Ever since Arkham Knight was released for various platforms about a month ago I kind of felt intrigued by it. I really like open-world’ish games and so far I’ve heard only great things about the series as a whole. I have never played one of the Arkham games before, though, because I don’t really enjoy the Batman universe. Back when I was really young I kind of liked the old 60s TV series with Adam West but mostly because of its silliness. The more modern universe is a bit too dark for my taste. I was still curious enough to get a copy of Batman: Arkham Asylum for the PS3 from Amazon and give it a try.
And … just WOW! This was one of the best games I’ve ever played. But let’s start from the beginning: The plot is centred around the Joker being returned to the asylum by Batman but escapes virtually the minute he is escorted into the building. It looks like the Joker actually wanted to lure Batman into the asylum.
Over the course of the next 15 hours hours I’ve met characters from that universe known even to me: Poison Ivy, Harley Quinn, Scarecrow, Commissioner Gordon, but also some new ones like Bane, Killer Croc and Mr. Zsasz. The story is told mostly through in-engine sequences but also through session-recordings from the medical staff. If you are new to the universe the latter ones are esp. great for filling the back-story of these characters. The voice-work on everyone is just purely fantastic. Mark Hamill as the Joker was especially phenomenal when he taunted Batman. It’s still oppressively dark but at least not overly visually gory.
Gameplay-wise it’s a mix of Zelda, Metroid and Castlevania where the so-called “Detective Vision” mode helps scanning for evidence, hidden entrances et al. In the end I spent the majority of my time in this mode simply because it helped streamline and expedite my experience a bit. That being said, it doesn’t feel like a cheat-mode. It just saved me from wasting minutes in each and every room running from wall to wall to find the weaknesses, which are still visible but not as pronounced as in the detective mode.
This alternative vision mode is but one of the many tools the bat has with him. Batarang, explosive gel, a zip-line launcher, it’s all there and you will need all of that. Each item is also upgradable after collecting experience points mostly through surviving enemy-encounters.
This being a Batman game, these encounters are all hand-to-hand combat exercises where the joker sometimes throws a gun for his side into the mix. Usually, the combat sections of Zelda-games are most boring ones, but not so here! I dare to say, this is the best combat gameplay I’ve had in a very long time. Esp. when fighting against armed foes I had to resort to quick knock-out-and-hide tactics! Sitting on top of conveniently placed gargoyles waiting from an unsuspecting gunman coming close and hitting hard felt great!
Besides fighting the Joker’s cannon-fodder there were also a handful of boss-encounters which were equally rewarding. I don’t even want to start with Scarecrow’s sections. Same goes for the 240 puzzles the Riddler has hidden all of the island on which the asylum has been built (with which I actually have started, but anyway…)
I haven’t yet found all of them but I’ve completed the story and I can’t recommend this game highly enough. If you don’t absolutely hate video games, get this one! I don’t enjoy Batman but I absolutely had a blast with Arkham Asylum!
In fact, I enjoyed the game so much I’ve already order Arkham City 😉 I still don’t really like this universe but some of the characters are interesting enough to spend another 20 hours in Gotham 😊