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The TalkGames  Podcast returns after a month break! Join Artie, Jesse (Tanooki), Jae (Slade), and Brian (Hogmasta) as they discuss games that have been released and the news stories that plague the world of video games. In this episode we covered a bunch of games and topics that are super interesting and worth listening to for two hours. Yes the podcast was very long, but it was our return show… and we haven’t got used to time management yet. The aim is for one hour shows every week. Here are the show notes:

 

Excluding Lego Batman, it has been quite some time since we have seen a realistic and full-fledged Batman video game. It has been even longer since we’ve seen a near-universally accepted Batman game. Unlike its movie counterpart, the Dark Knight hasn’t fared too well in the video game business. When you think of Rocksteady Studios, do you think of Batman? How about video games as a whole? Probably not, considering their only other game they developed was released back in 2006. How does the Caped Crusader hold up to his previous video games? I’m going to say it already: Batman: Arkham Asylum is easily the best Batman game out there, and could be one of the best video games of this year. Ready or not, The Dark Knight is back.

Batman: Arkham Asylum is a third-person action game and it casts the man himself, Batman, as the main protagonist. The game opens up with Batman driving the Batmobile into Arkham Asylum, with his nemesis, the Joker, in the back seat. This is the first, and last time where everything is under control for Batman. It then appears that Joker is being walked off to one of his cells, and Batman has saved the day, right? Right? Wrong! Joker breaks free of the guards surrounding him, and Batman (along with the guards, and both Commissioner Gordon and the Warren) are trapped within Arkham Asylum, alongside the countless people Batman has locked up, and many, many henchmen.

You’ll be seeing and hearing The Joker a lot, but expect plenty of your favorite Batman villains to show up

From here on out, it is your typical Batman-related story business. Batman must save the day, the people, and stop the Joker. However, that doesn’t mean this is your typical Batman video game. Arkham Asylum is certainly an adult-oriented game. Throw in your typical crude language and the fact that people are being murdered left and right; the result being a very uncommon Batman video game. Joker isn’t just fun and games (voiced by the fantastic Mark Hamill), and won’t have a problem taking out anybody who gets in his way. The basic premise revolves around Batman trying to hinder Joker, who himself is attempting to build a Titan-fueled army. Whilst in the process Batman must also battle some of his other big-time enemies (Harley Quinn, Bane, Poison Ivy, Scarecrow), and even at times, battle himself.

Gameplay focuses around hand-to-hand combat, exploring your surroundings, and using the tools given to you throughout the story to advance yourself through the game. Combat can focus on fist fighting. The more punches and kicks you string together without getting hit, allows you to have a bigger combat multiplier. The multiplier is key in acquiring XP, which allows you to upgrade your armor, your equipment, and other combat-oriented skills. Combat is pretty awesome, and once you know how to dodge enemies, you’ll be stringing huge combat multipliers (with combat multiplier achievements going up to 40x). Stealth also plays an important role in Arkham Asylum. If you decide to take a more stealthy approach, you can perform Stealth Takedowns, which won’t alert other henchmen as immediately as a in-your-face attack would. Stealth attacks can also range to swinging from gargoyle to gargoyle, waiting to strike and perform a lethal attack. I found it awesome to be able to have the transition from the all-powerful Dark Knight to a stealthier superhero.

Arkham doesn’t follow a linear path, the open-ended design choice makes the prison feel like a real place

Exploration is another key component in Batman: Arkham Asylum. Although you’re encouraged to progress through the storyline, you also should explore your surroundings for various collectables. These collectables range from Riddler Challenges, Riddler Trophies, and other valuable items (interviews, secret maps, Joker’s toy clattering teeth, etc.). Riddler Challenges are exactly what you’d expect, attain a riddle and try and solve it. Riddler Trophies are question-marked trophies throughout Arkham Asylum, in every little nook-and-cranny you could think of. They’ll be found in many vents, and behind walls that need to be destroyed. There is quite a bit of replay value found here, as you’ll want to find every single riddle, trophy, or other hidden items. Combined, there are 240 riddles, trophies, and other items to be found. Good luck finding them all, you’ll need it.

Equipment in Arkham Asylum ranges from upgradeable Batarangs, a Batclaw hook used to bring down walls, to a device allowing you to encrypt locked doors, and explosive gel that will frequently be required to destroy things, too. You’ll be using these tools quite often, as you might want to gain higher ground to strike your opponents, advance to locked doors for collectables, or demolish objects for even more items.

I suppose you’re thinking at this point that there isn’t much to do after you beat the game. You happen to be wrong on that stand point, and if you haven’t found all of the goodies in the game, you are more than welcome to continue progress even after you have completed the game. Along with this is the “Challenge Mode.” Challenge Mode consists of activities that are combat or stealth oriented. Combat challenges focus on the highest attainable score possible, and obviously include taking out a set of baddies. Stealth challenges are more focused on defeating opponents as quickly as possible, following a certain criteria. This could include executing someone from above, or killing someone from a destructible wall. Both of which are extremely challenging and fun, and adds even more replay value toward an already value-packed game.

The thugs you fight will use their numbers to their advantage, don’t expect them to take turns

With all this talk about the plethora of collectables, challenges, and the fantastic combat, I nearly forgot about the also exceptional voicework and sound. Mark Hamill voices the Joker, and he is simply phenomenal – the sound, the overall change from sadistic and psychopathic to humorous and at times, somewhat cheeky. Overall, everyone sounds great. Batman, Joker, the Riddler, Poison Ivy, almost everybody! I can’t say the same about the henchmen, but you can’t expect much from the truly feeble and weak-minded. Every character who matters in this game sounds great, which complements the overall fantastic orchestral piece, bringing the whole atmosphere to a full circle.

From an aesthetics standpoint, Batman: Arkham Asylum is also a winner in that department. Cuts, rips, and tears in Batman’s apparel will appear after his armor has been upgraded, showing how much he truly has been through the one hellish night. Joker is still as crazy as ever, and his counterparts, Poison Ivy, Scarecrow, Bane, and Harley Quinn all have their own touches that also make them look great, too. Some small flaws including crappy lip-syncing, such as Batman’s mouth doesn’t move when he is either talking out loud or communicating during the brief pauses in gameplay when you aren’t fighting.

Overall, Batman: Arkham Asylum is a fantastic, exceptional, and an extravagant video game, and revitalizes both the comic-book and Batman video game based genres. The only other drawback I have to complain about is the disappointing final-boss and ending, that leaves much more to be desired. However, it could possibly open itself to a sequel, as you still miss out on seeing Two-Face and the Riddler in person. Fans of Batman and comic-book games rejoice, The Dark Knight is here to stay. Rocksteady Studios, congratulations, you have yourselves a huge winner.