Game On!: "Batman: Arkham Asylum"
The Dark Knight defined the Batman and Joker for the cinema.Batman: The Animated Series did it for television. But until now, no video game had managed to capture the essence of the vigilante defender of Gotham in all his depth and glory. Batman: Arkham Asylum is the quintessential title fans have been waiting for.
The game blends the adult storytelling of the recent films with the more gritty entries in Batman's long comic-book past, focusing on the faceoff between the Caped Crusader and his nemesis the Joker.
The Clown Prince of Crime has a plan in motion, and from the beginning of the game's riveting tale, Batman knows there's a game afoot and he's determined to stop it.
Joker's plot centers around Arkham, Gotham City's asylum for the criminally insane. The setting is iconic in the DC comic universe and allows the writers to weave in other members of Batman's rogues gallery, like Harley Quinn, The Riddler and lesser-known characters Batphiles will immediately recognize.
The environment of Arkham itself is a key character in the game's tale. It's more than a setting, and the various locations within the island asylum feel distinct.
The Batman franchise has a long and storied history in the world of video gaming, from basic "beat-em-up" side scrollers in the Nintendo and Sega Genesis years to the more recent Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe fighting game. Up to this point, very little attention has been paid to showing the intellectual elements that make the character more than a cartoon street brawler.
Arkham Asylum has elements of combat, but the core of this game is not the fighting. There's also a stealth gameplay component - foes are often armed with guns, and Batman is only a man in a Kevlar suit. A hail of lead will bring him down pretty quickly.
The game complements the hero's detective nature with many environmental puzzles that utilize the player's intelligence as well as Batman's.
The stellar actors really bring this game to life. Kevin Conroy resumes the role of Batman after voicing him for almost 20 years in the animated shows, and Mark "Luke Skywalker, who?" Hamill delivers a performance that will forever cement him in my mind as the Joker - above even Heath Ledger and Jack Nicholson.
Batman fans cannot bypass this game. It's a game-of-the-year contender and a must-play title.
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"Batman: Arkham Asylum"
System: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Windows PC
Rated: T for Teen
Who Should Buy: Dark detectives everywhere
GameOn! Grade: A+