Things are ramping up for us here at Scanline as the holiday rush approaches. I myself don’t intend to get either of the new consoles at launch, but I think Ben’s gonna grab a PS4, and that’s certainly exciting. Even setting next gen aside, though, there’s plenty to talk about on the horizon, and I for one am excited to get to it. Here’s what we played this week.
Batman: Arkham Asylum
We’ve been graced with not one, but TWO brand-new Arkham games this week, but I was driven to install Rocksteady’s 2009 classic first. I could excuse it away by suggesting I wanted to “brush up” on the series, but when you’ve already beaten a game three times (once on every platform), you have nothing to familiarize yourself with. I know every plot twist, riddle and battle like the back of my hand, practically finishing scenarios in my head before I ever threw the last punch. The only element that remained fresh were the PhysX effects: With a beefier PC, flowing banners and stacks of papers littered the prison, doubtlessly placed there to sell expensive video cards to wide-eyed gamers. I eagerly dove into each and every sheet, gleefully cackling at the thought of some poor Arkham temp recollecting every medical document thrown to the wind.
My all-encompassing knowledge of the island surprisingly enhanced the sensation of stepping into the Dark Knight’s black cowl. The Riddler’s mind games were child’s play for the world’s greatest detective, and brawling with inmates hardly ever broke a nail. Sadly, my preternatural combat skills dampened my excitement, and saving Gotham almost felt like pest control. As I took my leave, I imagined Bruce summoning an eager Robin to finish the job while he drove back to the Batcave, steeling his mind for a fireside game of chess with Alfred.
From the word go, this 2013 reimagining of a questionably-revered classic effortlessly won me over with wit and style. My four-barreled shotgun and akimbo SMGs offered a satisfying punch, but every firearm paled in comparison to the katana; neither hellspawn nor assassin could resist the cold steel, severing limb after limb in a blood-soaked bacchanal of violence. Lo Wang’s cheesy quips and his nasal guide from the netherworld bookended each fight with a level of comedic rapport seldom seen in this field. If anyone were to make a Big Trouble in Little China game, Flying Wild Hog would easily be one of the top choices for the job.
Several hours into the game, Shadow Warrior decided to slow its breakneck pace and plop me in a sewer level. As with most sewer levels, it was an excruciatingly dull, lengthy affair with a side of switch-flipping busywork. The breaking point came when a force field graphic failed to load; I chose to ignore it and proceed into the bottom of a pit, where the statue powering the obstruction purred away. After swiftly eviscerating the enemies and breaking the accursed generator, the force field’s visual effect decided to turn itself on, breaking my one and only save. Faced with
the difficult choice of restarting from the beginning of this sewage nightmare or quitting the game, I easily abandoned Lo Wang to his fate and promptly uninstalled the game. Shadow Warrior, I love you, but you’re bringing me down!
My review of Shadow Warrior made it pretty clear that I was a big fan, and most of what I had to say about the game, I said there, so I won’t bore you with repetition. I did find the sewer level a little lackluster myself (though not as offensive as my compatriot), so I can understand Ben’s chagrin when the game bugged out on him. One of the side effects of its budget status is that it doesn’t have the polish of a Call of Duty or Battlefield- certainly it runs pretty well most of the time, but there are minor freakouts here and there. I didn’t have any that got in the way of gameplay, and it sucks bigtime that they put Ben off the game.
I understand if you never go back to it, but man, that game gets pretty crazy if you stick with it….
I have never been overly concerned with Catching Em All, given the impossibility of that task (literally- in the States, it is not possible short of hacking) but I do enjoy me a good Pokemon game. They’re fun, lighthearted, compelling nostalgia trips for me, full of exploration and discovery. The kind of game where I really try to avoid all information, because I want a fresh experience of untainted wonder.
It’s surprising to me how much quality affects my enjoyment of the games, however. Diamond and Pearl didn’t tickle my fancy, as they felt same-y and uninspired, and Ruby and Sapphire just felt passionless. Finally putting the game in polygons makes even old Pokemon feel new, and improvements to movement and interface make me realize little intangible things about the series that always bothered me. Why was movement always limited to four way movement, on an invisible grid? What was the reason for making the Experience Share such a late game item? I really couldn’t tell you, but both those things are fixed, along with a bunch of other issues you never realized you had.
But what about the new Pokemon? I mean, that’s the real test, isn’t it? Diamond and Pearl could have been cooler had the designs not been overwhelmingly stupid. Well, I haven’t delved too deep myself, but the new ‘Mons I’ve seen have made me pretty happy. The new starters are solid, and a lot of the new guys I’ve run across, I’ve found myself nodding in approval. Not always a “Hell yes,” but at least a “Yeah, okay.” Pokemon: It’s As Real As It Gets.
Okay, I didn’t play this recently. In fact, I haven’t played it in years. But I got a bone to pick with the gaming community after hearing conversation about Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon. There’s a lot of “It’s Luigi’s Mansion but good” flying around, and frankly, it pisses me off. Luigi’s Mansion was good, jerks!
All of the things you praise about the 3DS game were already there. Diorama-esque presentation? Check. Environments to explore, poke and prod that are crafting with a straight-up ridiculous amount of detail? Check. Charm out the ass, and a delightfully balanced atmosphere that is spooky without actually being scary? You better believe it. Yes, the new Luigi’s Mansion is great, and that’s awesome. But calling the original a glorified tech demo is crap. Walk through one of those hallways with Luigi timidly whispering Mario’s name, and your tune will change. This is the Year of Luigi, pay your respects.
I’m just gonna leave this here. Shhhh! Don’t tell Ben.