Check out my full review of "Batman: Arkham Asylum" at THIS LINK. As you will read, I fell head-over-heels in love with this experience, only to be sorely disappointed in the final moments in such a way that only "Fable II" had done before.
Consequently, I am not as quick as some others to anoint this the greatest comic book game of all time (I have a lot of appreciation for the "X-Men: Legends" series). What I will say is this is a strong contender for that role, as well as a strong contender for 2009 game of the year, because there was just so much to love in the first 95% of "Batman: Arkham Asylum." Here are my Top 5 favorite moments of the game, and the Top 5 things I want to see in a sequel.
My Top 5 Favorite Moments (PLENTY of Spoilers):
5) The revelation of the Batcave. There are moments in comics when you can't help but step back and say "Damn, Batman is cool." When Bruce reveals he has his own mini Batcave underneath Arkham Island, I had one of those moments (and another one is when he called in the Batwing out of nowhere just to get his zipline tool, which I cannot remember the name of at the moment). In truth, there were not that many uses for this Batcave. Sure, he concocts the Titan antidote here later in the story, but I image writer Paul Dini could have let him use an Arkham lab if he wanted to. No, the Batcave was just in this game because we had to see what a badass cool guy Batman is, and the moment delivered.
4) The opening sequence. Yes, it sounds weird that glorified opening credits ranks among my favorite moments, but few things compared to the glee I felt, playing this game early on the morning of its release, on little sleep, having awaited this game for so long — and as the Joker was wheeled through the halls of Arkham his voice and words felt as authentic as possible. Any fears I had for the storyline or realism were immediately washed away and I was immediately sucked into the world those characters inhabit.
3) The room near the water pumps patrolled by gunmen. This was the last and the toughest of the patrols to take down, and honestly it did take me a few tries. As far as I was concerned, rooms like this brought players as close as possible to Batman's true (if he wasn't fictional) way of operating. This particular room offered very little cover in the sky, so if a gunman spotted you at all, you best go down below into the grates and vents, not up, or else you're swiss cheese. The multiple walls to pull down also provided this room with the most potential for setting traps. A close runner up in the category of best rooms full of gunmen would have to be the one with the sabotaged gargoyles.
2) The welcoming committee when arriving at the party. I didn't have "Detective Mode" on when entering my favorite place on the Island (how cool was the Joker/TV interaction at the visitors center throughout the game?), so when I stepped inside and there were 20 thugs waiting for me, it was a shock. The only bigger shock? When they all started cheering for me, the guest of honor. There was no moment that better encapsulated the nutty personality of this storyline. And then, of course, I beat them all up.
1) The final Scarecrow hallucination. All of the Scarecrow moments were fun, but this was far an away the best idea Dini had in the game. Watching Joker drive Batman back to the Asylum at the outset of the delusion was the perfect way to knock players' minds for a loop, and then the choreography as Bats was wheeled into the Asylum was simply spot-on with the game's intro. And what would the scene be without nurse Harley at Mr. J's side?
P.S. — To be honest, I began this hallucination in a state of fear myself ... I've experienced The Red Ring of Death before, it was actually ironically sparked while playing "Lego: Batman," and the screen malfunctions at the start of the dream sequence made me briefly think I was about to go through it all again!
Top 5 Things I want to see in a Sequel
5) Wayne Manor, and the rest of Gotham. While the concept of locking Batman inside the loony bin with the loons gave "Arkham Asylum" an immediate hook, the execution of it, using the entire Arkham Island, proved this game was much more like Batman in a small town than one Asylum. So why not let our Dark Knight head home to Gotham proper for the sequel? In doing so, we would be allowed to explore the real Batcave and Wayne Manor, which would lead to what are always exciting moments in Batman stories -- when Wayne Manor becomes compromised. It worked in "Batman Begins," it worked in "Batman: R.I.P.," it worked in "Knightfall" and it would work here.
4) Matches Malone. As I said, I would want a sequel to deal in a large chunk of the Gotham we know and love, which would inevitably lead to more opportunities for detective work and possibly the need to go undercover to learn clues. Allowing us to play a level as Matches Malone, Batman's favorite undercover alias, in order to uncover the truth, would be an innovative concept every Bat fan could get behind.
3) More side quests. While enjoyable, "Arkham Asylum was extremely linear for an open-world game. Hunting down the Riddler's riddles was just about the only distraction from the storyline. A possible sequel would be wise to take a page from "Fable's" book and provide ample side tasks to fill out the surrounding world. Heck, there's always crimes to thwart in Gotham, right?
2) Robin. How many games nowadays don't offer multiplayer? And, a better question, how could this series neglect to add multiplayer when Batman so often works with sidekicks? He's got Robin, Nightwing, Batgirl, Huntress, Spoiler ... need I continue? Obviously, Robin (Tim Drake, preferably, in order to keep the Nightwing options open) would be the logical choice to give players the option of progressing through the bulk of the storyline in multiplayer. Given the importance of stealth in the game, multiplayer might actually make things tougher for a change.
1) Many, many more boss battles! The only consistent problem you can find with "Batman: Arkham Asylum" is the major lack of boss battles. Killer Croc is always lurking, but you never get to fight the brute. Sure, the sewer sequence was unique and challenging, but it wasn't a real fight. I LOVED the Scarecrow sequences, but it would have been helped by a fight with the over-sized Scarecrow at the end of the last of the sequences. And did I mention how horrendously weak the fight with the Joker was? In a game with so many monsters and A-list villains, the only real boss battle was with a giant plant.
I understand with a character like Batman and a rogues gallery such as he has, it's difficult to create challenging fights. But this game was sorely lacking in the "Legend of Zelda"-esque fights in which Batman can use a combination of his gadgets to take down challenging creatures. These developers could have done much better than pulling the Joker down with his back turned.