(Note: This "review" pertains solely to the perceived quality of the collector's edition of Arkham Asylum at a first glance of the included contents. I have not assessed the quality of the game itself, nor the quality of the features on the bonus disc. The following is based on my physical experience of the items mentioned.)
Normally, I'm not one to complain about the quality of bonus content in super-regular edition sets, but this particular release is an affront to my sensibilities not only as a Batfan, but also as a discerning consumer, video game enthusiast, and special feature whore.
I make very little money and tend to be EXTREMELY picky about those things I should consider purchasing. Between excessive debt and occasionally having the cash to pull my date weight with my girlfriend, I've nary a cent to spend on personal indulgences. So the decision to purchase the collector's edition of Arkham Asylum was not one I made lightly. It was something of a celebration of the fact that several of the collaborators of my favourite Batman mythos (the DC Animated Universe) would be getting together for, potentially, one last hurrah. That and the fact that a guy needs to buy something for himself every once in a while, and what better justification?
So, between the bonus disc - hopefully chock full of featurettes including my very favouritest Joker representative (Mr. Mark Hamill) - and the doctor's journal, and the seemingly impressive replication of an in-game batarang, going the way of extravagance seemed an okay and reasonable choice.
Now let me be clear, I was NOT in any way expecting something spectacular. In my wildest dreams, the best I could hope for was some kind of blunted, soft metal representation of the batarang. Materials like pewter aren't as expensive as some might think, and developments in composite materials bring costs like that down even more. It wasn't the most unrealistic thought in the world, and that was only my "dare to dream" scenario.
Realistically, I was expecting some kind of acrylic, ceramic, or tin composite, the latterest being more akin to the design of the box itself.
To open this gorgeous case and feast my eyes upon what has been laughingly referred to and marketed as a "replica" has insulted me in a way I would've previously thought incapable.
I've lived in this country a long time and, as mentioned before, would like to think myself a discerning consumer. I generally know the difference between a good movie and a well-edited trailer, and I can generally tell the difference between a halfway decent set piece and an overgrown kid's meal toy.
To put it bluntly, you get used to being screwed with your pants on from time to time and develop keener senses, when lucky.
This abomination consists of what appears to be three pieces of molded plastic, with a QUITE visible seam running all along its perimeter. The batarang is attached to its "mount" in a way that doesn't at all differentiate the "replica" from its base. I'd charitably refer to it as a high school prop, if only you could more intuitively interpret these individual pieces as separate items. It's unclear whether or not the manufacturer even intended the item to be removed from its mount, as the telltale tab on the rear suggests relative ease of removal, whereas the gaping hole, remnant glue, and stamp - revealed once you isolate the batarang - all imply that it's a nook not meant to be seen.
Regardless, this is hardly the sort of thing I would ever put on display, and it only marginally functions as a casual toy of novelty and kitsch. More likely I'll leave the damned thing in its far-more-impressive case and hope that nobody asks to see it.
Now, this wouldn't bother me quite so much if it weren't for the fact that I was never even given an in-between option. The major influence for the purchase of this edition was, indeed, the bonus disc with features I've yet to investigate since I'm now somewhat gunshy. It's entirely likely that I would've passed on this excessive product were it not for my love and near-fanboyism regarding Mark Hamill, Arleen Sorkin, Kevin Conroy, and Paul Dini (even though it was a shock to learn that Dini had anything to do with the Double Dragon movie - "Podtoid 111").
When I boil down the contents and value of the box in my hands to their barest essentials, I'm left with but one conclusion:
I paid an additional forty dollars for a bonus disc, and a mediocre (though admittedly, mildly interesting) soft-leather journal.
This makes me hubris and contrite, and Eidos criminals. But I can at least offer these words and photos up as a cautionary tale to those either a little too foolhardy or not quite discerning enough.
Update: Joystiq's Justin McElroy posted an unboxing video this morning, and his reaction and sentiments mirror mine almost perfectly, though he remains far more civil and professional on camera.