[Replayability Review] Batman: Arkham Asylum – Should We Return to Arkham?
Hello, and welcome back to Galaxy of Geek for another review from Cade’s Arcade, I’m Cade!
Today I’m gonna be taking a look at the hugely popular title Batman: Arkham Asylum for the PlayStation 4. This of course is the remastered port of the critically acclaimed original released for the 7th generation of consoles on August 25th, 2009 by Rocksteady Studios.
The Batman: Arkham games have always held a special place in my heart as one of my favorite game series. I think the fondness of the original game that myself and so many others share stems from growing up with the classic Batman: The Animated Series. And I mean who could blame us? Playing through the story felt exactly like watching a really long episode of that iconic TV show, or at least it did at the time.
Because it’s 2019, almost 10 years since it originally released. The last time I even looked at the game was back in 2010, so some time has passed for me. So I thought I would get a refresher for the game to decide once and for all if the game still holds up like I remember or if we all just have nostalgic goggles on.
There are many things that can make a game great, but there’s only one that truly matters to me. Does Batman: Arkham Asylum’s replayability stand the test of time, or should we have never returned to Arkham in the first place? Let’s find out!
Our story begins while Batman is in the middle of sending The Joker back to Arkham Asylum. Suspicious of how easy it was to catch The Joker, Batman decides to sticks around. As usual, Batman’s hunch has was spot on. It turns out The Joker let himself get caught for reasons still unknown to our hero. With the aid of Harley Quinn and months of strategic planning, the Joker was able to break free of his restraints and take over the Asylum.
Over the course of the evening, Batman learns that the Joker had hired a scientist at the Asylum named Doctor Young to help him create a bio-weapon. The chemical compound, named Titan, was made from a strain of the Venom serum used by Batman’s “Broke Back” buddy Bane. Further investigation revealed that Joker planned on using the weapon to make his own personal army of buff boys while simultaneously drugging all of Gotham with Scarecrow’s Fear Toxin.
One by one, Batman proceeds to take down every villain on Joker’s party list and put a stop to Joker’s Titan production facility. Feeling fed up with Batman’s interference, Joker decided to use Titan on himself to finish off Batman. But Batman’s explosive personality wins the day in the end.
After all the chaos, order returns to the Asylum, and all the inmates who were injected with Titan are returned to normal. What a nice and convenient way to wrap up a plot. The story is one big thrill ride from beginning to end, mostly.
Even though I love the story which heavily involves 2 of Batman’s most iconic villains, there was something about the final boss that always felt underwhelming, even back when I originally played it. And I think it has to do with how out of character the Joker is during this moment.
He’s a character that’s so unpredictable by nature and to see him drop to such a cliche bad guy level was always disappointing to me. Throughout the entire story, the Joker is constantly keeping you guessing as to what he’s really up to. But when the build up ultimately leads to just another meat head boss battle, it kind of leaves much to be desired.
Thankfully the final boss was the only real negative I have to say about the story. I mean it’s hard to not be entertained by this game when you’ve got legendary voice talent behind this project. I believe the reason this game feels like it’s one long episode ripped straight out of the The Animated Series is because of the talented voice cast Rocksteady was fortunate enough to feature.
If there’s any other part to Arkham Asylum that’s just kind of meh to me, it would be the music. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it’s bad. From the moment press start, the music really helps set the tone and overall atmosphere of the game. And boy do I love me some atmosphere, more on that in a minute. It honestly reminds me of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, and who can really complain about that?
But beyond just being a good mood setter, the sound track isn’t exactly something you’d see me jamming out to in my car. The music is just kind of… there. Again, not a bad thing, but nothing that’s gonna make anyone lose their minds.
Gameplay & Design
So what will you be doing over the course of your adventure? The list of moves at Batman’s disposal consists of punching, dodging, using Batman’s third eye to react to enemies, solving a series of riddler challenges, and utilizing an assortment of gadgets. One thing that made the free flow combat work so well is that they assign gadgets to specific buttons on the controller. Assigning the gadgets to buttons allows the players to really mix up the combat on the fly without having to pull out the gadget wheel and slow down the pace of the fight.
After getting the refresher for this game, I’ve found that the gameplay is still fun but not nearly as fluid as I remember. While the game doesn’t feature tank controls exactly, Batman runs around like how I’d imagine someone wearing a rubber neck brace would. What I’m saying is Batman moves as graceful as a dancer with a stick up their butt.
But momentum plays a key role in combat. When you really build your momentum is when the combat shines, and it’s just as fun now as it was then. Albeit a tad on the easy and button mashy side of gameplay, but still just as satisfying.
I would make for a terrible Batman…
That is until you misread an enemies’ attack causing Batman’s equilibrium to be thrown off balance. However, no matter how many times I took damage or failed a mission, not once did I feel like it was the game’s fault. There were moments where I full on barged into a room (not fully remembering it was a stealth segment), and would immediately get shot down. In those moments I was able to recognize that I died because I was a dumb dumb and didn’t check my freaking surroundings.
Now it’s been beaten to death, everyone knows that the Arkham games excel at making the player feel like Batman. But it’s the “why” that nobody seems to go into, or at least that I’ve seen.
I think this is because the game has a way of encouraging the player to stop and look around their environment to really plan out their attack. You know, like what Batman would actually do. And if you don’t then the game really lets loose on you until you get it right.
I think this is one of my favorite parts about this game. Whenever you enter a new area, there aren’t any enemies planted in a way where you’d automatically take damage. If they seemingly start attacking out of nowhere, it’s because you didn’t do a good enough job of checking if anyone was there to begin with. Every attempt that fails is all on the player, and that’s partly what goes into excellent game design. So when you mess up the timing, or hit the wrong button in the middle of a combo it’s really only your fault.
Moving on, I will say despite the HD upgrade (which is weird to say because it was already an HD game), the visual haven’t aged the best. Now there are instances where the graphics looked stunning, but it’s hard to not think that this game was made in 2007 when the thugs look and move like balloon animals.
But one thing that’s seemingly timeless about this game is it’s atmosphere.
There’s just something about a creepy environment that I just absolutely love that also doesn’t rely on jump scares to make it creepy to begin with. Arkham Asylum excels in this department. From the sound design to the set pieces, Arkham Asylum really feels like a lived in and run down facility from years of abuse and neglect. It’s the perfect visual representation of the very inhabitants that live there.
But there’s no other part of this game that’s as atmospheric as the Scarecrow levels. I almost crapped my pants back in 2010 when I first saw these levels, and I loved every minute of them. While these segments don’t quite go to Eternal Darkness levels of insanity, they do a really great job of breaking up the monotony and adding a welcomed variety of gameplay to the over all story. They were also short enough that they never really outstayed their welcome. My only complaint about them, if you can call it one, is that there weren’t enough of them featured. But the 3 times you encounter Scarecrow will always be a treat to revisit for me.
However, beyond atmosphere, other elements that really help set this game apart from other super hero games at the time is how much this whole experience feels like a love letter to Batman. Seriously, if you’re a fan of the caped crusader and haven’t played this game yet, what’s wrong with you?
Overall, after replaying this game again all these years later has lead me to the conclusion that the combat and atmosphere are still just as fun and relevant today as they were back in 2009. But the music, eh I could take it or leave it.
From the voice talent of Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill, right down to the cape getting its own character development, Rocksteady Studios from the beginning was a developer who understood what a fan of Batman would want in a game like this.
While the visuals might not have completely benefited from the HD enhancements of the PS4 port, it’s hard not to love this game even to this day. That is if you’re a fan of Batman to begin with. And if you’re not a fan of Batman, first off thanks for reading my review, I really appreciate it. Second, this is a title that is clearly not for you.
And that’s why I rate Batman: Arkham Asylum’s replayability as…
Now remember, reviews are just opinions that should never be taken your own. As always, keep it right here on Galaxy of Geek, and don’t forget to check out Cade’s Arcade for more reviews and videos on all things video game related. Take care, and I will see you next time!
GOG Break Down
Console & Version: Playstation 4, Return to Arkham port
Time upon completion: Approximately 6 hours
Price: $19.99 Digital/Physical
Why you should buy it: It’s a legendary game that is a must play
Why you shouldn’t buy it: If you don’t like Batman or Beat-Em Ups
Who is this game for: Any comic book/video game enthusiasts