When the legendary comic book hero Batman brings Joker back to Arkham Asylum for the 100th time, Joker promptly escapes and takes over the asylum. This is a 3rd person beat-em up, Metroid-vania-ish adventure with a lot of diversity. You’ll go through sewers, brick buildings, a clock tower, libraries, ruins, caves, an outdoor courtyard and even the madness of the Caped Crusader’s Mind. Since there is backtracking, the game will introduce new elements and paths to the backtracking, so it doesn’t seem like a backtrack. New tricks, traps, situations, plant infestations and enemies will stand in your way. You never have a sense of being lost, but there is a lot of ground (and height) to explore.
As you work your way all over Arkham Island, you’ll be taunted by the Joker who is voiced by Luke Skywalker for those that remember the old Batman: The Animated Series. Kevin Conroy reprises his role from the series as Batman, and they’re both excellent.
As Batman, you’ve got a lot of controls here, left stick to move, right stick to control the camera, attack button, counter button, stun attack button, duck / stealth button, detective mode button, quick batterang, quick hookshot, grappling hook to climb, quick tool change, aim button, tool attack button, and finally a universal button to not only run, but holding the same button will also jump when you come to the edge, glide and its just batman auto-pilot really. You can double tap the action button to dive roll out of the way, but the times to use it are few and far between. There are more controls than buttons on the X-Box controller.
You unlock several tools / weapons for Batman to use, such as batterangs, grappling hooks, explosive gel and so on. The tools for the most part can be used on the fly against enemies by double tapping the left (batterang) or right (grappler) trigger. You can use explosive gel to set a trap for enemies or blow up walls. Its pretty nice, but its just too slow to set up, so for the most part, you’ll just be punching bad guys, dive kicking from gargoyles and grapple hooking up to safety.
Its fun to attack spam enemies and wipe out a dozen enemies. However, enemies with guns will murder you quickly, which is good, because then you need to rely and stealth and tactics instead of button mashing. The enemies will telegraph their attacks, so you can counter them or attack them before they do. Knife wielders will need to be stunned. The system feels good, but again its sometimes just mash 1 button as if Batman were dancing between a dozen partners. The final enemy in a group always has a slow motion knock out where you’ll get to see ragdoll glitches and poor hit detection. Is it a game breaker no. Does it happen a lot? Yes and when it happens with every battle, it shouldn’t have been accentuated.
While there is little enemy diversity, the big appeal comes from the game’s characters and situations. You’ll fight against some of Batman’s biggest villains that are in Arkham. The situations, you’ll have to use Batman’s tools and some parts the game will spoon feed you what you need to do and other parts, you’re free to figure it out on your own. The map will show you where you need to go, but its up to you to get there. You’ll have to go through air ducts, go high, go low and every so often go through a door like a normal person. There is a lot of traversal in this game, you’re able to swoop down on enemies, glide from place to place, grappling hook up to ledges, hang from ledges, shimmy around ledges. Everything that’s been done in Just Cause 2, but now its slower.
As mentioned before, there is a detective mode that basically a hints mode. It will highlight air vents to crawl through, you’ll be able to see through walls to enemy skeletons. You will have to use detective mode to track trails of scents and fingerprints. Detective mode will help you to find all of the Riddler trophies, which are usually in high vents. They’re not hidden very well and it doesn’t feel like a real reward for exploration, more like poor padding for the game.
The real problem here is the canned animations, which normally I have no problem with, but in this game, I really felt the animations. Batman grapple hooking up to a gargoyle, batman pulling a vent off an air duct, batman kicking a vent out of an air duct, Batman pulling an object with the grappling hook, Batman crawling out of a pit. You’ll feel it all and some of the animations, you’ll need to rapidly press the action button.
On top of all of that, you’re unlocking a lot of extras as you progress through the game. Challenge rooms, character art and so on. There is a lot of extra content here.
When you die, you’re taken to an animated scene of the Joker or whatever boss you die on to hear a one liner, then sent back to the last checkpoint. That just wasn’t needed and wastes time like a lot of the animation. If only there was a setting to turn it off.
With all of that being said, this is still a good, fun game that compels you to play through it. The characters are bright and vibrant. It is a good story, but would it be its flaws would be accentuated more if it were not a Batman game without its cast of characters.