So, Arkham Asylum is a good game.
Like, really good.
Last night I parked my butt in front of the TV for a good solid 4 hours straight playing it, and by golly, I enjoyed every minute of it.
4 hours might not sound like a helluva’ long time to some of the more hardcore gamers out there, so allow me to elaborate.
These days I’m what is commonly referred to as a “casual gamer.”
Not only that, I have this weird personal issue where after about an hour or so of playing videogames, I start to feel anxious; like I need to get up and do something else RIGHT NOW.
More often than not, I tend to prioritize activities like working out, going to bed early, or writing this fucking blog, over playing videogames.
In the case of my maiden voyage on Batman: Arkham Asylum last night though, this was not the case.
Near as I can tell, the game’s greatest success, is the constant feeling of progress and accomplishment that the game imparts to it’s player.
Like many non-Metroid fans, my biggest objection to the structure of those games, is not the fault of the designers, but rather my own stupidity.
Thought I’ve always said that Zelda games made me feel dumb as a kid, Metroid games made me feel downright “special.”
Like, helmet “special.”
Something about the layout of the map, and how the player was expected to wade their way through shit storms of enemies and hazards without knowing where to go, just never did it for me.
Though I’ve heard Arkham Asylum referred to as a Metroid-Vania style game, (a description which is fairly accurate) the experience is nowhere near as lonesome, nor the map layout as cryptic as either of those games.
Trust me, having Oracle on staff to order you around via radio every now and again is a godsend for exploration newbs such as myself.
In short, it’s similar to a Metroid-Vania game, but with a more structured and objective based progression.
Which is a good thing, seeing as I can think of no dumber element to a Batman game than having the player get lost.
Think about it, would the fuckin’ Batman ever get lost, much less at Arkham?
Batman is a man on top of shit in any situation, so I feel it is a wise decision on the part of the developers to have made the game’s structure reflect this.
Aside from the strength of the layout of the game, I feel that the games 240 or so collectibles really add a lot to making the player feel like their making some headway into the game, even in it’s early stages.
While part of me wants to say that, like Mega Man X3, there are in fact too many hidden items in the game, to the point in which you literally can’t turn a corner without accidentally bumping into something useful, thus far I think I actually like this element of Arkham Asylum.
It is kind of silly, walking into a room and finding Riddler trophies n’shit strewn about; but in a game with a map as large as this, any form of progress, no matter how minute, goes a long way towards making neurotic players like myself feel like they know what their doing.
Near as I can tell, this is Batman’s greatest success:
Spoon-feeding the player little rewards throughout the entire game so as to effectively stamp out the possibility of frustration.
It’s an incredibly elementary approach to game design, but it’s working for me so far.
As of writing this, I have had firsthand encounters with 2 major supervillains of Batman’s rogue’s gallery:
The developers take on Scarecrow was mighty impressive.
Both the level design and his costume for his sequence reflect a definite Freddy Krueger-esque sensibility, but given the seedier nature of Arkham Asylum’s art design, I feel it works very well.
From a gameplay standpoint, I found this “boss fight” (wasn’t really a fight…) to be quite entertaining.
Shifting the game into 2-D sidescrolling mode so as to allow for more streamlined movement and coordination really worked, and I applaud the efforts of the developers.
Bane, on the other hand, was a fun battle on a visceral level, however the comic fan inside me was kind of miffed by his brutish persona.
As a kid that grew up reading Knightfall, Bane has a special place in my heart as one of my favorite Batman villains, and yet every time he’s used in media other than the comics, his character is grossly misinterpreted.
Bane isn’t a massive brute or meathead, he’s a cunning and wily villain that could be called Batman’s equal on almost every level.
Oh well, my inner-comic dork’s objections aside, I’m happy that Arkham Asylum took a few seconds to at least explain why Bane suddenly went retard, not to mention Hulk-ed out beyond the realm of believability.
Essentially, Bane serves as key element to the game’s plot, not as a mastermind, or even hired hand; but as an instrument forcibly implemented by the combined will’s of The Joker and a mysterious Dr. Young.
From what I know at the 4 hour mark, the plot involves Joker using Dr. Young to extract and deconstruct the Venom Derivative from Bane, which they then mutate and enhance to create a more powerful Titan Formula which causes people to Hulk Out.
Basically, Joker plans to use the Titan Formula to create an army of Hulk-ed Out thugs to let loose on Gotham.
It’s kind of stupid, in a Silver Age comic-y sort of way, but the real experience of a game is playing it, and the minute to minute experience of Arkham Asylum thus far goes a long way towards making up for a slightly retarded plot.
Anyway, I’ve said about as much as I feel I can about Arkham Asylum for now.
I will say this though:
The combat system is a little simplistic for my Devil May Cry trained thumbs, but it’s rewarding in a “look what I just did with 2 buttons!” sort of way.
Now excuse me, I’m gonna’ go beat the shit out of some more Bat-Villains…