Batman: Arkham Shitty

Oh. Acclaim. Why am I not surprised?

I heard you, guys. I wasn't on the internet, but I heard. You where talking about Batman Arkham City, the first game that apparently succeeds at the whole "Now you're Batman, in a wide open city, beating up  goons" thing.

I mean, let's face it, most Batman games have been deeply ingrained in preexisting genres like "Beat-Em-Up" or Racing"". That doesn't make them BAD games (being bad games made them bad games), but in terms of immersing you into the cowl and tights live of the Goddamn Batman, it felt a little...lacking. That is, until someone finally tried to give us the full Batman experience in  1998s movie tie-in "Batman and Robin" for the Playstation.

Hey, I said "tried". TRIED.

The interactive spawn of the filmic marketing machine that  put the lucrative Batman franchise out of theaters for 7 years, Batman and Robin  is a full on sim, with Bat Computer antics in the Batcave,  Batmobile driving down Gotham Park,  and the actual score from the actual movie. That last part is sort of amazing in the context that Spider-Man games always had this...stock music that felt like a slap to the face to the tunes Danny Elfman strung together. And hey, I do like Eliot Goldenthal's score for Batman and Robin. So sue me!

Be nice to the new neighbors, dear. They just went through a reboot...

However, the game is so poorly constructed, that any joy, even ironic, that could be derived is quickly smashed under the weight of some pretty garbage gameplay.

The game opens to a CG Full Motion pre-rendered Video of Gotham, where Mr Freeze is coming from underground in his Freezemobile as his minions  also drive recklessly in the streets. I guess this isn't crazy, considering his plan is to  burst into a museum to steal a diamond, Ice skate for a bit,  then use a rocket (with a bomb in it) to blast  off into the sky, then glide down on butterfly wings. He should have gone to Africa, where there's lots of diamonds and no Batman. Oh, well... there is one now, but not back then.

He did give me a sign. Now... to wait until he hits me more time.

Then Batman is in the Batcave, which immediately leads to you controlling him. You can press a shoulder button to switch between  running and "the batman strut", and another to switch between "detective" and "insecurely punching" modes. Detective mode has the option to jump in it, for some reason. And it also has the gadgets you would want to throw at a villain's faces.

Eventually, the player wanders into the vehicle platform, where  Batman(or Robin, if you so felt inclined, by wandering into the Robin ensigned closet.) and drives of in one of the vehicles into the big city.  The city itself is sparsely populated, and most of the citizens are, as expected, eccentric  criminals. Weird clowns and dominatrix gymnasts(but not THE Weird Clown or THE Dominatrix Lady Gymnast) are loose and stalking Gotham's two other inhabitants, while the police don't even bother. Luckily Batman's car is armed with a mosquito machine gun, and he  can blast away from the safety of his cockpit. Until he runs out, that is.

However, Mr Freeze isn't just after mere jewels, and has declared a holy war on  the Dark Knight and the Boy Wonder.  Every  half a mile two cars from the movie, a motorcycle, or a kamikaze ice cream truck will try to Benazhir Bhutto your ass. Unless you get off. Then they leave you alone. This would add entertainment and excitement to what otherwise would be a quick drive to the grocery store(of crime) if it weren't that the controls for driving are awful.

Ice Cream! Death to the Batman And Ice Cream!

Seriously, the get 'into the Batmobile and drive there' part is one of the worst  virtual driving things ever. I mean, I would rather play Multi Racing Championship than drive in this. Getting your car to drive straight is an unachievable goal, and you forget about Robin's motorcycle. Forget it. You'd think since they put the effort of putting it in the game and making it a significant part of it, they'd have put the effort into making it not fucking suck.

Eventually, after finding "clues" and  picking coins out of payphones  to put them in newspaper dispenser machines to get health(yes, BILLIONAIRE playboy Bruce Wayne isn't gonna fucking pay for his own newspaper) you get into the Museum, which doesn't fully exploit the over the top scene of the movie. Mr Freeze isn't even there. It is here that, if you haven't yet been killed by Ice-cream trucks will see this.

Aww... he got a shorter one just for Barbara!

That's the game over screen for the game. One of them, at any rate. You will see it every time more than 3 of Mr Freeze's men catch you.  Every time you  press an attack button, you should hear George Clooney ask the U.N. for permission to attack the person in front of him within the next decade as long as Venezuela puts half the money.  But whenever 3 of the Freeze Faithful gang up on you, they begin what is known in fighting game culture as an "an infinite" and to your local Gamestop as "why we still sell controllers". There isn't enough health(which comes in the form of floating double helix strains. Yes, Batman is going into town picking up people's genetic material and putting it in his mouth. Why do you ask?) and the controls aren't reactive enough.  And again, since  a significant amount of options that would be useful in combat, such as jumping and drawing gadgets are on detective mode, you will have to rely on the combat actions or learn to quickly change into detective mode to get out of trouble. And the movement is tank-like, yet imprecise.

What Killt de Dynasoars? Dere Ar Diffrent Teeorees about Dee Ecksackt CAUSE but mohst scientists agrree it didn't involve DEEICE AYGE!!

Eventually, The Caped Crusader or his Loyal Liege secure the diamond before the Iceman gets to cometh. Which leads you back to the batcave, where you have some pretty useless clues about where  Freeze will strike next. The next mission is a sordidly designed jewelry store, where you are supposed to  wait until the bad guys arrive so the mission can be done. Not waiting like , at a stake out, or perched and watching the people. Waiting as in, wander around an empty jewelry.  Go ahead and trip the alarm. Then it's waiting...with an alarm blaring.

This game is stubbornly obsessed with time. With making you wait. With making you get there in time. With  clues having to be at a particular moment. I kind of get why one would do that...but in a game this poorly constructed, it just adds another layer of confusion and frustration. This is Batman and Robin, not fuckin' Shenmue!

Hurry up and die! Gotta pick up the kids at soccer practice.

But the waiting isn't the hardest part, as Mr Freeze finally shows up to grab the gem and kill the heroes. Yes. Kill them. Yes. Yes. As I stood there, in front of a shuffling model with a pixelated Arnold Schwarzenegger face on it, whiffing away,  watching him do gymnastics, I was wondering what the hell was going on.  It is then that I realized that the fighting system is truly broken. He won the first one, of course. And the next few ones, too.  Then it hit me like a thunder strike: third person fighting rules had abandoned me. Everything I knew was a lie. The only truth is that  he needed to be a good sport about me kicking him and not hit back, because my hits are no good here, but his hits  affect me. Life isn't fair, Batman.

But, yeah, our heroes steal another diamond, yet Freeze...flies away.

I actually lost the next mission. Yes, you can lose and move on, like in True Crime. I don't see why the fuck you would want to lose, but in my case, I had no choice, as wandering the latest labyrinthine jewelry store aimlessly lead to a glitch in which Freeze's  henchmen who was supposed to steal the thingie froze(ha ha) there, and made the stage unwinnable. I could have tried again. But I could also have made this paragraph  a loosely put together  chain of profanities. I didn't want to do either.

And he's single. Ladies.

However the next mission is  exactly the same, but without the glitch, and I get my chance at revenge on fucking Frosty. I don't get what difference it makes who gets a diamond or not. And why are the jewelry stores so apart?

The a small release came. I wandered behind the Robin ensigned closet and noticed yet another closet, which enabled me to play as Batgirl. I thought she would be playable in a later moment, but I guess she was here the whole time. Though her vehicle, the Batcycle, is the humblest looking of the 3, it handles the best and has the least problem surviving  the sudden goon strikes that haunt the player. That's right: in a stunning reversal, Alicia Silverstone's Barbara Pennyworth  is the least bad part of Batman and Robin: the game. Sure, she looks like Pagan and sounds like Maya, but anything that makes this experience less bad is good.

No jokes about women drivers here. Unless you consider this a joke and this thing here a woman and the steering in this game driving.

After getting myself lost AND caught saving after the game was winnable, I found the botanical garden scene. You know, I'm not a bigshot game designer, but if you're sending the player looking for something called "Botanical gardens" in a city full of flat doors...maybe don't make it look like a garage door. I've been to a Botanical Garden, and it didn't look like  that at all.

Still, big scene. You don't get to bid over the toply for a woman that came out of a monkey suit, but you do get to fight scores of henchmen. And there's icicle mines. Also, there's some thing making the floor blue that kills you. Oh, and the bad guys like to attack with grenades now. And sometimes, they come out of unexpected places. I actually came in with full health every time, and they just knocked it right out of me. I discovered blocking and rolling. Still dying. It's like a very deep game of chess where all your pieces are pawns and kings and the other player has a shotgun. Then FROSTY shows up again. I thought he was in jail? Isn't Vivica A Fox gonna show up? She's in this movie, too!

So, if you can somehow brave the crazy fucking get your shot at Mr Freeze again. And this time, he means it! He's got a device that shoots ice randomly, he's building big ice pillars atop a giant hand, and he's not afraid of kicking you into the ground and freezing you before you get up. Your first instinct might be to run up to his face and beat the shit out of him. Mine too. It failed. He can easily destroy you in 2 seconds if he gets  3 hits in. Then I tried using the batgadgets to wear him down first.  It did not work particularly well. You might try patiently trying to gather gadgets from afar to wear him down. But if you wait too much, the machine explodes and you fall down for no good reason. Touching the device hurts you. Falling is easy and sometimes you can even fall through floors. His health goes down slooow, and there's two bars that each respond to different types of attacks. There are no indicators as to what you have to do. There is no strategy here: if you won, it is a series of coincidences that strung themselves together to enable your victory. It is the perfect boss fight. For the boss I mean.

Mah emoshons mede me wick!
Or is it? Will I be able to beat this? Am I going to quit and go back to playing enjoyable games? Find out next time in Batman: Arkham Shitty 2!

Continued in part Two!


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