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Reviewed: Batman:Arkham Asylum
Author: Michael Ahlf       Date: November 20th, 2009
Page: 2

Starting off on a review of the game, it's important to note that I actually did finish Batman: Arkham. Not just finished it, but finished it.

The beginning of the game starts off quite simply. Joker escapes Arkham, Batman captures Joker. Since Joker made the capture entirely too easy, Batman decides to escort him all the way to his cell in Arkham. There's a wonderful sequence in which Batman can do nothing but walk forward, giving players a chance to enjoy the scenery and atmosphere... and then all hell (and the Joker to boot) breaks loose. It seems Harley and Joker have managed to infiltrate Arkham's security system and take over the island, trapping the guards and freeing most of the inmates.

The tutorial mode takes you through all the major skills, even with Batman not having a lot of his extra toys (they're on his car, or in his secret backup-batcave, or he'll cobble them together as you move along by picking them in the character advancement screen). Some of them have battle usefulness, some stealth usefulness, and many of them also function as "keys" for getting around the island. The batarang starts out as a simple stun weapon, but eventually gets upgraded for multiple shots and a "remote control" option; explosive gel can be upgraded to a proximity mode, and the grappling hook (Batrope) can be upgraded to a three-shot model that is strong enough to pull down certain walls.

Level by level, the game unfurls. In the beginning it's pretty much straightforward, confined to one building and with only one path to explore. By the end of the game, there's an entire set of buildings to explore, tunnels, caverns, and underground sewer system. Spread throughout this are a number of crazy puzzles set up by the Riddler; secret items, "match the dot to the crook" question-mark perspective tunnels, and an insane amount of crazy joker teeth to destroy. When I say I "finished" the game, I mean I solved Riddler's puzzle. There's a special prize for doing so, with no in-game value but an immense amount of satisfaction nonetheless. There's also a "hidden" part to the "Spirit of Arkham" storyline not listed on the game's map or the Riddler list, so keep your eyes peeled. I've got to hand it to Rocksteady, they gave plenty of reason to keep exploring previously cleared-out areas.

For bosses, don't worry; there's an impressive array. From the utterly mediocre and pointless Mr. Zsasz, tricky sneak attacks on Harley Quinn, the infested, almost surreal plant-land of Poison Ivy, the psychotic dreamworld of Scarecrow, and the ultimate showdown with a Joker hopped up on Venom juice, there's plenty to enjoy. Bosses will work more as patterns than simple beatdowns, so pick your weapons and timing carefully.

In the levels, there are plenty of options. Run-and-fight is always possible, though later enemies carrying guns can pose a significant threat. Hiding in the rafters, dropping from gargoyles or gliding into the backs of enemies is an enjoyable play style, and something usually sorely missing from Batman games. The fact that Rocksteady made a game where both fighting and stealth are real, viable options is part of the game's charm.

If there's one downside to Batman: Arkham Asylum, I'd have to say that it isn't really a "replay friendly" title. After beating the Joker, there's the option to explore the island to find the hidden items and enjoy the scenery, but no enemies remain of worth. Once you've finished off the final two puzzles (Riddler and Spirit of Arkham), chances are the game's going to go onto your shelf, or be traded in for another title.

And I suppose if that's the worst I can say about the game, it's not a bad thing. For the price of a game, Rocksteady and Eidos deliver one hell of a ride through the world of Batman, and it's worth every penny of the price of admission.

Added:  Friday, November 20, 2009
Reviewer:  Michael Ahlf
Page: 2/3

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