Sunday, September 27, 2009
Superhero games are a tricky business. Good superhero games are rare. They range from good to average to bad and forgettable. Good superhero games that come to mind are the original Batman game on the original Nintendo, which was a Ninja Gaiden clone, Spider-Man 2 on the Playstation 2, and a couple more. Of course, there's never been a good Superman game. But now we have what could be THE definitive Batman game ever made. While the original NES game was a side scrolling action game that just had a Batman theme and not really a Batman feel to it, but AA has the feel, the look, and the sound.
The story for the game isn't the greatest ever, but it's not the worst ever. It's stuck in the middle. The Joker takes the mayor hostage before the game begins, and Batman stops his plan and takes him back to Arkham. Once inside, the Joker breaks free and traps everyone inside Arkham and challenges Batman to save everyone without any outside help. The McGuffin in the game is the Titan Serum, which is a refined form of the Venom serum that is used to make Bane super strong. The story is standard and sparse, since alot of the game is you exploring Arkham Island.
What makes this game's story so memorable, is the characters. The Joker is delightfully deranged, Harley is sadistically sweet, and Batman is his usual stoic and determined self to stop these evils at all cost. During the game while you sneak around, on the asylum's PA system and TVs, you'll see and hear the Joker give announcements and orders and bad jokes to make you chuckles and laugh out loud. This helps to break up the moments between the story segments while you deal with guards and how to move around them. These moments are what help an average story shine.
Sound - Music: 2/5
This is one of the weakest parts of the game. Similar to the new Batman movies, there is no real theme to the game. They need to have the themes from the animated show and the Danny Elfman themes from the movies he did. That would add the right musical tone to the game's atmosphere. Elfman and the late Shirley Walker's from the Animated series styles would fit this game so well. To see Batman on the rooftops of the buildings of the asylum while hearing the opening theme of Mask of the Phantasm would be epically awesome and one of the greatest atmospheric moments in a game. But the music is not very memorable, which is sad compared to how much work went into the rest of the game.
Sound - Voice: 5/5
This game has an amazing voice cast. The voices are perfect, especially considering that they got three main cast members to return from the old Batman Animated Series of the 90s. To once more hear what is, in my opinion, the best Joker ever. Batman and Harley Quinn are both amazing to hear again. Even new voices for the Riddler, or Bane, or even a lesser mainstream known like Zsasz are voiced really well and they are just great.
This game is beautiful, in a dark gothic style that perfectly fits Batman. From the sterile halls of the medical wings to the haunting creepiness of the gardens. This game captures the gothic style that Batman is known so well for. The atmosphere of the game captures the madness of the Joker perfectly too as you see the henchmen with clown makeup to the altered areas where the Joker has been. Graphically, the best areas of the game are the Scarecrow sequences which begin with reality being warped before becoming a nightmarish landscape with a giant Scarecrow searching for Batman. To me, the Scarecrow scenes are the most memorable moments in the games because of how the reality of the game begins to subtly change before it begins to change greatly before it finally ends with the nightmare scene.
The gameplay of this game is awesome, plain and simple. The gameplay is easy, fluid, and simple to handle. From moving around the environment to battling with the goons, Batman handles it all with style. Getting the drop on a gun totting henchman was never cooler looking as Batman takes them out without killing them, as Batman does. The reason I counted off a point in gameplay is because of the boss fights, save for one fight, the Boss fights are all just copies of the Bane fight. The Poison Ivy boss fight is the one interesting fight, since the rest of the fights are just Bane. This, gameplay wise, is the weakest part, because the boss fights are usually the most stand out portion of a game, and this game, they're all pretty much forgettable because of the fact it's the same fight over and over, save for when you fight Poison Ivy.
The second major part of the gameplay, the detective mode. The detective mode is an alternate view that shows you where enemies are, items, interactive points, crime scenes. The crime scene investigations is fun, but could have been more than searching for one clue in a restricted area. In the end though, I ended up playing more in detective mode than I did in normal vision, as it was such a helpful tool in moving around the island and using stealth. The detective mode is well done, similar to the Solid Eye system used in Metal Gear Solid 4, and it's fun to use.
While there is alot to do in the game after you finish the main story (collecting all the Riddler's questions, the challenge maps, exploring the island), the variety isn't that great. While I do like the challenge maps and the fact you can explore the island after the game to pick up anything you missed, and just take in the view is awesome. There's no enemies (save for a couple here and there) but the main waves of enemies from before are not there now, so you pretty much have free reign of the place. I wished they had added more modes or a New Game + (which is a rather common thing in games now). The fluid gameplay does make the game easy enough to want to play through a second time, but most people probably don't want to do that.
Overall: 4.5/5 (Not an average)
Arkham Asylum is an amazing game. The development team really put alot of effort into the game into making a game that puts you into the role of Batman. They could have made yet another licensed game that uses a name to sell a less than average game that no one would want to play, instead you have a game that is an amazingly awesome experience. The game has its flaws, but it's not enough to make the game unplayable. The game is the best Batman experience you'll find. It's not a side scrolling action game, a beat 'em up, nor a racing game, it is Batman. You glide, fight, grapple, and take down enemies (without killing them) and investigating crime scenes, and its fun all the way through.
The worst part of the game is the shortness, the boss fights, and lack of memorable music. However, the shortness helps keep the fighting thugs from becoming too much of a drag. The story is average, but the characters help the story, especially the Joker. As Mark Hamill's last time doing the legendary voice of the Joker, he did an awesome job. In the end, if you're not a fan of Batman or advanture games, then rent this game or give it a pass. But I suggest that people play this game. It is a joy to play, to hear several voice actors return one more time to voice the roles they helped make legendary in the Animated Series.
A final note: I suggest that one plays the Playstation 3 over the 360, this is mainly due to the fact that you can play as the Joker on the challenge maps, which is a cool feature.
Get the game, and BE THE NIGHT!