Who is afraid of the big black bat? Well, plenty of hired goons and escaped mental criminals in Gotham as it happens. Batman: Arkham Asylum
is the latest in a long line of games focusing on the Dark Knight, but while others have been a little sketchy (save for Batman Returns
, I loved that one) this is looking like the most playable one yet.
I wasn't told much about the premise or how the main game will play - that's for later apparently - although in the two special challenges I ran through it seemed quite clear that The Joker, in his ever-fluorescent way, has taken over Gotham's mental facility and let the inmates run loose. In being freed, their loyalty to the grinning baddie has gone right up and that means that Batman is quite high on their 'to kill' list.
Which introduces us nicely into one of the unlockable challenges on offer in Arkham Asylum
. Set in a square arena, with electric doors around the perimeter and goons prepared to beat you down, the aim is to maintain a high string of combo moves in kicking their asses. There are four rounds to each of these types of challenges, with more baddies to beat up every time.
Attacking is as simple as mashing the X Button while directing your assault using the analogue stick. As thugs surround Batman, one or two will have an icon appear above their head. That means they're preparing an attack, which you can swiftly counter by tapping the Y Button during your melee. When you smack an enemy hard enough, you can mix things up by performing takedowns - B and Y Buttons together - or throws with the A and X Buttons.
The trick in this mode is to rack up as high a score as possible, with additional points given at the end of each round for not being hit and offering variety in your moves. The best method for keeping your combos ticking is to always ensure there's a goon for you to move onto when another has fallen to the floor. As Batman is quite an agile chap, he can leap, roll or otherwise bounce his way from one end of the room to another. As long as you aim well with the analogue stick and frequently spice up your moves with attacks, counters and throws, you can link together a combo that doesn't end until the last guy is floored.
It's a little bit basic and rudimentary, yes, but for casual beat-em-up fans who just want to get stuck into performing some styling smack-downs, it's quite fun. The second type of
challenge I played was a lot more cerebral in practice, and suits the nature of Batman very well. Called 'Invisible Predator', it pits you in a room with a number of bad guys, and your objective is to knock them all out while being as sneaky as possible.