‘Batman: Arkham Asylum’ Review

No, this isn’t a character piece on Christian Bale and his feelings toward light engineers.  Today we’re delving into the latest addition to the superhero video game collection.  Let’s be honest straight out of the box, there’s been a lot of really bad Batman games over the years.  Even the previous non-Lego games had lots of issues.  Sure, it looked good for it’s time but you could beat it in one night, even if you didn’t know what you were doing (this iteration is a tad longer than that).  The lego series is fun, but it’s Lego’s for God Sakes!  We needed a good Batman game that didn’t focus on any movie, had its own storyline, great graphics, lots of replay ability, and some good gameplay to boot.  Well, look no further because that’s what we got with Arkham Asylum

This game focuses on you playing as the caped crusader inside of Arkham Asylum.  You are bringing in the Joker after he set fire to a building and something just doesn’t feel right.  Joker gets loose from his chains, escapes into the asylum and all hell breaks loose.  The main story follows you trying to stop Joker before he can unleash his evil plan.  What evil plan?  Well, I won’t ruin that for you, but it’s a decent hook.

Immersion is where the game really stands out.  You really get the feeling that you are in Batman’s world.  From the ambiance and lightning to the characters, it’s all there and all spot on.  The game actually uses some of the voices from the “Batman” animated series.  Mark Hamill does the Joker’s voice and does it perfectly I might add.  Kevin Conroy does the voice for Batman and should sound very familiar as he’s done it for quite a while on many of the series’.

Despite all of these connections to the cartoon Batman we’ve all watched in the past,  the game is quite dark and realistic.  There are lots of good-guy deaths throughout the game and villains actually being.. well.. evil.  The Joker is just awesome throughout the game.  His little quips and jabs at batman and the little mind games he plays with you as the player is downright cool.  The game does a fair bit of hand holding but there are enough secrets throughout the game to not make it feel too linear.

In respect to that, the gameplay gives you enough options during every fight sequence that you can play the game several times and never go about the same fight the same way twice.  Batman has a plethora of abilities at his disposal.  From sneaking under grates to hanging upside down on gargoyles, all of which help you take down the baddies silently and without actually killing anyone.  If you killed all of the guys, what are you left to fight against in the sequel!?

Of course you have the batarang and batclaw to help as well.  These also play key roles in solving puzzles throughout the game, which are only mildly difficult.  In fact, the game causes you to switch into “detective mode” a lot, which might be a bit annoying.  To me this is the game’s main downfall.  You spend more time in detective mode than you do in normal viewing, at least in my experience.

Lastly I’d like to add that the scarecrow boss battle(s) are some of the coolest sequences in my recent video gaming memory.  Granted, I don’t play every game that comes out but as far as I can remember, I’ve never seen anything like it.  It’s a mix of 2D and 3D style gameplay with a lot of stealth jabbed in the middle.  Really cool stuff.  I’m really thinking about going through the game again on the hardest difficulty.  What are your thoughts on Batman: AA?  Does it deserve Game of the Year or at least to be nominated?  Is it too short for such a title?

Batman: Arkham Asylum releases August 25, 2009 on PS3 and Xbox 360 and September 15, 2009 on PC