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The High Cost of Evil

Look, I’m not one to tell Traveller’s Tales how to do their business, but after spending some time playing LEGO Batman 2, I have a bone to pick with them.

So, I’m flying around as Superman, doing my thing and I come across The Penguin. A few well placed Kryptonian punches later, he surrenders and for the low, low price of 125,000 studs, he was part of my stable. Later on, I’m flying around, I come across Sinestro, bust his big, purple jaw and BAM, 125,000 studs later and he’s mine.

Now hold on a minute. Sinestro costs as much as Penguin? Sinestro has a yellow power ring, arguably one of the most powerful weapons in the universe. Penguin has trick umbrellas and flightless waterfowl. Now, I know that not everyone knows who Sinestro is, and I know that Superman is more popular than Green Lantern, but come on! One dude can create anything he can think of, limited only by how much fear he instills in others. The other guy can fly, occasionally, but only with an umbrella.

That ain’t right.

So I did some digging, all in the name of research and here are the stud costs for the named (not henchmen) villains in LEGO Batman 2:

Bane – 125,000
Brainiac – 500,000
Captain Boomerang – 100,000
Catwoman – 125,000
Clayface – 100,000
General Zod – 500,000
Harley Quinn – 125,000
Hush – 100,000
Joker – 250,000
Killer Croc – 125,000
Killer Moth – 100,000
Lex Luthor – 250,000
Mad Hatter – 100,00
Man-Bat – 500,000
Mr. Freeze – 500,000
Penguin – 125,000
Poison Ivy – 125,000
Ra’s Al Ghul – 100,000
Riddler – 125,000
Scarecrow – 125,000
Sinestro – 125,000
Two-Face – 125,000

Now, look, I’m fine with Captain Boomerang being on the low side, I mean, it’s Captain Boomerang. But, Ra’s Al Ghul costing the same as Killer Moth? Who does that? One guy is an international eco-terrorist, one of the few people smart enough to figure out that Bruce Wayne is Batman, the other guy wears purple and green spandex and flies around with a flame gun. You can take him out with a buttefly net. And no, I’m not talking about Charaxes, so don’t get all moth demon-y on me. This is clearly the pre-Neron Killer Moth.

Looking further into the list, and there’s nothing but economical injustice. I know that, as villains go, Hush is probably on the lesser known side, but I think he deserves to cost as much as the other Bat-villains. If not him, then certainly Clayface. Similarly, I think Two-Face should bring in Joker and Lex Luthor type money. I mean, as Batman villains go, he’s pretty damn important.

All of this aside, the one thing I simply do not get is Man-Bat costing as much as General Zod and Brainiac. Let’s run this down. Brainiac: hyper-intelligent, living computer capable of mimicking the powers of Superman. General Zod: former head of the Kryptonian military and the exact equal of Superman in terms of powers and abilities. Man-Bat: giant bat.

I mean, it’s not like Man-Bat has an awesome set of powers in the game. He can fly and he doesn’t need a sonic gun to shatter glass. Oooooh! He can break windows without a rock! Zod can make glass from sand using nothing but his heat vision, build a house containing said glass using nothing but his super speed and strength and then pick up said house and bust it over your head.

Yeah, that’s comparable.

Even with this grave, economic injustice, I’m still loving the game. I wish things were different on the hero side, but Black Canary costs 500,000 studs while Martian Manhunter is a bargain at 125,000. Traveller’s Tales must really have a thing for sonic powers. I look forward to LEGO: X-Men where Banshee costs 1,000,000 studs and Professor X is free when you purchase Wolverine.

Jumping the Shark Episode 131

My apologies for not posting this earlier, but there’s a new episode of Jumping the Shark kicking around, episode 131 to be specific.

Todd was in Vegas, so he didn’t join us, but Tom Chick did. Having missed Tom at E3, it was nice to get him on the show. Tom always brings a lot of upbeat energy to the show and it’s hard to not get pumped up when talking to him about games. Plus, Tom plays a lot of things, so whatever we’re playing, chances are he’s played it too and the discussion rarely lags.

This week was no exception as we covered Lollipop Chainsaw, LEGO Batman 2, Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion, Gravity Rush, the Tom and Bruce Kickstarter and various board games about French cities and space battles. We also get to the bottom of how in the world Tom knew about Red Hulk.

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Past Episodes

You People Are Never Satisfied!

You people. The lot of you. Always wanting “more” and never being satisfied with what companies dribble out to you in press conferences and Youtube videos. Why is it when a company like Nintendo goes to all of the trouble to hold a huge press conference showing off what the Wii U can do that you shrug your slouched shoulders, yawn, and move on to the next shiny bauble.

It’s infuriating, really. You have this seemingly insatiable desire to be dazzled.

I mean you people can’t even tell the difference between what is clearly a phenomenon like Wii Fit and what is “ho-hum”. You laughed at Wii Fit and looked at it like a weird gimmick. Well 43 million units of Wii Fit have sold worldwide and are sitting in closets and underneath beds all across the planet so stick that in your nunchuk and smoke it. (Smoking sort of defeats the purpose of Wii Fit but what do you care?)

Now, stop asking for more, get excited, and make sure to reserve your copy of Super Mario Dance Party Paperboy IX.

Jumping the Shark Podcast #130

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After the tragic loss of the original Jumping the Shark #129 and the subsequent (and awesome) Cackowski-Schnell One-Man Jam that replaced it, the gang gets back on track this week by reminiscing about the week that was at E3. We talk games. We talk fashion. We talk fine dining. And we talk who would win in a battle royale between dinosaurs and plankton. (At least two of these things are true.) As this posts I’ll literally be on a plane bound for Vegas, so I leave you in the steady hands of the writers here who actually -you know- write stuff. Have a wonderful week everyone. Hopefully I make it home without being destitute and hooked on crack. No promises.

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Past Episodes
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The Lego Games of 2012: Batman 2 and Lord of the Rings

YouTube video

One of the more notable surprises for me at E3 this year was just how incredibly good Lego Batman 2 looked – and not in a “for a Lego” game kind of way. This new trailer doesn’t offer much of a peak at the game, but it does show the new voice work and, as much as I liked the “Legoeese” of the previous games, it looks like it’ll add some dimensions those other games lacked. However, there’s a lot more to this one, and the upcoming Lord of the Rings game, than some solid voice work…

So, Lego Batman 2. It’s got a full range of DC Superheroes, but then you probably new, at least, about characters like Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, and Flash all making an appearance. Executive Producer Ames Kirshen, however, told me the game would have “dozens and dozens” more of DC’s both well and lesser known characters. When I started going through the list of Blue Beetle, Booster Gold, Guy Gardner, etc. he merely smiled and said he wasn’t allowed to say more.

He was willing to tell me, however, that the game, despite all these characters being available, does still center around Batman, with the Bat Cave remaining the home base for all that you do. Taking a page from Arkham City, the game lets you travel, with relative freedom, throughout Gotham City, with numbers on the main map indicating progressive mission points you can tackle.

I didn’t see a lot of the game’s characters in action, but I did get a good long look at The Flash, and hot damn was that cool. The Flash is a tricky one. How do you make a character superfast without making him impossible for the player to control? They got it done. The Flash looks amazing on screen and has just enough precision control to make his speed powers effective. Likewise, flying around with Superman to the tune of the John Williams score playing in the background gave me a great big geek smile.

Make no mistake, this looks like a joyous DC superhero game, not just a Lego game with DC super heroes in it. It’s coming out in a week, so if I’m wrong, there’ll be plenty of chances for you to all call me stupid.

YouTube video

The other Lego game on display was the Lord of the Rings game. I didn’t get as good a look at this one as I’d of liked (no hands-on time), but per Publishing Producer David Abrams, this is another fully voiced game and the overriding goal is to pay homage to the films. (As a fan of the books, who thought only the first film truly nailed the spirit of the story, I was rather put off by this, but I recognize I’m in the minority there.)

What really stood out here, however, wasn’t the attention to detail brought to Lego-izing this iconic setting (though it’s considerable), but the number of RPG-lite wrinkles they’re adding to usual Lego model. Characters will have small inventories to manage, a fully explorable and unlockable “hub environment” for Middle Earth, upgradeable items and weapons, and quests to solve. One such example I was given included the need for the party to make a fire, something only Samwise Gamgee can do and something he can only do if he’s got a tinderbox in his possession.

There’s also some new twists to co-op play, including the ability for characters to go into completely separate, but concurrent, questlines when the story demands it. The example I saw took place in the mines of Moria where Gadalf battles the balrog in freefall on one side of the screen while the party escapes on the other. It looked well-implemented and these games have already come a long way with using the split-screen effect to make sure co-op players aren’t driving each other crazy moving in opposite directions. (There are times I dread it when Ana and Kyle boot up Star Wars or Indiana Jones.)

I asked Abrams if adding all these new wrinkles risked making it a little too hard for younger audience to get into, while not being enough to bring in more dedicated RPG players, and he said the team is working hard to ensure that doesn’t happen and the game remains just as accessible as the rest of the Lego game family.

Would I play these games if I didn’t have kids? Certainly, I wouldn’t see myself playing The Lord of the Rings solo if it weren’t for the fact that my progeny adore the games (and liked me reading The Hobbit), but Batman 2 looks cool in a way that makes me want to play it, not as a parent-child bonding experience, but as a gamer.