As a lifelong fan of all things Batman and an admirer of some of Telltale Games‘ previous series, I was more than a little excited to experience its take on the Batman universe. When Telltale’s Batman launched a few months ago I was initially enamored with its vision of Bruce Wayne and Batman and felt the series started strong.

Unfortunately as the episodes progressed some of the casting and design choices as well as some story points fell very flat and the series lagged. The fifth and final episode is now here and I can say that Batman – the Telltale Series has more lows than highs, despite ending with a fairly strong episode.

The premise of Batman – The Telltale Series is to show both sides of the character, giving equal focus to Bruce Wayne and Batman in. As the series progressed choices and actions were carried out as either Bruce or Batman; in fact in a few instances you could choose who would solve the next challenge. I like this twist. If a gentle personal touch were needed, Bruce Wayne was the choice; if a strong presence and some violence were needed, acting as Batman was the right move.

The models Telltale created for both Bruce and Batman were also pitch-perfect, reflecting a refined vision of Bruce Wayne and Batman in stylistic detail. The casting of Troy Baker as Bruce/Batman was also well executed; a talented and versatile voice actor, he added nuance to the character which brought it further to life.

Unfortunately there were more mistakes than successes in the modeling and voice casting in this series. Selina Kyle/Catwoman and Alfred Pennyworth are well represented and voiced, but James Gordon, Penguin, Two Face and Joker are all terribly voiced, and the models range from completely wrong for the character to plainly ridiculous. 

Harvey Dent/Two Face is a major part of this series. His character model is bulky and oddly represented, and his character comes off whiny most of the time. Penguin is tall and lanky and just never fit the mold of what is expected of the character, a huge shift since all the other characters more or less stuck to their archetypes. 

The Joker and to a lesser extent James Gordon suffer from terrible casting that completely pulled me away from identifying with the characters. It may sound like nitpicking, but though they were so perfect with Batman/Bruce they were so wrong elsewhere, really disrupting the flow of the game.

As to the core gameplay, once again there are highs and lows. The big issues I had came from the absolutely terrible port Telltale made for the PC. Random crashes, hitching and stuttering in the gameplay, long load times, and an odd and sporadic checkpoint system all detracted from the enjoyment of the game, especially the dynamic fight scenes.

This is a shame, because the series contains some truly interesting ideas. The detective scenes where Batman links clues to recreate what happened were fun, if not very complex. The fight scenes as well were well represented and had some of the best animation in the game, but as mentioned, hitching and stuttering took me out of the experience. I should also note that many times the animation in the non-dynamic scenes was very poor and seemed quickly slapped together.

From a story perspective it is also a mixed bag. There are some strong notes around Bruce Wayne’s journey, but these are marred by stunt-like story twists. The Penguin taking over Wayne Enterprises, and the identity of Lady Arkham as well as Thomas Wayne’s criminal past were all odd story choices at war with the series’ otherwise traditional take on Batman and Bruce Wayne. 

I am all for switching up the story and trying something new, but a lot of the key story moments felt akin to clickbait articles – look at what outlandish thing we are doing now. Add this to my sheer annoyance with Harvey Dent every time he was on screen and the story fell mostly flat with me.

I do have to say that some of the aspects revealed in the final episode are very well done, and at least partially redeemed the overall story arc for me.

In the end Batman – the Telltale Series ends up a game with huge potential that fails to achieve anything spectacular. The PC port is particularly painful to experience at times, the graphics and animation in the very old engine leaves a lot to be desired, and weak story twists and some bad casting further degrade the experience. 

There are some good ideas in the game and the representation of Bruce Wayne/Batman is one of the best that video games have to offer, but that’s not enough to make this more than an average experience at best, and that is a true shame for this Batman fan.
It is a bad problem to have, but right now I am in a bit of a pickle trying to actually find time to play any game let alone actually roll through one with some intensity.  Here are the ones I am in the progress of playing right now, some are old, same are new, all are great.

Destiny 2 - I have a review in progress for this one and I can easily say this game is absolutely amazing and a drastic improvement over the original in every way possible.  The loot, the tons of stuff to do and the sheer enjoyable nature of the game make this a game of the year for me.  I dropped dozens of hours into the original, but always grudgingly because I felt a need to, not because I really enjoyed the grind.  In the sequel I am just plain having fun.

Divinity Original Sin 2 - A stellar followup to one of the best RPG's of the last decade.  This game is huge, complex and needs way more time then I am devoting to it.  In a neat twist there are pre-canned 'Origin' characters that have a very deep backstory and side mission you can choose to play as...or create your own and have them as NPC's.  Beautiful game, amazing music and fully voiced making this one I want to carve time out for.

Prey - This is a really cool game from Arkane studios, makes me think of Bioshock, System Shock 2 and soem Half Life thrown in.  Again another complex game that I need to spend some more time with.  It is creepy, complex and has a genuinely interesting and deep storyline.

Dishonored 2 - Also from Arkane, this is  the second in the series and is very, very good but I have only scratched the surface of this game and need to invest more time in it, but that darn Destiny 2 is always in my mind.  Neat twist in this game is the ability to play as Corvo or Emily making for a fairly different experience depending on which character you pursue.

Other games I go back to frequently are FTL, Darkest Dungeon, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided....the first two are ones I just enjoy restarting and the last two are older games I never got around to finishing...So too much games, not enough time...I did manage to finish Uncharted: The Lost Legacy and my replay of The Last of Us and Left Behind, so there is that :)
I love me some RPG's and I especially love isometric RPG's.  We are in a renaissance right now with Pillars of Eternity, Divinity Original Sin 1 & 2, Wasteland 2 and of course Tyranny.

Tyranny is from Obsidian Studios and is a fairly unique experience where you play the bad guys.  It is a great experience if one that ends fairly oddly.  I really enjoyed it though and did a review as well as this Let's Play.  Enjoy checking it out to see how fun it is to be the bad guys!

The Yakuza franchise is one that has fascinated me for some time, but I never dove into it until the promising Yakuza 0was released.  This game promised to be a great introduction to the Yakuza universe – newcomer-friendly and filled to the brim with side activities as well as a detailed series of storylines. Having invested many, many hours into the serious but also often wacky universe of Yakuza 0 I can say that the game delivers all of that and more.

Yakuza 0 is a prequel to the main series of titles. It features separate storylines looking at how Goro Majima and Kazuma Kiryu rise to infamy as they navigate the perils of Tokyo on the wrong side of the Yakuza they once called family. The game alternates between the characters every couple of chapters and allows you to play as each character as you explore their very different lives and experiences.

Kiryu is an up-and-coming Yakuza who is framed for murder and forced to make hard decisions as he walks away from the only family he knew. Majima is also ex-Yakuza but is allowed to be free; he runs a cabaret called the Grand as a way to pay back his previous debts to the Yakuza. Both characters get involved in situations larger than themselves. At the heart is a real estate venture that is incredibly contested in Tokyo. Majima and Kiryu also get business interests in their regions, which puts them at odds with other underworld figures who are competing for the same resources.

One of the things I enjoyed most about Yakuza 0 is how the game effortlessly flips between the frankly deadly-serious storylines of the two main characters and the often silly side quests and mini-games. The core game is deep enough with its varied fighting mechanics (more on that later), depth of mission types, and storylines that are a joy to discover, but the extra stuff is so very good. Everywhere you go there are people with problems. Sometimes it’s a little girl who wants stuffed animals, other times a weird guy who wants to cross a bridge in a controversial jacket; in all cases they need your help.

What I liked about these side missions is that they show a softer side to the two heroes. These are men who crack necks and break bones without breaking a sweat, but when you stumble on a crying child they have the best reactions and dialogue with them. All of these missions are completely optional, but they have instant rewards and additional perks when you start your businesses, so not only are they entertaining and add depth to the characters, they confer deep bonuses too.

There are also heaps of mini-games: Disco Dancing, Darts, Pool, Bowling and Sega arcade games to name a few. They all play very differently and are uniformly incredibly entertaining. The Karaoke is by far the most hilarious, as midway through the song your imagination takes over and you end up starring in a music video. The mini-games also confer monetary bonuses and further benefits when you play locals in tournaments.

What impresses me most about these diversions is how amazingly well they are constructed. Pool feels like a true pool simulation, Disco is a fast-paced rhythm game, and Karaoke is an even faster-paced mini-game with tons of graphical flair and polish. For simple diversions these games add a whole lot of depth, as well as silliness. Just look at my video on the Dancing and Karaoke mini-games to see how crazy they get.

While there are a lot of side quests and mini-games with different mechanics, the combat in Yakuza 0 is the true star of the game, and there is a depth to it that keeps scaling as the game progresses. Both characters learn a variety of martial arts styles (sometimes in veryunconventional ways) and you can switch between the styles at will during the many fights you get involved in. The styles can be upgraded with extra moves and techniques by spending money you gather. Each style has its own ability screen and can be upgraded independently.

This results in a huge variety of options when battling your enemies. Some styles are defensive, others are fast or aggressive, depending on what is needed. The result is a very satisfying deck of options when combat is engaged, and it comes in handy as you will fight a lot. From roaming bad guys, to bullies on the street and thugs in your way on missions, all the way up to boss battles, you will need to fight with all your skill to survive. Some fights are relatively easy, others are with large groups or powerful bosses, but in all cases it will be enjoyable. Have a look at a Let’s Play I did looking at the game and its fighting system.

Yakuza 0 could have been an unmitigated disaster, with all the different game types and fighting styles, the mix of serious and silly elements, and the multiple storylines. But the developer found a way to distill all of those pieces into a cohesive and enjoyable experience.  The storylines are dark and brooding at times, but in many ways also very human and real with emotional and physical conflicts that resonated with me. The side quests and and silly stories added a surprising depth to the characters and showed the odd (at least to this westerner) cultural differences between the West and Japan. All in all Yakuza 0 is a fantastic experience featuring characters I grew to truly care about and a host of diverse but engaging experiences and systems that pulled the game together in a way that truly surprised me. This is a great entry point into the Yakuza universe and just a great game in general.
Thumper is an amazingly fun Rhythm Violence shooter from Drool studios.  I had a chance to meet some of the team at PAX East as well as try the game in VR and it is a hell of an experience.  One of the best VR games on PSVR for sure.  I take the 2D version of the game for a spin in this episode and as you can see it is terrific even without the virtual reality component.

This episode of my Let's Play channel focused on one of my favorite games of all time - Enslaved: Odyssey to the West - This is by the amazingly talented studio Ninja Theory and features voice and mo-cap work by Andy Serkis.  If you have never tried it the game can be found cheaply on Steam.

Adding another of my Dad Plays Games at Lunch videos - this time it is the great Doom!  This was a truly unexpected surprise as this game is epic, violent and fun as hell.  I have played through the game twice and could do it again.  Check out my Let's Play to see it in action:

Thumper from Drool is a hard game to describe. The developer calls it a rhythm violence game, but I look at it as a psychotic merging of Rex and Audiosurf with the stylings of Tron. The game is out now for PSVR and plain old 2D on a regular screen and it is a hell of a ride in any format. Drool has announced that HTC Vive and Oculus Rift support will be coming later this year as well.

I had experienced Thumper before at PAX East where I was lucky enough to try an extended playthrough on the PSVR hardware. This time I played through the frenetic levels in 2D to see if the game is as much fun without the VR experience and I can easily say it is still very enjoyable because of how frantic and aurally strong it is.

In Thumper I controlled a sleek ship resembling a metallic bug as it zoomed and twisted through insane kaleidoscopic backgrounds trying to reach the end of each themed level where a boss awaits.  The term “a rhythm violence game” means there is music, but not music you could identify. It is a beautifully atmospheric and frenetic blend of notes drawing inspiration from Nine Inch Nails, Underworld, Daft Punk and other rattling techno-driven bands. The result is a flowing soundtrack that is dynamic without being overwhelming. 

As you play you contribute to the beats by hitting the button commands exactly right, adding a cadence to the music that becomes hypnotic and addictive. As levels progress and get faster and more violent the music keeps up, with faster and more chaotic beats pulling you along for the ride.

Gameplay is pretty basic at its core (remember they want this to be primarily played on VR). In order to progress I needed to hit a button at the right time to activate a pulse; I also needed to hold down a button while turning and when passing through gates. It is all so simple, and in theory I could get to the boss battle just by holding down that one button and moving in the right directions, then hitting said button with the correct timing to defeat the boss, but that would be missing all the nuance of the game.

Releasing and tapping the button gave me new pulses of sound, refreshed my shield and added to the chaotic cadence of the music. As I played the game became faster and more winding as the levels grew deeper and more colorful with added tactics thrown in. The boss fights are pretty much the same: Hit the button at the right time, hit turns and gate crashes perfectly, and then take out the enemy with four perfectly timed pulses. It seems simple (and at its heart it is) but it’s far more satisfying then it sounds when the lights, sounds and beats are encasing you as you play through the levels.

To illustrate the action of the game and how it ramps up I recorded a Lets Play on my channel (Dad Plays Games at Lunch) showing how the action and sound ramps up across the levels. I typically do not care about scoreboards and rankings but I relished every time I scored an A and was thrilled when I managed to nail an S ranking when I hit everything perfectly. A video is the best way to learn about the game as it perfectly shows Thumper‘s excellent sound and visual design.

Thumper as you can see if a kaleidoscope of color, sound and action that is hypnotic and thrilling on a 2D playing field, is even better in 3D, and is a game anyone getting PSVR should play as soon as they set up their system. This is a game that is just plain fun to play while being challenging and downright nefarious at times. That is a rare thing to experience in a videogame and I loved every minute of it.
In this episode I take a look at a game called Homefront: The Revolution which imagines if North Korea had invaded and conquered the United States. While there are some neat concepts in the game the execution was sloppy and the framerate struggles often.  They have patched the game majorly since launch but I am wary about diving back in.  Have a look and decide what you think of the game as I play through a slice of the title.

More PAX East coverage - there are always tons of things to see and do at a PAX show and the highlight of this days coverage was an ultraviolent game called Ruiner.  It is out later this month and I can't wait to try it again!

Enjoy the continuing coverage I put out while attending the show for

PAX East Boardgame Review Final War

One of the best things about PAX is the fact that tabletop experiences are as prominent as the videogames; this year at PAX East I had a chance to try out a Tactical Card Game called Final War.  This is from a passionate group in Australia called Games Lab and it is a complex experience that blends Magic the Gathering with Dungeons and Dragons to deliver a tabletop experience that was incredibly deep but also very fun to play.
Final War is a dense game, with a large game board reserved for each player’s forces; the game can be enjoyed by 2-3 people in the current iteration; an expansion later in the year will enable a fourth player. In the game currently there are three Warlords to choose from,  Elf, Guildmaster, and Werewolf, who have their own powers and player decks that contains forces, powers, and items.  There is also a Fate deck that controls the flow of the game, in a quicker game 12 cards would be in the Fate deck, 25 for a Quest style game and the full 50 cards for a large scale experience. 

Over the course of the game each player will grow their forces and draw each round from the Fate Deck until the Final War card is revealed, once it is shown all players will battle each other until only one is left standing.

Read the rest of the Preview on

PAX East Preview: Ruiner

Sometimes when you least expect it a game comes along that hits all of your buttons – anime inspired visuals, hard garage electronica soundtrack, gameplay that evokes the classic Crusader titles, and action that is as non-stop as it is addictive.  That game was a title at PAX East called Ruiner from developer Reikon Games, a hard cyberpunk action title that had my blood pumping from the moment the demo started.

Ruiner is a game centered around a killer that is manipulated by a control helmet; he is hacked by a secretive fugitive and sent on a mission to rescue a kidnapped brother and dismantle the HEAVEN corporation that used to control him.  Much like the Crusader series from the 90’s, Ruiner is an isometric action game where you play a supremely capable killing machine as he battles his way through the futuristic city of Rengkok. 

Ruiner is very action heavy but there are exploration and narrative segments as you travel through the city looking for leads and missions.  The city evokes the greatest aspects of Blade Runner futuristic landscapes and brought to mind environments famed Cyberpunk author William Gibson described in his novels.  The art style is truly striking and the neon soaked environments coupled with overlayed cues and graphics drew me into the game instantly.

PAX East 2017 Preview: Absolver

I had a chance to visit the Devolver Digital booth at PAX East and check out SloClap’s unique online co-op battler Absolver, a real-time martial arts action game that has incredible flexibility in its play styles and fluid action.  The game has both a striking art style and innovative combat mechanics unlike anything I have yet seen in another video game.  It is a tricky game to get the hang of, but once you do the depth of gameplay and interesting mechanics will keep you playing for hours.

The game casts you as a member of the titular group of fighters called Absolvers, in your case you are just starting the process of becoming one of these elite corps of warriors in the fallen ruins of the Adal Empire.  You awaken with a mask on given to you by the Guides, the rulers of these lands, it frees you from hunger, thirst and even death as you strive to learn all you can to join the ranks of the Absolvers.  Your quest will take you across the land battling new enemies, helping people you come across and learning more and more fighting styles as you progress towards your goal.  The game is an online co-op experience so you will encounter and fight other players as well as NPC enemies on your way to achieving your goals.

PAX East 2017 Preview: Quake Champions

Quake Champions is a simple game at its heart, take the classic Quake 3 Arena gameplay focusing on quick weapon, armor and health pickups as well as fast placed gameplay leveraging rocket jumps and twisty corridors and add some unique powers depending on the character you choose.

I am probably dating myself but back in the early 2000s I played a lot of Quake 3 Arena, I mean a metric ton of it.  I played so much I managed to convince my work at the time to invest in a few copies for the PCs in our lounge so we could play the game on our breaks.  The game had some sort of secret sauce injected into its DNA that compelled you to play over and over again in a time where there were no loot boxes, item drops or customizations.  Now in 2017, Id Software is trying to recapture the magic with Quake Champions, a game built on the speed and mayhem of the original classics but injected with some of the custom hero mechanics from games like Overwatch and Team Fortress 2.  The result is a game that felt as fluid and manic as the classic title, but with a nice layer of additional strategy thanks to the Champions featured in the game.

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