Monthly Archives: September 2017

Batman and Harley Quinn

bmanh“What? Another Batman animated movie?”

Yes, another Batman animated movie. A very good one. One that has virtually everything: violence, humour, Harley Quinn in a lead role, Nightwing, song and dance (the Batuzi!), Swamp Thing, blood, sex, fart jokes,… Batman and Harley Quinn is one of the best in not the best Batman animated feature I’ve reviewed to date!

Extradimensional dryad Jason Woodrue partners with Poison Ivy. The green team plans on releasing a virus on the world that would turn all animal and human life into plants. Believing it’s the only way to save the earth from destruction, they go on a trek to find Swamp Things original bayou, as water from there will perfect the virus. Batman and Nightwing are desperate for help and enlist Ivy’s former partner and best friend Harley Quinn. Now a reformed citizen, Harley works shifts at the Superbabes restaurant, but is silently itching for action.

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While the green warriors crusade to protect the earth is a somewhat clichéd given for them, the idea of a reformed Harley Quinn now helping the Caped Crusader is one I hadn’t seen before. And oddly enough, it works. While I thought Harley needed the Joker to be a character that works, she does pretty well on her own.

Storywise, I can’t say I was blown away by the main premise. As I said above, Woodrue’s and Ivy’s plan seems like a thing they always do. Babble about earth and nature’s dying, blame humans and then having some sort of ultimate solution for it all. Mostly a virus, or a pathogen of some sort.
Yawn.
What does work however, is the dynamic between Batman and Harley. Both are believeable as characters and are written really well.

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What also works is the return to the Bruce Timm style of animation. Something I’ve always longed for. While not as dark as the original Timm cartoons, Batman and Harley Quinn really copies well. It even adds blood and some fatalities to the mix, so you might consider it a tad darker in tone.

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So yes. I’m a fan. And I hope Batman and Harley Quinn is the precursor to a whole lot of animated Batmen in this style!

Jan

Life is Strange: Before the Storm (PS4)

lisbtsWow.

That’s all I could mumble after playing Life is Strange: Before the Storm’s first episode. I was that impressed. As I’m used to doing with these types of games, I played this episode in one sitting. Me manning the controls, the wife on the couch next to me acting as moral compass, the little padawan snoring happily in his bed and our cat Dame Lemmy Von Motörhead nestled warmly in my lap. Nothing could go wrong.

Yet several things did go wrong… For our protagonist Chloe. And I liked it.

In Before the Storm you play as Chloe, who appeared in the previous installment of Life is Strange, but this episode takes place three years before that. Chloe is struggling at school, is rebelling against her mom and stepdad. She misses her father tremendously and tries to deal with her best friend Max leaving. She’s still writing letters to Max, but never sends them out. It seems Chloe is stuck in a downward spiral until Rachel, the school’s most popular girl, suddenly takes an interest in her. The pair seems destined for each other, and together take a decision that sets the mood for upcoming episodes.

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When expecting a lot of action or rewind-based superpowers, you’re better off sticking tot he first game. Nothing of that here. Chloe is your average run-of-the-mill angsty teen, but equipped with a quick wit and snarkiness. The only superpower she has, is an uncanny aptitude for backtalking. The game tries to incorporate this in special dialogue segments. Each time Chloe enters one of these, players have to keep an eye on whatever the other character says and try to react accordingly. There are, of course, many different ways a conversation can go, and every one of them has consequences along the road. Mindless playing is discouraged at all times!

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As much as I was blown away by the story, the art-style and the soundtrack of the game really completed the package for me. I paused the game regularly to browse to Chloe’s awesomely drawn scrapbook, and my foot was tapping rhythmically along with the shoe-gazing soundtrack by London-based band Daughter.

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So yeah: Wow. I can’t wait for episodes 2 and 3 and the bonus episode that comes with the special deluxe edition.

Jan

Distrust (STEAM)

distrcovernxgIt’s cold out. Too cold to stay out here, but I must. I have to check every cabin until I find fuel for the generator. And something for the furnace too. Wood, or coal. Then I can go back to the cabin, make it warm, turn on all the lights. Maybe try and find some food. And rest. I need to rest so bad. But not sleep. Never fall asleep, because then they come…

No, everything’s fine here at the NxG headquarters. No need to send help. I’ve just been super into Distrust. It’s a game where you play a party of polar explorers that investigate and try to get out of a polar base. Normally, this wouldn’t be so much of a problem. But strange things have been going on at this base. The crew is missing, and there are strange beings lurking all around. These things come out whenever the explorers sleep, attracted by the delta waves the human brains emit.

If what I’ve just explained, seems like the plot of an eighties horror film to you, you’re not far off. Distrust does have some elements in common with that iconic eighties classic that I won’t name here. Let’s just says it rhymes with “the Bling”. There’s explores stuck in a polar region. There’s strange aliens stalking them and it’s all set to a nice synth-saturated soundtrack.

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The aim is to get your party of two (or three, depending on wether or not you’ve unlocked that third slot) explorers through six zones. Each zone has increased difficulty. The further you go, the less supplies (like food, fuel or medicine) you find, and the more anomalies you encounter. These anomalies also come in different types. The ‘normal’ orb-like things try and sap your life energy, but they’re the least of your worries. Other types are attracted by heat sources or energy sources and will deactivate your generators and furnaces, leaving you to die a cold, shivery death.

And those orbs are not the only adversaries you’ll have to deal with. Since they are attracted to sleep, the goal is trying to sleep as little as possible. It seems easy at first, but prolonged sleep deprivation will make your characters go mad over time. The madnesses are many and range from silly (Characters become Shakespeare-experts and quote his work constantly) to mildly annoying (distorted perspective, prone to smashing things in rage) to downright dangerous (eating all supplies, thinking the others are the aliens,…). So more than often, you’ll face your own teammates.

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And then there’s the puzzles. Each zone is closed off with a locked gate. Each gate is unlocked via a different puzzle. Wether it’s simply a matter of finding the key, or moving a set of levers in a particular order… It’s just an added annoyance on your quest to survival. Oh, and did I mention they’re randomized? ‘cause they are. Dying on the first try, doesn’t mean starting over and simply repeating what you just did. No, the puzzles and the areas are randomized upon each playthrough, making the game fresh every time.

Making it even more enjoyable to replay, is the myriad of characters. There are fifteen in total, each with their own unique stats and abilities. Some may have cold weather resistance. Others are better cooks, while others are handle the sleep deprivation better… Each character warrants a slightly different playingstyle and unlocking them all only encourages you to replay with different group-combinations.

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I’d say this is a game worth getting. Go on. Got it? Great, now play, and contrary to the plot of the game, keep your lights off…  Trust me, it’ll add to the mood.

Jan