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Saturday, October 12, 2013

Game Review for Batman:Arkham Asylum

Premise:The Joker breaks out of Arkham Asylum and takes over the island, leaving Batman to fight the escapees.

Cast:Kevin Conroy as Batman and Thomas Wayne, Mark Hamil as the Joker, Arleen Sorkin as Harley Quinn, Wally Wingert as the Riddler, Kimberly Brooks as Oracle, Danny Jacobs as Victor Zsasz, Steven Blum as Killer Croc, Dino Andrade as Scarecrow, Tasia Valenza as Poison Ivy and Martha Wayne, Tom Kane as Commissioner James Gordon and Quincy Sharp, Fred Tatasciore as Bane, Cree Summer as Dr. Penelope Young, Duane R. Shepard Sr. as Aaron Cash

Available On:Xbox 360, Playstation 3, PC

ESRB Rating:T for alcohol and tobacco references, blood, mild language, suggestive themes, and violence

Genres:Action-adventure, stealth, beat-em-up

Notes:I played the Game of the Year Edition. Images taken from GameSpot and belong to Warner Brothers.

Pros:Gameplay is a lot of fun. Great voice acting for the most part. A story that doesn't suck. Good graphics. Plenty of cool stuff to unlock. You'll want to play it more than once.

Cons:Once you've beaten the game, their isn't much to do. Challenge maps don't tell you which medals you've earned. A little of the voice acting is poor. Frustrating boss battles.

 So you've just taken Joker back to Arkham. Again. And now he's escaping for, what, the third time this week? But this time, he's taking over the island, letting everybody loose, and now Batman (who else?) has to stop them.

That's all I can tell you about the story without revealing spoilers.

One thing gameplay involves is a lot of beating on thugs. Combos can be used, but I wound up using just the attack and counter buttons. If the enemies have guns, you can't just walk up and start whacking them. You'll need to sneak up and take them out one at a time.

One cool thing they let you do is activate Detective Mode. With this, you can see the number of nearby enemies, find objects that may be useful, and track people through forensic trails. You don't even need to turn it off (though occasionally, it will be turned off for you). Other gadgets you'll use include batarangs, explosive gel, a grappling hook, and more.

This is what Detective Mode looks like.

Scattered throughout the environments are riddles to solve and collectibles. Finding and solving them earns you rewards such as character profiles, challenge maps, interview tapes of the various patients, and Riddler's sarcastic praise. You'll also gain experience points, so keep an eye out.

If you want a break from story mode, challenge maps come in two variants:Combat, in which the goal is getting a high score fighting enemies; and Predator, which has you quietly (or not) taking down guys with guns. You earn medals for getting a high enough score or taking out armed henchmen in particular ways. Unfortunately, it doesn't tell you which ones you've already earned, only how many.

Most of the voice acting is done well, particularly with Mark Hamil as the Joker. And since several of the same actors were on the nineties animated show, there's also a nostalgia factor for some. My only complaints in this area are the performances on Harley Quinn and a younger version of Bruce Wayne. The music is good as well, but when you're busy trying to keep a room full of guys from killing you, you aren't exactly paying a whole lot of attention to what's playing in the background.

Boss battles are few, and most are pretty standard. Several are also frustrating, since they're the kind you die on ten times before you finally beat it. There are a few good ones though, most prominently against Scarecrow. These involve stealth, gadgets, and timing. (Little tip:Don't let him see you.)

Overall, if you like video games and Batman, I would recommend this one.

Edited 12/19/2016 to amend the content warnings.

Sex:A lot of the men are shirtless, and the female villains are sexualized. In a blink-and-you'll-miss-it moment, Batman removes an important list from Harley's cleavage.  Ivy blows a kiss to Harley for helping her escape (prompting Joker to remark he could watch those two all day).
Our favorite criminal clown makes lewd cracks. At one point, he tells his men whoever kills Batman gets a date with Harley, quipping he won't tell her about it. A mook sees video of a female doctor and comments she can operate on him anytime.

Violence:Lots of guards, doctors, and goons get killed, their bodies strewn throughout the areas. One begs for his life, pleading he has a kid. People are knocked unconscious, electrocuted, and held hostage. Characters use guns, knives, explosives, and tasers.
Joker has people killed and injured for annoying him, getting in the way, or just because he can. He has his henchmen do the same. A villain threatens to bomb Gotham. Human experiments grotesquely transform, with bones coming out of their skin.
Several of the interview tapes feature the patients threatening their doctors or making violent jokes. An employee speaks of torturing and murdering the inmates in his diary.
Killer Croc (who is a cannibal) drags someone underwater and eats someone's hand offscreen. One of his game over screens has him taking a bite of Batman a with sickening crunch.

Drugs:Super steroids are used. As usual, Scarecrow's weapon of choice is a toxin that causes those who breathe or ingest it to imagine their worst fears coming to life. Joker threatens and kills people with poison gas.
A goon says he took the pills he stole from a dead nurse, but didn't get a buzz. Commissioner Gordon smokes a pipe, which serves as a clue. Drinking alcohol is mentioned a few times.

Creepiness:As I said, dead bodies are everywhere. During the Scarecrow sequences, you'll see and hear his evil laugh, bugs crawling on the walls, eerie voices in the morgue telling you to leave, enemies as skeletons, and more. A drawn out game play sequence in the sewers has Killer Croc occasionally jumping out and chasing you (complete with scary music). He has another jump scare if you interact with the right door. Several villains look and act creepy. It certainly doesn't help that they're all sadistic creeps.

Language and Insults:"G*d" and equivalents are used, along with "h*ll", "b**ch", "crap", "d**n", "freaking", and "p*ss". Women are called witches in both English and Spanish.

Spiritual:Batman imagines his parents' corpses speaking to him. There's a brief reference to antagonist Ra's al Ghul, known for his habit of rising from the dead. Zsasz tells a woman he is her salvation (by that, he means he's going to kill her).
In a recording, someone refers to himself as the spirit of Arkham's founder. A corrupt Arkham employee asked his priest if it is immoral to kill in order to save a life. The priest told him all life is sacred, but killing to save someone can be forgiven. The man then decides that his murderous activities are a service to God as well as to humanity. He also references the Bible verse that says not to "suffer a witch to live" while discussing his intention to set a female patient on fire.

Other:The setting is in a creepy and often abusive asylum, and most of the villains are mentally ill to some degree.

So have you played it? What did you think?

© 2013 by M.R.R.

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