A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Batman Arkham VR is a superhero detective game designed for virtual reality. It isn't very violent -- Batman spends most of his time investigating crimes rather than fighting enemies -- but some scenes show dead and bloody bodies that must be closely examined. Plus, several moments near the end are extremely intense and potentially quite scary as the game attempts to disorient the player with hallucinations induced by a drug in Batman's blood. Parents should be aware that virtual reality equipment makers don't recommend VR experiences for kids under 12 due to the potential impact the technology may have on younger players' physiological development.
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What's it about?
BATMAN ARKHAM VR endeavors to make us feel as though we truly are the Caped Crusader by providing a first-person perspective within virtual reality. Early on in the game players don the Dark Knight’s cowl and gloves and then look at themselves as Bruce Wayne in a mirror, seeing every head movement they make mimicked perfectly. Then the action moves to the Batcave, where you can intuitively interact with computers, gadgets, and other equipment using the PlayStation Move controllers to manipulate Batman's hands. The main story takes off from there, with Batman embarking on a mission to find out what's happened to his missing protégé Robin and Nightwing. He'll end up investigating a crime scene, interrogating the Penguin, examining bodies in a morgue, and embarking on a rescue mission through Arkham's sewers before a final showdown. He doesn't get into any real fights (though he does have to think quickly to defend himself on a couple of occasions). Instead, players spend nearly all \ their time using Batman's gadgets and their own smarts to solve puzzles and figure out what to do next to advance the story.
Is it any good?
As games designed to show off the deeply immersive potential of virtual reality go, they don't get much better than this one. From the moment Batman Arkham VR begins, you'll feel like you are Bruce Wayne, first from the lowered perspective of a child as he watches his parents' infamous murder, then later at his imposing adult height as he stands on building precipices overlooking Gotham. Expect to feel vertigo as you look hundreds of feet down at the busy city streets below. Just as impressive are the player's interactions with all manner of equipment, ranging from gears, levers, vials of blood, and computer disks to the gadgets Batman keeps on his utility belt, including a scanner, grappling hook, and batarangs. Instructions aren't even necessary. Just move your hand toward what you want to interact with and press a button to grab and manipulate it. Also helping with the sense of immersion is presentation. It's probably the prettiest PlayStation VR game currently available, and the detail in the locations you explore serve to almost completely fool your brain into believing you're where the game suggests you are, whether that's a back alley or a city morgue.
Sadly, it comes to an end too soon. Clocking in at only an hour (though you can search for hidden Riddler puzzles in a second playthrough), it feels much more like a demo than a full game. That said, it's hard to tell whether the peculiar mechanics here would work well for a longer experience. Players must stand in front of the TV for the full duration, and when they want Batman to move to a new location, they have to press a button to instantly transport him there rather than control his walking in a traditional game. It's a bit jarring and feels like a clumsy solution to virtual reality's problem of how to comfortably control a character's locomotion. Still, this short game is all but guaranteed to make people excited about the medium's potential. If you want a great VR experience that doesn't last long but will wow your friends when they visit, Batman Arkham VR is an ideal choice.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about violence in media. Batman Arkham VR doesn't depict violence, but it does show the aftermath of it, along with forcing players to closely examine dead bodies, but how does the nature of virtual reality makes this activity much more intense than it would be in other games? How did you feel while playing?
Talk about Batman's pledge to capture rather than kill his enemies. Are his non-lethal tactics truly noble? Did you feel he was right in this game to try to terrify the Penguin by dangling him off the edge of a skyscraper?
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