VIDEO GAME DEMO: Batman: Arkham Asylum

We’ve now had the opportunity to experiment with two segments of Rocksteady Studios and Eidos Interactive’s anticipated “Batman: Arkham Asylum” ahead of its Aug. 25 release date. Downloadable demos on PCs, Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 walked players through the game’s first obstacles, while adventurous souls who banged around Target (or similar retailers) might have discovered an early combat room scenario that has The Dark Knight taking down round after round of escalating, lunatic hoods.

For those living under a rock in the Bat cave, here’s the plot: On a dark and stormy night, Batman delivers his nemesis, The Joker, to Arkham Asylum where Jim Gordon and his Gotham officers prepare to lock the crown prince for the rest of his unnatural life. Except imprisonment is part of Joker’s master plan, and before long, he’s loose in the asylum with Batman hot on his purple tail.

The demo I played begins with a shortened take on the game’s intro, and throws Batman right into the action. The challenge level is extremely low, but it gives you an opportunity to familiarize yourself with the controls before (hopefully) some bigger, badder villains breathe down your caped neck.

Some positives jumped right out. The graphics, obviously, are impressive, with a design that illustrates Arkham’s sinister, creeping atmosphere. I really liked the ability to run through the level without having Batman show fatigue, and the combat controls prove fluid. The first level of “Arkham” requires Batman to learn how to occupy the shadows and leap/swing from statue to statue so you can stealthily approach enemies. I’m still figuring out cool ways to subdue henchmen, but the game gives button hints when Batman is positioned in the right location. The “Boss” at the end of the level is Mr. Zsasz, and he isn’t tough to beat once you figure out how to sneak behind him and float down upon him using your cape as a parachute. Again, it seems likely this demo is just alerting you to the functionality of the game play. I’m certain true challenges lie ahead in the actual game.

Speaking of the actual game, GET HERE NOW! Based on what I’ve seen with the demo, this will be a great chapter in Batman’s long superhero saga.