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Batman Arkham Trilogy Review (Switch)

Batman Arkham Trilogy Review - Screenshot 1 of
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

When it comes to superhero games, Rocksteady Studios served us up a trio of the very best examples of the genre with its superlative Batman: Arkham Trilogy. Whether you prefer the smaller scale and comparative intimacy of Batman: Arkham Asylum, the vast open world of Arkham City or the Batmobile-powered battles of Arkham Knight, there’s a lot of top-notch bat-action for bat-fans to dig into throughout this delightfully dark odyssey.

We’ve had our fingers crossed for a long time that at least some of the incredible Arkham games would eventually (bat)wing their way onto the Switch and now we’ve got the entire flipping trilogy to blast our way through. But how do they perform on Nintendo’s ageing portable machine? As expected, 2009’s Arkham Asylum, which debuted on PS3, plays fairly well. With scaled-back graphics and a 30fps target in the mix, it’s a solid port that gets the job done, even if it does with zero panache and a few more stutters and texture pop-in issues than we’d have liked.

Batman Arkham Trilogy Review - Screenshot 1 of
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

Batman: Arkham City, however, provides the biggest positive shock of this package with much better performance than we anticipated for such a big, busy open world. Yes, it’s not perfect — it suffers from its fair share of stutters and some dodgy textures here and there — but it plays well enough that you can get stuck in and enjoy this one without much in the way of worries beyond some dodgy graphical anomalies and the odd framerate wobble.

Then we move onto the big problem with this collection, the bit where it all went wrong, and the reason the score at the bottom is so far removed from what we’d loved to have slapped onto a review of some of our favourite action games of the past twenty years. For some absolutely ba

Batman Arkham Trilogy Review - Screenshot 1 of
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

It’s certainly an odd choice, even if we get it from a completionism point of view, to take something so ill-suited to a particular platform and squeeze it on there however best you can, regardless of the mess you’re making. It would have been a much better idea to either run with Asylum and City as a double pack that serves up two basic but functional ports or go with the underrated Batman: Arkham Origins (hey, it’s good ok!) as a third game rather than pushing on with a version of Arkham Knight that sullies the entire endeavour.

There are always patches and updates, some hope of fixes for the most egregious issues in the future, but this third part of Batman’s adventure really does feel as though it’s beyond saving. It gave monster PCs and next-gen consoles plenty of problems when it was first released, so we can’t say we’re particularly surprised to see Arkham Knight in a right old state here.

It’s a real shame, but even with the basic no-frills nature of the Asylum and City ports here, you’re still getting two phenomenal games running mostly fine and looking the part in both docked and (most especially) handheld modes. They’re not perfect but they’re very playable, and we’ll be replaying both of them from the comfort of our couch in the future. However, it’s impossible to ignore that a third of this collection is pretty much completely broken. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should, and we would much prefer the option to just pick these games up separately and avoid Knight like the plague.

Batman Arkham Trilogy Review - Screenshot 1 of
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

Beyond some egregious, Switch-specific performance issues, these three games are a well-known quantity, with 2009’s Asylum laying the foundations of the series’ iconic combat, which combines slick parries, dodges, blocks and countermoves into a stylish and super-fun combo-based system that makes you feel like the Dark Knight at his most badass. Add in a novel detective mode that lets you play private investigator whenever you fancy taking a break from kicking the snot out of goons, a stellar voice cast (RIP to the forever legend that is Kevin Conroy) and some of the best writing in the biz, and you’re looking at something truly special.

Asylum changed the lay of the land for the superhero genre, a genre that wasn’t in particularly great shape back at the tail end of the noughties. Rocksteady delivered a dark and brooding Batman adventure that didn’t pull its punches, rolling with a more adult style than many superhero offerings of the time and giving us a story that took its stylistic cues — and voice talent — from the incredible Batman: The Animated Series.

Melding moreish combat with satisfying detective work, whilst also allowing you to go loud or skulk around utilizing perches to clear entire areas without alerting a soul, the only thing this Batman simulator was missing was a world that allowed us to truly take flight. From the asylum grounds you can see Gotham lit up like a Christmas tree, and it’s the first thing you’ll wish for when you set eyes on it, the ability to take flight above its neon streets. Alas, it wasn’t to be for this very first adventure, but when you’ve got a crazed Joker, alongside the likes of Harley Quinn, Killer Croc, The Riddler, Scarecrow and Poison Ivy to deal with on one crazy night, you’ve probably got more pressing issues.

Batman Arkham Trilogy Review - Screenshot 1 of
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

While it doesn’t have a great big open world to play around in, Asylum is still our favourite Arkham game of the bunch. It introduced everything that’s great about the trilogy; the combat, the dark tone, the endless Riddler puzzles and detective work, whilst also serving up a story that didn’t waste any time. Asylum is a tight and taut thrill ride, one of the all-time great superhero games and, over a decade later, it’s still a must-play.

With Arkham City, Rocksteady allowed players to soar above the streets of Gotham, providing the full Batman experience in an open world that gave you the space and time to observe and prep from range, picking enemies off from the shadows and patrolling the rooftops with a scowl on your face. This was the Batman simulator we’d only dared dream of.

Greatly expanded side activities that bring a huge roster of Gotham’s finest villains into play, upgraded Riddler challenges, improved and refined combat and, of course, some of the best acting and writing in video games, ensured that City was a winner and with all previously released DLC in the mix here, this is a game that’ll give you countless hours of premium grade bat-action on its own.

Batman Arkham Trilogy Review - Screenshot 1 of
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

If we had to pick holes in City, or just explain why Asylum is still our overall favourite of the three, going so big made it a little harder to get as gripped by the narrative. There are almost too many distractions at times, and it can all feel a little disjointed and diluted as a result. A minor issue in the grand scheme of things, but this one takes second place in the story stakes for us, although it does have much-improved combat and traversal so it all balances out nicely in the end.

Arkham City can still stand shoulder to shoulder with any modern AAA open-world game, and even though you’ve got to contend with some unfortunate stutters from time to time, and it doesn’t look nearly as good here as it does on other platforms, this is still the full-fat experience running rather well all things considered. If you’ve yet to experience this one it’s another must-play.

And finally, our least favourite game of the three, Arkham Knight expands further still upon City, a game which was already plenty big enough thank you and, even though its combat has seen some more refinement, we felt like the narrative here was a little all over the place, and the Knight himself is a bit of a cringy main villain too.

Batman Arkham Trilogy Review - Screenshot 1 of
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Handheld/Undocked)

These slight issues can be overlooked given how much top-notch grappling and gliding around there is to dig into here. However, we have to draw a line in the sand at this game’s rendition of the Batmobile. We get it, it’s very cool to have Bat’s signature ride in the game, and ejecting out of it at top speed is fun and looks cool! But, instead of it being used purely as a slick means of traversal and instigating fisticuffs with goons, we’ve got mandatory tank battles, incredibly dull and repetitive encounters that force you to face-off against a bunch of boring metal enemies.

Arkham Knight has a weird fascination with these scraps, we were genuinely surprised by just how many of them there are — not to mention the short car platforming sections in the Riddler’s puzzles — and for us it drags the whole thing down. This is easily the most impressive of the three games in many ways, (as long as you aren’t playing on Switch), but these constant tank fights, alongside a comparatively weak villain put this one in last place of the trilogy.

It’s a real shame to have to mark down such a fantastic collection of games like this, but there’s just no escaping the fact that this release feels like a quick and careless rush job in many ways. There’s zero TLC shown to these three games here and they deserve more. Asylum and City play well enough that big Batman fans who have no other choice will still get countless hours of fun, regardless of the car wreck that is Arkham Knight, but you’re still paying over the odds for two fairly old games that haven’t been given any sort of a touch up for this re-release. We’re huge fans of the Arkham trilogy, and it’s fantastic to see the series finally arrive on Switch, it’s just a shame that Arkham Knight is in the state that it is, here.




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