Hank McCoy (Before the Fur) - Part 2

Choose your own adventure books: Don’t LAUGH. Marvel made a set of these and they were COOL. I mean it. They were game books- so they involved stats and dice. A bunch of them were well written. They even had some that you played head to head- like one of you would be Dr. Strange and the other would be the story’s villain. You’d each have a different book and read at the same time, and the books would prompt you when to interact with who you were playing against. Believe it or not, there are a couple of scans of these books floating around the internet. Home of the Underdogs has a gamebook section. Check it out. Video Games: These days, the video game and comic book industry’s romance is strong although they have certainly produced some ugly children here and there. Still, there have been some big strides. I remember playing Marvel superhero games on my Commodore 64. Those games were damn near impossible. Remember when you were a kid and you thought certain games were just way too hard? And then you went back years later and you realized that the problem wasn’t really that the game was too hard- it was more like really poorly programmed and incredibly difficult to control? The old Marvel games were like that, but they were ambitious attempts. There was an X-Men game that was based on the Fall of the Mutants storyline (which was a pretty awesome story back in the day- very different time and feel for X-Men, but cool). The only thing was, it was a RPG- but one of the really old RPGs? You know, where the dungeons were all randomly generated and all this crazy stuff would happen to you? And most of your characters would die? So you’d get text that would be like: It is EARLY AFTERNOON WOLVERINE shifted to front of party WOLVERINE moves NORTH WOLVERINE moves NORTHWEST WOLVERINE springs TRAP! Takes 48 damage DINOSAUR attacks! WOLVERINE takes 153 damage It is LATE AFTERNOON You know the kind I’m talking about, right? It was sort of like that. Console games didn’t do much better. There were a few really cool 2-D sidescrollers, but most were just ridiculously hard. For a long time, I wanted a Genesis just so I could play the X-Men game that came out. I loved Maximum Carnage and the Death and Return of Superman for SNES- although to this day, I can’t beat either one. The Playstation era is when stuff started coming together. While they feature renditions of the characters that are a little bit anime-d out, pretty much any Capcom fighting game featuring Marvel Comics characters is good for a ride. Marvel vs. Capcom comes highly recommended. While most of the other games Marvel puts out are over-hyped movie-tie-in action games, there have been a few diamonds in the rough snuck in there too. All the Spider-man movie games feature hysterical voiceovers by Bruce “Evil Dead 2” Campbell and the second in the series has this sort of Tony Hawk style free reign of New York feel. Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction gives you the same leeway to do as you wish and enough inhuman strength to produce a cathartic gaming experience. And if you like Max Payne and Dead to Rights, I highly recommend The Punisher- the controls are so smooth! And the interrogations are grisly. Of course, action-RPGs such as X-Men Legends and Marvel Ultimate Alliance are a ton of fun too- although only if you are a huge dork (like yours truly) and are fascinated with the gallons of comic book trivia poured into the things. Fun four player games, they lean towards repetitious. But it’s kind of cool to put together ridiculous line-ups that would never happen in the comics. To date, the most obscure I’ve ever put together in Alliance is Doom, Venom, Hulk, and Hawkeye. Write that comic for me. Please. If you noticed that I didn’t have a lot to say about DC in the above paragraph- well, good for you because someone should notice that. I have no idea why they can’t seem to get it together on this front. It’s like they ran out of steam right after they released Batman for the NES. Every Superman game ever created has been a travesty (Superman 64 anyone?)- and why there hasn’t even been an attempt to make a Green Lantern or a Wonder Woman game, I don’t know. Justice League Heroes is like Marvel Ultimate Alliance- just, you know, minus all the fun, interesting parts and with a lot more of the mindless repetitious parts. As for DC vs. Mortal Kombat? There won’t be any fatalities. …no fatalities. I don’t get it. I mean, I get WHY there won’t be fatalities- DC comics probably doesn’t want to portray Superman as reaching inside someone’s chest and ripping there still beating heart out. But why make this game, then? Why this combination? I don’t know what the people at Warner Bros. are doing here and the future for DC videogames does not look brighter anytime soon. Still, DC has plenty of fertile ground to work with if they ever wanted to MAKE a good game- the pieces are all there. Someone just needs to get it done. But I digress. As for massive online role-playing games…I’m not sure if the DC or Marvel projects are going to get off the ground. I’ve really got to give it up for City of Heroes and City of Villains though. These games are a ton of fun and well designed. Apparently there’s a Champions game coming soon too- the only appeal being that it’ll use the much-loved role-playing games system. COH and COV are a ton of fun though and still my “best buy,” if I was going to suggest something. Collectible Card Games: Like it’s tabletop role-playing game cousins, comic-book card games have gone through many iterations. I was a big fan of Overpower, a game that features characters from both of the “big two” and played fast. You put a team together of four heroes (or villains) and basically beat the hell out of each other. It was simple, but it was balanced, and it was fun. What started as a good thing didn’t last- eventually, the producers started releasing more and more rules for the game, increasing its complexity. While the new rules were cool, if you didn’t pick up the latest set of cards and it’s rulebook and you sat down to play with someone who had, you were usually confused and out of luck. Eventually, Overpower gave way to the VS. system. VS. is really dynamic and feels a little more like Magic: The Gathering than a superpowered-infused card game of Spades. The game dynamics are complicated and the characters, settings, themes, and events of each universe is well represented by the cards. It won a couple of gaming awards, actually. VS. is still on the shelves- but what’s really cool, is that you can go out and buy the entire set of Marvel VS. cards for the PC and hook up to an online network, kind of like Magic: Online for those of you who used to be into that. It’s a fun way to get playing the game quick- but be warned. With access to every card in the game, people put together sick decks and will teach you serious pain. But it’s fun, regardless. DC has yet to follow suit and put out an online version of all their cards. Big surprise. Board games: I’m surprised there aren’t more of these around! Besides those designed for players between ages 4-8, that is. The only game I know of this type is the Marvel Heroes strategy game, published by Fantasy Flight games. It really is a great attempt to capture a lot of the elements that you love about the super-hero genre into a completive game too. It has some complicated rules so it requires you to stick with its learning curve a bit, but it doesn’t require a Ph.D. or anything. Everyone plays a set of characters, but everyone also plays the nemesis of another player’s characters. So if you’re the Marvel Knights, someone else plays Kingpin, and if another player is the Fantastic Four, you might play Dr. Doom. There’s a scenario every time you play too that changes the rules of the game. The scenarios are all taken from comic-book stories, and represent stuff that you’d expect to happen in the Marvel universe- Galactus showing up, the Brood invading, “Inferno”, “House of M”…stuff like that. I really think it is highly underrated. My only regret is that it is likely to be discontinued, probably due to (gasp) licensing issues and complications. Get a copy now, if you can- but don’t expect it to be cheap. Action Figures, Models, and Minature games: Okay, now were delving into realms I don’t claim to understand. I respect models, especially the kind that you build. I mean…they’re picturesque at least. But there are people out there that are really into action figures. Like, REALLY into action figures. Like, write companies and request that certain ones be made. I don’t judge. I just don’t get it and could not claim to inform you on what is or is not a good buy. Collectible model games is another obsession I don’t get super involved with- but I know Heroclix has some appeal to the gamer-comic-addict. The boxes come with a random assortment of plastic (often poorly shaped) comic book characters. You and an opponent let each other have it. While the concept is kind of old hat by now, its system and the scale of the figures are both pretty cool. For starters, you can go out and buy Sentinel and Anti-Monitor figurines- and they literally tower over the battlefield, just like they do in the comics. It makes for a cool effect. The game’s coolest feature is likely how the character’s stats change during a fight. Every time a character takes a hit, you rotate the top of their stand to reveal a new set of stats. Most people get weaker as they take damage- but there are interesting exceptions. For example, when Batman has only a little bit of health left he starts fighting like a maniac. So if your going to go after him, you better hope you take him out instead of just pissing him off. Little touches like that help me see the appeal- although I’ve never been the “here, let me line up my collectible miniatures around my living room table before I have guests over” type.