In this edition of Level Up were taking a look at two very different but anticipated games…Injustice: Gods Among Us is the new fighting game from NetherRealm Studios, makers of Mortal Kombat and featuring the heroes and villains of the DC Universe. We also have a look at the long hoped for sequel Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon from Nintendo.
Injustice: Gods Among Us
Published by: Warner Brothers Interactive
You can dress up a fighting game with story elements, multiplayer, and all sorts of different modes but at its core it’s still just a fighting game and if it’s not good as a fighting game the rest of the stuff doesn’t matter. Fortunately, Injustice: Gods Among Us is a very good fighting game. That should not be too surprising since it was produced by NetherRealm Studios who made the recent Mortal Kombat reboot.
As the game opens, The Justice League is battling a group of villains whom they eventually defeat. Batman learns that Lex Luthor has given the Joker a nuclear weapon and he is threatening to blow up Metropolis. As he is about push the detonation device the scene shifts to an alternate reality. In this reality the Joker succeeded in setting off the nuke murdering millions including Lois Lane and Superman’s unborn son. A distraught Superman kills the Joker and establishes a new, dystopian world order that is under martial law with himself as absolute ruler. The Batman of this alternate reality transported several members of the JLA to his universe to help fight Superman and his regime.
The story portion of the game consists of some long, but quite good cut scenes that setup the battles between the current playable characters and a series of villains. You start as Batman, then move onto Green Lantern, Aquaman, Wonder Woman, etc…The story elements are fun and the cut scenes, as mentioned are fantastic and give the game a cinematic quality but it’s all window dressing next to the fighting itself.
You can opt to go through a lengthy tutorial that explains all of the basic, advanced, and special moves and attacks with Batman practicing against Superman. The moves are generally straight forward and easy to pull off although there were a couple that utilized multiple pushes on the directional button that I simply was not able to complete. But hey, that’s ok because he character is loaded with an impressive arsenal of moves.
Each character has light, medium, and heavy attacks along with blocks, counter attacks, grappling attacks, and special attacks. Each has special carrier traits that offer unique attacks and abilities which provide strength boosts, health upgrades, Speed Force, flight, and so forth. Also during the battles if a character can charge his super meter fully he can pull off his most powerful attack which includes a unique cinematic element to underscore the devastating effect of the attack.
The environment you fight in such as The Batcave, Superman’s Fortress of Solitude, the JLA Watchtower, and other less notable areas all have interactive qualities to them. Landing a heavy attack near the edges of the stage will knock the opponent into another part of the level. Each environment also contains objects that the characters utilize differently depending on their class. For example in the Batcave Batman can utilize the Batmobile to fire rockets at his opponent.
Beefing up the gameplay are a series of minigames and S.T.A.R. labs missions which provide numerous additional challenges tailored to each character. These are similar to Mortal Kombat’s Challenge Tower missions. And of course there is always online play which in addition to standard versus mode also features modes like King of the Hill and Survivor. Points earned can be used to unlock additional costumes, artwork, and other rewards.
Players familiar with Mortal Kombat should be able to pickup quite quickly on Injustice: Gods Among Us’ nuances and with little trouble. The mechanics are quite similar and like Mortal Kombat it is built on the same modified version of the Unreal 3 engine. The character design and the sheer feel and power of many of the battles and cinematics makes you feel like you are in the middle of a comic book. While it might not be realistic for a character like Batman to pull off some of the environment damaging attacks that he does, it’s still damn fun to watch.
The game does have its weaknesses…Online play could be more comprehensive than it is and a replay option would definitely have helped. There’s also some glitchiness in frame rate if you have a less than capable server. In the hands of skilled, experienced player the results can be overwhelming and I’m talking Killer Instinct, ultra-combo overwhelming when you add together combo attacks with some of the interactive environmental special attacks.
Injustice: Gods Among Us offers over two dozen playable characters including those available so far through download content like Lobo. Many other DC characters appear in cameo roles throughout so you definitely are deeply immersed into the DC universe.
Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon
Published by: Nintendo
Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon is the long-awaited sequel to Luigi’s Mansion, one of the most popular games for the Nintendo Game Cube. Mario’s timid, reluctant hero brother Luigi is once again armed with his trusty flashlight and Poltergust 5000 vacuum cleaner to clean up the ghosts in several haunted mansions. When the Dark Moon above Evershade Valley is broken, the ghosts in the area become hostile. Professor E. Gadd calls upon Luigi to recover the six pieces of the Dark Moon and restore order to the valley.
Luigi will make his way through give progressively more difficult haunted mansions, collecting ghosts, uncovering hidden items and treasure, and solving puzzles. Of all the great heroes we have in videogames today it is perhaps sheepish Luigi who has the most personality. Fantastic animations and expressions highlight the experience of playing Luigi who makes Scooby and Shaggy seem fearless by comparison. As he carefully makes his way through the mansions he nervously hums along to the soundtrack, afraid of what me behind the door or around the next corner.
The game captures the cartoon-like creepiness of old time 30s and 40s cartoons with creaky sounds, flashes of lightning, cobwebbed covered hallways, and of course, the ghosts! The slapstick brand of humor, usually at the expense of Luigi, also calls to mind old Disney and Warner Bros. cartoons. Equally entertaining are all of those ghosts. You might forget you’re supposed to capture them because they can be so entertaining with their antics. The ghosts come in a lot of variety so they don’t get stale. The usual process is to stun them with the flashlight and then suck them up. But as you progress through the game the ghosts do so also, making them harder to capture.
But Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon isn’t just about ghost hunting…this is a scavenger hunt on the grandest of scales. Explore every nook and cranny and move every object because there are hundreds of items to find from treasure like coins, gems, gold bars…there are even gag prizes that don’t benefit you in any way but do keep things fresh, funny, and lively. Treasure also helps increase the power of your vacuum so uncovering as much loot as possible is a definite plus.
The puzzles can be surprisingly complex and even a bit frustrating at times. Those mischievous ghosts have a habit of making important objects like doors and levers invisible and consequently leaving you stuck as how to proceed. You’ve got to search carefully with your flashlight to find that object that will let you move on. One thing that definitely hinders progress and is the most frustrating part of the game is the limited checkpoints. Failing at any point in a level sends you back to the beginning to redo it. To say this is tedious would be a vast understatement. I seriously considered hurling my 3DS through my living room after having to repeat one Godforsaken level too many times to count! Honestly it was almost a deal breaker for the game and that would have been too bad.
Unlike the first Luigi’s Mansion, Dark Moon features a multi-player mode referred to as ScareScraper. Up to four players can play as a different colored Luigi in four different objective-based modes. While it’s not overly robust it certainly adds to the replay value. Beautifully designed levels and a spooky sense of humor make for a worthy sequel to the 2001 original despite some frustrating moments.