Category Archives: comic books

Videogame of The Walking Dead

Okay, zombies are hot right now, and The Walking Dead, whether you’re talking the comics or the TV series, is really really hot. So you knew sooner it later there’d be a videogame. This one is probably not the first, but this demo for the PS3 is the first one I’ve had access to.

It starts with Episode One : A New Day. You play Lee, a limping survivor of the zombie apocalypse as you explore the new world left behind for The Walking Dead. As you move forward, you meet and save a little girl named Clementine. You move through the scenario, guided, if you wish, by hints on how to play the game. This was good for me, the controller handicapped non-gamer, and in this way, I was pretty good at this. See what just a little help and a nudge in the right direction can do?

Some research on the magical Internet shows your player character is actually Lee Everett, apparently a college professor and a, believe it or not, convicted murderer. His backstory unfolds through the course of the game. Lee comes home from work and finds his wife in bed with another man. Lee kills him, is tried for murder, and on his way to prison, an accident frees him in the midst of the zombie apocalypse happening around him.

Brought to life by voice actor David Fennoy, Lee Everett has been celebrated in the world of videogames as a very human character, both sympathetic in the game story and still reflective of the player’s actions and motivations. A unique character in the gaming arena. This was the first time I experienced gameplay like this in a game I could actually play, I was impressed.

Gameplay is set solidly in the Walking Dead universe, and continues that way episodically, literally. There are a total of five episodes and three characters from the comics/TV series appear. It’s what is known as a point and click game (see, I am learning something), but focuses more on character development than the usual puzzle solving tactics. The writer in me loves this aspect.

I really dig this game, both for its innovation and for its handholding instruction. Maybe if Sleeping Dogs or Saints Row were more new gamer friendly, I’d like them this much too.

Advertisements

The Lorax

Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax ~ I learned to read very early, thanks to my big sister, starting with Dr. Seuss favorites like “Hop on Pop,” “One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish,” “Fox in Socks” and of course the classics like “The Cat in the Hat” and “Green Eggs and Ham.” And although I quickly graduated to comic books, and then real books, I never lost my love of the Doctor (in this case, Seuss, not the guy with the TARDIS).

Though I had never actually read the book I do distinctly remember my first encounter with “The Lorax.” The night the animated version premiered on CBS I was allowed to stay up later than usual to watch it. I was interested but not very because I thought that previous TV versions of Seuss’ work, excepting the Grinch, we’re inferior to the source material. Yes, even at seven, I was nurturing a critical mind.

I had not just a critic’s thought process, but I was also pretty hip to propaganda, even if it was positive propaganda. I had seen the Justice League fight pollution and promote ecology in the comics, and it had hit a sour note with me. It’s not that I don’t believe in the causes, I do, it’s just I’m very against being fed a message in lieu of a story or characterization. I saw that hand at work in “The Lorax.” The bottom line is I don’t mind being educated while I’m entertained – I just don’t want to be preached at.

Which brings all the way back to 2012 and the movie Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax. The Bride and I saw it in 3D, so we spent far far too much to get in. By my estimation, this would have been fine in just plain 2D. There’s still a message here in this expanded tale of the Lorax, but really not enough to annoy me. Trust me, it’s still there, but nothing like Lou Dobbs and other conservatives have exclaimed (and did I read right, did they call “The Lorax” a novel?). It is clear, not at all subtle, but not overbearing either.

Instead I got to enjoy the fun relationship between Ted (Zac Effron) and Audrey (Taylor Swift), watching Ted escape the city in interesting ways, and hearing the moral yet endearing story of The Once-ler (Ed Helms) and the appropriately annoying (here at least) Danny DeVito in the title role. There is also the predictable role for Betty White. No offense, honey, I love ya, but it’s getting old. There were a few pointless scenes, like the chase at the end with the seed. I almost wanted to yell at the screen, “Give it to Wall-E, he’ll keep it safe!”

All in all though, it was good, and non-offensive. Add a fun original soundtrack (no excuses for only two nominees in the Best Song category at next year’s Oscars) and you have yourself an entertaining hit movie. I don’t have a good record with Seuss properties turned into films (note the Grinch and Horton), but this one’s a winner.

Bookmark and Share

Somebody’s Been Watching Way Too Much Tim Burton…

Just the introduction of Scarygirl made me want to run out of the mall Hot Topic I was trapped in and throw up whatever hallucinogenic drug I had accidentally swallowed. Then I realized I was neither at the mall nor at a Tim Burton movie marathon. I was in my living room with the downloaded demo of Scarygirl. Sigh. At least I can delete it when I’m done writing about it, or at least that’s how I felt before playing it.

Scarygirl is based on the gothic graphic novel by Nathan Jurevicius and can probably be found at Hot Topic more often than your local comics shop. No offense meant, but it is 2012, and this whole Goth thing was over some time ago, like probably about the time “South Park” got wind of it. If you’re still Goth now, you’re either a vampire, living in the past, or really really committed – or all three. Again, no offense, The Bride leans that way sometimes, and I still love her.

Scarygirl is the story of a Goth chick who looks like a Tim Burton ragdoll and meets a friendly octopus who’s kind of obsessed with her. There are bunnies and owls and all manner of oddities along her way, but Scarygirl is a Goth chick with a mission, and that mission is to find out what’s what with a nightmare she keeps having. I think. I kinda dozed off.

Now all that said, gameplay is something else altogether. It’s still looks like Tim Burton threw up all over the screen, and the images are a bit disturbing, but it was fun, and even though it was a demo, I got a lot of play out of it, and for me, that’s saying something. It’s a fun world to explore, notably more fun to me than say Little BIG Planet or certainly Incredible Hulk. This is a platformer (see, I’m learning) definitely worth playing, thumbs up from the Non-Gamer.

But I Wanna Play The Vision

After trying to download this one seemingly a million times, I finally managed to get one to stick, and I got a free download from the PlayStation Store of Marvel Vs. Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes. Now I’m a non-gamer so I’m a little fuzzy on who the competition is (I don’t even recognize anyone from Street Fighter), but I know my Marvel Comics heroes, so hopefully this should have been fun.

One thing, you have to buy the game. Usually the concept of the whole game vs. the demo game doesn’t really affect me, but here it does. The character choice is extremely limited. You get to be Captain America, Wolverine, or Cable – or one of the anonymous unknown anime fighter characters from the Capcom universe. Game play is nothing but button mashing and hoping for the best, so it’s another game where I would benefit from five minutes with the instructions. But that said, I don’t know if I would enjoy it more if I was doing things right.

It was another one of those games I could not enjoy by myself, another player was needed to even test it out so I recruited my buddy Ray, whose first remarks were about the introductory artwork on the Marvel characters, “worse than Liefield.” Now while I don’t share his thoughts on Rob Liefield, I have to admit the art is not great. Even the anime representations in the game itself are not so hot.

This was really not as much fun as it could have been, especially considering it was such a limited demo. But then even if it was the full version, featuring twenty-eight different Marvel characters, there really aren’t any that jump out at me to make me want to play. Maybe I’m just hard to please, but how about the Vision, Hellcat, Moon Knight, or the Human Torch as playable characters? With an entire universe to pick from, really, these are the best you got?

Chronicle

Chronicle ~ The famous tagline of the Amazing Spider-Man legend is “With great power comes great responsibility”, and that’s really what this ‘found footage’ scifi horror adventure flick is about. Or maybe that’s what the tagline for Chronicle should be, because as we see as the movie proceeds, we need to add a word to the saying – “With great power should come great responsibility.”

In the film, Michael B. Jordan (“Friday Night Lights”) the popular guy, Alex Russell the regular guy, and Dane DeHaan (“In Treatment”) the picked-on misfit nerd with family troubles all get super powers, specifically telekinesis. This commonality bonds them to each other in an unorthodox friendship. Much like M. Night Shyamalan’s Unbreakable, the best part here is the boys learning to use their powers. One particularly wonderful scene shows them learning to fly. It’s breathtaking. If “Smallville” had done it this well, it would still be on the air, and if The Man of Steel (telling the origin again) does it like this, it will be a hit. Worthwhile just for these scenes.

Things break down of course each one subjected to their own inner struggles. Guess which one becomes the villain, kinda telegraphed, but still well done. The ending battle is pretty cool as far as special effects go, but the found footage format makes it difficult to follow. As much as I usually dislike that kind of flick, the end is the only place it doesn’t work. This was much better than I thought it would be. Recommended for the genre crowd.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Don’t forget, The Virtual Book Tour for THE HUNGRY HEART STORIES by Fran Metzman is featured today at Becca Butcher’s blog with an interview with the author.

The tour continues tomorrow on my good friend Robin Renee’s blog. Don’t miss it! For a full list of Blog Tour stops, go here.

Bookmark and Share

Totally in the Dark

I’m a comics guy, not a gaming guy, but this one completely eludes me. The Darkness, and The Darkness II were both hard games to get into. It’s based on a comic book by Top Cow, so you’d think I’d be into it, but the fact is I don’t know all that much about The Darkness. And that’s the comic, not the band. I like the band.

Here’s what I know about the Darkness: published by Top Cow, he wears a mask over the lower part of his face, and the guy who created him – his favorite band is Journey. That last bit stuck with me from a nearly all forgotten Wizard Magazine article about the creator. I can’t remember his name but I remember that little tidbit because The Bride is such a big Journey fan. That’s it.

Apparently he’s a mob guy who is possessed by evil dark stuff or beings. Not much else of it makes sense. For the real scoop, I consulted Wikipedia for this entry. Does that make any sense? Here’s what I got from that. Jackie Estacado is a mob hitman who is cursed on his twenty-first birthday to carry the curse of The Darkness, an entity that can access the otherworldly dimension of the Darklings. Thus he is granted a gamut of super powers, not the least of which is darkness manipulation, yet somehow, especially in the videogame, he depends mostly on guns. Got it?

The opening to The Darkness is disturbing and creepy, like 1990s Nine Inch Nails music video disturbing. By the way, if I haven’t mentioned it yet, this game (nor its sequel) is not for the kids. From all appearances it is a first person shooter crossed with Japanese tentacle porn. So, best of both worlds, I guess. There’s a sweet voice cast involved, including Mike Patton from Faith No More, and Lauren Ambrose from “Six Feet Under” and “Torchwood: Miracle Day.” Beyond that, and a lot of shooting, it doesn’t really make a lot of sense. At least not to me.

First there’s a crazy race through a tunnel, crashing and being shot at, then a shootout in an abandoned building. Once the controllers are gotten used to, and what they do memorized, it could be fun. The thing is, every single button, every single one, is used. I should have a diagram in front of me to play. This could be fun, maybe.

Darkness II still has a creepy opening, the protagonist, played in first person shooter style by you, is being crucified, and the makers of the game, Starbreeze Studios, take full advantage of the shaking rattling controller. It is unnerving. The actual game is kinda realistic with a Grand Theft Auto vibe. You enter an Italian, obviously mob-related, restaurant, sit down and somebody tries to whack you. You’re hurt and must make your way out, someone carrying you as you shoot anyone following, again with full on shaking controller. This was actually kinda fun.

So I vote maybe on the first one, and a hesitant yes on the second. All things considered, I think I will pass on the comic, and the video games… even if the creator (apparently Marc Silvestri, among others) does like Journey.

Who Plays the Watchmen?

Who Watches the Watchmen? was the question spray-painted on walls in defiance throughout perhaps the greatest superhero story ever told. The answer is that everyone does now. Especially with DC Comics’ recent announcement that this summer would be highlighted by an extensive series of prequels to Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ classic twelve-issue maxi-series.

In 1986, Moore and Gibbons revolutionized the comics industry, and how we think about superheroes with Watchmen. It brought four color comics storytelling to a whole new level and told a tale of intrigue, betrayal, romance, politics, adventure, and even pirates and nuclear suspense. Utilizing a nine-panel grid layout and nonlinear narrative, it jumped through time and space and even plot to create a masterful and complex story of superheroes deconstructed in a real world setting. It was, and is, epic.

Now I’m not going to pass any judgment on “Before Watchmen,” or at least not here on this blog, but it should be noted that a year or two back a movie was made of the comic series, one that I really did like, and from that, a videogame came into being, one that I’ve downloaded not just one part, but two. Yeah, this time, we’re talking about Who Plays the Watchmen? That’d be me.


Watchmen: The End Is Nigh comes in two parts as a downloadable demo for the PS3. I’ve talked a little bit about the first part here. Part one happens during a prison break, and part two you get to go to a strip club. As the two playable protagonists, Rorshach and Nite Owl, in a time before costumed vigilantes were outlawed, the 1970s, you are promised to encounter villains from the comics who are only mentioned, like the Underboss, the Twilight Lady, as well as more famous (or infamous) folks like the Comedian, and even Woodward and Bernstein.

Now that might al sound like a blast to those of us who love the comics, and dig story in our videogames, but for folks like me, who have trouble with the controllers and aren’t seasoned gamer professionals – we’ll barely get through the prison and/or the strip club to any actual plot. Also, knowing there’s a programmed-in ending, no matter what, is also a bit of a disappointment even before you play. The fight moves are repetitive, and it’s always raining, so there’s really not much to see, but it is always a treat to see characters you know as opposed to unfamiliar gaming characters.

And as an added bonus, this is technically a pseudo-prequel to the great comic series. Like the DC Heroes RPG module “Taking Out the Trash,” a panel or two in Countdown, and of course The Question #17, this is one of the real addenda to the Watchmen saga before the announcement of Before Watchmen. Watch out, the universe is about to get bigger…

The Better Bloodrayne

I don’t really know all that much about BloodRayne. What I know, other than two terrible movies, and one fantastic fan film starring Vera Vanguard, a review of which can be found here.

Recently I downloaded BloodRayne: Betrayal. I was thinking it would be cool. After all, what’s not cool about a hot chick killing Nazis and vampires, really, it sounds like the perfect game. The problem is, this game is really nothing like that at all. It’s not even as cool as previous BloodRayne games I’ve learned. Older versions of the game were actually similar to Tomb Raider in style, this one is a sidescroller (see, I’m learning the lingo), like Rolling Thunder or Bionic Commando. To me, the novice, this seems like a step backward in evolution. I definitely prefer Lara Croft to this weak 2D anime.

Like many games, I was unable to get very far. The game keeps it simple, half-human half-vampire BloodRayne is recruited by good vampires to fight bad vampires, but apparently not simple enough for me. This game would have been marked for deletion along with the others among The Rejected, had Crystal and Jeff not taken a liking to it.

Jeff, in his usual manner, got on the game and started kicking its ass. He was cruising across this side scroll whupping vampire butt left and right, though mostly right. The vampires good and bad were blowing up like Pookas and Fygars in Dig Dug. Have I mentioned how awesome Jeff is? Well, actually he might not be that great of a gamer, but he can sure make me look bad, not a hard feat.

As far as BloodRayne goes, I think I’m going to stick with Vera Vanguard. Like Jeff, she’s much cooler than this game.

Making the Hero

I was so anxious to get started playing DC Universe Online that I jumped right in without a parachute or even knowing how to swim. I was immediately confronted with an intimidating barrage of additional downloads and Apple style contract agreements just to get on with it. It did much to diminish my enthusiasm. Again, I’m learning that patience is a major factor in playing these newer videogames.

I was finally able to play, no, that’s not the right word… I was finally able to actually do something some time the next day. After a fantastic cinematic about the framing sequence of the story of the game, I would be able to start making my character. I have to tell you though, that this intro -which I had seen before, but on YouTube – is absolutely stunning on the high definition big screen. I’m happy to watch it multiple times and did.

Here’s the gist: Brainiac is secretly absorbing the powers of Earth’s metahumans while also inciting them to go to war with each other. In the final climatic battle that we see, Luthor and the other major villains destroy what is left of the Justice League. When no one is left standing except for Luthor, Brainiac plays his hand, and invades the Earth. No is left to stop him. Luthor steals Brainiac’s power-absorbing devices and travels back in time to warn the Justice League. On his way, he releases the devices which shower the earth with excess powers, creating new superhumans (the players), whom the heroes, and villains, must train to eventually stop Brainiac. Got it?

So to start, you are a new hero, inspired by any of several metahuman characters in the DC Universe, and you go on training missions to learn your craft and prepare to fight Brainiac. In the meantime, you get to interact with established heroes and villains and explore the elaborate fantasy world that is the DC Universe.

Now I had been told that there was a detailed character creation system, but that’s not so true. My initial thought was to create an existing but obscure DC character that wouldn’t already be in the game. My fantasies included the Golden Age Mr. Terrific, Congo Bill, and from the Legion’s time, Questar. Wasn’t happening.

There’s a limited number of heroes who can ‘inspire’ your character, and your powers and costume color schemes kind of match up to that hero (or villain), or at least that’s the way it appears to me. If that’s not the case, please let me know, because as I’ve pointed out on multiple occasions, I am handicapped when it comes to videogames. I ended up finally with a character inspired by Superman, who looks like Mon-El, has fire powers, and called The Red Sun, spelled in the game “theredsun” because someone, or several someones probably already thought of it. Ah, the perils of online gaming – everyone’s doing it.

Next, The Red Sun actually gets to adventure in the DC Universe…

Infamously Better

One of the reasons I have never been much of a gamer, and the PS3 with its aversion to multiple player games is a big culprit, because I dislike the ‘turn wait.’ That is to say, I don’t like waiting for my turn at a game when the other player is infinitely better at it than me. This reared its ugly head back in the Nintendo days when The Bride and I used to play Super Mario Bros., and her turn would last for hours. It was also the reason I preferred Dr. Mario as we could both play that at the same time.

The night I talked about a while ago when Jeff and Crystal came over and played the demos, they just didn’t whup my butt at Zombie Apocalypse and Nucleus, they also tried their hands at Watchmen and my favorite, Infamous. I was not disappointed by the long long looong turn wait.

In Watchmen, I had gotten past the wonderful Dave Gibbons motion comic animated art from the original Watchmen comics that form the introduction, but had barely moved anywhere in the prison break. I did find it annoying that whoever you picked to play – Rorschach or Nite Owl II – the other would just stand there doing nothing. Not realistic. Jeff and Crystal ripped through the prison break like they were the real characters.

Then they moved on to the Infamous demo. I had never gotten past zapping folks and cars with electrical powers, and riding to the first station atop the train. For those who don’t know, that’s really not far. Fun, but not far. That keen mutant skill, of both Jeff, and Crystal, derived from years of gaming experience, kicked in and soon they were sailing far ahead in the game and fighting bad guys that I had never even glimpsed in my hours (yes, hours) of playing this game.

The Bride who had watched me play the same two or three scenes from Infamous multiple times, was treated to almost an entirely new movie never seen before. The turn wait was starting to get to her as well, so then they moved on to Little BIG Planet 2. Three people can play that at once.

This turn wait was much longer. I went to bed. When I got up in the morning, I swore I was gonna practice. Years of experience can’t be that hard…