Batman: Return To Arkham

Arkham Asylum – Great – The first in the Arkham series was the one to popularise a now common hit and counter combat style, it used plenty of villains while also leaning on Batman’s stealth and detective roots.

There are times when this game has such a brilliant amount of atmosphere, from the intro with Joker to the genuinely creepy morgue with Scarecrow, it works well to make the player tense and invested. Small corridors and closed in environments keep the tension high with an almost claustrophobic feel to a lot of the game.

The story is all about Joker taking over the asylum as he tries to get Batman killed. It revolves around the science of Bane’s strength boosting Venom liquid and an improved version called Titan. Along the way Batman must face a variety of supervillain’s who keep the game interesting and atmospheric. Scarecrow even changes up the gameplay sometimes by making it more like a 2.5D platformer, which is nice.

The combat is occasionally annoying as it’s in a fairly unrefined state with no way to cancel animations making it easy to get hit, but generally the fights are well done. Bosses are big on visual spectacle but tedious to actually deal with, many of them dragging on a bit too long and not engaging with the player’s brain enough.

The Riddler gives us a few hundred collectibles to find. These come in the form of trophies, actual riddles, perspective puzzles, doctor recordings and Arkham symbols. Plenty to do and the amount doesn’t feel too excessive.

The game also has bonus challenge missions to unlock and play, plus Joker is playable in some of them. There’s also artwork and character bios to view.

My main problem with this one is that Batman quite often got stuck on a corner or a piece of scenery, other than that there were no real gameplay issues.

Overall, it’s a well made game that’s packed with stuff in an area that requires a lot of backtracking. It’s little flaws make it frustrating but the atmosphere is incredible, add in the combat and puzzles which gives us a truly great game about Batman that dances along the line between tanky fighter and stealthy detective.

Arkham City – Great – The follow up to Asylum that just upgrades almost everything.

The story is a direct follow from Joker’s abuse of Titan. We encounter truly iconic villains such as Two-Face, Penguin and Ra’s Al Ghul as they try to hinder the Batman on his journey. An uneasy alliance with Mr Freeze is formed.

Side missions treat us to confrontations with Deadshot, Hush, Azrael, Mad Hatter, Szasz and Riddler. Arkham City also introduces Catwoman as a playable campaign character with some main story content and collectibles of her own.

The game is packed with Riddler trophies and puzzles, collecting these award unlockable artwork, lore, extra levels and extra challenges. The Riddler stuff can get a bit boring after a while as it’s double what Asylum had.

Challenges in the challenge mode allows Batman to test his skills. We also get to play as Tim Drake’s Robin, Catwoman and Nightwing in these challenges. Plus there’s an extra, short campaign where Batman and Robin go up against Harley Quinn.

Arkham City is quite open and doesn’t have Scarecrow as a main feature so loses a lot of the atmosphere that made Asylum great. However, through the strength of story, the inclusion of so many villains and gadgets, plus the improved feel of both traversal and combat in a game packed with content, this may be one of the greatest superhero games that it’s possible to make. Fantastic.

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