Batman Arkham Asylum

Over the Christmas period there’s usually some spare time between the Turkey and drink to get some gaming in. This year, with the PS3 purchase just pre Christmas, there were some great games to pick up on classic/best seller and therefore some nice cheap deals.

I actually ended up buying a whole tonne of games – I went down the best games for PS3 and got the AAA titles. In fact I picked up too much and I just haven’t played them. They will wait. However, I did pick up a copy of Batman, Arkham Asylum for my Xbox 360 and I’ve completed it. Played it straight through.

I haven’t touched any multiplayer, I couldn’t even tell you if there is such a thing in the game! But it’s another example of a developer proving that there is still life in the single player market. It’s up there with the Bioshock for me.

The game kicks off with the Joker being re-incarcerated into the Arkham Asylum. It doesn’t take long before you discover that this is very much part of Jokers plan and he’s masterminded an inside job to take over the Asylum by force.

There’s not a fantastic amount more to the story to be honest! You spend the game working towards taking back the Asylum. There are some distinct phases to the game and the early section drips in the game mechanics on a gradual learning curve. Nicely paced and well judged.

The game mechanics themselves are nice and varied. Well sorted and offer just the right amount of contextual buttons alongside skill combos. The gameplay itself is one of discovery, problem solving and action/beat’em up. I would judge that they come along in equal measure. The Asylum is split into 3 broad, large, outside areas and these are sub-divided with buildings, from the mansion to the medical building to the holding cells. All the areas and the graphics in general are realised with a dark edgy feel. Everything looks nice and together and its another case of there being a strong and coherent artistic style and it really pays off. The unreal engine is powerful and this game really maximises its strong points.

The game goes through distinct phases as well. It seems to get darker the more you play and as the story unfolds the environments also take radical twists and turns. Batman himself also changes through the game, with the effects of tussles and altercations leaving his suit torn and his cape ripped. Not every game takes the time to add these nice little touches but it really makes a difference when they are there.

If I was playing through the game again, I’d spend more time on the discovery aspects in parallel to the story. The Riddler has left a tonne of trophies to find all around the differing areas, in hidden, hard to reach spots. It’s very satisfying working out how to get them all and is a game long pursuit of it’s own. I finished the main story and then went back through all the areas once more time to get every last trophy and unlock. Had I done more of this through the main game, it would have felt more balanced.

The game also throws in some great set pieces and different gameplay styles. Whether it’s avoiding the glowing stare of the Scarecrow using shadows to hide in or areas of the map where you can’t use your ever faithful grappling hook and have to revert to the games free-running style mechanic. It’s varied and keeps interest all the way through. You have a nice selection of gadgets and gizmos that gradually unlock through the game. These new toys are sometimes needed in order to get to other areas of the maps. Areas you’ve noticed earlier in the game are sometimes unreachable until you have the correct tool to get to them.

If I was going to criticise anything, it would be that the unreal engine doesn’t do people as well as environments. Don’t get me wrong, the character models are stunning and extremely detailed, however, I always feel that they are a little too shiny. Occasionally, the third person perspective also means that Batman obscures what you trying to look at but again, this never really hampers and having the lead character on screen in a single player game is great and adds that movie edge to proceedings.

The fact that you can pick this game up on classics is excellent. It’s an AAA title with a relatively small price tag. I’ve seen it going for just a few pounds on PC via Steam but I thought that the XBox control implementation was perfect and am glad that I plumped for the console version.

If you’ve got some time to kill, like single player games and haven’t yet picked up this one, then you’ve missed out on of the best. It’s not long before Arkham City, which is now an essential purchase for me. If they can re-create half of the interest and enjoyment of this, then it will be another excellent game.



A while back I chose Machinarium as my Pick of the week. A pick that was put my way by our exalted intro music guru, Paul. Machinarium is a good old fashioned point and click adventure. The time-old story of boy robot tragically split from girl robot by nasty police robots and the quest to be re-united. So why is this game worthy of pick status? Quite simply because it’s gorgeous, exceptionally well realised and just plain cute and funny.


As you can see from these screen-shots, every location in the game is sublimely drawn. The detail is brilliant and you can tell a whole lot of love and attention went into creating this game. The style doesn’t just end at the graphics though. The animation and environments all keep up the illusion of a whole world full of robots.


Gameplay is pretty standard point-and-click affair. Solve the puzzles and problems. Work out how to get to new areas. There are plenty of mini games thrown in, with humor aplenty throughout. Along the way, the pacing was good and even with absolutely no dialogue, you always know exactly what’s going on. New problems are introduced subtly and you then need to find the solution! I didn’t find the puzzles impossibly hard at any point but I am pretty versed with the whole genre and some problems may lead to frustration. However, there is an in-built hint system used throughout the game should you really not know what to do. There is one hint available per screen to give you a light pointer but there is also a more in depth “walkthrough” type hint book available that spells out the steps needed. Like everything in this game – they’ve taken a potentially boring thing, a hint book, and added a twist. You have to go through a mini game to unlock the hint book. This mini game is long enough to stop you delving in just for the sake of it but also fun enough to see through should you actually require help.


My only criticism of the game is that it’s not massively long. But then that’s because I consumed it with relish and just wanted it to go on! If you’re good at point and clicks, you’ll probably be done in 5 sessions but playing back through again won’t be seen as a chore and the game is only £14 or so.

You can play a demo of the first few screens on as well as buying the full version. If you have Steam installed on your system, it’s also available through that.

Trials HD


With the dirth of good games appearing on the Xbox platform for many months now, it’s great to see some people developing pick up and play titles for release as Arcade titles. These aren’t the usual run of the mill conversion of pap 8-bit games that should long have been dead and buried, they are games that have had love, attention and oodles of technical skill applied to them.

Trials_HD_screen_08Trials HD is simple in concept. Ride a Trials bike across an obstacle course whilst not crashing. Controls are simple. Accelerate, brake, lean forward and back. That’s it. And in fact, it starts off ludicrously easy. But the difficulty ramps up fairly quickly – although never unfairly. Each level 3 achievement levels – Bronze, Silver and Gold. Early on, it’s fairly simple to get gold medals but as you progress through the difficulty bands, it become harder and harder and then, finally, nearly impossible.


At least, you’d think they were impossible to get, but there are video’s out on the internet to prove otherwise! Even if you can’t beat a particular level at the Gold standard, there’s always the challenge of beating your mates times.

Beyond the main game, which will keep you going for ages anyway – there are tonnes of silly mini games of different sorts to play with. Some truly imaginative extensions on the main game concept and they’re bound to make you laugh – as well as cry!

Beyond these skill games, there are also tournaments to take part in. These are in effect 3 or more levels from the game strung together and your overall rating is based on cumulatively how long you took to complete the levels and how many times you crashed.

And, as if all this wasn’t enough, they have also put in level editors that you can both create your own content, as well as play other peoples content across Live.


So, there’s absolutely tonnes of positive about this game. The only negatives I can think of are the fact it would have been nice to have ghost racing against your mates – or against the best times in the world. I can see how this might eliminate some of the enjoyment of finally finding out how to achieve an obstacle though. Also, the game can get frustrating. When you’ve tried to achieve a gold medal for the 500th time and come up short once more, it can lead to controller throwing and full on emotional breakdown – but the fact that as soon as you wipe away the tears and put the controller back together again, you want “just one more go” speaks volumes!

There are plenty of games selling for £40 that don’t have half the content of this game, let alone the fun. For £10 it’s expensive as an Arcade game but incredible value by any standard.

Take a look at a gameplay vid from the developers site:

Space Invaders Infinity Gene

As mentioned in this weeks podcast, Infinity Gene is a great game for the iPhone but who would have thought Alphabeat would work so well as a soundtrack for a level? (Sound quality is awful unfortunately so turn up the volume to hear it properly.)