Thursday, September 24, 2009

Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2

What to say, what to say? There were so many playable heroes to choose from and the game environment so expansive that I played the previous Marvel Ultimate Alliance multiple times (would that qualify as a multi-verse?) There was so much to do and so much to see, I might even venture back in for another session if my time wasn’t already consumed enough with the new material coming out for the PS3. Which brings us back the new MUA2. Like Batman: Arkham Asylum which was covered in the previous post, this game too was the recipient of several lavish previews claiming that, from what the reviewers saw in the demos, the new version would be superior in every way to its predecessor. High praise indeed, but how was the gaming experience in reality? Allow me to voice a few thoughts.


I’ll start right off with what a number of reviewers felt would be the clear advancement over the previous MUA; fusions. Or specifically, one hero combining one of their special powers with a special power from another hero in the group. For example, if you happen to be playing Iceman you can link up his cold beam with Human Torch’s flamethrower creating a withering death-blast between the two characters that nukes anything between them, including Bosses. Sound fun? It is in a way, having all that power. But still, I found the fusions a little confusing to activate, especially in the midst of a wild fray. And some of them are a little too, well, powerful. I think that it might have gone a long way to link the use of the fusions with some mini-games in dealing with the bosses, so you have to experiment to determine which ones are “the right tool for the right job.” As the game was released, the fusion attacks are sort of a Miracle Machine (hat tip to the LSH.)

Civil War

Building on the Civil War story line in the Marvel universe from the last several years, this game too experiences a schism at one point and you must choose your side; Captain America or Iron Man. One the one hand I thought “Great! That’s drama!” On the other hand, for a good chunk of the game a sizable number of playable characters on your roster become grayed-out and unavailable. Makes sense because it eliminated the quirk of the previous game where an unlocked character could meet up and play alongside themselves at certain points in the game. For my own experience in the game, this resulted in settling on a favorite foursome (Deadpool, Human Torch, Ice Man, and Storm) and even when the other characters became available again, I stuck with the dream team because I knew how to use them and came up with a fusion attack the was effective and that I could summon quickly.

Is that all?

As I mentioned earlier, I remember the first MUA as being a tremendous value because the game was so damned huge. We had Shield’s Heli-Carrier, Stark Tower, Atlantis, the Sanctum Sanctorum, Murder World, Mephisto’s Realm, Asgaard, Doom’s Castle; and bosses including Fin Fang Foom, Arcade and of course, Doctor Doom. Those lists, by the way, are not all-inclusive. MUA2, while certainly fulfilling, still had me thinking “Done already?” So I thought back over the game asking myself "Did I miss something?" Nope. This game definitely clocks in a lot leaner than its predecessor. I think one more Act would have really hit the spot.

Rant or Rave?

Worth the time and enjoyable even if you're not a fan of the comics. Since the game comfortably seats four players at a time, I suspect that the fun factor would probably multiple with friends joining the fracas. Fusion me!

1 to 10 Scale: 8

Monday, September 14, 2009

Batman: Arkham Asylum

Sometimes a new game comes out that sounds interesting but unfamiliar to me. I go into it unsure of what to expect but if the mechanics are right and the story engaging and the general concept compelling, I can fall in love in a big hurry. InFAMOUS falls into this category.

Then there are the games that come out that I go into wanting to love. Most games based on comic book heroes fall into this category. In the case of Batman: Arkham Asylum, here is game that I desperately wanted to like. On the scorecard, it had everything - rogues, atmosphere, supporting cast, and the Big Guy himself, of course. So that being said, how did the experience measure up? Did I rave, or did I feel robbed?

I'm going to throw up a spoiler alert at this point in case you haven't yet experienced Arkham. Although I don't plan on revealing key plot points or twists, I may want to slip in a few comments on gameplay in particular chapters that some gamers may want to wait to discover for themselves.


As a comic-based super hero game, this was definitely a winner for me. In fact, playing the game had an oddly reassuring feeling for me. The opening cinematics were engaging and appropriate, and effectively set the stage for everything that came afterwards. What followed was example after example of how to use comic-based material the right way. When the Riddler first chimes-in on Batman's headset to chide him into finding the riddles he's lovingly left behind (and to generally annoy the Dark Knight) I smiled and thought "This could be really good." Then when Harley Quinn interrupts Batman on Arkham's surveyliance video to deliver a message it was clear to me that the game designers really cared about the material and the fans.


Batman moves. He struts deliberately and menacingly when you impel him along at a normal gate. When he runs, his cape is a ballet of wind-swept fabric. What really knocks your socks off is Batman in the air. When he jumps around from gargoyle to gargoyle (in rooms so designed) it evokes thoughts of a different red and blue clad web-headed super hero. And when Batman glides down from on high to deliver a vicious kick to his victim you feel like a falcon going after it's favorite rodent snack.

I'll start out with one quibble I have with Bats' various moves and that's the melee attacks. Although he looks great on screen while doing them, there's really nothing more to this than furious button mashing. Apart from the occasional counter, the player is not really challenged to master combos. Just counter when prompted and keep mashing and only the very biggest onslaughts will overwhelm Batman.

Now Batman's other moves are something else. I'll start right out by saying the the Inverted Takedown is hands down my favorite. From the gargoyle of your choice, have Batman first hang upside down, then when your intended victim walks below, initiate the snatch and before he knows it, the baddie is himself left dangling below the gargoyle pleading for someone to cut him down. Hours of endless fun!

Then, there are the wonderful toys. In addition to the fast grapple mentioned above, Batman totes the reliable and easy-to-use Baterangs. Very intuitive; aim with L1, throw with R1. This benefits from numerous upgrades obtained throughout the game. Batman also utilizes a dispenser of explosive foam as well as a line gun that allows him traverse various chasms and divides that the Fast Grapple won't. The explosive foam dispenser was another generator of grins especially after it is upgraded with proximity detonation; 1. Spray on section of floor 2. Hide in nearby grate 3. Wait for baddie to walk near enough to detonate 4. Smile (rinse, repeat. . .)


Predictably, most of the boss challenges are brought to you courtesy of the Rogues and they are a little bit of a mixed bag though none were horrible in my opinion. One, which I won't name hear, blew me away. There were others that were standard fare done extremely well. Then there was a series of battles that were repeats of previous battles and became a little tedious.

Game Economics

The previously mentioned upgrades to Batman's abilities and gadgets are purchased through experience points obtained through fighting, completing missions, and finding the Riddles and knick knacks that Edward Nigma has strewn about Arkham. Finding and solving the riddles was a nice addition to the game although to solve all of them (and collect all the trinkets) takes some backtracking during the course of play as some previously inaccessible places on the map open up with the addition of later toys and upgrades. Poison Ivy lends a hand in keeping re-exploration of Arkham from being complete deja vu.

Final Word

I liked playing it and I'm glad I did. The story was compelling and the characters done very nicely. I hope a sequel is in the works because there's so much more to Batman that can be told, plus so many more great villains!

1 to 10 Scale: 9

I've got something to say about. . .

Hello! As I was taking my walk after lunch today, it occurred to me that I spend an awful lot of time thinking about comics, video games, movies, books, and television that I've enjoyed in my life as a fanboy. In fact, my brain's filling up so I needed a space to empty things out to free up some space that I can fill with more geeky goodness. Then you can read about it; see how nicely that works out?

So if this is your first time visiting, thanks for stopping by and I hope you've read something you liked!