Super Types

September 10, 2009

The Comics Console: Batman Arkham Asylum

So. Have you played Batman Arkham Asylum yet? If you haven’t then not only are you missing out on probably the best Batman–nay–comic book licensed game ever, but you’re missing out on one of the best video games of the year. Batman Arkham Asylum has set a new, higher standard for quality in comic book video games. But can developers keep up with this standard?

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Last month Marvel Executive Vice President of Global Digital Media Group Ira Rubenstein made a promise to fans saying “We are not doing movie-based games anymore,” after Sony’s GamesCom press conference. “Actually, wait … we are not doing crappy movie-based games anymore.” This remark stemming from the poor reception to Raven Software’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine tie-in game. Although I wouldn’t exactly call the game “crappy,” it wasn’t without its issues. However, Secret Level’s Iron Man tie-in game, published by Sega, I would definitely call “crappy.” And while I very much want to believe Rubenstein’s comment, the teaser trailer for Iron Man 2 looks a bit underwhelming.

But all the movie adaptions are hardly all the games Marvel has to offer. On September 15 Activision is releasing Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 by Vicarious Visions (look for my review when the game drops!), and the game is looking much better than the first. Marvel and Activision ‘s RPGs have been praised by fans for years, but have disappointed us with lack-luster efforts like Spider-Man: Web Of Shadows.

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Some of the biggest news in comics in years is that Disney has acquired Marvel. There are some big questions and concerns over how the family entertainment juggernaut (pun fully intended) will handle its new property. So what does this mean for the future of Marvel games? Are age old debates like who would win in a fight between Iron Man and WALL-E, or Dr. Doom and Darkwing Duck, finally going to be settled?

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How about the uber popular Kingdom Hearts games? For those out of the know Kingdom Hearts is a Role-Playing-Game by Square Enix where characters from Disney and the Final Fantasy series crossover. Is there any potential for Sora, Donald and Goofy teaming up with the Hulk or the X-Men, or am I just a dreamer?

Regardless of what happens Marvel has set out for better quality in their games, and just the fact that they realize bad games are getting out can only be an optimistic light. Perhaps Marvel will be determined to knock Batman Arkham Asylum out of the record books for “Most Critically Acclaimed Superhero Game Ever.”

Ubisoft is rebooting the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles games with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Smash-Up for the Nintendo Wii and Playstation 2. A fighting game that’s supposedly not tied to any other film or TV series in the Turtles’ history, yet bears a resemblance to the 2007 TMNT film. Because the game will only be available on the Wii and PS2, experienced gamers will sense that the game’s quality probably isn’t the highest a Turtles’ game will or has seen. This is usually because the software being put out for the Wii and PS2 are cheaply developed afterthought titles. I’m still positive about the game, however. The game hits September 22 (look for my review!).

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The Dragonball series is getting injected with new life, with Dragonball games hitting the Nintendo Wii, DS and Playstation 2 later this year; but it’s South Korea that has become the center of so much DBZ jealousy. Dragoball Online arrives in the orient this year. The MMORPG is a breath of fresh air to the series, breaking away from the traditional fighting games we’ve become so accustomed to. I can’t wait for this one to hit the states and begin my quest to become the strongest saiyan in the universe!

The MMORPG fad knows no bounds as Star Wars: The Old Republic and DC Universe Online release next year. The news broke yesterday that DC has been repackaged into DC Entertainment “to fully realize the power and value of the DC Comics brand and characters across all media and platforms,” says the press release by Warner Bros. This is exciting news for DC fans. We’ve already been treated to one hell of a Batman experience and with this new DC focus we’re bound to see the same beautiful treatment given to other DC properties, right? Can the proper creativity, time and discipline be applied to Superman, breaking up his long horrid track record of failed games? …Please! Maybe some day. And we mustn’t forget the long history of mostly bad Batman games we had to suffer through before Arkham Asylum…segwaying into this Video Game Report Card featuring Batman!

The Dark Knight first appeared as pixels on the screen in Batman in 1986 for the Amstrad CPC, Amstrad PCW (monochrome), ZX Spectrum, and MSX microcomputers. Two years later Batman showed again in Batman: The Caped Crusader. These games were rough as the game industry was still young, but a blessing for Batman fans dying for some kind of game.

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Batman(1986) and Batman: The caped Crusader debut with a solid C-.

In 1990 fans saw the first good Batman games as tie-ins to the 1989 film (What?! A good comic book game and good movie based game all in one cartridge?!) on the NES and Sega Genesis. Not only were the games fun and good looking, but they were totally HARD!

Batman(1990) earns two blistered thumbs up and a B.

Batman broke away from the film with Batman: Return of the Joker. This game should have been great as it was based more on the 1970’s comics era. While the NES version of the game showed some of the best graphics the system would ever see, the stiff game play made it difficult to enjoy.

Batman: Revenge of the Joker poops out a D.

Tim Burton’s next Batman film was drawing big numbers at the box office and a game tie-in to Batman Returns was a given. The Sega Genesis version replicated the previous movie tie-in’s game play where the player had to fall off buildings and die a thousand time chasing Catwoman, where the SNES version went a more simplistic rout as a side scrolling beat ’em up. The SNES version came out as the best Batman game ever at the time while the Genesis version faded into obscurity.

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Batman Returns (SNES) wins with a B+.
Batman Returns (Genesis) loses with a D.

From the beloved Batman: The Animated Series comes the game tie-in The Adventures of Batman & Robin. The game was a simple beat ’em up/shooter that is probably one of the hardest games I’ve ever played.

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The Adventures of Batman & Robin gets a frustrated B.

More Batman films means more Batman games! Batman Forever for the Genesis was a side scrolling crapfest that had you lost after the fourth level! On the brighter side it looked pretty good. Batman Forever: The Arcade Game, on the other hand, was a pretty enjoyable side scroller. Pretty much the same pattern with Batman Returns.

Batman Forever fails. F.
Batman Forever: The Arcade Game does not fail. C+.

Batman & Robin
will go down in history as a critical failure and disappointment as a film and a video game. But to the game’s credit Batman & Robin on the Playstation took Batman somewhere he had never gone before – 3 dimensions. The game was stiff, slow, awkward and forgettable, but it wasn’t without imagination. This was the first time fans could explore Gotham city on foot or in the Batmobile. Players could enter buildings and fight thugs on the street. If you could look past the game’s plethora of flaws and faults it was a pretty amazing experience.

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Batman & Robin gets a C-.

Batman Beyond on the Nintendo 64 was your basic side scroller we had seen before. Very uninspired. C-.

Batman: Gotham City Racer
was a different type of game for Batman in that the player took control of the Batmobile or another vehicle and chased villains in their custom getaway cars around the city. The unfortunate part was that this is a driving game that fails at creating a solid driving mechanic. If you were able to tell where the road was going it was impossible to stay on it.

Batman: Gotham City Racer gets a D.

Batman Vengeance for the PS2, Game Cube and Xbox would dethrone Batman Returns as the best Batman game to date. This took the imaginative direction of Batman & Robin and made it work. But choppy graphics and bad camera angles kept it from being great.

Batman Vengeance gets a B+.

Coming off the heels of a good Batman game that was a tie-in to the animated series was a Batman game not tied to any other franchise and looked to have all the potential in the world of being THE Batman game. Oh how they failed. Batman: Dark Tomorrow was the lowest point in Batman’s gaming history. Though a solid effort was made to make a huge Batman epic, the game play was poor and robotic. Practically laughable.

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Batman: Dark Tomorrow gets an F.

Batman was pitted against a new Jim Lee created foe in Batman: Rise of Sin-Tzu. Players could fight through hordes of enemies as not just Batman, but as Robin, Nightwing and Batgirl. In between the armies of henchmen you pummel are some fun boss battles, but you can probably beat the game without hitting any other button than the punch button. This game received some pretty impressive scores, but fell impressively short in my eyes.

Batman: Rise of Sin-Tzu walks away with a C.

Batman Begins is another game that will go down as just a cheap movie tie-in, but to any hardcore Batman fan, it was the ultimate Batman game. Stealing elements from the Splinter Cell series, Batman Begins was fun, yet an extremely easy couple hours of Batman fun.

Batman Begins gets a B-.

With out question Batman has never looked cuter than in Lego Batman. Lego Batman is a fun ride when played with a friend. By yourself you may want to pass. Either way, it’s still adorable!

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Lego Batman gets the cutest B+ ever.

Batman’s next step into your game console and onto your TV segues into my Batman Arkham Asylum review!

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Any gamer (notice how I said gamer and not just Batman fan) didn’t have to look long at Rocksteady’s Batman Arkham Asylum to see that it was going to be special. Everything about this game works. It’s everything a hardcore Batman fan or gamer could want. From exploring the grounds of Arkham to the original story.

I could go on all day about the game’s beautiful design and stunning visuals. Or how easy and satisfying taking on thugs and stringing together combos is. Or how the epic scale and size of the game traps the player into Batman’s world like one of Arkham’s inmates. But what took my breath away about this game was the level of detail that went into every corner of every hallway and room on the entire island. Everywhere from the botanical gardens, to the morgue, to the island’s outskirts – everything felt unique and real.

One of the biggest treats to this game was the voice acting. The game became that much more intimate and that much more Batman with Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill. These two voices have become Batman and Joker to fans over the last 15 years and the addition of these talents made this game legitimate.

As if getting Batman and the Joker themselves for the game wasn’t big enough, Batman: The Animated Series writer Paul Dini crafted the narrative that sunk us into the reality of Batman’s universe.

What made this game stand out above all the other Batman games was featuring the true detective side of Batman. Scanning evidence and looking around rooms for clues. This is where Batman’s character shines. However, this was where some of my problems with the game began. I felt as the game progressed I was playing the game in Detective Mode too much. You’re constantly scanning rooms and looking for objects to the point where you feel like you shouldn’t bother turning it off.

As you progress through the mysteries in Arkham you inevitably come across some of it’s more colorful inmates. The boss battles! Poison Ivy, Killer Croc, Bane and more are looking for a Batman beat down all across the Asylum. As exciting as it was finding and challenging these villains through the game, the actual encounters seemed to be lacking. Fights were simplistic and stuck to basic formula, but were never boring or dull.

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The 240 riddles hidden all over the island make for a nice respite from the story to just explore and take in the view. And finding the patient interview tapes and profiles adds another few hours of worth to the game. These patient interview tapes are brilliant. Not only do we get fun clips of Joker or Harley Quinn being their sadistic selves, they also add some exposition to the main story. As much as I loved unlocking character bios for favorite villains like Hush, Black Mask and Mister Freeze, I really wish they actually would have been characters or bosses in the game.

There isn’t a great deal of replay value after you beat the game. You continue exploring Arkham with access to the whole island and Gotham City Police throughout the grounds, able to look for Riddler Trophies you may have previously missed, but can’t start a new game with all your upgrades.

The challenge modes are fun and another nice addition if you’re looking to just jump in and kick some butt, although there wasn’t a great deal of thought put into them. This feels like a missed opportunity, but they’re great for sharpening your skills for the story mode.

Even with the few issues I found with the game, it all feels like nit picking compared to the size and detail of the environment. I give the game a well earned and a long time coming 4/5.

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So, Batman faithful, we got our great Batman game at last. But what’s next? A sequel? The game certainly did well enough to warrant one. What could be better than exploring the stained, dark corridors of Arkham Asylum? Exploring the stained, dark alleys of Gotham City! We already know recreating an entire city can be done. We’ve seen it with the last few editions of the Grand Theft Auto series. This time around maybe we’ll see Grant Morrison penning the story with Hush or Two-Face threatening Gotham.

How about you, reader? What do you wanna see in another Batman game?

Andrew Hurst

AndrewHurst@comicattack.net

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17 Comments


  1. BurningDoom

    What? No “Batman” for NES, based off of the 1989 Movie? That was a great game! But I’ve heard Batman: Vengeance is getting top scores from all magazines and sites, I need to get my hands on it!

    -Nate-


  2. BurningDoom

    Oops, I meant Batman: Arkham Asylum is getting high scores, not Vengeance.



  3. Lol. I mentioned it here “In 1990 fans saw the first good Batman games as tie-ins to the 1989 film (What?! A good comic book game and good movie based game all in one cartridge?!) on the NES and Sega Genesis. Not only were the games fun and looked good, but were totally HARD!”

    haha. Isn’t it a great game!



  4. Batman Forever was f-ing terrible. I love the music in the original NES game though! Kick ass!! Two blistering thumbs up indeed!


  5. InfiniteSpeech

    actually taking a break from the Asylum at 4:30am and it’s just ridiculous how good this game is and how much there is to do! If there is ever a sequal i’m just not too sure it will be able to top this Guiness Book achiever right here


  6. Eli

    I wish I had something to play this game on, it looks ridiculously cool & fun. I agree completely about Hamill & Conroy, those two are the only choices for the Joker & Batman voices.


  7. Jason

    I love Lego Batman! I am waiting to get my hands on Arkham…Christmas present any one?!


  8. billy

    I saw a special on G4 channel about the production of this game and it was off the hook.


  9. #1ComicConsoleFan

    OMFG!!! HURRRRST!!! this article gave me the hugest boner EVERRRR!!! YOU-ARE-THE_MAAAANNN!!!! YEAHHHHH!!!!! *AWESOME HI-5* ..pleasantries aside, your article was both infromative and thoroughly entertaining and might i add, sexy with a nicely toned ass.
    Arkham Asylum is an amazing and beautiful game with a huge scope and lucious details. your reviews of all past Batman games was a fun look to the past with fair, just, and unbiased reviews. I look forward to your future articles! and with that i shall bid thy, au revoir!

    -THE NUMBA ONE COMIC CONSOLE FAN!!! likewhoa…


  10. Kelly

    Okay, being the girl I am, I totally thought Lego Batman was the cutest thing to happen to Batman ever. I really enjoyed the game and thought it was the best Batman game to day.

    Until Batman: Arkham Asylum. The game just straight-up kicks ass. Gameplay is phenomenal, the environments are breathtaking, and, on a side note, I think Harley Quinn’s makeover is awesome. Batman and Joker are great in this game; Batman being his great brooding, detective self, and Joker being the giggling thorn in his side.

    Thanks for the video game history lesson, Andrew!



  11. Lego Batman is without question the second best Batman game of all time! And I don’t care what other people say, I’ve played Lego Indy and Star Wars and Batman is the best!

    Thanks Kelly!


  12. The Movie Lady

    Batman: Revenge of the Joker poops out a D…… LOL. Wow! You really know your stuff. Great review!!!



  13. […] DC Universe releasing in the fall of 2008, and the September 2008 issue of Game Informer announced Batman Arkham Asylum — a Batman game with no specific ties to any other Batman continuity — but the fact […]



  14. […] Batman Arkham Asylum […]



  15. […] details of the Batman Arkham Asylum Game of the Year Edition have been confirmed. The new set will include the Nocturnal Hunter and […]



  16. […] Batman Arkham Asylum was one of last year’s biggest and best video games and was even awarded Game of the Year by GamesRadar.com. This year it’s being honored with Game of the Year Edition re-release with a few new features from the standard edition. […]



  17. […] already seen that Warner Bros. knows how to take a super hero comic book video game seriously with Batman Arkham Asylum. Maybe after 1 or 2 more Batman games, we’ll finally get that perfect Superman game that we […]



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