Let me get this off my chest now: I am a major Superman fan. In the many debates I have had fighting over who is the better superhero, the Boy Scout or the brooding billionaire, I always choose the Boy Scout. However, I have to hand it to the bat, he has proven in Batman: Arkham Asylum to make a better hero for a videogame.
As the game begins, the player takes control of Batman as he escorts Joker back into Arkham Asylum after capturing him (without too much of a fight) in Gotham. Quickly, Batman’s skepticism is justified when Joker breaks free from the guards transporting him, escaping into the depths of the complex. With this, the Joker’s games begin.
The rest of the game is spent exploring the extensive buildings and grounds that make up the island, taking down the Joker’s henchmen and other villains in the process. The scale of the game world is ridiculous, and even though each building is made of a bunch of rooms and hallways, they never seem repetitive, especially when comparing one building to the next. As great as the design to these buildings are, my one complaint is that I felt the need to spend most of the time in detective mode, as not to miss anything important, making it more difficult to absorb everything around me and how it was meant to look. Instead, for most of the game I was immersed in a very limited color scheme, and I often had to remind myself to turn it off.
The character creation is another fantastic element of the game. Not only does Batman move fluidly, whether flaunting the movement of his cape or leaping over thugs, but he really looks great doing it. Furthermore, the supporting cast is created to such high detail as well, even if they are only seen briefly.
And what a group it is. Though I wish I could have seen their treatment of many of the other Batman villains, what they did with the characters they chose, from Poison Ivy to Harley Quinn, is more than you can hope for. However, the best moments by far are the run ins with the Scarecrow, both in how his poison gas manipulates the world around you, to the sections of side-scrolling, platforming action that accompany his attempts to break the bat. On a similar note, something that should be noted is how the boss battles are done in this game. Because a lot of the characters used draw their strength from brute force, it could have gotten very old quickly to spend battle after battle trying to beat down the other character. However, they chose to go about these things more originally, a prime example being their treatment of Killer Croc.
Though the main story line is strong on its own, I appreciated how the world of Arkham Asylum is slowly fleshed out with each item that you pick up along the way. First, there are the interview tapes of certain inmates, which explore the depths of their insanity, as well as some of the inner workings of why they are the way they are. Then there are the riddles the Riddler leaves for Batman to figure out as he explores the world. Though they don’t necessarily have evolving stories like the tapes or the Chronicles of Arkham, they do force the player to take in more of the smaller details that were put into creating the world, most of which would have been missed without this. And finally, there are the Chronicles, revealing the deterioration of the man behind the Asylum. Once you finish the main part of the game, it is definitely worth it to go back and find all of these that weren’t picked up along the way.
When it comes down to it, Batman: Arkham Asylum is definitely one of my favorites so far this year. Every aspect of the writing for the game is great, from the story to all the words spoken in the game, right down to the recordings being played as you run through the halls of the Medical Facility. Furthermore, they really did justice to the characters that fill Batman’s world, especially when considering the Joker (the main villain of the game). Overall, it is creepy, hilarious, and larger than life, everything you could hope for from a game about the Dark Knight.
Final Grade: 9.5