Delayed Responsibility

I Shouldn't Be Gaming Right Now… But I Am!

I am Batman!

Posted by deckard47 on September 21, 2009

Is there already a post called “I am Batman?” Well, there is now. Or there are two of them. Anyway.

I finished Arkham Asylum about 15 minutes ago. It was, throughout my 10+ hour run through, consistently fun, challenging, entertaining, and engrossing. At the same time, there were about a million things that bugged me about it. And they had absolutely nothing to do with the gameplay. I haven’t played a game like this in a long time. Most games that I like, even games that I love, are challenging games to enjoy. I have to strain myself to enjoy them at the level that I do. Games like Mass Effect, The Witcher, and Baldur’s Gate II all test my patience, in one way or another. They have bad path-finding, bad controls, and many other gameplay issues. Arkham is free of all gameplay glitches and unpleasantness.

Now it does bother me. The actors who portray Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn are incredibly annoying. Quinn is annoying because her voice is so shrill and grating it could wake the dead. She may be the same actress from the animated series, but I think we can all agree that Rocksteady could have found someone less annoying to do the job. Also, her outfit is so ludicrously, pointlessly sexual, it’s almost impossible. It makes absolutely no sense when you look at previous portrayals of Quinn, or when you examine her character. Likewise, Ivy’s outfit is characteristically (for comics? for her?) “sexy” and tiny. Worse, she graduated from the “horrid moaning sex-voice” school of voice acting. Her combat sounds are especially unpleasant, since they blast at you with incredible force.

Aside from that, there’s nothing terrible about the game. As explained elsewhere, it’s stance regarding mental illness, correctional facilities, and Batman’s “no kill” policy are all a bit suspect. Still, for all that, it’s not a badly written or performed game. Mark Hamill is a revelation (for a person unfamiliar with his Batman animated series work, that is) as The Joker. It never once sounds like Luke, and why should it? He’s acting (and hamming it up), and he basically acts everyone else into the ground, including the man thanklessly cast as the horribly bland Batman. There are a few other amusing things in the game. For instance, if you’re a dude in Batman, you’re huge. You probably take horse steroids every day. Unless you’re a doctor or the Joker. It really detracts from the mostly serious tone the characters try to create. Maybe some of the bad guys could have been stocky or skinny? Or something. Batman hits them so hard, it doesn’t matter how tough they are.

Still. Like I said, this is a game where there are so many little/large thematic and narrative issues that I focus on because the game is almost perfect mechanically. So yes, Arkham is good. It’s so good that all of those things that I just mentioned never stopped me from playing once. They didn’t make me quit the game (see Infamous), or want to punch my own face every five seconds (Saints Row 2, Crackdown).

Also, despite what most reviews said, I thought that the collection quests (Riddler Tokens, interview recordings, “picture” riddles) were nicely integrated. I’ll be honest, when collection quests are divorced from gameplay, I don’t give a shit. I like it when collection quests are given complicated, game-integral reasons. In fact, within the Batman fiction, a bunch of wacky puzzles left by the Riddler actually seem like reasonable things to be chasing after. You know, compared to the stupid Assassin’s Creed Flags, or Prince of Persia light orbs (once you’d found enough to open all of the plates). I guess it’s annoying (for others) to have the Riddler badgering you about puzzles all of the time? Although when you compare him to the annoying messages thrown at you by other villains throughout the game, it’s not actually unpleasant.

So, yes, a rather good game. Definitely worth your money. The question is, what will arrive next that can top Batman? Just on principle, I’ll say Borderlands, and Dragon Age. But I bet they won’t be as well-made, gameplay-wise, even if I like them more.

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