Downloadable games have really come into their own in recent times for Xbox LIVE Arcade and the PlayStation Store users, and there’s no doubt that many more will be prominently on display at this year’s E3. Of the flood of potential hits, here are three that I’m going to have an especially close eye out for:
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD (Activision for XBLA and PSN)
I’ll admit it: I got very excited when Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD was unveiled in December. I spent dozens of hours just playing the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater demo for the PlayStation back in 1999, before the retail game actually came out. After I was hooked, I remained a fan of the series for many years in spite of its gradual transition away from familiar objective-based runs and towards a more open-world setup. After Activision put the Tony Hawk license on ice, I always wondered why we didn’t see a remake or reboot of the original games… but I won’t have to wonder anymore.
Robomodo has had access to Neversoft’s original level design and geometry to help make Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD a true homage to the popular original games, rather than making significant changes. The game is set to have that comfortable familiarity that so many players enjoyed in 1999 and 2000, but with an updated look and a mix of old and new songs in its soundtrack. If the lines aren’t too long, I’m hoping to get a shot at this on the show floor and pass along some impressions.
Zen Pinball 2 (Zen Studios for PSN)
PlayStation 3 and Vita owners have been waiting to see whether Zen Studios would update Zen Pinball with the same kinds of features that Xbox 360 owners got when Pinball FX2 arrived back in October of 2010. The release of Marvel Pinball as a solo platform for the PlayStation 3 was a bit of a tease as legacy tables like El Dorado and Shaman were left behind while Zen Studios focused new community features for its Marvel-based tables.
Coinciding with the release of the Avengers Chronicles pack, Zen Pinball 2 will finally merge all of the Zen Pinball and Marvel Pinball tables into one collective platform that will also offer the community features that Pinball FX2 players have come to enjoy, including collective scoring across tables, more convenient friends list leaderboards and score tracking, and more. There’s even cross-platform play between PS3 and PS Vita versions. The project has been in development for some time, and I’m looking forward to seeing what the final product might look like. I think pinball fans are going to eager to move to this platform when it’s released.
Double Dragon: Neon (Majesco for XBLA and PSN)
After the disappointing port of the original Double Dragon for XBLA in 2007, I am very curious to see how WayForward has fared with its interpretation. There has been some criticism of the new art style, which has forsaken the original arcade look in favor of more cartoonish characters and an obvious nod to the neon craze of the late 1980s.
New art style aside, the important thing about Double Dragon: Neon will be to note how well it plays. Responsive yet simple play controls are a requisite for a game like this to succeed. Will WayForward add something extra for replay value? Will there be new levels in addition to what purists remember from the arcade version? Will this be a more stable version than we saw five years ago? We’ll see if I can answer these questions after I get some time with Neon on the show floor.
Look for coverage of these and other games during E3 and beyond as our coverage shifts into high gear starting on June 4th.