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Underrated: Comic Book Video Games

This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week: Comic book videogames.

It’s been a long time since I wrote any kind of list for this column, and after finishing up my first playthrough of Spider-Man: Miles Morales yesterday (and my subsequent return to the original PS4 Spider-Man‘s DLC), I wanted to take a trip down memory lane with some games that aren’t as fondly remembered as perhaps they should be amongst the greats like the aforementioned Spider-Man games and Batman: Arkham Asylum/City/Knight. Games that were fun, but may not have been as critically acclaimed or rated as high as others released around the same time; often, super hero games are either overlooked as cheap movie cash-ins (for good reason, honestly), or they’re overlooked in favour of games that have generated more of a buzz. It wasn’t really until the Arkham games cam about that superhero based videogames really gathered any traction; the combat system from that game has inspired countless others over the years – and for good reason.

So, here’s a few gems from yesteryear that are worth circling back to if you’re looking for a bout of nostalgia fueled superhero action.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine (PS3/Xbox 360)
A videogame adaptation that was far better than the movie, this game was a blast to play from start to finish. It’s certainly not the best action game around, but it is one of the best superhero movie tie-in games around, and it’s a hell of a lot of fun watching Wolverine getting sliced to pieces and then watching as his healing factor starts to kick back in and rebuild his flesh over his skeleton. Despite it being a very linear game, there’s a hell of a lot to enjoy even today (I’m not holding out hope for a sequel or remake any time soon, but I am very fond of the game even now).

X2: Wolverines Revenge (PS2/Xbox/Gamecube)
If you’re sensing a theme here, it’s probably not accidental. This game was, technically, a tie in to the second X-Men film, but it was also a compelling stealth adventure where the use of Wolverine’s powers were implemented in cel-shaded awesomeness. Fun, though maybe not the greatest game, it’s one that still holds fond memories for me.

Ultimate Spider-Man (PS2/Xbox/Gamecube)
The second time we got to play as Spider-Man in an open world. Visually, the game holds up fairly well because of the cel-shaded comic style art, though the gameplay may feel a touch dated to those who have become accustomed to the PS4 offerings. The story picks up after the Venom arc from the Ultimate universe’s version of the comics, and so we get to play as both Spider-Man and Venom across Manhattan and Queens (which may have been the last time we saw Queens in the games).

Spawn: In The Demon’s Hand (Dreamcast)
Think Dynasty Warriors meets Spawn. It’s fun, especially with friends, but don’t expect a super deep experience.

Batman Begins (PS2/Xbox/Gamecube)
Look, being completely honest, this isn’t as good as the Arkham games; not even close. But that’s not to say this is a terrible game – it’s just not the best, either. I enjoyed the game, enjoyed the terror mechanics where you’d have to hide from enemies and gradually terrify them into submission (you’ll see this in the Arkham games, but with a much more subtle excitation). Worth a play if you’re curious, but I wouldn’t rush for it.

There’s a lot of 2D games that I didn’t include on the list – games from the Sega Genesis era that were mainly action beat ’em ups – that are all fantastic (though admittedly harder than expected), but what I’d have to say would fall around the same thing: “a solid game that has a lot of vintage nostalgia value, but doesn’t hold up as well as you’d expect – which is the case for a lot of vintage games in many ways. The mechanics of yesteryear take some getting used to, but once you do there’s a lot to love.”

Unless the comics industry ceases to exist this week, Underrated will return next week.

Almost American