off — won’t find much to dig into here. But if you’re in it strictly for love of the game, you’ll find plenty of excuses to blow off whatever commitments arre dogging you to play just one more round.
A Greg Norman-branded course designer lets you build and share your demented, Happy Gilmore-style dream courses, and a deep multiplayer suite lets you set up one-on-one matches, tournaments and one-off challenges against friends and strangers. The physics and graphics are smooth, fair and reliable, and a lack of hand-holding assists make it feel as though every birdie, bogie and par is earned. A meat-and-potatoes game that takes advantage of current-gen hardware without showing off, The Golf Club should be a staple of any golf fan’s lineup, especially since it won’t be outdated in a year by an inevitable annual sequel.
(PS4, Xbox One, $60, Everyone)
Hockey fans who took the current-gen plunge last year had to sit and wait as EA Sports refused to rush out an NHL 14 port for the PS4 or Xbox One. The year wait turned out to have some benefits — with admirably slick gameplay, visuals and animations — but the package as a whole also does some disturbing backward skating. Missing are a host of modes that fans of the series had become accustomed to, such as EA Sports Hockey League and online connected GM play, are on the bench this season. While a relatively small percentage of the player base uses those modes, nothaving them as an option is a tough pill to swallow for fans who buy in every year.
The on-ice action, however, does not disappoint. This is defiinitely the smoothest hockey sim EA Canada has created. Just as in EA’s Madden and FIFA, visuals and animation sets take a profound leap from the last generation. More importantly, player movement, shot taking, checks and defense feels natural and decisive. The NBC-infused presentation and commentary are absorbing and well crafted, and the replays are rich, varied and satisfying. Still, if you are into the previous NHL games’ online aspects, this is the year to sit out and wait for next year’s definitive current-gen debut.
Pinball FX2: Guardians of the Galaxy, The Walking Dead DLC
(PS4, Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360, Vita, Wii U, $3, Everyone)
The ever-expanding slate of tables available on Pinball FX2 continues to expand. Both of the latest pieces of DLC, based on the movie and TV show that dominate the box office and Nielsen ratings, are as impressive as the most obsessive fans could have hoped for.
The Walking Dead table may be the most immersvie and addictive yet released on the platform. Collaborating with Telltale Games — makers of the stunning episodic adventure games based on the comic — takes you through the series episode by episode, letting you choose who lives and dies during Walker attacks. Cleverly implemented voice samples and gameplay hooks, such as foraging for food and boosting morale while racking up points, keep things lively.
Less thought and effort went into the Guardians of the Galaxy table, which appears to have been slapped together with the typical movie adaptation template. At least it distinguishes itself by starting with a wild multiball free-for-all, which keeps your flipper-tapping fingers busy as you rack up cheap high scores before you get going in the main quests. The table won’t do much for casual fans but should satisfy diehards.