Saturday, December 19, 2009

Review - Batman: Arkham Asylum

This was my first blog post at No Game Network. I still haven't finished my PAX review!


Please note: my PAX review is on the way, and will be here soon. For now, satiate yourself with this tale of the caped crusader, and know I slave over a keyboard to bring you more words.

Batman: Arkham Asylum does a lot of things for me. It doesn’t feed the cats or wash the dishes, but it does make me feel like I have just administered a lot of justice…with my fists. It is a highly satisfying brawling game composed of one part ass beating, one part stealthy sneaking, and one part puzzle solving. More than anything, it is a Batman fan’s dream come true: it features a plethora of villains and is rife with enough back story to make the most devout comic book fan squee with joy.

The game starts with a cinematic of Batman bringing the Joker to Arkham Island. Batman is highly suspicious of the Joker, who – uncharacteristically – has given up without much of a fight, causing Batman to insist on escorting him into the asylum. This is where things go very suddenly – and very terribly – wrong. We discover the Joker meant for it to happen all along, and with the help of Harley Quinn, begins to quickly and efficiently take over the island.

At first, the game seemed too easy. I was playing it on normal, and I kept thinking to myself, either this game is really simple or I have gotten totally amazing at video games. The foes were easy to defeat (though even as they got harder, it was so much fun to fight them that while it felt challenging, I just kept coming back to the word “satisfying). The Riddler has hidden trophies and set up puzzles all over the island, which, initially, were also quite easy. But then, abruptly, the game became very hard, and I realized the entire beginning sequence of the game was something of a tutorial – a warm-up, so to speak – for the rest of the game. Not long after that, the game became totally awesome. The creators were trying to do something dark, and succeeded in a way that was more than a little scary.

I don’t want to give any spoilers, but this is my review, so I’ll just say if you don’t want to know what happens, you might want to stop reading here. I simply wanted to comment on my favorite parts of the game, which were, by far, the scenes in which the Scarecrow (how I wish they got Cillian Murphy to voice that villain!) drugged Batman and things go completely – no pun intended – batshit fucking loco. The first time it happened, I thought I was going crazy, but once I caught on to what was happening, I slid into the sudden change in gameplay and let it roll over me. It was amazing.

The one complaint many people have is that the game is too short. I beat it in just 6 days, so I can see where they’re coming from. But for me, the game was so satisfying from start to finish that I can’t voice that as a complaint. I didn’t spend nearly as much time as I wanted gathering the Riddler trophies and solving his puzzles because I was wrapped up in finding out what happened next in the story. I do plan on going back and finding everything, which, to me, is what a great game is all about: it’s one you want to go back to, one you crave, even after you beat it. This is why I buy games instead of renting them – if I were a renter, I’d end up with a stack of games that I couldn’t let go of. (And for everyone who says they want to “try the game out first,” my only reply is: isn’t that what demos are for?)

Tangent aside, my final word on Batman: Arkham Asylum is: yes. Yes, very much so.

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