Batman: Arkham City is a phenomenal game, filled to the brim with exciting set pieces, fantastic gameplay, and perfect presentation. Because of this, choosing just five from this game was not an easy task.
Somehow, I got the job done. Here you go.
MASSIVE SPOILERS AHEAD, FOLKS
5. Mad Hatter’s Wonderland
The Mad Hatter (a.k.a. Jervis Tetch) is usually a pretty lame character. There’s not a whole lot you can do to get around that. He’s a diminutive man obsessed with Lewis Carol’s Alice in Wonderland. It’s rare that you see an interpretation of him that’s interesting or creepy.
Arkham City does both to great effect.
At one point during the game, Batman finds himself at the mercy of Mr. Tetch, forced to wear a mind-control mask that can be only described as a freakish rabbit-bat hybrid.
Batman finds his perceptions of reality thrown into a bizarre, hallucinogenic dreamscape that’s (of course) heavily evocative of Alice in Wonderland, and fights his way through all of The Mad Hatter’s mind-controlled army, breaking through the villain’s attempts to dominate his mind through sheer will. Having nothing left to fight with, Jervis can only watch as Batman smashes what’s left of his mind control devices and leaves.
One very cool thing about this scene is that, while Batman is under the hallucinogenic influence, he greatly resembles Frank from Donnie Darko, which is a very creepy touch.
4. The Penguin’s Collection
By the time the events of Arkham City have begun, The Penguin (a.k.a. Oswald Cobblepot) has taken over the local history museum and replaced many of the original displays with objects that suit his more…peculiar taste.
Careful exploration of the museum yields all kinds of curious finds, from a pair of hyenas that once belonged to The Joker to a cell that Cobblepot plans to keep Batman himself in. Some of the finds are downright disturbing, many of the “corpse-y” nature.
Every display has a voice over from The Penguin himself and they’re all both interesting and unsettling.
3. Mr. Freeze
Mr. Freeze (a.k.a. Dr. Victor Fries) is wicked. Arkham City‘s interpretation is exactly the same as that of Batman: The Animated Series, but made disturbingly realistic.
Mr. Freeze spends the majority of the game holed up in the abandoned Gotham City Police Department forensics lab, having transformed it into an icy makeshift laboratory. His only interest is curing the debilitating disease of his wife, Nora, who he has cryogenically frozen to keep alive.
Batman has been poisoned by the Joker, and he seeks out Mr. Freeze for a cure. A disagreement leads to one of the most interesting and intense boss battles in recent memory, as Mr. Freeze stalks you through the frozen tomb of the GCPD labs.
His voice work and character design are superb, and his screen time comprises some of the most memorable parts of the game.
2. Scarecrow’s Boat
Scarecrow (a.k.a. Dr. Jonathan Crane) featured heavily in the original Batman Arkham Asylum. His character is completely absent from Arkham City, but he’s left many chilling indications of his presence scattered around the slums of Gotham.
The most striking of these is a small, seemingly harmless boat that floats in the snowy, polluted Gotham harbor. Defeating the most difficult cryptographic sequencer puzzle in the game gains you entrance to the boat, leading you to a bunch of aquarium tanks filled with the insects that Crane uses to create his fear toxin, as well as a thug who has obviously been mentally tortured beyond repair.
There’s not much of a “point” to this easter egg, other than to unnerve you and make you wonder just where the Scarecrow has gone and what he’s planning.
1. The Joker’s Last Message
Throughout Arkham City, the Joker will periodically leave Batman voicemails, all of which showcase his hilarious insanity and bizarre relationship with the Dark Knight.
In the main game, they’re funny, but not particularly striking in any way. But then…
The game is over. You’ve taken back Arkham City, and the Joker has died of the very same poison he infected Batman with.
A somber and confused Batman carries his body away into the night.
The credits roll…
Batman’s phone informs him that he missed a call from three hours before the Joker’s death.
There’s a message. It’s the Joker, and he’s…singing.
His voice is as disturbing and sing-songy as ever and cracked from his illness. Something about it is chillingly devoid of humor.
“Only you…” he sings, “Makes this world seem right. Only you can make the darkness bright…” And so it goes. A chilling last message from Batman’s greatest foe, driving home the sadness and shock that followed his death.
I can’t completely describe the feeling that accompanies this, but the mix of sadness, confusion, and discomfort stuck with me long afterwards. Because of how inexplicably powerful it is emotionally, that had to be number one.
So there you go. Five of my favorites from a game full of cool stuff.
Agree/disagree? Hit me up in the comments and tell me what you think.