I’d love to write up a post telling you all about whatever horror flick I’ve watched recently, but I can’t. The fact of the matter is that I have been trapped playing BATMAN: ARKHAM ASYLUM for several days and there is no force on Earth strong enough to make me stop. My toenails have grown three inches, my beard has turned gray and Poor Aunt John is on permanent call with sippy-cup and bedpan duties. Yep, it’s that addictive and the most satisfying time I’ve had with a video game since my mad affair with RESIDENT EVIL 4 way back when.
I know most of the world is infatuated with CHRISTOPHER NOLAN’s last two BATMAN movies and I guess I don’t blame the devotion considering he was able to inject some respectability back into the franchise after JOEL SCHUMACHER went all MYRA BRECKINRIDGE with it. Thing is, I’ve secretly been discontent with both films dry, mechanical stance and feel that the pendulum swing against BATMAN’s more freaky side is a bit too drastic.
Sure the bad guys are top notch in each picture, but BATMAN himself is kind of a drip and can anybody really with a straight face tell me that CHRISTIAN BALE’s BATMAN voice is not the most ridiculously mock worthy thing ever heard? To me that hokey butch delivery is just as silly as any Bat Suit nipple. It reminds me of the phony, “What me gay?” inflection I used to adopt in my young adult life whenever I went to a sports bar or had to leave an outgoing message on my answering machine.
I’m not saying both NOLON movies aren’t good, just chronically overrated and I severely miss the kooky goth-gone-gonzo vibe of TIM BURTON’s first two flicks. NOLAN may have that rusty industrial thing going on, but I like my BATMAN with a bit more of a gnarly carnival atmosphere and a dose of CHARLES ADAMS chic. The game BATMAN: ARKHAM ASYLUM finds the perfect balance between introspective maturity and the wildly eccentric and fantastical, plus it’s just plain kick ass in a very literal way. Why can’t they make a movie like this?
All the voice talent involved is primo; MARK HAMILL as the joker, KEVIN CONROY as Batman and ARLEEN SORKIN as Harley Quinn. My favorite nutcase here though just might be the Scarecrow who subjects Batman to a surreal nightmare landscape that could leave Freddy Kreuger taking notes. Really, the psychological territory you tread in this game (Including Bruce Wayne’s kindertraumatic past.) is competitive with any movie or graphic novel and it’s a full, gratifying experience across the board.
Beyond that ass kicking aspect I mentioned, there is also a refreshing emphasis on stealth activity and detective work and happily it’s not all cops and robbers fighting over who’s got the loot. I’ll get back to those horror movies soon, but for now this game is almost like stepping into a movie myself, which I can’t resist. As far as hanging out with Batman goes this is the best time I’ve had with the guy in a long time. BATMAN: ARKHAM ASYLUM is also a fine reminder that a little tempered flamboyance suits the caped crusader just fine and that the more the line blurs between himself and his bizarro enemies the more engaging he becomes.