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Batman: the Telltale Series Episode 3: New World Order

After the good but not great Children of Arkham, the third episode of Batman: the Telltale Series takes a turn for the even better. It has shocking bleak plot twists that make for compelling viewing and playing.

With Harvey Dent the new Mayor of Gotham, he makes stopping the Children of Arkham the first priority. After an early rescue mission, Batman investigates the Children. This investigation is eventually sidetracked by romantic interludes with Catwoman and the pressures being Mayor is putting on Harvey awakening long-suppressed psychological problems of his.

Meanwhile, the controversies surrounding what Bruce Wayne’s father did so long ago are coming to a head. Wayne Enterprises’ board of directors is so suspicious of Bruce that the latter’s resignation is demanded. Bruce winds up not liking who the new head of the company is one bit.

Public humiliations make for dark stories.

This is a great story! A little too over the top in its bleakness at times, but still great. The player is enticed to keep playing to see how things turn out, what with all the suspense and whatnot!

The only issue is Harvey’s mental breakdown. Anyone who’s seen any other version of the character knows it has to happen, but to say it happens quickly is an understatement. It would have been better if some signs in previous episodes of it has surfaced. Instead, it’s just the pressures of running a city alone that force it. Not that this isn’t possible, It just somehow feels… wrong.

But things work well in the ending. It’s a surprising, dramatic finish that heads into the fourth episode with a bang!

Not unlike the bang of being slammed head-first into concrete!

This was a short review because there’s only so much I can say without including excessive spoilers. And New World Order relies on surprising plot twists. Just know that this is a great continuation of Batman: the Telltale Series.

Overall: 8 out of 10

Daredevil

daredevilnetflixtitleCharlie Cox as Matt Murdock/Daredevil
Elden Henson as Foggy Nelson
Deborah Ann Woll as Karen Page

Remember Daredevil, that mediocre movie that was made early in the seemingly neverending superhero movie boom? Its only modest box office profit and the outright failure of the Elektra spin-off pretty much killed that series, but apparently somebody decided to give it a try over a decade later.

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Cheap, bullshit season 1 costume.

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That’s more like it!

This show takes a very different approach. Whereas the 2003 movie was centered around action and detailed explanations of how Daredevil’s sensory powers work, this show thrives on drama inspired by The Dark Knight. There is not a lot of explanation of Daredevil’s powers, though. We’re told that he was blinded by a radioactive liquid that also enhanced his other senses, but that’s it.

While I love this show, there is a caveat I would add: if you don’t like too much talking in your superhero movies and shows, you won’t like this show. Much of this show is Daredevil’s true self, Matt Murdock, working as a lawyer. He runs a modest law firm with lifelong friend Foggy Nelson and secretary Karen Page. Matt only wants just cases, while Foggy is a more typical lawyer with an opportunistic streak. This creates great character conflict.

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“Did you stub your toe during the workday? Have an employee who needs medical leave? We at Nelson and Murdock can help you get ‘justice?'”

During the night, of course, Matt fights crime as Daredevil. There’s drama involving the criminals he fights as well. And it works. For instance, the second season had a story in which Daredevil battled The Punisher, a crimefighting vigilante himself, but who does so in a brutal way. Ironically, Matt ends up defending him in court, seeing Punisher as a well-meaning person with psychological problems.

So the drama works. How about the acting? The performances are very strong. Charlie Cox plays the part of a hero on a mission and does it well. Elden Henson and Deborah Woll play the parts of members of his law firm who work and talk with him. The casting of villains is just as good, particularly Vincent D’Onofrio as crime boss Wilson Fisk.

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Unfortunately, this character was created decades ago, when a shaved head made you sinister. Today it’s almost normal.

To sum it up, Daredevil is worth Netflix’ subscription price by itself, in my humble opinion! Just don’t expect it to be action-first.

Overall: 9 out of 10

Batman: The Telltale Series Episode 2: Children of Arkham

Batman_20161209041649Yeah, I know I reviewed Batman: The Telltale Series before, but it’s a cheap game that lets you choose whether you want to continue the story by buying the later episodes. Fortunately, I have the Season Pass Disc, which includes free access to all the episodes. I now review the second.

The first part had Bruce Wayne realizing that there was corruption in his family for which he was under investigation. On top of that, Batman’s questioning of mob boss Carmine Falcone prompted Falcone to claim that the Waynes are “the biggest gangsters in Gotham.” The second episode, Children of Gotham, has Bruce finally getting Alfred to admit that Bruce’s father,Thomas, did in fact have dealings with the mafia.

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What’s wrong, Bruce? Can’t take a little loss of innocence?

Bruce (not Batman) confronts Falcone in his hospital bed to learn the total truth. Before he gets it, a police officer named Renee Montoya shoots Falcone dead. Batman’s research reveals that Montoya only did it because of a mind-control device. And as it happens, it seems that Gotham has a new, more violent kind of crime-fighting vigilante.

These episodes are interactive movies so you make character choices and in push buttons corresponding to the signal that appears on the screen in action scenes. You do both as you go through.

No what's "messy" is the blue goop.

No what’s “messy” is the blue goop.

Alas, this is decidedly not as good as the first episode. The reason is that this game uses The Penguin wrong. He’s supposed to be a criminal, but the plot has him as a violent vigilante. Also, he’s tall and skinny. No doubt they did this because of the popular version of the character in the ongoing crime drama Gotham. The difference being that Gotham is set when Bruce is a teenager and Penguin’s deforming condition hasn’t gotten serious yet.

But there are certain redeeming qualities with this game. The mystery involving vigilantes going too far actually is very well-done. Additionally, there are character interactions between Batman and Catwoman (who circumstances force to work together) that work well, as do certain plot twists.

Those eyebrows are how you know he's a bad guy.

Those eyebrows are how you know he’s a bad guy.

While not a great sequel, Children of Gotham is worth the money.

Overall: 7 out of 10

Batman: The Telltale Series

Batman_20161026022527The latest Batman game is rather unconventional. You don’t actually control anybody. The game proceeds mostly on its own and Batman follows it.

What can you do? First, the action sequences have quick graphics that tell you which button to press to make Batman dodge or strike. You have to press that button quickly. You also make choices along the way.

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Like whether you’re cool about being framed.

Plot: 10 out of 10

First, an explanation is in order. This is a remarkably cheap game. It costs just thirty bucks. It also lasts only two hours but several other episodes are either out or coming soon for an Abraham Lincoln each. I must say, that’s a great idea. If we don’t like it , we can stop for not too much money wasted. If it’s a hit, there’s no rule that Telltale Games can’t keep making more episodes beyond the amount originally promised. We could do without the waits in-between the release of mandatory episodes, though.

I’ve only played through the pack-in episode, Realm of Shadows. I may review the others in the shorter style I used for Super Mario Maker. Right now, I’ll just say that Realm of Shadows has an excellent plot! It has a mafia plot that involves shocking corruption in Bruce Wayne’s family. This is an effective and gutsy attempt at tragedy and man, does it work! Subplots like Batman meeting Catwoman and Bruce Wayne trying to help Harvey Dent dethrone the ineffective Mayor Hamilton Hill but Hill attempting to embarrass Bruce and, by association, Harvey, are almost as good.

"I believe in Harvey Dent" from The Dark Knight gives me a bad feeling about this...

“I believe in Harvey Dent” from The Dark Knight gives me a bad feeling about this…

To tie it all together in a bow, you get to make choices. I don’t know if this is broadened later, but in Realm of Shadows, you mainly seem to choose whether to be the usual firm but restrained version, or if you want to be a brutal crimefighter. In the case of the latter, think the Michael Keaton version.

Graphics: 6 out of 10

OK, this isn’t so impressive. While backgrounds are well-done, characters are flat and don’t really fit in. But the Batman look is accomplished and besides, there is a sense of competence. If you want my idea of bad, recent, graphics, play Duck Dynasty or The Amazing Spider-Man 2… or not.

Sound: 7 out of 10

We have good music, good supporting cast voices, downright excellent actors for the villains, and a Batman who is rather off-key. I’d think that Telltale would prioritize getting the central character’s voice right. The sounds can be considered good overall, but just barely.

The pressure of a policeman's job rises to a new level.

The pressure of a policeman’s job rises to a new level.

Gameplay: 8 out of 10

You rarely move Batman. Instead, copies of buttons or directional signals appear on the screen telling you which button to press in action scenes. This seems more fun than in some other games in which this is done. The action scenes are well-done, helping this along.

Choices are made with time limits to making them. This adds suspense to the game, especially since the choices you make affect a lot.

This style of play may be simple and unconventional, but it’s fun. Not for everyone, but for what it’s attempting, it works.

Bruce: "Oh, yeah! That's my cathoney! Take it off!" Alfred: "Sir?" Bruce: "Just... reading up on archcriminals currently at large."

Bruce: “Oh, yeah! That’s my cathoney! Take it off!”
Alfred: “Sir?”
Bruce: “Just… reading up on archcriminals currently at large.”

Challenge: 8 out of 10

This isn’t a very hard game, but it’s fun. The thrill of the plot keeps you going. Also, the different outcomes determined by your decisions add a lot of replay value.

Overall: 8 out of 10

A different approach to making a Batman game, this one works. The story is effective and the choices with different outcomes will keep you playing. Just don’t expect a lot of balls to the wall action.

LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham

LEGO® Batman™ 3: Beyond Gotham_20160604190338It can be difficult to keep a series fresh over a long period of time. Has the Lego Batman series been kept fresh? I’m afraid not. While the technical aspects are there, the level design isn’t very good. What’s worse is some questionable decisions in which mission objectives to put in the game. All this makes LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham not the great experience that part 2 was.

Plot: 4 out of 10

The first mistake is the “beyond Gotham” part of the title. Why is this a Batman game? Given that the story is about the Justice League teaming up with some villains led by Lex Luthor against a greater evil, perhaps a more appropriate title would be Justice League: Beyond Good and Evil. A lack of good interactions between characters make this the beginning of a disappointment.

LEGO® Batman™ 3: Beyond Gotham_20160604200247

Most parents try to keep their children FROM taking bad falls.

Graphics: 8 out of 10

You can give credit to the look of this game. The LEGO and Batman feels are captured and everything is well-detailed. But as too few development teams have learned, graphics don’t make the game. How it plays makes it.

Sound: 6 out of 10

One major advantage DC games have over Marvel games is the fact that DC’s parent company, Warner Bros., owns the rights to the vast majority of these adaptations of the comic books. So like in the prequels, Lego Batman 3 makes good use of Danny Elfman’s score in the first two Batman movies. But this game’s original tunes are… meh. Bland, tame, and unremarkable are good descriptions as well.

You mean Batman's actually real?

You mean Batman’s actually real?

Back to the easy access to Bat-stuff For just a moment. How about downloadable adaptations of past movies and shows in the next Arkham Whatever game? This would be stuff I’d really like to buy. Just think about, WB, kay? We now return to our regularly scheduled program.

Gameplay: 5 out of 10

Once again, you have control of Batman and Robin. Once again, both have a wide variety of suits with different abilities to use. What’s different this time is that this time the controls feel kind of clunky. Batman and Robin seem harder to control. This is an inconvenience that makes the game much harder to enjoy.

Green Lantern kicks ass!

Green Lantern kicks ass!

Challenge: 1 out of 10

All these LEGO games have the following problem: you can’t die for good. Appropriately enough, you get blown apart but come back together. The only challenge comes in collecting Coins and hidden objects to improve your completion stats. Adding to the issue this time is that level designs have gotten repetitive and boring. Some have very little action, just trying to find the exit. This becomes very tedious as the game drags on.

A city-based hero has a space suit? If you say so.

A city-based hero has a space suit? If you say so.

Overall: 4 out of 10

This is not a good game. At all. Not much work was put into it this time. Additional downloadable characters and levels (for more money, I might add) do not make up for a sub-par game.

Deadpool

DeadpoolTitleRyan Reynolds as Deadpool/Wade Wilson
Morena Baccarin as Vanessa
Ed Skrein as Francis Freeman/Ajax
Leslie Uggams as Blind Al
Stefan Kapicic as Colossus
Brianna Hildabrand as Negasonic Teenage Warhead
Gina Carano as Angel Dust

Before this film, I had virtually no exposure to the Deadpool character. It’s not that I never read comic books, just none about this endeared yet more obscure character. Do I really have to read about every character? If his first movie is any indication, I can see why he has such a loyal cult following.

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Someone must have quite a sense of humor to allow this to survive the editing process.

Wade Wilson is no hero. He’s a flawed person whose interests include beautiful women and gambling. Also, unlike nearly every superhero, he will make the occasional kill. Unfortunately, he gets terminal cancer. However, he is approached by Ajax, who is running an operation that can give people extra fast healing, fast enough to cure any disease. With nothing to lose, Wade agrees. But the plan is for him to become a mindless slave to Ajax’s organization. Wade manages to escape but a side effect of the treatment leaves him with a disfigured face. Believing his girlfriend, Vanessa, won’t want to be with him now, he sets out to pay Ajax back with a mask and dual identity: Deadpool.

While this seems like a pretty generic plot, the humor adds to it immensely! Jokes like crediting an “overpaid director” in the intro and Deadpool interrogating someone with a Zamboni but becoming frustrated with how long that kind of vehicle takes to get to someone are really funny and greatly improve the viewing experience.

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Yes, Deadpool doodles. But not very well.

Performances are strong. Ryan Reynolds turns in an excellent performance as Deadpool! Everything he does is just right. Other actors are similarly good. We have Morena Baccarin as a less than perfect girlfriend to match our less than perfect protagonist, Ed Skrein as a decent villain, Stefan Kapicic as a legit hero trying to pull Deadpool from the… grey area, and Brianna Hildabrand being convincingly carefree/world-weary as the teenager of the film.

That reminds me. Even though I know next to nothing about Deadpool, I believe he has some contact with the X-Men. Two of them, Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead, are trying to bring him to Professor X’s school for reeducation. In the end, though, circumstances have Deadpool and his heroic pursuers on the same side. All this helps differentiate who Deadpool is as a character from the majority of characters in these comic book movies.

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The filmakers couldn’t afford any of the really popular X-Men. It’s even admitted in the film.

All said, I view Deadpool as a true action comedy classic. One can only hope it creates a subgenre. Just one disclaimer: don’t let the kids watch with you. The language and violence are quite graphic.

Overall: 9 out of 10

Batman Returns

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Once upon a time, multi-platform games actually meant different, unique games. It was uncommon to see games released on multiple platforms at all. In the case of this review, different games by different companies were released for different systems, though all based on the same movie, Batman Returns.

The PC version (by GameTek) would have been a below average detective game even without awful, boring action sequences that you only watch. The Genesis version (Sega) is pretty good if you don’t mind outrageous difficulty and a lack of plot. The NES version would arguably be the best version if it weren’t for a difficult mystery that has no place in a beat-’em-up that you’re required to solve to see the whole game. The Game Gear version is the most mediocre of them all.

The SNES version is the subject of this review. It’s probably the best of them all, albeit derivative of Final FIght. Still, give credit where it’s due. This is a solid beat-’em-up and Batman game.

Plot: 7 out of 10

This game does a good job of using cutscenes in the intro*, between levels, and at the game’s end to tell the story of the movie. Actual quotes are used that fans of the film will recognize instantly.

The only real problem is that although the intro and advertisement of this game confirm Catwoman’s importance to the story, in the actual game, her two battles with Batman are reenacted before she just mysteriously disappears, never to be mentioned again. The tragic ending of the movie, sadly, is not here.

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Gotta love how the programmers troll the player by having you save Selina Kyle, knowing that she becomes Catwoman. I know that happens in the movie, but still!

*Like many old games you have to not do anything for awhile after turning the game on to see this intro.

Graphics: 8 out of 10

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Yes, that appears to be a screen of static behind him.

This game looks great for the SNES. These programmers have the dark, gloomy atmosphere of The Dark Knight down to every character looking just like they do in the movie. The only problem is the crude imposing of character stills from the movies onto whatever background they programmers decided to use that we see in the cutscenes.

Sound: 7 out of 10

The music is recordings of Danny Elfman’s awesome score for the movie and come about as close to the real songs as the SNES’ limitations allow. Some voice acting is included, though, and it’s not nearly as impressive. Much of it seems forced.

Gameplay: 8 out of 10

This game has gameplay schematics similar to Final Fight. Instead of a flat side-scrolling terrain, you can move up and down to maneuver into the best position to attack. You can do jumping attacks, punching-kick combinations, move in close to headbutt or throw the target, or throw a Test Tube to knock out all nearby enemies.

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All superheroes cause millions in property damage. Scientific fact.

The controls handle pretty well, but the lack of uniqueness compared to other 2D beat-’em-ups cost it a point or two. If the lack of freshness leaves the gameplay less than classic, it’s still quite classic.

Challenge: 6 out of 10

Whereas the Genesis version seemed inaccessible to all but truly elite gamers, this one is fairly easy most of the way. While some enemies do hit hard, they’re easily outsmarted and not very fast. Still, the fairly creative variety of enemies do allow for fun throughout the game.

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Ironic that two of the only hard parts of the game are the boss battles against a short, fat, waddling guy.

Overall: 7 out of 10

Not a great game, but an enjoyable one. Fans of the movie will probably like this game even more than most. Just don’t expect a true test of your skills.