Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate (Available on Nintendo 3DS, and PlayStation Vita)
ESRB Rating: T
Number of Players: 1
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Developer: Armature Studio
Release Date: October 25th, 2013
Review Basis: We received a copy of the 3DS version from Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. I finished the game in around ten hours or so, and tried a little of the New Game+ mode.
Blackgate was a surprise announcement last year. There hasn’t been a non-LEGO Batman game on a portable in a very long while. The fact that it was going to be a Metroidvania-style adventure automatically got my attention. The first screens looked fantastic, and it’s one of those genres that was perfectly suited to the duel screen setup of the DS. Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow was the first game to utilize the second screen, and I actually imported it when it came out because I couldn’t wait to see how well it played. If you’re interested, you can check out my old import play test in the archives. Not to get off topic here, but I really wanted to emphasize that I really enjoy these types of games. Just to show how platform neutral I am, the PlayStation Vita got an incredible Metroidvania-style game in Guacamelee, which is actually one of the very best videogames released this year. Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate will not end up winning any awards, but it still warrants a play-through for fans of the genre.
The tried and true gameplay of Metroidvania games still makes for one heck of a good time. Exploring every nook and cranny to find all the collectibles and power-ups is as addicting as ever. Batman’s detective mode lets you see objects that can be interacted with, which helps, but you’ll still have to come back to certain areas after collecting various upgrades. The satisfaction of finally solving puzzles you’ve been trying too since the beginning just feels awesome.
+ Sublime art style. Cutscenes take the form of slightly animated digital graphic novels. They look extremely similar to digital comic you might read on your PC or tablet. They certainly stay true to Batman’s roots.
+ Challenging gameplay. The boss battles in particular will really make you scratch your head. Black Mask is rather simple once you know what to do, but it took me dozens and dozens of Game Over screens before I was able to best him. The same can be said of the Penguin too.
+ Most puzzles won’t take you long to figure out, but they’re fun none-the-less. There are some larger puzzles towards the end of the game that are very satisfying to solve.
+ Classic power-ups from the Arkham series. Expect to find the grapple hook, the Bat-a-rang and a few more weapons we’ve all grown accustomed to with the console versions. The game could have used one or two more however, just to spice things up a little bit.
+ Perfect Length. Blackgate took me a little over ten hours to complete. That’s the right amount of time for a portable adventure like this one.
+ Makes great use of each portables’ strengths. Touch screen commands don’t get in the way and feel natural. On the 3DS, the 3D effects are well handled and help bring you into the journey. Vita owners also get to go trophy hunting.
+ Feels fresh to play a 2.5D Batman game. It’s always fun to experience something new and the more Batman the better.
+ New Game + changes the order of the bosses and adds new cutscenes. What’s not to love about that?
-/+ Lackluster storyline. It’s supposed to compliment the Arkham Origins, but it really doesn’t tell much of a tale. If you play your videogames to be entertained by a blockbuster plot, you’ll be disappointed.
– Some battles are nothing more than glorified quick-time-events.
– Extremely confusing map system. The game takes place in a 3D environment, however your character can only move left or right. Sometimes, moving left on the screen will make you go right on the map, talk about confusing. For the most part, you have to rely on trial and error when backtracking to previous areas as the maps are often a nuisance.
– There’s no platforming whatsoever, not even a jump button. You don’t even aim your projectiles. Everything is done for you. It feels like the game plays itself, with you only moving the character around. It feels like a PC point and click game. It’s 99% exploration, and then a few fights here and there. It’s also kind of weird playing a Metroidvania-style game without a double jump.
Blackgate introduces a painful fetch-quest right before the final boss that sends you all over previously explored areas to rescue five hostages. This is clearly a shameful attempt to add an extra hour of game time to your play-through. It’s completely unnecessary.
While not as memorable as recent games like Guacamelee!, Shadow Complex or even Cave Story 3D, Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate is still well worth your while. It’s a fun little adventure game that will fit your Nintendo 3DS or PlayStation Vita like a glove. However, I’d recommend this only to the biggest Metroidvania fans out there or those that simply cannot pass a Batman game by. It’s definitely a solid title, just one that comes with a few big flaws.
Final Score: 7.5/10