Ion Fury Review

Ion Fury Key Art Gaming Cypher - Gaming Cypher

Ion Fury is a first person shooter running on the Build engine, known for games like Blood, Shadow Warrior and Duke Nukem 3D. It’s an era of first person shooters I have no real experience with: I started with Doom then made the jump to things like Timesplitters and Red Faction, and in addition to that lack of experience it’s an era I’ve never really seen the appeal of, personally. They may have been something special back then but if this is representative of what the Build engine had to offer then times have changed for the better. Bear in mind DOOM Eternal came out earlier this year, and in terms of retro fixes, so did Streets of Rage 4.

You are Shelly “Bombshell” Harrison, a cop in a futuristic city pursuing someone called Heskel, who has a seemingly endless supply of robots that come in various forms, ranging from humanoids in ponchos and flying brains to teleporting, skinless bodies and tank people. That’s it for story; Shelly cuts a bloody swathe through the environments spouting pop culture quotes like Duke Nukem, whether they fit the tone or not (She makes Breaking Bad references of all things), guns down loads of robots and at the end presumably kills Heskel. I wouldn’t know; I didn’t finish it. I gave it a good go- there are apparently seven chapters and I got a decent way through the fifth one- but any feelings of fun or enjoyment I had were overshadowed by the game feeling like a slog; a wearisome experience that just stretched on to eternity with no end in sight. It’s not a bad game as such, it just has no hook, or really any reason for me to keep playing it. The shooting is fine but lacks any real punch besides the shotgun and bombs, the levels have bursts of interesting design before falling back on industrial tunnels and sewers, and there are various annoying niggles that pile up. There are weapon reloads despite your ammo count just being a number signifying your total amount. There’s fall damage, and despite being two different ammo types using the same gun, accessed with the alt fire button, the grenade launcher and shotgun take up separate weapon slots, which is annoying when you’re under fire, try to take out the shotgun and end up splash damaging your face off. Running and gunning is rarely viable, as enemies easily chew through your health and armour, there’s heavy splash damage on explosives and enemies often have an easier time hitting you than you do them, particularly the flying ones. That’s the game’s problem: there’s no one, big issue that ruins it, just a series of smaller ones that all come together to result in something mediocre. Of the three games I’ve reviewed recently this is by far the longest, and has absolutely no reason to be. Were this a shorter experience like the other two, it would be better. Not good, but better.

So that’s Ion Fury: not bad, but not good either. A combination of nuisances and its length resulted in me just giving it up to play something more fun (Double Dragon Neon, specifically). Mediocre.

By James Lambert
@jameslambert18

DLC Review: Mortal Kombat 11 Aftermath

Mortal Kombat 11: Aftermath Kollection Pre-Orders Are Live

Well I for one didn’t see this coming. I thought that, as is standard for the genre these days, MK11’s DLC would consist entirely of characters delivered via season passes, but here we are with extra story chapters. In my opinion MK11’s story ended quite well and didn’t need a follow up, but here we are. Aftermath as a piece of DLC includes five new story chapters and three new characters: Wind God Fujin, Shokan Queen Sheeva and Robocop. I’m no expert on fighting games so I won’t be going into full technical details on the characters but I will give some brief thoughts on them, after I talk about the new story content.

So Kronika is dead, Raiden’s mortal now and the new god of thunder and fire Liu Kang is ready to forge a new timeline. He’s interrupted by the arrival of Shang Tsung, Fujin and Night Wolf, who explain that they were trapped in a void after refusing to work with Kronika, and that Liu Kang cannot forge a new timeline without her crown. Shang Tsung plans to travel back in time to the point in MK11 when the past characters first arrived, nip off to his island and steal the crown before everything kicks off. It’s made clear that going back and interfering directly with other people and events will mess up the timeline, but somehow stealing the crown won’t do that? The time travel stuff in the main story was kept largely simple I thought, but this time travelling within time travelling just seems to confuse matters. Anyway things obviously go wrong and Shang Tsung, Fujin and Night Wolf travel back to a later point by accident, and faced with potentially insurmountable opposition the sorcerer suggests they revive Sindel, with the help of Sheeva, to deal with Cetrion should she try to intercept them. It’s quite a short story so I won’t spoil anything, but they don’t play it safe; when things go wrong they really go wrong, and by the end of it the MK11 timeline is ablaze and lying in a pool of its own blood. The stand-out in all this is Shang Tsung, who effortlessly steals every scene he’s in with something as simple as a single word or smile. Everyone hates him because he’s an untrustworthy scumbag and whenever they bring that up his response is always a “Who, me?” smile, like he just bloody loves being an evil sorcerer and has already planned ten different ways to betray and kill everyone else in the room. There’s some strong character work throughout; Sheeva and Kitana have some lovely moments focused on their relationships with Sindel, Erron Black gets to have a cool showdown with the heroes (and Shang Tsung) in the Dead Pool, complete with a funny moment where a Tarkatan gets knocked into the acid and everyone stops to watch him die, there’s a pause and then Shang Tsung apologises. Fujin is the weak link here; he has some good moments in his fight intros and his ladder ending is neat, but in the story content he doesn’t really add anything. It has multiple endings, and the “Good” one potentially sets up a new game or even series of Mortal Kombat games in a different time period, which would be interesting. That’s all I can say really; there’s a lot I don’t want to spoil but the story is good, it shakes things up for the home stretch and although the time travel stuff can become confused, its character work is great.

As for the characters, Robocop is a stand-out for me, because Robocop is my hero and putting the original, classic version in a game, having him be voiced by Peter Weller and looking amazing is a sure-fire way to get me on side. He’s got some new gear; a built-in grenade launcher, flamethrower and a shield that parries attacks without having to be activated within a small window. All three of the characters aren’t ones I’d usually play has; Scorpion is my main and I like Frost a lot, so I’m used to having a high number of flowing melee combos. Having said that, Robocop and Sheeva are both fun to play as, and I’m glad the latter is playable after I loved her re-design in the main story. Robocop is inserted into the story surprisingly well, too; far better than The Terminator was. Murphy’s mixed up in all this because he’s after Kano for dealing guns in Old Detroit, and his fight intros make it clear he’s ingratiated himself with the good guys in a friendly, give-and-take relationship and is out to arrest any villains he comes across. Finally we have Fujin, who like I said before has some good intros and a neat ladder ending; unlike his brother Raiden he’s looser and more easy-going, and has spent a lot of time living among mortals in an attempt to understand their lives and struggles. He’s not as fun to play as, but he has some interesting normals and special moves, which are something I don’t usually bother with; I’m more combo focused in MK.

So that’s Aftermath; it’s definitely good, but I think it’s currently too expensive for what it is. I traded in my physical copy of MK11 and the only DLC I bought was Shang Tsung, so I got a good deal paying £50 for the game, the Kombat pass and Aftermath. But at £35 for the three characters and five chapters if you already own the other two parts, that’s too much for this. If you like MK11 and you’re still playing it then definitely get this, but wait for a price drop. If you don’t own MK11 or its DLC, this is the version to get; it’s basically the Game of the Year version.

By James Lambert
@jameslambert18

John Wick Hex Review

Strategy shooter John Wick Hex announced - Gamersyde

A John Wick videogame seems like a bad idea to me. Don’t get me wrong; I adore the man and his three films, really I do, but Wick’s style of combat doesn’t lend itself well to a free-movement action game where the player can act, for lack of a better term, out of character (See Payday 2). So John Wick Hex caught my eye when it was released last year on PC: a grid-based, tactical action puzzle game, with limits on actions and movement as a key gameplay mechanic. It came out on PS4 recently so I finally got to give a go.

Winston and Charon have been kidnapped by the titular Hex: a mysterious, powerful underworld figure with a vendetta against The High Table, who plans to kill the two on the steps of the Continental to show off his power. This is in retaliation for The High Table killing his Father, an act Winston vocally deems entirely justified. Hex chatting with his captives acts as a framing device for flashbacks of John moving from location to location seeking info on his captive friends, dismantling Hex’s empire in the process. That’s it really. No one speaks during levels except Charon, Winston and Hex discussing something pertinent to that location; John remains silent for the whole affair, and the game ends on a brief, unfulfilling note. The idea of an individual potentially able to rival The High Table is an interesting one, but they don’t do enough with it; he’s just a big villain John can kill while still in the employ of The High Table, rather than have him fight other assassins as he does in the films.

Fortunately, the gameplay has a lot more to offer. John moves on a grid made up of dots rather than large squares, and crucially rather than a turn system, everything instead takes time. Enemies act at the same time as you; they take time to move, aim and shoot, as does John. This is used to your advantage with a variety of moves you can pull off: crouching to present a smaller target and improve your accuracy, rolling, parrying, striking and performing takedowns on enemies as well as pushing them forward; it’s up to you to decide what the best action is at any given time. These actions all use up your Focus bar; refilling it is a brief action but still takes time, and running out of focus by performing the more elaborate melee moves or getting melee’d yourself leaves you only able to shoot. Firing a gun takes an amount of time relative to the type of gun and model; pistols quickly fire twice for low damage, revolvers take longer for more damage, machine pistols and SMGs fire five times and take a while, powerful shotguns and carbines take a second to line up the shot but hit for high damage. It all comes down to positioning and timing; popping into cover as an enemy’s about to fire, stepping out to cap them when they’ve broken their aim to reposition, performing takedowns when you’re close enough and parrying enemies with a quick chop to the throat when they’re about to attack. There are melee-only enemies too, and both they and their armed colleagues increase in health and damage as the game goes on. John always starts with a handgun and two full magazines, but apart from any guns smuggled in by The Continental all guns only have their current ammo available, and must be swapped out when empty. This does punch a hole in John’s propensity for planning, but it’s a gameplay mechanic so I’ll let it slide. I do have a few bigger issues though: some of the time requirements don’t seem to make much sense and are only there for gameplay reasons, namely some guns taking longer to fire than others, when in the films John is lightning quick with any and everything he uses. Revolvers in particular take a lot longer to fire than pistols despite them both being handguns, to the point where I was reticent to use them. Some guns will also fire a set number of bullets regardless of which one kills your target: SMGs and Machine Pistols might kill an enemy with the first shot then let off four additional ones at nothing, costing you precious ammo as a martial artist strides up behind you planning to judo throw you. Also you can’t run, so when you step out into one of many ambushes and want to retreat to a safe spot you have to waddle away like you’ve shat yourself as a conga line of enemies follow at a similar pace. Each level ends with a boss who takes and gives a lot of punishment, but can easily be felled by just repeatedly twatting them until they run out of focus (strikes cost nothing), shoot them while they wander off to refocus then take them down so they’re defenceless for more shots. I beat the final boss that way, it was pretty anticlimactic really.

Having said all that, the game does do a good job of making you feel like John Wick, particularly when things are flowing well. The movement, shooting and melee attacks all feel as authentic to the films as they can given the limitations put on John to serve the gameplay. It’s my favourite kind of puzzle game; one where every puzzle is “These people are alive” and every solution is murder. I’m a big fan of John Wick and despite some frustrating elements I think this game does a good job of putting you in his shoes. It’s just a shame the gameplay isn’t matched by its story, which introduces interesting elements that are all just thrown over a balcony at the end. If you want a puzzle game based around timing and position in combat, and if you’re a fan of the films, give this a go.

By James Lambert
@jameslambert18

Streets of Rage 4 Review

Streets of Rage 4 | Nintendo Switch download software | Games ...

Sidescrolling beat ’em ups are a genre of games I don’t have a whole lot of experience with, but I do enjoy them. I loved Mother Russia Bleeds, I like the original Final Fight and I adored the Scott Pilgrim game back before it fell off the face of the Earth. I’ve been meaning to try River City Girls for a while now, but before that I decided to give Streets of Rage 4 a go: the latest instalment in a beloved series I’ve merely dipped my toes in before, with an art style that drew me in, high praise from Jim Sterling and a pedigree that offers a degree of safety.

Ten years after “Mr X” was defeated, his children; the white-haired, white-clad Y Twins are planning to control the minds of everyone in Wood Oak City, enlisting the help of a corrupt police force. A collection of brawlers stand in their way; ex-detectives Blaze and Axel (the two all-rounders), young rock star Cherry (the quick but weak one) and big, mechanical armed Floyd (the slow but strong one) with a fifth unlocking partway through: Cherry’s Dad and Axel’s old friend Adam (also an all-rounder). The story is kept entirely in voiceless slideshows between missions, but that’s all the game needs really, and the environments and enemies do a lot of the heavy lifting. The game’s aesthetic is a sort of 80s Cyberpunk type thing; there are robotics and high technology but they’re used sparingly, and there’s a definite layer of grime on most areas but they’re far from dilapidated. Oak Wood City feels like a place normal people live that’s also in the grip of a criminal empire. It’s vague enough to feel timeless but its aesthetic is familiar enough to enhance everything that’s going on. The art style is lovely, too; it’s an animated, cartoony art style with really sharp, high-res character models and a lot of detail on top of being bright and colourful. The locations vary from sewers, a police station and a cargo ship to an art gallery, a fight on top of a train and a jaunt through Chinatown culminating in a boss fight on a roof top terrace. It looks great, it sounds great, and it has that nice, simple beat ’em up plot of taking to the streets to beat up criminals until you get to their boss.

Gameplay wise, it’s quite a simple affair. You can do a combo, you can grab enemies by getting close to them and then attack, throw or slam them based on your position, which can be changed with the jump button. You can use weapons and you have three types of special move. Firstly you can double-tap a direction and attack, secondly you can press a dedicated button either by itself or with a direction, which drains your health but you can reclaim it by attacking enemies, Bloodborne-style, and finally you can use stars found in levels to use big, unblockable AOE supers. Unfortunately it doesn’t go for some of the modern conveniences found in other beat ’em ups; you can’t dodge or block; the only way to avoid attacks is to just move out of the way, either left or right or away or towards the screen. Cherry is the only character who can sprint, so everyone else has to slowly walk around to avoid threats, and the use of planes to dictate enemy placement means that I would often be swinging at an enemy, realise they weren’t on the same plane as me, try to move then attack but the game only recognised the second input so I’d just continue swinging in grand futility until the enemy in question jump kicked me. It’s frustrating, but once you get used to it it stops being a problem. It’s also eased by the combat itself being so crunchy and satisfying, even when you’re doing the same combo repeatedly. Also worth mentioning is the game’s approach to lives and checkpoints: you start with two in most levels and can earn more by reaching certain score milestones, both by picking up items and beating enemies. There are plenty of health pick ups, but there are no checkpoints; you die, you restart the level. This can be annoying if you’re stuck on a tough section or boss, but is mitigated by two factors: firstly most of the levels are short, secondly you can choose to restart the level at any time with more lives and starts in exchange for your score being decreased. As tough as things got I never had to take that option; I did get stuck now and then but it has that “One more go” quality that the best difficult games have.

So that’s Streets of Rage 4: frustrating at times, but a satisfying beat ’em up that looks great and is, crucially, fun to play.

UPDATE: Just quickly; one thing I forgot to mention and one correction to make. Firstly there’s an enemy type that holds a knife out in front of them and charges at you; they’re really annoying and there’s a room full of them in the chinatown level that’s utterly hellish. They don’t ruin the game or anything but they’re never fun to fight. Secondly I was wrong about there not being a dodge: there is one but only Adam can do it. I’d only played as him once so I’d forgotten, but as I write this I’m replaying levels, gave him a go and realised. So my bad.

By James Lambert
@jameslambert18

Final Fantasy 7 Remake Review

Final Fantasy 7 Launch Guide: Where To Find It In Stock, Special ...

Final Fantasy 7 Remake is, as the name suggests, a remake of Final Fantasy 7. Part of it, anyway; it’s the first in a remake series of currently indeterminate length. Unlike a lot of people my age I didn’t grow up with FF7, but I’ve played a chunk of the PS4 port, read up on some of the characters and plot points and I find the whole thing really interesting. Please note that I’m not going to go in-depth about the changes made to the story because it’d be very spoilery and I don’t think it’s necessary for this review. All I’ll say is this: I liked the ending. I know some people are real mad about it but I thought it was fine, and I’m intrigued by the set up. Anyway, on to the stuff I will talk about.

The game takes place in the city of Midgar; made up of a slum for the poor people on ground level, a huge metal pizza for the rich people to live on above, and several reactors placed around that siphon “Mako”; the very lifeblood of the planet that can be converted into a power source. Responsible for all this is the Shinra Corporation; a power company who runs the city with an iron fist, whose will is enforced by a surprisingly varied, militaristic security force. Opposing them is the eco-terrorist group Avalanche, in particular a splinter cell led by a man named Barret. You are Cloud; formerly a member of Shinra’s Mako-enhanced SOLDIER force, now a mercenary working security for Barret’s Avalanche as they infiltrate and blow up a Mako reactor. The story focuses heavily on its characters, their relationships and their motivations. Barret is a charismatic, exuberant man who adores his daughter, cares deeply for the people under his command and wholeheartedly believes in his quest to save the planet from Shinra. Shinra themselves come close to being cartoonishly evil, but manage to just pull it back from the edge and remain a group you can take seriously, one that is thoroughly malicious and awful. A company staffed with people who are either evil or complicit in evil, a distinction Barret is committed to. Cloud is aloof and distant, gradually warming up to the other members of Avalanche, who are all endearing, charming and generally adorable. Rounding out the main cast are Aerith; a young flower seller with ties to the origin of Mako and the planet’s pre-cursor to humans, and Tifa; Cloud’s childhood friend and member of Avalanche who’s not really into the whole bombing thing. She acts as the moral centre of the group for anyone who is similarly not into the collateral damage, but it’s handled really well and doesn’t clash with the prevailing view that Shinra are just utter shit. There are some lovely moments where Barret gently reminds her of just whom they’re dealing with, a stand-out being his declaration of the above statement about those who work for the company being complicit in its actions. Tifa is sort of the team Mum despite being in her twenties; a kind, loving person who cares for the community, much like Barret. She’s also an incredible martial artist who can punch robots to death. Aerith shares those personality traits, but with a sassier edge to her. There’s a lovely trait where if you enter a fight with her and Cloud together, he’ll say something like “I’ll handle this” and she’ll reply with “Don’t you mean WE’LL handle this?”, or some other reminder that she’s capable and has his back. Basically it’s a cast full of thoroughly likeable people going up against a company full of scumbags literally draining the planet dry. As someone who really likes the characters and story beats of FF7 but wanted more time spent on developing them, the story here is fantastic. A lot of time is spent with the people who inhabit this world, good and bad; the game makes sure you know exactly what kind of people Avalanche, Shinra, Aerith and Cloud are. It’s also worth pointing out that as a much longer version of an existing chunk of videogame, this remake doesn’t feel padded, at least for the most part. There’s a moment near the end when the game suddenly slows right down just as it’s ramping up, but apart from that the game feels well paced. The design of the world is great; a mix of shanty towns, suburbs and grim, cyberpunk locales. There’s an area later on that feels like something out of a Yakuza game complete with cabaret and fighting arena. The original game’s exquisite soundtrack has been beautifully recreated here, including three different versions of “Those Chosen By The Planet”, which really appealed to me personally. They knew they were onto a winner with so many elements of the original game, and they’ve augmented them all.

Gameplay wise, it’s a hybrid between a third person action game and a turn-based RPG. Everyone in your party (which is usually three people, occasionally two or just one) can be controlled directly and can attack, block and dodge freely. Everyone has an ATB meter; a two-segment bar that’s filled by attacking and blocking, which when full is exchanged for the use of powerful attacks, spells and items. Fights always present the choice of whether to use the ATB bar to launch a powerful attack that could potentially take you a big step closer to victory, or play it safe and heal, as well as cure status elements or revive fallen party members. The only way other characters can use their ATB stocks is by having the player activate skills for them; all they’ll do for themselves is attack, block and dodge. Unfortunately this also includes the alternate attacks everyone has: Cloud can enter a more powerful stance where he can only slowly walk but does more damage and blocks automatically lead into counter attacks, Tifa can charge herself up and gain access to new attacks, that sort of thing; characters won’t use these unless you take control and make them. Having such direct control is definitely nice, and teammates are helpful in fights, but it’s frustrating not even having the option to set characters to different tactics, even general ones. Each character is fun to play, although I didn’t really take to Aerith. She mainly acts as a healer but can also cast spells using her staff, though in my opinion they lack impact, especially compared to the others characters. I’m sure with the right build she can work in an offence capacity, but for me it never really worked.  There are also summons, which unlike in the original game can only be used when the game wants you to and act independently from you (apart from a couple of ATB attacks you can perform) and pull off a highly damaging last hurrah just before they vanish, dictated by a timer. The combat is good fun, particularly once you get the hang of mixing together different types of attacks and controlling each character to apply different kinds of pressure and take on different roles. The only shortcoming is some of the bosses, particularly mechanical ones being damage sponges even when you go for their weak points. The worst example for me was a quick, intense fight Cloud has near the end that then leads into Barret and Aerith fighting a big tank that takes a lot of wearing down. Also it’s a small thing, but aerial melee combat is piss. There’s no jump button, so Cloud and Tifa automatically leap into the air when you press the attack button, and while they’re up there you have no control and can’t block or anything. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does it’s weak.

This first instalment of Final Fantasy 7’s remake is excellent. The characters are all great, the story takes its time but moves along at a good pace, and the combat, despite a few issues, works really well. When I heard about Avalanche’s fight against Shinra this is the game I wanted to play. This is the Final Fantasy 7 I wanted. It delivered everything I wanted, and I can’t wait to play the next one.

By James Lambert
@jameslambert18

 

Persona 5 Royal Review

Image result for persona 5 the royal

If you’re a regular reader of this blog you may well remember me fawning over Persona 5 back in 2017, having picked it up on a whim and fallen head-over-heels in love with it. Since then I went back to Persona 4 The Golden, then spread out to two versions of Persona 3, Persona 4 Arena, and each of the three dancing game spin offs. I loved them all, and Persona has become one of my favourite series, so I’ve been very much looking forward to Persona 5 Royal; which is basically Persona 5, but more of it. Please be advised that I will be spoiling things about the original Persona 5 in order to discuss how they’ve changed for Royal, and discussing some of the additions could potentially be seen as spoilers for this new version. Personally I advocate going in completely blind whether you’ve played P5 or not, and as such I’ll provide a quick, spoiler-free summary here: I do believe this is the superior version of Persona 5. The changes made are numerous and have effects on the game ranging from minor to dramatic, and I fully recommend that fans play it and newcomers go straight to this version. Now then, on to the full review.

The story remains the same, for the most part. You are a player-named transfer student who along with an expanding group of friends forms a group called “The Phantom Thieves”, takes the code name “Joker” and sets about literally changing the hearts of awful people. There’s new dialogue, some line changes, new character portraits and two new characters, but for the most part it’s the same game. The new characters are Kasumi; a first year super-gymnast the game reveals as a Persona user in the in medias res opening, and Dr Maruki; a therapist brought in by the school after Kamoshida confesses to counsel anyone who wants it, but especially those Kamoshida directly affected. Akechi now has a confidant that’s advanced at the player’s discretion, filled with foreshadowing and offering a deeper look at both him and his relationship with Joker. Meeting certain conditions allows you to access the meatiest new content; a new semester of school and a new palace, right at the end of the game. The nature of the palace and its ruler are best kept secret, but the new content is fantastic. The game’s new final boss is a genuinely benevolent person; the archetypal “Thinks what they’re doing is right” villain, but one whose actions are rooted entirely in wanting to help people, and who many people would agree with. Whether or not you decide to go along with them or oppose what they’re doing and fight them as the final boss feels like a choice based on what you believe to be right, even if the game does lean towards one option rather than the other. Said villain is beautifully offset by (SPOILER) having a new teammate in the form of Akechi; decked out in his black mask assassin gear, utterly opposed to what the palace ruler is doing and ripping his way through any shadow that gets in his way. A sadistic, psychotic spirit in a sardonic, calm mind; no longer having to put up the facade of a champion of justice. (SPOILERS END) It also marks the point where Kasumi gets properly involved in the plot, as initially she only pops up in scripted events and for a five stage confidant. For most of the game she’s just another likeable friend to Joker, but when she gets to stretch her legs late on she really comes into her own, for reasons I won’t spoil. Maruki has his own confidant in which he listens to Joker’s issues and has the young man help him with a paper he’s writing, and he’s generally just a pleasant man really. I sought out his confidant because it’s new for Royal; I wouldn’t have prioritised it otherwise, but it is worth doing for the benefits it gives you in combat. There are also some smaller, but entirely welcome changes: the predatory gay men who drag Ryuji away instead think he’s interested in cross-dressing but is too shy to do so, so they drag him away to pick out clothes for him. Caroline and Justine now want to be taken to various locations in the human world like their sister did in P3, and Lavenza wishes to see your room late in the game. All of these interactions are equally funny and adorable. The game now tells you what kind of gifts people will like and you can give them to men this time, and during Summer break you have more options of what to do, tied into what stats you want to raise.

The changes made to the gameplay are smaller, but more numerous. Most of them are quality of life improvements: guns now completely refill after every fight, baton passing is now unlocked for everyone automatically, and can be upgraded to massively up the damage and refill the health and SP of whomever it’s passed to. There are more tutorials including one on what type of answers to give when attempting to acquire Personas, something your navigator will remind you of every time. Acquiring a Persona you already have gives yours XP, Personas have new traits that offer buffs like increased damage and halved SP costs, and there are new “Showtime” tandem moves, where at certain points like an enemy reaching a certain amount of health, or upon a baton pass two of your team, regardless of whether or not they’re in your front line will do a massively damaging team up attack. Outside of combat; every Palace has new areas, there are new shadows to fight and take as new Personas, and there are items called “Will Seeds” hidden around the place that combine into an accessory that offers a useful skill. Aiding in this is Joker’s new grappling hook, which also occasionally lets you skip past small areas from the original game. It’s used in combat, too; you can ambush enemies with it and they’ll always start off with a status effect. There’s a new enemy type called “Disaster” that exclusively counterattack, and when killed they explode and damage their teammates. The majority of the bosses have new stages to their fights, all of which suit their characters and make them more interesting fights; Madarame summons elemental copies of himself, Kaneshiro hires security guards, that sort of thing.

Persona 5 Royal is amazing. It takes everything that Persona 5 did so well and adds a whole load of quality of life improvements, scenes, dialogue, and a fantastic new palace. It adds new characters who slot in nicely and has some excellent development for one of the existing ones. This is the version of Persona 5 to play; a masterpiece made even better, a game I fully recommend to newcomers and fans of the original version alike.

By James Lambert
@jameslambert18

P.S: There’s a little boy named Jose with hair like F.F from JoJo Part 6, a matching star-patterned coat and wellies and a buggy: driving around Mementos looking for flowers. In exchange for those flowers and star-shaped stamps, he’ll respectively sell you items and change Mementos to give you more XP, money and items. Every time he meets you he says “Good job”, because he heard it’s a nice thing humans say to each other. It’s never explained who Jose is, where he came from or what his ultimate goal is. Jose rules.

In For the Long Haul: Harley Quinn Season 2

Harley Quinn Season 2 Review: Thriving in an Anarchic New Gotham ...

So this took me by surprise. When I marathoned and reviewed the 2019 Harley Quinn series the other day, I had no idea season two was so close. Given how recently I wrote about season one I’ll just go over my broad thoughts here: I loved it. The writing was excellent, it was funny, the characterisation was great, particularly for people like Clayface, Ivy and Harley herself, and I’m a big fan of stories where Harley gets away from her abusive, piece of shit ex-boyfriend and goes her own way. So let’s get into season 2.

Episode 1: New Gotham

So season 1 ended with the Joker being turned back into his normal, pre-one-bad-day self, Batman seemingly being trapped under the Clown Prince of Crime’s collapsed tower, the Justice League out of action and Gotham in flames, with Harley poised to rule. The U.S President declares that Gotham is no longer part of the United States, and three weeks later it’s a lawless, burning wasteland with a power vacuum that Ivy insists Harley fill. Harley has other ideas however; seeing the anarchy as a chance for a fresh start where everyone carves out a piece for themselves, and Gotham’s various themed goons leave their bosses’ sides and strike out on their own. In reprisal the newly formed “Injustice League” consisting of Penguin, Riddler, Bane, Mr Freeze and Two-Face intend to offer Harley the dregs left over after they’ve divided the city, but after she turns them down they instead trap her in a block of ice and put her on display in Penguin’s Iceberg Lounge. Meanwhile; Robin has unconvincingly attempted to take Batman’s place, complete with a Batsuit that’s too big and a crap Batman voice. Gordon’s men (and Cheryl) abandon him, with some of them becoming goons, which leads to Gordon throwing his badge into the sea (classic) and falling into despair. Harley’s crew rescue her from the Iceberg Lounge and after a brief fight Harley bites off Penguin’s nose and brutally murders him by stabbing the broken handle of her bat up through his chin. Turns out she was frozen for two months and the Injustice League have split the city as they intended. The episode ends with the reveal that Bruce Wayne was pulled from the ruins of Joker’s tower and is now in a coma.

I for one didn’t expect the new season to kick into gear so quickly. Harley’s adversaries are established and then five minutes later she’s straight up murdered one of them in bloody, bloody fashion. I like that though; after she bit his nose off I was hoping she’d do him in and I’m glad it went that way. Good episode overall: the early parts with the goons supposedly going their own way but just becoming knock-offs of their bosses (“It’s pretty rough out there, okay? I had to fight five new question-based villains.”) was great, Harley has Bud and Lou now and I’m always pleased to see them pop up, and the jokes are still funny. The episode packed a lot into its run time, and it did feel like it was in a hurry sometimes but I appreciate how eager it is to get things going, and as I said I’m glad she killed Penguin after the fight had started. Good start, looking forward to seeing where this season goes.

Episode 2: Riddle U

Next up: The Riddler. Harley’s Mall hideout has no power; Dr Psycho’s been making zoo animals into candles (and hats) to compensate, but it’s only a temporary solution and the water is brown and filled with mice who make noises from Persona. The only person in New New Gotham with power is The Riddler, who’s hoarding it all at Gotham University; re-branded as “Riddle U”. Fortunately Harley has a plan: she and Ivy will go undercover as students, track the Riddler down and do him in, a plan Clayface gets in on much to their annoyance. Psycho and King Shark set off to solve the other problem by stealing a water filter. Surprisingly, Clayface ingratiates himself into campus society swiftly and easily, and Harley and Ivy, who are both in makeup to make themselves have a Caucasian skin tone, which looks weird on both of them, stumble upon Barbara Gordon living in the dorms with her father, who’s crashing with her. They track the Riddler to a frat party used to kidnap students and have them run in giant hamster wheels, and manage to knock out and capture him with help from Barbara, who’s a fledgling vigilante in her own right. Psycho and Shark are set upon by Two-Face’s old timey, wise guy goons but escape by making an A-Team-style war vehicle complete with minigun and giant spike. Unfortunately they run afoul of goons in Baneton, but manage to beat them off-screen. Harley and Ivy force the Riddler to run in a giant hamster wheel for them, and Quinn considers him dealt with; crossing him off her revenge board. The episode ends with Gordon lamenting the lack of Batman to protect Gotham and passing out, as Barbara hears a commotion outside and leaps out the window to intervene in her proto-Batgirl gear.

Overall this episode had its moments, but was largely just okay. I feel like the campus infiltration had more room for shenanigans but on that front was limited to Clayface being embroiled in a “Will-they-won’t-they” with an off screen popular boy. Psycho and Shark’s side story was fun, largely due to the old timey Two-Face goons (“You got moxie but we got guns. You’re surrounded, see?”), and it had some nice moments like when Barbara puts on music to mask her conversation with Harley and Ivy, who can’t help but dance to said music while maintaining a serious face. The whole thing just felt like a bit of a damp squib compared to everything that’s come previously, but it wasn’t a bad episode. The best thing about it was easily Barbara Gordon: her introduction was really well done, she fits into this universe nicely and having her take up the Bat-mantle suits this show’s focus on female DC characters and viewing the universe through their eyes.

Episode 3: Trapped

Next on the list: Mr Freeze. Unfortunately his gimmick, namely impenetrable walls of ice, prevents Harley’s crew from getting to him, but two dopey henchmen accidentally reveal that Firefly’s flamethrower could do the job, and it’s currently being held by Dr Trap in the history museum. A museum heist calls for a professional burglar, and who better than Catwoman: here a woman of colour (good stuff), and unflappable but completely aloof super-burglar who turns Ivy into a awe-struck fangirl hanging on her every word. Meanwhile; Dr Psycho has been put in charge of watching the Riddler, and immediately cocks up by rising to the villain’s provocations and throwing a bunch of skincare products at him, which he then uses to slip out of his restraint. The night of the heist, Kiteman drops off Harley and Ivy and then confides in the latter that he’s coming along too, despite his fear of traps, to steal a leaf-shaped diamond ring with which to propose to Ivy. Harley is against this idea, thinking that Ivy can do better, but takes him along anyway and eventually agrees with it, having warmed up to him. Catwoman effortlessly moves through the museum, deactivating every trap while throwing out tidbits of conversation that Ivy latches onto like she’s desperately trying to impress her. Eventually they reach the flamethrower and Catwoman buggers off, but not before revealing that she stole Kiteman’s ring. He proposes anyway, but Ivy isn’t sure she even wants to get married, and if she does this definitely isn’t the right time. Harley rescues the three of them out of being crushed by a glass box by melting their way out with the flamethrower and clobbering Dr Trap. Ivy winds down by “Getting back to her roots” and brutally dissolving each member of ACE Chemical’s board of directors with toxic waste, in retaliation for them dumping waste in the river. Back at the mall it turns out that the Riddler only broke out to torment Psycho, and that he’s actually content with his current situation and will escape when he’s good and ready. The episode ends with Ivy visiting Kiteman and getting him to propose again, insisting she’s ready this time.

This episode was as good as last week’s: not the heights this show is capable of, but still good. Catwoman being a person of colour was nice, and I like her as a sort of flawless super burglar effortlessly flowing through the museum; she’s like a character that would show up for one episode of Archer to make him look bad.  My only issue is that her character seemed tailored to this one specific encounter; to deal with Ivy’s infatuation with her and her way of living, which is squashed by the end of the episode when she demonstrates that she’s actually a bit shit and not worth emulating. Time will tell I suppose; it’s not like she couldn’t come back, it just feels like it didn’t leave things open for her to be a recurring character. Elsewhere, I liked the look at Ivy, a character whose deep seated misanthropy has left her with exactly one friend and one romantic partner, being manipulated by someone cool she wants attention from, that was an interesting angle. The B plot with Psycho losing the Riddler didn’t really add anything beyond the set up that Riddler will eventually escape, but it was fine. I’m a big fan of Ivy melting dodgy executives with toxic waste, and the hand-holding her and Harley do afterwards, because I’m rooting for their romantic relationship from the comic. That’s it really. Good episode, I’d say the weakest so far this season but this show’s weakest is by no means bad.

Episode 4: Thawing Hearts

Having acquired Firefly’s super powerful flamethrower, Harley melts her way into Mr Freeze’s compound by way of a giant ice vagina. Herself, Psycho, Clayface and King Shark discuss who they’ll be taking to Ivy’s upcoming wedding with Kiteman (in Harley’s case, no one) while effortlessly slaughtering a bunch of hockey stick-wielding Freeze goons, only for the main man himself to appear, freeze them and trap them in a cell. He regales them with his iconic circumstances: his wife Nora has a rare disease and he froze her while he’s looking for a cure. He’s been testing a potential solution on snow rats, who apparently share 98% of their DNA with humans, but it’s only resulted in a small mountain of rat corpses (the reveal of which causes two rats to exclaim “Cheese and crackers!”). Fortunately for Freeze, he now has the ideal test subject: a human woman. Not wanting to be a part of Victor’s clearly subpar biological testing skills, Harley instead offers to rope Ivy in to work on a potential cure, which he accepts. It’s merely a bluff however, as Harley doesn’t buy the story about Nora’s illness and instead believes that Freeze, much like the Joker, is a monstrous, controlling arsehole who froze Nora in order to have control over her. Unfortunately she didn’t anticipate that in this case at least, it’s a traditional Gotham story, and upon unfreezing her learns that Nora is indeed dying. Incensed, Freeze declares that if Ivy cannot find a cure, he will blow up the building and kill everyone in it. While this has all been happening, Ivy and Kiteman are touring a wedding venue the latter has been dreaming of for years. Throwing a spanner in the works is the arrival of Kiteman’s nemesis Condiment King (because of course he is), who is also touring the venue and winning over the guide. Ivy and Kiteman have to leave to work on the cure and fetch a flower sample respectively. Ivy manages it, but the process requires someone to change their blood type to Nora’s rare one and give her a transfusion, which will kill them. Mr Freeze gladly accepts, and gives his life to save Nora. The episode ends with Condiment King taunting Kiteman about his acquisition of the wedding venue, and Ivy declaring that she thinks he’s also her nemesis now, too.

This episode was a lot more consistently enjoyable than the previous two. The only real weakness was the b plot with Ivy and Kiteman touring the venue, but it was brief and harmless. Freeze is an interesting one, because despite technically being a villain he is well-intentioned and benevolent compared to the rest of Batman’s rogues gallery. He points out that the rest of the Injustice League wanted to kill Harley but he convinced them to let him freeze her instead, relying on them being cis, straight white men desiring power over a woman. He’s funny, too; asking Psycho to describe the mouthfeel of the lunch he provides the crew to make up for the fact that Freeze can’t eat hot food, and his backstory involving Nora working for a “Mom n Pop cryogenics lab”. His actions in the episode cause Harley to re-evaluate her stance on “True love” and realise that it doesn’t have to be like the awful, abusive relationship she had with The Joker. Having her believe, based on her experiences, that Freeze is actually holding Nora captive makes sense, and leads to some good character development, and a way to have Freeze bow out at the end of the episode without just being killed. Good episode.

Episode 5: Batman’s Back, Man

This week’s episode starts with a framing device taking the piss out of the kind of people on the internet who cry “SJW WOKE VIRTUE SIGNALLING!” whenever a woman, person of colour or queer person appears in a work of fiction, and I’m all for that kind of thing. Bonus points for simultaneously showing exactly what DC thinks of the people who won’t shut up about the “Snyder Cut” of Justice League. The episode proper starts with Bruce Wayne waking up from the coma he’s been in since the end of season 1 and being greeted with a serene, undamaged Gotham landscape…which turns out to be a big screen which almost immediately falls over, revealing Gotham’s true state. Bruce and Alfred meet with Jim Gordan, who wants funding for police officers and a codpiece that fires a tiny missile, which doesn’t exist “…yet.” Gordon also informs Bruce of two vigilantes holding things down in Batman’s absence; Batgirl, and a foppish dandy called “The Macaroni”. Worrying that Batgirl dying while wearing the Bat symbol would throw the city even further into the depths of despair, he meets up with her in an attempt to talk her down. It backfires spectacularly when Batgirl shows off Batman on a livestream, resulting in the public and media celebrating the apparent return of The Bat. His hand forced, Bruce has Lucius Fox build him what is basically a Batman-themed Mark 43 Iron Man suit, to aid with the physical issues keeping Bruce from returning to action. Worried about Batman’s apparent return, Two-Face offers Bane a 50-50 partnership, though is clearly given advantage of him given that their branding is a just a picture of Two-Face with their team name; “Two-Faces” written next to him. Batman agrees that Harvey is the one really in charge, which makes a furious Bane pump himself full of more and more venom, beating the shit out of Bats even with the suit and brutally breaking both his legs. Two-Face’s goons are about to finish him off when The Macaroni, who’s revealed to be Alfred, and Batgirl, arrive to rescue Bruce. Two-Face manages to talk Bane down, and takes him to a giant hole in the ground in the desert, which Bane is genuinely thankful for. The episode ends with Batman, in a chair no less, meeting with Gordon on the GCPD roof and informing him that Batgirl will be acting as Jim’s new partner while Bats recovers.

At the start of this episode I was a little worried. The description of it in the framing device states that Harley and Ivy don’t appear in it, which they don’t, and as the episode went on I was worried Batman was going to make an actual return and just sort everything out. I should have realised, being several episodes into season 2 of this show, that it wasn’t going to go that way. Harley and Ivy don’t appear, and the episode doesn’t have the character development of this season’s previous instalments, but it layered the comedy on thick, and had a grand old time at Bruce Wayne’s expense. He’s so hurt he can’t put his own socks on, something Alfred uses to hammer in that he can’t go back to being Batman yet, thinks throwing a sheet over the massive, robotic Batman suit will be enough to stop Alfred from discovering it, and after his legs have been shattered and he’s lying in a pool of blood he laments “Why didn’t you wake up and stop me, Alfred?” It’s nice to have Jim Gordon back to, albeit briefly, I particularly enjoyed his list of what’s needed to bring back order to Gotham (the aforementioned cops and missile codpiece, which Lucius’ robot suit has), and the exchange “What, have you been in a coma all this time?”
“No! I’ve been…doing stuff.”
“Ha! You playboys, always doing stuff. Must be nice.”
Most importantly though, I’m glad they decided to keep Bruce out of action to make way for Batgirl. Her introduction was the best part of episode 2, and fits this show’s approach to the DCU with a female viewpoint, and this is the best way to thrust her into the limelight. This episode started as a funny interlude explaining what Batman’s up to and ended as another important piece of the on-going plot, and I loved it. I am looking forward to having Harley and Ivy back next week though.

Episode 6: All the Best Inmates Have Daddy Issues

While out drinking, Harley and Ivy discover the now normal Joker working behind the bar, though he clearly doesn’t remember who they are. Ivy insists on killing him because no one change deep down, which causes Harley to argue that point by way of an episode-long flashback to when they first met. On Dr Harleen Quinzel’s first day at Arkham Asylum she meets District Attorney Harvey Dent, who’s obsessed with re-election at all costs, and a younger, clean-cut Jim Gordon, both of whom reveal that they didn’t hand pick her based on her study of The Joker, but because there’s no one left for the job and they need the location of a bomb. Harleen also befriends an angry, misanthropic Poison Ivy by sneaking her a plant cutting, which pays off later. Anyway, Dr Quinzel tries the direct approach of entering Joker’s cell and talking to him directly, countering his numerous attempts to hold her hostage and kill her with a pen by putting him on his arse with her gymnastic and hand-to-hand skills. But this is clearly going nowhere, so Batman re-creates the interrogation scene from The Dark Knight and beats Joker to a pulp, incensed by the Clown Prince bringing up his murder of Jason Todd. When this fails to work Harley, inspired by Ivy’s time in group in therapy with Joker, tries one last tactic: trick Joker into opening up about his family. He does so, with an elaborate story about his Father making his pet ferret disappear and beating him in response to little Joker catching his Father having an affair with their maid. In exchange for being able to eat a meal in the cafeteria Joker gives up the location of the bomb: “The Heart of Little Italy”. Batman and the police race off to disarm it (with Gordon carpooling; crammed in behind the Batmobile’s front seats), as back at the asylum Joker reveals its actual location: inside the heart of Luigi, Arkham’s Chef known by the nickname Little Italy. The explosion blows a hole in the wall, through which Joker escapes with Harley over his shoulders in a fireman’s carry to block any potential shots a sniper may have. Unfortunately, Harvey Dent orders the sniper to shoot anyway, fearing his re-election being hampered by Joker escaping, but Ivy pops up and blocks the shot with plant life.  Joker declares that he always knew Ivy had a soft spot for him but Ivy shuts him up: she’s here for Harleen, and expresses a desire to be treated by her. As the Joker and Ivy are returned to the asylum, Dent tries to smooth things over with Harleen, but in return she spits in his face, gives him the finger and creates his famous future moniker: “Fuck off, Two-Face”. Back in the present, Harley puts the full stop on her point: she changed Ivy from a misanthrope unwilling to trust anyone to the woman she is now. Ivy points out that hadn’t been that way all her life; just once her Father made her first plant disappear and beat her; the real life story Joker stole and made his own to fool Harleen. The episode ends with Dr Psycho reading Joker’s mind and stating he’s completely forgotten his past self, something that is possibly undone as seen when he receives a text from his girlfriend’s children and laughs maniacally. After leaving the bar, Ivy and Harley are kidnapped by Two-Face and his goons.

This was a good episode; I loved that what initially appears to be the origin story of Harley and Joker’s relationship is actually the story of how Harley and Ivy became friends. Joker’s involvement is due to him being so involved in the affairs of Gotham City, and represents how the present Joker kept stringing Harley along while Ivy exasperatedly tried to pull them apart back in season 1. This is a show about Harley carving her own path through life in general and Gotham’s underworld in particular as well as her friendship with Ivy, and The Joker will always force his way into that story because of the damage he’s done to Harley. That’s why it’s so good that the show paints The Joker as the abusive monster he is, and spends so much time on Harley’s relationship with Ivy and the people who care about her. Elsewhere it was nice to see this universe’s version of the Long Halloween Batman/Dent/Gordon team up, Dent’s obsession with winning over voters, and Jim’s attempts to be friends with Batman:
“So, got any plans for tonight, Batman?”
“Uh, stop Joker from blowing up Gotham.”
“Yeah! Of course. I meant like after that.”
Good stuff.

Episode 7: There’s No Place to Go But Down

This episode had a decidedly season finale feel to it for me, even though it isn’t. Two-Face forces Harley and Ivy into a kangaroo court show trial with Bane as the unbiased (much to Dent’s chagrin) judge and Man-Bat as their lawyer, who’s trying his best but no one can understand him. Harley pleads with Ivy to pin it all on her, but the latter refuses and admits to their teaming up to take out the Injustice League. They’re sentenced to life in prison in the huge hole from the end of episode 5, which turns out to be A) Pena Duro; Bane’s birthplace from the comics and B) actually surprisingly structured and focused on inmate rehabilitation despite being a giant pit in the middle of nowhere. Bane seems to be doing a good job, having made great strides with Victor Zsasz and Killer Croc, but Harley and Ivy want out, planning to do so when George Lopez helicopters in for an upcoming talent show. Meanwhile Jim Gordon and Batgirl go after Ratcatcher, who’s dealing weapons from the sewers, but the plan goes awry when a drunken Gordon alerts to the villain to their presence. During dinner at their home, Barbara tries to get her Dad to stop drinking but he doesn’t see it as an issue, and their conversation is interrupted by Two-Face. Realising the pain he’s caused his daughter and lamenting his fall from grace, Jim throws his empty gun down and attempts to go out looking Harvey in the eye, but Batgirl saves him and reveals her true identity, to her Father’s proud realisation that she’s the one who’s been protecting Gotham in Batman’s absence. After lampshading the process, Jim and Barbara pour all the former’s booze away and comb his hair, which is enough to make him fully get over his alcoholism, and he dons his old beat uniform with a plan to take the GCPD back from Two-Face. Back in Pena Duro the Lopez helicopter plan falls through when Ivy’s intended riot-staring stand up doesn’t work, so she instead launches into a heartfelt speech about how life is just a never-ending series of pits from which their is no long-term escape. This does cause a riot, and the assorted inmates begin piling rubble up the wall to escape. Jim returns to the GCPD pistols akimbo and messily blows away all of Harvey’s goons, then has a short but brutal fight with the man himself before handcuffing him and locking him in a cell. You’re a damn good cop, Jim Gordon. Finally Harley and Ivy are about to escape on a vine when Bane venoms up and grabs them, Harley’s solution being to let go of Ivy and sacrifice herself to save her friend; swan diving peacefully into the inferno below. Of course Ivy’s having none of that and bungies back in on the aforementioned vine, pulling them both out of the hole. The episode ends with Harley and Ivy kissing, then staring at each other in shock.

This was another great episode; possibly the best this season. At first I was worried that things were moving too quickly when the courtroom scene was over so soon, but I think the episode actually used its running time really well. The reveal of the exact nature of Bane’s big hole in the ground was great and added an extra layer to his character; he’s genuinely benevolent and helpful when he wants to be, it’s just that most people see him as a goofy screw-up. It was also nice to see some cameos from other Batman villains; Zsasz and Croc I mentioned, but I also noticed Professor Pyg in the stand-up crowd and there were probably more besides. The stuff with Jim and Barbara Gordon, while brushing over certain elements of the drama for comedic effect did have a real emotional punch to it, and I’m glad Jim managed to shift back towards his old self whilst still carrying the distinct flavour of this series. Finally, Harley and Ivy’s relationship goes from strength to strength, and I’m so glad they’ve moved into their romantic relationship from the comics. Time will tell as to where exactly it goes, given Ivy’s engaged to Kiteman and all, but I love where it’s going and I’m looking forward to next episode.

Episode 8: Inner (Para)Demons

With the In-Justice League dealt with, Gordon calls up the President to get Gotham re-instated into the United States. The POTUS states that before that can happen, Gordon needs to deal with the city’s biggest threat: Harley Quinn. Ivy insists that the kiss was just a spur-of-the-moment adrenaline rush and nothing more, something that Harley agrees with in an exaggerated, manic fashion to hide how upset she is, citing it as part of her character because she’s impulsive and just kisses people sometimes (this becomes a running gag as she kisses Psycho, Batgirl and King Shark). Hearing from Batgirl that Gordon has amassed an army of Gothamites to take her down Harley, with help from an enthusiastic Psycho, steals a Mother Box from Mr Miracle and Boom Tubes to Apokolips to ask Darkseid (voiced by Michael Ironside) for an army of Parademons. Darkseid senses Harley’s internal pain over “A want that was not met” but relents when she insists everything’s fine, and he offers her an army under the condition that she defeat Granny Goodness in combat. Harley can’t do it by herself because the old lady she was expecting is actually a New God same as Darkseid. Clayface, King Shark and Psycho are forbidden from fighting alongside their boss, but Psycho gets around this by taking control of her and having her smash a huge rock over Goodness’ head, winning the fight. Harley is given her sceptre, making her the new commander of the Parademons. While this is happening, Ivy and Kiteman are having brunch with his awful dickhead parents, who take to Pamela immediately upon realising she has legit superpowers like them, and isn’t lame pretender like their disappointing son. Ivy understandably takes offence to this, and in no uncertain terms chews them out and tells them to fuck off. Harley’s Parademons and Gordon’s rag-tag group meet in combat, with the former effortlessly slaughtering the latter. Ivy intervenes, asking Harley if this is really what she wants, causing her to snap the sceptre and dejectedly hand control of the city back to Gordon. This causes Psycho to quit the crew in disgust, having been pushing the world domination angle pretty hard. Harley’s all ready to confess her feelings to Ivy when Kiteman interrupts and Ivy kisses him and muses on how much she loves him. The episode ends with Harley saying that actually she wanted to talk about Ivy’s bachelorette party, her face contorting in a pained, fake smile.

This was a great episode; funny to be sure but primarily focused on drama and character. To that end; poor, poor Harley. She’s spent this whole time trying to take over Gotham, and just as it’s within her grasp she throws it away for a terminated love confession, as the woman who means the most to her in the world flaunts how much she loves her fiance. Admittedly she herself realised the exact method of taking over the city wasn’t ideal, but she was still so close to what she wanted. It makes sense though, I wasn’t expecting Ivy to just drop Kiteman to be with Harley, but it doesn’t make it sting any less. I’m a fan of Harley Quinn in general but in particular I’m very fond of this version, so it sucks to see things just go up in flames for her. Good episode, looking forward to the next one.

Episode 9: Bachelorette 

Harley, Ivy, Mrs Freeze, Ivy’s friend Jennifer and Catwoman all head to Themyscira for a bachelorette party in an invisible plane, because apparently that’s a facet of Amazon life not limited to Wonder Woman. Much to Ivy’s surprise the island is oddly corporate and commercialised, lead by a woman named Eris. Meanwhile, Kiteman’s having a bachelor party on a boat out at sea. It’s got everything: a jigsaw, the soundtrack to Big Momma’s House 2, Clayface saying “Heavens to Betsy”, but it’s interrupted by a Jamaican lobster named Samson who insists that “Nanaue” (King Shark) return to the ocean to fulfil his arranged marriage to a hammerhead shark woman called Tabitha, to unite two clans and prevent a war. Also because in the sea you can shit all you want and no one minds. King Shark stands up to his Father and declares that neither he nor Tabitha want to get married. Meanwhile Harley and Ivy get drunk and have sex, which despite them both enjoying, Ivy insists is a mistake and locks herself in her room. Harley coaxes her out and reveals stage two of the bachelorette party: Eris has hypnotised queen Hippolyta in order to sign a merger with Lex Luthor to further commercialise Themyscira, and they’re going to kill her to break the spell. They manage to do so easily, with surprising skill on the part of Nora and Jennifer, and in return Hippolyta throws “A fucking rager” to celebrate, resulting in Harley and Ivy once again getting drunk and having sex. Harley makes the case to Ivy that they could be together, travelling the world saving the environment, helping out other women and getting free stuff, and that she loves her. King Shark returns to the boat and reveals that despite telling off his Father, he still got married. Only publicly though, to stop the conflict: he and Tabitha will both pursue other relationships, and he seeks a soul mate. Finally Ivy’s party returns to the mainland, and she tells Harley that she’s thought about her offer but rejects it on the grounds that she trusts her with her life, but not her heart. She flies off with Kiteman as Harley breaks down and cries on the steps of the invisible plane.

Christ, this one was rough. In a good way though. Harley’s pained grin just before the credits hit last episode was bad, having her sob over the start of the credits this episode was worse. It had some good laughs and action though; Ivy pulling up her sleeve to reveal the “Cobb Squad” tattoo she drunkenly had done and the reveal that no one else, not even Harley, got one was great. Harley finally wore the “Head Bitch in Charge” hat from the key art seen above, and her corralling the other party guests into getting smashed and the subsequent fight was good. Apparently in the comics Harley and Ivy are polyamorous but it makes sense to not take that route here for the purposes of drama, and I’m not sure where things will go from here. Presumably they will get together at some point but I have a feeling Harley’s in for a lot more pain on the way there. Good episode.

By James Lambert
@jameslambert18