An amazingly well crafted adventure in every way.
Batman Arkham Asylum has a long legacy of comic book to video game adaptations behind it. Unfortunately, that legacy is one of shame and, to be frank, simply bad games. For that reason I was skeptical when I first heard of Arkham Asylum, but it didn't take long after actually seeing the game in action for me to hope against all hope that this game was actually going to be different. Different, as in, good.
Amazingly, my hopes were not only met, but exceeded by this game, which could possibly be one of my favorites for the year. Arkham has really everything you could hope for in a Batman game, and maybe even some things you wouldn't think to hope for or expect. Starting from the beginning, this is a Batman story - it has all the greatest characters, along with the dark atmosphere and lingering sense of hopelessness that fills everyone and everything Batman comes across. The visuals, music, characters, and voice acting all carry firmly what is the undeniable essence of the Batman universe.
But it takes more than just being true to the source material to make a great game, which is where so many titles of this type have fallen short. Arkham, however, shows that the developers put as much care into gameplay as they did keeping everything true to the Batman lore. Just as you'd expect, you go toe-to-toe with countless Joker thugs, and the "FreeFlow" combat system is appropriately smooth and visceral, while keeping that perfect balance between simplicity and complexity. There are also many, many parts where you stick to the shadows, taking down enemies one by one. This aspect of the game is more like solving a puzzle than standard combat, and serves as a wonderful counterpart.
You also obtain various gadgets throughout the game which allow you greater movement around Arkham island, and through the levelling and upgrading system you can improve your abilities in both combat and stealth. Overall, the different aspects of Batman are all well coordinated with each other so that you never get bored of anything, and there's always some fresh new twist to any obstacle you encounter.
The island itself is where you spend the whole game, and is an interesting, well crafted set with lots of routes to take between any two points and loads of secrets to be found in the form of riddles created by, well, the Riddler. The basic flow of the game involves moving around the island, finding ways to try and track the Joker down, all the while battling thugs and other supervillains who take the form of bosses.
There are many smaller points I could make about things that add to the experience of this game, but suffice it to say that just about everything that is in this game enhances the experience in some way. This is really an excellent game even without the Batman cast and setting, but the inclusion of this lovingly crafted piece of Batman lore just takes the game to a whole new level.