Lego Marvel Super Heroes (2013)


The (Hopefully Temporarily) Best Game on the X-Box One!

Lego Marvel Super Heroes (2013)I’ve had my Xbone for a few months now and thus far I’ve been fairly disappointed with what it has to offer.  Not as a system itself; that has been fantastic.  What disappoints me is the lineup available for my next gen system.  I’ve played a few games on the system already and have found the results typically mediocre.  The game I’m reviewing today has been available since the system’s launch, but I’ve never felt it was quite worth its price.  That was until my friend Bob, the Mayor of Krunkytown, told me that I needed it.  Well, you don’t argue with a mayor and so I went out and purchased Lego Marvel Super Heroes, developed by TT Games, published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, and starring the voices of Stan Lee, John DiMaggio, James Arnold Taylor, Clark Gregg, John Eric Bentley, Dee Bradley Baker, Roger Craig Smith, Troy Baker, Fred Tatasciore, Nolan North, Laura Bailey, Kari Wahlgren, Travis Willingham, and Phil LaMarr.

It would probably be too hard to go too in depth with the story of this game.  Not because it’s particularly complicated, but because I would have to list too many damned names.  The quick break down is that a bunch of supervillains are getting together to steal cosmic bricks in order to build the “Doom Ray of Doom” to defeat Galactus (John DiMaggio) the World Devourer in hopes that it will make the people of Earth fall in line and worship their saviors.  Little do they know that they are being played by the Asgardian God of Mischief Loki (Troy Baker), who intends to harness the power of Galactus to destroy Earth and Asgard.  But Marvel comics doesn’t just make villains, do they?  HELL NO!  AVENGERS ASSEMBLE!!  …And a lot of other heroes too!

This is hands down the best game available on the Xbone.  That title is made much easier to achieve by having only 20 other titles to compete with, but that does not take much away from the acclaim.  I’ve always been fond of the Lego series.  I’ve never connected with them too drastically, but they’re typically cute and fun and they just keep getting better.  Some of their properties that they’ve made into Lego versions haven’t interested me too much, but this is Marvel.  Of course I’m in!  And it’s the best Lego game I’ve played.  The story is nothing too spectacular.  It’s basically just a “heroes save the world” deal.  Actually, it’s pretty much the story of Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer.  That’s really all it needs to be though.  What I appreciated about it is the funny little moments they can install into the story.  I still think I liked them better when they couldn’t talk because they were pretty good at adding comedy without it.  But they’re not too shabby with dialogue either.  Having Hulk yell, “HULK SMASH UGLY SIDEBURNS!” when he meets Wolverine is pretty funny.  They also used Nick Fury in some hilarious ways.  Though he had nothing to do with the game, the character of Nick Fury is typically played by Samuel L. Jackson, and Traveller’s Tales used that for some comedy that would be well over the heads of the children that might typically play their games, making some nice references to Pulp Fiction and Snakes on a Plane.

One of the things I appreciated the most about this game was the fan service.  They referenced everything they could think to reference from the Marvel universe, and more specifically the Marvel movies.  There was a part where the Hulk punches the Green Goblin as he punched Thor in the Avengers, Thor arrives into the game like he does in Thor: The Dark World and even in a similar setting, the Put Up Your Dukes level is right out of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, one of the times you rescue Stan Lee is a reference to when he drank the infected juice in the Hulk movie, the chess set where we find Stan at one point might be a subtle reference to his cameo in the Avengers, and the game even has a mid-credit sequence like the greater majority of comic book movies.  Also, there are achievements for doing the Fastball Special (throwing Wolverine at an enemy as Colossus) and for having Captain America and Human Torch on the same team (because both are played by Chris Evans in the movies).

Now, all of those references could not have been recognized if it were not for some extreme levels of nerdiness.  That nerdiness also caused a few problems with this game.  At one point, Gambit stops the Juggernaut dead in his tracks by dropping a chandelier on him.  As big of a fan of Gambit as I am, that just doesn’t happen.  Once the Juggernaut starts moving, nothing can stop him!  He’s the Juggernaut, bitch!  Also, why is the X-Men airplane called the X-Jet now?  Is it not still the Blackbird?  And since when is the X-Mansion on the island of Manhattan?!  I also had a lot of problems arise from what the characters were able to do.  First of all, Spider-Man has genius-level intellect.  Why do I have to switch to that lame ass Mister Fantastic in order to use a control panel?  And while we’re on the subject: I know you probably felt the need to make Mister Fantastic seem useful, but since when can he turn himself into complex machines like an electric screwdriver?  That doesn’t even make sense!  …The rest of the game is perfectly logical to me though…  I also thought Mystique should’ve been more useful.  She can basically just sneak past things.  Shouldn’t she at least be able to turn into people with claws to use the claw switches?  She turned into Wolverine and had claws in the first X-Men movie!  I also didn’t like that Jean Grey didn’t have the special senses to detect switches like Spider-Man and Wolverine.  How does that make sense?  She has EXTRA Sensory Perception!  That’s like two more sensories!  And even worse, how can she take fire damage when you pick the version of Jean Grey that’s the Phoenix?  She flew into the Sun as the Phoenix!  And how does Iron Man get frozen?!  He fixed that icing problem in Iron Man 1!  And how does Magneto not fly?!  I AM THE KING OF NERDS!!

Admittedly, the look of the game doesn’t quite live up to next gen expectations.  It looks about as good as recent Lego games have on current/previous gen consoles.  It’s the look they’re going for and I don’t really knock it for that.  It’s kind of for kids, so it’s supposed to have a really colorful and not necessarily photorealistic look.  Also, it’s a Lego game.  How do you go photorealistic with that?  And this one is different from any others I’ve played because they let you play around in a sandbox Manhattan between story missions, and that is just fine by me.  I got to jet through the streets as Iron Man and the Silver Surfer!  Although I was a little bit bothered that the Silver Surfer’s flying sounded a little like a vacuum cleaner.  Is he the Silver Maid or something?  I thought all maids were brown!  BOOM!

The game is really fun and kept me interested right up to the point where I got 100% on the achievements.  I can’t really keep wasting time on a game when I’m not getting no chievos no more!  There were a couple of minor problems with the game.  Sometimes the camera didn’t want to play along, or more accurately to let you see what you were playing.  I also had a common problem where my character would choose to target my ally relentlessly when I was surrounded by enemies.  I also got irritated in the first level because they kept putting up reminders when I was the Hulk that I could hold Y to turn back into Bruce Banner.  Why would I ever want to do that?  You realize that I’m currently the Hulk, right?

Lego Marvel Super Heroes is currently my favorite Xbone game by leaps and bounds.  It’s not hard to do when everything else on the system turned out to be okay at best, but the game is still entirely enjoyable.  The story is simple but peppered with some enjoyable humor, the game looks good though not quite next gen quality yet, and it’s lots of fun to play.  I got hours of enjoyment out of this game and lost track of most of those hours after I started playing and realized shortly after that it was 4 in the morning.  And it’s an easy 1000 achievements for you achievement whores like me.  Don’t try to act like you’re too adult to enjoy this game!  It’s fun for the whole family!  Lego Marvel Super Heroes gets “Excelsior!” out of “I’m still hungry!  I need something to eat!”

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Injustice: Gods Among Us – Ultimate Edition (2013)


It’s Not What I’m Doing … It’s What I’ve Done.

Injustice: Gods Among Us - Ultimate Edition (2013)You could say that my sister has a bad habit of picking the worst game from my Christmas list to get me as a present.  I prefer to think that she has a gift for it, and that the bad habit is my naiveté for assuming I’ll like so many games.  If you’re up to date with my reviews, you’ll know that two years in a row my sister has given me a game that made it into my worst games of the year.  Last year was Twisted Metal, but this year she got me Injustice: Gods Among Us – Ultimate Edition, developed by NetherRealm Studios, published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, and starring the voices of George Newbern, Kevin Conroy, Adam Baldwin, Susan Eisenberg, Richard Epcar, Phil LaMarr, Neal McDonough, Joey Naber, Khary Payton, Mark Rolston, Tara Strong, Alan Tudyk, Stephen Amell, Troy Baker, Grey DeLisle, Jennifer Hale, J.G. Hertzler, Nolan North, and Fred Tatasciore.

In an alternate reality, the Joker (Richard Epcar) tricks Superman (George Newbern) into killing Lois Lane and destroying Metropolis, sending Superman off the handle to the point where he kills the Joker and establishes a new world order as the High Councilor.  In our reality, the Joker’s plan did not succeed, but did send the heroes from our world over to the other one, where they must join Batman’s (Kevin Conroy) insurgency and try to take down Superman’s regime.

There must be some sort of mistake.  I seem to not have taken any notes on the story of this game.  Of a fighting game!  They’re always so story-driven!  This game didn’t have a bad story (especially when you compare it to other fighting games), but it was fairly forgettable.  I guess I didn’t take any notes about it because it didn’t really make any impact on me one way or another.  It didn’t impress me as being particularly well-written, and I didn’t think of jokes to tear its shittiness apart.  It was roughly as good as any of those straight to DVD DC or Marvel movies.  Take that for what it is.

The thing that really makes or breaks a fighting game is the gameplay.  The problem with that when it comes to me reviewing them is I don’t really like fighting games.  I was interested enough to complete the story and beat the game with a couple of the individual characters to see their specific endings, but as with all other fighting games, once I hit that wall of boredom I hit it hard.  When I reach boredom with a fighting game, there’s no taking a break and coming back to it; I’m out.  Returning to the game is extremely painful at that point.  This game controls like most of the newer Mortal Kombat games.  There’re some punches and some kicks, a few special movies, and a super move for each character.  Nothing revolutionary.  I do like the fighting games that allow you to transition between different sections of the same level by knocking your opponent off of an edge, and this game does that as well.  Of course, once you’ve seen it once you can pretty much put a check mark behind that ‘cause it’s just going to be the same thing over and over.  There were a couple of notable changes to the fighting game mechanics that I noticed.  The first was the health bar system.  Unlike most fighting games that give each character a full health bar for each round, you’re given two from the beginning but do not get full health when you knock out one of the enemies’ health bars.  I actually liked this because it inspires you to do good all the way through as opposed to getting a fresh start because you just got KO’ed.  The other thing I noticed was the Wager system, which I hated.  It basically just gives the opponent the chance to prolong the battle by sacrificing their super bar.  They’re about to die, so they’re not going to need it, but you may have if you were trying to finish the game spectacularly with a super move.  Instead, they wager their entire super bar every time and you have the choice to either sacrifice your ability to do your super move or let them win, damaging you or healing them.  It just seemed like an unnecessary annoyance.

The characters were pretty good in the game.  It’s basically every notable character from DC comics, at least as far as I know.  I’ve never been that big of a fan of DC, but I certainly couldn’t think of anyone else from that universe that I would care to see in the game.  That basically means that Batman is in the game.  But I also resented Batman because they changed his default costume and made it look lame.  Thankfully, that could be repaired with alternate costumes, but you couldn’t fix how lame his super move was.  He basically just jumps up into the air and hits the opponent with the batmobile.  This is Batman we’re talking about!  Stupid ass Aquaman stabs the guy with a trident, hits them with a giant wave, and gets them eaten by a giant shark!  Wonder Woman’s super also sucks because it makes her seem like she needs help because she basically gets her Amazons to come in and beat your opponents ass.  It would’ve been less lame to involve that stupid invisible airplane she used to have.  But there were lots of characters to choose from, and even more because I got the Ultimate Edition.  That means I had even more characters to not care about.  Like Zatanna.  …Yay…

Injustice: Gods Among Us was a decent enough game for those who like fighting games, especially the Mortal Kombat games.  Unfortunately for it, this review was written by me.  I’m not that big of a fan of DC and I’m not that big of a fan of fighting games.  Kind of makes you wonder why I asked for this game in the first place, doesn’t it?  Well I am a complicated individual, but I will not complicate my review any more than I need to.  If you like DC and fighting games, buy it.  Otherwise, skip it.  Injustice Gods Among Us – Ultimate Edition gets “There is no justice!” out of “You could feel the love, right?”

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Darksiders (2010) and Darksiders 2 (2012)


It’s Not Death That You Should Fear

Darksiders (2010) and Darksiders 2 (2012)Recently, I’ve been trying to think of ways to make it easier to accomplish these reviews; things to make my reviews easier. It’s occurred to me that most critics review one episode of a TV show at a time, whereas I review entire seasons in each review. Well I put out a lot of reviews, and should spread those out so I can get more reviews out of one DVD set. …That being said, today I’m reviewing two games in the same review. I don’t know why, but even as I already own Tomb Raider and know of the existence of Bioshock Infinite, I decided now was the time to play two games in the same series that only ever vaguely interested me. I own the first one because I bought it used for $20, and I could borrow the second one from my friend Hookah, but there was clearly no reason to be playing this instead of Tomb Raider. Either way, I felt like I had to, so I did. Here is my review for the Darksiders series. Darksiders was developed by Vigil Games, published by THQ, with designs by Joe Madureira, and with the voices of Liam O’Brien, Mark Hamill, Phil LaMarr, Troy Baker, Moon Bloodgood, Lani Minella, Vernon Wells, Keith Szarabajka, J.B. Blanc, and Fred Tatasciore. Darksiders II includes the voices of Michael Wincott, Simon Templeman, André Sogliuzzo, Claudia Christian, Phil Proctor, Barry Dennen, Jamieson Price, Jessica Straus, and Nick Jameson.

For all my atheist readers, Heaven and Hell do not get along. In fact, one could say that they are at war. And Earth is often caught in the middle of that war. A balance is maintained by a group called “The Charred Council (Fred Tatasciore)” using the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse – War (Liam O’Brien), Death (Michael Wincott), and for some reason Strife and Fury instead of Conquest and Famine. The balance is broken and war breaks out on Earth, and War awakens to restore the balance, but alone and depowered because the necessary paperwork was not filed to summon the Horsemen, so he is defeated by a demon called Straga (Troy Baker). The Charred Council accuses War of jumping the gun and bringing on the destruction of humanity, but War demands a chance to prove his innocence. They agree to send him back to Earth, bound to an annoyance known as The Watcher (Mark Hamill) and still depowered, to give him the chance to find out who was behind his premature evacuation.

In a fairly chronologically confusing setup, we now play as Death, who has set his sights on clearing his brother’s name by reviving humanity using the Well of Souls. I guess this part takes place just after War goes to Earth and gets defeated, so we’re playing this part in the several hundred years while War is talking to the Charred Council. Death first goes to the Crowfather (Keith Szarabajka) – who is NOT Bruce Lee – to find out what he must do, but Crowfather is all bitchy because Death made him carry around an amulet filled with the souls of the Nephilim who didn’t turn out to be Horsemen material and were then killed by the Horsemen. Death then goes to the Forge Lands, and finds that a lot of the realms are being taken over by this Corruption stuff that is kind of Death’s fault because it’s all caused by this guy named Absalom (Simon Templeman) that Death killed a while ago.

These games were fine for what they were, but there were issues to be had with them. None of these problems were really with the story … because I wasn’t paying that much attention to it. Well, I was paying attention to it, and I even played the game twice, but it was fairly inconsequential. I like a game that incorporates the Four Horseman. I’ve had a fascination with them ever since I first learned about them … in Marvel comic books. Of course it wasn’t in the Bible! I ain’t reading that thing! But that also means that I was thrown off because the Four Horsemen in this game didn’t include Pestilence and Famine, which wasn’t even accurate to the Bible that says it was Conquest and Famine they changed for their game. But Conquest doesn’t even seem to fit into the group, so I’m okay with him being gone. And Famine and Pestilence would just be sickly and frail, so they probably wouldn’t fit this game either. But the biggest problem of all is how little sense Death makes in Darksiders 2. How the hell is Death’s ultimate goal in the game to bring all of the humans back to life? Someone needs to change his fuckin’ name before trying that bullshit.

I really appreciated the look of this game, and mostly because the creative direction was left in the hands of my favorite comic book artist: Joe Madureira. This guy’s art is the bomb! I literally have one of his pictures as a poster on my wall AND as the desktop of my computer. So I love the artwork that created the game, but I did feel that the atmosphere of the first game didn’t really fit the theme of the game. It seemed a little too bright and almost cartoony while they were going for a darker theme. There were levels that seemed to reflect it better – such as the spider level – but the greater majority felt like they should’ve been darker. War definitely benefited from Madureira’s artwork because he loves to make heavily armored and intricate characters, and that fit the look of War really well. But then Darksiders 2 comes around and Death feels like a topless member of Slipknot. But aspects of Death can be changed, which is something that’s a little problematic for me. Part of me appreciates it when the gear I change actually changes the gear being carried by my character, but another part of me hates that my logical side needs to have the best equipment on while the artistic side of me wants my character’s gear to match and look badass.

Okay, the biggest annoyance I had with the game all came from the gameplay. The gameplay itself could be boiled down to your basic hack-and-slash game, which is fine by me. It’s a solid stress relief to hop into a mindless game and beat the shit out of your X button. The problem I had with both games was how much they flat out stole from other games. I had heard a little about this stuff before I even played the game. I was told that it was very similar to God of War meets Zelda, which is definitely true. Hack-and-slash games all kind of feel like God of War, and some of the music in the first game felt like it was taken right off the soundtrack. And the puzzles were vaguely Zelda, but the maps were EXACTLY Zelda. They even have the skull to indicate where the boss is located. But the thievery does not stop there. They have a portal gun in the game! It’s not a gun, but it is stolen straight out of Portal. The portals are even blue and orange! You can’t just call it a Voidwalker and fool me, Darksiders! And the Abyssal Chain is straight up the hookshot from Zelda. At least for Darksiders 2 they changed it enough by making it a spectral hand that Death reached out with. They have an aerial battle where War rides a griffin that feels very Starfox as well. Darksiders 2 changed the gameplay a lot, but they did not change the amount that it was all stolen. Instead of your basic hack-and-slash, it became more of a Diablo-esque dungeon crawler, where you were rewarded with loot and gold instead of the God of War-style soul orbs. This was also a bummer because you could often get better gear from fighting random weak creatures than you could from surviving 100 levels of the Crucible, or 10 levels of the Soul Arbiter’s Maze. Then, they decided they needed to get some quality platforming in their game. What better place than Prince of Persia? They had all the wall running that helped the Prince of Persia games be so good, but lacked the polish that made them great. And the big colossus boss battle was pretty reminiscent of Shadow of the Colossus, appropriately. I actually got to the point with these games that I was thinking that I had not played enough games to accurately pick out every game that they were stealing from. The biggest annoying power wasn’t actually stolen from anything, but it was annoying for an entirely different reason. You’re not able to enter the realm of the spider people until you get the ability to make your horse – Ruin – run between two pillars to cross a chasm. The reason I found this annoying was that this was the ONLY TIME YOU EVER USE THIS POWER! What a fuckin’ waste!

The achievements in these games weren’t that bad. I was able to get all of them in both games. They weren’t easy, but plenty were annoying. They both did a lot with collectables which means you’ll be wandering around the maps over and over. Darksiders 1 even had one that was for riding a certain amount on horseback, which meant I spent a lot of time running around in circles on horseback since I didn’t do nearly enough normally. You’ll also probably want to play the game twice to get all the achievements, which makes it much easier while also making it take more time. But the most annoying achievement is the one you get for just getting the portal ability in Darksiders 2, because they called it “I can has cake.” Come on! You’re not even trying to mask that you steal from other games!

Darksiders and Darksiders 2 were decent enough games with next to no story, fantastic art design by Joe Madureira, and some fun and mindless hack-and-slash action. The biggest problem I took with the game was how clearly and blatantly they assembled their game with the cobbled parts of better games. I just don’t know if I can call this game worth buying. It’s okay, but there are better ways to spend your money. If you can get them super cheap, or if you can rent or borrow them, they’re decent enough to play if you have nothing else to play. Darksiders and Darksiders 2 gets “You would fight this war alone?” out of “The greater risk is to do nothing.”

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Lollipop Chainsaw (2012)


Killing Zombies Gives Me Total Wood.

Lollipop Chainsaw (2012)My inspiration for playing today’s game can sadly be defined with one word: boobies.  This movie appeared to have them in bulk.  Technically, there was probably more than interested me in this game.  I wouldn’t consider myself a fan of James Gunn – who collaborated on this game – but I’ve definitely had interest in things he’s done before.  I’ve also had interest in the games of his collaborator, Suda51, but I’ve also never played anything he’s taken part in.  I also consider myself a fan of the main voice actor in this game, Tara Strong, and I’ve actually enjoyed many things she’s taken part in.  But that’s far too much explanation and it’s much easier to say I played Lollipop Chainsaw strictly for the boobies.  In fact, all of that was too long.  Remind me to erase it later.  Lollipop Chainsaw was written by James Gunn, produced by Goichi Suda (Suda51), developed by Grasshopper Manufacture, published by Kadokawa Games and Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, and includes the voice acting of Tara Strong, Michael Rosenbaum, Kimberly Brooks, Linda Cardellini, Gregg Henry, Vanessa Marshall, Bruce Locke, Sean Gunn, Little Jimmy Urine, Michael Rooker, Shawnee Smith, Dave Fennoy, Rick D. Wasserman, Fred Tatasciore, Nolan North, and Kari Wahlgren.

Juliet Starling (Tara Strong) is a cheerleader that just turned legal.  But she is no ordinary cheerleader.  Well, technically she is exactly the definition of what you’d expect out of a cheerleader.  But also she carries a chainsaw and fights zombies.  She is off to meet her boyfriend at San Romero (HAAAAA!  I see what you did there, zombie game!) High School, but she arrives too late.  Her boyfriend Nick (Michael Rosenbaum) is bitten by a zombie.  She performs a ritual to allow his severed head to remain alive and decides to keep him around in this form.  It turns out that the whiny Goth kid Swan (Sean Gunn) has summoned the zombies because people in high school were mean to him.  He summons musical themed zombies – punk rocker Zed (Little Jimmy Urine), Viking drummer Vikke (Michael Rooker), hippie guitarist Mariska (Shawnee Smith), autotuned R&B-ish guy Josey (Dave Fennoy), and some kind of rock dude Lewis (Rick D. Wasserman) – to seek his revenge.  Along with Nick, Juliet teams with her sensei Morikawa (Bruce Locke), her Mom (Vanessa Marshall), Dad (Gregg Henry), gun-toting older sister Cordelia (Linda Cardellini), and clumsy younger sister with far too much energy Rosalind (Kimberly Brooks) to send them back to Hell, or wherever.

I knew what I was getting into with this game.  I had assumed that it would be a pretty run of the mill hack and slash game with occasional funny parts and lots of Japanese quirkiness.  So, now that I’ve proven that I can read the future, I will be accepting premium rates to read people fortune cookies and tell them I’m magic.  I really can’t say that there’s too much to say about the story of the game.  The zombies show up and Juliet has to kill the shit out of them.  The dialogue is pretty hit and miss in the game too.  Quite often, I found the dialogue between Juliet and Nick to be pretty cute, especially the part where Juliet thinks Nick speaks Japanese because he knows what the word “sensei” means.  But other parts of the dialogue just seemed like they were trying too hard to be funny, or perhaps even edgy.  Not really a problem, I suppose, but noticeable more in the times when they fall short.

Not a lot to say about the look of the game either.  It wasn’t particularly good and it wasn’t particularly bad.  It was fairly colorful and goofy in how dismembering zombies was muted by rainbows and stars because of how most guys think the world looks through the eyes of most girls.  The only real issue I took with the look of the game was the sexuality.  Don’t get me wrong; I love boobies.  The problem I had with it is that it felt like it was telling me way more than I ever would want to know about what James Gunn and/or Suda51 masturbate to.  That’s information I’d do better without.

The game plays well enough.  It’s vaguely Bayonetta-esque.  And by that, I mean it’s a hack and slash game.  Spam the hell out of that X button, then throw a Y button at the end for good measure.  They add a gun thing that doesn’t really work unless you take off auto-aim and a few other things to break up the monotony, with limited success.  They also often try to break things up with quirky minigames, like a baseball one where you have to protect zombie Nick as he rounds the bases and a basketball one where you try to make baskets with decapitated zombie heads, but these never really became more than irritants for me.

The achievements aren’t necessarily what I’d call easy, but they’re not the hardest ones either.  The only thing that makes them a bother is that it means you’ll probably have to replay levels a few times.  I got to about 800 before I finally got sick of the game and decided it wasn’t worth the bother anymore.  But I imagine I could’ve gotten 1000 without too much extra work.  It’s just that the game isn’t interesting enough for me to really work at it.

Lollipop Chainsaw was a goofy, fairly standard hack and slash game.  The story was simple, but funny enough when they weren’t trying too hard, and the look was pretty cute for a game with so much dismemberment.  But I’ve never really been a big fan of hack and slash games because I can only press X so many times before I realize that I’m getting bored.  This game is satisfying enough for a rental, but can’t justify a decent price tag.  Lollipop Chainsaw gets “What the dick?” out of “These zombies suck dick at driving.”

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The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)


It’s Like the Movie … With 800% More Cross-Breeds

The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)I found myself terribly torn by today’s game.  There have been games like the one that I’m reviewing today that were some of the most fun and enjoyable experiences that I can remember in gaming, and others still that reached the level of mediocrity at best.  When this game came out, it looked to be a return to form for the series, but I still had my trepidations.  I wasn’t prepared to waste $60 for a game like the most recent few, and I just wasn’t interested in taking the risk.  I put it on my Gamefly queue instead, and eventually it arrived.  Interested to see which type of game it resembled more, I started playing The Amazing Spider-Man, developed by Beenox, published by Activision, and featuring the voices of Sam Riegel, Nolan North, Kari Wahlgren, Steven Blum, Claudia Black, Ali Hillis, Bruce Campbell, Fred Tatasciore, and Stan Lee.

A few months after a mediocre film was made about him, Peter Parker (Sam Riegel) and his girlfriend Gwen Stacy (Kari Wahlgren) sneak into restricted areas of Oscorp to find Alistair Smythe (Nolan North) attempting to clean up after Dr. Curt Connors’ (Steven Blum) experimentation with cross-species DNA, making him into a giant Lizard and Peter into a man of spider.  Well, the man-spidering of his DNA does not go unnoticed by the other hybrid creatures in the facility, and it causes them to break from their bondage and attack the facility.  Gwen gets bitten in the process and she is quarantined along with Smythe and others to quell the infection.  Desperate to find a cure for Gwen, Peter frees Dr. Connors and sets him to work creating a cure while he tries to capture the freed cross-breeds before the infection gets out of control.

So what’s the final decision?  Was this game a return to the free roaming Spider-Man that I loved, or is it another mediocre addition to the series?  The answer is “Yes.”  It’s both.  The bulk of the game felt pretty average, but there’s no denying that I’m a fan of the free roaming parts, and I’m very thankful they went back to that.  The bulk of the story was pretty mundane, much like the movie that spawned it.  In fact, the story of the game is very similar to the movie, at least the part that pertains to Dr. Connors.  And since that story alone had already been told and it was necessary to prolong the story of the game, it seems that they just took that part and added more creatures.  And since they didn’t have that many creatures in the canon that fit the bill, they just turned the other characters with various origin stories into cross-breeds, like Rhino.  Another thing it had in common with the movie was that Spider-Man’s trademark quips never really landed.  Spider-Man is supposed to have killer one-liners, man!  That’s something you just gotta get right.  I would say that the occasion when they worked the most was in most of the interactions between Spider-Man and the reporter.  Altogether, the story didn’t really offer that much, but I can’t say that it was awful.

There’s not a whole lot to say about the look of the game.  It looks really good and I had scant few complaints about it.  What complaints I might have is that the faces never looked realistic, but the rest of the stuff in the game looked so good and set the mood so well that it made up for it.  Also, I’m beginning to think that there’s a very good chance I’d be able to make it around New York without a GPS because of these free-roaming Spider-Man games and their attention to detail in making New York as accurate as they can.  I would be looking for a collectable and see that it was located in Time Square or Central Park or other random places, and I knew where they were without having to look that up, even though I’ve never been to New York.  Well, I might not be able to make it around the city unless I was swinging through it on webs, but I might be able to translate that into walking.

The free-roaming stuff was really what sold this game to me the most.  I missed that aspect of the Spider-Man games so much.  The last three Spider-Man games I remember playing were all really linear, and that just made my penis soft.  That doesn’t feel like Spider-Man!  It doesn’t feel right to just be Spider-Man just after he showed up at a museum or a linear back alley and making me follow a straight line to the boss at the end.  So this game had that much going for it.  It also had boss battles, and I appreciated those because they all felt really epic, even though they really weren’t much more than quick time button pressing events.  There wasn’t a whole lot to the other fights either.  A lot of pressing X to punch faces, and occasionally pressing B to finish someone.

The achievements in this game are not entirely difficult, but they can be fairly time consuming, extremely tedious, and inevitably I gave up with about 800.  There are 700 comic books to collect in the city of New York, and finding them is not helped by the fact that every one that Spidey picks up causes him to say something that sounds like a sales pitch for comic books.  Things like “Cover price went up, but still worth it.”  But these weren’t that bad for me because I enjoyed swinging around the city aimlessly.  But there were also magazines to find inside the linear levels, and I didn’t have the patience to go back in for those.  I also wasn’t interested enough in the game to try to go back for the second playthrough on Hard.  But still, 800 is close enough for a game I rented for 3 days.

I was happy to see that Amazing Spider-Man returned the Spider-Man games to their beloved past of free-roaming games, but this outing still ending up being expectedly mediocre.  The story was nothing special, the fights were easy, and they went way overboard with the collectables, but there is a good amount of enjoyment to be gained from swinging around New York as the be-webbed one.  I’d say there’s enough in this game that it’s worth a go, but probably not until you can find it for around $20.  The Amazing Spider-Man gets “The Vermin” out of “The Rhino.”

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Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes (2012)


Where Does He Get These Unbreakable Toys?

Today’s game comes as a surprise to even me. I have no idea why I like this game type, but I’ve always been a fan of them. The games are fairly obviously geared towards children, and they’ve also made somewhere in the range of 100 games on the same premise, but I still find them to generally be some goofy fun. But after having played 7,000 games based on the same cute idea, will I feel like I’ve been beaten over the head with them? Will I still enjoy it? And will I be able to follow the story when I missed the first game? We’ll find out as I review Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes, written by Jon Burton and David A. Goodman, developed by Traveller’s Tales, published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, and starring the voices of Troy Baker, Charlie Schlatter, Clancy Brown, Christopher Corey Smith, Travis Willingham, Anna Vocino, Rob Paulsen, Nolan North, Kari Wahlgren, and Fred Tatasciore.

A “Man of the Year” competition in Gotham City is broken up by a group of villains – the Joker (Christopher Corey Smith), Harley Quinn (Laura Bailey), the Riddler (Rob Paulsen), Two-Face (Troy Baker), and the Penguin (Steven Blum). Batman and Robin (Charlie Schlatter) respond to the call. They take out the villains and send them back to Arkham Asylum. Lex Luthor (Clancy Brown) then shows up and frees the Joker with a weapon called “The Deconstructor”, which tears apart objects and is powered by Kryptonite. Luthor and the Joker intend to get Luthor elected as President using the Joker’s laughing gas. With the help of the rest of the Justice League, Batman, Robin, and Superman (Travis Willingham) need to shut that shit right on down.

I still have a soft spot in my heart for the Lego games. Most of them are super easy to come up with since they’re mostly just movies like Star Wars, Harry Potter, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Lord of the Rings, retold with Legos and goofiness. This game sets itself apart from the others in the story department, but not always in ways that I appreciate. I thought they did the story fairly well. It was a pretty basic and unsurprising story. It’s basically just Batman and Robin trying to stop the Joker. Then Lex Luthor comes along and Superman joins in. Then things get a little out of hand for them and the rest of the Justice League shows up at the end to clean things up. There’s also a fairly sizeable subplot about Batman’s feelings of inadequacy towards Superman. But I can’t say I expected anything else. It is aimed more at kids, after all. But it also had plenty enough cute little funny moments that I’ve come to expect from the Lego games to make it enjoyable. But along with their slightly more involved original story came something I had not seen in one of the Lego games before: talking. The other games were so good at telling a story and being cute and funny without the use of words, even when they were telling the more epic story of some classic movies like Star Wars. I don’t know if this is the first game where they used the spoken word, but I’d actually prefer them going back to the art of mime. It was cuter and funnier that way, and it’s a little strange to see Lego creatures speaking.

For the story changes that they’ve made, they were mostly unwilling to make any to the gameplay itself. Of course, I like the gameplay. It’s simple and unchallenging, but it’s still enjoyable. The bulk of the game is as simple as pressing X a lot to break things, and occasionally holding B to put things together. That’s how all of the Lego games work. They add a little bit of puzzle solving into the equation by making each character able to do different things, and in the case of this game they make Batman and Robin particularly versatile because they can do many different things by finding special suits, such as Batman’s Power Suit that allows him to shoot explosives, or Robin’s Acrobat Suit that allows him to swing from poles on the wall … and create a giant plastic ball for some reason. This creates a mild level of puzzle solving … at least until Superman joins your team. He exemplifies the reason I hate him: he does almost everything and is immortal. He doesn’t need a Hazard Suit filled with water to put out fire; he’ll just breathe on it. He doesn’t need an Ice Suit to freeze water; his breath will do that too. He can fly and reach places Batman and Robin can’t, and kind of eliminates the need to use the Acrobat Suit to reach those same heights. And what’s more is he can’t be damaged, so the ease of the game up to that point is increased because I can put my controller down and come back later and still not have taken any damage from the hordes of enemies around me. And this pretty much forces me to play as him because I can’t wrap my brain around not playing the immortal character that does everything that’s readily available to me. Once you finish the game and unlock the other characters, the need for Batman and Robin is almost erased entirely, which is weird because this is supposed to be Batman’s game. You don’t need the Bat Suit to break glass because you have Man Bat and Black Canary, you don’t need the Power Suit because the Penguin has explosives, you barely need the Hazard Suit because Aquaman can clean up toxic waste with his water blasts, and you don’t need the Ice Suit with Mr. Freeze around. Why bother finding a suit when I can just hold Y and switch to the character immediately? There were also things in the game that would bother a comic book nerd like myself. First of all is a complaint that some comic nerds got from the first Tim Burton Batman movie: Batman doesn’t use guns! You can’t just throw guns on the Batmobile and the Batwing all willy nilly like! I know that the enemies were just technically breaking up into Lego pieces because this is a kid’s game, but that’s the equivalent of killing in this game, and Batman doesn’t do that either. I was also confused by the fact that Wonder Woman could fly. As far as I knew, Wonder Woman’s version of flight is having a stupid invisible jet plane, and they even put that plane into the game as an unlockable vehicle. Turns out (after some Wikipedia research) they did make Wonder Woman able to fly, but it still stuck out for me as not right. Also, what’s the point with the stupid combo things? Beating enemies in quick succession made multipliers show up on the screen, but they didn’t do anything so I didn’t see the point. All it let you do is a finishing move of sorts that got you an achievement, but besides that it seemed to have no point.

Speaking of achievements and things that have no real point, one of my favorite things about the majority of the Lego games is how easy the achievements are to get. The greater majority of the games that I’ve completed 100% are Lego games, and this one keeps with the same tradition. I was able to get all of the achievements for the game in about 2 days. It’s basically just beating the game and unlocking all of the characters. The only thing that may keep people from going for them is the fact that you have to collect 250 gold bricks in the game, but even that doesn’t take very long. It just requires the patience to collect them.

The look and sound of the game were as good as a Lego game can muster. Around the time of the Pirates of the Caribbean games, they started putting their silly-looking Lego characters into landscapes that were actually very pretty as opposed to Lego backdrops that weren’t that visually compelling. They keep that up here. I also kind of liked the voice acting in the game (even though I didn’t like that there WAS voice acting in the game) because the voices were either of the people that typically voice the characters in the cartoons or they sounded a lot like them. I actually thought the guy doing the Joker’s voice was Mark Hamill for a while, although that thought kind of broke down as time went on. The person that did Harley Quinn’s voice didn’t do a very good job representing that voice, which makes me sad because I really like Harley’s voice. Also, the guy that does the Riddler’s voice? His name is Robert Paulsen. …Or at least Rob Paulsen. Does anyone else get that joke? The music was also nice in the game, particularly when you were flying around the city as that douche nozzle Superman because they used the famous music John Williams made for the movies, and that’s just a kick ass orchestration.

I think that about covers it. Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes doesn’t break any new ground, but I still find myself charmed by the series. The story is basic, and it bummed me out that they actually made the characters speak, but it’s still cute and amusing and the gameplay, though very easy, always manages to keep me interested. Plus, it’s super easy achievements, and I’m always on board for that. If you’ve liked the Lego games in the past, or you have kids that you want to play some games that you might enjoy yourself when they’re not playing, or you just want some easy achievements, then Lego Batman 2 gets my seal of approval. Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes gets “I can see you smirking in there. X-ray vision” out of “I’d have to be crazy to say no to that offer. Unless you’re just one of the voices in my head. In which case, I’m crazy anyway!”

Let’s get these reviews more attention, people. Post reviews on your webpages, tell your friends, do some of them crazy Pinterest nonsense. Whatever you can do to help my reviews get more attention would be greatly appreciated. You can also add me on FaceBook and Twitter. Don’t forget to leave me some comments. Your opinions and constructive criticisms are always appreciated.

Tangled (2010)


That’s a Lot of Hair

I really wish I went into these reviews with any foresight. When my friend suggested I review the movie Tangled, I knew she wanted me to review the animated Disney movie. After I watched it, I went to the interwebs to get the information I needed to write my review and found out there was another movie by the name of Tangled starring Rachel Leigh Cook. I was pressed for time this day so I was unable to do what I wanted, but I instantly regretted not having watched the other one. Not for the quality, but for the comedy. Unfortunately, I had no time. So let’s see how this much less amusing (to me) review of the animated Tangled goes, written by Jacob Grimm, directed by Nathan Greno and Byron Howard, and starring the voices of Mandy Moore, Zachary Levi, Donna Murphy, Brad Garrett, Ron Perlman, Jeffrey Tambor, Richard Kiel, Paul F. Tompkins, Tom Kenny, Fred Tatasciore, and the legendary Frank Welker.

A Queen becomes sick while preggers and her kingdom goes out to find a magic flower to keep her alive. It’s been kept secret by a greedy old broad that sings it a song to keep herself young. The soldiers find it and use it to save the Queen. The Queen has a baby with golden hair that will keep people young when the baby girl has the song recited to her. The old broad, Gothel (Donna Murphy), steals the baby and locks her up in a tower so she can be young forever. The downtrodden King and Queen send out lanterns on the baby’s birthday every year in hopes that the baby will see them. 18 years later, charismatic thief Flynn Rider (Zachary Levi) steals the crown from the palace and is chased by guards to that very tower, where he is promptly clocked in the head with a frying pan wielded by the grown up Rapunzel (Mandy Moore). Gothel has forbidden Rapunzel to leave the tower, so Rapunzel hides Rider’s crown while he’s unconscious and uses it to bargain with him to lead her to see the lanterns she’s watched from her window if he wants it back. She originally wanted this as a gift for graduating out of jailbait status, but Gothel turned her down, so why not go to the cute guy with the same offer? At first, Rider is only trying to scare Rapunzel into chickening out of their deal, but eventually sparks of love show up. Gothel returns early to find Rapunzel gone and goes after her to convince her to return. And, since this is Disney, it ends in a really hopeless, depressing way.

In recent years, I have done all I can to argue with my friends in favor of classically animated Disney movies as opposed to computer animated Pixar movies. This has been pretty difficult as Pixar movies are so damned good and (at least recently) animated Disney has been either fairly lackluster or amazing movies with a 2 added to them being sent straight to DVD’s filled with suckitude. Watching Tangled, I found myself torn. Torn by the fact that this movie is a return to form for Disney, but at the cost of classic animation styles. A lot of the best Disney movies have been re-imaginings (or retellings) of classic stories, like Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and now Rapunzel. And, from what I remember from the original story, this one makes a lot more sense. I guess, technically, the original story was just about kidnapping and some guy climbing hair, so that’s not that illogical, but it’s also not very interesting. The whole hair thing and staying young gives Gothel an actual reason to hold on to Rapunzel beyond something as simple as a grudge against her parents. And, as with the other Disney movies, they give their characters way more life and comedy than the original story allowed. Rapunzel was so cute and innocent, with a mastery of physical humor that made her character more than merely charming. Rider was fairly charming at first, but the true quality of the character was only revealed when he stopped with his facade. Gothel was not just evil, but grounded in ways that most Disney villains aren’t. Although women being overly obsessed with their appearances, even at the cost of the lives of others, actually is more common than I initially thought in Disney movies. I think that was the main motivation behind the Evil Queen in Snow White, but my memory is pretty foggy. All those parties in the 60’s have ruined my brain. The movie does kind of start with a big fuck you to the audience, but only if the audience is fairly gullible. It starts with narration by Flynn saying that he’s going to die within this story, which would be a very shocking and daring ending from a Disney movie, but no one should actually expect such a death will last. And, if Gothel wanted to keep that flower hidden so bad, why would she knock over the thing hiding it and not pay enough attention to notice it before the soldiers found the flower? Rookie move, Gothel. And the largest plot hole by far is that Rapunzel spends so much time alone in the tower baking but is still thin and attractive. Where do all those cookies go if not straight to her ass?

As a artist (of sorts) myself, I give a lot more credit to classic animation than to computer animation. Drawing a picture is difficult and time consuming, and drawing tons of pictures so that they will move when filmed is a million times that. Though I know it’s an exaggeration, I consider computer animation not much more difficult than what I am doing right now. It’s not true, I know, but my brain will not accept computer animation being more difficult, or even as difficult, as hand drawing. Because of this, Tangled bummed me out from the start. The fact that they did a great job with their animation made me feel much better, but my own biases kept me from enjoying it as much as I should have. That being said, the movie is beautifully animated, filled with colorful and gorgeous settings. They didn’t really go for realism with their characters (and who would want them to after Tron: Evolution), but they won with adorable, cartoony characters. First, can I say that animated babies are so much cuter than real babies? At least baby Rapunzel was. That’s right, parents! To hell with your babies! The animation style they use is amusing, with characters moving in an exaggerated, almost manga-esque style. When Rapunzel sees the lanterns from the lake, she doesn’t just realistically walk to the bow of the boat, she darts up there and climbs about the figurehead. It was adorable. Speaking of which, that little chameleon Pascal and the horse Maximus were both loaded with adorableness, although you have to wait for Rapunzel to meet Maximus and for him to start acting like a giant dog before you see his adorableness. As a little side note, I appreciate the ballsiness involved in not having Rapunzel tie up her hair until nearly the end of the movie. The easy way would have done that very early in the movie so they wouldn’t have to animate that hair all over the place, but they didn’t do that. Kudos for that.

I find that I really don’t have anything to say about the voice cast in this movie. It’s not that they did a bad job; quite to the contrary, in fact. They all did great. But, without them physically acting in the movie, I don’t really have much reaction to their performances. I give credit for their performances to the animators more than the voice actors. A voice actor can ruin it with bad acting, but I just didn’t feel overly impressed with the acting I couldn’t see. Except for Frank Welker, that is. You may not know that name, but you’ve heard him before. He usually doesn’t speak in the roles I’ve heard him do, but he’s legendary in the voice acting community for his ability to do any animal you need him to do AND give it personality. He did the “voice acting” for Pascal and Maximus. That guy’s amazing.

I assume you don’t suffer from the same biases as I do against computer animated movies. If that’s the case, you’ll probably adore this movie. With my present biases still intact – at least until extensive therapy fixes them – I still manged to really dig this movie, enough to purchase it immediately after viewing on BluRay. The story is classic Disney reinvigoration of an old fairy tale, the characters are charming and fantastically animated, and the voice actors do their thing. I just realized I made no mention of the fact that it’s a musical, and with good reason: because I didn’t hate it. The songs were nice and they fit nicely, so I didn’t hate it enough to pay it any mind. And since these reviews are all stream of consciousness, I’m not going to take that very sentence and move it up so that it seems I didn’t forget. I’m such a pro. I recommend Tangled, wholeheartedly. Tangled can have “I have made the decision to trust you” out of “Here comes the smolder”.

Hey, peeps. Why not rate and comment on this as a favor to good ole Robert, eh? And tell your friends! Let’s make me famous!