The Lego Batman Movie

coverlbmAt the risk of oversaturating this site with Batman content, I popped in The Lego Batman Movie yesterday. I will now proceed to review it as detailed as possible, before the Batsaturation-alarm sounds. Here goes:

In The Lego Batman Movie, fans are reunited with Lego Batman from The Lego Movie. The overly confident, supermacho, metal-loving and beatboxing version of the caped crusader we all know and love. Batman must face off against The Joker who has a fiendish plan involving all supercriminals that are locked up inside the Phantom Zone. Luckily, Batman can count on his trusted allies for help: Alfred, newly adopted/Robin’ed Dick Grayson and freshly appointed Commissioner Barbara Gordon. Unfortunately, Lego Batman hates sharing the spotlight.

lbm1

From start to finish, I was glued to my screen.  I absolutely loved this zany film! There are tons of easter eggs, throwbacks to other franchises, digs at some of the more cringe-worthy phases of Bat-history and joke after joke after joke. Lego Batman had me in stitches for almost its entire runtime.

lbm3

The animation follows the tradition set in The Lego Movie. The entire film is 3D-animated, but it was done in such  a way that you get the impression you’re watching a stop motion with Lego’s. Simply brilliant.

lbm2

Same thing goes for the plot. Sure, it’s zany and funny and very well suited to the humorous tone of this Lego-fest, but with a few minor tweaks it would be just as suitable for a PG-13, dark and serious Bat-drama.
And that cast!  There’s no Kevin Conroy, nor Mark Hammil, but boy, what a star studded cast we get in return: Will Arnett! Michael Cera! Zack Galiafinakis! Rosaria Dawson! Ralph Fiennes! Seth green! Jonah Hill! Channing Tatum! Siri! Mariah Carrey!

Wait, did those last two?…
Really?
….

Anyway, I can’t recommend The Lego Batman Movie enough. It’s fun for die-hard fans and beginners alike. It’s a fun filled watch for both old and young! It’s Ba-

*WARNING! PEAK BAT-SATURATION LEVEL REACHED! ABORTING POST!*

The Last Ship Season 3

tlss3cWhenever a new season of a popular show presents itself to be reviewed, I’m always weary. Will the show still be the same as before? Will it have reinvented itself in a positive way? Or will the writers have jumped the shark, Fonz-style? With sweaty palms, I fed disc one of The last Ship’s third season to my designated Bluray player…

Whoever thought that all would be fine after the crew of the Nathan James found the cure for the deadly pandemic, was wrong. Said cure needed to be spread safely, and just when viewers thought dashing captain Tom Chandler had succeeded in this endeavor, the Immune showed up. Shoving sticks into the wheels of Chandler’s society-rebuilding machine. And then, at the end of the second season, when all were cured, society was rebuilt and the Immune were all but gone, the audience breathed a sigh of relief. But not for long though, because season three has a whole new set of hurdles for Captain James to overcome.

As season three begins, we learn that the American government is steadily gaining in confidence and power. Captain Chandler no longer sits at the helm of the Nathan James, but comfortably behind a desk as chief of naval operations (and head of the entire US army). Nathan James is helmed by newly promoted XO Slattery, and spends its time on humanitarian missions, spreading the cure. When the US learn that China’s new president is possibly hoarding the cure, to gain control over other Asian territories, Captain Chandler is sent to parlay. Chandler escapes an assassination attempt and at the same time the entire senior crew of Nathan James is captured by pirates. Believing both events are linked, Chandler retakes the helm of Nathan James, to try and rescue his crew and bring order to the Asian region in the process.

Whew! Who would’ve thought that after two seasons writers would still be able to keep the Last Ship a fun watch? I sure as hell didn’t. I started watching the first episode, half expecting it to be a rehash of the previous two seasons. But this time with Asian baddies instead of Russians. Boy, was I wrong! True, you still get the same structure: stuff goes wrong, Nathan James’ crew steps in, Chandler saves the day and acts a total badass doing so. But the new storyline is actually well thought of, and the addition of new supporting characters doesn’t feel forced. Two things I’ve seen later seasons of other show fail miserably at.

tlss33

With the plethora of shows available to watch these days, I fear The Last Ship’s third season will be one that gets forgotten. Lost in between the hugely popular and the extremely big budgeted shows. But heed my advice: The Last ship should not be given up on. It grows with each season!

Jan

Teen Titans: The Judas Contract

tjcc“Another DC universe animated movie?” you ask. Why yes, it seems the folks at WB animation are producing these flicks almost as fast as I can review them. But, truth be told, I’m not complaining.

In The Judas Contract, the Teen Titans are investigating a dangerous cult, led by brother Blood. A returned Nightwing takes up co-leadership of the Titans with Starfire and co-habitation. Blue Beetle still struggles with the Bug, Robin struggles with everybody, Raven still has difficulty fitting in and Beast Boy is… more than a handful.  Amidst all this turmoil and teenage angst, the Titans have to deal with a newcomer to the team: Terra.tjc3

Terra has control over earth. Not Earth, but earth. Like… dirt. It sounds like the world’s lamest power, but believe me, it makes for some serious action. Terra kicks butt, throwing rocks, moving mountains, creating sandpits. What seems lame on paper is actually pretty cool on the big screen.

tjc1

Story-wise, The Judas Contract hits all the right spots. A cool new villain (that bathes in the blood of his enemies!), suspense, intrigue, humour, action…  It’s all just really well-written. The writers seem to understand or have first-hand experience of teenagers being angsty.

In terms of animation, everything is just dandy. Not the greatest animation I’ve seen on a WB animated feature, but it does the trick. There’s some hints of anime in there, which shouldn’t come as a surprise, since all the animation seems to have been outsourced to the Asian market.

tjc2

I really liked the Judas Contract, even though I’m not that huge a Teen Titans fan. Nice little movie and a good addition to the WB animated universe, but a must-see?
I’m gonna go with “maybe”…

Jan

Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception (PSV)

umodpacknxgSometimes, I just can’t seem to get in to a game. Wether it’s the story that’s too boring, disappointing gameplay or clunky controls… I just don’t seem to connect. JRPG’s for instance: there’s simply no love between me and them. Something about Japanese roleplaying bores me. But still, I keep trying them. Because the intertubes and gaming colleagues keep telling me I’m missing out. So I decided to download Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception, as an ultimate attempt to get into JRPG’s…

The main character wakes up in a weird, cold world, wearing nothing but a hospital gown. He’s suffering from extreme memory loss. He doesn’t know where or even who he is. He’s rescued by a girl with cat ears and a tail. She takes him under her wings and together they set off on an adventure.

Exciting story, with an air of suspense and mystery. Enough to grab and drag me into the game, one would think, but alas. The weird humor and Japanese voice-acting are too distracting. Having to read dialog and exposition for the first fifteen minutes doesn’t help much either. I wait impatiently for a bit of action.

When that action finally comes after fifteen minutes, all brightens up a little. Me and catgirl are set loose on a pack of wolf-like creatures. Just like any tactical RPG, characters each move and attack in turn. The battle goes smoothly, and the creatures are souffléd in a matter of minutes. After that, another chunk of plot unfolds, and I’m once again banished to the x-button, clicking away dialoguescreen after dialoguescreen.

umod2

Utawarerumono’s greatest strength also appears to be its biggest flaw. The story is huge, well written and very immersive, but sadly, the action disappeared under all that narrative weight. It seem I’ve been reading for hours before a battle unfolds. And after the battle, another big pile of plot is shoved onto my plate. Then I get to make a choice to move the plot forward in one direction or another, and then…  another big chunk of plot unfolds.

umod1

While I’m impressed by the design, the story, the visuals and the gameplay of the actual battles, Utawarerumono ultimately doesn’t seem to be for me. Fans probably have been eagerly awaiting this, but I would’ve preferred this story in comic, book or manga format.

Jan

Crossout (PSN)

copackNot long ago I was asked if I’d like to review a game that centered around cars and violence. Words like “Mad Max”, “limitless possibilities” and “post-apocalyptic” were uttered repeatedly. And, being a fan of the post-apocalyptic Mad Maxy limitless possibility genre, jumped at the opportunity.

In Crossout, everything does revolve around cars and violence. You’re a driver in a post-apocalyptic environment, that’s very reminiscent of the Mad Max franchise. Players have to build a car and arm it, and battle it out against other drivers in an arena. The game promises everything is possible, and, in an effort to prove so, offers us the chance to peek at other players’ creations. Tanks, rocketpowered cars, vehicles with so many spikes they resemble hedgehogs… Anything does seem possible. Overly enthousiastic, I set off.

Or at least, I try to set off. De first cars, which I was given for free at the start of the game, is an old and ugly clanker. I dismantle it gently, part by part and reassemble it. Unfortunately, all I have at my disposal are the car’s original parts. I can’t do more than switch a few weapons around. Extra parts have to be earned, or bought via microtransactions…

co3

So I set off (again) with the car I was given. An old rusted pickup knock-off, with twin machineguns mounted. The first mission promises us a shotgun upon completion. The mission’s target: destroy the enemy players with the help of your three AI teammates. The countdown starts, and as soon as the timer reaches zero, I push the stick forward… And bank left hard where I ram one of my teammates.
Which brings me to my first gripe with Crossout: controls suck.

co2

Crossout cars are controlled exclusively by the left stick. Left and right turn the car, pushing the stick forwards or backwards throttles up or down. However, the stick is so precise and sensitive, that even the slightest nudge left or right makes the car veer wildly in that direction. We make donuts, drift in circles and collide with nearly everything.

But I persist, and eventually, my team reaches victory. But no shotgun. Just some spare parts. Apparently, the promised reward is given out at random intervals only. Bummer!

co1

So I try the next mission, and the one after that, and the one after. Trying to win other rewards. But every time the same thing happens: I get a lame reward instead of the promised one. And to make things worse, gameplay in these missions is the same thing over and over again. Beat the enemy, or take the camp. When I want to try out mission 5, or another game mode altogether, I’m told that I haven’t leveled enough to attempt that yet. And hwo do I level? Yep:, by replaying missions one through 4. Over and over again. Bored to near-death, I try to build a new car. But, yet again, I am stopped by an onscreen message saying I haven’t earned enough spareparts yet. And, yet again, I can earn more only by replaying missions.

Crossout seemed fun in theory. In practice however, the whole concept turns into a bland, repetitive and uncontrollable yawnfest.

Jan

Injustice 2 (PS4)

i2Oh dear. The DC universe is once again in turmoil. Loyal fans will remember the events of Injustice: Gods among Us. Superman went insane after the Joker tricked him into killing Lois Lane. He executed the clown and became a tyrannical SOB bent on world-domination. He even wanted to bring order to the world by killing all criminals. He nearly succeeded, if not for Batman and his loyal band of do-gooders.

Injustice 2 continues after the events of the first installment. Five years after his victory over Superman, Batman is hard at work restoring order to society. His work is disrupted by the appearance of a new league of villains, led by Gorilla Grodd. Batman and co must stop Grodd, but in doing so discover an even bigger threat to humanity. One that may require Superman’s help…

ij1

Injustice 2’s gameplay is similar if not identical to that of its predecessor. Characters kick, punch, block and jump at the press of a button. Combo’s are thrown in abundance and pressing the correct buttons in a specific order unleashes powerful attacks. Again, as in the first Injustice, there’s a supermeter. Once that’s filled up, characters can unleash a devastating attack.

ij2

Completely new is the gear system. After a fight, players are awarded with gear drops. These include equipment, pieces of costumes, that can be used to level up a character. The more we fight with a character, the stronger or more experienced it gets. Think RPG, but in a fighting game. Never thought I’d see elements of these two genres combined, but somehow it works.

ij3

Comics and fighting games: two things of which I’m a fan. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise I’m die-hard into Injustice 2 as well. I’m already playing the (relatively short) singleplayer campaign again, just to see the alternate ending. I’m still playing single fights in a vain attempt to collect all the gear. And I keep bashing my friends’ skulls in, just because it’s so much fun!

Jan

Little Nightmares

lnnxgBetween all the noise of racing games and first person shooters, finding a nice little adventure games sometimes seems difficult. Just recently, I came across Little Nightmares, a funadventure/platformer type of game. In it, you play as Six, a tiny girl in a yellow raincoat, roaming a giant world known only as The Maw. Six is trapped within the Maw. Together with other captive children she awaits a terrible faith: to be served as dinner to the Maw’s monstrous visitors. Six decides not to become dinner, and tries escaping the Maw and it’s guardian. Armed with only a lighter, I venture out…

ln3

As I roam the giant environment, which seems to be designed by Tim Burton, many obstacles block my path. Every room seems to have one ore more. These range in difficulty to having to open a door with a lever to avoiding deadly enemies, jumping over botomless pits or climbing wobbly stacked crates.

ln2

I’ve already mentioned being armed with a lighter. It helps to lighten dark areas and light lanterns. All you pyromaniacs out there who are already planning on setting enemies ablaze, will be disappointed. Six seems to be a strict pacifist, never going on the offense, always opting to run or hide from enemies.

ln1

I really like Little Nightmares. Visually it’s one of the most attractive games I’ve seen in a long while. The sound design is excellent. The perfect mix of suspense and anxiousness. And a veery satisfying gaming experience to boot. One can easily sink in an hour or two without actually realising. Struggling to put down the controller, not wanting to leave Six behind. Which leads me to the only negative about Little Nightmares: its length. After a few hours, I’m all done and longing for more…

Neveretheless: two thumbs up!

Jan

This Is The Police

titpcovWhen I was recently given the chance to become commissioner of the police for 180 days, I jumped at the chance. My disappointment was huge when I learned the offer didn’t entail an actual position within the force. Just a copy of the management sim This Is the Police.

Disappointment quickly fades away though. Almost immediately I’m filled with enthousiasm again due to the upbeat jazzy soundtrack blasting through my television’s speakers. Great, minimalistic drawings tell the rather depressing story of police commissioner Jack Boyd. Soon to entering into (forced) retirement, abandoned by his wife, often found intoxicated at the local stripclub and looking desperately for half a million dollar to supplement a meager retirement fund. It doesn’t take long before the mob comes knocking with an offer that cannot be refused…

The stage is set for a round of This Is the Police. I now have control over officers and detectives spread into two shifts. Using them, I need to keep crime in check, lend a helping hand to local businesses and provide the occasional favor for the mob. All the while keeping an eye on the physical and mental well-being of my officers.

titp3

The game is controlled via a fluent menusystem. In the left part of the screen, the different calls made to dispatch appear. With a simple touch of a button we answer them. Every call has a level of urgency. The higher the urgency, the more officers we can send out. Next to these calls, there are also major crimes. These require detectives. Once they start an investigation, they’ll regularly report in with new details i.e. frames. These frames are to be put in the right order before a case is solved. Once solved, suspects can be arrested by officers. It all sounds simple, but nothing is further from the truth.

titp2

For I’m bombarded from all sides with dilemma’s. City hall demanding I hire more female officers, for example. If I meet their demands, it means I’ll have to fire some experienced male officers. If I ignore city hall, then city hall is bound to ignore my requests for a higher salary or more detectives. The more I progress, the more calls there are to be answered. With a limited force it’s virtually impossible to answer them all. More often than not, I’m struggling to choose. Do I send a squad to the little boy that’s home alone and thinks he heard something downstairs or do I send that squad to the man on the bridge threatening to kill himself?

All hell breaks loose when a second crime family vies for control with the mob. Jack is forced to pick sides and whichever side he chooses, they’ll often need help from my officers…

titp1

This Is the Police is a fun little sim, but it dangerously skirts close to becoming repetitive. Calls start to look more and more alike, and soon I catch myself playing automatically, without paying too much attention to what’s actually going on. The increasing difficulty somewhat helps in creating a more entertaining gameplay, but at the same time I can imagine beginners in the genre being turned off by it.

Jan

2DARK

2Dark_KeyArt_LogoMore and more beautiful indiegames keep popping up. And if it’s one thing I love reviewing: it’s beautiful indiegames. Even more so when one of them was developed by the man behind Alone in the Dark, another beautiful game I wasted so many hours on.

In 2Dark you play as Smith, an ex-detective. Years ago, on a campingtrip, Smith’s wife was brutally murdered and his children kidnapped. To this day, Smith is still searching for his son and daughter. On his quest, he comes across nefarious child molesters and infamous serial killers.

2Dark_GC16_SmithOffice

2Dark is being called an adventure, but it’s actually more of a stealth game. In each episode, you guide Smith on a dark location where you need to find abducted children and guide them safely to the exit. Which proves to be really effin’ difficult. Each level is populated by crazed gangsters and bloodthirsty killers. You can confront and kill them, but this proves to be very hard and extremely noisey. And noise is your greatest enemy. The more you make, the bigger the chance you’ll get noticed by a horde of thugs.

2Dark_GC16_Owen

Surprisingly, 2Dark does not have an art style that’s in keeping with its theme. You’d expect a hyper-realistic style, but instead they went for an old-timey 16bit look. With cute disproportionate figures. It seems strange at first, especially considering all the blood and gore, but it works.

2DARK_Level_Circus_Train

And while I’m at it, can I mention once more on record that 2Dark is bloody difficult? Solutions to puzzles are not obvious. Most of the time I wandered around aimlessly,and when I’d found how to go about a certain problem, I always managed to get spotted or make too much noise. Rare is the level that I succeeded in completing on the first try…

2Dark really is a gem of a game. Recommended not only for adventure fans, but also for fans of survival horror and stealth games. Download and play with the lights out!

Jan

Justice League: Dark

jldWhen the Justice League is confronted with a crime spree in which seemingly law abiding citizens suddenly turn into murderers, they are stumped. All cases have one thing in common: the people commiting them seem convinced they were battling demons… While the Justice League tries to maintain order, Batman enlists the help of Zatanna, Deadman, the Demon Etrigan and John Constantine. Together they form an impromptu Justice League with a penchant for the dark arts.

Reading the plot for Justice League: Dark, I was instantly hooked. Superheroes? The occult? Constantine and Batman?
Nerd-gasm!
But whenever I’m overly excited for something, disappointment always looms dangerously closeby. Not in this case however!

jld3

Justice League: Dark scored big time in my book jst because of that dark. Allow me to elaborate. Dark doesn’t just mean the animators used a darker colour palette. It means occult stuff. It means space for more mature subject matter. More blood, more gore. R-rated dialogue. Yes, even some risqué jokes! (I’m pretty sure I heard a oneliner concerning someone’s nuts.)

jld2

Fellow geeks will surely appreciate the new take on the Justice League, even when sometimes, the shadow of certain Hellboy looms close. ’cause let’s face it: Constantine is Dark Horse’s Hellboy, without the horns and tail, and pink instead of red. Or was it the other way round? I forget.

jld1

Anyways, as we’ve come to expect from WB Animation, Justice League Dark features top notch animation and voiceacting. I’ve yet to see a WB production score poorly in these departments. I’ve enjoyed it massively, and I expect any comic book nutter or fellow enthousiast to do so too.

Jan