Action games come in many forms and flavors. There are the ones that are absolutely oriented to the action without so much of a semblance of a plot, those that try to balance them and those that are story driven. Inside those categories, however, lots of subcategories could be found – from well done to poorly done and the gameplay can easily be catalogued depending on exactly how the game is designed. Personally, I’ve never been too much of a fan of action games, having been turned off by supposed action-adventure games that are mainly fanservice (Tomb Raider) or simply too geared towards types of action I’m not too interested in (shooter action games).
I had consciously stayed away from Batman: Arkham Asylum for a different reason, however: Rarely ever is a video game based on an existing media franchise a good video game and I didn’t expect a Batman game would be the exception to the rule. I decided to give it a try only after a friend gifted me a copy of Batman: Arkam City and I felt I should play the previous game just in case the stories in both games were related. It quickly turned into one of the best gaming experiences I had this previous year.
Though not necessarily with a deep storyline (The general storyline in the game is about the Joker having a plot to take control of Gotham City and get rid of Batman on the way, all being done from the relative safety of Arkham Asylum), Batman: Arkham Asylum shines by having a storyline that’s not only interesting but that also keeps the player wondering what’ll happen next and how. It does help it a lot that the universe around Batman is so well fleshed-out and presented, making Arkham Asylum a pretty interesting place and the whole world around Batman actually come to life. There are several gameplay additions that help this a lot also – The whole side-quest involving the riddler trophies, for example, helps the player stay focused on the environment by having him look around every nook and cranny just in case there’s a trophy or an objective there, with the proper riddles taking the cake as the biggest challenges in the game – More than the game itself – By requiring the player to actually scout most of the zones just looking for whatever the answer to them might be and, in some cases, for ways to get to where said answers are.
The storyline itself, though nothing too special, is handled nicely and interestingly enough by allowing the protagonist of the storyline to switch between characters and, let’s be clear here, the protagonist in this game isn’t Batman – The true protagonists are the villains and the true motivation to keep playing the game is not so much seeing Batman triumph over evil but seeing exactly what the motley crew residing in Arkham Asylum is up to. Through the whole of the game the player is also treated to constant comments from the enemies via the speakers situated all over Arkham Asylum, those comments generally being about what Batman’s doing and, more often than not, mocking him for his apparent inability to keep the city safe or defeat his enemies. The best one of the villains, of course, is the Joker, the main villain of the game: Though the time he spends on screen is very short, you’ll spend more time listening to his voice during the game than not and his comments are generally nothing short of hilarious, making him one of those villains that you just love to hate.
Gameplay-wise, the game does it just fine: Batman begins with a set of abilities and toys and as he levels up and advances through the storyline he gets new or enhanced abilities and new toys to solve puzzles with. Though this means the general gameplay is often changing, by giving Batman new tricks and making his enemies smarter or more dangerous, the game does sadly get repetitive after a while – In my case just before I entered the last dungeon preceding the final joker fight, since there’s only so much you can do with said set of items or abilities. Nevertheless, this is the kind of thing that can happen in any game – At that point, I just kept playing because I wanted to know how the story ended and because I didn’t want to miss any mean comments the Joker might throw around.
One thing that did bother me about the game in general, however, was the difficulty – It wasn’t so much that it was too though in general but that the actual difficulty came in spikes rather than gradually ascending, something that made some of the fights in the game rather frustrating. It was also pretty annoying that most of the fights in the game (Boss fights included) consisted mainly of going around beating up Arkham inmates rather than fighting the actual masterminds behind the uprising. For example, the battle against Harley Quinn consists of running around three platforms that get electrified at random while beating up wave after wave of inmates, with Batman never properly fighting Quinn. The final Joker battle also contains lots of waves of inmates and during the game, even on non-boss fights, the same will happen over and over. One could say that there are only four kinds of boss fights in the game, two of them being repeated over and over and only the other two being truly unique.
The last thing that annoyed me about the game, and greatly in this case, was the all too constant crashes to desktop the game has on its PC version. Even now, when the game should’ve been fully patched and optimized I found myself crashing constantly, with said problem getting more common as the game progressed. By when I was finishing the game I could expect a crash to desktop every 20-25 minutes, something that’s unacceptable no matter what game we’re talking about, and something that made me want to stop playing more than once.
Other than that, the graphics and sound in this game are worth mentioning – Though certainly nothing groundbreaking nowadays, Arkham Asylum looks pretty good even with its age considered and graphically I found no issues at all – The game looks good and runs good when it comes to graphics, with no slowdowns experienced at any point. The sound also shines by itself by helping create a clear atmosphere and the voice dubbing, something that has killed many a game, though not necessarily the best, doesn’t sound as horrible as in many other games.
All in all, Batman: Arkham Asylum is a game I quite enjoyed playing, though I admit I would’ve enjoyed it quite a bit more had it had less crashed to desktop – Something I did take to account when grading this review. Other than that, however, the game is very entertaining and, though it can get repetitive near the end, its repetitive is nowhere near that of, for example, the first Assassin’s Creed. If you still haven’t played this and don’t mind (or actually enjoy, as is my case) Dark Knight-esque Batman, this game won’t let you down.
Final review rating: 3.5/5
Availability: Currently available on physical and digital form from Amazon.com
|Buy for PC
|Buy for PS3
|Buy for Xbox 360
|Buy for Mac