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There was no “Halloween” in my childhood. October 31 was called “annual-batman-candython” to me. Why other people changed their costumes from year to year was beyond me. Black construction paper was the medium to my madness, and the candy was merely a reward for being so kickass.
This is how much I loved batman. Ever since the new incarnation of Batman that lust of the aesthetics has turned into an admiration of the stoich yet tortured hero, Batman is.
Imagine my excitement when watching the Batman: Arkham Asylum preview coverage. Finally, my chance to emulate the Dark Knight himself has come without A) breaking bones B) retreating into social isolation and C) remaining in social isolation.
It was worth every minute. If only Halloween lasted 15 hours.
What I liked:
Dedication to details:
“Polished” is a word used a lot in video game journalism. I never really cared about what it meant until I saw ‘polishing’ executed so well in this game. There is a staggering amount of detail in every part of Arkham Asylum. Every corner is rendered meticulously; most impressive are the details that convey the dank, sordid conditions of Arkham.
Every room is littered with cracks and scratch marks on the walls, which gives the impression that the insane have inhabited this place for a long time. These details make it all the more exciting to explore Arkham as much as you can to find Riddler trophies and Bioshock-esque recorded interviews with most of the villains.
Even the little things like Batman’s attire showing tears as you progress makes me appreciate how much time and effort was taken by the developers to deliver a “polished” game.
The gameplay itself also felt like it took a lot of fine tuning to get right. The combat is simple, but very hard to master perfectly. The elimination of very powerful henchmen using the stealth mechanics also takes patience and creativity to get down.
Batman’s arsenal is varied and they give you an opportunity to set traps and scare enemies into acting irrationally, allowing you to pick them off one by one. The gameplay is perfectly executed for a stealth-action game.
Dedication to the subtext:
Batman’s universe is an encylopedia of the metally disturbed. The good and bad characters alike, share, in one way or another, incredible confusion with their identity, and none of them really understanding how to live in the ‘normal’ society Gotham city represents.
The battle between the good and the evil in Gotham is ultimately settled through a battle between nihilistic anarchy and a utilitarian duty of justice.
But remember, nobody is exempt from their tortured past. Not even Batman.
Batman: Arkham Asylum’s greatest strength is the comprehensive breadth of context given to its narrative.
The addition of the recorded medical interviews of the villians, the narrated story of the island itself, and the exploration of Batman’s psyche through clever dream-like sequences steeps the player in the game world without having to read the entire back catalogue of Batman comics.
With so much to draw off of, the story telling in the game is more than enough reason to finish the game. While (SPOILARZ?) nothing ultimately gets resolved in terms of the characters (much like a comic story arch), the ride is so exhilarating that it almost doesn’t matter.
The story pulls from the animated series, The Killing Joke’s Joker story, and the recent movies, while still feeling fresh and interesting.
What I didn’t like:
Where is my MINI MAP?!:
Not all is perfect with the game however. While the story is ultimately satisfying, the middle act falls into back a fourth, almost fetch-questing, adventure, which I did not enjoy. Being bogged down in navigating around the island to fulfill very minor tasks was made tedious by having to continually leave the game world to access the map.
This part was annoying enough to take a break from the game, which probably saved my sleep schedule in the end…but it was still annoying.
Batman: Arkham Asylum feels like it was made for me. It explores all the aspects of the universe that interested me, while being technically impressive and fun to play. I still think, however, there is a lot to enjoy for the less hardcore, or new Batman fans in this game.
As a game it is a complete experience, and as a story it gives a ton of context to keep the gamer interested.
Oh and by the way, Halloween is a Saturday this year. It’s going to be a long night…I guess I need something more durable than construction paper…maybe I’m a little crazy…