Riddle me this in new Batman: Arkham City trailer

Move over Jim Carrey – there’s a new demonic Riddler in Gotham City. A new teaser from Rocksteady Studios shows Mr. Edward Nigma taking on a much more formidable role in the upcoming Arkham City, this time threatening to kill innocent citizens if Batman fails some of his puzzles.

Joystiq likened the new Riddler role to that of Jigsaw in the horrific Saw franchise. You can easily see where they’re coming from, what with the creepy mind games and sinister accent. Yes it certainly has a tint of the iconic film villain, no doubt staking a claim for Edward Nigma as the number one baddie in the Batman video games.

Viewers with a keen eye will spot a glimpse of a holographic Riddler, as well as a password device and plenty of rotary blades. Although there’s not much else to see besides ambiguous dialogue and algebra equations, it’s refreshing to see some attention for the man in green.

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Photo diary: MCM Expo (May 2011)

Attending the MCM Expo in London is an exhilarating, tiring and joyous experience. It’s basically a convention packed to the ceiling with video game booths, anime merchandise and independent comic book artists. If you’re interested in any of the above, I highly recommend checking out this event in the future.

The photographs below show off some of the titles which I was lucky enough to play and watch.

You can’t get around it. Visually, Solarobo: Red the Hunter has a lot in common with the Star Fox franchise. Cute animals pilot giant mechs or flying airships, happily exploring a futuristic fantasy world. Developed by CyberConnect2, Solarobo is said to be the spiritual successor to Tail Concerto. The DS title uses a fairly decent 3D engine, although most of the gameplay mechanics felt fairly unimaginative. Meh.

Warner Bros continued to push Batman: Arkham City, although they were only showing an old trailer on the floor. The pod to the left was showcasing a version of Green Lantern: Rise of the Manhunters, a generic brawler with squad mechanics. It looked so boring that I didn’t even bother picking up a controller.

This was my first chance to try a Nintendo 3DS. So what better way to start than with a hands on demo of Ocarina of Time? The 3D effect was subtle but significant, dropping distant vistas into the background and pulling speech bubbles out of the screen.

Graphically the game was a small step up from its N64 origins, cleaning up some of the nasty edges and adding some vital new pixels. Although it hasn’t sold the system for me, newcomers to the Nintendo brand and Zelda fanboys will surely lap this up.

Capturing 3D footage with a standard digital camera results in some odd effects. But you get the picture… it looks quite pretty.

Dead or Alive Dimensions was just as I expected. It’s a great representation of the home console outings, but adds very little in terms of new ideas or mechanics. Scantily clad women and muscular ninjas pummel each other until one throws in the towel. If you’ve played Dead or Alive 3 & 4, you’ll know exactly what to expect from this handheld version. The 3D effect was pleasant, but rather unnecessary.

JRPGs have a hard time trying to win my praises at the moment. This tutorial of Xenoblade Chronicles was dry and repetitive, forcing me through some mundane combat scenarios and uninspired locales. The game also suffered from sub-par graphics, looking embarrassingly last generation. Perhaps this was an unfair representation of the final game, but it left me feeling a bit bewildered and let down.

The Gears of War 3 booth was crammed with gamers all throughout the day. Epic Games was only showing the multiplayer beta that was recently made available on Xbox Live, but it was still insanely popular. It’s everything that you’d expect from a Gears title; roadie runs, chainsaw kills and hilariously bad dialogue. This will inevitably sell like hot cakes when it drops in September.

This was one of my most anticipated titles of the day. Playing Child of Eden was a fantastic experience, combining unique electronic music with engaging Kinect enabled gameplay. Using both hands to track enemies and dispatch them felt incredibly natural, especially when using the right hand to swipe at highlighted targets.

This is Jane Douglas from GameSpot UK running through one of the levels. She was far more competent than me and did a great job showcasing the game during the Sunday Q&A session. Although I’m yet to purchase the Kinect accessory, this definitely piqued my curiosity and got me excited for its June release.

It was refreshing to see the MCM Expo take on a more video game centric approach this year. Trawling endless anime merchandise quickly becomes tiring and tedious – so the GameSpot UK stage was a welcome addition. If the team decides to come back I’d like to see an even greater variety of games and interviews, especially as the event now spans across three days. Ultimately I had a great day and look forward to visiting the convention again in October!

Retrospective: Microsoft in 2010

Microsoft has done a much better job of selling the Xbox 360 throughout 2010, with sales now close to rivalling the Nintendo Wii. The redesign has reinvigorated the console, heaping on a new set of features and adding some much needed aesthetics.

A significant percentage of sales are from existing owners that have chosen to upgrade. The built in wireless network adaptor, improved storage and quieter internal fan has made the Xbox redesign very desirable. Microsoft is trying to attract a family audience with the launch of Kinect, but their marketing strategy has also been very successful for ‘hardcore’ gamers. By improving each iteration’s functionality (in a similar sense to the iPhone) I think consumers see each purchase as a piece of cutting edge technology.

Kinect has surpassed all sales expectations, throwing the traditional controller out in favour of full body input. The current selection of games is hardly imaginative though, taking reference from Nintendo with a heavy influence on sport titles and party games. It’s been a big risk for Microsoft, but they’ve backed it with an appropriately strong marketing campaign. However, I’d like to see the technology integrated into existing titles in a similar manner to the PlayStation Move, or with full retail games that encourage an adult audience.

Kinect has fantastic potential, but is currently struggling to persuade ‘hardcore’ gamers with its steep price point. Until it steps away from the experiences we already own on the Nintendo Wii, I suspect its sales spike will begin to slow down in the spring of 2011.

Call of Duty: Black Ops and Halo Reach were big titles throughout autumn, but it’s left Microsoft exposed for the Christmas period. Favourable, but not great ratings from Fable 3 will likely leave them scrapping for multiplatform sales on titles such as Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood.

In 2011, I predict that third party support for Kinect will improve and recognition will grow for original XBLA titles such as Limbo and Plants Vs Zombies. Gears Of War 3 and Batman: Arkham City are my most anticipated full retail titles.

Final Grade: A-

MCM Expo: May 2009

On the 23rd and 24th of May, London’s Excel Centre played host to the MCM (movies, comics and media) Expo convention. It’s a great place for fans of Japanese culture to dress up in costume, meet like minded fans and check out new games from their favourite publishers. There are tons of stalls selling anime, manga, figurines and video games. Below are some of the pictures I took in my trip up to the convention.

Leaving Bournemouth at some ridiculous time in the morning. *Yawn*

Leaving Bournemouth at some ridiculous time in the morning. *Yawn*

PSP and a copy of GamesTM; what more do you need on a train journey?

PSP and a copy of GamesTM; what more do you need on a train journey?

Off the train at Waterloo station

Off the train at Waterloo station

With half the underground lines shut, coffee was needed to work out an alternate route!

With half the underground lines shut, coffee was needed to work out an alternate route!

Stormtroopers are very, very cool

Stormtroopers are very, very cool

Chozen noodles, simply brilliant fast food

Chozen noodles, simply brilliant fast food

The entrance line was stupidly long

The entrance line was stupidly long

Lots of Gundam merchandise to drool over

Lots of Gundam merchandise to drool over

The MMORPG Dofus was free to try out

The MMORPG Dofus was free to try out

Some of the costumes were made with a lot of tender care

Some of the costumes were made with a lot of tender care

A host of anime themed games were being promoted

A host of anime themed games were being promoted

Naruto Shippuuden: Ultimate Ninja 4

Naruto Shippuuden: Ultimate Ninja 4

Family Trainer, using a dance mat controller for the Wii

Family Trainer, using a dance mat controller for the Wii

Family Ski & Snowboard, using the Balance Board on Wii

Family Ski & Snowboard, using the Balance Board on Wii

Rygar, shown at the Tecmo stall

Rygar, shown at the Tecmo stall

Batman: Arkham Asylum demo was available!

Batman: Arkham Asylum demo was available!

Bumblebee, promoting Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Bumblebee, promoting Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Our Expo crew; i'm in the orange

Our Expo crew; i'm in the orange

You can find out more about the Expo at the official website here and here. I had a great time and will no doubt be attending the next London MCM Expo which is set for October 24th and 25th. Next week is my thoughts and opinions on the PSP game Daxter!