Harley Quinn kicks an enemy in The Arkham Asylum Files: Panic in Gotham City AR game

‘The Arkham Asylum Files: Panic in Gotham City’ Is Worth the Hype

Augmented reality games have become increasingly popular in the last few years, even though incorporating a mobile app into an otherwise standard board game can be a risky move. True AR integration is hard to pull off, often with questionable results—unless, of course, we’re talking about Infinite Rabbit Holes, the company behind the highly-anticipated Batman AR game The Arkham Asylum Files: Panic in Gotham City. The game raised more than $300 thousand last year on Kickstarter and got a glowing review from renowned puzzle master Chris Ramsay, who revealed a first look at the game after being sent an even more intricate Joker-themed puzzle box also from Infinite Rabbit Holes.

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Panic in Gotham City is basically an escape room in a box, designed for 1-6 players to build models, solve riddles, inspect documents for clues, and finish mini-games using a combination of physical materials and in-app instructions, videos, images, narrations, and art. There are specific steps for how to unpack the 10-pound box, as well as instructions for how to repack it in the event that you want to replay, share with friends, or explore future app-based DLC.

Although the game takes place in Gotham City, which has always been protected by Batman, he makes only a few appearances in the six or so hours that it took me and my family to complete the game. In-app cut scenes show Batman rushing in to take down a few bad guys at the last minute, but for the most part, players work with Harley Quinn, who’s recently had her license to practice psychiatry reinstated and has reclaimed her old job at Arkham Asylum. Through a series of mini-games and clues, your goal is to help Harley figure out who’s wreaking havoc across Gotham and why, since most of the major players in Batman’s rogues’ gallery don’t appear to be involved. That said, the Joker lurks around the edges of the story, creating even stronger ties to the Batman mythos.

There is no need for players to know Batman or Harley Quinn lore to understand The Arkham Asylum Files: Panic in Gotham City, allowing anyone to jump in and help resolve each part of the big mystery. However, those who are familiar with DC Comics will encounter a number of delightful Easter eggs, especially if they scan the entire Gotham board during the course of the game.

How cut scenes present in The Arkham Asylum Files: Panic in Gotham City
(DC / Infinite Rabbit Holes)

The art brings bright splashes of color to Panic in Gotham City‘s cut scenes, which vary in type from chapter to chapter. Several are news broadcasts triggered by scanning a physical, miniature news building that you put together and place on your map, while others follow solved puzzles or riddles to keep the story moving. This is just one way in which the AR components of the game are fully, seamlessly integrated.

Players also use the Arkham Asylum Files: Panic in Gotham City app to locate escaped zoo animals, explore buildings that aren’t included as constructible items, type the answers to questions, and more. The app is only available for Apple iPhones and iPads (for now), and only one person in the group needs to download it. From there, the device can be passed around the table to explore different angles of the partially-constructed city as well as various puzzle boards, story-prompted videos, and overlay art.

This well-constructed, beautifully-produced AR game is a great exercise in communication and patience among groups looking to complete it, especially in one go (which I do not recommend if only to keep your brain fresh as the puzzles increase in difficulty and density). There are several different puzzle types included, so everyone can get involved and stay engaged with the material. As you unlock each chapter, certain components will return as others are introduced, creating a cohesive path to solving the end-game mystery.

Panic in Gotham City is also a unique adaptation of Batman, which is hard to manage since he’s one of the most oversaturated superheroes in the world. Harley is reaching a similar level of pop culture popularity, but her characterization and purpose here are enough to make the whole game feel worth it by the end. Whatever your experience with these heroes, the voice actors, art, and music give them new life through the game’s companion app, making for a delightful experience all around.

The Arkham Asylum Files: Panic in Gotham City is available now from Infinite Rabbit Holes for $149 before tax and shipping.

Disclosure: The Mary Sue received a free copy of the game from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

(featured image: DC / Infinite Rabbit Holes)


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Samantha Puc
Samantha Puc (she/they) is a fat, disabled, lesbian writer and editor who has been working in digital and print media since 2010. Their work focuses primarily on LGBTQ+ and fat representation in pop culture and their writing has been featured on Refinery29, Bitch Media, them., and elsewhere. Samantha is the co-creator of Fatventure Mag and she contributed to the award-winning Fat and Queer: An Anthology of Queer and Trans Bodies and Lives. They are an original cast member of Death2Divinity, and they are currently pursuing a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative nonfiction at The New School. When Samantha is not working or writing, she loves spending time with her cats, reading, and perfecting her grilled cheese recipe.