Sunday, November 27, 2011

Batman walks into an Apple Store on Black Friday

INT Apple Store: DAY

[The crowd is pushing and shoving and shouting, all trying to get the attention of the sales associates. There's even a crowd at the Genius Bar and Lecture Classroom area, filled with people who know it's the craziest shopping day of the year, but can't stay away, because they need their sweet fix of the Apple Store.

[We are looking out at the front door from the inside of the store, just skimming the tops of the customers' heads. Suddenly a black caped form drops from the sky, straightens up, and is revealed to be Batman. A hush briefly falls over the crowd, as the customers' attention turns to the dark figure, shades of irritation in their faces for having their deals interrupted. Batman's eyes narrow.

[The business and hubbub breaks out immediately afterwards, twice as loud and rambunctious as before. No one even notices Batman is there anymore. Our hero confidently wades into the fray. He walks up to the nearest blue-shirt, who is explaining the features on a new iPad to a customer. His name tag says Deron.

[Two shot of Deron talking to the Customer.]

Now if you touch the screen with three and a half fingers, and drag them in a triple-zig-zag pattern, you can open…

[As Deron turns away from the customer to demonstrate the screen gesture, the camera follows him to look at the appliance. A muffled yell is heard, faintly distinguishable from the general clatter. When the two-shot returns, Batman is standing in the Customer's place.]

Holy sh…

I need a pair of in-ear headphones with a built-in microphone. NOW!

Um… well, sir, if you'll just give your name to Stacy here…

[Stacy pops up beside him.]

I can just put you in our system and the next available…

You don't understand, this is an emergency.

That may be, sir, but it is Black Friday, the busiest shopping day of the year. We have a lot of customers expecting the biggest deals we have to offer. You can't just…

[Batman grabs Deron by the lapels, swings him around, and smashes him up against a display of 27" monitors. Customers are startled. Stacy screams.]

You listen to me, you pimply little punk. You get me a set of headphones, or people will die.

Die…? What could you possibly need…

Joker fried my previous set of headphones in our last encounter at the chemical plant, and remotely disabled the Blu-Tooth connectivity in the Batmobile. I need to be able to interface with the voice activated Batcomputer while I'm driving around the city trying to solve the Riddler's clues. It's part of their nefarious plot to force me to venture out into the mall on the busiest shopping day of the year.

And you couldn't go to a Best Buy…?

[Batman punches the display next to Deron's' head, and sparks fly.]

Your store was closer. Now…

[He draws up close to Deron's face.]

…are you going to be part of the problem, or are you going to help me find a solution?

[Deron is about to pass out from fear, when Stacy comes up behind Batman and tentatively holds out a set of headphones. Batman grabs it without even turning to face her.]

Free… of charge, sir…


[He drops Deron to the floor and turns on Stacy, towering over her.]

And also one of those carrying cases for a 17" laptop.


[Batman glowers at her. He doesn't want to shout "Now!" again, or bad things will happen. Stacy knows this and hurries off, through the crowd of people that has gathered.]

Excuse me, pardon me…

[Batman now stands there silently, next to Deron's limp form, amid a pile of smashed monitors and computers, the unopened set of headphones in his hand. A crowd of people stares, snaps pictures, and takes video footage. Employees do the same with the display iPhone models. It gets a little awkward.]

I mean, might as well pick up a case for my new… portable Batcomputer… as long as I'm here…


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Arkham City Post #18: Showdown with Joker at Monarch Theater


Part 17: Protocol 10 In Effect

Before I even had time to process the deaths of Hugo Strange and Ra's al Ghul, my principal antagonist and arch-enemy appeared on a screen in front of me, holding Talia hostage at gunpoint.  He revealed that he was keeping her at the Monarch Theater - who knows if it was just a coincidence, or if he somehow found out my chilling secret and chose that location because of its connection to that fateful night...?  But either way, my objective was clear, and it was a simple matter of dispatching the snipers Joker had placed on various rooftops to cover the theater entrance.

Joker and Talia were on the stage in front of the screen: Talia on her knees, and Joker standing with a gun behind her.  I knew the bastard's trigger finger was too quick to try a Reverse Batarang, so I resolved to calmly listen to what he had to say - which shocked me more than an electrified floor at Arkham Asylum's penitentiary wing: he demanded that I hand over Mr. Freeze's cure!  Why would he need the cure?  He had already taken it and was long on the road to recovery.  When I explained that I didn't have it, that I had gone through all this nonsense to retrieve it from him, Joker looked as shocked as I was... which gave Talia the opportunity to deftly escape and stab him through the back with her sword.

Now in addition to the trauma of seeing three of my most iconic foes die right before my eyes and my confusion about what was going on with the cure, I was puzzled by the question of why Joker didn't even bother to restrain or disarm his hostage before making demands... but then, to my immense relief, Talia produced the cure!  Apparently she had stolen it from Harley Quinn, which explains why I found her tied up in the steel mill.  But did she steal it after Joker had a chance to use it on himself?  Otherwise, how did he look and sound and act so healthy?  Unless...

Then it hit me.  It was something Joker said when we first met at the steel mill, when I was distracted by the decoy in the wheelchair without a pulse: "You fell for the old fake Joker gag..."  This whole business with Joker being cured was just a ruse, a double-blind set up both to confuse me and to flush out the real cure.  And now that the real, still sick Joker knew where the cure was, he had no need for the messenger... so before I had time to adequately warn Talia of the situation, he pulled the trigger from his hiding place in the second deck.  I seethed with rage and sadness as Talia's lifeless form slunk to the ground.  I wanted to ask her why she didn't suspect something when she saw a fully-healthy Joker parading around, since she had stolen the cure before he had a chance to use it... but I decided that wouldn't have been right for the situation.

Before I had time to get into it with the real Joker, the fake Joker suddenly came back to life (I'm sorry to say, but I took something like that in stride, at this point) and grabbed the cure, which had slipped gently from Talia's hand when she fell... but he grabbed it in the most peculiar way: his hand became a mass of fluid matter, and he absorbed it into himself!  That was when I began to realize: the impostor Joker was none other than Basil Karlo, Clayface, who had snuck IN to Arkham City just for the purpose of impersonating the world's greatest crime boss.  But now that the ruse was over, he unleashed the fury of his full power on me, turning the gutted theater into a battleground.

Luckily I had plenty of Freeze grenades on hand, which I could use to temporarily harden Clayface's outer shell, all while dodging his swinging blades, crushing hammers, masses of projectile clay, and his patented rolling-ball attacks.  When I had adequately frozen him, I grabbed Talia's sword, which was still embedded in his clayish mass, and hacked the sucker to bits.  Just as I was about to expose the precious precious cure, Joker pulled his final card from up his sleeve: he detonated explosives placed on the floor, which led us straight into Wonder City and the Lazarus Pit where I originally battled Ra's al Ghul.  Clayface was too injured to re-form himself, so he sent an army of man-sized clay soldiers after me, which I was easily able to keep at bay with Talia's sword while also using grenades to freeze Clayface's main mass until he was subdued enough to grab the cure from his tainted insides.

But Joker wasn't done yet: I don't know what he was planning on doing with the control panel high atop the Lazarus Pit, but I stopped him from doing whatever it was by hurling my sword directly at him, piercing the control box, and causing a massive explosion that at once sent Clayface into a boiling pit of lava and separated Joker from my line of sight.  The first order of business was to drink about half the cure, finally putting that saga to rest... but then Joker hit me with some hardcore philosophy.  As we all know, my one rule is that Batman must never take a life, EVER, not even Joker's, even after all the people of Gotham he's killed and all the drama and heartache he's put me through personally.  Would it be on the same level if I were to simply deny Joker the cure and let him die of Titan poisoning, the result of his own twisted scheme?  Surely the circumstances would allow me to bend the rules this one time.  Plus, nobody would have to know...

Just then, Joker jumped out of the shadows and jammed an icepick into my right shoulder.  Normally this type of thing wouldn't even cause me to bat an eye... but it had been a long night and I was in the middle of some deep conjecturing... so the shock caused me to lose my grip on the cure.  As the vial shattered on the ground, Joker tried to frantically lap up the remains - while I was thankful that my enemies are usually reckless enough to prevent me from having to make any of the real hard character-redefining choices.  But truth be told, I had already decided on a course of action, and told the Joker so before he took his final breath: even after all he's done, I would have saved him...

Friday, November 18, 2011

Arkham City Post #17: Protocol 10 In Effect


Part 16: Confronting Joker in the Steel Mill

I didn't know it at the time (what with the being unconscious and all), but the collapsing train was actually caused by a missile fired by one of Hugo Strange's TYGER helicopters.  It seems he had put Protocol 10 into effect, which consisted of using heavy firepower to level everything in sight within the borders of Arkham City.  And here I was expecting some brilliant strategic masterstroke.  It's always the smartest of my enemies who disappoint me the most...

But before I found all this out, there was the little matter of being trapped under a huge mass of debris.  Joker had somehow avoided being crushed and was crouching over my incapacitated form, ready to cut my throat with a knife, when who should appear to save the day but Talia!  She offered herself up in a trade: if Joker would let me go, she would bestow upon Joker the secret of immortality!  I was obviously in no position to object, being helplessly pinned to the floor, so I only watched in horror as Talia surrendered her sword to Joker and led him out.  But my spirits were lifted slightly when she alerted my attention to a homing beacon she had attached to herself, allowing me to pick up her trail.

Before I could start out, I received a little help from Catwoman, who showed up in the nick of time and helped me escape from under the rubble.  She ran off to avoid the deadly air strikes while I immediately set out in search of Talia.  However, Alfred and Oracle had the NERVE to hinder my quest and provide me with a new main objective: they wanted me to apprehend Strange before they would help me rescue Talia.  After some harsh words regarding chain of command in this operation, I agreed to help save the inmates - although most deserved to be condemned by society, Batman couldn't let hundreds be slaughtered by Strange's attacks*.

*Never mind the many thousands more that would die if Joker was allowed to become immortal... not that I would ever kill him anyway...  But I knew in my heart that Talia would never deliver on this promise.  Which was one of the reasons I needed to get to her quickly: since Joker would clearly kill her the moment she refused his promised prize.

Before I could get into Strange's command center at the top of Wonder Tower, I had to search and scan a number of TYGER helicopters to find the control codes, which I could then input into my Cryptographic Sequencer.  After that, I had to make my way to the foundations of Wonder Tower (which were heavily guarded by TYGER guards), input the codes into the elevator, then scale the tower to access the control terminal.  Once at the top, more TYGER guards, heavily armed and equipped, were protecting Strange himself.  I felt bad about beating up on these operatives, many of whom started out as good cops who were influenced by Strange's hypnotic mind control techniques - and perhaps those of his mysterious "master" who he referenced over the radio during my trip through the TYGER processing center.  But it wasn't like I was planning on delivering any permanent damage to any of them.

Even after breaking through Strange's defenses and taking out some of my long built-up frustrations on his face, he remained optimistic about his long-term success.  He was going on and on about his view of himself as Gotham's savior, when his gloating was abruptly cut short as a razor-sharp blade passed through his chest from behind.  As the villain lay dying, his "master" was revealed - the only man in my rogue's gallery with enough power and resources to back such a nefarious scheme: Ra's al Ghul.  So the real mastermind behind the whole plot was just using Hugo Strange as a puppet.  And when Strange failed to live up to expectations, he was murdered in cold blood.  I only wanted to humiliate Strange by knocking his thugs around - I didn't know it would get the poor guy killed.  But in a disgusting, morally reprehensible way, Ra's's actions saved me thinking through a difficult conundrum.  Because let's get real: Strange knew my secret identity.  I couldn't very well have just turned him over to the proper authorities.  It wasn't like I could have staged some elaborate ruse involving Robin dressing up as Bruce Wayne in order to deflect attention and "prove" him wrong...

Anyway, as Ra's was wrapping up his "I want to take over the world" speech (which I had to sit through for the thousandth time, at least), Strange, with his dying breath, voice-activated Protocol 11.  As a five second countdown to an imminent explosion of the tower flashed up on the screen, I had no choice but to grab Ra's and crash us both through the window.  As we hurtled through the air - me latched onto Ra's like a parachute instructor to a first-timer - he made the worst decision of his criminal career so far: he stabbed HIMSELF through the chest, apparently hoping to catch me with the end of his blade as it passed through his ribcage.  Needless to say, I just let go, and the thrust ended too short to pierce my armored costume.  And then for good measure, Ra's continued to fall and was impaled on a sharp piece of stone.  I'm no expert on the capabilities of his Lazarus Pits, but this looked like a tough predicament for him to recover from.  So today marked the ignominious ends to two of my most formidable opponents...

Part 18: Showdown with Joker at the Monarch Theater

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Arkham City Post #16: Confronting Joker in the Steel Mill


Part 15: Pre-Steel Mill Adventures

Upon heading back into the Steel Mill, I was greeted by a video message from Joker.  He dropped hints in his chatter that this would definitely be our final confrontation, the most telling being a meta-reference to the disappointing ending of his favorite TV show that "all took place in a church."  Way to date the piece, Joker; I thought Gotham City was supposed to be timeless.  I didn't watch that particular show myself, but the knowledge that Joker was a fan just made me want to punch him in the face all the more.

All my new technology came in handy, especially the Freeze Grenade, which I needed to create ice rafts on the various water channels buried deep within the steel mill.  I also learned a new trick: throwing a Remote Control Batarang through an exposed electrical arc, imbuing the projectile with an electric charge.  This allowed me to power up various hard-to-reach fuse boxes in the area.  I surprised Dr. Stacy Baker, the doctor I had rescued in my first trip to the mill.  Apparently she had done a pretty good job staying out of sight, seeing as she hadn't been recaptured.  Her survival might have had something to do with the lead pipe she tried to take a swing at me with, before she saw who I really was.  I was glad she was able to curb her swing first, ask questions later instinct... cuz if she had connected with that pipe, I don't know if I would have been able to curb mine.

As I was crawling through a particularly isolated steam vent, I saw the strangest sight: Harley Quinn, bound and gagged without a soul in sight.  After some coaxing, she let on that there was some proprietary stolen Mr. Freeze technology hidden in the boiler room.  (This turned out to be a cluster grenade that could freeze multiple enemies to the ground at once.)  I didn't think twice about how she found herself in that particular predicament.  I chalked it up to one of the newly-revitalized Joker's famous mood swings.  Had I stopped to question her a bit more, I might have learned something that would help me later on.

Instead, I continued on to Joker's secret lair, where he was gazing at himself in a mirror.  Only when I saw his sickly, scarred, pockmarked, still clearly Titan-infected reflection, I was shocked: could the cure not have worked after all?  But when the actual villain turned to face me, it was the familiar, emaciated yet healthy figure of Joker himself.  He had the nerve to try and teach me some kind of moronic lesson about something or other... as if I had anything to learn from that sick clown.  Then, to my surprise, he jumped down off his platform and challenged me to fisticuffs, one-on-one style.

Well, this was a new streak of courage, which promised to make this final showdown all the more gratifying.  In these types of situations, my enemies usually resort to throwing wave after wave of henchmen at me.  Rarely am I afforded the opportunity to deliver a beatdown to the main crime boss himself (Penguin was clearly the exception).  But no matter how many times I tried to deliver a finishing blow, the fiend wriggled out of the way with near superhuman quickness.  Right as my gratification turned to frustration, the tried and true group of henchmen came.

These were not just your typical thugs with weapons - which ran from bats to knives to fire extinguishers to riot shields.  But the one-armed clown (whose other half I left beaten up at Penguin's headquarters) and a beefed-up Titan Henchman as well.  This Titan monster was more powerful than the ones I faced back at the Asylum - as he charged, he protected his face from a quick Batarang, removing one of the main ways I could incapacitate one of these brutes.  This left my arsenal with only my new move, the Ultra Stun, and it was hard to get in close enough to execute the "full attack action" (or, more colloquially, the triple button-press) it took to pull it off.  But it was all worth it, because when I did jump on its back to take control of it, I could independently execute each of its moves: the charge, the ground pound, and the regular punch.  That made it much easier to eventually take out the entire crowd.

Then, just as I was about to stand triumphant over Joker's debilitated form, wouldn't you know it a train falls on me.  That's right, a train.  And guess who goes unconscious (again).  Yerp, that would be me.

Part 17: Protocol 10 In Effect

Monday, November 14, 2011

Arkham City Post #15: Pre-Steel Mill Adventures


Part 14: Down the Rabbit Hole

But Oracle was right: I should focus on my primary objective of confronting Joker in the Steel Mill and securing the cure for good.  I was hearing radio chatter from Joker and his thugs that was simultaneously encouraging and disheartening: Joker sounded fully healthy, which meant the cure had apparently worked.  That was good news for me, if I could ever get my hands on it... and provided he didn't drink it all himself.  He had to have saved some for me, right?  Sure we're arch-enemies, but there's no way he could let me die, right?  Unless I was taken down by his army of thugs, who seemed to be revitalized by their boss's sudden recovery.

Their revitalization might also be due to their advanced weaponry: thermal vision equipped sniper rifles, which essentially turned the whole city into one massive predator challenge!  In order to put off dealing with this irritating heightened security, I decided to try to cross some side missions off my list as opposed to adding more on.  The idea being that these would provide me with some welcome w00tz - and in one case, a cool gadget upgrade, allowing me to use the disruptor to detonate a nearby mine.  (This was courtesy of the undercover cops locked barricaded inside the Iceberg Lounge; good for them for staying industrious!)  Not only that, but it would be infinitely less satisfying to enter my final showdown with the Joker with so many loose ends.

Firstly I decided to tackle the Riddler's challenges, seeing as I had left those hostages in the lurch for quite some time now.  Nygma wouldn't give me the location of his next hostage unless I had solved a requisite amount of his riddles, but luckily I was pretty diligent about solving any that I came across during my travels.  Riddler had set up many elaborate death traps from which I had to rescue the hostages: electrified floors, rotating blades, a life-sized Three-card Monte-style gimmick with a hidden hostage substituted for the money card (I used my Detective Mode to thwart Nygma's attempt to cheat at that one).  My personal favorite was when I used my Line Launcher to snag a hostage, who was hanging over a deadly drop, then crashed through a window to safety.  But determining the location of Riddler himself required solving nearly all the riddles on the map, so I let that be till later.

Zsasz was next on my list: it wasn't hard to isolate the location of his hideout after having the Bat Computer trace the calls he was making to various payphones across the city.  The hardest part of that whole mission was resisting the urge to hang up on the bastard once I had found his phone.  You see, the time necessary for the computer to trace his calls necessitated listening to Zsasz's twisted ramblings on the other side of the phone.  But it was all worth it to sneak into where he thought he was be secure, knock his scarred ass out, and lock him in a cage where he belonged.

Deadshot would have been harder to track were it not for a series of stupid mistakes he made that led me right to him.  The evidence I was able to gather from both a tripod he left at one of the crime scenes and the impression his body made in the snow as he laid prone to take a shot led me to a PDA he left behind where he evidently thought it would be secure.  From that I was able to determine his next target's location and confront the assassin in the act.  It seemed almost too easy, and for a minute I was worried that he was setting a trap for me; but the ease in which I bested him in our one-on-one showdown put my fears to rest.

As for the Identity Thief and the Watcher in the Wings, it was just a matter of scouring the city and keeping my eyes open for sightings.  Analyzing the third victim of the chilling serial killer led me to his hideout, where the killer trapped me and revealed his identity: famed surgeon Tommy Elliot.  Rebranded as "Hush," Elliot had used pieces of the faces he had surgically removed to graft himself a new face: that of Bruce Wayne.  It still didn't explain the fingerprints though...  After meeting the mysterious figure three more times and scanning the symbol he left behind, I was able to overlay their locations onto a map of Arkham City, leading me to his final meeting place: the Church.  He revealed himself as Azrael, a member of the Sacred Order of St. Dumas.  He delivered a chilling prophecy of doom, the meaning of which remains unclear.  We'll just have to see how things play out: I wasn't about to alter my whole mission based on the arcane ramblings of a mysterious figure with a flair for the dramatic.

Now I was finally ready to enter the Steel Mill via the back door... when what should I come across but the last Titan container!  Now I had to go back and check on Bane, right?  As it happened, rather than destroy the Titan containers as he had promised to do, Bane had gathered them all to his hideout in the Krank Co. toys factory.  This attracted a squad of TYGER guards who were interested in confiscating the Titan for themselves.  Bane and I teamed up to take them all out, but it turns out that fighting alongside Bane is very similar to fighting against Bane, as you still have to dodge his blind charges and avoid his reckless swings and ground-pounds.  In the end, though, I ended up fighting against Bane as well, as he had never intended to destroy his share of the Titan containers anyway.  Turns out he just wanted to control the entire supply.  But I used my wits to trap him in a cage (which must have been much stronger than it looked to contain the muscly beast), after which I proceeded to take care of the Titan containers myself.  And now, with my side mission checklist truly complete, I was ready to press on.

Part 16: Confronting Joker in the Steel Mill

Friday, November 11, 2011

Arkham City Post #14: Down the Rabbit Hole...


Part 13: Confronting Mr. Freeze

To make up for his stubbornness (which led to the loss of my cure), Mr. Freeze provided me with a new gadget based on his freezing technology: a grenade that could create a freezing blast, either stunning enemies or creating a block of ice that would float on a mass of standing water.  It was necessary for me to escape the GCPD building, the main door of which Freeze had barricaded with a mass of ice.  The only path out was blocked by some broken pipes spewing steam into the hallway.  A freeze blast on each of the offending pipes did the trick, and I was ready to hunt down Harley Quinn and my cure.

Except as soon as I left the building, I saw Vicki Vale's news helicopter shining a light directly on me.  Apparently in addition to sneaking in and stealing the cure, Harley had also leaked my location to the press.  I was more annoyed at than concerned by the situation - it would have been easy enough for me to dodge the attention of an amateur helicopter pilot - until an RPG streaked across the sky and sent the chopper into a tailspin.  Following the source of the radio broadcast led me to the crash site: an open area overlooked by the majestic Dini Towers, from which snipers were taking pot shots at the news team.  I was easily able to take care of the snipers (while also recognizing and appreciating the metagame reference), rescue the damsel in distress, and deliver her to the safety of the Church/Medical Center.  Although I stopped short of granting her request for an exclusive interview.

As I was delivering Vale to the Church, I thought I caught a glimpse of a sickening vomit-green colored top hat flitting in and out of view.  But before I could react, my attention was drawn by a radio communication from Alfred informing me that Lucius Fox had been working diligently on developing his own cure, and that it was ready for me to use!  In hindsight, that broadcast, which would allow me to circumvent the Main Objective of the entire game adventure, seemed exceedingly suspicious, despite Lucius's genius.  But something unexplainable drew me to the canister Alfred had delivered, and I injected myself with the "cure" it contained totally cavalierly.  Needless to say, the injection did not in fact cure me, but rather caused me to pass out, for the fourth time tonight...

...and for the third time tonight, I woke up from unconsciousness to find myself tied to a chair.  But this time, I was sitting at a grotesque tea party attended by a bunch of brainwashed thugs wearing rabbit masks - clearly the work of the Mad Hatter.  Just what I needed, I thought, another random encounter with a villain who had seemingly nothing to do with my main objective.  Jervis Tetch then appeared and explained that he had implanted a hypnotic suggestion in my brain that caused me to see what I wanted most: in this case, the cure.  The more I struggled, the crazier the hallucinations got: I found myself in a void, balancing on the face of a stopwatch, surrounded by attacking rabbit thugs.  It took some willpower, but I was able to master my mind (you'll remember from my previous adventures with Scarecrow Toxin and Demon's Blood that I have ample practice in combat while under the influence of dangerous psychoactive substances), subdue Tetch's army, and destroy the magical hat that was responsible for all the mind control.

As I left the Mad Hatter's hideout in Park Row, I stopped to pay my respects to Crime Alley, the site of my parents' murder on that fateful night.  Nearby, I noticed another victim of the Identity Thief, this one situated next to a knife bearing Bruce Wayne's fingerprints.  I was unnerved by the find, but determined to find out the truth, when I noticed a mysterious figure watching me from a rooftop!  He was wearing a red hood and cloak, and when I approached him, he gave me some cryptic message and disappeared, leaving behind a mysterious symbol, which I scanned into the Bat Computer.  What the heck, I thought, as long as I'm still riding the rejuvenative high from Ra's Al Ghul's Demon's Blood, I might as well add another couple more side missions to the list...

Part 15: Pre-Steel Mill Adventures

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Arkham City Post #13: Confronting Mr. Freeze


Part 12: The Demon Trials

With a sample of Ra's Al Ghul's blood in hand, my next objective was to bring said blood to Mr. Freeze at the old GCPD building.  However, I was distracted by several new challenges on my way back up to the surface.  There were groups of armed enemies using backpack-mounted sensor jammers, preventing me from scanning the room with Detective Mode.  There were enemies wielding riot shields, who required a special arial attack to disarm.  And to top it off, I received word over Strange's radio that a new prisoner had just been introduced to Arkham City: Mayor Quincy Sharp.

I was so eager to use my new Interrogation skills on that slimy, power-hungry excuse for a psychologist-turned-politician that I dropped my primary objective and headed straight for him, despite Oracle's warnings to stay on task.  When I found him, I was glad I did, as he was about to be shot full of holes by a group of understandably furious inmates.  When I took out the thugs and got my hands on Sharp, all he would divulge was that he decided to put Hugo Strange in charge of Arkham City because he had "powerful friends."  Who could be more powerful and influential than Strange?  Joker was out of commission with his sickness.  Penguin and Two-Face are more small-time crooks than story-driving masterminds.  Ra's Al Ghul was suffering from a Lazarus overdose meltdown.  But as this information provided more backstory than an actionable goal, I filed it away and headed to Freeze.

Victor was able to synthesize the cure easily enough using Ra's's Lazarus-enhanced blood - score one for the insight of the World's Greatest Detective.  But once he was done with the procedure - which produced two drinkable vials of cure - he did something utterly confusing:  he took hold of one vial and placed the other in a locked safe.  Right when it seemed he was going to hand over the McGuffin to me, he thought he could get tricky and make some demands of his own:  apparently Joker had kidnapped Freeze's frozen wife Nora as incentive to develop the cure in the first place.  Freeze now wanted me to find and retrieve Nora before he would deliver the cure to me.  And before I could even begin to negotiate, he crushed the vial he was holding right before my eyes!

The funny thing is, I would have gladly agreed to help reunite Freeze with his wife; what harm would there be in aiding a genuinely troubled (and sometimes downright helpful) supervillain in his quest for peace of mind?  And if he'd given me the cure beforehand, it would have only made it easier for me to complete that mission.  But instead, I had to teach the frozen popsicle a lesson.  His armored suit and devastating freeze gun made him too powerful to face head-on, but luckily the forensic lab provided a veritable plethora of options for me to make use of in taking him down.

His suit was equipped with a heat tracker, so he was able to follow whatever path I took through the lab. Luckily I was able to use that fact to lure him into a number of traps to inflict some damage: I could set up some explosive gel next to a weak wall, I could perform a takedown by jumping out from under a grate or smashing him through a window or dragging him off a ledge or just sneaking up behind him, and I could nail him with one of my signature gliding kicks.  In addition, my new gadgets contributed to my efforts: I could jam his gun with my Disruptor or I could use the Remote Electrical Charge to fire up either an electromagnet or a motor that electrocuted some water on the floor, stunning him long enough to deliver a Beatdown.

The armor on his suit was so effective that I had to deliver several of these takedowns to fully defeat him - plus I had to use diversity, since he was tactically smart enough to adapt to my methods (i.e. freezing the grates, vantage points, windows, electromagnets, etc. so I couldn't use those takedowns twice).  After his beating, Freeze's fit of madness subsided and we could get back to logical discussions about both of our problems.  When I agreed to go after Nora on his behalf, he agreed to give me the cure... but to our horror, when he opened the safe, the vial was missing!  In its place was a note from Harley Quinn, who must have crept in, accessed the safe from the wall side, and stolen the cure while I was tied up with Freeze.  Man, what is it about these supervillains that always make them insist on fighting me instead of just agreeing to work together for once?  It looked like I had yet another hoop to jump through before I got to taste my precious cure...

Part 14: Down the Rabbit Hole

Monday, November 7, 2011

Arkham City Post #12: The Demon Trials


Part 11: Wonder City

It was good to see Talia: it's always comforting to have a member of my adventuring party who knows my secret identity, and with whom I could be totally open.  Plus she's easy on the eyes, know what I'm sayin' - check out that midriff - OY!  And she understood the severity of my plight as soon as she lifted my mask and looked on my grotesque, sickly complexion.  However, she would not let me past the guards unless I committed to taking up her father's crusade to cleanse the world of wasteful and destructive society, and to usher in a new world order.  It sounds a lot like what our political correct generation would call eco-terrorism, and between you and me, I wasn't too keen on the idea of becoming the next Ra's Al Ghul, despite the perk of immortality.  But my situation left me little choice but to agree to take part in the Demon Trials.

Talia led me down a long staircase, past a coterie of ninja henchwomen, into a bare room.  In the room was a table on top of which sat a gilded chalice.  I was instructed to drink, and followed through, despite my knowledge of the cup's contents.  One sip, and my mind was instantly transported to an expansive desert landscape, standing on a floating sand dune surrounded by puffy white clouds.  Oh great, I thought, another mystical journey through a psychotropic dreamscape.  Only, in contrast to the abject terror and nightmarish vibe of Scarecrow's fear gas, the Demon's Blood provided a feeling of vitality and empowerment, which I was sure was not limited to my mental state.

Ra's's ghostly form appeared and tasked me with gliding from dune to dune without touching any of the jagged mountains or sand below.  You ever have those dreams where you feel like you're not quite flying, but gliding gently, with total control?  Well the sensation was more dreamlike and incredible than anything I had ever experienced, and I've done my share of majestic gliding, in the real world, no less.  The task wasn't hard, so it didn't surprise me when, after the effects of the drug had subsided and I found myself back in that small underground room, Talia entered and offered to bring me to the "final challenge."  Who else could it have been but Ra's Al Ghul himself?

I would have been hard-pressed to face The Demon's Head in single combat had his magical draught not revitalized my body and temporarily halted the effects of my Titan infection.  As I tried no to think of what the mysterious substance was doing to my insides, the doors opened, revealing an old and sickly-looking Ra's.  It seems as though he wanted me to kill him rather than fight him.  Only then could I truly take his place at the head of the League of Assassins and usher in his new world order.  But since I wasn't interested in killing anyone EVER, much less leading an organization based on killing anyone that stands against them, I flatly refused.  Then, in a rare display of vulnerability (inspired no doubt by Talia's presence), I opened up and informed them of my mission to get a sample of Ra's's blood so Mr. Freeze could complete his cure.

I hated lying to Talia - I had to tell her that I was willing to "take a life in order to save the world" before she would let me into the Demon Trials.  And apparently she believed me.  Which actually makes me feel not so bad for telling that particular lie to Talia.  Cuz if she really knew who I am and really was my "beloved," she'd know that I was never going to decide to take a life - not anyone's - at any time - for any reason.  So either she was totally fooled into thinking that I'd change into something I'm not... or she knew I was lying, and let me go through anyway, knowing that this was the only chance I had to save my life.

Either way, I was this close to getting what I came for, when Ra's took the predictable next step: he tried to force me to kill him by attacking me.  But not before getting a full blast of rejuvenation from his Lazarus Pit.  All of a sudden, the dreamlike desert landscape hallucinations from the Demon's Blood started popping up again.  But this was no flight fantasy played out inside your mind while you're locked in a room tripping out; it was an actual battle with real, blade-wielding ninjas.  And on top of it all, Ra's Al Ghul was teleporting everywhere and occasionally transforming into a sand giant, spinning around and shooting blades everywhere, like a demented Genie from Aladdin.

But little did he know this wasn't my first rodeo (at least in terms of handling real life combat situations while hepped up on psychoactive substances - I must have beat up 15 thugs plus a Titan henchman while under the influence of Scarecrow Toxin back at the Asylum, in Intensive Treatment).  Plus, I had something now I didn't have then: the ability to blast my foe with electricity, which helped slow him down enough for me to pummel him into submission.  I got the blood sample I wanted, and also thought I would do good old Ra's a kindness and let him in on the deduction I made: using the Lazarus Pit in excess was eroding his constitution.  He knew as well as I that the only way to save himself would be to call off that damn fool crusade of his.  But we also both knew that he would never give up his mission as along as he lived - just like I would never break my one rule, even with my life potentially on the line.  I guess I can see why he wanted me for his successor after all.

Part 13: Confronting Mr. Freeze

Friday, November 4, 2011

Arkham City Post #11: Wonder City


Part 10: Hunting the League of Assassins

As the blood trail leading to Ra's Al Ghul's hideout seemed to be leading down, not up (which made me question if the line launcher was the right gadget for this job), I thought of someone else I'd met in an underground setting: Calendar Man.  Even though the events of this adventure all take place in a single night, the calendar in the real world keeps on changing, and today was Halloween itself - the holiday Calendar Man mentioned when I first saw him!  After clearing the courthouse of some more random Two-Face thugs who had wandered in, I spoke good old Julian Day, still locked up in his cell.  He didn't seem to say anything interesting, but while he was blabbing, I noticed a calendar on the wall with a number of dates circled, mostly major holidays.  Was I supposed to return to talk to this nut on each one of these days?  And if so, what would be my reward?

This Calendar Man business seemed like too much of a meta-mission for my tastes, so I continued following the trail, which took me deep into the Subway Tunnels, and from there to the Sewers.  After a brief, purely conversational run-in with my old friend Croc (where else would he be hanging out?) and the return of the annoyingly-chattering Joker Teeth, I got to the roots of the matter and learned a little trivia about our great city.  Apparently Gotham was built over the collapsed ruins of an older city.  Don't ask me how that's logistically possible - it doesn't seem to make sense unless the original city was built underground to begin with.  This old city, called Wonder City, whose crown jewel - Wonder Tower - looms over Arkham from the center of Hugo Strange's Restricted Area.

According to what I learned from the voice blaring over the PA system, Wonder City was to be a sort of eco-utopia, where everything was run on a renewable source of energy known as Lazarus.  Wait, as in the pits?  Could it be that Ra's Al Ghul could have been behind the Wonder City project, which took place generations ago?  If that's the case, it would make sense that he would choose this location for his lair.  Or perhaps the location chose Ra's, so to speak, if there was a Lazarus Pit close by.

This was one of the droids I was looking for.
There could be no doubt that the League of Assassins was close by, as I soon found myself beset on all sides by ninjas and ninjettes wielding sharp and intimidating swords.  They had to be coming from somewhere, but the only door I could see - a giant circular affair, flanked by two large statues - was sealed by some unknown method.  I had to find out how the league was getting in and out, and it dawned on me that Wonder City's famed Mechanical Guardians might hold the key.  If these droids were powered by Lazarus, their surveillance system might have still been operational.  To find out, I had to scan the memory systems of all the Guardians scattered around the ruined city, while also dodging sword swings and dealing with my quickly deteriorating health.

Yes, that's right, Joker's Titan-corrupted blood was beginning to really take it's toll.  Dizzy spells, sudden muscle fatigue, fits of coughing culminating with spitting up blood.  I'm sure it didn't help that finding this cure required pushing my body to its utmost limits.  I didn't get the full disease meltdown until I gathered all the data from the Guardians and found out that the ninjas were using their swords to open the doors.   I had just countered one of their swings, inserted the unorthodox key into the lock, and knocked out the sword's holder in one swift motion, when the doors opened to reveal not Ra's Al Ghul's secret hideout, but a blinding white light, out of which I could hear the voices of my parents urging me forward.

Just as I was about to succumb to the warm feeling of comfort that I knew would accompany the end of my quest (and my life), I saw a figure emerge from the light who alone gave me the will to cling to life: my one true "beloved" Talia Al Ghul.

Part 12: The Demon Trials

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Arkham City Post #10: Hunting the League of Assassins


Part 9: Boss Fights in the Museum

Once I was done with Grundy, that little runt Penguin had the audacity of jumping down into the arena himself with his giant rocket launcher.  I honestly don't even know if my Disruptor would have jammed his weapon - I was so hepped up on Free Flow Focus, that just dodged every single one of his rockets and delivered the imminent beatdown that was coming to him.  Then I did what any sympathetic ally would have done: I delivered Penguin to Mr. Freeze.

Victor was understandably pretty pissed at Cobblepot for taking his suit and locking him up and all, but he knew I would find some way to beat the tar out of him if he hurt anybody, so he took the moderate route and locked Penguin up in one of his own display cases.  I believe it was the one reserved for Bruce Wayne.  Correct me if that's not what's known as dramatic irony?

Freeze and I then got into a lengthy scientific discussion about the cure he was working on for Joker.  I guess he had synthesized the formula, but wasn't able to keep it from deteriorating.  He needed to get his hands on some enzyme contained in the blood that has regenerating powers.  As I was racking my brain about which criminal might have control of the underground organ market in Arkham City, it dawned on me:  Ra's Al Ghul's blood very well might have some of that enzyme, from his generations of being exposed to those Lazarus Pits of his.  It seemed too perfect at the time, so it didn't even occur to me that it was just an excuse to showcase another villain (like the Poison Ivy spores conveniently being located in Croc's Lair.  I mean, come on, what plant even grows in the sewers...?)

As the thought occurred to me, I said Ra's Al Ghul's name out loud, which instantly got a reaction from the caged up ninja dressed like Kitana.  She smashed through the glass, shouted something about the League of Assassins, and sprung off.  Of course, I thought, that ninja must be a part of Talia Al Ghul's elite ninja strike force.  And I was in incredible luck: she had cut herself as she smashed through the glass, and the blood left a perfect trail across Arkham City for my Detective Mode to follow.

But seeing as these assassins are quicker and more nimble than I - curse my gigantic thighs, which can deliver a powerful attack, but sometimes hamper my movement - I knew that I'd need another of my wondrous gadgets: The Line Launcher.  Instead of having the Batwing drop it off in a little pod, like I did last year to help me get out of the Botanical Gardens after tangling with the first of Joker's Titan-enhanced henchmen, Alfred chose to send the gadget in with a personal courier: my second-favorite Robin, Tim Drake.  Seeing him made me feel a little like Mario, running into Yoshi on top of the castle, but not being able to interact with him in any meaningful way.  Tim offered to help, but I told him that he was needed in Gotham.  To make it seem like I was telling the truth, I gave him a sample of my infected blood and instructed him to cross-check it with hospitals in the area.  I mean, it is true that I work better alone, but I mostly just didn't want him to see me in my current state.

I pressed Tim for news from the outside world, and he informed me that the St. Louis Cardinals  had just won the World Series against the Texas Rangers, completing one of the most dramatic comebacks in baseball history.  It would have been nice to see the Rangers win their first championship in franchise history - as opposed to the Cardinals, who already have 11 titles to their name, second only to the Yankees.  But I also like that a team led by arguably the best living hitter (and unquestionably the most aggravating living manager... or should I say, ex-manager) can win it all despite near-insurmountable odds.  I was looking forward to catching the highlights at home on the Bat-flatscreen once all this Arkham City business was over.

After catching up on events outside the perimeter wall, I turned my attention to the Line Launcher, which acts as a sort of instant zipline creator, allowing me to travel across a large horizontal distance.  Over chasms, through a spinning blade trap, you name it.  And I had trained further so that I could launch a second line in another direction while traveling along the first, enabling extended travel at right angles.  My increased agility also enabled me to detach the launcher and balance on the line like a tightrope walker.  Just the thing for tracking ninjas through a criminal-inhabited jungle of steel and concrete as if my life depended on it...

Part 11: Wonder City