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Scott Mendelson

Scott Mendelson

Posted: September 8, 2009 05:26 PM

"Batman: Arkham Asylum" is a Great Video Game, Except...


When it comes to video games, I've become a crotchety old man telling those whipper-snapper punks to get off my lawn. In video game terms, I've become the general moviegoer who would rather see the laziest big-studio confection than be challenged by a critically-acclaimed drama.

Batman: Arkham Asylum is the most visually dazzling Batman game ever made, with rich vocal performances from Mark Hamill, Kevin Conroy, and Arleen Sorkin as their animated series alter egos. It is a joy to hear Hamill doing a long-form performance as The Joker in a borderline R-rated narrative. Even Conroy has toned down his vocals just a bit, sounding more like his 1990s Batman: The Animated Series reads than his somewhat more arch and on-the-nose Justice League performances. The controls are simple to learn and the game plays flawlessly. So what is the problem? It's challenging. It's not impossible, but it's genuinely challenging. And at my age and with the limited amount of free time I have, I no longer want to be challenged by video games.

I have too little time to have to consult an online walkthrough when I can't figure out which path to take. I'm too old to have to worry about not making it to a specific part of the game, so I can save and actually have made some progress in said playing session. I don't have hours on end to play a video game. I don't have the time to spend ten minutes figuring out how to trip a wire to make a jar explode which makes a door open. I don't have time to actually go out of my way to find endless riddle markers in order to unlock challenge rooms. I don't have time to spend countless extra hours earning the very special moves that make the game fun to play in the first place. I want video games that I can play, enjoy, somewhat easily beat, and then go back and play my favorite portions when time allows.

I get it. I'm old. I'm married with a daughter and I don't think either party has much interest in watching me search yet another darkly-lit hallway of Arkham looking for the magic key that will unlock that door on the complete other side of the asylum. I want games like Stranglehold, where I can play and immediately start shooting the hell out of various henchmen. I want games like X-Men Origins: Wolverine where I immediately leap into action and pretty much stay in action mode for the majority of the game being easily able to make my way through the narrative without too many distractions. Most importantly, I want video games that I can play for 20 minutes or so at a time and make genuine progress in the game.

I love looking at and listening to Batman: Arkham Asylum. But unless the game gets a little more linear and a little easier, I'm not sure I'm going to love actually playing Batman: Arkham Asylum. And as a hardcore Batman fan, that's a little sad.

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