LICENSE TO THRILL?: Batman: Arkham Asylum (2009)

Becky puts on a cape and cowl to fight crime in one of the best DC Comics games ever made. 

Who made it?: Rocksteady Studios (Developer), Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment/Eidos Interactive (Publishers).

Genre: Action-Adventure/Beat ‘Em Up/Stealth.

Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC.

Format: Blu-ray/optical disc.

Released: August 28, 2009 (UK).

Due to the up-and-coming Batman: Arkham Knight, to be released in Autumn this year, I decided to take a look back at the franchise’s humble beginnings in Batman: Akham Asylum. It has always stood-out for me as it is one of the few PlayStation 3 games I have successfully completed without the aid of someone else when things got too vexing. Okay, maybe the Killer Croc level in the sewers had me a little on edge whenever the big guy decided to leap out of the water, and I had to go running to my significant other to pass it. Other than that, I was able to complete Asylum with no further assistance. And it was the grittiness in the game which sold itself to me; it brought the dark and brooding Batman seen in the recent Christian Bale films to the table. However, it was clearly more rooted in comic book history.

When the game was originally released in 2009, it was only a year after Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight was released on the big screen, and I must admit, I was somewhat put-off purchasing it purely because I assumed it would be on par with most movie-based games, which, lets face it, are very rarely anything to talk about. After a while, and after hearing the positive reviews, I decided to look at some of the trailers; this one in particular grabbed my attention and ensured it would be played:

For those who have not played Arkham Asylum, I sincerely recommend it if you enjoy stealth games, upgrades in technology, and development through a process of levelling up. More specifically, if you enjoy anything to do with Batman, then this is definitely the game for you. In order to fight, it is simply the square button (on the PS3) which is used for striking an enemy, and circle to stun-attack with Batman’s cape. “Detective Vision” can also be accessed which is fantastic when in a room with a high number of thugs, and it helps to distinguish who is where (whether they be behind stone walls or not). My personal favourite move is hanging villains upside down by the ankles from gargoyles. There is something somewhat amusing about hearing the screams of fright and terror as they dangle helplessly as Batman moves swiftly to the other side of the room, unnoticed.

The gameplay is straightforward enough, following a terrific storyline (penned by The Animated Series‘ Paul Dini) focused around the Joker, and there is an opportunity to have a run-in with a large majority of Batman’s rogues gallery, my favourites being the Joker, Poison Ivy, Harley Quinn, and the Riddler. There are mini-challenges within the game arranged and set-up by the Riddler, so even when you have completed the main campaign, there are still challenges to solve before you can finish it 100%.

As a beginning to this particular Caped Crusader franchise, I think it is still fairly impressive, especially when you are confronted with the next game, Arkham City, which introduced a huge environment for Bats to run around in. More importantly, what I thought was fantastic about this game was the voice acting, with the amazing Mark Hamill providing his inimitable Joker to the game’s portrayal of the crazed lunatic, as well as fellow Batman: The Animated Series alum Kevin Conroy as the Dark Knight. All this put together only serves to provide gamers with a console version of the beloved cartoon, which seems to work surprisingly well in comparison to those games developed off the bandwagon of films. Those titles focus purely on storylines which can be watched and appreciated more in the cinema format than in the tie-in. Added to this is the knowledge that the quality in graphics will be somewhat lacking when compared to the quality of the film.

Ultimately, Batman: Arkham Asylum is a highly enjoyable game with phenomenally talented voice acting and a strong narrative which provides humour at all the right moments and tension which keeps you on the edge of your seat! Definitely a DC Comics tie-in worth purchasing for all the positives, and a style of gameplay best suited for getting you up-to-speed before the new release.

Useless Trivia

(Via Wikipedia)
  • The game received critical acclaim – particularly for its story – and won several awards, including Best Action Adventure game, Best Game, and Game of the Year from different media outlets. It held the Guinness World Record for “Most Critically Acclaimed Superhero Game Ever.”
  • Among various Neal Adams and Frank Miller-penned Batman stories, Grant Morrison‘s Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth was an inspiration for the game’s design.
  • The development team wanted to include iconic aspects of the Batman mythos, and decided early on in production to have Conroy, Hamill, and Arleen Sorkin reprise their roles from Dini’s Batman: The Animated Series as Batman, the Joker, and Harley Quinn, respectively. Hamill has thousands of lines of dialogue in the game, and Conroy has relatively few in comparison. After seeing character models of the Joker’s Arkham Asylum appearance, Hamill decided to portray the character as dark and gritty while retaining a clownish and playful nature. Although the game features references to plot events in both The Animated Series and Batman comics, the story does not directly follow any singular story or depiction of the character.

Becky Lenton

Recent graduate from an English degree, Becky has taken to putting her writing skills to good use. Writing game reviews, she hopes to one day get into the gaming industry. When that day will be however, no one knows.

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2 Comments

  1. fundamentallyflawed says:

    This is one of the few games I completed then immediately turned around and went through again for 100%. The sequel might have improved in nearly every way but this game felt so fresh and more importantly, felt right for a Batman game,

    • Becky Lenton says:

      I completely agree with you! I’ve played it through twice now and it never gets old! I have Arkham city and Origins and while they are fantastic, Asylum really got everything spot on and as you say it felt fresh! It’s very rare I can say I truly enjoyed a story line and gameplay both at once, normally it’s one or the other with me.

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