Tag Archive: Batman


Les Jeux Nouveaus

Most of my gaming purchases in recent months have been of the board variety and as a consequence, I’ve been replaying a lot of my existing content. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, if you spent between £20 and £50 on a new Xbone game for example, you want a lot of replay out of it. Even so, I have been hankering after something new to do for a while.

It started with Animation Throwdown – I’ve seen the adverts through Star Trek Timelines and decided to download a copy to my iPad. The goal of the game: trading card battles! It features the shows Family Guy, Futurama, Bob’s Burgers and King of the Hill and each of the shows has character, item or location trading cards with which to do battle. Trading cards can be fused in-battle to produce more powerful weapons with which to fight your opponent and come in varying degrees of availability when it comes to card drops (hint – lots of DLC for purchase)

The game itself has several modes: a quest mode, an arena mode where players do battle but not in real-time (decks are pre-loaded and the computer fights on your behalf), several time-restricted events for rewards and the ability to research new card fusions. In terms of gameplay activity, there’s far less than something like Timelines but the number of cards available (about 400 at time of writing) and the combinations possible keep things novel and interesting. Plus the actual card fights are over fairly quickly so you’re not sucked into a vortex of time when playing. It’s a nice acquisition, lots of fun had and the number of adverts you can watch for rewards (as opposed to spending extortionate amounts of money) help players who don’t necessarily want to or cannot pay-to-win. Unless you’re on a strict data-plan, of course. What I will say is that Animation Throwdown is a massive battery guzzler. If I play for thirty minutes, my iPad’s power will drop by almost 15% compared with similar applications which might drop by 5%.

Game number 2: Fallout Shelter. I only downloaded (for free) this because I wanted the Fallout stickers for iMessage. But I thought I’d give the game a bash and I have been enjoying it. Premise: build your own Vault-Tec vault, stuff it full of settlers and help them deal with the trials and tribulations of the Wasteland. You start each new Vault with a number of settlers and can recruit more either by building a radio station to lure them in, by breeding male/female couples together or from Vault Tec lunch box rewards. They can be trained in each of the S.P.E.C.I.A.L. stats to increase their abilities either farming resources or constructing items more quickly. And they can be sent on quests, either to collect stuff in the Wasteland or to undertake missions for rewards – and there are any number of missions that one can send settlers on.

I’ve been enjoying this for two weeks now and the missions are my favourite part. DLC is much lighter but naturally it is there (no adverts). It’s not really game-breaking DLC, you can buy pets to further enhance stats of settlers, Vault-Tec Lunchboxes for random drops and Mr Handy units who auto-collect resources when assigned to floors. And the sticker pack for iMessage is a cute addition too.

Game 3: Season Pass for Batman: the Telltale Series. So I downloaded Episode 1 for free (this is how they get you) and have to say that the story writing and different take on the Dark Knight was of high calibre. It’s an interactive story book, kinda like a choose-your-own-adventure where you play the role of Bruce Wayne/Batman and interact with a five-part story. Each decision the player makes will have an impact on the storyline and subsequent player choices lead to different results. I would say that compared with the Walking Dead Telltale Series, there’s a lot more action in this game, particularly in the combat scenes. It also helped influence me that the season pass was half price in the Xbone Easter sale.

Game 4: Season Pass for Batman: Arkham Knight. Not played yet but I’ve wanted this for a while. Unlike Fallout 4, I only wanted to buy this in a sale but I’m looking forward to the extra story modes with Robin, Batgirl and Nightwing. The skins and different Batmobiles…meh, can take or leave. I am still in early days of my second Arkham Knight playthrough, will be interesting to muck about with the skins if nowt else.

Game 5: Call of Juarez: Gunslinger. An old Xbox 360 game, I was looking for something in the same vein as Wolfenstein: The New Order a while back and thought that this might fill the gap quite nicely. Sorta puts you in the mind of a rail shooter in some ways given the way the game is animated but is more FPS. Cruder than Gun or Red Dead Redemption, it has some RPG type elements but is mostly a shooter through and through. Good voice acting, crude controls – excellent mindless fare. Totally worth playing.

 

If my laptop could talk, that’s what it’d say. And it’s true, the last time I bothered to do anything with my laptop was little over a month ago. From the boy who’d turn on his computer before he took his coat off when he came in from work, yeah – been computer free as of late. Granted, the Xbox has had more appeal lately but with all the late nights and intensive work activity, the last thing I’ve wanted to do in the evenings is to endure more PC-type-stuff. Also, with the office finally adopting Windows 7 (and the abomination that is Office 2013), I suspect there’s a part of my brain that doesn’t want to see a replication of the work environment in the sanctuary of home.

But this morning I realised that there were a number of tasks I’ve been forestalling such as clearing out email accounts and updating a couple of key documents (inventories and the like) together with a iPhone/iPad back-up so had to indulge. And then I realised that I haven’t checked out Steam’s Winter Sale – doesn’t seem as exciting as in previous years, it has to be said. I dunno, perhaps there’s just a lack of “must-have” games on the PC lately. For people like Alex and Joey who invest a lot of game-time on their laptops, I guess it’s more exciting. And they have proper quality gaming laptops/PCs. Me and my Acer? Let’s just say that iTunes stutters if you try and do anything else which requires the least bit of laptop resource. And this is supposed to be a 6GB RAM machine!!

So, that’s me moaning about my hardware issues! Plenty of other stuff to dissect and moan about. Bloody rain for one thing.

Heh.

Xmas. It’s going to be a really understated holiday this year. I’ve bought gifts for five people perhaps? No cards again and haven’t received a single one. Then again, nobody else I know is sending any cards in all fairness. Generational thing? Even the usual flurry of office/work cards is reduced to two for the entire section! I’d go so far as to say they’re on their way out.

Will be spending the day in Vauxhall with Andy, John and Pepina which’ll mean a brisk walk downhill. I might call in on Xian and Stephen on the way – not that they know this yet and I’m fairly certain they don’t read this blog… will be off from 25-30 only as the Friday will be taken as a privilege day. I was hoping to take a couple of weeks off in January but with three Brussels trips dotted throughout that month, I think that perhaps a small chunk of February is more advisable. We’re having our FIFTH final meeting (!) on Re-Reg thanks to an outbreak of stubbornness on the part of several countries.

Bought myself my first Munchkin set – The Good, The Bad and the Munchkin as I didn’t want to start off with the vanilla set. Haven’t made time to play it but will do so soon. I was tempted to buy the Munchkin Apocalypse set in FP last week as Risk Legacy #1 was cancelled at the last minute but managed to rein in my credit card. That said, the Munchkin Superhero set was mighty alluring also. Again, I find myself wishing for some local game-playing buddies.

What else do I have to write about? Went on a small Xbox Arcade spree the other day taking advantage of some sale offers. Bought Beyond Good and Evil HD – loved the Gamecube version. Also got Bubble Bobble and Ghostbusters Sanctum of Slime. Stopped myself buying Bully as I still hope to track down a second hand version even though I’ve not seen a copy in the shops for less than £19.99. Also finished regular Ghostbusters the other day and Star Trek Legacy. Also finally solved that one pain-in-the-arse puzzle on Picross 3 so could start on Phoenix Wright Dual Destinies. Actually, been really ploughing through games lately rather than dithering.

Oh yeah, this made me laugh – Batman Arkham Origins in Game was £40. The Batman Arkham trilogy, £30. Just JENIUS!
[sic]

Getting a small windfall at the end of January, not a huge amount but enough to…say buy a new iPad Air and still have enough left over for dinner-for-four type-thing. I’ve been considering what to do with the case. First and foremost on my mind is the possibility of going away for my birthday. Though I could use the cash to either get a new laptop or even a new iPad. However, seeing as I’ve not really been using my laptop, I fail to see the immediate need. An iPad would be cool, or perhaps buying a new iPhone outright and switching to a Sim-Only contract thus saving cash over the longer term… or the sensible thing of banking it.

Another thing that made me laugh – the “good” Doctor put on his Facebook profile the other day “it’s good to do a friend a favour when they can’t pay you back”. I abused Xian’s Facebook profile (he showed it to me as I’m still not on the wretched site) and typed “Joe laughed bitterly when he read this”. Nasty side-swipe but it was the Argentinian beer that made me do it.

Yeah – plug time: on Monday, Xian, Daniel and myself went to La Patagonia on Camden High Street and I have to say, it was a really nice restaurant with good food, good ambience and nice liquor. I had the Corn Pancake with Goats cheese and rocket salad as a starter, the butternut squash as a main but forewent dessert as I had a tonne of sweet-tasting junk at home brought back from the most recent Brussels trip. But definitely one to check out if you find yourself in my neck of the woods, folks. I think that next, I’d like to try the Japanese Bento restaurant or the Thai place next door to La Patagonia. Oooh, and the Vegan cafe on Pratt Street cos they have amazing-looking cake.

Keep reminding me that I need to sort out my desktop PC people, one day I will wipe it and take that and the monitor down to Cex to PX against games or something. I never make the time. Why don’t I do it now? Well, it relies on me finding a keyboard so I can interface with it properly, just to take. I know that the guys will probably wipe it clean anyway but still, I need to be certain before I get rid of it. Not that it should contain any up to date information as it’s not been used in over a year and PC World wiped both hard drives clean when they replaced the motherboard.

Not much else to say. I could review all the games I’ve been playing. In capsule review:

Picross 3 – always good value. Challenging puzzles that test the brain. Essential.
Ghostbusters – Great fun but the levels felt a little too long in places. Also, finding the collectables can be a pain in the bum if you’re that sort of gamer.
Beyond Good and Evil HD – camera controls are nasty. Game is still great though.
Star Trek Legacy – a Trekkies wet dream but it’s essentially an arcade-action game which is more Star Wars than Star Trek. Quite repetitive in terms of “kill all the bad guys”.

Batman: Arkham Asylum

Batman: Arkham Asylum

So, the day after I purchased my Xbox 360, I went down the road to the Camden branch of Cex and acquired five new games for the console, games that I wanted but were not available on the Wii. Batman: Arkham Asylum is the fourth game on that list that I’ve played and I think the second that I’ve completed from beginning to end.

When the game was released what – five years ago, it achieved close to perfect scores in its reviews and I have to say, I don’t disagree with that assessment. It blends a wonderful concoction of most of the interpretations of Batman (comics, TV, films, animations) into one coherent storyline, co-written by Paul Dini who has been involved in some of the best known recent tales of the Dark Knight.

So the plot – not unlike Metal Gear Solid. Take one character with kick-ass fighting abilities, “wonderful toys”, put him in an enclosed hostile environment with a sadistic hoard of foes and sit back. Of course, the Rogue’s Gallery of Batman is probably the best known and explored so there’s quite a lot probably already familiar to the player. But to restate: Joker, having engineered around 200 of his gang onto Arkham Island, engineers a riot and sees every prisoner escape trapping the staff of the Asylum, Batman and Commissioner Gordon. In the melee, well let’s just say that the Joker has a wonderfully convoluted plan and he plans on using his fellow inmates to keep Batman busy whilst it comes to fruition.

Even though the game is (currently) five years old, I still think it worth protecting in terms of spoilers. Sufficed to say, Batman fends off the challenges of the Joker and Harley Quinn, Scarecrow, Killer Croc, Zsasz, Poison Ivy, Bane and (heard but not seen) the Riddler. Other characters are referenced in the Asylum, seeing their cells and impact upon the good people of Gotham. Even some of the minor comic book characters pop up in the context of the story.
The gameplay is a mixture of third-person platformer, beat-em-up and puzzle and takes place in three dimensions thanks to Batman’s ability to use his grapple gun to reach new heights and glide across the island with his cape. The main quest guides the player through the island in a linear fashion though there are sandbox-lite qualities, particularly when it comes to gathering up all the hidden items. Now this reviewer likes a sandbox game but when the collectables are so far off the beat and track as to make acquiring them a significant diversion – that can be frustrating. This game doesn’t really suffer from that but if you want to go for that elusive 100% score, you will be going back and forth a bit to achieve perfection.

Naturally Batman has an array of toys at his disposal which are used to get around the island, defeat enemies and solve the puzzles. They are unlocked during the game – either through upgrades earned by racking up experience points or at key points within the story. Perhaps the most important gadget is “Detective Mode” which replaces Batman’s sight with a “Tron” like view of his surroundings, highlighting NPCs, items, interactable background objects and the like. And some of the Riddler’s puzzles can only be solved through using Detective Mode.

So the graphics – nice and as always, it’s the little touches that please most. The characters of the game are drawn as if the Animated series had a spectacularly large budget. They have a toon-like quality but are otherwise within the range of “reality” one comes to expect from modern games. Backgrounds are well drawn with a decent sprite collision detection routine when interacting with them. Detective mode when active shows what the player can directly affect and not which is handy as you feel like exploring all of Arkham Island when playing the game.

The reimagining of some of the villains is pretty good – the Joker is the least changed of the lot maintaining his basic image from the Animated Series but with a Heath Ledger grin and a Cesar Romero jacket. Harley Quinn has gone all leather nympho but strangely enough it works. The Scarecrow has had a bit of a tweak to his outfit whilst Killer Croc is definitely the “Hush” interpretation of the character. Bane is the least changed whilst Poison Ivy has undergone significant changes, retaining her green skin but with a more floral motif. As for the Joker’s mooks – I think he’s been raiding body building competitions for his hard hitters.

The heroes themselves are tweaked – Batman is armoured but more akin to an exoskeleton rather than what Christian Bale was wearing in The Dark Knight Rises. He’s a fairly angry character this time around and doesn’t really trade barbs with the villains. When he interacts with the NPC guards and asylum workers, he can come off as somewhat unsympathetic which doesn’t feel in line with the traditional interpretations – a bit too much Goddamn Batman. Commissioner Gordon has clearly hit the gym since we last saw him and looks pretty good for a guy who works 18 hour days and smokes like a chimney…

As for the little touches – things like setting off security scanners when walking through them, when using zoom mode, requiring a second for Batman’s eyes to adjust to the zoom is just class. Also seeing Batman’s attire slowly deteriorate during the course of the game just works so well.
The sound – again a hybrid of the music you expect from the films and the animated series, from Tim Burton to Christopher Nolan’s films. It avoids direct riffs but some of the melodies are so familiar, you can’t help but be transplanted into a cinema or in front of the TV on a Saturday morning. If I had one whine, it would be the Arkham Asylum sales speech every time you enter the Medical Centre which you just want to wreck the PA system.

And lest we forget, the voice acting – many of the old favourites from the Animated Series are picking up the mike – Kevin Conroy as Batman, Mark Hamill as the Joker, Arleen Sorkin as Harley Quinn…if only John Glover was available to voice the Riddler. But the voice work is great, particularly for the other characters in the game who have never really found a voice in the Batman universe such as Zsasz, Aaron Cash and Killer Croc.

Replayablity and Lastability – Playing the game on easy suits the player who wants to punch his way through the game as mooks line up to be smacked down. I think that playing the game on harder difficulty modes forces a more intelligent, stealth like approach to defeating the Joker’s plans so you get a different experience each time it is played. And as an adjunct to the main storyline, there is Challenge mode which tests Batman’s fighting and stealth skills with bonus awards for particular proficiency which really only help in unlocking Achievements.

The XP system also gives twenty upgrades to Batman and the player can unlock them in any order depending on what sort of a game they wish to play. Collecting all twenty within the course of the game is fairly simple but relies on some judicious collecting and chaining of attacks when beating up mooks. Again, this enhances the replayability as each experience will be unique.

The game does progress in a linear fashion but there are sandbox-like qualities once Batman breaks out of the Intensive Treatment section of the Asylum and like most games of this ilk, once it is finished the entire island is unlocked so that you can go back and complete the Riddler Challenges missed the first time around (and frankly, that’s essential). The game unlocks the various gizmos as you progress which can be a real doozy the first time you play as you see a Riddler Token and half kill yourself trying to get it, only to discover that a gadget (the line grappler is the worst culprit) will enable easy collection.

If you’re a collector and an Achievement grabber, then this game is perfect as it doesn’t take too much effort to score the bulk of the items and achievements and only a little effort to scoop up the rest. And there’s a great deal to like for novice gamers as the combat system is fairly simple but fun, the puzzles and “predator” parts of the game test both brains and brawn. Advanced gamers will look forward to the Challenge mode and achieving the top scores.

All in all, Batman Arkham Asylum, particularly now where a second hand copy goes for next to nothing, represents fantastic value for money. A typical game will last twelve hours and there’s plenty to keep the player amused in the Challenge Modes. Between the Joker’s barbs, exploring the weird world of Arkham Asylum and running around after what the Riddler dumped around the Asylum, there’s more than enough for a solo experience.

DKR

Before I set off for the quiz on Tuesday, I swung by the Vue in Westfield to go and watch The Dark Knight Returns as I was more than a little intrigued by the premise of the film and what I had read online.  I missed the last film at the cinema because of my dithering and at the time wasn’t interested in Batman Begins.  I went to the super huge screen and paid for the VIP seats (the regular ones are just too uncomfortable, particularly when you’re parking it for three hours) but avoided the temptations of the snacks and treats.

I don’t think I need to completely regurgitate the plot or at least from my perspective but I was quietly impressed by the number of references to story book lines:

Bruce Wayne the recluse – The Dark Knight Returns; Selina Kyle stealing to work her way up society – The Long Hallowe’en; Blackgate Prison being stormed & Bane breaking Batman’s back – Knightfall; Bane fighting Batman in a sewer – The Dark Knight Returns (Batman vs Mutant Leader); Gotham cut off from outside – Cataclysm; Jim Gordon leading the Blue Boys, the kid stealing the apple – No Man’s Land; Gotham’s elite being dragged out into the street – Contagion/Legacy; Scarecrow presiding over show-trials – No Man’s Land/War Games; Alfred quitting Bruce’s Employ because of his stubborness – Knightquest; Jim Gordon shot – Officer Down.

And there are many, many other references which I can’t remember off the top of my head.

Hmm, as a film, I thought it ok.  Not great as the the action did tend to drag on a bit, stretching out plot points past what I consider to be tolerable viewing.  I know that certain points had to be made but they were elongated a bit too much whilst other plot points seemed to be forgotten half way through (like what happened to the Mayor of Gotham after the football game?).  As always, the secret stars of the film are the villains and the unholy trio of Catwoman, Bane and Talia al Ghul (Legacy again) were just not up to scratch.  I dislike Anne Hathaway as an actress – she hasn’t been in a film I’ve liked or respected her for her talent so the cards were stacked against her anyway but as Catwoman…she wasn’t convincing.  Maybe I have been too close to the source material but she didn’t seem to get the character at all, just playing this angry, selfish woman who you just want to smack.  And Bane…you just wanted to smack him too.  Why Tom Hardy gave him a German accent (all I could think of was Schwarzenegger’s Mr Freeze) I don’t know.  The respirator was a little too… Darth Vader, especially when Talia helped him up as a female Palpatine figure.  The Talia/Miranda twist was good but there were too many hints dropped in the film that she was going to be the ultimate villain and it would have been better had that come from more left-field.

Perhaps the most perversely interesting thing about the movie was that almost the entire main cast were British/Irish!  Bale, Oldman, Caine, Hardy, Neeson, Murphy… proof that we can do good as well as bad (in terms of Hollywood casting).  In a way, I’m glad this reinterpretation of the Franchise has been wrapped up after the third film (plus the animated DVD) as it’s a nice, self-contained universe but if there are future films (and there will be), then perhaps Warner Brothers can give us something closer to the original comics if not a direct retelling.  I have always wanted to see a big-screen remake of The Long Hallowe’en and Dark Victory – great stories, great potential.

Socialisin’

Old habits certainly die hard and if I hadn’t caught myself, I would have spent over £100 last night on DVDs and games. And probably on the quiz machine also. Jah see, HMV sent me an email saying I hadn’t made a purchase in store in absolutely ages so if I did within a set time period, I’d be entitled to some bonus points on my reward card. And I did – the original intention was to buy Cybill season 1 on DVD but whilst browsing the shelves, particularly to see if Rome had been reduced on Blu-Ray, I noticed that the original Batman anthology had been slashed in price so that was picked up as was Family Guy season 10. Then when browsing the games, I was extremely tempted by a couple of Wii games (despite barely touching the damn console in ages) but reined the desire to possess.

And afterwards I called into Fat Bar for nostalgia’s sake and wasted a large amount of cash on the machine, again for nostalgia’s sake. Went home not very happy. Would have called in to Tesco but one of my least favourite Big Issue vendors was loitering on the corner of Dean Street which precipitated a dash for Tottenham Court Road. Though I have noticed two sweet shops that have popped up on the top end of Oxford Street – my hunt for the Peppermint Fondants continues with zero success. Of course if there are any readers know the name of the below confection, or better yet where they can be procured, I shall be…grateful.

These confections are small squares, about 1.5cm and are half white, half pink. They’re peppermint fondants and there’s a small cross on the middle on one side – a sort of Swiss Flag thing going on.

I may have asked this before, I dare say it’ll be asked again but I always remember buying these things at the Christmas Markets and Woolworths whilst living in Münster and I’d love to be able to get a hold of them again. Of course, it’s not entirely dissimilar to a Fry’s Peppermint Cream sans the chocolate coating although those bars aren’t exactly easy to get a hold of. Bastard distributors.

Alas on the way home I was overcome with hunger and called into the Atlantic Fish Bar for the first time in two months and drowned my dinner in low fat mayo (another damned expense) before scarfing it whilst watching the first of seven back to back episodes of Cybill. It certainly helped that there was bugger all on TV to gawp at and the two housemates were both in sulks over their respective careers.

As for the rest, well I’m looking forward to this afternoon/evening – the weekend is here once again which means catching up with sleep, gaming, distressing and loadsa fun. There are no plans for tomorrow – there’s a party I’ve not been invited to (owing to the lack of a Facebook status) plus German Chris is having a birthday party tonight but it’s in Brighton and there’d be issues. Staying over just isn’t an option for me, I like my own bed.

Oh, I perhaps should have mentioned that I had lunch with Andy S at the Black Dog in Vauxhall yesterday – first time I’ve eaten in there and it was very not bad. Pumpkin soup and Welsh Rarebit and Andy disclosed that the deal has been set for his move dahn sarf to Penvesey. It’s just too bad that lunchtimes have to be compressed into an hour because you just get about warmed up and then you must return to your respective prison cells. I did try and advocate the Tea Shop Theatre (formerly the Queen Anne) but he warned it was grossly overpriced. Oh well…

Next week is a big meeting full of meetings and Friday bowling! And I need to call/rant/shout at the stupid Doctor as the turd still hasn’t called to beg for absolution.