23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
The Batman Simulator,
This review is from: Batman: Arkham Asylum (Game of the Year Edition) - Playstation 3 (Video Game)
On the few occasions Batman has had his own videogame, it's been a hard run for our hero. He doesn't have super-powers. It's hard to translate his detective skills into something that doesn't a) require the player to have the genius of Sherlock Holmes; or b) boil down to grabbing colored tokens and calling that "investigating". And of course the other obstacle Batman has to surmount is that balance between "Batman punches bad guy" and "Batman uses gadget on bad guy": you need good fight mechanics and useful gadgets that serve a purpose.
"Arkham Asylum" is the perfect marriage of the best things about Batman. It is also the perfect videogame for almost any audience. The fight mechanics make sense: they seldom leave you worrying more about being able to see than whether or not you're hitting the bad guy. There is a gameplay balance between the "quiet stealth" mechanic of a Splinter Cell or a Hitman game, versus the "weapons free" tactical assualt of a Rainbow Six. And best of all, every scenario can be handled more than one way: you can choose to sneak by a clump of henchmen, you can leap into the fray, or you can swing around Spider-Man style and torment them as you slowly take them down one by one. The only choke points in Arkham Asylum appear to be the boss battles, where you typically need to do one or more very specifc things in order to win. If you like RPGs, you'll be pleased to know that you can collect "experience" as you go and then spend it to get new upgrades to your armor, abilities, and gadgets.
Arkham Asylum is about as perfect as a game can get: it makes a complicated hero like Batman very easy to handle. It doesn't require fast-twitch skills, and yet there is plenty of action to be had. The controls are very fluid and despite lacking a platform-style "jump" mechanic, you are extremly agile and can easily chain combinations of moves together. For example, let's say you're on a ledge. You'd like to glide down, kick a bad guy, then grapple up to a gargoyle and swing across the room before he knows what hit him. You could do this by tapping square, then R1, then R1 again. If you knock somebody down and you'd like to finish them off, just hold R2 and press the triangle button: Batman will pounce on them, grapple, and subdue them with a knock-out punch and he'll even do it from some distance away so you don't have to sprint across the room before the bad guy gets to his feet.
Arkham Asylum also boasts a storyline written by Paul Dini, who is well known for the lion's share of the Batman Animated Series. Characters are voiced by the same people from the series, such as Mark Hamill as the Joker. There are all sorts of hidden goodies to find in every level, and each can unlock either the ongoing saga of Dr. Arkham or detailed information on the many DC characters that make up Batman's universe. Half of the fun is in listening to "patient interview tapes", reading origin stories and "first appearance" details, and exploring the "Behind the scenes" video content on the disc. You don't have to find everything that is hidden in this game, but the payoff makes you want to. Best of all, rather than worrying that you might miss out on a hidden secret, you are very clearly shown that some things won't be accessible until you come back later. Batman's gadgets come to him over the course of the game, and sometimes you'll need one that you'll be getting later in order to get into a secret area...you can always come back another time.
If games like this are typically hard for you, Easy difficulty does make it a cakewalk. Normal difficulty still gives you a lot of helping hands, though: if you get into a fatal situation such as falling off a ledge, the game will tell you 'tap R1 to escape' and give you a chance to avoid death. If you do die, you'll get a tip on the loading screen specific to what you were trying to get through. And if you're having trouble finding all the goodies, each section has a map that you can find that will light them up for you.
Still not impressed? Well, the Game of the Year Edition offers you the ability to play in "3D". This isn't the polarized "Avatar movie" style 3D, unfortunately: it is the traditional "red-blue glasses" 3D and comes with two pairs of folding paper 3D glasses. It works, it just doesn't bring much to the table. In levels with specific color balances such as the Arboretum (which has a lot of blues and greens), the colors tend to bleed out because you're looking through tinted lenses, so most of the time I leave this off. The Game of the Year Edition also adds 4 more maps, and the ability to "Play as the Joker". These extras really boost up the replayable appeal of Arkham Asylum. No matter what you're looking for in this game, you're going to find yourself coming back for more. You don't need to be a comic-book cognoscenti, but if you are you won't be disappointed.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Mar 15, 2011 3:09:01 PM PDT
FANTASTIC review and I concur completely.
In reply to an earlier post on Mar 16, 2011 4:30:11 AM PDT
Thanks Jon! I'm glad to hear someone else enjoyed Arkham Asylum as much as I did. Here's to hoping Arkham City knocks our socks off, too.
I appreciate your taking the time to comment.
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