The theory is that there are often multiple methods available to achieve this goal, but it’s an illusion of freedom. Yes, you can crawl under the floor gratings and take someone down from below, but often they just spot you before you have the chance. If you have the patience, spectacular room clearances can be achieved. Most of us will just settle for glide kicks and hanging from gargoyles and stringing thugs up by the feet.
The gameplay also feels perfectly at home on the PC. Pleasingly, you don’t have to shove the mouse sensitivity up to extreme levels because the game was designed solely with pads in mind. There’s also no “Press Right Trigger to perform this action” nonsense when using the mouse and keys either. Everything feels smooth and natural, enabling you to zip about from ledge to ledge with impressive fluidity. This is crucially important, because one of the most enjoyable parts of the game is completing the Riddler’s challenges.
There are a number of extra-curricular activities to partake of in Arkham Asylum, most of which involve the tried-and-tested-to-boredom idea of collecting tokens that lie about in hidden and not-so-well-hidden places. For some reason thatwe can’t fully explain,we thoroughly enjoyed hunting down all the Riddler trophies (small green question marks) that litter each area of the game. As well as these, there are audio logs referring to various villains and the creator of the asylum – Amadeus Arkham – which help those who aren’t knowledgeable about Bat lore better understand what’s going on.
Scuttling Joker teeth can be destroyed as another of these ongoing tasks, granting experience which can be used to unlock new abilities, like more special moves. Lastly, and most importantly, we have the Riddles.
Each area is packed with little puzzles to solve that add immeasurably to the game. A clue in green will appear on the screen when you enter a new area and, using the Detective mode (Batman can uses this to decipher clues, follow trails and detect heat signatures, Predator-style) take a snapshot of the solution. They usually take two forms – snapping an object of scenery, like a portrait on a wall, or getting in the right position to line up the dot with the rest of a question mark. Essentially, we can’t be much more enthusiastic about them. Suffice it to say, the game would be a much lesser experience without these Riddles.
There’s no real comparison between this and any other licensed superhero game. It’s actually an insult to compare them at all, so vastly different are they in scope and imagination. Arkham Asylum is a work of love, dedication and great skill. You’ll be able to tell this from just a short of amount of time.
A couple of gripes: too many areas have to be travelled through on more than one occasion, leading to repetition and resentment. There’s also the annoying little quirk that some puzzles and riddles cannot be solved until you have an item delivered later in the game, meaning you can easily spend ages wondering how to get that troublesome Riddler trophy, only to realise later that you were never meant to be able to at that time.
Despite these niggles, it is safe to say this is almost certainly the best superhero game ever released.
Sep 15, 2009