Batman: Arkham Asylum (2009) Video Game Review

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“The Summer Of Batman” continues with this review, which involves spending the summer (and possibly the autumn) watching, playing and reading all things Batman.  To begin the project, I read a Batman comic called The Black Mirror, watched Batman Begins, and played this game.

So…Arkham Asylum, what’s the story?  One night, in the middle of February, in Bruce Wayne’s 7th year as the caped crusader, Batman captures and personally brings the Joker to Gotham’s most famous and haunting mental hospital, Arkham Asylum, a place for the criminally insane.  Shortly after arriving, and going with Arkham protocol (despite Batman saying he should be with them at all times), The Joker escapes, and almost instantly takes over the whole Asylum with a little help from his friends and a large number of prisoners who were mysteriously transferred to Arkham from Gotham’s state prison, Blackgate, shortly before this happens.  The game then focuses on Batman stopping The Joker and placing him, once again, under arrest.  And that’s it!  That’s the story.  It can be summed up into a sentence or short paragraph.  But what makes this game so special…is the decoration of this story.  Written by Paul Dini (Who wrote a lot of Batman stories before this, and created Joker’s sidekick, Harley Quinn), we’re presented with a simple, but purposeful story written by somebody who really knows these characters well.

To within a certain degree on continuity and familiarity, Rockready (the developers) approached Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill (possibly best known as Luke Skywalker).  Why were these 2 approached?  Because back in the ’90s, they were the voices of Batman and Joker in a really good saturday morning cartoon known as Batman:The Animated Series (Which Paul Dini worked on).  They were an awesome choice to say the least, and I consider Hamill’s Joker to be roughly as good as Heath Ledger and Jack Nicholson, which says a lot about his performance.

Graphics-wise, at the time, this was by far the best looking Batman game.  But in general, it wasn’t the best looking video game, even for 2009.  When compared to Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, which came out that same year, they look great, and yet not world-class.  But the style, artwork and other visual design more than make up for this.  It’s still a beautiful looking game that oozes with personality.

Gameplay-wise, especially at the time, Rocksteady chose to be insane.  Have you ever wondered what it would be like to create a Batman game with various gaming genres mixed together?  Well, in this game you find that out rather quickly.  You’re provided with exploration, main mission and side mission aspects that appear to be borrowed from the likes of Assassins Creed and Uncharted.  The fighting controls are that of a 3-D beat-em up without a time limit or not having health afterwards.  Every time you fight or break or collect something, you’re rewarded, either with concept art, 3-D trophies, or, of course, a level-up, which is used to either give Batman more health, upgrade a skill or gadget or his fighting style, or acquire a new gadget.

Music-wise, Nick Ardunel and Ron Fish captured the scenario perfectly.  It’s dark, brooding, dangerous (think Jaws-dangerous), and in general, it “sounds like Batman”.  The main theme gets you in the mood for the rest of the game, and even gets you excited when you replay it.

Is there any downsides to Arkham Asylum?  Yes, and I’ll mention the main 1: The Boss Battles.  The selection of bosses for this game are great, and within context, the battles were quite excellent in their variation and design…but flawed too.  How flawed you say?  2 reasons…1. There are too many boss battles that are alike; consisting primarily of giant henchmen who have been injected with the glowing green steroid known as TITAN.  Several henchmen have taken it.  Bane took it, and others took it as well.  These giant bosses all more or less require the same strategy, of waiting for them to charge and then using a Batarang, and obviously keeping out of their way when they’re focused.  The 2nd problem is…Most of them are too easy, with some that wouldn’t really qualify as boss battles, such as Victor Zsasz and Harley Quinn.  The 3-part boss battle with Scarecrow however, was fantastic!  No matter the difficulty of that level, it was brilliantly designed and presented.  Definitely a stand-out in the series overall.  Killer Croc’s boss battle also proved to be quite well made, and even scary.  They promoted the fight along the way in a movie fashion, with Croc talking trash to Batman when they cross paths before the fight.  I also like how they present Croc as being a character who would be impossible to defeat in hand-to-hand combat, and in a sewer.  Poison Ivy was also 1 of the better fights.  Is there a worst 1?  Just the TITAN fights mostly.

Would I recommend Batman: Arkahm Asylum?  Definitely!  At the time when it came out, it was by far the best looking, most fun, easily playable, and most innovative Batman game that had ever been made.  And today it still holds up incredibly well, even with the PS4 now out.  It wasn’t too long and it wasn’t too short.  There was plenty to see and do.  It was dripping with atmosphere and gothic edge, and definitely a game that needs to be played by both Batman fans and gamers alike.

Graphics: ****

Art/Design: *****

Music: *****

Voice-acting: *****

Story: *****

Characters: ****3/4

Gameplay: *****

Overall Rating: ****3/4

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