Saturday, February 25, 2017

10 Characters We Want to Be In Injustice 2

Author's Note: I wrote this post about two weeks ago but wasn't able to edit or post it until now. In that time, some things have changed and at least one item on this list is no longer valid.

Injustice 2's launch is just around the corner, and the Internet has been buzzing with rumors, leaks, and reveals. Sources range from "My uncle works at Nintendo" to "I worked on the mobile game, so I have insider knowledge of the actual game." For some these lists have been a calming confirmation that their favorite super-bruiser is going to show up for the ultimate showdown. Others are disappointed by the rumors, feeling a bit jaded that their main isn't returning or that their favorite hero won't be making an appearance. Then there's the third group, the group that has likely been way too hyped for a game before and has learned by now that rumors very rarely pan out... even when there's video evidence backing them up.

Personally, we fall into that third group. Maybe a little bit of the second group. All right, all right, maybe being in the second group is what pushes us into the third group. We have to keep the hope alive somehow, right? And what better way to be blindly optimistic than to fantasize about which characters you would personally put in the game and coming up with some backwards logic to justify their inclusion?

Rumors or no, these are the ten characters that we here at 2-Bit Entertainment want to see saving (or jeopardizing) the day in Injustice 2.

* This list isn't going to include any veteran characters because, until absolutely proven otherwise (coughMortal Kombat Xcough) we're going to choose to work under the delusion that everybody is coming back.

#1: Starfire

Let's get the obvious choice out of the way first. I mean, the first game had Raven, Cyborg, and Nightwing, but no Starfire? How is that even possible? Starfire is an iconic member of the Teen Titans, one of its first (and most enduring) original characters. She caught the eye of the general public when she became one of the five endearing stars of the smash hit Teen Titans cartoon series (a legacy which she has continued in the equally-successful but catastrophically disappointing "successor" Teen Titans Go!).

Though her strength has never been "scientifically" quantified and jotted down in a data sheet (a rarity for comic book heroes, who are often thrown into a weight-class ranking system by nerds everywhere), Starfire has been shown, on some occasions, to be stronger than Wonder Woman's magic clone, Donna Troy. Like all fictional characters, that level of strength is known to increase exponentially when she flies into a rage--something Starfire does quite frequently thanks to her upbringing as a member of a space-faring warrior race. She has the ferocity of an Amazon and the strengths of all but their best. Combine this with her ability to generate concussive energy from both her eyes and fists, and you have some serious power in this cute little package.

While she's a popular character in both the comic and cartoon medium, those two depictions are so startlingly different that they're almost distinct characters--which could have played gloriously into the first game's multiversal conflict. Most of the interactions between a character and their Injustice Universe counterpart were very interesting, but none of them quite reached the peak of their potential. Featuring the bubbly cartoon Starfire as being her interpretation from the "Good Universe" in opposition to her sexy, savage counterpart (clad in her classic "fetish gear") would have done more to demonstrate how different these characters had become than almost any other Injustice Lord was allowed to. It's a missed opportunity which is always going to sting.

#2: Zoom

For those not in the know, Zoom is just one of many rivals to antagonize the Scarlet Speedster. He can use the Speed Force, toss lightning bolts, and occasionally make the Flash look like Slowpoke Rodriguez. Despite wearing the ol' lightning bolt, Zoom favors an unsettling, monstrous appearance, and his psychotic tendencies manifest themselves in the desire to kill--everything. His preferred methods alternate between cold, efficient slayings and lengthy bouts of torture.

While the comics character "Professor Zoom" is actually the Reverse-Flash with a name that is less stupid but not by much, the CW iteration of Zoom is entirely different. Reverse-Flash is a good candidate to be an alternate costume for the Flash, but I feel that Zoom is unique enough--and has a distinct enough demeanor--to be his own character.

Unfortunately, there isn't really a convenient way of integrating Zoom into the story of Injustice. He's a murderous megalomaniac whose sole motivation is to conquer and destroy worlds, so he likely wouldn't stand for life under the rule of the corrupt Superman. At the same time, his opposition to Superman doesn't mean that he's going to fall in with the Insurgence. It's likely that whatever version of this character is native to the Injustice Universe has been killed, either because he conquered some city and refused to give it up, or because he attempted to take on the Justice League directly.

I think this version of Zoom should be a literal speed demon (like he is depicted to be during the first half of season two). Maybe his "suit" could work kind of like Marvel's symbiotes, if there's any real reason to show the character's "human" body. My headcanon, however, dictates that something went wrong when Zoom attempted to enter the Speed Force. Something which melted his mask into the stringy, grotesque mouth we see on The Flash and merged his costume with his body at a molecular level. So those claws on the ends of his fingers? Well, they aren't going to be rubber--they're going to be actual claws.

Normally having inorganic material forever covering your orifices would be a problem for obvious reasons, but not so for Headcanon Zoom. Instead of the flimsy "Because I'm evil and I can" motivation that CW gave the character, this iteration of Zoom travels the multiverse because his body can only be sustained by stealing kinetic energy--and the Speed Force--from other life forms (see how I managed to tie this back into the actual "Zoom Steals Speed Because He's Dying" plot?). He arrives in the Injustice Universe solely to feed on the Flash and its other native inhabitants, but finds himself in for much more than what he bargained for.

#3: Thea Queen as "Speedy"

I can hear the angry cries already. But being completely honest, I like where the writers of Arrow have taken Thea since she donned the red hood. I haven't liked where they've taken any other single part of the show, and I didn't like who Thea was beforehand, but I really do enjoy her moments of the show the most. She's into the hero thing without being totally consumed by it, and she's a welcome bit of quirk in a show starring the uncharacteristically grim Arrow Family (seriously, CW, Ollie isn't Bruce Wayne). Even her angsty teen "I can't stop killing people" story arc is okay, mainly because the reality check it gives Thea is one she'd been needing since the very beginning. Hers is a character of fault and redemption, and she characterizes the struggle not to succumb to temptation (be it her need to kill or the drugs she was once addicted to or the lavish party scene within which she was immersed). Thea is a character who epitomizes the idea of falling down and getting back up and becoming a better person for it every step of the way, but also one who really nails the idea that addiction is never truly beaten.

Maybe it helps that CW kind of stole the Under the Red Hood storyline for her, but whatever. She wears it better.

Speedy's playstyle would be differentiated from Green Arrow's by her ruthlessness and agility. She would primarily rely on hand-to-hand combat, using her arrows and other gadgets to stun enemies long enough for her to close in for the kill. When up close, she'd have no problem ripping off an arrowhead to use as a makeshift shiv.

Her struggle with the insanity brought about by her resurrection would make her an interesting character in the universe of Injustice, waffling between both sides of the conflict. On the one hand, Superman's regime would keep people like her in line... but at its worst, it would accomplish that by threat of lobotomy or execution. On the other hand, Superman is subjugating people to his every whim, like so many of the other would-be conquerors before him (conquerors whose goals were too vile for her not to fight against). It would force her to confront the self-destructive tendencies she so frequently entertains with a whole new gravity. No longer is the question "Should I kill myself to end the suffering?" but "Will the world be a better place if I allow myself to die?"

#4: Static

I suppose this one should have been placed right up there with Starfire, because Static absolutely should have been in the first game. NetherRealm knew this. He's even in the mobile version. That means he has a model made up and a voice actor picked out, the works! I don't even have to go to the trouble of selling you on just how cool he could potentially be, because the mobile version demonstrates well enough that NRS put some thought into how Static could be a really unique addition to the roster. The only reason I can fathom that they would go to all of this trouble only to relegate him to the mobile space is because he was intended to be DLC. Which makes some business sense, I suppose. After all, Static has been an incredibly popular character since the debut of his cartoon at the start of the millenia. Releasing the character as DLC would have been guaranteed to generate sales.

Instead we're left with a mobile tease of what should have been, and what definitely, in the future, should be.

#5: Etrigan the Demon

Etrigan is a character who fits right into NetherRealm's wheelhouse, and it's kind of amazing he hasn't appeared in any of their games to date (although he does appear in the Injustice tie-in comics). Despite being an infernal demon, his time spent bound to the mortal body and just soul of Jason Blood has tempered Etrigan's villainy. He now finds at least some pleasure in assisting innocent humans who need it, although he does get up to some impish mischief now and again--and he can be downright nasty when he's in a bad mood. Even when he battles on the side of good, Etrigan pulls no punches, and he commands such demonic power that even Trigon--a lord of Hell (and Etrigan's grandfather, conveniently enough. That makes Raven his aunt!)--is diplomatic in his dealings with the beast. The fire he spews is magically imbued, able to burn even Kryptonian flesh with ease, and he has enough physical strength to stand up to Superman even without the aid of enchantments, relics, or glowing, green rocks.

Given his history, it would be interesting to suppose that Etrigan is already familiar with Mortal Kombat's own Scorpion. That character's guest appearance brought ire to many DC fans, but I think that could have been somewhat mitigated by giving him a more involved role in the story or comics, or going out of their way to make a "DC Universe Version" of the character. I think making Etrigan and Scorpion demonic rivals (they're both from Hell and they're both yellow, so it makes perfect sense!) could be an interesting way of removing some of the oddness of what is just a "video game cameo."

#6: Swamp Thing

With a successful film, a direct-to-video sequel, and a three-season run on USA in the early 1990s, Swamp Thing is no stranger to the general public--though people are always surprised to learn that sometimes he hangs out with the Justice League. The character had an amazing batch of comics written by the legendary Alan Moore which, for better or worse, completely changed the character from an almost goofy, one-dimensional, sentient stinkweed into a multi-faceted elemental guardian. Though he is often considered a hero, Swamp Thing more readily battles on behalf of nature than to protect humans. The Injustice tie-in comics clearly depict him as being in opposition to Superman's regime, and his ultimate fate is left undecided after he journeys into Hell to battle alongisde Constantine. He's an easy fan favorite that creators seem to love using whenever they can, and he's got a unique physiology and demeanor that would help him stand apart in a game like Injustice. His ability to stretch, manipulate, and grow plant matter would make him a pretty unique combatant. I can imagine him melting into a murky puddle to dodge attacks, pop up behind his enemies, and hose them down with a geyser of swamp water and tree roots. He could be this weird combination of a slow character who hits hard but also has control over most of the playfield, stretching his arms out to punish enemies who want to camp at the edge of the screen.

#7: Star Sapphire

The Star Sapphire is an interesting and often confusing character. Usually depicted as an antagonist of the Green Lanterns, the Star Sapphires are eventually revealed to be one of the eight ring corps--three of which (Red, Yellow, and Green) are already represented in Injustice. One Star Sapphire in particular, Carol Ferris, is the long-time lover of Green Lantern Hal Jordan. She routinely opposes and attempts to kill him for no discernible reason (something about split personalities, love making her mentally fragile, etc.), but has more recently been depicted as a heroic character who acts as a companion to Kyle Rayner. She has been conspicuously absent from the Injustice universe, given Hal Jordan's fairly prominent role and the emphasis on the emotional ring spectrum. I'm unsure if she would be Regime or Insurgent, but I think that, given her history and motivations, she would be Insurgent--initially just to piss off Hal Jordan, but probably also because she couldn't tolerate life in a world ruled under Superman's steel fist.

*As a side note, it would be neat to see John Stewart take over the "Green Lantern" persona for Injustice 2 with Hal Jordan returning as Ion. It won't happen, but at this point I kind of want a full spectrum of Lanterns involved.

#8: V

While Alan Moore's critically acclaimed V for Vendetta is a story which takes place outside of the DC Universe, its legacy can't be ignored and it is technically a DC-owned property. Not only is V a really awesome character, he's gone on to become something of an icon (even if his persona is used for some undesirable things). Injustice almost perfectly sets the stage for a more DC-typical version of the character, whose dystopian London looks eerily similar to life in Superman's regime. I can easily see the series of events which brings about V's creation eventually leading back to a Superman who swoops into England and places one Chancellor Susan/Sutler on the throne of the country. This leads right into V's torture and the experimentation which gives him his vaguely-defined powerset of "Ass-Kicking British Batman." Whether that iteration of the character or his successor, Evey Hammond, would appear in Injustice is almost irrelevant, because they represent the same ideal (which is crucial to this character). In one scenario, England is not yet free of Regime tyranny, and V allies himself with an international group of Insurgents to relinquish the death-grip of Superman's followers. In the other, V has already been killed and the story of V for Vendetta has followed a pretty faithful adaptation, with Evey donning the mask and migrating outward to overthrow dictators wherever they may be.

#9: Doctor Manhattan

Yes, this is exactly where the rest of this list is going. Doctor Manhattan is yet another out-of-universe character created by Alan Moore who happens to originate from a celebrated, and award-winning property owned by DC Comics. In this case, however, there is more of a leg to stand on than in the case of V. Where V for Vendetta is strictly viewed as outside of the DC Universe (although, thinking on it now, there is no reason why it cannot take place within the existing Watchmen universe...), Doctor Manhattan has recently been revealed as the being orchestrating the creation of DC's decennial new universe. He is the Crisis.

Originally a version of Captain Atom, Doctor Manhattan was changed dramatically to suit the Watchmen storyline when Alan Moore was given a no-go on using Charlton Comics' characters (this is actually a really interesting topic, by the way). No longer merely an atomic being, Doctor Manhattan becomes a being of living everything. He can shape reality on a whim and simultaneously exists at every point in time (most notably the time periods in which he is alive, but there is no reason he can't go visit dinosaurs if he wants to). As his cold-hearted comrade the Comedian once put it, Doctor Manhattan "...could have turned the gun into steam, the bullets into mercury, the bottle into goddamn snowflakes..." The good doctor has lost touch with his human side after existing as a virtual god for so many years, and he views the world in a very mathematical way: all living beings are simply molecules, and they are the same molecules when they are dead as when they are alive. This can make him sometimes callous, and he struggles with his motivations for being a hero.

As an omnipotent being, Doctor Manhattan might not make all that much sense as an opponent. Without the story specifically going into the realm of "Well, somebody dampened his powers with this world-encompassing device," Doctor Manhattan is a being which no other character can logically stand up against (with the potential exception of powerful magical beings such as Etrigan or Doctor Fate, whose sorcery may be enough to oppose him). However, this is a video game, so who really cares? Some of his favorite tricks are growing himself to giant size, multiplying himself to attack from virtually any angle, and transforming his enemy's gadgets and the environment around them into more advantageous substances. For example, he could turn the floor of Arkham Asylum into quicksand and Superman's heat vision into cotton candy, should he feel the need to. This would all serve to make him an incredibly imaginative character, and it would give NRS the opportunity to really go wild with move concepts and playstyle. That makes him the direct opposite of...

#10: Rorschach

Watchmen's answer to Charlton's the Question, Rorschach could be the counterpart to Doctor Manhattan. Where the Doctor can alter reality and take long walks on the Mars, Rorschach lives in the dirtiest, grittiest, stinkiest parts of human society. He's brutal, effective, and absolutely disgusted by what humanity has become--and he'll fight to the bitter end to protect whatever innocence still exists within it. He is dangerously paranoid, though his wild theories often turn out to be correct, and a vicious defender of freedom. As much as he loathes mankind, the one thing Rorschach hates above all is dictatorship. There is nothing more frightening to him than the exact kind of reality Superman has created... which makes him a powerful, if not always agreeable, ally for the Insurgents.

What characters are you guys hoping will show up? Did we miss the mark? Leave some thoughts in the comments!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Games for Nintendo 3DS

All titles link to the respective page on the LaunchBox Games Database (unless not presently available) for more detailed information. Games colored red are currently checked out.

Animal Crossing: New Leaf
Bust-A-Move Universe
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate
Centipede: Infestation
Code of Princess
Doctor Lautrec and the Forgotten Knights
Mario Tennis Open
New Super Mario Bros. 2
Paper Mario: Sticker Star
Pilotwings Resort
Super Mario 3D Land

Games for Nintendo DS

All titles link to the respective page on the LaunchBox Games Database (unless not presently available) for more detailed information. Games colored red are currently checked out.

007: Quantum of Solace
American Dragon Jake Long: Attack of the Dark Dragon
Blue Dragon Plus
Brain Age
Chibi-Robo! Park Patrol
Chrono Trigger
Custom Robo Arena
Dementium: The Ward
Dementium II
Disgaea DS
DK: Jungle Climber
Elite Beat Agents
Final Fantasy III
Final Fantasy IV
Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon
Fossil Fighters
From the Abyss
Gardening Mama
Golden Sun: Dark Dawn
Guilty Gear: Dust Strikers
Guitar Hero on Tour
Guitar Hero on Tour: Decades
High School Musical: Makin' the Cut
Hotel Dusk: Room 215
How to Train Your Dragon
I Love Puppies
Izuna 2: The Unemployed Ninja Returns
Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days
Kingdom Hearts Re:Coded
Kirby: Mass Attack
Kirby: Squeak Squad
Kirby: Super Star Ultra
Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass, The
Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks, The
Legendary Starfy, The
Lost Magic
Lunar: Dragon Song
Magical Starsign
Mama's Combo Pack, Volume 2
Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story
Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time
Mario Hoops 3-on-3
Mario Kart DS
Mario Party DS
Metal Slug 7
Metroid Prime Pinball
New Super Mario Bros.
Pokemon: Conquest
Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Blue Rescue Team
Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Time
Pokemon Ranger
Pokemon Ranger: Guardian Signs
Pokemon Ranger: Shadows of Almia
Professor Layton and the Curious Village
Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box
Puyo Pop Fever
Rhythm Heaven
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor
Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood
Sonic Rush
Sonic Rush Adventure
Spectral Force: Genesis
Spectrobes: Beyond the Portals
SpongeBob SquarePants featuring Nicktoons: Globs of Doom
Spore: Creatures
Spore Hero Arena
Spyro: Shadow Legacy
Style Lab: Jewelry Design
Sudoku Mania
Super Mario 64 DS
Super Monkey Ball: Touch & Roll
Super Princess Peach
Super Scribblenauts
Teenage Zombies: Invasion of the Alien Brain Thingys!
Tony Hawk's Motion
Trace Memory
Trauma Center: Under the Knife
Wario: Master of Disguise
WarioWare: Touched!
World Ends With You, The
Yoshi's Island DS

Movies & Shows (Super Heroes)

All movies link to their IMDB pages for more detailed information. Movies colored red are currently checked out.

Captain America: Civil War - Collector's Edition (2016) [Blu-ray]
Captain America: Civil War - Collector's Edition (2016) [Blu-ray 3D]
Ghost Rider - Widescreen Edition (2007) [DVD]
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (2011) [DVD]
Green Hornet, The (2011) [DVD]
Hulk (2003) [DVD]
Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman - The Complete Second Season (1994-1995) [DVD]
Smallville - The Complete Fourth Season (2004-2005) [DVD]

Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Bat's Winging It (A Review of Batman: Vengeance for the Nintendo GameCube)

Batman: Vengeance is a game from my childhood that stands out in my mind. Maybe because it's one of the first games I managed to beat on my own. Like, it's not the first, but it's definitely top ten. I'm not good at finishing things. Whatever the reason, one thing is for certain: when people ask about good licensed video games, this is one of the first titles I think of. At some point I started wondering: "Does this actually deserve that mention, particularly in a post-Batman: Arkham Asylum world?"

Let's hit that one right away. If you're a modern gamer coming off the Arkham series and thirsting for more of the same, you won't find it in Batman: Vengeance. Now the game does share a lot in common with the Arkhamgames, to the point where I feel comfortable considering it at least an influence if not a sort of quasi-prototype. However, it never reaches the same levels of care and refinement as its descendants. Even though the gameplay in Vengeance is fairly typical to the superhero genre, it was still one of the earliest attempts at aBatman game in a full three dimensions. I'm not typically the kind of person who judges a video game in comparison with other games crafted at very different times. The team who worked on Arkham had a more sophisticated understanding of the technology they were using and more sophisticated technology to use than the team who developed Vengeance nearly a full decade earlier. Comparing the games on a technical scale is kind of a faulty way to look at things.

That being said, I'm also not a believer in letting old games get away with bad design just because they're old.

A game should be evaluated on its individual merits and the experience it presents, not on how energy efficient or intuitive its engine is. With that in mind, Batman: Vengeance is a solid game for the most part. It deftly adapts the world of Batman: The Animated Series to a three-dimensional, interactive experience. While the game's raw visuals don't hold a candle to the intensely detailed assets in current games, its art direction still hits home. The game genuinely feels like a cartoon, particularly when you get the brightness level just right. Gotham's night sky is painted in a hypnotic shade of red, one that speaks of blood and pollution and intrigue. The environments feel lived in and precise. Every object has a purpose fundamental to both gameplay and world. That is a serious push in what defines quality aesthetics. I can think of a few games that should have taken note.

Unfortunately, not everything is beautiful. There are some jaggies on the edges of things, but that's really something to be expected and it doesn't bother me all that much. What does bother me are compression artifacts. At various times the skies and other distinct backdrops will show signs of JPGing, and the oily black textures of Gotham River are just atrocious to the point where they look less like water and more like somebody let their four-year-old hit up MSPaint.

The gameplay has some bright ideas, but its execution isn't the best. For most stages players will take command of the Dark Knight to traverse rooftops, sewers, laboratories, and other very industrial locations which could easily share visual assets. Exploring generally works out well, and there is enough terrain off the beaten path to spend some time visiting each individual rooftop, but there isn't a whole lot of reward for doing so (if any at all). Batman controls a little awkwardly, but it's nothing that can't be adjusted to. It's weird because of how basic it is, but gliding from one place to the next is incredibly fun. It's a simple double-jump command, and it's the same command Batman has used in many other games, but in this particular instance the developers got something just right. I think most players will find themselves gliding around stages even when a simple jump would suffice.

Combat is where things start getting weird. When engaging an enemy, the game shifts into "Battle Mode", which handles in a fashion more similar to an early Tekken game. B-button becomes punching, A becomes kicks, X becomes your block, and the L-button, when used in conjunction with another button, can perform special moves once the meter is filled. Players cannot jump while in battle. Neither can they access their gadgets, which requires the use their own "Gadget Mode" and a first-person perspective. This might seem strange to gamers familiar with the Batman character, who almost exclusively uses gadgets to take down his foes. Also confusing is the game's reference to Batman as a master of multiple martial arts, but you'd never know it from how he performs against typical henchgoons. Batman's actions are sluggish and lack priority over the quick and punishing jabs of his opponents. Battles are frustrating where they could have been intuitive. You'll find that Batman gets knocked down, and he's on the ground again before he can even get back up. You can attempt to break away from a conflict by pressing the Y-button, but whether or not the game will respond is a toss. Even when it does allow you to disengage, there's a good chance the thug will pull you back in while Batman is frozen during his transition from "Battle Mode" to "Explore Mode". This makes Alfred's advice to avoid battles entirely worthless. Almost as worthless as Batman's special attacks. Don't get me wrong, they are seriously beneficial when they work... but that's not something which happens often. The game has a habit of taking forever to register commands or choosing to ignore the fact that the L-button is held down, meaning that instead of a devastating WWE slam, Batman goes all out with a wimpy punch which will nine-times-out-of-ten do zero damage to perpetually blocking opponents. Later in the game you'll find enemies that like to pull Batman into a bear hug, requiring that the player break away. Unfortunately, doing so does not leave the enemy stunned and Batman ready to counter attack. What happens instead is that Batman enters "Explore Mode", where tapping L causes him to whip out the ol' Bat-Communicator. This leaves him completely defenseless for about three seconds, while the game runs the animation of him pocketing the device, which is enough time for a clown to combo him, and pull him right into another hold. In short: the combat is broken and unintuitive and you will be forgiven for dropping the game because of it. Matters aren't helped by the fact that enemy characters will get back up after a short time to pester you again. This is due largely to highlight the game's Bat-Cuff mechanic, which is a clever idea. Basically, once an enemy is down you are able to handcuff them, preventing them from being a further nuisance. Unfortunately, Bat-Cuffs are in limited supply, forcing players to pick-and-choose which enemies need to be cuffed. This turns a neat idea into a trial-by-fire with damning consequences.

Gamers should also be forgiven for abandoning the title in response to one of its many sub-games. Each chapter (here called "episodes") features at least one mini-game. They're generally all different, with the only recurring one being a sky diving game where the objective is to rescue a plummeting civilian. That particular game shows up four times that I distinctly remember, with the last actually being a boss fight riddled with horrible hit detection. Because each type of event only shows up once, players aren't given the opportunity to grow with the game. In one instance players are forced to pilot a severely handicapped Bat-Plane through the buildings of Gotham city while avoiding machine gun fire from an enemy helicopter. In another they are forced into the Bat-Mobile for a high-speed chase through Gotham's streets. Neither of these vehicle games are designed well, and the game would have been better off without them. The only one of the challenges which is any good is a segment in the second chapter, where players must deactivate a series of security locks by matching live wires with their dormant counterparts on a cube interface. It's basically a 3D version of classic pipe games, but it forces players to use their noggin... which is exactly what a game starring the World's Greatest Detective should do.

As mentioned before, using gadgets activates a "Gadget Mode", which is a more typical first-person experience. I prefer exploring in this mode as it provides a better perspective with which to investigate environments, but this is made difficult by the inability to jump. The transition between perspectives, though common in games at the time, is a little jarring and it does limit the options players have at any given moment. I feel like the game would have been better served by making the third-person exploration mode capable of using all of Batman's gadgets by utilizing a system like The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, with players being able to set specific gadgets to select action buttons. Unfortunately the game doesn't go that route, and selecting gadgets can be a chore.

Disappointingly there are no other playable characters in the game. There's one mission where Batman disguises himself as a no-name tough guy to sneak around a warehouse in a fashion which is kind of Metal Gear-lite (and it's a fun mission, over all), but that doesn't really count. Batgirl is the only other caped crusader present at all during the story (Alfred, Robin, and Nightwing are all MIA) but you never get to take control of her. The one time she performs field work during the campaign, she becomes a damsel in distress. This sucks. I've always loved the Batgirl character, and her model and voice performance is just so perfect. Horrible misuse of the character. She spends most of the time giving Batman commands from behind the Bat-Computer. I guess the developers were giving a nod to the character's eventual evolution into Oracle?

The game experiences an immense difficulty spike in the third chapter and from that point on, with each chapter being much more difficult than the last, to the point where the game's final moments are stupidly difficult. Of course, that difficulty is due in large part to unresponsive controls, enemies without attack lag, and cryptic objectives. Particularly during boss fights, where players are forced to use gadgets they were never taught to use in ways which are often more elaborate than clever. Confrontations ultimately amount to switching to a gadget, aiming the target around the screen until it turns red, using the gadget and seeing if anything happens, and moving on if it doesn't. This is a strange change of pace for a game whose genre typically dictates the player run up to the boss and punch them repeatedly. Doing that here will get you killed in a hurry.

Ultimately, I still enjoyed Batman: Vengeance, but it didn't live up to my nostalgic expectations. It isn't a bad game, but it is marred by some bad execution that seriously hinders what could have been a very inventive release.