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Welcome to the first ever What Am I Playing? (shortened to WAIP in the title) feature. Before I dive into it, let me explain just what this is first! What am I playing? will be an irregular feature where I talk about whatever game I happen to be playing at the time, that is if they happen to be significantly old enough that they no longer really ‘qualify’ for proper review treatment (They might have even been reviewed on site in the past, but not by me or whomever happens to write this at the time). It will be a more personal experience, delving into reasons why we are playing the game at the moment and in all likely hood will contain spoilers.

The title will contain the name of the game or games being talked about, so if you want to avoid spoilers, you’ll have significant warning.

Batman: Arkham Asylum

Batman Arkham Asylum screenshot

I’m not a comic book fan by any stretch of the imagination. I’ve never owned a DC or Marvel comic, nor will I ever. Comic book characters aren’t an unknown to me of course, I’ve been exposed to them in other forms over the years through others. But my disinterest in general towards that medium, has meant in the past that it wouldn’t be the tipping factor when grabbing a title. Having said that, I have seen all the Batman movies and for the record, I much prefer Christopher Nolan’s take on the Capped Crusader.

Released in 2009, Batman: Arkham Asylum is a game that has been extremely well received and won a number of awards. I picked it up under the ‘Xbox 360 Classics’ range the other week, having never played the full game before. I had played the demo when it was made available, but it never really ‘sold me’ – I didn’t particularly enjoy the experience. And due to the aforementioned disinterest in this specific medium,  Arkham Asylum was relegated to “One Day, maybe” status.

Deciding to buy a game based on it’s demo might be considered harsh by some, prudent for others. In any event, I have rectified it and have been playing the game here and there (between playing other games). And I have been quite enjoying the time I have spent with it thus far. While “button mashy”, the combat is somewhat satisfying and crisp to the point you almost completely forget the former. Armed with a variety of gadgets, which you acquire as the game progresses through the story, you gain more ways to interact with the environment as well as dispatching of your enemies.

I’ve only just escaped the Killer Croc’s lair, so I don’t know how far along I am just yet (though I imagine I am nearing the end) but thus far the ensemble of characters (that Batman aficionados will know well) is quite diverse with each bringing their own challenging aspects when it comes to ‘Boss Time’. The encounters I’ve had with the fear-inducing gas using Scarecrow are perhaps my favourite at the moment. Under the effects of the fear inducing gas, Batman must navigate a landscape while avoiding the Scarecrow’s gaze. At the end, the player uses the Bat Signal to ‘defeat’ Scarecrow.

The events that transpire there aren’t real of course, rather symbolising the struggle of Batman attempting to overcome the fear inducing gas and ‘come to his senses’. There is some combat in later encounters but the focus is still very much on avoiding his gaze. Arkham Asylum also caters to players who might consider them completionists, with a load of collectibles ranging from Riddler Trophies to patient interviews. You’ll find that many of these are unobtainable the first time you wander through the area, requiring you to come back after you have the required gadget to acquire the collectible.

I’m not really a fan of that sort of backtracking, so I’ll be avoiding it all costs. At the moment, I haven’t had the opportunity to play around with the challenges the game offers which are external to the story (though they are unlocked via progress in the story). Browsing the Xbox Live Leaderboards for them though, I can’t imagine I’ll be doing anywhere near that good.

It’s hard to pin point just why I am enjoying Arkham Asylum when the demo didn’t leave me with the best of impressions, however I suspect that it may have something to do with the games I have being playing the last few months. It has been some time since I’ve played an action adventure beat em up like this and as such it has provided a bit of welcome variety, I guess. Based on my experiences thus far, I’d definitely recommend it and I might just end up getting the sequel, Arkham City, in the near future too.