Still not the perfect superhero game.
So yes, I have confirmed it. I was at both a Michael’s craft store and a Party City last night, and the artwork used in Wizkids’ new Batman: The Gotham City Strategy Game is exactly the same as what DC licenses out for birthday party plates and sticker books. The game does not feature any comic book artwork, nor does it really represent the Batman of the comics. Nor does it represent the Batman of the Chris Nolan films, the Adam West show, the Dini/Timm show, or the Arkham video games. It’s the Batman of party favors and lunchboxes.
I’m not entirely disappointed by the game, which I think is fun, light, and accessible as long as it doesn’t blow over 90 minutes (which it will with four players), but as a lifelong Batman fan and board gamer…it looks like I’m still waiting for the great Batman board game that may never happen. I do think there is some smart design here, and I love the concept of the players controlling the villains and have some ability to sick Batman on other players. But so much potential is left unmet, ignored, or avoided. Review is at NHS, of course.
Clash of Cultures. Holy shit. I finally got a copy in a trade, it would have made my GOTY shortlist if I had played it before I made it. It’s amazing. It could be THE modern Civilization game- so many smart ideas in terms of streamlining and refining the Civ concept. I love how city growth and city size work- brilliant, brilliant stuff. I’ll probably do a full review on it after some more plays.
Also got Small World: Realms at last.
And then there’s Gunship: First Strike, which I will review next week. It’s like a late 1980s/early 1990s Avalon Hill game.
On the Consoles
Tomb Raider is garbage. Once Lara turns into a killing machine and you realize that if you run up on the bad guys that they’ll get confused and you can shoot them in the face at point blank range with a bow and arrow, it falls apart. Let alone when you realize that all of the suspense in the game is canned, and that you can’t actually fall off a balance beam. The storyline is sub-par Lost mimicry, and all of the “Lara as strong female lead” talk boils down to her just turning into another video game killer…she just has a moment of shock the first time she shoots somebody and huffs and puffs a little more. Sent back to Gamefly, goodbye.
I’m actually rediscovering Blizzard’s games right now. It’s amazing to go back to Starcraft and Warcraft III and see how utterly timeless they are. They still look great because the art direction is so good. The gameplay is like a great old board game, the mechanics and design have a lot of tabletop influence, and part of that is that they’re evergreen and not necessarily bound to the technology.
I got Starcraft II running (have to turn off those shaders or it crawls), so I’ve been playing that too. The easy criticism is that it’s just like the original game. But that’s totally OK, because the original game is timeless.
I even booted up a little Command & Conquer: Generals the other day. What a fun, ridiculous RTS.
Sins of a Solar Empire saw some playtime this week too. It’s really good, but it’s a little dense and I’m still not quite sure what the hell I should be doing. I seem to get wiped out by pirates pretty regularly.
So many great old games to go through…and I’m not done with Hotline Miami yet either.
On the Comics Rack
Still just reading Fourth World…funny enough, there was a reader letter in one of the last issues of Jimmy Olsen that I read where the reader was just going off on Kirby for the Don Rickles thing, for ending every sentence in an exclamation point, for plastering text all over the cover, for the silly character names…the writer of the letter in question was Mark Gruenwald.
I really gotta get the Fourth World Omnibuses…I’m enjoying these as much as anything else I’ve read lately. Great comics with a singular vision.
I may move on to Kirby’s Demon books, OMAC, and maybe some of his other DC stuff next.
On the Screen
I started watching The Hobbit, at long last. I’ve only watched about half since I started last night at 2:30am, but I have a couple of general comments. The first being that I wish that the movie was made by the Peter Jackson that directed The Lord of the Rings, not the Peter Jackson that directed King Kong. Like King Kong, The Hobbit feels bloated, overproduced, overindulgent, and saggy. This has to be in part due to stretching material WAY too thin (“like butter scraped over too much bread”) and bringing in new story content. Pumping up the dwarves’ story is fine, but the story risks dragging itself down and you can constantly feel that tension between forward narrative momentum and getting clogged up in the exposition.
I really wish that dwarves had been more stylized. Half the time I’m looking at them- Thorin in particular- I actually forget that they’re dwarves. They mostly just look like regular dudes, apart from a couple that have more dwarfly features. McKellen seems tired and not nearly as committed to the Gandalf role as he was in the trilogy.
I am enjoying it, but it’s hard to not be somewhat disappointed in it. There are some great things- I think Campbell is a great Bilbo, and I love his mannerisms. Radagast (Sylvester McCoy?!?!) is great. The humour, the songs, the vistas, all great. I just got to the trolls, and they look good. So it’s a mixed bag overall, we’ll see how the next SIX HOURS of the story go.
Mostly hitting the Iron Maiden catalog, most regularly Killers and Powerslave. “Killers” is still one of my top three or so Maiden tracks…”Flash of the Blade” is one I’ve been digging a lot recently as well.
Spotify is really not very good for obscure NWOBHM, which is disappointing. I did find a Blitzkrieg record on there, and it’s AMAZING how much early Metallica sounds just like them. There’s a couple of Diamond Head records on there as well…and there again, early Metallica sounds just like them.
So I actually loaded up Metallica’s “Kill ‘em All”, I haven’t listened to it in ages. It’s still probably their best record, they were very earnestly trying to combine that NWOBHM sound with what would become the Bay Area thrash sound…which was, in turn heavily influenced by Discharge and early hardcore. So many great tracks on that record- “Whiplash”, “Four Horsemen”, “Jump in the Fire”…pity about everything post-“Ride the Lightning”. Maybe they should have kept Dave Mustaine around