Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Batman: Arkham Asylum Game Review

People of Gotham! Joker here, bringing you a review of a game starring a man dressed like a bat.

You know me, I'm an honest guy, so I'll admit that I liked the game right from the start. Who wouldn't want an opportunity to dress like a lunatic and beat up a bunch of society's finest members? The game has a long introductory sequence in which you, as Batman, escort that handsome scoundrel, the Joker, through Arkham security as you bring him in once more. But then, just as it looks like he's in for good and you can go on your gloomy way, that merry prankster breaks loose! Oh, calamity! And this is where the game begins in earnest.

You start off by beating up a couple of thugs. The thugs in this game are universally nitwits with huge, puffy muscles who talk like they dropped out of kindergarten. Is it any wonder a brilliant guy like me has so much trouble succeeding in life, when this is the help I get?

Anyway, the fight system is one of the best things about Arkham Asylum. I never thought I would say this, but fighting the minions is actually more fun than fighting the bosses. Most fighting games follow a simple formula: the fighters have a number of "attacking" animations and "oof" animations. If an attack lands, the attacker might throw a punch, and the defender may twitch and stumble back. This usually looks forced at best. In Arkham Asylum, the fighters actually interact, and the difference is so pronounced that you may not understand it until you have a chance to play it. Fighting is so much more satisfying when, instead of throwing wild punches until an enemy falls over, you instead grab his arm, twist it, and throw a punch into his exposed elbow, breaking the limb and sending your opponent down for the count.

Combat relies on a combo system, where you have to land a number of attacks in a row without missing or getting hit by a thug. This works really well, because you can't simply throw wild punches and kicks and hope to win. Instead, you can only attack when you're sure that there is an available skull for you to crack.

The attacks always look so good, and the counterattacks are even better! When an opponent is about to strike you, Batman sees a blue symbol above their head, and can execute a counterattack. If timed right, Batman will block the attack and hurt the thug instead. Ooh, so brutal! So satisfying!

There are three kinds of fights, each requiring a different approach. First, there is a straight-up brawl with thugs. This is where Bat-brain excels, though later thugs get knives and stun-rods to even the odds a little. Then, there is a stealth-based game against thugs armed with guns, where you have to take them out without getting spotted and shot. Finally, there are fights against thugs mixed with mini-bosses. Alas, there is only one variety of mini-boss, so soon you will tire of beating them up. Still, the fights themselves never seem to grow old. Maybe that's why Bats enjoys his job so much!

If you should ever fall in a fight, you'll be treated to a brief animation of the gloating victor. If you're beaten by thugs, this will be either Harley or me. If you lose to a boss, each boss has several possible victory gloats. I'm my own biggest critic, and I have to admit that my gags start to get a thin after a point, especially after Harley is defeated and I have to take over as the sole gloater in non-boss fights.

When you're not fighting thugs, you spend your time exploring Arkham. The whole game takes place on Arkham Island, but there are several types of areas to explore, including prison interiors, outdoor areas, and the caves and sewers beneath the prison. I never understood old Batsy's fascination with collecting things, but there are all sorts of goodies scattered around the island for those with a sharp eye and a willingness to look around corners.

The most common items you'll be finding are Riddler trophies, which look like glowing question mark tokens. You can also hunt for hidden allusions for Batman characters, which you can take snapshots of to solve 'riddles.' If you ask me, the man in the green bowler hat may be getting a little rusty on the concept of what a riddle is supposed to be. Take, for example, the riddle, "How do you fit a silent killer of the deep into a jar?" When I was playing, I thought, hm, jellies are silent killers in the ocean, and you can have a jar of jelly... but no, the answer was a specimen jar containing some of the teeth of the Batman villain Great White. Yawn, Nigma. Put more effort into it!

A far more interesting prize for exploration are the patient interview tapes, which allow you to listen to interviews between Arkham personnel and the lovable psychos who inhabit the island. Croc's interview is a hoot! I did my best to keep mine interesting, but my shrink had terrible comic timing. Ha ha! Just kidding! You also come across the personal records of Amadeus Arkham, the man who establish the Asylum, and a certified loony. Hey, I just calls 'em like I sees 'em.

As you find these items scattered around the island, you unlock additional aspects of the game, including special challenge maps you can play outside the regular story mode, and "statues" of the characters that lets you get a close look at the models used in the game. I know you're longing to do a full turnaround of the Clown Prince of Crime! Well, knowing you gamers, maybe you'd like to take a closer peek of the tarted-up costumes for Harley and Ivy. Whatever floats your boat, chuckles.

The voices in the game are phenomenal. Batsy, Harley, and I were played by the same voice actors as in the cartoon you all seem to like so much, so it felt like old times. I can't tell you how important it is to have proper voice work. Regardless of the visual designs of the characters, whenever we started speaking, it felt like us talking. Can you imagine what would happen if they got some washed-up sci-fi actor to do my voice? Ghastly, I know

If you're holding your breath waiting for me to talk about the graphics, the controls, and the camera, I'll say that they were all great. Batman's bat-face looked a bit bat-moist, plus he had bat-pupils when most Batman designs have all-white eyes, and the characters were all in the uncanny-bat-valley, but those are my only complaints. Neither the controls nor the camera ever gave me any trouble. The best types of controls are the ones you don't have to think about, and controlling Batman in Arkham Asylum was as unlike operating a crane in a warehouse full of bubbling vats as you can possibly get. Trust me, I know.

Now you know about the graphics, controls, and camera. If you really were holding your breath, you should keep holding it. You're doing so well!

Ah, I could talk all day about this game, and get into the special Scarecrow sections, the story arc, the gadgets, and the other unlockables, but I just heard the oven timer. I'm cooking something special tonight. Whoop, I just heard someone on the roof. Looks like my guest has arrived...

No comments:

Post a Comment