Review: Batman Arkham Asylum

If we went back in time two years and tried to convince ourselves that in 2009 Palm would release a damn fine phone, people would be excited about a new Windows release, and Batman would star in a game-of-the-year contender, what do you think we would say to ourselves? We live in interesting times.

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I was able to take the time today to take the new game by Rocksteady Studios,  Batman Arkham Asylum, for a spin. I have had the game sitting in my car for a couple of days and have not really been super excited to try the game, but today I had a day to be lazy and spend some quality time with my 10 year old daughter and thought that today may be the perfect chance for us to both do something fun and interesting together. I was not overly impressed with my first 10 minutes of game play, but found myself starting to get drawn into the character and begin getting woke up and put on the edge of my seat with the fight scenes that had you rolling with several of the Jokers thugs in a gritty street brawl.

There are two forms of combat in the game. The hand-to-hand fighting is limited to one button for attacks, but the action is far from simple. You’ll have to continually attack while careening from one target to the next, all while countering their attacks and dodging blows from pipes and knives. It only takes a moment to understand the combat, but mastering it will take quite a bit longer. The more I play the game, the more elegant I find the combat, and it never becomes tiresome.

The second type of combat comes in the Invisible Predator areas where you have large spaces to terrorize your opponents. As the game continues and you unlock different attacks, you’ll be able to quickly snatch enemies from above, glide down and land with both feet on their chests, or string up the baddies from your perch. As you take down your enemies one by one they become increasingly scared, agitated, and erratic in their motions. This is when you feel like you have become Batman; in any fair fight the Joker’s henchmen would beat you easily. It’s your challenge to make sure the fight is anything but fair.

It’s hard to single out what makes Arkham Asylum such a great game. The voice acting is amazing, although Commissioner Gordon and the Riddler are a little bit less polished than the other characters. The writing is top notch, and follows through from the dialog to the Joker’s crazed rants over the Asylum’s PA system to the inmate interviews you find scattered throughout the game. The world is absolutely jam-packed with inside jokes and references to the lore of Batman and the characters that surround him.

In conclusion

This is the part of the review where we dig for some flaws so as not to appear to be gushing, so here goes: the aspects of the game where you track your prey in detective mode are lame. There! I feel better.

If the main game wasn’t enough, there is a series of Challenge Rooms for you to practice your combat and go for the high score, and they are way more fun than they sound and should make for some great times passing the controller back and forth between your friends.

This is a completely satisfying experience from start to finish. I’ve been up for several hours grinding through it and I am not even close to being through the games content.This is one of the standout games of the year, licensed or not. There is a lot to do, multiple ways to do it, and one of the most popular characters of all time finally gets a video game worth his name.

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