The fact is that license games are usually quite mediocre, but sometimes there are nice exceptions. Still, even the Dark Knight himself hasn't avoided the downright terrible games, but Ark Asylum is a real surprise. It is easily one of the best license games ever and an excellent action adventure. The quality of this game should be the target for every license game maker.
Batman's longtime arch-enemy The Joker sets a prison called Black Gate on fire and lets himself get caught suspiciously easily. Batman takes him back to the Ark Asylum, but regardless of the tight security systems, Joker escapes and now has control of the whole mental hospital. Now Batman is locked inside the asylum operated by the Clown Prince of Crime and it's also filled with Joker's thugs and other crazy super criminals.
Ark Asylum's game play is excellent. You really feel like you are Batman. The core game play is adventuring, using bat gadgets and fighting. There's also a lot of surprisingly spooky horror elements. Like we all know, Batman doesn't have superpowers, he has an arsenal of different gadgets. He has his traditional bat gear , the grapple hook, the bat claw that you can use to bring down walls that are out of reach, the line launcher that helps you over big creeks and explosive gel which is a good weapon for confusing enemies by blowing up fragile walls. Batman also has his detective stare, in which you can see through walls and detect all enemies and important objects. It is used for trailing enemies, for example.
Batman can walk, run, fight, shoot himself up to the gargoyles with his grapple hook and of course glide with his cape. Moving can sometimes be quite stiff and can be frustrating in sequences that require precision. Fighting is fun and easy thanks to the free flow system. Batman can seamlessly move from one thug to another and that's good, since the thugs always move in groups. With a few upgrades, you can make the combat a bit more varied, since it can feel a bit too simple with default settings.
Stealth action and stalking enemies are also a big part of Asylum's game play. When you have for example, ten armed thugs against you, direct approach would be a suicide, so Batman slings quietly in the air and strikes from the shadows or from below. Silent take downs are very useful, since they don't attract attention, so be sure to use them.
Boss fights are not the most fun sequences Asylum, except for the Scarecrow fights. The really scary and surrealistic Scarecrow fights come out of nowhere and break the game's rhythm in a refreshing way. There's at least a dozen of DC characters in the game. The main heroes are Batman, commissioner Gordon, Oracle and Aaron Cash. The main villains are Joker, Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, Scarecrow and Killer. The Killer boss fight in the sewers is very frightening. The Ark island turns from Joker's dark fortress to Poison Ivy's deadly garden full of poison flowers during the story, so be prepared to focus on defeating different super criminals, since the game is not only about going after Joker.
Ark Asylum is a really beautiful game. The dark tone, depressing atmosphere and Gothic architecture make a great impression. The buildings are very detailed, from both outside and inside. Same goes for the environment. When you stare at the dark midnight sea enlightened by the sinister moon, the view is breath-taking. The characters also look real and are very detailed. It's nice to notice that later in the game, Batman's beard starts growing and his cape is quite torn. The background musics greatly support the dark atmosphere. Voice acting, though, is what steals the show. Kevin Conroy is great as the always serious Batman and Mark Hamill as the maniacal Joker is probably the best performance of his career.
The main story lasts for about twelve hours and after that, you can start solving the riddles left by The Riddle or finding his Riddle trophies scattered all over the island. In challenge mode, you get to prey on thugs and fight for points. There's also a Joker Download Content in which you get to play as the Clown Prince of Crime, which is totally different from playing as Batman. The Joker walks arrogantly, doesn't use bat gadgets, throws around chattering exploding teeth, uses X-ray glasses, has a habit of kicking people in the nuts and even fires a gun.
All in all, Ark Asylum is an excellent action adventure game. The night in the asylum and the island surrounding it is something you shouldn't miss. Even if all the superhero games were as good as Asylum, it would still be an accomplishment for it's awesome quality. This one is hard to top. Ark Asylum will be remembered fondly for years.