I started playing Arkham Asylum this weekend, was really enjoying the actual game itself but was being driven crazy by the amount of collectable ancillary shit floating around, found it to be tremendously immersion breaking.
Thereís nothing so good at stopping plot momentum than these constant gimmicky reminders that youíre playing a game.
Iím playing a Batman game, I want to be Batman, I want to stomp heads, perch on Gargoyles, look broody and soak in the sumptuous atmosphere while navigating the Jokerís Labyrinthine schemes. If I wanted to collect floating markers Iíd play Sonic the Hedgehog. And I like Sonic the Hedgehog, collecting flashy icons is great fun when youíre in the mood for that sort of thing, and I frequently am.
But in this context all it does is shatter the atmosphere and make the story feel like a weird abstract cleaning exercise. Iím going down corridors, breaking the narrative pace in fear of missing ďcontentĒ that adds to the plot in terms of information but not in terms of how it is realised. Itís empty calories which make you feel like youíre missing out by virtue of ignoring them, but which donít actually add anything by being there either. Itís not like Psychonauts where they were woven in the bigger picture. Itís just ďHey, Batman, Iím the Riddler, from the comics, collect my abstract canonicoal shit, videogames!Ē
If it were a Frank Miller page it would be two panels of Batman saving doctors and working out what was going on, three punching bad guys then another two just fucking running down identical corridors in order to pick up an incongruous flashing tape as big as Batmanís head, via a floating luminous question mark that does nothing, for no reason.
Iím all for things that feed kleptomania in games in which it either plays a key part, such as a platform game, or in Open world games such as Saints Row where plausibility is second to experimentation, but in something like AA it just ruins the spell for me time after time. Anyone else feel the same, or want to mention games that they feel are worth being aware of for this reason? AA is by far the most irritating example Iíve encountered so far, which is a shame because the actual being Batman stuff is superb.