Final Level – Batman: Arkham Asylum

Final Level is a segment in which I return to an abandoned computer game in the hope of finishing it.  A low level of skill, combined with a lack of patience, means I have stockpiled a collection of unfinished games.  ‘Final Level’ should not be taking literally; the game may be resumed from any point.  The only criteria is that the game is one that I have previously played, then abandoned for any number of reasons.  Note that I may often refer to any controllable game characters in the first person.  ‘I’ may refer either to the handsome author of this piece, or the main character in a game .

Spoilers for Arkham Asylum.

I returned to Arkham Asylum (in real life, as in I started playing the game again) for a few reasons.  I wanted to lessen my pile of unfinished games.  The sequel is on the way, and I want to read about it without potential spoilers*.  I saw the stage show Batman Live recently, and wanted something Batmanny.  I wanted to write something for this Final Level segment.

*This sequel problem is common now.  So many games I have yet to finish now have, or soon will have, sequels.  As well as this meaning a higher possibility for story spoilers for the game I have, it makes my lack of completion somewhat embarrassing.  Developers have spent so much time making a new game, promoting and shipping it, and still the previous iteration sits uncompleted in my failure-cavern.  Dead Space, Bioshock, and the Battlefield: Bad Company games are just a few of the games I haven’t finished, who now have younger siblings (two in Battlefield’s case).

I returned to Batman: Arkham Asylum thinking I had only to finish the last level.  I had been frustrated and bored by this level previously.  I was uninterested in battling wave after wave of enemies (why Horde modes are so unappealing to me).  The canned animations were trapping me in places that Batman should be more responsive in.  And I was sick of being beaten.  I completed it after just a few attempts*.  I was feeling myself, as the rappers say (not literally.  Though I probably got some good scratching in while I was there).  Then I discovered that one more challenge awaited me.

*There should really be a name for the gaming phenomenon that is returning to a game after a long break and somehow being more successful than when you were used to playing it.  I’ve noticed this mostly with GTA games, but it happened in Asylum also.  There must be something to putting fresh eyes on a game, instead of the fatigued see-balls that normally accompany the latter part of a game.  These new eyes are helpful enough to offset the lack of understanding of the game’s controls.

I fought two big monster chaps and an assload of the Joker’s henchmen.  My mind tried frantically to recall the procedure to climb on the monster’s back.  I tried a few times, getting the hell beaten out of me before I figured it out.  Soon I was on, forcing the creature to flail away at its fellow beast, and all those other rascals trying to mess with the goddam Batman.

From what I remember story-wise, the Joker had developed a serum (don’t villains love serums?) which was like steroids on, well, steroids.  He created these big bastards with it.  I presume that he was going to use them to conquer Gotham.  But I was gonna stop him, or die trying (which I did a number of times).

I eventually dispatched his henchmen, big and small, and awaited a final cut scene.  Sheeeit.  Not done yet.  The Joker injected me and himself with the serum.  He grew huge, and I envisioned a finale of the two of us, king-size, duking it out like Godzilla and Mechagodzilla.  Alas, this was not to be; I took on Super-Joker at normal size.

Fighting Joker was fun for the first few seconds, until he escaped the arena, and I realised that I was due to fight more henchmen.  The level itself was fun enough, but a little variation would’ve been nice after the punch-heavy previous task.  The addition of various weapons (for the villains) and walking bombs was a nice touch.

Like all villains, Joker would turn away from the action at the wrong time, his arrogance overwhelming his common sense.  I knocked out his troops, dragged him back into the arena and slapped him about.  Then more henchmen came.  It felt a bit ridiculous that I had three chances to drag him back down as he gloated above me.  Three sets of fights, three Bathooks to Joker, and the interaction was over.  Batman delivered a (literally) explosive punch to Joker’s coupon and the game was (literally) over.  Joker returned to the Asylum again.  He definitely won’t escape again and I’m sure he won’t reappear, particularly not in Arkham City, the sequel to Asylum.

My abandonment of a game is no reflection of its quality.  Certain levels just get the better of me and I need a break, or a newer, shinier game moves in.  I don’t game that much any more so there’s always a lot of games on the pile.  Asylum is a brilliant game.  Despite its comic book origins it’s probably the most cinematic game I’ve played.  Arkham Asylum (the location) has a great atmosphere to it.  It’s a great looking game also.  The voice acting is excellent, particularly with Joker and Harley Quinn.  The game gives a wide range of characters from the Batman universe respect, no one’s inclusion feels cheap or forced.  There’s so much fun in swinging down from a gargoyle to take down a villain, then detonating explosives to take down two more.  I love small touches in games, and Asylum delivers them.  Batman’s stubble grows as the game progresses, and his cape gets more torn.

It’s a shame I moved away from Batman: Arkham Asylum, as the product doesn’t quite feel whole now.  But while experienced in patches, it’s still one of the best games I’ve ever played

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