International Writers Magazine - Our Tenth Year: Review
Arkham Asylum 2009
Jack Clarkson review
Carl almost jumped out of his skin when he heard the scream. Loud,
shrill and cut short before he could hear exactly where it came
from. He almost wondered whether he had really heard it or if it
had simply occurred inside his head.
One night, that
was what the clown had told him. One night to take over this nut house
and he would walk away rich and free. All he had to do was make sure
none of their prisoners escaped and hed never have to work again.
Why was it never that easy? Carl noticed Johnny beckoning him over.
"You hear that? I think it came from over there." He said,
gesturing to the north corner. "You take point and Ill cover
Carl was secretly relieved, if there were two of them they should be
safe. He edged round the corner, his gun shaking in his hands. And found
Tony out cold, hanging upside down from a gargoyle six feet off the
"Oh Jesus! Its the Bat-Man Johnny! Johnny?"
Carl turned around, Johnny lay unconscious on the cold, hard concrete
beneath him. Carl span round, trying to find where the monster was in
the darkness of the Library they had been assigned to protect.
When out of the shadows, a glint of blackened metal caught Carls
eye, curving majestically around one of the bookshelves before cutting
Tonys limp body free of the gargoyle. The body landed directly
on top of Carl, pinning him to the ground.
"Oh God! Oh God! Somebody help me! Anyone! Please!"
All Carl saw were a pair of white eyes almost glowing from inside the
pitch black bat cowl. The Bat-Man leaned down close to the shaking Carl.
"Theres no-one. Its just you and me."
And with one punch, it was all over.
Well this is a pleasant surprise. A Batman game that isnt just
good. A Batman game thats actually great. Today is a good day
to be a nerd!
Imagine taking the Christopher Nolan films and surgically removing all
the bad bits like Christian Bale and Glasgow-grin joker. Now slather
the gritty slime left over on to the original animated series with Kevin
Conroy and Mark Hamil. And you will be left with something beautiful.
The story goes that Batman has captured the Joker once again and has
just put him in Arkham asylum, unfortunately the asylum staff havent
heard the golden rule of never letting the Joker out of Batmans
sight, and he inevitably escapes and takes over Arkham. Its up
to you as Batman to liberate the place one room at a time.
The voice acting is superb, with Conroy and Hamil playing their parts
pitch-perfectly, and everyone else being at least tolerable with the
possible exception of Harley Quinn, but shes always been like
story is delivered at a fast pace and you never feel like the game
is being padded out or stretched. There is always something to do,
even if its just solving the Riddlers puzzles that hes
left around for you to find. However what youre going to be
doing most are beating the crap out of unarmed thugs, and picking
gun toting ones off stealthily.
What Batman: Arkham
Asylum does so beautifully is it keeps the controls so streamlined.
Aside from the upgrades you receive you have almost all your moves at
your disposal from the get-go, most of the game is about using your
many abilities to outsmart your enemies and slowly feel Batman become
your little puppet. Almost never do the controls feel context sensitive
or contrived. Your abilities are at the tip of your fingers, everything
form throwing a Batarang to grabbing a weapon out of a criminals
hand are a button press away and not once will you feel yourself grappling
with the controls. Everything in that introduction story is possible
to do. I casually threw a batarang at a man I had hung from a gargoyle
and watched as he fell on top of the two guys who had found him. Ive
pulled criminals over ledges, silently wrestled them to the ground while
their friends stand mere feet away unfortunate enough not to see me
before finding their colleague unconscious while Ive silently
whisked myself up to a gantry above them, watching them firing their
guns at the slightest sound in the darkness.
But its not all stealth and skulking about in the shadows. Oh
no! When they arent lucky enough to have guns, they get to feel
the might of Batmans fists instead. Combat is fast, fluid and
relies on you moving through a crowd of hardened thugs, beating on them
with your martial arts skills, throwing them into each other and just
breaking limbs left right and centre before being treated to a close
up, slow motion shot of Batmans last hit. And you dont know
happiness until youve seen Batman punch a man in the genitals
so hard he flies back six feet in a quivering mess.
This game is truly exceptional. Eidos have not simply made a Batman
game, they have made a game where you are Batman. My only disappointment
is that it has to end at some point, although the challenge modes are
definitely good consolation for that fact, testing you on how fast and
well you can dispatch a certain number of goons until your eyes bleed.
If all comic book based games were this well thought out and nicely
made, the world would be a better place. If you enjoyed Nolans
recent films you will love this, if you enjoy Batman you will love this,
if you enjoy anything you will love this!
© Jack Clarkson
Jack is dressing up as a rodent and jumping on rooftops after studying
Creative Writing at Portsmouth Univerfsity
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