Young Star

Video gamer and the Caped Crusader

DEFINITELY MAYBE - Carl Francis M. Ramirez -

Batman is the most complex of all superheroes. He’s a man behind a cape who doesn’t intend to save the world or make a name or get the girl. He has no superpowers except for a hefty inheritance and an insatiable appetite for justice. Batman is flawed and conflicted and all too human.

These things make Batman such an intriguing subject for different kinds of fiction. The Batman comic books and graphic novels have always been regarded as part of the pantheon of modern fiction, with classics such as Frank Miller’s Year One and The Dark Knight Returns and Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke. The films, like Tim Burton’s Batman and Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, have garnered tons of critical praise and box-office dollars.

Yet there’s one medium where Batman has yet to achieve that level of success. And given the nature of superheroes and comic books, I find it quite surprising. There has never been a landmark Batman video game. Nobody has ever captured the darkness and complexity of the Batman mythos and produced the kind of interactive fiction that made “Final Fantasy” and “Metal Gear Solid” household names. That is, until “Batman: Arkham Asylum.”

Before “Batman: AA” the only really memorable superhero games were “Marvel Ultimate Alliance,” the several “Marvel vs. Capcom” fighting games and “X-Men Legends: Rise of the Apocalypse.” Most other superhero video games were either half-baked movie tie-ins (Iron Man, Spider-Man, Watchmen, etc.) or quirky non-DC, non-Marvel games like “Freedom Force.” “Arkham Asylum” is a landmark video game in more ways than one.

“Arkham Asylum” features an original Batman storyline involving Batman’s arch-nemesis, The Joker, taking over the facility the holds the entire Batman Gallery of Rogues and threatening Gotham City. The concept of this is similar to the graphic novel of the same name by Grant Morrison and Dave McKean, but the story arc is completely different.

Batman gets stuck inside Arkham Asylum while bringing the Joker into custody. The Joker tries to lead Batman into a series of traps facing a number of super-villains, all the while plotting to destroy the city of Gotham. During the course of the game, we are introduced to several characters in the Batman mythology such as Commissioner Gordon, Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, Bane and The Riddler.

What makes this game so interesting is that it devotes a lot of time and attention to the nuances of the Batman Universe. Apart from practically getting a history lesson about Batman characters, the game lets you play around with classic Batman gadgets like the Batarang and the Batclaw. But what makes it feel so authentic is that the game lets you use Batman the way the comic books intended: from the shadows.

All throughout “Arkham Asylum,” Batman will have to use both brute force and stealth tactics to get to the Joker. The stealth component of this game is what makes it feel so genuine. Batman has the ability to surprise enemies by using tunnels, secret passages and gargoyle fixtures at the top of rooms and buildings. Batman literally comes out from the shadows to take down unsuspecting goons. While “Arkham Asylum” does have an excellent free-flow combo system for face-to-face combat, the real fun of it comes from swooping down from the ceiling, taking down bad guys and then disappearing into the shadows once again.

The overall story arc of “Arkham Asylum” is also well thought out, and its ability to incorporate a significant number of Batman villains makes for a satisfying experience. Whether it’s solving The Riddler’s little puzzles or going toe-to-toe with Bane or running away from a very angry Killer Croc, the storyline takes you for one hell of a ride.

While the Action-RPG elements of “Batman: Arkham Asylum” make it a good game, it’s the faithful experience to the Batman world that makes it a great one. “Arkham Asylum” not only provides an excellent adventure video game, it also gives gamers a real thrill ride into Batman’s world.

Batman is easily the most complex of superheroes. Now you can see what it’s like wearing the cowl.

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For questions, comments or corrections, please e-mail me at [email protected].

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