Jigsaw's Blog: My thoughts on games (and other stuff)

Batman: Arkham Asylum Review

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I know Batman: Arkham Asylum released over two months ago, but I just now finally got around to playing through it. The game is awesome and I should have gotten to it sooner but since there is no multiplayer component I just did not feel the rush. However, once I started playing I found it very hard to stop and pull myself away.  There were a couple reasons for this looking back. First, the game is an absolute blast to play.  Second, there are no missions, checkpoints, or levels in the traditional gaming sense.  The game takes place on Arkham Island, and as soon as the game starts you can go anywhere you want, assuming you can figure out how to get there. At the same time though the developers to an incredible job moving you through the story without feeling like the game is linear. You start off with just a couple gadgets which limits the areas you can access, but because the story’s plot was so well written I found myself not caring and just wanting to continue going through the story.

Batman: Arkham Asylum mixes fighting, stealth, puzzle, and platforming elements seamlessly and nearly perfectly. The fighting mechanics are fairly simple because the take into context the environment and enemy’s position it never gets repetitive.  In fact, as you progress through the game and unlock a few more fighting moves I found it even more fun because was constantly trying to workout cooler and more involved combos. In some areas you can’t just get into a hand to hand fight with the enemies because they are all armed with guns.  In these sections you have to use your stealth and gadgets to take down the enemies without being seen. I really enjoyed these sections of the game because they could be quite tense and strategic. In some areas you’re cut off from a room you need to get to so you’ve got to traverse the rafters and air ducts in a simple platforming fashion to reach the area in question.

The whole time you’re progressing through the main story you’re being present with puzzles from The Riddler who is challenging Batman’s title of “world’s greatest detective.” The riddles are all completely optional but you do get experience for completing them and they unlock additional challenges rooms. There are four different types of riddles; they are little ? trophies hidden across the island to find, there are recorded interview tapes to find, word puzzles where you have to find the object of the riddle, and perspective challenges where you have to find giant question marks painted on objects and line up both halves.  I really enjoyed the riddles throughout the game.  After clearing a certain area of a building or map section of enemies I would always go back through it looking for the riddles.

For many of the Riddler’s clues and some of the main story line’s puzzles you have to use your cowl’s Detective vision mode. This vision modes scans whatever you’re looking at for trace, structural weaknesses, and enemies. These items are then highlighted.  The downside is the Detective mode vision has everything in an all blue color scheme and since you see through some walls it can be hard to tell if an enemy is behind a wall or two.Fortunately, you can switch between normal and detective modes at any time.

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Batman faces quite a few of the classic villains including Bane, Scarecrow, Doc Croc, Joker, Harley Quinn, and Poison Ivy. Each one you have to deal with in their own unique way and each one plays an interesting part of the story.  Penguin and Tw0-Face are noticeably absent.  Also, while the riddle does have stuff for you all over the island you never face him directly. I’m hoping for a sequel with then in it.  Most of the general enemies in the game are Joker’s grunts, but this range of bosses keep things interesting.  In addition to being fun to fight against the bosses all have really great voice acting.  Some of the best I can remember from any game. Actually, all of the voice acting in the game was great. I don’t remember a single character having a voice that did not fit them perfectly.

Graphically the game is gorgeous. There are a lot of darker areas to the game since it occurs at night, but even with the darker sections everything looked really crisp and smooth.  Batman’s animations are just like I would expect to see in the Batman movies which is impressive since you can grapple up to any open point a any time. Each time, the move up to the platform is smooth and seamless. I also really impressed with the persistent-ness of everything. If you go into room and a chair gets knocked over it stays that way the rest of the game. If you take a hard punch and your cape or costume gets ripped that tear stays there the rest of the game and is even there in the cut scenes where you see Batman. Once I realized that I tried very hard not take any more damage so that I would not end the game looking all torn and ragged.

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After completing the game you can resume your saved game and just explore the whole island looking for the rest of the Riddler’s items. The main reason to do so is to finish unlocking the last of the Challenge Rooms and upgrades. The Challenge Rooms are specific enclosed sections of the main game’s buildings where you have a specific goal to complete. For the Combat Challenges it is to take out all of the enemies  with the biggest and best scoring combo. The scoring is based on how large and diverse your combos are and if you can complete the room without taking damage.  For the Predator Challenges your goal is to take out a room of armed enemies as quickly as you can without being spotted. Additionally, the Predator Challenges have goals for taking down enemies using a specific move.  I would recommend not really putting a lot of time into the challenges rooms until you have unlocked all of Batman’s gadget and combat upgrades.  True to their name the rooms are challenging and you will need all of the tools available.

If you have to played Batman: Arkham Asylum I would recommend at least renting it and playing through the story once.  It has the potential of being game of the year for the Action-Adventure genre.

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