It was dogged by months of delays, but it’s hard to complain when the final product looks this good. The attention to detail, art direction, and sheer quality of Batman: Arkham Asylum is nothing short of spectacular. In the game’s premise, the Joker has taken over the Arkham Asylum and turned the inmates into his henchmen. This Asylum is far more than just a building – it’s an entire complex of buildings scattered over an island. The scope of the game is large, and the tone is surprisingly dark and sinister.
The first-rate graphics boast some absolutely breathtaking scenery featuring water views and city skylines. Batman has no problem navigating the shadowy, gothic scenery, as he can grapple most ledges at the touch of a button. Exploring the surroundings is enjoyable, and some buildings even have funhouse/haunted house flavor. There’s morgue area that’s genuinely creepy in a Friday the 13th sort of way. The game’s puzzles might be frustrating if not for the handy “detective mode” which highlights “points of interest” in the scenery. The fighting controls are perfectly suited to laying the smack-down on several foes in rapid succession, and each devastating blow is punctuated with exaggerated sounds and slow motion effects. If the crooks are armed however, it’s best to use your stealth abilities for a “divide and conquer” approach.
Batman: Arkham Asylum is brimming with style and has a flair for the dramatic. Brief cut-scenes are seamlessly intertwined with the action, and the Joker makes regular announcements over the monitors and intercoms. The voice acting is superb, and the language is pretty harsh for a superhero game. The music is restrained but effective, with a melancholy piano adding suspense during quiet moments. But perhaps the most impressive aspect of the game is its crisp, responsive controls. There are plenty of buttons to remember, but the game frequently reminds you how you perform key actions like activating the detective mode or executing a special take-down move. The game has more than its share of original gameplay elements like following a trail of fingerprints to locate a victim or picking electronic locks by maneuvering the controller thumbsticks.
As great as it is, Arkham Asylum may be guilty of being too long. Certain stages feel very drawn out, and even when backtracking you’re usually forced to clear out the thugs whether it’s really necessary or not. The game has a knack for taking a perfectly good concept (like using vents to infiltrate locked rooms) and thoroughly beating it to death! If it were shorter and tighter, I think the game would feel more cohesive and satisfying. Even so, Batman Arkham Asylum is a work of art that will far exceed most gamers’ expectations.
Used by permission © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.