Batman: Arkham Asylum

The Joker has cooked up his craziest scheme yet: let Batman catch him and take to Arkham Asylum! Batman: Arkham Asylum tasks the Dark Knight with restoring order to the madhouse that has the inmates running the show.

This is no movie adaptation.

Leave the subtitles off, you won’t need ’em. Batman’s sore throat is all healed up thanks to Kevin Conroy, who reprises his role from the cartoons. And to say Mark Hamill’s Joker isn’t quite so serious is understatement. Instead the game stays faithful to the comics.

From the moonlit buildings to Batman’s 5 o’clock, the game looks fantastic. It’s too bad you won’t have the chance to truly appreciate it as you’ll spend most of your time in “Detective Mode” (picture below). Not that you have to, it’s just too tempting not to use it. Having X-ray vision that let’s you get the drop on your enemies just like Superman and a heart rate monitor that signals the best time to strike makes it almost too easy.

Batman: Arkham Asylum (Detective Mode)The game doesn’t just look great. It handles flawlessly, with nary a bad camera angle. Movement is very fluid. Run towards a wall and you’ll automatically climb up it rather than having to push another button, which incidentally would be very cumbersome as run & climb are the same button.

The fighting is fast-paced and hand-to-hand combat has also been simplified accordingly. In fact, there’s only one attack button! But hey, when you’re Batman one’s all you need. The button cycles through a series of kicks and punches so it never gets stale. Besides, Batman’s not a bruiser. He’s all about finesse. That’s where countering & evading come in.

And let’s not forget about all those wonderful toys. An assortment of batarangs means you won’t even have to sully your hands with these criminal scum. But my favorite attack has got to be the inverted takedown where you swoop down on your prey then hogtie and hang ’em from the ceiling. It’s not just the moves though. It’s how they’re executed like whenever Batman sprays explosive gel on a wall the camera dramatically tilts. At times it feels more like a movie than a video game, like it’s really happening… “I’m Batman!”

It’s not just the best Batman game ever, it’s the best comic based game ever. However contrary to what some reviewers think, best yet does not equate to a perfect game. Riddle me this: what’s simultaneously in the game and not in the game? Answer: villains! The producers said they wanted the game to take place at Arkham in order to include as many villains as possible so where are they?

Most of the villains who “appear” in the game are just unlockable bios. In a game that lasts just 10 hours, there’s just no reason to not have included more villains or at least improved the ones that are there. The only ones you actually get to fight are: Bane, Killer Croc, Poison Ivy, Scarecrow, Mr. Zsasz, Harley Quinn, and Joker. And frankly you can’t count those last three. Mr. Zsasz is felled in a single blow. Even worse Harley Quinn is beaten in a cutscene and a quick one at that. And the final showdown is ironically a joke. It consists of knocking Joker off a ledge 3 times and hitting him 3 times before he jumps away. 9 REGULAR PUNCHES!!! What kind of big boss battle is that? Based on gameplay you’d think the Scarecrow was the boss. Not only is he huge (granted it’s a hallucination), he’s the only one who has any emotional affect on Batman. I won’t ruin it for you other than to say, there’s nothing wrong with your screen.

Once you’ve completed story mode, you can squeeze out a few more hours of gameplay collecting any items you missed such as Riddler’s clues, inmate interview tapes, or character trophies. The trophies look great by the way, especially Poison Ivy’s, but they’d be better with audio clips.

After you’ve collected everything there’s not much to do in story mode. And unlike recent Spider-Man games, enemies do not respawn. It also goes without saying that Arkham is a lot smaller than New York so there’s not a lot in the way of exploration. And missions are not replayable! That leaves you with either starting a new game or playing some short challenges designed to help you practice your fighting & stealth skills, assuming you’ve unlocked them.

Short gameplay, a weak ending, and modest replay value make Batman: Arkham Asylum seem more like a demo, albeit a amazing demo, for the inevitable sequel Batman: Gotham City.