We can probably all remember a time when we ran around in nothing but underwear and a makeshift cape tied around our necks, jumping off of tables and chasing villains through the house. Finally, Rocksteady Studios is giving us a chance to step into Batman’s shoes (and his handy dandy utility belt) in the game Batman: Arkham Asylum.
The game opens with Batman hauling his arch-enemy the Joker to Arkham Asylum, again. But this time, something doesn’t feel quite right. It turns out that the Joker allowed himself to be captured as part of an elaborate plot to trap Batman in a madhouse full of psychotic enemies.
Because Batman has no super powers, he relies on combat abilities, cool gadgets, stealth, and detective skills to get the job done. One of the most impressive features in this game is the freeflow combat system, which allows you to take on hoards of Gotham City’s villains by just pointing the control stick and pressing the attack button. Using this system you can rack up insane combos, and the more attacks you string together, the more experience points you will gain. These points allow you to unlock enhanced attacks and armor, plus upgrades for weapons like the batarang and explosive gel.
The game also employs an interesting concept called “detective mode”. When activated, it allows players to analyze everything from the alcohol content in the air to the break-ability of a wall to which enemies are armed. This addition is extremely useful and really works to put the player in character, and helps them seek out things like ledges that you can cling to and vent covers that can be ripped off.
While it’s tempting to stay in detective mode the whole time, the graphics in this game are incredibly detailed and beautiful. If you don’t pay much attention to the visuals the first time around, Arkham Asylum has great replay value in the form of Riddler Challenges. These challenges, set up by the Riddler himself, require you to search for trophies and photograph various objects, many of which are comic book references (for instance, the riddle “A game of Cat and mouse can be painful” implies that you must photograph Catwoman’s costume, which is on display). There are 240 riddles to solve, so this search will keep you playing long after the Joker has been defeated.
Batman: Arkham Asylum is full of puzzles and suspense propelled by an intricate story-line that keeps you guessing. Fans of the Batman series will recognize a number of allies and villains, including some more obscure references from the early Detective Comics age, but you definitely don’t need any major background details to enjoy the game.
For its innovative gameplay, stunning graphics and deeply rooted story, I give Batman: Arkham Asylum a 9/10