When we were little kids, some of us dreamed about being Batman. Why wouldn’t you? Bruce Wayne has it all. Millions of dollars, a cave full of hi-tech cars, planes, gadgets and toys, women dying to be with him. But alas, unless your millionaire parents are shot down in front of you, leaving you everything they own and you sudden dedicate your life to avenging their deaths by fighting crime, you’ve got zip chance of becoming Batman.
But, thankfully for your parents, you can pretend with Eidos’ action title: Batman: Arkham Asylum.
The game opens with you returning Joker to his rightful home on Arkham Island and its Asylum for the criminally insane. The Joker has other plans and breaks free, trapping Batman on the island and letting loose the crazies.
You’ll find yourself fighting a slew of bad guys ranging from low-level goon to super criminals like Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn.
The characters become even more interesting when you collect recordings of interviews with inmates from doctors. You get to enter the mind of some of the greatest criminals in the Batman universe, learning about what bought them to Batman’s attention. Poison Ivy’s interview reveals how she was transformed from Pamela Lillian Isley into an eco-terrorist and one of Batman’s greatest foes.
Throughout the game, you’ll find the control system works well for the most part. During fights, combos are easy to do and countering is simple also. When you learn the ability to throw and take down enemies, the controls become frustrating. You can only take down and throw enemies at certain times and it requires you to push two buttons at the same time while trying to avoid other enemies who may or may not have weapons. Enemies initially vary in difficultly, but once you figure out the combos and dodge, goons will be simple.
You also become stronger through your ability to upgrade your bat-weapons and amour. Gaining XP requires you to defeat enemies and solving The Riddler’s Riddles and finding his trophies. You can upgrade your weapons, like upgrading to a remote-controlled Baterang, or your amour.
Working with such creepy setting like Arkham Asylum, the developers add an element of horror to the game as well. The gritty visual aspect gives drama and your shadowy surroundings hide foes, making you a target for crazed inmates and thugs from Blackwater Correctional.
To readers who are familiar with the New Batman Adventures, or the movie, “The Dark Knight”, you’ll recognise Scarecrow. Some of my favourite levels in the game involve Scarecrow and I find that they’re the best executed in Batman: Arkham Asylum. The Scarecrow character delights in using Batman’s fears against him and haunts him with images of his parents death, which will haunt you too.
The script is somewhat lacking. With Batman being the strong, silent type, The Joker needs to pick up the slack. He’ll announce to goons that you’re in the area, which will terrify them. Picking the goons off one by one will trigger the terrified sound of, “Oh God! Leave me alone!” But, there isn’t any particular line in the game that will stick in your head, which is disappointing when there are so many characters that could blossom with a good script.
All in all, my biggest problem is that through the game, drama and suspense build, you find yourself hoping for a huge finale and then find yourself sounding into the air a sad “Eh”. The gameplay, costumes, characters and surroundings are all marvellously created. You want to know what happens next and that pulls you through the game. Batman stumbles at the finish line, but performs wonderfully through the race.