Saturday, October 20, 2012

Week 4, Part 2: Batman Arkham Asylum

     Since I finished Assassin's Creed at the beginning of the week, I couldn't very well wait until the end of the week to introduce my next game and begin my playthrough the following week. That would be foolish...

You don't make your way through a backlog totaling over one month of playing time by taking a week off.

I had already made it past the intro/tutorial stuff a while ago, but put it on hold once I made the decision to start this self-indulgent blog chronicling my backlog.

So when I picked Arkham Asylum back up, I had already seen Joker escape into the asylum, and played through the first hour or so of the main story. Perhaps it stems from my feelings towards this game, or I suffered a memory lapse, but I started this game thinking it would take me through this past week and into next week.

The game was finished early Thursday evening, forcing me to cram two entries into one week.

I approached this game in a fashion similar to Assassin's Creed in terms of collecting things. Since I was more familiar with Arkham Asylum, and the execution is engaging, I gathered a decent amount of Riddler trophies without going out of my way to track down every last one.

When I finished, I had tracked down around 170 trophies, roughly half of the Arkham Chronicles and had a 77-percent completion rating.

Now that all the numbers and explanations are out of the way, I can move on to spouting my praise as if it means anything to anyone.

There is no way I can touch on every aspect of this game that I love, so I'll just hit the important parts. For starters, they set the stage perfectly by tagging the writer for Batman: The Animated Series, as well as the voice acting talents of Kevin Conroy, Arleen Sorkin, and Mark Hamill reprising their roles as Batman, Harley Quinn, and Joker respectively.

For anyone who grew up in the 90s, having what amounts to an interactive version of that show is a dream come true.

That may be an oversimplification, but with all of the attention paid to Nolan and Bale's Batman, and my general distaste for the execution, it is great to get back to what made me love Batman.

Arkham Asylum is, in a word, amazing.

The story is great, the characters matter, and the gameplay is phenomenal. Superheroes don't easily translate to video games (see Superman, Aquaman, Iron Man), which makes the triumph of Arkham Asylum so much more satisfying.

In contrast to the general glossing we have seen over the "World's Greatest Detective" moniker, Arkham Asylum offers a solid amount of detective work.

The player is responsible for tracking friends and foes throughout the Asylum, whether it be with tobacco from Commissioner Gordon's pipe, the alcohol on a guard's breath, Harley's prints. You get to see the brain that is often overlooked in the brawn of Batman.

Detective Mode is a great game mechanic, though the developers went on to lament player's playing through most of the game with it activated, as it left their meticulously detailed environments unappreciated.

The combat is one of my favorite systems in all of gaming. It is smooth and satisfying, yet challenging and varied.

One of my favorite things about this game is the numerous nods to classic Batman villains.

We see Basil Karlo (Clayface) taking the shape of Gordon, Cash and Warden Sharp, Ra'as Al Ghul's body in the morgue (which is missing upon your return), Penguin's umbrellas and hat, Mr. Freeze's holding cell, Scarface in a display case, Black Mask's mask, piles upon piles of files tagged to Hugo Strange, the tea set for Mad Hatter, the mention of Tommy Elliott aka Hush, Calendar Man's cell.

All the mentions of villains make up for the story focusing on Joker, with key roles played by Poison Ivy, Bane, Killer Croc and Scarecrow.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the absolute mindf*ck Scarecrow is responsible for.

The section where you walk a long hallway as a young Bruce Wayne when his parents were murdered is great. The stealth sections, having to avoid the gaze of Scarecrow, feature flashes where you ARE Scarecrow....

... Getting a glitchy screen... Then you're Joker transporting Batman into Arkham Asylum in the manner Batman escorted Joker into the asylum to start the game...being KILLED, and then a Retry/Quit screen coming up...

Never has a simple cough from Batman been so terrifying because it was a prelude to some craziness at the hands of Scarecrow.

I'm getting carried away.

There is too much to talk about with this game. If there is one gripe I have, it is that it isn't longer, but that is rectified with the sequel...

...Which is hinted at in one of the most impossibly hidden Easter eggs ever...

The final payoff leaves a bit to be desired, though Batman spraying explosive gel on his knuckles to deliver the knockout blow is beyond words.

I'll cut myself off before this gets more out of hand than it already has, and I become hyper-aware of everything I've missed pointing out.

Since I pre-ordered it, and picked it up the week after it was released, I will be playing Dishonored next. I don't know how long the game is since varying sources have the main story clocking in at less than 10 hours, while one of the level designers made it through a stealth playthrough in around 20 hours.

I'm excited for this game given the comparisons to Deus Ex and BioShock, two games I have enjoyed, though the former is on my to-do list...

So yeah, expect some Dishonored sh*t next week.

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