Games That Nobody Plays Anymore: Arkham Asylum

[Games That Nobody Plays Anymore is a weekly series written by Nathan Hardisty with a little title card help from Juan Houter. It’s an on-going series about the forgotten games of yesteryear, and doesn’t totally reflect the title. Remember; nobody stops playing these games; it’s just a title. Don’t make something of it or I will come down to your house and ask you politely to stop. If you have any suggestions for future titles to ‘GTNPA’ don’t forget to leave me a comment!]

This is the greatest stealth game ever made. It’s the greatest comic book game ever made. It’s the greatest pop-culture character based game ever made. This is it. The end of an era, the beginning. This is where War for Cybertron and (possibly) Shattered Dimensions developed. This is when Rocksteady said enough was enough and they had had it with the snakes on the planes and rains in the Banes. They set out a goal, a simple goal, which thousands before them had mis-step. Thousands had tried and failed to reach the finishing line. The giant goal was; be Batman.

The character completely encompasses all staples of everything good with an entertaining experience. Intriguing, psychological, Gothic tendencies, humour, dark visionaries, descents into madness, the human mind. The world is a corrupt horrid place and the Batman mythology paints it as a dark alley. Arkham Asylum did everything in the book. The comic book mythology, the modern re-invention of the character in the Nolan films and the animated features. There’s even a slight little hint at the Adam West days. The good old day before depression was the greatest theme in entertainment.

The game is just amazing through and through. It puts you in the bat-shoes of Batman and just never steps with its relentless pacing. It’s one of those titles that exercises pacing intertwined with both gameplay and story progression. There’s a definite focus on rewarding those who proceed stealthily, in fact, it’s almost a necessity to proceed with caution. You have to become a stalker, a literal stalker, maybe even writing down notes behind the bushes and studying movements. You could write a whole book on the guard movements in the game.

The gadgets are a real hallmark, they just breathe bat-essence. The line-launcher has that kick to it that gives it a flavour of “I’m a badass.” and it feels so darn good to launch it through a window, crash through the glass and kick the thugs into a ravine below. The batarang is the best I’ve seen in the bat-thology, although the Nolan ones certainly tickle my fancy. I think from a theme perspective, it captures some of Nolan’s vision in the game too. Much as Gotham City was a character in The Dark Knight, Arkham Island is a changing character over the course of the game.

Combat makes a shoe-in and takes to the Batman like candy to cane. The takedowns, combos and just general animation is all fantastically designed. The cape swells and bobs around the bat-eared fellow as he knocks out hundreds upon hundreds of goons. There is so much to see and do, so much to chew up. The riddles are a highlight of this game, they’re challenging but so rewarding. Consult a guide and you’ll spoil half of the fun, there is just no blemishes to be found in the gameplay department, except from perhaps one glaring bit.

The detective mode that turns everything blue and everyone into skeletons can perhaps get in the way of experiencing the art of the game. I found myself forgetting to turn it on, I personally would rather it just integrated into the normal vision. Just let me see through walls. Another giant glaring fault is the ending and the final boss battle, which is both uncharacteristic and just downright horribly designed. The build-up to it (involving first-person cameras) is very well done and the game shines even more and builds up into a poof of  a climax. Nevertheless, this is the best comic-book game ever made, no question about that, if you haven’t played it yet then you suck eggs.


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