When Christopher Nolan stunned the world with Batman Begins and then three years later with The Dark Knight, everyone seemed to be drawn to Batman. Eventually, the team at Eidos decided to resurrect the long dead Batman and give him a new role. Eidos has spent the last couple of years working on what is claimed to be the “Best Comic Game of All Time.” Batman: Arkham Asylum has tons of new features that were never introduced in a comic game before, so of course it deserves the accolade…maybe.
Why so serious?
In Arkham Asylum you play the role as the caped crusader himself, wheeling The Joker back into the madhouse where he belongs. Batman thinks something is awry, because this time Joker surrendered himself without giving a fight. The Dark Knight’s mask limits his peripheral vision, and as soon as he looks to the side, the maniac is set loose, claiming that it was all part of his master plan. According to the Joker, he planned to get caught and take over Arkham Island. The Joker cordially invites several of Batman’s worst enemies, offering them a shot at victory over Batman. Batman ends up in pit fights against famous villains like Harley Quinn, Bane, Killer Croc, Scarecrow, Poison Ivy, and you guessed it, Joker. Batman: AA has a strong cast of voice actors, including the original TV Series Batman (Kevin Conroy), Joker (Mark Hamill), and Harley Quinn (Arleen Sorkin). The three easily bring the game to life, reminding us of the old TV series that brought tremendous fame and glory to Batman. AA has a truly engaging storyline that is strongly supported by unique characters and a versatile environment.
You know, that suit really brings out your eyes!
Nobody likes Batman. He’s boring without enemies, and Batman first starts off brawling with MG-armed warden thugs. Later on, trained thugs are introduced. These thugs are experts with knives and tasers. The special thugs can’t be easily countered, so Batman has to stun them first, enabling him to initiate a combo. The boss fights are interesting and unique in their own way. In order to kill Killer Croc, Batman lures him into A TRAP, for Poison Ivy, though, you’ll have to evade her vines while trying to throw batarangs at her.
Duh nuh nuh nuh, BATMAN!
The fighting mechanic in Arkham Asylum is primarily based on a free-flow combat system. Batman’s actions can be controlled by 4 simple buttons: X, Y, B, and A (similar on PC). At the beginning of the game, Batman will only be able to punch(X), counter(Y), use his cape (B) and dodge (A) enemies. At lower difficulty settings, a marker is placed over a thug’s head, indicating his intent to attack. This would be the perfect time to perform a flowing counter. In harder difficulties, there will be no indicator, so you have to predict the enemies’ moves. Each battle yields experience points, and using a variety of moves and gadgets grants even more exp, which can be used to upgrade those same techniques. Batman has a series of takedowns (Y+B), throws (A+X), and Batclaws / Batarangs, usable in the midst of battle. Once you start playing the challenge rooms and getting used to the game, you’ll be performing combos like a pro.
Batman: AA isn’t just a plain old “beat ‘em up” game. There are several missions where Batman has to utilize stealth in order to silently take out a room full of armed enemies. The Joker is a hilarious guy, so it comes as no surprise when he sets dynamite on every gargoyle statue throughout Arkham – eliminating a quick escape. The game is divided into what I like to call “The Scarecrow Mind Levels”. In these segments, Batman has to battle his way out of a nightmare induced by Scarecrow’s Fear Gas. The Fear Gas recalls events of Wayne’s past, giving gamers an inside look at the evolution of Batman. As the world’s greatest detective, you’ll have to find clues (like blood spills and tobacco), and trace them to a source in order continue on with your missions. You’ll find plenty of other missions scattered throughout Batman, like chase sequences (think Crash Bandicoot). In terms of arsenal, you’re given: batarangs, frequency scanners, remote controlled batarangs, vision sensors, scent-cams, basic cameras, etc.
Batman, you should shave.
Replayability is huge, which is why it is great that you’ll be able to collect several character ‘interviews.’ The recorded interviews reveal a deeper story behind each character. You can also collect hidden Riddler Trophies, which in some cases unlock character trophies and new challenge rooms in challenge mode.
AA really shines in the highly addictive challenge rooms. Here you’ll be able to set high scores online and compare them with other players using leaderboards. The challenge mode is split into two areas: the Free Flowing Fighting mode and the Invisible Predator. In the Fighting mode, you’ll be taking on waves of thugs, racking up combo points. The more combo chains, the higher the multiplier. There are only 4 rounds, but each round becomes increasingly challenging. In Invisible Predator, Batman earns medals by taking down enemies in a designated way. Hanging enemies from Gargoyle Statues is a bit gruesome, but funny none-the-less. You can even gain bonus points by doing certain bonus objectives, like killing all the thugs using only your explosive gel – all at the same time. The challenge rooms are well… challenging? It will keep you playing for days on end, hopefully that’s a good thing.
The Good: Engaging storyline told by a strong cast of voice actors. Blend of beat ‘em up and stealth. The hand-to-hand combat system is flawless, but tough to master. The game makes you feel like you’re batman – just don’t try to glide off of a building. The Scarecrow segments are just mind-boggling (if you pre-ordered the game you received the challenge map). Challenge rooms will keep most gamers busy for a long time. Boss fights are unique in their own way. Gliding through the sky is as fun as it looks!
The Bad: Although the graphics look great, some characters appear to have plastic-like skin. There are rare instances of minor glitches that can be overlooked, like enemies getting stuck in walls. The campaign could have been longer, a hardcore gamer could fly through it within a weekend. No multiplayer.
Overall: Batman: Arkham Asylum does more than what was let on. When I first saw the E3 demo, I wasn’t really convinced. Usually comic/movie games are terrible flops. I can assure you that Batman: AA should not be overlooked. Even though there is no online multiplayer, the challenge rooms attempt to make up for that. Moderate length (10-15hrs) singleplayer campaign, tons of goodies to find (Riddle Trophies, interviews, character trophies), and plenty of rooms in the Addicting Challenge Mode!