Into the Asylum

by bhayden
10. February 2013 22:30

I have a confession to make.  I’ve never read an entire Batman comic.  I’ve thumbed through them, glanced at them, but never picked one up and read it cover to cover.  I have, however, always been fascinated by the superhero mythos.  Batman ranks among one of my favorites.

The thing about Batman is that if you suspend your disbelief enough you can almost imagine that he could be a real person.  Not only that but that you could be Batman.  Unlike most of the other superheroes that exist, Batman’s advantages are his intelligence, money, technology (via his money) and good old fashioned training.  There’s no spider bites or power drawn from the sun, only human ingenuity and muscle powers Batman.

This is never more apparent than in Arkham Asylum.  The stage is set from the opening sequence as Batman proceeds through the roster of Gotham’s most famous villains.  This is a game about beating up simple thugs and outsmarting those that are stronger than Batman.  The combat system is fluid and occurs just often enough to leave you wanting for more, but not so much that the game feels like a beat-em up.

I say simple thugs because you do enough sneaking around through man sized grates and vents and they never seem to get why or how you drop them without them seeing you.  The first few times you do this you feel like a ninja assassin, creeping through rooms and popping out to drop an enemy.  Near the end it feels more like a chore and I wished that I could simply beat the crap out of them instead of play hide and seek.

There are puzzles in this game.  Aside from saying they are there I’m not sure what else would be worth noting.  They follow the tried and true Zelda formula of get new item, use said item to solve the next dungeon/boss. 

Batman is a conflicted character, and the best moments of Arkham Asylum are when this conflict is bubbled to the surface.  The other aspect of Batman that makes him interesting is that he walks a very fine line between hero and villain.  At times you can almost feel that Batman could be on the other side, and that’s only one or two key moments that drove him to be a vigilante.  Criminal histories are filled with those who have experience what Bruce Wayne has.  Those who turned their rage to pursuits less noble.  Unfortunately these moments are too few. 

Instead what Arkham Asylum delivers is an experience that is like a thumbed through comic.  It is rapid in progression while remaining focused in its delivery.  This is fan service at its best.  It’s a game that delivers a great experience and atmosphere from beginning to end.

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