Monday, February 01, 2010

Arkham Asylum

This is a terrific game. I always enjoy a licenced game that makes me feel like the character: I took great joy in swinging round New York as Spiderman, and I take a great deal of joy in beating up criminals as batman.

The game is a rather neatly made combination of action, stealth and platforming. When fighting enemies, there are two versions. When the criminals are unarmed you simply get amoungst them and demolish them. The combat system is simple and mostly intuitive, with your main moves being to either attack or counter, and is a joy to watch. Batman is mortal, however, and if his opponents are holding guns he'd be a fool to assault them head on.

So he doesn't. Instead you sneak around, taking out the criminals one by one. As each criminal goes down the remainder become more fearful, and even easier to take out. I'm not a massive fan of stealth games, but this is just a great experience.

These are the basic experiences of the game, but the creators go to great lengths to mix things up. You encounter new enemies wielding different weapons who demand different tactics, and each stealth encounter will yield new challenges. A long the way there are some delightfully inventful moments: Scarecrow messing with your head, meaning you experience the envirnonment in totally different ways, Ivy transforming the entire island, the enjoyable challenges set by the Riddler.

The plot is great fun- its very comic book like, in that the threats are magical and strange, but have weight. The joker is creating monsters, but leaving corpses as he does so. Lives are at stake, and the Joker is delightfully psychotic.

Flaws? Well the context sensitive control system doesn't always work: sometimes the same button does the opposite thing depending on the situation, which can be more than a little counter-intuitive. Also, the death screen is frustrating. I really don't want the game to mock me when I mess up, especially a game like this, where repeating certain sections is inevitable. Still, very few that spring to mind, and all are very forgivable. It is rather short, but aren't all games these days?

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