Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate Review
Blackgate contains some solid stretches; The combat system is about the same as it is in the other Arkham games; The boss battles are enjoyable
Too much backtracking (as in TOO MUCH); Figuring out what to do next can be very time-consuming and dull; Batman stays in vents longer than he does in combat
Batman: Vent Inspector
Portable Batman games have…not been good, to say the least. I shudder now as I recall having playedÂ Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker Â on Game Boy Color, which ranks right up there as being one of the worst games ever created. Before theÂ Arkham Â series, his console exploits weren’t really all that great either (I did enjoy Batman Begins and Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Â though).Â Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate Â is meant to be a companion to its console brethren,Â Batman: Arkham Origins. Â It’s not a very memorable experience.
Set three months after the events of theÂ Arkham Origins,Â Blackgate Â begins with Batman being introduced to Catwoman. Batman catches her and she is placed in Blackgate Prison. A few weeks later Captain Gordon (he hasn’t been promoted to “Commissioner” just yet) contacts Batman and informs him that an explosion has occurred at Blackgate, which has led to the prison being divided into three sections, each being controlled by Black Mask, Penguin and the Joker. Batman must journey between each section several times and figure out what’s REALLY going down. All is not as it seems.
The combat system inÂ Blackgate Â is almost exactly the same as it was in the otherÂ Arkham Â games, which is remarkable considering it’s a side-scroller. The familiarity of it is undeniable, though, once Batman starts leaping from opponent to opponent, delivering blows and racking up combos. However, the combos inÂ Blackgate Â don’t really matter; they’re really just there to make players feel powerful.Â Blackgate Â features no upgrade system like the otherÂ Arkham Â games, relying instead on a few of Batman’s gadgets.
That’s becauseÂ Blackgate Â is concerned more with Batman’s detective skills than it is with his fighting abilities. Batman spends the majority of his time in Blackgate Prison figuring out which of his items will open which door/gate/vent and deciding which section of the prison he needs to visit next. One section might require an item that Batman doesn’t have yet, so he must visit another section to acquire it. This could lead to a boss battle, and the boss battles inÂ Blackgate Â are composed of that rare trait that makes them the best thing in the game they’re in. All of the bosses are fun to fight, but even some of them are just puzzles.
Batman must use his much-touted Detective Mode in just about every area to plan his next course of action. Necessary objects in the environment are highlighted while the mode is activated. Interacting with each and every one of these objects is the key to success inÂ Blackgate. Â SinceÂ Blackgate Â does play out like a Metroidvania-type game, hidden power-ups are everywhere, but they’re usually pretty easy to find as long as Detective Mode is constantly active.
Graphics & Sound
Blackgate Â unfortunately suffers sometimes visually as a result of being a portable experience. The moody, dreary atmosphere present in the otherÂ Arkham Â games is still there, but character models aren’t that detailed. Batman looks as if he doesn’t have eyeballs, and the thugs Batman takes down are hard to tell apart aside from the fact that some of them carry weapons. It’s not an ugly game at all, but some of its graphical discrepancies are pretty noticeable. The cutscenes are odd, taking on the appearance of a comic book in motion, and they look good as long as the characters in them aren’t moving. Then they just look silly.
The soundtrack is made up of music from the otherÂ Arkham Â games, which means it’s pretty good, but sometimes doesn’t fit. The music is so loud at times it seems as if it’s going to bust the 3DS’ speakers. All the voice actors from theÂ Arkham Â games are present (save for Mark Hamill, who was of course replaced by Troy Baker). They’re all good in those games, and they’re all good inÂ Blackgate.
Blackgate Â constantly gets in the way of itself. It strikes a nice balance of exploration/combat for some decent stretches of time, but then it does that annoying thing that all Metroidvania games do where it requires players to backtrack to obtain an item in order to progress.Â Blackgate Â does thisÂ a lot, Â to the point where it’s almost unbearable. However, sticking with it will usually lead to another enjoyable stretch. Still, it’s irritating to, for example, figure out how to open a gate only to find a locked door behind it, leading to more backtracking.
Also, Batman just can’t seem to stay out of vents inÂ Blackgate. Â Were doors included in the blueprints for Blackgate Prison? If so, you’d think Batman would be able to use them. Instead, in the interest of “stealth” (which isn’t required at all inÂ Blackgate), Batman rips at least 72 covers off ventilation shafts and then crawls through them at .5 mph to reach a new area. The new area usually has a door in it that LEADS DIRECTLY BACK TO THE AREA HE ENTERED THE SHAFT IN. The thing is, he couldn’t open the door from the opposite side. Batman, the world’s greatest detective, can’t open doors. Gotham City is screwed.
As I mentioned,Â Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate Â has some good stretches, and because of that it’s an OK game. It’s merely playable because much of it is a drag. I believe Armature could create a great Batman-style Metroidvania game, but they haven’t yet. They developed one that is interesting, but filled with all sorts of inconveniences. The handheld crowd is still begging for a worthy Batman game. They’ll have to keep waiting.