This doesn’t count as retro, I know. But I played it properly for the first time last week, you know why?
BECAUSE I’M BATMAN!
I am going to get the worst features out of the way first, because, you know… Batman.
The combat is shit and overly simplified, if you button mash, you’ll fail. So don’t do that.
But what you do do (ha) is find your rhythm, sound poncy? It is. Combat is like a flowing river of flowingy flowiness. Press X, Press X, Press X, Press Y, Press X. That is all you do, it is simple, but the timing and the rhythm in which you press will make all the difference between a 3 hit combo or a 40 hit combo. Some people may like it, but I just found it annoying, if you mess up the rhythm you’ll then get knocked around for a few seconds, but you rarely ever loose a fight on normal difficulty.
I hated the forced stealth sections in the storymode.
You’ll come across sections where the enemies have guns, and as a result you’re forced to take a stealthy approach. They break up the game too much, as you’d have a 30 minute section you breeze through, and then suddenly, you’re in a room where you have to stand still for 10 minutes waiting for a patrol to pass your ambush. They sucked.
The bosses were… shit.
They run at you, you throw a battarang, they hit a wall, you punch them, rinse/repeat.
The exceptions are, an overly easy battle vs Poison Ivy which takes too long, a stealth/quick time/action hybrid to not actually fight Killer Croc, and then the final Joker battle. The less said about this the better.
Most bosses also felt the need to have goons attack you, and frankly they don’t take anything, they just get in the way, or, like the Harley Quinn fight, are a diversion to distract you from the fact you don’t actually fight Harley Quinn (or Joker for that matter).
Normally I hate side quests where you have to gopher around, but I honestly loved these sections, the detective system, while VERY simple, works well on the finding the lore and hidden artifacts of the asylum aspects. For me this was easily the most enjoyable part of the game, I breezed through the main story in around 5 hours, but then put in around 15 hours looking for the trophies. Some were maddening to figure out, but none felt unfair.
One thing that is worth pointing out is the detective system for finding people is a little too convenient. The “Oh, that guy drank some whiskey, I’ll be able to follow his vapour trail to find him” section was very lazy game design.
I’m not a fan of Batman, but Arkham Asylum looks like a Batman game should do. It combines the comic book (Jim Lee style) feel with realism very well, and doesn’t end up looking like a teenage angsty cluster-fuck of Tim Burton crappyness.
Their are challenge modes you unlock through completing the story, and finding Riddler’s Challenges, these are ok.
The stealth missions work in that, you are choosing to do a stealth level, and because it is now the focus, rather than a distraction, they become slightly more enjoyable. Being tasked with taking enemies out in a variety of ways is nice, but you’ll never use half of these techniques in the game. On one of the “extreme” levels, you need to take out 3 guards, using 3 different walls collapsing. This isn’t hard, but it does mean you spend 2-3 minutes stealthily sneaking around the level, and then waiting 10 minutes for the planets to align.
The combat challenges, these FUCKING suck. The combat is shit, I don’t want to spend 4 rounds pressing x rhythmically to try and get a high score.
I 100%ed the stealth challenges, but 1 of the combat challenges before deciding enough was enough.
Despite the limitations of the combat, the poor bosses, and the relatively annoying stealth sections, Arkham Asylum is a good game I can’t really explain why. There are so many things that don’t work for me, but something shines through.
The plot gets a bit nonsensical at times, I still don’t understand why Poison Ivy decides to join Joker, I really can’t abide Harley Quinn, but everything is there. But everything you wanted from a Batman game has finally been done.
Oick this up for £10 and it’ll be worth it, pay anymore and you’ll probably regret it.
Pros: I’M BATMAN
Cons: I got a bit bored playing the story, the combat, the stealth sections, the bosses, Harley Quinn