Too much violence in today’s videogames? Not this week, as LEGO Batman and Superman lead a host of family friendly releases.
LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes (360, PS3, Wii, 3DS, DS, PSVita, PC)
LEGO Gotham is in peril. An alliance between LEGO Lex Luther and LEGO Joker has turned LEGO Batman’s best toys into mere disassembled bricks. Fortunately, it would seem that a bus from Metropolis broke down outside Gotham, allowing the LEGO likes of Superman and Lois Lane to join a whole host of DC Super Heroes and Batman rogues.
The ‘LEGO Star Wars’ games were instant hits, with co-op modes perfect for playing with a friend, a young family member or a significant other. The series suffered a harsh sophomore slump beginning with ‘LEGO Indiana Jones’, but last year’s ‘LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean’ showed that the series was on the way back up.
The new Batman is the first of the LEGO series to have voice acting. In previous games, characters pantomimed their dialogue, usually imitating famous movies scenes. The lack of voice acting worked well in the past and was part of the games’ charm, but having actual dialogue allows for more original storytelling, which the series needs both for this new Batman and for the recently announced ‘LEGO City Undercover’. In an early scene in ‘LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes‘, as Lex is bargaining with the Joker, the Penguin can be seen in the background escaping Arkham. The Penguin pulling out his umbrella and sneakily jumping to freedom is the kind of humorous detail to expect from these games. I’m looking forward to ‘LEGO Batman 2’, and I’m not really bothered by having only played a little of the first ‘LEGO Batman’. In this rare case, I say skip the first game.
Brave: The Video Game (360, PS3, Wii, DS, PC)
Pixar has a huge fan base, and the studio certainly doesn’t need my help in attracting more followers to the Disney-owned animation powerhouse (or cult). ‘Brave: The Video Game‘ looks like the kind of license-based title where the developers took the opportunity to make the game fun while the overlords and bean counters were out slapping each other on the backs. The game sports Kinect and PS Move support for the 360 and PS3 respectively, making those peripherals seem like gifts that keep on giving. ‘Brave: The Video Game’ has been spotted with a sticker that promises free admission for the movie, which is great unless you feel that taking advantage of such an offer is somehow a sin against Pixar.
Civilization V: Gods & Kings (PC)
PC gamers, with their fancy rigs and cultish movies like ‘WarGames’ and ‘The Matrix’, sometimes push an image of superiority through technology. But as an exercise and as a game, the practice of spreading technology, culture and now once again religion, even with the concept of elitism, is in fact the practice of spreading our civilization to the four corners of the internet and the world. ‘Civilization V: Gods & Kings‘ expands upon the original ‘Civilization V’ by adding two new systems, religion and espionage, and by increasing the number of available civilizations up to thirty-four, each with contextually unique units and attributes. It’s about time that the religion system from ‘Civ IV’ returned. In its newly expanded role, this should be a big contribution. Your civilization may choose to ignore religion, but then you risk falling to another civilization’s religion. Build Stonehenge or the Pantheon, get your people a prophet, and bring your civilization to bear on your neighbors. And go Carthage!
Pokémon Conquest (DS)
Despite a proclivity to collect, I have never felt the need to “Catch ’em all.” As a huge ‘Smash Bros.’ fan, I will admit to enjoying the Pokémon presence in those games. Using Jigglypuff’s lullaby to knock out an opponent while risking an instant plummeting death is always fun. In the late ’90s, ‘Pokémon’ became the lifeblood of Nintendo, and the series has maintained relevancy by routinely ensnaring new would-be Pokémon trainers. This game looks more like ‘Final Fantasy Tactics’ or ‘Ogre Battle’ than any previous ‘Pokémon’ that I have seen. ‘Pokémon Conquest‘ may be the last DS title for the series, and a 3DS-only ‘Pokémon’ will mean that the 3DS has Nintendo’s blessing, while at the same time ensuring loads of new 3DS owners. For now, the 130 million+ DS systems and 17 million+ 3DS systems stand ready for ‘Pokémon Conquest’.
Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor (360)
Naturally, even in this week of colorful, family friendly games, Microsoft and Capcom remind us that somewhere and somehow, war is occurring. ‘Steel Battalion’ is known for having one of the largest, most expensive and most complicated peripherals of all time. ‘Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor‘ features a new way to fight, the Kinect way. The sound that you might be hearing off in the distance is the ten guys who own and love the original ‘Steel Battalion’ setting their homemade cockpits on fire while cursing all of planet Earth. Speaking for the rest of humanity, I can say that even though this is a Kinect dependent game, the normal 360 controller is still integral. Even though it seems like this title is getting a low-key release, the gameplay may more closely represent the prototypical gameplay of the future 360 successor than anything else seen thus far.
Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 (XBLA, PSN, PC, iPad)
In 2010, ‘Magic: The Gathering’ was released on the Xbox Live Arcade, and it sold well to both veteran ‘Magic’ players and novices. Steady releases and expansions have followed. ‘Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013’ is the latest sequel and brings several deck updates from the physical card game. With a price point of $10, ‘Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013’ seems like a frugal way to dabble in ‘Magic’, which has been popular for longer than cell phones. Beware, though; the ‘Magic’ games are notorious for incredibly tempting but increasingly expensive in-game DLC, and I would expect more of the same from this latest release.