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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Diablo III (2013)


Our Long War Ends Today, Imperius!

Diablo III (2013)I wanted to play today’s game for a very long time.  It was originally released in May of 2012 for the computer, but my computer was having far too many problems for me to even consider running a game more powerful than Angry Birds.  A year later, I was finally able to build a computer capable of running it, but by that point I didn’t feel interested anymore.  Thankfully, they were putting the game out on console a few months later.  My interest was revived!  And now I can finally bring you my review of Diablo III, developed and published by Blizzard Entertainment, and including the voices of Athena Karkanis, Dorian Harewood, Anna Graves, Robin Atkin Downes, Rajia Baroudi, Jamieson Price, Erica Luttrell, Carl Lumbly, Grey DeLisle, Crispin Freeman, Alyson Reed, Michael Gough, Jonathan Adams, Jennifer Hale, Dominic Keating, Troy Baker, Sumalee Montano, Simon Templeman, and James Hong.

You play as one of five character types in one of two genders.  You arrive in the town of Tristram following a mysterious star crashing to the ground and raising the dead in its wake.  We meet with Leah (Jennifer Hale) who was in the Cathedral investigating the ominous prophecy that may lead to the resurrection of Diablo with her uncle Deckard Cain (Michael Gough).  Upon investigation, we find that the star that crashed to the ground is actually an angel named Tyrael (Jonathan Adams), who tells us that the demon lords Belial and Azmodan are wreaking havoc through the world and that we have to stop them because … well, what else would we do?

I enjoyed this game just fine, but the story really had nothing to do with it.  Mainly because there barely was one.  It’s really not much more than, “Diablo is coming back and we have to stop him.”  They have a couple smaller things they try to fit in (Deckard and Leah’s relationship, Leah and Aria’s relationship, the little boy emperor and his besieged kingdom, the demons war on the humans, the bickering angels), but it really boils down to a really long mission to beat one boss.  They don’t really try to surprise you too much beyond that.  There is a bit of a surprise involving Leah, and also a bit of a surprise involving our main character.  I won’t spoil Leah’s, but I will spoil ours: we’re a Nephilim.  I feel comfortable spoiling that because I’ve played through a great portion of the game five times and I have no recollection of the game actually informing of this.  At a certain point, characters are just talking about that fact as if it were assumed knowledge by now.  I feel like there was another thing that the intended to be a surprise, but if that’s the case they should feel embarrassed.  We have to work with the ghost of a guy named Zoltun Kulle at one point until he betrays us.  I could not wrap my mind around the idea that this could be a spoiler.  The guy’s voice was brought to us by I Am Evil enterprises and every time he disappeared, he did so with the dictionary definition of a sinister laugh.  The only way they could’ve surprised me with that guy was if he eventually left after helping us reach our goal to go and find his home world of rainbows and puppies.  They did have lots of little journals you could pick up to get additional information, but most of them were either just unimportant things or just a characters feelings about the things going on in the unimpressive story.  I did appreciate that those journals would not be hindered by leaving the area and would continue through the load screens.  I would’ve hated having to stand inside Deckard’s room waiting for his journal to stop talking just so I could be underwhelmed by the information he was giving.

The game looks pretty good.  It’s kind of hard to say as the camera is never that close to allow us to see the details, but that’s something they pretty much need to stick to because that’s the setup of a Diablo game.  The improvements that can be seen are in the activity of the levels.  The levels in the game are always alive with little movements, from creatures scurrying around on the floor to parts of the level crumbling off when you get too close.  My favorite one was in a spider lair when a guy was dragged into a hole when I got too close.  The attention to detail – even if we never really got close enough to see that much of it – was fantastic.  Also, the cut scenes were great.  The disparity in the graphical quality between the gameplay and the cut scenes reminded me of those trailers for The Old Republic that made the game look so much more awesome than the game seemed to deliver.  I don’t mean that as a critique of Diablo, but as a compliment to the quality of the cut scenes.

I made it a specific point to dedicate a decent amount of time to each of the five character types before embarking on my review.  What I decided early on is that I always seem to pick the character that is the least prepared for my antisocial style of gameplay.  I generally don’t team up with people because people will hurt you.  I’M TALKING TO YOU, CYNTHIA!!  That being the case, you’d assume I’d be more prone to picking a tank character such as the Barbarian for my first go.  But that’s never the case.  In City of Heroes, I picked a Blaster.  In World of Warcraft, I picked a rogue.  And in Diablo III, I picked the Demon Hunter, or what is more commonly known as an archer.  So running solo was a pretty bad idea for quite some time.  The rapid fire ability helps, but I came to realize that your friends could be both assistance and hindrance.  The fact that I got into this game a while after they did helped me out because they could just jump into my game and throw away the trash they would never use, which just so happened to be excellent equipment to my lower level character.  The other side of that coin is the friends who attempt to rush you through your campaign so that you can join them in their higher difficulty campaigns.  First off, when you get bored and abandon me right before the boss, it leaves me underpowered to face it.  Second, I have a review to write!  I feel like I missed most of the story!  That’s why I had to go on my second playthrough, and I chose the wizard because I had not yet screwed myself over enough with my first character that shouldn’t play solo through missions.  The saving grace for these two characters comes when you get one of the three followers you can use when playing solo: the Templar, the Scoundrel, and the Enchantress.  The problem with these characters is I have no idea why you would ever use anyone but the Templar.  He can heal directly, heal by increasing your regeneration, and he’s also a capable tank.  Taking the other two is basically babysitting.

After those two characters, I finally got the message and went out as a Barbarian.  It was kind of boring, but I didn’t die so that was a plus.  I died a lot with the monk character, but only because he was talked up so much that I assumed I could easily waltz through one of the hardest difficulties with him.  I could not.  I haven’t yet gotten to the point with the Witch Doctor that he becomes truly badass.  The higher you level, the more creatures you can spawn to do your fighting for you.  It seems like that might get a little boring, but it would certainly be less frustrating.  All I was able to spawn by the time I stopped playing was two zombie dogs.  I named them Pongo and Perdita.

I’m sure a lot of people were worried that the controls of the game would suffer when porting from the computer to the console.  I never played the computer version, but I found the controls very effective on the console.  There are plenty enough buttons that you can map your powers to, and it got even better when my friend Hookah told me that there was a setting to change that would allow you to map any powers to any buttons and not just the five or so powers it had allocated to each button.  After that the controls were pretty smooth sailing and the gameplay style would just depend on your character.  One universal that I enjoyed was the traps that were spread throughout the levels, like hitting a chain to drop a chandelier on a group of enemies or shooting some boards that were holding up a wall to let it crumble onto the enemies.  The problem with this was that I rarely saw the traps before I had already cleared the room because of how close the camera was.  But that’s a minor gripe.

I haven’t yet gotten all of the achievements in the game, but the ones I saw didn’t seem insurmountable.  Just time consuming.  I’m sure by the time you had reached level 60 you’d probably have stumbled upon most of them.  And probably would’ve had to have beaten the game on the harder settings to get to that level anyway.  So if you’ve got the time, you’ve probably got 1,000 Gamerscore.

I wound up very satisfied with my time with Diablo III, and I’ll probably be returning to when I have the time.  It had nothing to do with the story which is so completely forgettable that it’s not even worth mentioning.  Thankfully, the things they concerned themselves with instead make the game worth playing.  It’s lots of fun and has plenty of randomly occurring events to keep you grinding in the game well into being worth its price.  Diablo III gets “Let your true self be revealed, Diablo!” out of “Even in the heart of Heaven, angels can still feel fear.”

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BioShock Infinite (2013)


The Seed of the Prophet Shall Sit the Throne, and Drown in Flame the Mountains of Man.

BioShock Infinite (2013)I generally try not to review two games back to back, but this review simply could not wait. Not only did I talk about it in my previous review, but I just beat it and simply had to tell people about it. I don’t really know anyone that’s played this game but me, but I’ve seen lots of talk about how amazing it was before I finally purchased it. And I didn’t wait to purchase it because I didn’t expect much out of it. I waited because I had other games that I should finally play and knew that my drive to play this game would not wait. I loved the first game in this series, and I was even fond of the sequel, but now the game has been returned to the hands that treated it so well originally. And so let’s talk about BioShock Infinite, designed by Ken Levine, developed by Irrational Games, 2K Marin, Human Head Studios, and Darkside Game Studios, published by 2K Games, and including the voices of Troy Baker, Courtnee Draper, Kiff VandenHeuvel, Kimberly Brooks, Jennifer Hale, Oliver Vaquer, Bill Lobley, and Keith Szarabajka.

In 1912, Booker DeWitt (Troy Baker) is taken to an island lighthouse off the coast of Maine. Inside, he finds a rocket silo that transports him to his destination, the floating city of Columbia. His mission here is to find a girl named Elizabeth (Courtnee Draper), daughter of the revered Prophet of Columbia, Father Zachary Hale Comstock (Kiff VandenHeuvel). If he’s able to find this girl and return her to New York, he can wipe away his massive debt. But Elizabeth is not a normal girl; she’s able to tear holes in reality that go to either parallel universes or through time. And, quite frankly, this game is far too complicated for me to tell without spoilers, and I wouldn’t dare. Here’s a spoiler: go buy this game right now!

Damnit. I just ruined my whole review. I guess you can close out this review now… Okay, I’ll tell you why this game is amazing: because it is! It’s smart, it’s deep, it’s vaguely confusing, and it’s amazing. I doubt it was because of this, but the game I played right before this game was Duke Nukem Forever. Very similar games, though. Both first person shooters, both have some form of everlasting in their title, but only one of them you will wish will last forever. The other one will welcome you into eternity by making you want to kill yourself. But we’ll discuss the Duke later. The story of this game is better than any game I can currently think of. BioShock was already a brilliant story by having deeper messages within, but this one jumps past that one by also being mind-bending in all the best ways. People talked a lot about the racism in this game – as they talked about the “rape scene” in Tomb Raider – but I have the same reaction to both: get off their nuts. This game is like a snapshot of that time, and people were racist back then. But what I loved about the depth of their story was the hidden messages, the ones that were confusing at the time but (as I make my way through my second playthrough) actually hide messages that you only see once you’ve beaten the game, which leads to it being a total mind-fuck. I won’t spoil it, but the ending was amazing. It was even better for me because nobody ruined it for me beforehand. I would say that I kind of had an idea of what was about to happen – or at least one part of it – but explaining that too much would ruin it. In fact, I liked it so much that I won’t even put it in spoiler alerts here. Go play it and find out for yourself. But, during my second playthrough, strange things are starting to make sense, mostly dealing with the Lutece twins, or when they dropped hints that you were about to be ambushed at one point with things like a violin player that couldn’t play violin. I would say that I wish the ending were happier, but it’s what helps set the game apart as artwork and not just giving me what I want. And I do think this game would be my leading argument for games as artwork, and probably as my favorite game of this year.

We could use this time to go through the whole process of me saying that the game wasn’t perfect and that there were things that didn’t sit right with me, but let’s face it. This is all just an excuse for me to fit jokes I thought of into a review. There were a few things that popped into my head while playing, but I wouldn’t dare say they took away from the quality of the game. One thing I thought that could’ve been done better was how surprised Booker and Elizabeth seemed to be when they found out that she was Comstock’s daughter. I thought we knew that from the beginning! Was that supposed to be a Shyamalan twist on the story, because I thought everyone was just aware of it. It’s revealed at one point that Comstock was taking credit for things that Booker actually did at Wounded Knee, but Booker won’t tell Elizabeth what he did. Why be so shy about it? You’re walking around a city that worships the guy that says he did those things, so why should you assume someone would judge you for being the one that actually did it? Well, she probably would have though… What you can’t judge me for is my reaction to the Vox Populi. (Good transition, Robert!) These guys want me to help them out right? Shouldn’t they start by trying to endear themselves to me? Y’know, instead of throwing me out of an airship when I already have a head injury? The other thing was one I had heard complained about before, but the items you find when searching things was sometimes odd, like finding a pineapple on a dead body, or coffee in a mailbox. Even stranger that I would eat a hotdog I just found by searching a trash can.

The only thing that I would say seemed problematic about the story to me was that I never really felt the impact of the choices I made. As best I can tell, there’s no good or bad ending to the game, but there are choices that make it seem as if you’ll have an impact on the game. I’m okay with both existing, but not really okay with them existing together. Why bother making me choose whether or not to throw a rock at a guy that was fraternizing with a black lady if the only thing that happens because of it is that later the show up and say thanks for not throwing a rock at me. I haven’t beaten the game twice yet, but my investigation on the internet leads me to believe that there’s only one ending to the game, which I’m torn about. Part of me says that I should have more control over a video game and be able to make choices that end me up in different places, but the other part of me appreciates that the game makers decided that this was the ending they wanted to represent their art. I guess I really just wanted a happily ever after…

Since I mentioned it in my review of Tomb Raider, I feel like I have to close it out here. My friend Phil was complaining that he had heard people talking about how spectacular the look of BioShock was when Tomb Raider existed, whose visual style was far superior in his mind. Now that I’ve beaten BioShock, I have to disagree. I wouldn’t say either game is far superior to the other visually, but I thought of a comparison to describe my feelings about the look. Both games are beautiful in their own ways, but I don’t feel that they should even be compared to each other. The difference to me would be like comparing the Mona Lisa to some beautiful photograph (I admittedly don’t pay attention to photography as an art form). Tomb Raider is photorealistic and an impressive work of art in that sense, where BioShock doesn’t try to be photorealistic and instead goes for an artistic style all of its own. Both beautiful in their own way. Going to Columbia is as spectacular as going to Rapture was, and similar in feel even though it’s much brighter and sunnier in contrast. Two issues with the look though. Why does everyone have to look at their wrists when they’ve been released from shackles? Can you not just feel that they’re off? And there’s one scene shortly after that where you walk down stairs that have water rolling over the steps. Very pretty, but pretty impractical. You must have people breaking their necks all day long.

Speaking of beautiful, I think the thing that made me get into the game most of all is that I fell in love with Elizabeth. No girl will ever live up to Elizabeth. No girl is as innocent, as adorable, as pretty, and as able to tear reality asunder. It was clear to me that they spent a lot of time giving Elizabeth such life in the game. Her expression always matches her situation. She explores the environment when nothing else is going on, she’ll have a seat on a bench when she’s been walking too long, she’ll buy cotton candy, she won’t go into the men’s restroom when you do and she’ll criticize you for going into the women’s restroom. She’s like a real person. And she only gets cuter when she changes her clothes into the gear that she’s wearing in most of the promotional stuff for the game. And the best part about her is that she’s always an asset and never a burden. Most people figured that you would have to drag her ass around, trying desperately to keep both you and her alive, like a new version of Ico. But in combat, she can’t be damaged. She just hides in the corner and occasionally throws you something you need, like ammo, health, and salt (that’ll make more sense when you play the game, which you should be doing already). You can even have her tear reality and bring a turret in to assist you. Even when not in combat, she’ll throw you money, unlock doors, and point out items you should pick up. She is a pleasure to have around in every way.

Not much to say about the gameplay here. It’s not really revolutionary to me because it’s not far removed from a regular first person shooter. And at first, I was resentful that the right trigger was fire and the left trigger was for your Vigors. The left trigger should always be aim. How many times did I use some ability when I was just trying to aim, having forgotten that that is done by the R3 button? …Eleven. But I got used to it pretty quickly … especially when I realized I rarely felt the need to aim. I just think that shooters need to get on the same page and the big things – like shoot, aim, melee – on the same buttons, and then the rest can be used for the stuff that makes your game special. I also took issue with the fact that I could only carry two guns at a time. That felt a little low for me. The big thing that set this game apart from other shooters was the Skylines, that you could jump on to for travel, shoot from them, and jump off to kill enemies. I was unimpressed by Skylines. They were fine, but I could’ve done without them just as much as I enjoyed them. It seemed more appropriate for the game just as a method of transport than something I ever cared to use in battle. Also, the Handymen in the game were not nearly as cool as the Big Daddy. Just as difficult, but not as cool.

The achievements are roughly the same as I remember from the other BioShock games. The greater majority of them are not insurmountable. You have some collectables that you actually want to get because they make you better in a fight or give you insight to the story behind the story. A couple of easy to get combat related ones too. The only one that seems to be a problem is getting through the game on 1999 mode (which is what they called Very Hard for some reason). Getting started is very rough on this mode before you get the shield, and then it’s more about playing it safe. Also, you can’t use a vending machine that I never used because I saved my money to buy upgrades to weapons, so that was much easier.

BioShock Infinite is amazing. It’s not only the best game I’ve played this year, but it’s the best I’ve played in some time. I would expect to see this game again when the end of the year reviews come up. The story is great, deep, and mind-bending, and the combination of the great story and the fantastic visual style of this game makes it lean closer to a work of art than simply a video game. I don’t only want my readers to play this game; I demand it. Seriously, I need someone to talk about this game with without spoiling it. Get this game now! BioShock gets “You’re still fuckin’ reading? Go buy this game!” out of “…No seriously.”

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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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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!”

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Harley Quinn’s Revenge (2012)


I Guess That’s the End of Scary Face

This will probably be a quickie review, but I wanted to do it now to keep with the Batman theme.  This is a downloadable content pack for a game I’ve already reviewed, but it has its own story so I figured it would count.  I generally don’t play that much downloadable content because, once I’ve finished with a game, I don’t tend to go back because I’ve probably moved on to another game.  My decision to play this game came from one of Kevin Smith’s newer podcasts, Fat Man on Batman.  In this podcast, Kevin talked with one of the voice actors in the game, Tara Strong, about this DLC pack, so I decided that I should give it a go.  And that brings us to my review of an expansion for the DLC pack for Batman: Arkham City, Harley Quinn’s Revenge, developed by Rocksteady Studios, published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, and including the voice talents of Kevin Conroy, Tara Strong, Troy Baker, and Nolan North, among others.

Two weeks after Arkham City ended and Batman (Kevin Conroy) has disappeared while searching for Harley Quinn (Tara Strong), who is not taking the loss of her boyfriend, the Joker, very well.  Fearing the worst, Barbara Gordon sends Batman’s partner Robin (Troy Baker) to find the Caped Crusader.  What Robin finds is that Harley has been driven even further into madness by her grief, and that she’s indeed done something with Batman as he finds only Batman’s utility belt.  We need to find out what has happened to Batman and, if possible, save his life.

This was actually a lot of fun, but I don’t imagine it was that difficult to accomplish.  They basically just used stuff that I had already used with a little bit of extra story to extend the life of the game and give us a little bit more to the story and tie up some loose ends.  But I guess that’s what DLC really is.  That’s why they call them expansion packs.  But the story was good enough, I suppose.  It’s not a complicated story, but it’s told in a slightly more complicated way in order to draw it out a little.  It’s roughly equivalent of what would have just been one mission in the actual game.  Harley Quinn kidnaps Batman, Robin saves him.  The little bit of extra complication they add in there is that we start as Robin, find Batman’s belt, then we jump back in time a little bit to become Batman and see how he got himself into that predicament.  Then back to Robin, and then back to Batman to finish it out.  Not a whole lot more complicated than that.  They did have to do some writing for it, though.  The dialogue was good and you could tell that they spent a little extra time than necessary writing dialogue for random goons that talk about the situation as you pass by.  But it’s a good enough excuse to get back into a game that was already amazing, so I don’t complain.  If I were going to complain about one thing, it would have to be the ending.  I don’t think they handled the situation very well, but it requires ::SPOILER ALERT::  It’s made to look like Batman dies.  He’s trapped with Harley Quinn and a bomb without enough time to disarm it.  Then we cut outside to see Commissioner Gordon run up as the building explodes, seemingly taking Batman and Harley with it.  But it only lets us think that for a few seconds before Batman jumps through the window (with Harley in tow) to safety.  Then they try it again with Harley making Batman think that Robin was still in the building when it blew up, so now he knows what she feels like after having lost the Joker.  But a few seconds later, Robin comes out and everything’s all better.  You have to let this stuff sit for a bit so we can actually believe them.  Obviously, we don’t at first.  Why would you do that?  But then the doubt starts creeping in as the scene drags on.  I felt it was at least two missed opportunities.  ::END SPOILERS::

There’s not a whole lot to add about the look of the game or the gameplay.  I already wrote the review with that stuff in it.  The gameplay is fantastic and enjoyable, and satisfying all the way through, just like the rest of the game.  And I also can’t imagine a game looking any better for what it was trying to do.  The only complaint I had about it was that, being nearly a year removed from having played the main game at this point, I found it really difficult to try to remember what all the controls were as I was trying to get through battles.  But I warmed up to it and remembered it soon enough, and that’s really more my problem than the game’s.  As far as achievements go, this DLC is pretty easy to get the few achievements you can get.  It’s basically just finishing the game (with a few rare stipulations) and make sure you hit all the balloons.  That’s about it.

I told you I’d keep it short, just like the DLC Harley Quinn’s Revenge for Batman: Arkham City.  It’s a short and simple story, but it’s an enjoyable excuse to get a little more time out of a game with some of the most satisfying combat and graphics of 2011.  It’s also pretty dang cheap and can net you a few easy achievements.  Can’t ask for much more for such a low price.  Harley Quinn’s Revenge gets “Is it … a helicopter?” out of “Okay, I didn’t write down any quotes from the game.  So sue me.”

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.