So you’ve read about the Batman Arkham City Game of the Year Edition, and you’ve told yourself that you are going to buy it. What! You’ve never played Arkham Asylum? Perhaps you skimmed the reviews in 2009 when it came out. Maybe you overlooked the pre-played area when you were out shopping last week. Perhaps you were just broke.
Don’t worry, I was in the same boat. Truthfully, there is no longer any excuse for not experiencing the asylum, and now is the time to leap into the Bats costume and find out what happened in there!
The game starts out simply enough. Batman has apprehended The Joker and is personally escorting him into Arkham Asylum. Sure enough, as soon as The Joker is just out of Batman’s range, chaos ensures and a takeover begins. It’s up to you as the Dark Knight to sift through the riff raff inmates and restore justice to the once safe corridors. Along the way you will encounter many familiar faces, both good and bad. You may have thought that one villain was enough to keep Bats busy, but you will be encountering a whole host ranging from the reality shattering Scarecrow, or even the entangling Poison Ivy. Your hands are kept full throughout your visit to the island.
The combat is easy to understand and get used to. You only have one attack button, and another that is used to counter any incoming enemy attacks. Just with that one attack button though, you can turn any battle into a beautiful symphony of synchronized beat downs. Bats has a variety of different animations, and you will be looking forward to your next enemy encounter just to watch how effortlessly you can make an entire mob of inmates look like a bunch of wimps. Throw in a variety of gadgets, upgrades earned through gained experience, the good use of stealth, and it’s hard not to enjoy the combat or any scenario that is thrown at you. My only gripe is that other than enemies with guns, as long as your timing or gadget use is spot on, you will never struggle in any encounter no many how many enemies there are in any given situation. Some of the boss encounters are also simple, but it is enjoyable nonetheless.
Visually by today’s standards, the game still looks great (not that it’s that old to start with). The environments differ subtly in some cases, or have an entirely different look in others. The character design is fantastic and easily memorable. The true star of the show is Mark Hamill as The Joker.. The chirps and quips you hear over the island’s intercoms are entertaining and complete The Joker’s character. You won’t be forgetting him easily. That being said, the other characters also do a sterling job. Everything just feels entirely polished and perfect.
The whole game definitely has a “Zelda” feeling to it. You don’t start out with every gadget when the game starts. Along the way you acquire more, and you can use those to access other hidden areas that were not accessible before. The game can be linear if you follow objective to objective, but there are tons of easter eggs and areas to be found once you have every gadget. This is another aspect of the game. The Riddler has left a variety of trophies and challenges around the island and Asylum, and you can solve them optionally. Doing so can be hugely satisfying, as you can unlock a host of rewards. These consist of things such as new challenge maps, or even character bios from the Batman universe.
Truthfully, I have never been the biggest Batman man (Blasphemy! That has all changed now), yet finding and learning about new villains or characters can be fascinating. You can learn about the origins of characters, their bio, and their powers or abilities. Consider it a crash course on Gotham Lore, but in small doses.
Design and Presentation: 9.0/10.
It’s no Crysis, but the game is still gorgeous to look at. The levels are different enough to keep any player engrossed in the experience. The voice acting is top class and the entire package feels solid.
The combat is brilliant but only falls a little short due to the real lack of difficulty. Even when ramped up, as long as your reflexes are in good shape, you will seldom struggle.
The entire campaign spans a good few hours. Throw in The Riddler’s challenges and challenge maps and you have a package that will easily keep you busy for a good period of time. It’s not a new game, so for the price you will pay (around $19.99 on steam or around the same price for consoles in certain stores), it is great value.
I can only imagine how much more I would have enjoyed this game if I had known a little bit more of the history beforehand. It is a true treat for any Batman fan, and I’m willing to bet that anybody who did not appreciate him before, will become a fan themselves once completing this game. Any gamer would be silly to not give it a go!
(Reviewed on PC. Also available on Xbox and Ps3)
The Arkham games are currently available on Steam for pretty much nothing. R100 for Arkham Asylum? Grab it now if you haven’t played it.
Arkham Asylum was reviewed by Matthew Figueira