Monday, June 16, 2014

Video Game Review: Batman: Arkham Asylum

Earlier this year, I bought myself (because my wife let me) Batman: Arkham Asylum. And not too long ago, I beat the game. (Yes on easy mode.) But I'm not that big of a gamer, so to complete a game is always an accomplishment for me. 

For those that don't know, Arkham Asylum is the first of three games (soon to be four) in an awesome series of Batman games. (Oh, and another FYI, Batman has always been my favorite superhero.) In this, you control Batman as Arkham Asylum is taken over by Joker, with his oh-too-loyal assistant Harley Quinn. And now it's up to Batman to take back the crazy prison from Joker and associates.

As a fan of good storytelling, Arkham Asylum had a really great one to tell. However, there were a few parts of it that didn't work for me as well. But let's look at the base story: Joker purposely gets himself captured by Gotham PD and ends up taking over Arkham Asylum with Harley Quinn, Bane, (I think) Zsasz, and the Scarecrow.

One thing that's awesome about the game is that each of the characters is given some sort of depth. It helps that they added audio recordings from patient interviews that Batman can pick up in various places in the game. However, the "freakiness"/"scariness" rating hits the roof when you listen to Zsasz's recordings. (Thank goodness you can skip listening.)

So, the pros: an extremely difficult battle with Poison Ivy. A great chase with Killer Croc. A lot of stealth moments that are fun to figure out. A good lengthy story that develops over time. Of course, it's a video game, so the plot stalls at points in order to let the gamer play as Batman a little longer. But some of those "stalls" make the game that much better. Specifically, this refers to the few encounters with the Scarecrow. For one of these, the game honestly makes you think your hard drive has crashed, breaking the fourth wall a bit to make you feel like you're Batman going insane. 
Another pro is the voice-over acting. Harley Quinn and Batman have decent portrayers. This makes the interactions with H.Q. even more fun. But of course, the winner is Mark Hamill as the Joker. Had someone said "the Joker is played by Luke Skywalker" I would've asked how much he whined. But no, this is the Joker that I imagine. He does an awesome job as being one of the most believable Jokers. Of course, he's the Joker from the 90s animated series.

The cons: Repetition. Repetition. Repetition. Oh and did I say repetition already?  You fight Bane. You fight Bane-like monsters. You fight Bane-like monsters. You fight Bane-like Joker. The final boss battle waned in comparison to Poison Ivy and even Killer Croc. Also I always have difficulty with the view point of these games (Yes, a 2D sidescroller is still preferred, but I'm an 80s baby.) Also, Poison Ivy's outfit is not very modest...at all.

One of the "funniest" stories of my playing this game was when I had just put all my kids to bed and while my wife was out, I was playing. Well, at one point, I think to myself "Man is this getting creepy." (Thanks to Zsasz.) So I look around and realize that the only light in the house is coming from my computer screen, which is pretty dark thanks to the setting. So I promptly got up and turned on a couple lights, sat back down and said, "nope, I'm done for now."
Really, after playing this, I can't wait to play Arkham City. I can see the reasoning for this earning "Game of the Year" and getting more accolades than a trendy YA novel. Definitely ups my interest in the Batman world as a whole and makes me want to read more of the comics. On a scale of 1-10, I'd give it an 8, though, due to the repetition (which I may have mentioned.)

Alien abductions are involuntary, but probings are scheduled.

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