GAME THEORY: Comic book fans hold high standards for video games

Nathan Mendelowitz

It’s easy to think extravagant heroes found in comic books would transition to video games nicely. Both allow people to think beyond the text with endless possibilities. Comics create an exciting world and video games allow people to play and control those worlds.

However, they don’t transition well and most end up as failures.

The main problem with comic book video games is they lack polish and take the fun out of being a superhero. The lackluster visuals lead to an ugly looking game and the gameplay is stagnant with players going from level to level fighting the same lame enemies.

“Superman 64,” is widely considered the worst game ever made.

Gameplay consists of Superman flying through rings or picking up cars before they hit people. With all the different powers Superman has at his disposal, being regulated to flying through rings like a flight simulator isn’t fun.

This kind of gameplay is horrific, but the controls are worse. When flying, Superman doesn’t react fast enough to commands given and when they do, it is so sensitive a slight nudge on the control stick makes him turn at a 90-degree angle.

“Superman 64” came out in 1999 and many other comic book games that came before definitely were not as bad, but they weren’t much better.

The few good games released were rudimentary side-scrolling fighting games. They were fun to play with, especially with friends, but didn’t do much to push the envelope.

There were games that tried, like some of the early PlayStation 2 Spider-Man games. These games incorporated elements of Spider-Man like web-swinging throughout a city or the use of his spider-sense.

“Spider-Man 2: The Video Game” came close with having an open-world atmosphere where players swung around New York like Spider-Man. It was fun, but the game lacked in other areas.

Thankfully, some recent games have begun to change this trend.

Comic book heroes are appealing because while reading the comic, readers can dive into the world and imagine themselves as Batman or Spider-Man.

Have the game emulate the best parts of the hero so people can play and feel like their favorite superhero.

That’s exactly what Rocksteady Studios did with “Batman: Arkham Asylum” and its sequel “Batman: Arkham City.”

What makes Batman interesting is he’s a detective under his costume. He works like a high-tech investigator and is also a world class fighter. In both games, that’s exactly what players get to do.

The plot follows Batman going to the island that holds Arkham Asylum, a prison housing the criminally insane. Throughout the game, Batman faces off against familiar super villains and his most notorious, the Joker. Which makes for an entertaining plot.

Gameplay wise, players get to control Batman and have an array of different gadgets and tools Batman is known for like Batarangs and zip lines. He also has a detective mode that allows him to see threats and clues others can’t, like pheromones or fingerprints he can analyze to follow leads. It also lets Batman see the environment through walls so he can locate enemies.

Great and engaging gameplay following what the character is known for.

This wasn’t a game made on a whim; it took time and effort. This is just the basic building blocks to making any kind of great game.

“Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions” is another comic book game taking a step in the right direction.

Players get to play as four different Spider-Men from four different universes: The main “Amazing Spider-Man,” “Ultimate Spider-Man,” “Spider-Man 2099” and “Spider-Man Noir.”

Each Spider-Man plays differently since each one is known for different things. “Spider-Man Noir” is known for stealth tactics while “Ultimate Spider-Man” is known for strong violent maneuvers.

Comic books have great stories and interesting characters, so game developers need to keep this in mind. Other developers need to follow the great job Rocksteady Studios has done.

The bar has been set high, now players can expect bigger and better things to come. Comic book fans and video game fans alike will not have to cringe every time a comic book video game is announced.


 Nathan Mendelowitz can be reached at [email protected]