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Review Batman: Arkham Asylum (PS3 / 2009)

genre: action, adventure, crime, comic book, super hero

Following review I wrote a year after the game's release:

When I played the demo of this game I was blown away. This game contains everything that a Batman game should contain.It has stealth, combat, gadgets,super villains and even a good (although simple and ) story. And excellent graphics. Arkham Asylum really felt like the dark place it is in the comics and at the same the characters looked lifelike. After playing the first level of the full game I realized that the public was misled somewhat. Everything you could do in the demo has to be unlocked first after earning points by defeating enemies, collecting teeth and other trophies. So Batman is a little handicapped in the first levels of the game. Once you do get the upgrades the game does pick up. But while the demo has you thinking that there is a choice in using stealth or just plain combat you are always told what to do. Meaning that the game will tell you when to use stealth or not. And this bothered me. It is extremely cool seeing Batman doing is thing hanging upside down from a Gargoyle. And at the same hearing the reaction of the thugs in the room, who become scared and loose focus so that they can be defeated even more quickly. But there are only a few levels where you can use these tactics. The other stealth missions have you sneaking up on enemies or crawling through vents but offer very diversity in handling these thugs. Also while you sometimes can avoid battling thugs it does prevent you from upgrading yourself which is much needed to reach certain areas later in the game so more often than you would like the combat is mandatory. Another thing I noticed that the game is stretched in game play with too much repetition. Especially the boss missions, concerning Scarecrow and Bane or Bane like thugs. While it was fun the first time to do the Scarecrow level it becomes actually very tedious the third time you have to do the same thing over and over again. Still this game did achieve the one thing that matters. In this game you become Batman. Without a doubt one of the best Batman games ever, but still flawed. 

A few months ago I thought it was time to revisit the game to see if it still holds up and if it is replayable: 

And without hesitation I can say that the game does hold up and is very much replayable. Although now I have a few more flaws to add. Like for example the boss fight with Killer Croc. Or should I say how not to do a boss fight ever! Instead of fighting Killer Croc directly you are forced to hunt down and collect some spores to make an antidote. You do this by walking on floating platforms while a device is navigating you through the maze of sewers. Tricky part is that once in a while Killer Croc will jump out of the water and will run towards you where you have a few seconds to throw your batarang and to which he will dive back into the water again. I think the game is implying that the electric infused batarang shocks Killer Croc so much that he gets disorientated and loses your scent. You then have to carry on until you are able to collect a spore. Once collected the game will save automatically so that in case of a mishap you won't have to start all over again. Despite this it takes almost forever to go through this process of collecting. Especially since sometimes Killer Croc also will just chase to which you are forced to flee risking to lose the progress you made. It's not that it is difficult but simply tedious and mind numbing. If you are impatient as me you will dislike this fight with a passion.

The end fight with Joker was a joke. Basically the same fight as with Bane and the Bane wannabe's (Titans) but now it's even more unfair. They changed the pattern in order to do damage to Titan Joker. After you defeat the multiple hoodlums Joker sends after you have to quickly use the grappling hook on him to make him fall from the ledge and then you have to punch him a couple of times. Then you have to do the same two more times. If you fail to grapple or to successfully punch him you have to repeat the whole process again without mercy. Again a boss fight full of tedium. 

So yes the boss fights in Arkham Asylum could have used a little more work. And not being able to use stealth when you want to is a big no no for me. Apart from this the game does manages to suck you into it's world with it's characters who are deliciously evil and over the top. This is definitely one of the few games where Batman is portrayed the closest to the character we know from the comic books.

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