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Batman AA Day#6: What Makes a Good Batman Game

This session is a smorgasbord of predator scenes, cut scenes, and Scarecrow stuff. It has some good and bad, but the lines are now clear. This game is essentially about immersion through gameplay, specifically feeling like Batman. When you do Batman-ish things, the game is great. When you do game-cliched things that don’t fit in the world of the Dark Knight, the game sucks. Luckily, it’s a lot more of the former. Spoilers within.

I read a lot of game blogs. In terms of criticisms blogs, one of the sites I really enjoy is They are quite smart, they generally write solid reviews from a critical perspective, and they review somewhat random stuff, which lets me check out games I’ve never even heard of.

I bring this up because they recently reviewed Batman here. It’s a good review worth your read, but what interests me is that it’s a review written by a fan, as illustrated by the article’s deep look at the treatment of the Scarecrow and Poison Ivy. This blog isn’t written by a fan. I like Batman, but I don’t really care about his universe. Poison Ivy doesn’t bother me any more than the Penguin does — it’s a cheesy villain from a time when comic books were cheesier. But the core point of the article corresponds exactly to what I’ve witnessed in the best moments of this game; it makes you feel like Batman, and that’s the goal it needed to hit.

Speaking of which, this day’s session is all about the stealth takedowns. I come back to the predator fight in the garden. I take one more death before I figure out a way to not get shot. As I’m leaving the garden, Joker (off-stage) injects Ivy with the Titan serum, and plant growth on the island goes crazy. The whole island is overrun with vines and plant growth, and there are all of these weird buds that shoot at me with pink energy balls when I walk too close to them. I don’t know what they are, and I don’t know how to beat them. They also are very dissonant with the tone, and it takes me out of the universe. I run past them to find a guy who tells me where Croc’s cell is, and heading back out into the grounds to get there.

But what I’m actually doing out on the grounds next is trying to break into a mansion which has a sniper on top. The entrance is clearly near the sniper, but the ledge he’s on is covered with spikes and I can’t grapple up there. So instead I need to look around the building to figure out a way to reach that ledge while avoiding the sniper’s deadly shot. I end up climbing a tower across the grounds and using my line cable to zip on to the sniper’s platform. He tries to shoot me as I’m zipping across and misses. That’s Batman.

The wonderful Batman-ness continues inside the mansion. There’s a big bunch of armed goons in a room, and they’ve rigged the gargoyles with proximity explosives, so that they will blow up as soon as I get near them.  So it’s a predator stage, but I have to stay mostly on the ground. This is HARD and I die several times. But there is nothing like skulking around a catwalk, taking out a guard silently, running like a maniac away from the body to avoid getting shot, and then waiting two minutes for them to disperse again. It’s so Dark Knight you can taste the justice.

Exiting the room leads quickly to another Scarecrow scene. The beginning of the scene is OSSIM, a reversal of the game’s intro where you are the Joker and the Batman is the prisoner you are driving to and following into Arkham. You switch perspective to Batman, where Scarecrow, Harley, and the Joker discuss you, and then the Joker shoots you. You die and get a typical retry scene, but instead of restarting the scene, you end up in digging yourself out of a grave surrounded by crazy Batmen rocking themselves or babbling uncontrollably. All very Eternal Darkness. So, so good.

But it’s followed by another giant Scarecrow scene. Ugh. It’s visually well-done, and in any other game, I would be cool with this play style. But this is BATMAN. I don’t want to run around a nightmare world with a giant cartoon villain. I don’t want to fight Zelda-like bomb-shooting flowers. I want to hide from snipers and drop from the shadows to club a thug. That’s clearly what Batman is to me, and the more the game sticks to it, the better it is.

Anyway, about halfway through the Scarecrow scene is a wall I can’t jump and some crate on a cable I don’t know what to do with, so I’m calling it a day. I’ll tough through the rest of this stupid scene out tomorrow.

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