Published Sep 26, 2009Fanboys rejoice! Arkham Asylum is the first Batman videogame to finally do Bob Kane's creation justice. Just as Chris Nolan did in The Dark Knight, British indie developer Rocksteady treats its moody icon like the avenging angel he was when first conceived during the Great Depression. The original black emblem on grey costume is a visual clue that this gritty game will be bringing Bats back to his psychological roots. The bigger clue, of course, is that it takes place in Gotham's infamous island madhouse. Though not beholden to the similarly titled surrealist 1989 graphic novel, the game is written by Emmy-winner Paul Dini (of the excellent early '90s Batman: The Animated Series) who is clearly inspired by that classic's dark imagery and twisted storyline about Batman trapped inside with the insane. (The subtext, as ever, is that maybe the asylum is actually where Bruce Wayne belongs).
It also means the presence of Batman's Rogues Gallery - led by the Joker and his girlfriend Harley Quinn - makes narrative sense. As does the game play itself, which neatly makes use of the digitized dark knight's detective skills, fighting prowess and stealth as he skulks and battles his way through the creepily labyrinthine setting to rescue a captured Commissioner Gordon. (PS3 owners also get to go to the dark side and play a series of free downloadable challenge maps as Joker).
Maybe it's because this is a standalone rather than being tied to a movie's plot (and, even worse, its release date) or maybe it was just made by developers with a passion for their licensed characters. Regardless, if you have any interest in Batman at all, you'd be, well, insane not to play Arkham Asylum. (Eidos/Warner Interactive/Rocksteady Studios)