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Batman: Arkham Asylum

So, I bought Batman: Arkham Asylum on Steam last week during the summer special, and now it’s time for a review. The game was released first on the console on August 2009, and the PC version followed in September of the same year. The PC version is what I would call a good “console port.” The game got high praise and lots of Game of the Year awards. From my point of view, though, the game is a bit overrated.

Punch Them
Punch them!

Let’s start about a bit of context. Batman: Arkham Asylum starts with the mighty Bat itself, the player, bringing the Joker back to the insane asylum. Quite early, the Joker escapes the guards and Batman then tries to catch him and put him back in his cell. Soon the player finds out that the whole thing was a setup, and Joker is now running the prison. Throughout the game, we get to meet many of Batman’s numerous foes and interact with them. Overall, the story is rather good, although it tend to get sidetracked by “crises” that need to be resolved first.

The game design is quite well done, mixing investigation, gadgets, fighting, and sneaking around nicely. It also requires a bit of thinking, which is always a plus for me. The gameplay reminds me a bit of Chronicle of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay, but less violent and with more puzzles (from our nice fellow, the Riddler). The atmosphere is “Dark Knight-y” enough through the music, art style, sound FX, and voice acting (Mark Hamill as the Joker is magnificent).

Now to the reasons why I think the game is overrated. There is quite a bit of hand-holding when it’s not needed and not enough in certain places where it would be. Sometimes you get “trapped” because you forgot to do something, so you need to backtrack, but nothing tells you to backtrack, so you kind of wander aimlessly on the map trying to find what you are supposed to do. There are a lot of corridors with nothing in them, and doors, too, but I suspect they are there to hide loading screens, because I haven’t see a lot of them.

The game also has several boring “mini-boss” fights. I say boring, but it’s more that they are repetitive. Most of them include beating the bad guy and then a couple of grunts showing up to help. Most of the “big” bad guys use the exact same attack pattern through out the game, too. It lacks diversity. Some of those fights also use a fixed camera, which makes controlling Batman a lot more complicated than when you are freely in control. There are also a lot of “quick time events,” my space bar didn’t really like it. Direct combat isn’t bad, but it’s mostly limited to left mouse click and direction keys. Doesn’t stop Batman from doing sweet moves, though.

Hang up there
Hang up there!

It took me about 12 hours to finish the games, excluding all the challenges and optional puzzles, and I quite enjoyed the adventure. My favorite aspect of the game is all the running around and taking down rooms of bad guys without them seeing me. It did get annoying in a few parts, such as when the camera got fixed in one spot and controlling Batman got harder and not as smooth.

One reply on “Batman: Arkham Asylum”

From a casual gamer and huge Batman fan, I really enjoyed the game. On the PS3 version, you can actually change the difficulty, which would cut out some of the hand holding. I agree that there wasn’t enough guidance in some really tricky spots, too, leading to me searching for cheats (terrible gamer me!). I think the combat in the console version is a little better, as well… once you figure out the specific combos of attack, evade, cape stun, and counter, you can put together some really high XP moves.

I’m really excited for Arkham City this October. I’ll probably wait and put it on my Christmas list, but the premise looks amazing.

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