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Hugh Likes Video Games: Super Smash Bros Ultimate

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Super Smash Bros Ultimate
Published by Nintendo
Played on Nintendo Switch

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The Skinny: The venerable nostalgia-fighter returns with a massive entry on the Switch

It’s no secret that I love me some Smash Bros. My first Hugh Likes Video Games review was for the last iteration of the series, specifically the 3DS version. And this version has, well just more of everything I love about the concept, with a giant roster of returning characters and stages, and lots of brand-new content as well. I actually hesitated getting this version, but I think Ultimate might actually live up to its title.
Ultimate does a lot of things right. The roster is particularly large, and the new additions, from Castlevania protagonist Simon Belmont to Animal Crossing’s helpful assistant Isabelle are a delight to play. While there aren’t a whole lot of brand-new stages, we get nearly all of the returning stages, with multiple layouts, so there is sure to be someplace to pick. Smash mode is easy to get into, and takes full advantage of the Switch’s joycon pairing capabilities to get a large group of players in quickly.
Classic mode returns with a twist. Each character has their own finely tuned campaign to maximize their nostalgic hit. For example, Ryu fights in a series Street Fighter-like stamina battles, while Richter only fights other Echo Fighters.
As clever and nostalgic as Classic Mode is, Spirits is where the game really stretches. Building on modes in previous versions of the game, Spirits turns Smash Bros into a giant nostalgia-fueled Action RPG. Traveling around a huge map, the player fights ‘spirits,’ essentially Nintendo characters that didn’t make the cut, in the guise of tweaked battles with specialized conditions. Winning the battle nets you that character’s ‘spirit,’ which you can equip and level up in a bunch of different ways in order to take on more powerful fights. These take the place of collecting trophies or stickers in past games, and they’re neat, but the game doesn’t give you as much information about these collectables as in past installments, which is a shame.
Overall, Super Smash Bros Ultimate is another entry in the series that won’t change the minds of non-fans, but is full to the brim with attention to detail and affection for the source material. I haven’t ventured into the dark woods of online multiplayer yet, but so far couch battles have been chaotic but a heck of a lot of fun.
You can download the game yourself from the Nintendo eshop, or find a physical copy at the usual suspects of video game retailers.
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Hugh Likes Comics: Wonder Twins

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Wonder Twins #1
Written by Mark Russell
Art by Stephen Byrne
Published by DC Comics

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The Skinny: DC revives two Saturday Morning Cartoon c-listers for a funny and heartwarming YA series.

High School is difficult. Especially when you’re a transfer student from another planet. DC has revived 70’s and 80’s cartoon sidekicks the Wonder Twins in a lighthearted new monthly book as a part of their Wonder Comics imprint, and the first issue is utterly delightful.
At a time when DC’s books feel like they are at their darkest and most complicated, this feels like a breath of fresh air. Russell delivers a fast moving and engaging script that gives readers that weren’t alive during the Raegan administration everything they need to know. These new versions of Zan and Jayna are well realized and interesting. The humor is always rooted in their characters and never relies on them being z-list sidekicks from the silver age. And they actually land quite well. Skilled but self-conscious Jayna dresses like a young Clark Kent, and awkward but overconfident Zan gets into all kinds of trouble. I won’t spoil any of the really good gags in the issue, but we also learn Batman and Superman’s most embarrassing high school moments, and that Diana is the mean girl of the Super Friends.
Byrne’s art is colorful and engaging, and makes the issue a joy to read. The whole package feels like DC finally has an answer to Marvel’s Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, a charming, comedic book that dusts off some young, goofy characters for light-hearted superheroic hi-jinx. This book isn’t going to reshape the multiverse, but it’s a welcome relief from DC’s latest crisis. You can find it online through Comixology, or in print at your local comics shop!
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Hugh Likes Comics: Daredevil

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Daredevil #1
Written by Chip Zdarsky
Drawn by Marco Checchetto
Colored by Sunny Gho
Published by Marvel Comics

Daredevil(2019)

The Skinny: After recovering from dying (again,) Matt Murdock returns to crime-fighting, but things aren’t so easy anymore.

Matt Murdock is tired. After having come back to life, although in a bit more medically plausible fashion this time, he is hitting the rooftops as Daredevil, but finding that things aren’t as easy as they used to be. With Wilson Fisk the elected mayor of New York, NYPD has standing orders to stop vigilantes, with Daredevil being a major target.
Plus, Matt is rushing things. He’s impatient, and isn’t back to his old self. Like an old boxer, he is wondering if her ever will be, and how long he can rebound before physical injury and infirmity catch up to him.
Chip Zdarsky is hitting it out of the park with another more serious book at Marvel. I’ve already reviewed his writing on The Invaders, and this is a similarly thoughtful take on a character who has seen horrors and how they have internalized them. My favorite line of the issue is when he tells the woman he takes home from a bar not to fetishize his disability. There is a bone-tiredness there that speaks volumes about Matt’s experiences both in and out of his superhero identity.
Marco Checchetto’s art and Sunny Gho’s coloring both serve the story well. I liked Checchetto’s cramped, overlapping page layouts and Gho’s dark and gritty colors both do a great job of establishing an atmosphere and pace to the issue that would be a little unclear without them.
The issue also has a four-page backup story by Zdarsky that is a nearly-wordless short about Matt saving a kidnapping victim that does a great job of showing the events first from an outside point of view, then from Matt’s, using a great visualization of his sensory powers.
Daredevil #1feels very reminiscent of the Netflix series, but this is a very strong return for the character, and I can’t wait to see where this team goes with this direction. You can pick up a copy from your Local Comics Shop, or get the digital version from Comixology.
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Hugh Likes Video Games: Moonlighter

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Moonlighter
Published by 11 bit studios
Developed by Digital Sun
Played on Nintendo Switch
http://moonlighterthegame.com/
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The Skinny: The Daily Grind, in day job and dungeon flavors!

Moonlighter is an old-school dungeon crawler with a twist. The dungeons are randomly generated, with each room comprising a single screen, much like the original Legend of Zelda. Enemies don’t drop money or experience, but rather items tied to the visual theme of each dungeon. During the day, players can sell their findings in a shop simulator, setting their own prices, decorating their shop, and keeping an eye out for shoplifters.
Profits from the shop can be sunk into upgrading your equipment, inviting other shopkeepers who sell things like potions or decor, or expanding the shop itself. The gameplay loop has a nice rhythm, and I constantly found myself deciding to play just one more in-game day to reach a milestone I’d set for myself. The combat is quick and fairly challenging, but doesn’t vary too greatly from dungeon to dungeon. While enemies all have very different looks, they tend to do the same sorts of things. The turrets you face in the golem dungeon have the same sorts of attacks as the seed-spitting plants from the forrest dungeon, for example.
Moonlighter’s gameplay loop can get repetitive, but fortunately, it looks and sounds gorgeous. The high-res pixelated art is charming, and the soundtrack boasts a variety of catchy and evocative tunes as you make your way through the floors of each dungeon and stock your shelves. There isn’t much of a story here though, so if that isn’t enough to keep your interest, this may not be the game for you.
I enjoyed my time in Moonlighter’s tiny village, but I wish the game had given me a few more options in how I arranged and decorated my shop. The items were nice, but I’d have like to have been able to give the place a bit more personality.
Moonlighter is an old school dungeon crawling action game mixed with a sedate but engaging shopkeeping sim. The gameplay loop makes for a perfectly tuned combo in a charming world. You can pick it up for PC or through all the major console eshops.

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Hugh Likes Comics: Naomi

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Naomi #1
Written by Brian Michael Bendis and David F. Walker
Art by Jamal Campbell
Lettered by Josh Reed
Published by DC Comics

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The Skinny: DC’s newest imprint opens with a surprisingly quiet, but beautiful, introduction

What is it like to live as an adopted teenager in a world where someone like Superman exists? When a fight with a super-villain sends him hurtling through the small town of Port Oswego, Naomi is left grappling with how she feels, and the nagging doubt that something about her suburban, middle-class life is off. And after the fight, and even the cleanup is over, she’s left wondering, what other extraordinary events is the town hiding, and why won’t anyone talk with her about the day she was adopted?
Bendis and Walker do a great job of approaching a stock comics trope from a new angle. The lens of this issue is focus squarely on Naomi, instead of the marketable superhero. There isn’t a lot of tension for a first issue, giving us a real taste of what Naomi’s normal life is like. This is likely to change, but for a first issue to let us simply meet this new character is both unexpected and refreshing.
The real standout here is Jamal Campbell’s art, though He really breathes life into what could be a staid, and honestly, boring comic. His Port Oswego is vibrant and dynamic, while still retaining its small-town atmosphere. He does a lot of great work with layouts and panels as well. We get a pair of sequences where townspeople respond to Naomi’s questions, and she sits outside the panel grid, but also underneath it. There is a lot of subtle characterization in those tight frames.
Naomi #1 is the start of something really interesting. You can buy it digitally from Comixology, or pick it up in print from Your Local Comics Shop.
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Hugh Likes Comics: Invaders

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Invaders #1
Written by Chip Zdarski
Drawn by Carlos Magno with Butch Guice
Colored by Alex Guimarães
Published by Marvel Comics
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The Skinny: A new story of Marvel’s Golden Age heroes rooted in the trauma of war.

Invaders #1 is a comic out of time. The retconned compilation of Golden Age Marvel, then Timely Comics, The Invaders were a team of patriotic superheroes fighting for the Allies in World War II. This included Captain America, but also Timely’s two biggest heroes of the period: The original Human Torch, Jim Hammond, and Namor, the Sub-Mariner. This story of the team is split between the war and the present, as Hammond interviewing Cap and his fellow soldiers for a book he’s writing, and Namor, as king of Atlantis, is preparing to start another war.
This book walks a perilously thin line, but I think it manages it beautifully. This isn’t just a superhero soap opera, but an earnest look at the trauma of war. This kind of subject hasn’t always been handled well by comics as a medium, but Zdarski, better known for his humor writing, is evocative and realistic, balancing genuine pathos with the more fantastic melodrama. In one scene Captain America is talking with Hammond about his own complex feelings about reliving the war over speaker phone, while battling a Tony Stark-designed arming of training robots. It should come off as goofy, but Zdarski’s writing, and the art, sells it.
The art is stand-out here. Using two art styles, and in this case two artists to denote different time periods isn’t a new innovation, but Magno and Guice are both distinctive, and each style is well suited to its respective period. Giuimarães’s colors are also a sharp division, with muted browns and yellows for the war contrasting with more vivid colors for Steve’s training session and Atlantis.
Invaders #1 is the start of a story that is so far doing an excellent job of balancing two different storytelling extremes. I’m very much interested in seeing how it plays out. You can find it digitally from Comixology, or pick up a physical copy from your Local Comics Shop.

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Hugh Likes Comics: Atomic Robo and the Dawn of the New Era

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Atomic Robo and the Dawn of the New Era #1
Written by Brian Clevenger
Drawn by Scott Wegener
Colored by Shannon Murphy
Published by IDW

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The Skinny: Atomic Robo returns with the most perilous action science adventure yet – Fatherhood.

I’m a sucker for mad science. Arcing Tesla coils, doomsday devices, snappy lab-wear and villainous monologues, give me the whole bit. That’s one of the reasons I’ve always found Clevenger and Wegener’s Atomic Robo so interesting. Being the robot son of Tesla himself, he is the very essence of pulp weirdness, but he constantly struggles to make sense of the world, be it through rigorously mapping non-euclidean spaces or just punching out his velociraptor arch-nemesis, Dr. Dinosaur. He’s the product of mad science, but for the most part he is trying to straighten the field back into something sensible.
This is very much the case in the latest issue, which starts a new story arc, and is a great place for new readers to jump on. Throughout his adventures, Robo has gone from pulp-style adventurer to solider to scientist to tech mogul. But this story puts him in a very different role, that of a father. Through a series of events, he is now the caretaker of ALAN, a networked AI from the 1950’s that has lost its memory, and is effectively a new person. The original ALAN was willing to destroy the world, but Robo has a chance to give it an education, and hopefully a different future.
Clevenger’s writing is as spot-on as it’s ever been, and Wegener’s art remains appealingly chunky. Fans of the character will find plenty to enjoy, and this is a great issue for new readers to pick up. You can find Atomic Robo and the Dawn of the New Era on Comixology or at your local comics shop. And if you like it, there are plenty of back issues to pick through for free over at Atomic-Robo.com.

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