Justice League: Cosmic Chaos on PS5
Perhaps by now, the year 2023, we’re all a little burnt out when it comes to comic books and the superheroes that fill those pages. Especially if we’re attempting to keep up with the MCU and the like. A multiverse here, a world domination plot there, and suddenly you’re five television series behind and don’t understand the latest batch of references because your will to watch began to peter out shortly after phase three.
And that’s before we even begin to discuss the DC cinematic universe — which we won’t, because that’s not what this is about.
I’ve spent many years reading comic books, playing with action figures, and eventually seeing movie upon movie of characters I had grown to love. I still have countless bins of Batman figures, villains, and vehicles from when I was a child, which I alternately display around my apartment whenever I’m able. The Arkham series, for the most part, holds a special place in my heart. Heck, I even adored Gotham Knights while many others did not.
So to say Justice League: Cosmic Chaos is the best comic book videogame adaptation I have ever played wouldn’t be telling the truth, but to say it is the most joy I’ve found from one of these adaptations in as long as I can remember would be.
Maybe it’s due to the fact that everything always has to go bigger, and this is the polar opposite. Could it be that I am tired of world domination plots and would rather listen to Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman quibble while they all still maintain what makes them special? Quite possibly. After all, Bruce Wayne making jokes at his own expense, Superman pumping out puns that would make many eyes roll, and Wonder Woman name-dropping gods and goddesses like she’s Tahani Al-Jamil ensures that you’ll never stop giggling.
The game begins and plays out in a town called Happy Harbor, where Honorary Justice League Member Snapper Carr is set to be unveiled as the seaside town’s new mayor. Everyone is there to celebrate, from Green Lantern and Cyborg to Aquaman and The Flash. Batman is there too, holding a grudge and not partaking in the fun because he’d rather be in Gotham City “helping people.”
That’s when Mister Mxyzptlk appears, taking the form of a burger patty that Superman had just flipped into the air, to declare himself mayor instead. So how can he do such a thing? Well, because “He who declares himself mayor shall be granted that title so long as their last name begins with ‘Mxy.’” I mean, it’s in the Happy Harbor Constitution for crying out loud! His motivation? To annoy Superman. That’s it. Nothing more complicated than that.
Sure, he summons Starro the Conqueror immediately, who proceeds to corrupt the likes of Flash, Green Lantern, and Aquaman while devising his very own world domination plot down the line, but that’s couched so far in the background that it’s easy to brush aside. It’s crucial to Mxyzptlk that above all else, he annoys Superman. Sometimes he accomplishes this tricking the Justice League into destroying Happy Harbor’s plumbing. Other times he employs a force of dangerous Fish Police, quelling citizen concerns by dumping ice cream all over town.
In the meantime Starro is rounding up citizens and corrupting them with his army of starfish. And yes, our three heroes must rescue the likes of Green Lantern, Aquaman, and The Flash along the way. Yet at no point is this a pressing matter. Mxyzptlk himself seems to be very naïve to Starro’s capabilities, which is a fun way of blurring the line between a maniacal supervillain and someone who really just wants to annoy the Man of Steel. All the while, Bats, Supes, and Diana are cracking jokes.
That’s because really, what Justice League: Cosmic Chaos truly boils down to is a light-hearted superhero adventure. There’s a simplicity and accessibility to it, yet still packed with plenty of nods to its source material. Batman and Superman argue like an old married couple; Wonder Woman is probably wondering why she’s still running around with these goofballs. And hey, Superman’s favorite food is pretzels!
So much of this is unveiled within the opening five minutes of the game. And don’t think that pretzels inclusion simply goes away. In fact, while cycling through which hero to use, Batman will make a mention of it as he relieves Clark Kent of his duties from time to time. “Why don’t you eat some pretzels, get that energy back up,” he’ll quip.
These three are full of quips, from the aforementioned name-dropping to Superman boasting “Did you see that? Did you see what I just did there?” and “I love smashing stuff with other stuff.” It’s silly and it’s fun. At every turn, there is a laugh to be found. But that isn’t to say Cosmic Chaos can’t make things challenging in spells either.
The higher you level up, the more important it will be to unlock and upgrade the necessary skills required to take on harder enemies. While exploring and trying to rescue your friends, there will be several rooms in which the player will be boxed in until they’ve defeated every enemy. Doors lock, and it’s up to the three of you to best tackle the problems. This encourages and ultimately requires cycling through all three of Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman while using their powerful (or technology-driven, if you’re Bruce) abilities in order to defeat every single fish Mxyzptlk and Starro toss your way.
Oh, and yes, there are plenty of fish fry jokes. Be ready. Though, there’s no word on whether or not this destroys Aquaman from the inside out.
When you’re not fighting crime, maybe you just want to see what else Happy Harbor has to offer. If that’s the case, feel free to traverse with whichever hero you choose. Batman can glide while Wonder Woman will utilize her Lasso of Truth, but it doesn’t get much better than gliding through the air with Superman. Of the three, it’s the easiest choice. Maybe it’s the obvious choice, but it’s a choice all the same.
Don’t go thinking Cosmic Chaos requires you to simply rescue your other Justice League friends, however. As you make your way across Happy Harbor, you may stumble upon various side plots and quests to keep you entertained — whether it’s getting to the bottom of a story for Lois Lane, investigating strange occurrences for Alfred (Because yes, Bruce dragged him to Happy Harbor, apparently) or helping the likes of Clayface and Poison Ivy, there are plenty of missions to complete.
If you’re looking to enjoy Happy Harbor without the constant chaos, then Instant Action is the game mode for you! While the game allows you to focus on Story if you so choose, playing Instant Action provides you with the opportunity to freely explore the town without having to worry about anything else. And, you can even play with another person as part of its two-player couch co-op capability. What’s stopping you from finding the Clark to your Bruce, or the Diana to them both? Nothing!
There are various ways to upgrade during your playthrough, and each of them consist of a combination of the following materials: coins, seaglass, shells, and pearls. Some are cracked while others are polished. The higher you level up, the likelier you are to received more polished items. However, these all pool together, meaning each of our three heroes do not get their own separate set of resources. Normally I’d say it’s wise to plan ahead when it comes to skill trees, but really, just have fun experimenting with each ability these three have to offer.
To circle back, playing a game like this doesn’t necessarily require you to have prior knowledge of these characters, but it sure does add a whole other layer to the fun to proceedings. We briefly mentioned nods to the source material earlier, and this game is chock-full of ’em. For starters, our two main villains of Mister Mxyzptlk and Starro made their comic book debuts in 1944 and 1960, respectively. Additionally, players can find comic books scattered all around Happy Harbor, and for good reason. Finding enough of them enables you to hand them in to Booster Gold back at Mount Justice (yep) and unlock various costumes in the process.
For instance, I’ll now be going as Matches Malone this year.
That’s one heckuva disguise, Bruce. Seamless.
During combat, all three of our heroes will deliver one-liners depending on choice of attack, current situation, and so on. There may be some dark humor hidden in one or two of those one-liners, but we’ll leave that for you to discover. There will certainly be plenty of talking each other up throughout, that you can be sure of. Oh, and Superman makes laser noises with his mouth on occasion. You know the ones. In other words, do not be prepared to take things too seriously.
Embrace the jokes, revel in the puns, and do all you can in order to stop Starro’s horrifying plot while keeping Superman’s annoyance to a minimum. Heck, maybe even do all that in the order its written. Above all else, enjoy your stay in Happy Harbor. In a world that always strives to go bigger, it’s more of an escape to remember when superheroes got to be silly too.
Dialogue can be a tad repetitive.