REVIEW: THE LEAGUE OF SUPERHERO GAMES BY SCHOLASTIC

the-league-of-superhero-games-cover

Books are something I rarely cover or review, but like in the case of WRONG! Retro Games, You Messed Up Our Comic Book Heroes! by Chris Baker, I make the exception when a book addresses what is covered on this site: Video games based on comic book properties. I was made aware of the existence of a recently published book about the subject from my brother who came across it while shopping yesterday. Titled The League of Superhero Games and published by Scholastic, the more magazine than book covers comic themed video games ranging from console titles to free-to-play mobile as well as PC games but skews its content to a younger audience; The Amazon description even assures parents that no game rated above T for Teen will be covered. What is peculiar about this though is that the Batman they chose for the cover was taken from Batman: Arkham Knight, the first and to this date only M rated Batman video game to ever be released, but it’s not like the Caped Crusader is standing above a bloody corpse on the cover.

For those looking for a book that covers the material in the depth in which I or Chris Baker have either online or in print, The League of Superhero Games is not going to be for you. Most of the titles covered were released between the years of 2011 and last year and even when the book tries to do a “History Of” section, it tends to speak more of XBLA or PSN rereleases of a game rather than their true origins. I will give credit for the section about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles featuring the original NES titles, but that’s then shortly followed by a paragraph about Turtles in Time: Reshelled instead of the far superior arcade or console game. This is much better however than the history of Batman section that only goes back as far as Batman: Arkham City Lockdown with no mention of any of the games before that.

It’s difficult to be critical of the books coverage however, as it’s clearly catering to how a younger audience consumes games today. If they actually played Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Arcade Game or Turtles in Time, it would have been through a download service and it’s not like there’s an easy way to consume post Arkham Batman games unless a kid’s parents grew up with retro titles and kept them around to pass along to their children when they got old enough. In many respects The League of Superhero Games better covers comic book games than this site as it focuses more on popular mobile games that I would wager occupy more play time than most handheld and console games that are covered here. Given the extensive coverage of games like Marvel: Contest of Champions, Marvel Heroes, DC Universe Online and Marvel Future Fight among many others, I appreciate a disclaimer in the opening pages about not installing apps or visiting websites without parental permission. I’m not a person who has kids of their own, however I do feel these are important things to get across very early given how toxic the internet can be at times, especially when there’s free-to-play games asking for real world money.

A lot of the Marvel mobile games featured are ones that are still being played and updated today, but the focus on DC’s output seems questionable as I don’t know how many people even remember there were mobile games released based on The Dark Knight Rises and Man of Steel. The book’s published release date is listed as January 31st of this year, and it’s pleasantly surprising otherwise about how up to date League is. One of the Marvel console games covered perhaps the most outside of the two Lego games is Ultimate Marvel Vs. Capcom 3, and while that’s a game that came out in 2011, it’s had a resurrection as of late having been made digitally on PSN last December. For further evidence on how up to date this book is, it also features coverage of the latest chapter in the Skylanders series, Skylanders Imaginators.

Having Skylanders in a book that features exclusively DC characters on the front and back and opens with how great it is to play as your favorite super heroes in a video game is where League tends to gets its messaging mixed up. The bulk of the books subject matter is indeed about games based on established comic book properties, but it seems that whether it was to cater towards some of the more popular games today or because they ran out of things to talk about it, the authors stretched the term super hero to its broadest definition. Late in the book Transformers: Devastation is mentioned and that’s okay I guess considering yes, there was a lot of Transformers comics as well as Max from Scribblenauts who is highlighted under the “Weirdest Superhero” segment because there was a DC themed Scribblenauts games released, but other characters and games just seem out-of-place.

I’ve already mentioned Skylanders, but then there’s properties like Overwatch, Joe Danger and Octodad? Overwatch perhaps because it is in the genre of hero shooter, but Octodad and Joe Danger? M. Bison from Street Fighter is also referenced as a “Best Villain” as well as Captain Toad also in the “Weirdest Superhero” category and they all come off as reaching in an otherwise focused book about super hero games. Weirdly absent is any mention of Disney Infinity, as there’s talk about playing out events from Captain America: Civil War in video games; Something that could be done in the Marvel Battlegrounds play set. Given that it was cancelled and not that popular anymore among the younger audience caused it to be excluded, but it’s baffling not to make any mention of it at all.

Not that it will be noticed by the target audience who the book is intended for, but there’s also some errors in the book as well. The first is a minor one in that it mentions that TMNT (2007) on consoles is a co-op game, of which it isn’t, but the other is much more noticeably. In a section about how you can relive some of your favorite moments in Lego Marvel’s The Avengers, it then goes on to talk about levels from Lego Marvel Super Heroes. It also boldly states that the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on NES is “regarded as one of the best games on the console” and while I’ll defend that it’s not that bad of a game, it’s by no means one of the greats on that device. The first two errors made the purist inside me cringe a little, but on record the last one was just me having some fun. It’s also worth nothing that the games description on both Amazon and Indigo.ca in Canada  reads that two included games, Avengers Initiative and Spider-Man: Total Mayhem are featured but they’re not.

At the end of the day, The League of Superhero Games is not something to get really that worked up over, and if I was a grade schooler who saw this at a book fair, I would spend my money on it right away. It’s laid out nicely with lots of bright colors, screenshots and simple to read, but this is a more fun disposable book and less something for someone who grew up on Nintendo Power, though it does feature testimonials from video game writers for publications like Retro Gamer and Play magazine. As a way in which to bond with your kid over some of the games they play, or to understand games in general if you’re not and your kid is, The League of Superhero Games is worth a purchase, but overall this is best left to the younger crowd.

Oh, and if you want to do a part two Scholastic, don’t be afraid to reach out to me, okay?

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