The Arkham Asylum Files: Panic In Gotham City review – “Collectible AR fun for Batman fans”

The Arkham Asylum Files: Panic In Gotham City review - "Collectible AR fun for Batman fans"

Can Gotham City ever have a single night of peace? Batman certainly doesn’t think so, but in The Arkham Asylum Files: Panic In Gotham City, you won’t be playing as the Caped Crusader this time around. Instead, you’ll step into the questionable mind of Harley Quinn – or, rather, Dr Harleen Quinzel – as she fights to keep the city safe from the inmates of Arkham.

The best part of it all is that you’ll do it with a whole bunch of themed collectibles and AR tech around you – but do the bells and whistles actually make a great Batman game, or are you better off leaving Gotham City to fend for itself?

Table of contents:

THE ARKHAM ASYLUM FILES: PANIC IN GOTHAM CITY VISUALS

Given that the game is a mixed-reality adventure, the format alone offers a unique take on your typical adventure with the Dark Knight. For one thing, the whole narrative is framed from the ramblings of The Joker; for another, you’ll dive into both physical and digital assets to get to the bottom of the case.

The package itself is a hefty beast – Infinite Rabbit Holes has masterfully crafted a playset that contains the actual board game that you lay out on your tabletop, Arkham Asylum patient files made in painstaking detail, classified GCPD info, building blueprints, a copy of The Gotham Times, and so much more. The box even contains either a Batman mask or a Joker mask along with all the collectibles – and you really will want to collect all these trinkets as each one is made with such attention to detail.

Case in point: the folders from Arkham Asylum even have coffee stains, ink smudges, and what eerily look like scribblings that Harley Quinn could’ve actually written herself. There are a handful of other goodies that gave me a pleasant surprise, but I won’t spoil it for you here – the game is big on secrecy, after all, as every folder needs to be opened in a very strict order to keep the surprises intact.

Once you build your own version of Gotham City from scratch, you can then use the iOS app to scan various parts of the map. The city will then come alive in exciting new ways, and there’s always a surprise waiting for you at every turn. Scanning the news network billboard will, for instance, show you a special live broadcast of what’s happening in Gotham City, while scanning the newspaper will reveal hidden details you otherwise wouldn’t see. The story also plays out in gorgeous watercolor-esque cutscenes on your phone, each one performed by stellar voice actors that really embody what these fan-fave characters stand for.

Now, you can’t possibly progress through the game without the AR functionality of your phone, so be sure you’ve got enough juice in your device to fully enjoy what the game has to offer.

THE GAMEPLAY OF THE ARKHAM ASYLUM FILES: PANIC IN GOTHAM CITY

That said, the gameplay does offer you some quick exits if you ever feel stuck. In every chapter, you’ll come across plenty of challenging puzzles that will put your own detective skills to the test – going through all the clues and the artifacts really did make me feel like the World’s Greatest Detective. You’ll unravel an epic mystery that you can piece together from invisible ink, secret codes, hidden messages, and so much more.

I could honestly rave about the variety of these puzzles too, as each one poses a unique challenge that never feels repetitive and tedious. I don’t want to spoil the experience for anyone reading this, but suffice it to say I was looking forward to every new puzzle as each one was more exciting than the last.

If, like me, you do end up hitting a bump in the road, you can always tap the Skip button to move past a particular puzzle entirely. This is a pretty handy feature, in my opinion, as the game never feels frustrating enough to make you want to ragequit. I love how the Skip button only appears after the game’s given you a few hints – this way, it encourages you to try your hardest to solve the escape room-esque mystery without punishing you by keeping you from moving on with the story.

WHAT’S THE APPEAL?

That said, you do have to dedicate a good chunk of your time to play the game, as you can’t possibly finish it in a single sitting. You can make like Batman himself and play all by your lonesome (which isn’t advisable, in my experience, because two heads are better than one), or you can collaborate with your family and friends of up to 6 players. It also helps that there’s a handy repacking guide that you can follow to put each piece back in its place within the box (all 100+ of them) to prep the game for another round of fun once you clear the 7 chapters.

I’m a huge Batman fan myself – he’s my favorite comic book character, which is why I had such high expectations going into the game. What I did find a little disappointing is the narrative – it wasn’t anything too groundbreaking, nor were there any jaw-dropping twists to write home about. But while I found the story a little lackluster, I suppose the focus of the game is really the experience, as you can play at your own pace (which can take a long, long time) save for one particular part of the game where a timer was involved.

Also, at $149 from the official website, it can be pretty heavy on the wallet. I suppose the best way to look at it is as a box of incredibly detailed and high-quality collectibles rather than an actual game – although in that sense, it might only be worth the money if you’re a true Batman fan.

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