- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 5, 2009

Superhero and cartoon characters are integral parts of the electronic entertainment industry. With this in mind, I salute the meld of pop-culture character and video game with a look at Batman: Arkham Asylum (from Eidos and Rocksteady for PlayStation 3, rated T for teen, $59.99).

In this third-person spectacular, DC Comics’ famed Dark Knight confronts and contains his greatest archenemies. A single person controls the heroic vigilante around one of Gotham’s most infamous facilities.

What’s the story? From the game manual: It’s going to be a long night. After a seemingly random attack by the Joker at the mayor’s office, Batman is returning his greatest nemesis to Gotham City’s Arkham Asylum, the institute for the criminally insane.

But the Joker has a plan, and escape is only the beginning. By the time the sun rises on Gotham, he will have turned Arkham Asylum into a twisted playground.

Play the role: A player uses all of the physical and mental faculties afforded Bruce Wayne’s alter ego to stop the Joker and a mind-boggling assortment of supervillains.

Look for legendary encounters with Bane, Poison Ivy, Harley Quinn and Killer Croc and plenty of battles against prisoners and the Joker’s mutated thugs and assassins.

Support characters include Commissioner Jim Gordon, Oracle (aka Barbara Gordon) and Alfred Pennyworth.

The adventure will take Batman through all the major ventilation systems and buildings of the Arkham complex, including the morgue, botanical gardens and underground sewers, and even will require a visit to an incredibly cool Batcave.

Get to the action: A mixture of hand-to-hand combat and stealth moves leads Batman’s arsenal. As he combines punches, kicks, counterattacks and throws, he gains experience and spectacular finishing moves. The experience will level him up and unlock 20 WayneTech upgrades to use with eight types of tools and weapons, such as batarangs (a radio-controlled version no less), explosive gel, a bat grapple claw, a cryptographic sequencer and a zip-line launcher.

The explosive gel is pretty slick: The hero draws a bat-shaped outline with the goo on a wall or floor and can trigger an explosion from a safe distance.

While the player is exploring areas, a Detective mode offers an infrared/X-ray-on-steroids view of the surroundings to pinpoint clues, evidence and enemies, even through walls.

Memorable moments (in no particular order): the opening scene featuring the Joker going back to Arkham; hanging upside down under a gargoyle to drop on a thug; fighting a gargantuan version of Scarecrow; talking to the corpse of Thomas Wayne; using the hero’s cape as a glider to land on an unsuspecting foe (that incredible cape has a life of its own); and bats, bats and more clouds of bats being unleashed at any time.

Violent encounters: The player controls a traditional Batman, who is more concerned with saving innocents and recapturing and incapacitating inmates than killing them. His enemies are not so generous.

A tremendous amount of punching, kicking, shooting and clubbing takes place as opponents use whatever means necessary to try to kill the Bat. The smart player will strike as silently as possible and only engage unarmed thugs face to face.

Story Continues →