Genre: Third-person action/adventure
Format: Digital download or DVD
Developer: Rocksteady Studios
Mac Publisher: Feral Interactive
Minimum System Requirements: OS X v10.6.8, 1.8Ghz Intel processor, 2GB RAM, 10GB hard disk space, 128MB vido card (ATI X1xxx series, NVIDIA 9400, NVIDIA 7xxx series and Intel GMA series card not supported), DVD drive for boxed version
Review Computer: 3.2GHz Intel Core i3 iMac, 4GB RAM, 512MB Radeon HD5670 graphics card
Network Feature: No
Rating: T (alcohol and tobacco reference, blood, mild language, suggestive themes, violence)
Availability: Out now
Batman: Arkham Asylum is the most satisfying Macintosh game experience I’ve had in a long, long time. This is impressive, because I’m only marginally interested in Batman, or superheroes of any type, really. But I love a good action adventure, and when you consider that Batman: Arkham Asylum is pretty much just Tomb Raider with better combat and a much cooler lead character, it’s easy to see how it completely took over my evenings for about two weeks.
The game begins with Batman driving the Joker to Arkham Asylum on Arkham Island. I guess when you’ve been arrested as often as the Joker, they just leave it to Batman to drive you back to jail. But Batman is concerned; it was too easy to capture the Joker this time. And sure enough, it’s a trap. Batman, Commissioner Gordon and a team of scientists and guards are trapped on the island where the inmates—including the likes of Killer Croc, Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, Scarecrow and Bane—have been set free. It’s your standard inmates-running-the-asylum scenario, and Batman has restore order while trying to figure out exactly what the Joker is up to.
Arkham Island is an absolutely glorious setting for such a game (even if, as a prison island, it makes absolutely no sense). Some of the game’s most dramatic moments are simply the panoramic views of Gotham City from atop Arkham Island’s buildings and peaks, and the game carries this through to the cinematic combat and action sequences. There’s not a moment of Batman: Arkham Asylum that feels small.
The game shines in its melee combat, which allows you to easily chain together moves. As you unlock abilities, more moves are acquired, providing for great moments in which Batman takes down groups of six or seven thugs in a way that’s as much fun to watch as it is to execute.
But the stealth modes are equally entertaining…it’s oddly satisfying to leap out of the shadows or swoop down from a gargoyle to incapacitate a henchman without making a sound. A detective mode, which darkens the surroundings but highlights enemies and interactive items, makes it easier to sneak up on enemies or avoid them altogether. How you play is up to you, but certain situations are more conducive to a specific strategy.
Batman: Arkham Asylum mostly follows the traditional explore/solve/fight path, but there are also quite a few elements to break up the flow. The best of these are the drug-induced Scarecrow challenges, which task Batman with hiding from a giant Scarecrow’s gaze while fighting the best looking skeletons in gaming history.
There are other boss battles as well, including a big fight against Bane, a Metroid-esque battle against Poison Ivy, an annoyingly plodding escape from Killer Croc, and the final showdown against the Joker. The game actually suffers a bit during the boss battles, which aren’t very inventive or fun, especially compared to the group fights against the prisoners. I also have to wonder why the developers were afraid to have Batman fight women. All of the prisoners are men, the Poison Ivy fight is actually against a giant plant, and the Harley Quinn fight is over in a three second cut scene.
Along with the plot-driven story and combat, challenges arise in the form of hidden riddles from…well, you know who. Each new area has a random riddle to solve, and question marks and these odd spider tombstone things are hidden throughout the island. Solving/discovering them yields bonuses such as new capabilities/enhancements, trophies to view outside the game, and bonus gameplay modes. Talking with fellow Appletell writer Bill Stiteler, he wondered how many people died because Batman was too busy trying to find a Riddler trophy.
Of course, none of this matters when a game looks this good. Batman is just fantastically cool, and it certainly helps that he’s voiced by character veteran Kevin Conroy. Mark Hamill also returns as The Joker, as does Arleen Sorkin as Harley Quinn. Perhaps more importantly, though, the setting conveys a creepy mood that’s as oppressive as a prison island should be…despite the fancy mansion and botanical gardens that inexplicably share the neighborhood.
The entire game has a wonderful, consistant style that keeps you drawn in throughout. And if your computer is at the upper end of the system specs, it’ll be able to push all of this through with only minor slowdowns in some of the heavier combat sequences.
The story,by veteran Batman writer Paul Dini, doesn’t offer much replay value, but there are bonus combat modes that prove quite fun, and you’ll need to return to beaten areas in order to obtain all of the power-ups with utilities you didn’t have the first time through. If backtracking and challenge modes aren’t your thing, you may feel a little cheated by the somewhat short story mode. But while you’re in it, Batman: Arkham Asylum is as good as a superhero game has ever been. I can’t imagine there’s a serious gamer out there who wouldn’t enjoy it…unless, of course, they’re zoning enforcement officers by day.