Batman: Arkham Asylum
The critically acclaimed new Bat-game gets the Novice Gamer’s attention.
But that’s not all. Thanks to some beautiful designs, creepy locations (more than one reviewer has compared the use of atmosphere and setting to “Bioshock”) and exquisite vocals, it’s atmospheric and enticing; I refused to leave any area without searching it top to bottom or hanging around to catch every last bit of dialogue. I’ve long been a fan of Hamil, Conroy and Sorkin and they don’t disappoint. Hamil in particular, chewing up scenery as the Joker, is absolutely magnificent: he’s funny, he’s scary, and, since he spends most of the game yammering away over the loudspeakers, he’s a constant malignant presence; gloating, cruel and anarchic. Even dying becomes a bit of a treat as we get some fun little sequences of the villains gloating, and no matter how many times I see Joker blow a raspberry and fall over backwards, it never gets old. The rest of the cast are similarly fun, I was particularly struck by Wally Wingert as the Riddler, keeping just the right balance between sinister and smug (and seriously, when has the Riddler ever been seemed this much like a serious threat?).
Some of the character designs are less impressive than others: Scarecrow is clearly inspired by “Batman Begins” and Harley Quinn’s “sexy” new look (was the skin-tight catsuit not sexy?) just seems impractical. How on earth can she do gymnastics in a leather corset and platform thigh-high boots? Why ditch the cute jester hat for pigtails when hair is one of the few things badly animated? And more importantly, why do women in games HAVE to have their boobs on show? I mean, feminist ranting aside, there’s no need for Harley to be scantily clad. Poison Ivy’s lack of clothing is vaguely understandable, she’s a seductress afterall, but Harley? Has the Joker suddenly acquired a libido from somewhere? Because if he has he does a remarkable job of hiding it. The fact that she’s wearing a shirt with somebody else’s badge pinned to it suggests she’s been using that to gain access around Arkham, but that still doesn’t explain where she found the leather and fishnets. Somebody call the Dark Knight Dectective, we have a mystery on our hands!
There are other minor flaws too. Not being able to access certain things without the right gizmo meant I wasted hours running around in circles trying to get at them. The boss battles, as already mentioned, are irritatingly ordinary. There are also sequences that just don’t make sense, particularly those involving Scarecrow. Batman clearly knows all the villains beforehand, so why does he not notice the effects of the fear gas? Why wonder around in amazement falling for every illusion in front of him? He could at least say “this sensation is familiar” or something! Most of the time Batman would acknowledge that he was walking into a trap, but apparently the fear gas causes memory loss. Actually, the Scarecrow levels annoyed me. Not just because of Batman’s memory lapses, or because of Scarecrow’s irritating laugh, but because several times I had to wait for hints when I died before I knew how to continue but thankfully these sections were short enough not to be too much of an annoyance. The lip-synching could use some work too, and hair tends to look like it’s had enough spray put through it to keep a New Romantic band supplied for a year, but again, these are minor foibles.