I’ve recently been playing through Batman: Arkham Asylum on the 360, and I’ve been surprised by just how much I’ve enjoyed it. I tried the demo way-back-when and liked the fighting system, but I was surprised by all the rave reviews it got when it was released. I suppose it always had a good chance as it was a stand-alone release, I mean, it didn’t have a stupid film tie-in to try to meet in terms of plot and release schedule. The simple fact is that it’s a fantastic game, full of atmosphere and some wonderful controls.
For the first time that I can think of, I really enjoyed the stealth aspects of the game too. Normally stealth games drive me to distraction; I hate having to hide somewhere for ages only to sneak out round a corner and get seen by someone. Batman seems to be the exception to the rule though; the ‘Predator Rooms’ are brilliant. You’re given a room full of armed guards and have to take them all out, but Batman, tough though he is, isn’t bullet-proof. Staying out of sight is the order of the day, so using gargoyles to survey the scene from above is the way to go. There are a load of different techniques to get the job done, including inverted takedowns from said gargoyles, sneaking up from underneath floor panels, smashing through glass ceilings or just plain creeping up on someone unseen. Great fun and a real sense of achievement when it all works.
The story is tied together with amazing visuals and a plot and back-history dripping with detail. Interview tapes hidden around the islands reveal insights into how the various bad guys came to be there, and there are all sorts of other hidden things to find. Not least of which being the Riddler’s… riddles. There are some which require you to ‘scan’ particular objects in an area, and some are just trophies hidden which need finding. Add all of these little bits together and you’ve got a completionist’s dream, there’s plenty to come back for. Add in the challenge modes and DLC and there’s plenty to keep you playing long after the credits roll. That to me, is how I know this is a great game – not only have I completed it, I loved the stealth aspects and I’m still playing it now, just to try to find all of the hidden stuff. You can pick up a Game of the Year edition for less than 25 quid now, I’d really recommend doing so.
Other than rotting my brain with video games, I’ve been concentrating on TSD again. This Sunday past I had the privilege to sit on the grading panel at our Spring grading. Having only very recently passed my own first Dan grading, I didn’t expect to be sat there for a long time, at least until I was teaching my own class, but the opportunity presented itself and I wasn’t about to say no. I was really surprised to find that just being in the grading hall made me nervous, even though all I was going to do was sit down and watch others going through it. It’s actually quite difficult to watch one or more people and look for all the things you know should be in a performance, while at the same time conferring with the rest of the panel and making notes, and I really felt the weight of responsibility for these students’ progression (or lack thereof).
I needn’t have worried too much though, on the whole everyone grading did themselves and the club proud. There were a few standout performances and you can really tell which people have been putting in the extra time and training. Sitting less than a couple of feet from them when they went through their kyok pa (breaking) you could hear the nerves in a lot of their breathing. Breaks are normally my favourite part of a grading; it means you’re nearly at the finish line. The day also helped me realise that I’m not getting any younger in terms of competing, and that I’d really like to be able to pass on what I’ve learned so far, and what I’ll continue to learn as the years go on. It actually feels like quite a responsibility, as I’ve always had teachers of a very high standard and I want to be able to pass that high standard on to anyone I end up teaching. Our Kwan has earned itself a very good and well-deserved reputation now, it lies with me and other future instructors coming up through the ranks to make sure it stays that way.