Saturday, 26 May 2012

Comics To Games: From Ink To Pixels

This was originally written for Forces of Geek on 3rd May 2012.

Video games and comics are two of my favourite things but they don't always go perfectly together.

However, there are certain titles which somehow fuse the brilliant characters and story with innovative gameplay.

The first ever comic book video game I played was the original arcade version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on the NES - the one where you could switch between all four of the turtles in-game!

This may sound like a minor point but it was an incredible feature for its time. Furthermore, the designers openly took into account the fact that despite people having a favourite character, they have an entire world of creations at their disposal and offering fans the opportunity to play as any of the four central heroes was a novelty.

That and the game was insanely fun.


Back in 1993 there was also Sam & Max Hit the Road and I absolutely loved this Point and Click game; it had all the intelligent charm of the comic and was delightfully humourous. One of the best things to come out of Lucas Arts in my opinion.
 For those unfamiliar with the concept of Point and Click, imagine you're playing something like Skyrim and you've been given a quest. You would still have the freedom to roam and explore but when you had to retrieve a medalion and return it to whomever, you would have to do everything in a very specific sequence.

A prime example is one of Lucas Arts Indiana Jones titles. Within the first two minutes I was ready to throw the PC out the window. Indy has begun his quest but he faces a slight gorge. Oh dear. How will I get across? I know, whip that branch, swing across. Nope, can't do it. There's a snake on the branch. Oh.. well, I'll whip the snake. No, can't do that. Why not? It's a snake, I'll just whip it. Click whip. Click snake. No, can't do that. WHY NOT!? Whip snake. No. Whip snake. No. WHIP THE BLOODY SNAKE! ...can't do that. Then you find out you're supposed to have picked up the flaming torch from the previous screen and scared the snake away, so you can whip the branch. Know what would have been more efficient than that? Whipping the snake!!! Some will know my frustration, others will still be confused. But I digress...

Turok Dinosaur Hunter was originally a comic from the 1950s and found it's way onto the N64 back in the 90s, partly thanks to Jurassic Park reminding us of that which we all instinctively know - dinosaurs are cool.

But being able to hunt dinosaurs?!

Everyone in the films just ran around avoiding being eaten!

This was a chance to hunt some of the most terrifyingly amazing species to ever roam this Earth.

It's had various incarnations over the years with the last one leaving Nintendo behind in 2008 though, largely due to the fact that despite the conecpt being so spine-breakingly awesome, the execution was 90% lame.

Personally, I'd love to see another new original dinosaur game...and Jurassic Park IV.

Make it happen, people!

Speaking of childlike glee, I'm still psyched about the release of The Avengers (that's right, the UK got it a week before the US! Whoo!) which reminded me of the Marvel Ultimate Alliance games. One example - which isn't much of a spoiler - is Iron Man using his repulsor blast on Captain America's shield and Cap deflecting it into a group of enemies. I grinned like a fool at that part, as this is something you can do in Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 and is a big selling point of the innovative new gameplay in the second game.

Being able to play as The Avengers, working together and combining your moves and powers, not to mention every possible character combination you can unlock in the franchise is a geekgasm for any Marvel fan. Incredibly hard to get hold of, these games are fun, detailed and certainly made for the fans.

Another classic Marvel franchise is Marvel Vs Capcom, harnessing the expansive universe of Marvel and various Capcom titles in this entertaining fighting series and any seasoned tournament game player will tell you that it's a lot of fun. Having played Marvel Vs Capcom 2 the most, I recall around 50 playable characters.

Of course the hardest decision in any beat 'em up game is deciding who to play as (Gambit or Hulk for me) but once you've made your choice there are plenty of combos to be learned - or you can go the noob route and button bash (also the sign of an intentionally malicious casual gamer, who will squeeze the pad, hammer all the buttons and somehow manage to activate the most devastating move accidentally before crying out "Oooh, how did I do that?" or the even worse "I totally meant to do that").

Back in my schooldays, if you button bashed you were banned from playing unless you were a newcomer to the game.

Harsh but fair.

In recent years, I've enjoyed Rocksteady's take on Batman, after countless terrible film tie-ins, it's incredibly refreshing to finally find a Batman game that isn't a big pile of crap! Arkham City and it's predesessor Arkham Asylum are both exceptional games, whose sole purpose is to make you feel as much like the Dark Knight as digitally possible.

For those of you who aren't fans of Batman, this should't deter you from playing the series because it is stunning. The combat is incredibly fast paced yet naturally fluid and the story is clever and immersive, not to mention the interesting backdrops and the multiple Bat-gadgets.

Speaking of Batman, there's also Mortal Kombat Vs DC Universe.

Now, I'm not going to lie, I've only played this game a bit but I wasn't exactly impressed. It's not that the game wasn't well designed, I just think it lacked scope and vision. On the one hand you have Marvel Vs Capcom calling on an entire print universe AND a games publisher's complete works, whereas this just felt like the Justice League battling a bunch of ninjas.

Indulgent subject matter this week, I know but with The Avengers tie-in game cancelled due to THQ falling through and TMNT being buggered silly by Michael Bay what will the future of comic/game crossovers hold?

Sure there have been some absolute gems but that's nothing compared to some of the horrors that have been produced... Batman Forever on the Genesis... I'm looking at you!

You know what I'd love to see? A game with all the design functionality of a Rockstar release, featuring The Goon. There you go.

Make that happen.

Make it happen now.

I'll wait here.

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