Doubling up again, first is a review of Marvel Super Hero Squad. It's an alright game, a kind of Smash Brothers knock-off. I played Smash for a month and categorized it as a small dog conundrum. The small dog poops in your shoe. Does it do this because it is a brilliant animal that knows it is too tiny and cute to be beaten? Or is it just that stupid?
The fact that the Smash Brothers formula is really hard to copy makes me lean towards the former.
The other is a write-up on Crackdown. A commenter a few weeks ago joked that I relied too much on Far Cry 2 as my emergent gameplay poster child and I'm happy to announce I'm now going to generically reference Crackdown as the new example. It's technically a better example because it has no story and never makes you do anything. It's just one giant map, a long list of targets, and a lot of things that need upgrading.
I took out that Henry Jenkins essay that I used in the Super Metroid column, except applied the portions he wrote about male gaming instead of the other gender. I did a poor job explaining his ideas in that column and I tried to give it a better angle in this post. It's mostly a discourse on why a teenage male playing a super-violent game is totally normal and how that can be expanded to be more inclusive.
As simple and formulaic as it is, Crackdown really is the basic standard for what a sandbox game ought to offer.