Thursday, December 2, 2021

Old Guy Game Guides- Arkham City

Ten years one month and one week after release date is about right for me to review a video game.  (Therefore I will not be overly concerned with spoilers.)

Back when I learned I'd have zero commute for a while, I was debating whether or not to get a new open world game to pass some of the time when I'd be less exhausted than usual.

I couldn't play Skyrim, because after an exciting start I ended up with too much stuff to carry, no place to sell it, and not enough gold to buy a house, stalemating myself.  My original plan was to reply Assassin's Creed II. My wife pointed out a stellar counter argument.

"But then you won't get to be Batman."

Am I lucky or what?

Aside from being lucky, I am also old and slow, which is why it took a year and a half to finish the main story.

It is impressive commentary on the content of this "Game of the Year" version that I've finished the story, all of the side quests and found nearly all of the Riddler trophies, yet the game only lists 66% completion.

Another reason it took so long, is there is a bit where stopping in to see Calendar Man in his jail cell on certain holidays (once a month) triggers him telling a different disturbing story.  When those were coming up, I was afraid to enter any encounter connected buildings. If I got stuck, (see above, "old and slow")  I'd miss the date. No, this side quest isn't finished. Due to never figuring out what time zone the game was keyed to, forgetting about daylight savings time and missing Saint Patrick's Day.  Tune in mid March for an update if I don't screw it up again.

There was a revealing moment when looking the game up online.  The "Game of the Year" version comes with all of the possible unlockable costumes.  The guides immediately listed the code to type in to allow one to select which costume to use instead of the default.  None of those guides pointed out the "correct" way was to complete the story, which allows costume selection without using the code.  These costumes had no effect on game play, they were merely for aesthetics.  As a comic fan, that was almost as important to me as game play.

Because I believe the true Batman is as rendered by Jim Aparo, I selected the 1970's blue costume with the greatest frequency.

Because i have a tenuous grip on reality, I selected the large and beefy "Dark Knight Returns" costume (and body shape) when I was having trouble with a hand to hand battle against a large group.

When we were having long stretches of watching Batman: The Animated Series I tried the animated costume. It never really looked correct in that setting, though.

Oddly, the Animated Catwoman looked better in the setting of the game than her default costume did.

I'd also select the "Year One" darker and more subtle Batman costume when I felt the need to be more stealthy and hidden in shadows.  (see "tenuous grip on reality" above.)

I did give each of the other costumes at least one try, but none "felt" right.

There won’t be many more personally taken game play pictures for this review.  It was too difficult to pick up the phone while I was busy running and screaming through the various challenges.  Feel free to Google Image search anything that sounds interesting like I did for most of the rest of these that you can't see the edges of my screen on.

This game truly highlighted three core beliefs about Batman.

1) The absolute best comic book stories are good Batman stories.

The storyline of this game was written by DCAU master scribe Paul Dini.  The voice acting was top notch, headlined by Kevin Conroy's Batman and Mark Hamill's Joker.

Honestly, it felt kind of like the Jeph Loeb twelve part stories that act as a parade of all the Bat-villains.  However, because of the different nature of the mediums (game versus comics) it worked better here.  Linking different foes to all of the side quests made multiple short stories connect to the overall arc of part of Gotham being turned into an expanded Arkham Asylum.  True to form for a Batman tale, several of the side stories were "not so side" after all, when it was revealed how some rogues were working together.  The story and cut scenes were well executed and intriguing enough to keep me plugging away through all the hardships (see below) to continue the game.

There were some changes I didn't like at first that grew on me.  Penguin with a British accent and a bottle stuck in his eye instead of a monocle bothered me initially.  I found him far more abrasive and annoying than the character I like in the comics.  

This helped, however, since every death in the game is punctuated by that section's villain appearing to taunt the player.  This happened many times while I worked my way through ridiculous hordes of henchmen in the museum, before having to face Pengy's pets- a shark that ate me a dozen times for the slightest misstep and a ginormous, Frankenstinian Solomon Grundy.  When I finally got to lay a Bat-beatdown on Mr. Cobblepot, it was EXTREMELY satisfying.

2.  Batman can defeat any foe or situation given enough preparation time.

Holy Restarts!  This game was insanely frustrating.

The odd part was it wasn't the boss battles that were annoying. I'd usually get to one late at night, and plan to try it once to save the game there. Usually, on the first try, I'd beat it, or at least figure it out, allowing me to beat it on very few attempts.  It was quite annoying "accidentally" finishing the key Ra's Al Ghul section of the game in the ugly, and extremely non-appropriate Sinestro Corps outfit.

It was the far more common situations of confined spaces filled with large numbers of variously armed goons that would take try after try, annoying me to the point I'd have to load up the boxing game to calm myself down before sleeping.

A similar situation occurred tyring to beat Mr. Zsasz's timed cross town rushes to answer his phone calls. The animatic of the Dark Knight smashing through a wall to finally take him out was something I enjoyed far too  much.

Since I almost exclusively played on weekend nights, this led to a minimum of five day gaps between sessions.  Inevitably, allowing the situation to burble in the back of my mind would mean when I booted the game up again, I'd have figured out a strategy based on a tool or location element I'd overlooked on the first go around, to easily deal with the superstitious and cowardly lot.

This applied in a greater extent to getting the Riddler trophies hidden all over Gotham.  Just figuring out HOW to access those annoying glowing question mark was usually a struggle, even with the occational help from an online guide. (The venn diagram of people who obsess over video games to a level that they would create a walk through and talented descriptive writers is a limited intersection.)

Being able to execute the method added another level of stress. Many of them were three dimensional versions of old school platformers where one slip meant starting over.  (Yes, there was much profanity.) For some puzzles, the down time allowed figuring out easier ways to solve them...but not all. This leads to the final point.

3.  No one in their right mind would ever want to be Batman.

Superheroes are about wish fulfillment in general and imaging one's self with all manner of cool powers abilities and possessions.  But all of Bruce's wonderful toys do not offset the fact that his entire existence is punctuated by hardship and tragedy.  In fact, that's what gives him the superhuman drive to continue his war on crime...preventing anyone else experiencing what he has.

The game pulls no punches with respect to Batman's world. The whole thing is creepy in general. There's a moment in the sewers where Killer Croc pops up solely as a jump scare, not an encounter. (And I need to apologize for waking up my family again.)

There's a similar hint to Scarecrow in a boat unconnected to the story that is also there just to give the player the heebie jeebies.
Naturally, stopping next to the roses in crime alley leads to Batman kneeling, the camera rotating and a somber score.

This was a video game. It was supposedly a source of relaxation and blowing off steam.  It was also stressful in and of itself, and if I was feeling over tired, or had too rough of a week to begin with, I wouldn't bother to put the disc in.

My wife got used to hearing, "Gotham City needs me, but I am far too fried to save it this evening."

The problem with that was forgetting the controls on extended breaks. Luckily, old and slow non-withstanding, muscle memory still exists.  Though I couldn't describe how the controls work, I could execute them flawlessly on my returns.

Having the "Game of the Year" version did not help this, as all of the extra side missions and extensions were there.  This meant, several times in the game, after finishing a particularly difficult section as Batman, a Catwoman level loaded.  

Near the end of the main story, Batman had about a dozed gadgets/ weapons, a huge list of combo attacks, and five levels of body armor.

Catwoman, at the same point in the game where the streets are crawling with dispossessed goons carrying shields, machetes, tazers and assault rifles...had three gadgets, two combos, and two levels of armor.
Finishing  her part after the giant battle, and emotional cut scene at the end of the Batman story was more stress than I needed in my life.

Having said that, being taunted by the Riddler the ENTIRE GAME has made me determined to collect every stinkin' question mark on the map in order to whale on his green suit covered body before I give up on this adventure.

Please don't ask me how I plan to accomplish the Riddler "Physical Challenges" that I only discovered three quarters of the way through the game, or I will weep openly.

I will also be playing the originally download content of "Harley Quinn's Revenge" to see what happens as Robin follows up the after effects of the main game.  This is partially to get revenge for Harley taunting me on the multiple times Catwoman was killed before I'd noticed the rifle armed jerk who gunned her down.  

But it is mostly because ...
The absolute best comic book stories are good Batman stories.

This picture has nothing to do with the game. But seeing my collection of Batmobiles on top of the tower in front of the TV reminds me of the history of the character and inspires me to do right by him as I slide the disc in.

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