Good Memories of 2009, Day 1: Arkham Asylum

As I did a year ago, I’m going to list a few things that I truly enjoyed during the recently deposed year, in no particular order. This year, though, I’m going to serialize the list for a few days. Today’s entry is

Batman: Arkham Asylum

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One of the best damn games I’ve ever played. Written by the brilliant Paul Dini, one of the chief creatives on Batman: The Animated Series, it featured voice work by actors from that esteemed cartoon including Kevin Conroy as Batman, Arleen Sorkin as Harley Quinn, and Mark Hamil as the Joker. With incredible graphics and design, the game follows Batman through one very long night on the island whereon the titular criminal madhouse is located, after the Joker takes over and lets many other villains out.

Arkham proves an ideal setting for adventure, coming to life in a way few locations in games ever do and never getting old. The game’s only weakness is in its boss fights, structured, alas, like video game boss fights, and are the only times the game’s contrivances remind you you’re in a game.

In this game, you really get to feel what it’s like to be Batman. Drop into a pack of thugs and efficiently take them down in seconds with acrobatic, bone-breaking martial arts. Steal through the night, lurking in the shadows above armed goons, swooping to take them out one by one without alerting their comrades. Use incredible gadgets to set traps, gather intelligence, and overcome obstacles. Investigate, using your tech and brilliant detective skills to solve mysteries and track your foes.

The character designs are amazing, managing to be original while remaining completely true to the characters’ histories. Killer Croc is dinosaurian and terrifying. The Scarecrow is creepier than ever. The Joker is manic and crazy-eyed. Poison Ivy is more inhumanly sexy than in any prior incarnation. And Batman is an armored engine of dark destruction, whose costume over the course of the game shows more and more damage, and who even gradually develops a five o’clock shadow on his square jaw. The attention to detail in the characters, and the world, is fantastic.

An utterly amazing game, and a sequel was just announced, which creates a flood of endorphins in my system when I think about it.

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