PLAY FOR TODAY: VIDEO GAMES / AARON BURGESS

 

 

Column #10: Batman: The Brave and the
Bold The Videogame, Disney Guilty Party, Ace Combat Joint Assault, Metroid:
Other M. Incidentally, don’t miss the debut of “Play For Today – The Print
Version” in the Fall 2010 issue of BLURT, on newsstands now.

 

By Aaron Burgess

 

 

Batman: The Brave And The Bold The
Videogame

Platforms: Wii, Nintendo DS

Developer: WayForward / Publisher: Warner
Bros. Interactive Entertainment

ESRB Rating: E10+

 

Over its three-season run, Batman: The Brave And The Bold answered the question “Why so serious?” with a mix of action and ironic
humor that, at its most enjoyably self-aware, harked back to Batman’s 1960s TV
heyday. Batman: The Brave And The Bold
The Videogame
stays faithful to the Cartoon Network series’
aesthetic, from the nudge-wink tone to the pacing that starts each episode with
a burst of action before getting into the story. Though it’s a simple 2D
sidescroller, the game perfectly fits its source material: Fans of the show
expect a 2D world, after all, so why add a third dimension to complicate
things?

 

Batman, naturally, is the star of the game, but just as in the
animated series, a roster of other heroes sits at the ready: from Robin and
Green Lantern to, using Nintendo’s clever inter-console interconnectivity, an
unlockable Bat-Mite that you control over the Wii with your DS. The action winds
through four environments in which you face off against a cadre of villains
from the DC universe, and while there’s plenty of content to unlock and
explore, you’ll spend most of your time brawling. Luckily, thanks to the game’s
tight controls and classic punch-’em-out style, the action stays fresh even
after the 1,000thPow!

 

 

 

Batman: The Brave And The
Bold The Videogame
can be played solo, but as the somewhat dim-witted single-player AI proves,
it’s really a game to be enjoyed co-op style with a buddy. You won’t spend a
lot of time getting from point A to point Z, but with so much action, and so
many characters and collectables, to be found along the way, you’ll have a
blast going back again to see what you missed the first time.

 

Rating: 7/10

 

 

Disney Guilty Party

Platform: Wii

Developer: Wideload
Games
/ Publisher: Disney Interactive Studios

ESRB Rating: E

 

Don’t let the whimsical cover art and the Disney logo fool you into
thinking Disney Guilty Party is mere
kids’ stuff. Well, okay: The game does make a beeline for kids’ imaginations,
but for us grizzled players, it also taps into our nostalgia for a good
old-fashioned board game: namely, Clue.

 

Just as in the Hasbro classic, you experience Disney Guilty Party one suspenseful turn at a time, scouring themed
locations for clues and suspects to help you solve a series of mysteries.
Though the characters-the evil Mr. Valentine and the numerous suspects you,
playing as a member of the elite Dickens Detective Agency,
encounter-are new, the top-notch animation and original music strike a warmly
familiar, Pixar-esque chord. (The game’s humor, thankfully, also has the wry
and wide-ranging smarts of a Pixar flick.)

 

 

While you can play alone, the fun ratchets up significantly in Disney Guilty Party‘s multiplayer
challenges. You and up to three other players draw “Savvy Cards”
(which give you special case-cracking abilities), spend tokens and race against
the clock to crack the case first. You explore, interrogate and gather evidence
in 50-plus brisk, silly minigames, each of which are meant to add heft to your
case file. (Some, unfortunately, result more in your flailing the Wii Remote
for scant payoff, but at the very least, they’ll make you giggle.)

 

Once you’ve exhausted the game’s Story Mode, you’ll find extra mileage
in Party Mode-whether it’s through the shuffled variables that literally make
every game a new experience or, if you’re playing competitively, the ability to
sabotage your fellow players through tricks and traps. There’s no online
multiplayer capability, however, so this is one party game where you’ll need a
real-life party to get the most out of it.

 

Rating: 8/10

 

 

Ace Combat Joint
Assault

Platform: PSP

Developer: Project Aces / Publisher: Namco
Bandai

ESRB Rating: T

 

In a 15-year run that’s taken it across virtually every major console,
the Ace Combat series has earned its
place at the top of the aerial-combat heap. Until now, though, the series has
never come down to earth, figuratively speaking: Rather, it’s kept the action
on alternate worlds where melodrama and intercontinental (in some cases
interplanetary) strife reign supreme. Ace
Combat Joint Assault
changes things a bit by bringing the fight to
real-world settings such as London, Tokyo, San Francisco and Egypt,
but from a player’s perspective, it’s still about finding supremacy in the air.

 

 

Set in the middle of a global conflict sparked by a fictional terrorist
group, Ace Combat Joint Assault puts
you in the cockpit of some 40 different licensed aircraft, which you can unlock
and upgrade by completing various missions. The game features decent
single-player capability, but as you might expect from a title that supports
the PSP’s ad-hoc and infrastructure modes, you’ll find better action in the
multiplayer battles, in which up to eight players can engage in both co-op and
competitive play.

 

As for gameplay, no surprises: It’s just what you’d expect from a
flight sim that takes its control scheme seriously. Getting a (literal) handle
on your aircraft in Simulation mode comes with a steep learning curve, but the realistic
feel is worth the effort. If you’re new to Ace
Combat
, you can also opt for Arcade mode,
which scales back some of the complexity while still giving you impressive
maneuverability in tight situations. Customizing your plane, meanwhile, is a
time investment unto itself, but you’ll feel the payoff when you take to the
skies-even if you ultimately won’t find anything new up there.

 

Rating: 7/10

 

 

Metroid: Other M

Platform: Wii

Developer: Team
Ninja/Nintendo
/ Publisher: Nintendo

ESRB Rating: T

 

Metroid: Other M is not your older sibling’s
Metroid-even though it opens at the
close of 1994’s Super Metroid and stars the series’ familiar female bounty
hunter, Samus Aran. The game, which combines retro and modern elements, jarring
perspective shifts and an ambitious cinematic presentation, delivers something
the Metroid series (or the Wii, for
that matter) hasn’t seen before: an experience that’s as much about storytelling
as it is about the action and controls that drive it.

 

Other M opens by simultaneously revisiting
Super Metroid‘s explosive climax and reintroducing
Samus through an action sequence that affirms just what a resourceful and well-armed
hero she is-even if her resources are soon depleted. (More on that later.) After
escaping the planet Zebes’ self-immolation, Samus chases an SOS call to a space
station, where she runs into soldiers from the Galactic Federation, including
her old commanding officer, Adam Malkovich. In an absurd plot point that
nevertheless sets up the proceeding action, Malkovich strips Samus of her
arsenal and prompts other, deeper suspicions that lead our hero to explore the space
station. This, of course, is where the real action, rife with new monsters and
old adversaries, starts.

 

 

While most of Metroid: Other M takes place inside a single vessel, the sheer variety of environments-from the
tropical Biosphere to the volcanic Pyrosphere-makes the ship feel like a world
unto itself. Though it’s a lonely place to explore-other characters accompany
Samus only rarely after the initial sequence-the space station provides plenty
of foes for our hero to take down. Samus utilizes a combat system that’s as
much about defensive strategy as it is about close-quarters combat and lethal
finishing moves. Unfortunately, these powers need to be reconciled with the
vulnerability Other M‘s story
incorporates to deepen Samus’ humanity. You head into Other M with everything you need, lose it all because of Malkovich’s
mandate, and then spend the game waiting for the C.O. to authorize the weapons
and upgrades you desperately need. With no apparent logic guiding Malkovich’s
authorizations, it’s a major point of frustration in an otherwise seamless
game.

 

Thankfully, not all of Other M‘s
quirks are so painful. Though primarily a third-person experience, the game
shifts camera angles, alters playing modes and lets you change perspectives
(sometimes even locking you into a first-person view when the scenario fits) to
heighten the experience of the scene you’re playing. These alternating
perspectives themselves aren’t storytelling devices, but they ultimately
heighten the story in Metroid: Other M so that, even when cornball plot devices threaten to take things off the rails,
you want to stay along for the ride.

 

Rating: 8/10

 

 

***

 

Our game guru, Aaron
Burgess, lives digitally but dreams in analog down in Round Rock, Texas. Contact him at first2letters@gmail.com  / AIM: First2Letters

 

 

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