The Joker’s Cold, Cold Heart (ABC Wednesday & Song of the Week, 3/21/14)

The JokerThis week’s ABC Wednesday comes on Friday due to indecision and scheduling conflicts, and I’m combining it with the Song of the Week for efficiency’s sake.

I just completed the video game Batman: Arkham Origins. I’d gone into it with lowered expectations because, unlike the earlier Arkham games, this wasn’t written by the great Paul Dini, and it wasn’t developed by the original outfit, Rocksteady, but by a new developer using Rocksteady’s technical assets. I wasn’t just pleasantly surprised, I was blown away. The writing is probably the best in the games, with a strong storyline and some deeper insight into the characters’ minds; this is a grittier Arkham game (if that’s possible), with a more mature outlook. It operates on a more street-level scale than even Arkham City did, and does wondrous things with a full roster of Batman villains. And it has, by far, the best (and least video-gamey) boss fights in the series.

Most notable was the Joker. Now, for years Mark Hamill has owned this part both in animated and game forms. The fact that he wasn’t doing the vocals here was another point of trepidation. But let me tell you, Troy Baker is a phenomenal new Joker, playing the role with a similar manic energy but imbuing it with a subtle raspy cruelty that, I think, actually suits the character better. This Joker is genuinely creepy, and you get to play through Batman’s very first encounter with him. It’s really astonishing stuff. And if you play, just wait until you get to the Joker’s lair…it’s epic.

So, in celebration of Jokers past and present, I offer up this dark little number for song of the week.

“Cold Cold Heart” by The Joker (Troy Baker)

J

I’ll return next Wednesday with the letter K. I hope you’ll stop by. I’m a writer and I post about a wide variety of non-alphabet-specific topics. Feel free to comment under my posts. If you want to subscribe to the blog, there’s a button in the sidebar.

Also, feel free try to check out my adventure novel Doc Wilde and The Frogs of DoomIt’s been very well reviewed (KIRKUS REVIEWS: “Written in fast-paced, intelligent prose laced with humor and literary allusions ranging from Dante to Dr. Seuss, the story has all of the fun of old-fashioned pulp adventures.”) and is great for action-adventure lovers of all ages.

DOC WILDE AND THE FROGS OF DOOM

For another fun ABC Wednesday post, visit the Carioca Witch here: Bringing Up Salamanders.

Find many more posts by others, and more info on ABC Wednesday, here: ABC Wednesday

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Good Memories of 2009, Day 1: Arkham Asylum

As I did a year ago, I’m going to list a few things that I truly enjoyed during the recently deposed year, in no particular order. This year, though, I’m going to serialize the list for a few days. Today’s entry is

Batman: Arkham Asylum

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One of the best damn games I’ve ever played. Written by the brilliant Paul Dini, one of the chief creatives on Batman: The Animated Series, it featured voice work by actors from that esteemed cartoon including Kevin Conroy as Batman, Arleen Sorkin as Harley Quinn, and Mark Hamil as the Joker. With incredible graphics and design, the game follows Batman through one very long night on the island whereon the titular criminal madhouse is located, after the Joker takes over and lets many other villains out.

Arkham proves an ideal setting for adventure, coming to life in a way few locations in games ever do and never getting old. The game’s only weakness is in its boss fights, structured, alas, like video game boss fights, and are the only times the game’s contrivances remind you you’re in a game.

In this game, you really get to feel what it’s like to be Batman. Drop into a pack of thugs and efficiently take them down in seconds with acrobatic, bone-breaking martial arts. Steal through the night, lurking in the shadows above armed goons, swooping to take them out one by one without alerting their comrades. Use incredible gadgets to set traps, gather intelligence, and overcome obstacles. Investigate, using your tech and brilliant detective skills to solve mysteries and track your foes.

The character designs are amazing, managing to be original while remaining completely true to the characters’ histories. Killer Croc is dinosaurian and terrifying. The Scarecrow is creepier than ever. The Joker is manic and crazy-eyed. Poison Ivy is more inhumanly sexy than in any prior incarnation. And Batman is an armored engine of dark destruction, whose costume over the course of the game shows more and more damage, and who even gradually develops a five o’clock shadow on his square jaw. The attention to detail in the characters, and the world, is fantastic.

An utterly amazing game, and a sequel was just announced, which creates a flood of endorphins in my system when I think about it.