Marvel Ultimate Alliance

  • Gamestuff: February 2009 Xbox Update


    Xbox Live AvatarHere’s a rundown on the latest crop of Xbox 360 titles introduced to the International House of Johnson. Some (The Orange Box, Ninja Gaiden 2) were borrowed from friends, some (Braid, Catan, Marble Blast Ultra) purchased on Xbox Live Arcade, and the rest were previously-owned (or “gently-used”, if you like) titles I picked up at The Exchange, an awesome local store where I traded in my Xbox Classic and several of my old games.

    • LEGO Star Wars: The Complete SagaLEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga. This game is currently king at the International House of Johnson. When I realized that my young apprentice was completely obsessed with LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy for the Xbox Classic, I decided that it was time to upgrade. Not only is there twice as much lightsaber-swinging, brick-smashing action, The Complete Saga includes Achievements, so the hours (and hours and hours) we play together have resulted in a 450-point increase in my Gamerscore.
    • The Orange BoxThe Orange Box. I liken this title to the can of frozen Minute Maid juice tucked away in my freezer: concentrated orange goodness. The Orange Box is actually five games on one disc: Half-Life 2, Half-Life 2 Episode 1, Half-Life 2 Episode 2, Portal and Team Fortress 2. To be sure, Portal is a very short game—I played through it in a single marathon session that concluded at 4am—and Team Fortress 2 can only be played online, 1I have yet to play any of my games online, mostly because I haven’t scheduled anything with my circle of friends and I’m not at all eager to play with random strangers. but the other titles appear to have some serious content and I’ve totally been sucked in to Half-Life 2. 2How sucked in? Up-until-3am-last-night sucked in.
    • Grand Theft Auto IVGrand Theft Auto IV. The GTA series, beginning with Grand Theft Auto III, proves time and again just how easily distracted I am. I start the game in “mission mode”, intent on advancing the storyline, but inevitably I wind up running rampage through the streets of Liberty City (or Vice City, or San Andreas) trying to concoct new ways to get myself killed.
    • CrackdownCrackdown. I tend to think of this game as Grand Theft Auto plus superpowers minus the story. There’s a lot of the same freestyle play and off-mission challenges that make the GTA series great, but the main character (a genetically-enhanced Peacekeeper) has absolutely no personality whatsoever. There are no cinematic cutscenes to draw the player into the world, but it’s still crazy fun to wreak havoc on four separate criminal factions with guns, bombs and a roundhouse kick that can flip a speeding car.
    • Marble Blast UltraMarble Blast Ultra. I purchased this Xbox Live Arcade title because Kyle got a kick out of the demo. Think Marble Madness on steroids. Unfortunately, the difficulty ramps up fairly quickly and there are only a few levels that Kyle likes to play. Actually, the difficulty gets downright annoying after a while, so I don’t play this one much.
    • Far Cry Instincts PredatorFar Cry: Instincts: Predator. This first-person shooter is a sequel to Far Cry: Instincts, which was a console port of the PC title Far Cry. Predator is essentially the same game with a second chapter, or so I’m led to believe. I tend to prefer the keyboard/mouse control scheme for FPSes—I purchased Far Cry on Steam, Valve’s digital distribution platform for the PC—but the allure of more tropical island butt-kicking was too strong to resist.
    • Marvel Ultimate AllianceMarvel Ultimate Alliance. I played this game all the way through on the Xbox Classic, but I felt that there was enough replay value to warrant picking it up for the 360. Plus, it gives me a chance to play as someone other than Captain America. As an aside, Clive Revill, who provided the original voice for Emperor Palpatine in The Empire Strikes Back, lends his talent as the voice of the nefarious Doctor Doom.
    • BraidBraid. This platformer is an Xbox Live Arcade title that borrows elements from both Super Mario Brothers and Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. In the case of Super Mario Brothers, “borrow” is probably an understatement, as the story (not to mention some of the gameplay) is pretty much identical: rescue the Princess from the castle. Whether you call it an homage or a ripoff, Braid puts a very clever twist on the classic platformer and adds an absolutely haunting soundtrack to boot.
    • CatanCatan. A port of the wildly popular boardgame, Settlers of Catan, this Xbox Live Arcade game is a steal at 800 Microsoft points ($10 US). I don’t think the implementation is quite as smooth as Carcassonne (which, admittedly, is a much simpler game), but the ease of play versus setting up the actual board (not to mention finding someone to play with) makes it a bargain.
    • Ninja Gaiden 2Ninja Gaiden 2. Blood, blood and more blood. I haven’t played much of this game, but what I’ve seen has been incredibly gory. Needless to say, this is a title that doesn’t get played until after Kyle goes to bed. The fighting is intense and the stunts are a lot of fun, but the rails are painfully obvious, especially when your uber-ninja—who can run along walls and perform elaborate, fliptacular airborne attacks—can’t jump over a low fence or other seemingly-insignificant obstacle.

    That’s a whole lot of games there, but LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga really is dominating the console. The disc rarely comes out of the drive, and even when Kyle is in bed I’m probably trying to complete one of the chapters in “Challenge” mode or find the last mini-kit canister. I’m bound and determined to reach 100% completion on this title, and when last I checked I had 20.7% remaining. Must. Find. Canisters!

    1 I have yet to play any of my games online, mostly because I haven’t scheduled anything with my circle of friends and I’m not at all eager to play with random strangers.
    2 How sucked in? Up-until-3am-last-night sucked in.
  • Game Night: 27 February 2007


    Marvel Ultimate AllianceThe evening began with Marvel Ultimate Alliance, which may be the last great game for the Xbox Classic. Miscellaneous G™ and I continued our assault on Atlantis with our Femme Fatale squad (Invisible Woman, Marvel Girl, Spider Woman and Storm). S.H.I.E.L.D. sent the heroes to investigate a coup in the undersea kingdom that appeared to have ties to Doctor Doom’s new villainous organization. The heroes found that Attuma, a warlord who believes he is fated to rule Atlantis, had stolen the throne from Namor, the Sub-Mariner. Attuma was using sonic emitters — devices apparently supplied by Doctor Doom — to play havoc with the Atlanteans’ emotions and turn them against Namor and all surface dwellers.

    At about 9:30, our special guest gamer, Gus, arrived. We turned off the Xbox, examined the vast array of board and card games at our disposal (most contained within Miscellaneous G™’s awesome Geek Box) and Monsters Menace America, which none of us had ever played (in fact, it had not yet been removed from its cellophane womb).

    Monsters Menace America
    Monsters Menace America is a board game in which players control giant monsters rampaging through North America. Each player also controls the deployment of one branch of the military. The object of the game is to gain health and Infamy by stomping cities, military bases and other locations (typically tourist attractions and monuments such as Carhenge, Graceland and Mount Rushmore) in preparation for the Monster Challenge, a monster-on-monster brawl that determines which monster reigns supreme.

    We started out slowly, fumbling through the rules a bit and not certain what our strategies should be, especially around the deployment and movement of military units. I played Toxicor, a towering radioactive purple blob, and controlled the Air Force’s fighter jets and cruise missiles. Toxicor first appeared near Lake Ontario and stomped all over Cleveland and Detroit, completely ignoring the smorgasbord of cities along the eastern seaboard.

    In Florida, the monocular menace known as Zorb (played by Gus, who also controlled the Army) trashed Tampa and mauled Miami, then started making its way up the east coast toward Boston and New York. Each stomped city grants the stomping monster additional health points, and larger cities provide big bonuses. Zorb was heading for a veritable feast and there was nothing to slow its progress, save a handful of National Guard units.

    Meanwhile, on the west coast, Gigantis (an oversized praying mantis played by Laura) destroyed Los Angeles, Phoenix and several military bases, despite the brave Air Force pilots’ valiant efforts to stop the insectile marauder.

    Miscellaneous G™ quickly learned that Megaclaw’s lair near Montana wasn’t an ideal starting point, due to a lack of major metropolitan areas in the region. His plan to amass Infamy tokens (which could be traded for extra attacks during combat) was working well as he demolished Carhenge and other nearby attractions, but Megaclaw’s health was not rising as quickly as those monsters who were decimating the coastal regions. Unfortunately, Miscellaneous G™ had to leave before the game was over, so the hideous Megaclaw was retired, as were the Navy’s fighters and nuclear submarines.

    Realizing too late that Zorb was on his way to becoming unstoppable, Laura and I sent our combined military forces to the east coast. Again and again Zorb was attacked by Air Force cruise missiles and Marine Corps rocket launchers and fighter jets, but city after city fell to the creature’s deadly gaze and it grew ever more powerful. Even the mighty Mecha-Monster, a special unit I drew late in the game, proved to be little more than a minor annoyance to Zorb the Inexorable.

    After twenty locations had been stomped, the Monster Challenge began. Zorb challenged Toxicor, who was sorely outclassed. The poor toxic blob had a mere 8 health points (not to mention zero Infamy tokens) compared to Zorb’s 40, and was soon reduced to a purple stain that stretched from Syracuse to Rochester. Gigantis put up a much better fight, cashing in six Infamy tokens and beating Zorb to within an inch (or perhaps a dozen Health points) of his life. The awesome might of the terrible eye proved too much for the massive mantis, however, and Gigantis was ultimately destroyed.

    I have to admit that I completely dropped the ball in terms of strategy with Monsters Menace America. I don’t know what the hell Toxicor was doing, but it sure wasn’t collecting Infamy tokens and increasing his health in preparation for the Monster Challenge. Granted, I had a few unlucky rolls after destroying Detroit and Cleveland that resulted in Toxicor getting almost no benefit from their destruction, but it was foolish not to sweep over to New England and start wreaking havoc.

    Even though my strategy was lacking (okay, nonexistent), I still enjoyed Monsters Menace America a great deal and would definitely like to play it again. It’s a welcome addition to Game Night, which is itself mutating into something new; once 4+ hours of video gaming every other Tuesday after work, its scope has expanded to include board and card games and a growing list of attendees. An epic game of Arkham Horror looms on the horizon, but Doctor Doom and his Masters of Evil cannot be allowed to succeed in whatever fiendish plot the masked monarch of Latveria is hatching.