Title:

  • Batman: Arkham Asylum

Genre:

  • Action Adventure

Developer:

  • Rocksteady Studios

Publisher:

  • Eidos

Release Date:

  • August 25, 2009 (consoles), September 15, 2009 (Windows)

System(s):

  • Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Windows (initially), OS X (later on, 2011)

Box Art Credit:

  • GameFAQs

Systems Used:

  • Windows 7

On Wikipedia:

If you asked me what was my favorite new game I played during the year 2016, that answer would be Batman: Arkham Asylum. B:AA makes me wonder why I don't have more triple-A games on my computer. I'm part of the PC gaming master race, why don't have I push more games like this? I mean, it looks pretty good and runs fine, but it's from 2009, which would be laughed at anyone today (maybe the answer to my question is that I still balk at $40-$50 games with DLC, which is probably I gravitate toward legacy and indie titles).

Arkham Asylum is somewhat of an action-adventure game where you play as, of course, Batman, running around with flying swoops, all sorts of gadgets, and a fairly wide area that's a bit sandbox-y but close enough that you can figure your way around it without too much problem. The game also avoids the problem of terrible voice acting by just having a reunion of the voice actors of the 1990s Batman: The Animated Series cartoon that I used to watch on Amazon Prime and sad that it's not on Netflix, because that show was entertaining, even if it was technically marketed for a substantially younger demographic. Kevin Conroy (Bruce Wayne/Batman), Mark Hamill (the Joker), and Arleen Sorkin (Harley) all reprise their roles (but not the original VA of James Gordon, Bob Hastings, who had retired by then and passed away in 2014). Because of the voice acting, it looks like it could work with the DC Animated Universe as it is, and some people have agreed on that fact, but while it isn't technically canon, I've heard some people say something along the lines of, "Oh, no," I've heard some say, "Batman: Arkham Asylum is far more vicious than the DCAU ever was." Which is a poor answer, and I would say the next following paragraph to them.

How will Batman find himself out of this one? Tune in next time, same bat time, same bat channel!

Remember, in the DCAU, Batman Beyond is canon. DCAU did have Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, in which, spoiler alert, Tim Drake (the younger Robin) is tortured into being a miniature version of the Joker, leaving him with deep psychological damage, and in retrospect, it was basically a loose adaptation of Batman: A Death in the Family where the Joker beats Robin (the "Jason Todd" Robin) with a crowbar before eventually blowing him up, and for all the things the animated series DID get away with, they couldn't do that. I wouldn't count costume changes if someone tried to argue that, the show looked substantially different (and not for the better) during the re-tool into The New Batman/Superman Adventures. If you were to argue that Arkham isn't canon BECAUSE of Beyond, well, that's a better answer, but the Arkhamverse tends to fit better into the DCAU than Batman Beyond does.

Of course, the setting is far from pleasant. The island just gets worse and worse, especially somewhere into the last third of the game (where physical deterioration occurs). Enemies get tougher, and Batman's reassurances to the remaining guards to "stay here, it's safer" only ends poorly. The story is fairly predictable, the ending is rather disappointing for what it's worth, and the boss fights are unbalanced, with the core mechanic of "trick the boss into slamming the wall" which dates back at least into the time the NES was on the market, yet it's often difficult to dodge and attack them when they're doing that (the final battle with the Joker is also frustrating based on timing). Another one that particularly sticks out is the battle with Poison Ivy and her giant plant thing. I also highly recommend playing with a mouse and a keyboard, the Xbox 360 controller just didn't work for me and after botching what should've been an easy maneuver right in the beginning of the game, I went with mouse and keyboard for the rest of the game.

Yikes! What happened to your face, dude?

The biggest disappointment of all is one that's very understandable to the game...there's just too many instances of "Sir-Not-Appearing-In-This-Game". One of them is the Riddler, again voiced by a non-DCAU actor, one Wally Wingert, who provides the requisite collectibles you tend to find in video games and taunts you over your voice radio is nowhere to be seen. Another one is Scarface, controlled (and voiced by) the Joker/Mark Hamill, with The Ventriloquist only mentioned (it also brings the whole ambiguity if Scarface is just a puppet controlled by Arnold Wesker's more violent alternate personality, or something more supernatural), and part of the fun of Scarface was that Wesker was just that nuts. The published "Knightfall" collection (the series where Bane "breaks the Bat" and Batman is replaced by a vicious nutcase who upgrades the suit with ridiculous things like claws) includes a scene where Scarface gets in an argument with another puppet and Wesker ends up shooting his own hands at point-blank range, or in the cartoon, where Batman interrogated Wesker while Scarface was "sleeping", then having Scarface start the next morning asking questions about the who the mole was. Without the Ventriloquist, Scarface has no place in the narrative. Another one that could've gone somewhere but never did was Jack Ryder's voice on the radio, with his profile in-game mentioning that he becomes the Creeper, which in the DCAU was a yellow version of Freakazoid (of course, given the tone of the Arkham series, such a character would be completely out of place as with some of the other more "out there" DCAU villains like Baby Doll). The reason I say "Understandable" is because it's only one game, and there's always room for sequels (in theory--I've never played Batman: Arkham City, though I'd be happy if I saw it for sale--as of this writing it's back to $20 on Steam, but I just downloaded the demo!).

Developer cameos?

I actually don't want to talk about Batman: Arkham Asylum all that much because most of the questions are answered in-game and it's actually really fun. It was somewhat short (about 20 hours, less if you're particularly good), very absorbing, pretty balanced, and provides challenge without making you regret it or getting you stuck enough to give up (boss fights not included). And speaking of boss fights, the Arkhamverse tends to stick with the adaptation characterization of Bane as a superstrong mindless beast (sort of like an evil version of the Hulk), which was not the case in the original "Knightfall" comic (where he was very intelligent, a feature that adaptations of Bane never saw until The Dark Knight Rises. There's always going to be things to complain about but I'm not going to because this isn't reviewing games like "This game is awesome, you should buy it" versus "This game sucks, you should avoid it like the plague". Oh, and see that one with Batman being captured? Preceding it is a trippy part of the interface that needs to be seen to be believed. Do not adjust your set...

February 20 2017

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