While superheroes may have taken over Hollywood, the video-game world has been harder for them to conquer.
Sure, recent games featuring Iron Man and Spider-Man have sold well, but they haven't fired up gamers the way that a typical "Grand Theft Auto" or "Madden NFL" release does.
Maybe that's because video-game protagonists are already superpowered. A tough customer like Marcus Fenix ("Gears of War") or Master Chief ("Halo") could probably kick Batman all the way back to the Batcave.
Gamers like their heroes homegrown — although comic-book stars are welcome in the virtual world, if the game's done right.
— "Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe" (Midway, for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, $59.99): Here's one of those "what if?" scenarios that comic-book writers love so much: Who would win a fight between Sub-Zero and Superman? Or Kitana and Catwoman?
Yes, it's 11 popular "Mortal Kombat" fighters vs. 11 of DC Comics' famous heroes and villains.
Midway has added a few new twists: Characters can pound each other through walls and fight in midair, and the developers have toned down the violence to get a teen-friendly rating.
As always with this genre, it's much more fun to play against a friend than against the computer.
"MK vs. DCU" is decent fan service, but it won't hold the interest of anyone who doesn't care about both ends of its equation. Two stars out of four.
— "Spider-Man: Web of Shadows" (Activision, for the Xbox 360, PS3, $59.99; Wii, $49.99; PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable, $39.99; Nintendo DS, $29.99): Remember the black-suited web-crawler from "Spider-Man 3"?
He's back in "Web of Shadows," which allows Peter Parker to switch easily between his red (good) and black (evil) alter egos.
Unfortunately, the choices you make don't have much effect on which missions you'll fight — and those missions, which often require simply beating on a group of thugs or aliens, get repetitious fast. And the boss battles against third-string Marvel villains like Electro and Vulture go on forever.
It's fun to swing through the streets of Manhattan with Spidey, but the rest of "Web of Shadows" is a drag. Two stars.
— "Lego Batman" (Warner Bros., for the Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, $49.99; PS2, PSP, DS, $29.99): This lighthearted romp is a real treat for Batmaniacs of all ages.
The Joker, the Penguin, Two-Face and other miscreants are on the loose (again) in Gotham City, and it's up to Batman and Robin to stop their reign of terror.
The game is a mix of easy combat, clever puzzle-solving and an occasional ride in the Batmobile. And it's always a kick to bust open a box of blocks and reassemble them into some goofy weapon.
The developers need to sort out a few issues (static camera angles, crummy artificial intelligence), but "Lego Batman" makes the Caped Crusader fun again. Three stars.