Not your usual Batman

Batman: Arkham Asylum blends the fun, nostalgic aspects of the Batman cartoon with the gritty and sinister angle of The Dark Knight forming what may be the best comic book game ever created.

You take control of the Caped Crusader on the longest night of his life. After Batman returns the Joker to Arkham Asylum, the Joker breaks free and transforms the island into Batman’s worst nightmare.

Appearances are made by many of the most recognizable Batman villains, including Zsasz, the Riddler, Bane, the Scarecrow, Killer Croc, Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn. In addition to having to take on hundreds of the Joker’s thugs, Batman has his work cut out for him as he tries to track down the Joker and save Gotham City from destruction.
All of the characters resemble their cartoon counterparts. Almost all of the voice actors from the cartoon series have reunited in the game, most notably Mark Hamill, the voice of the Joker. His depiction of the Joker is far more light-hearted than the big screen portrayal but manages to retain the creepy, dark aspects of the character, which is very fitting for this game.

Visually, the characters also bear a strong resemblance to the cartoon. The Joker has his bright green hair and purple pinstripe suit while Batman still wears his underwear on the outside of his costume. The female characters, however, are designed for a more mature audience. Harley Quinn is now sporting a provocative nurse’s outfit, while Poison Ivy leaves little to the imagination.

When it comes to game play, Batman offers an interesting combination of tactical fighting and stealth. Timing is essential when fighting the numerous thugs Batman encounters. While one button will unleash one of Batman’s many violent punches or kicks, another will counter any incoming attacks. With the proper timing, Batman can string together impressive, visually stunning combos. Late in the game, Batman will come across more difficult opponents, each requiring a new tactic to defeat, such as stunning them or attacking them from behind.

The stealth aspect relies on hiding in the shadows above the opponents and quick take-downs. By switching Batman’s vision to detective mode, he can see all new sorts of information about his enemies, including their heart rates, where they are behind walls and whether or not they are armed. This mode also highlights the ideal hiding locations within a room. From these locations, Batman can perform a glide kick, where he descends on his opponents with a devastating attack, or he can drop down and silently take down his enemies with a sneak attack. The combination of these two game play elements provides for a variety of different fighting scenarios throughout the game.

Outside of the main story, Batman offers unlockable challenge maps, where players face rounds of opponents to create long combos and increase their score. Players can then post their scores to online leader boards to see who is the best Batman. As an extra bonus, once the main story is completed, a special armored Batman is available for play on the X-Box 360 and the Joker becomes playable on the PS3.

On top of a captivating storyline and a unique combat experience, the game is also littered with Easter eggs for fans of the comic. Players can find tapes scattered throughout the game that play the psychiatric interviews with all of the villains, explaining their origins. Also, there are hidden messages carved into the walls of the asylum that tell the tale of Amadeus Arkham, founder of the asylum.

For all of the game’s successes, no game is perfect. Dialogue between Batman and a different character often results in the character staring anywhere on the screen but at Batman. The Joker may be insane, but that doesn’t mean that he shouldn’t be making eye contact with his nemesis.

Also, there are some pointless detective mini-games that exist solely to progress the storyline. For instance, at one point Batman must wander around within a circle trying to find a clue. When the clue is found, the game continues. These mini-games require no extra effort and only serve as a pause in the action. However, these problems are only minor blemishes on an otherwise spectacular game.

Batman: Arkham Asylum is every gamer’s dream comic book game. In a world where video games based on comics and movies tend to be sub-par, this one defies expectations: a must-play for any true Batman fan.

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