in Review

Batman’s Ark

Batman: Arkham Asylum

The odds were stacked against Batman: Arkham Asylum. It’s a Batman game, and there hasn’t been a good one of those since the SuperNES. It’s a stealth game, a genre which generally doesn’t deliver, especially this generation. It’s published out by Eidos, who never put out games people care about, and developed by Rocksteady Studios, who made one other game that I don’t remember anything about. But it’s easily among the best games of the year.

Batman has arrested Joker and is bringing him into Arkham Asylum. But Joker hardly put up a fight, which has the Dark Knight nervous. Sure enough, the Clown Prince of Crime unleashes all the insane inhabitants of the asylum, leaving Batman alone to recapture all of his greatest foes.

Arkham Asylum is at its best when Batman is trapped in a room full of armed guards. Obvious he can’t just run up to them, he’d get shot and die. So he has to hide and use his gadgets and fear to isolate and disable his enemies. This system works really well and is a lot of fun. Batman has a number of fantastic gadgets at his disposal, from the classic batarang to the grapple gun to explosive gel. The other half of gameplay is hand-to-hand combat against thugs, and it’s all based on a simple combat system that lives up to the old adage “easy to learn, hard to master.”

Presentation goes a long way in a game like this. Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill are back and give strong performances as the lead characters. The game has this sweet detective mode filter that lets Batman see through objects, tracking everything from power sources to his enemies heartbeats. The effect is neat and it’s so useful you’ll hardly turn it off. Which is kind of a shame, because the game looks really good. Also, Batman’s uniform gets ripped and damaged throughout the story, which is a nice touch.

After you complete the story there’s a challenge mode to keep you busy, if high scores are your kind of thing. The story itself will probably take you around 12 hours, which is a good length for a single player experience, but feels short when a game is this good. Seriously, go try it out.

Oh, and if you get it on PS3 you can play as Joker in challenge mode too, but I played it on 360 because I prefer that controller. So there you go.