The Batman: Arkham series has performed highly for the last two games, but whether Batman Arkham Origins: Blackgate – the first handheld Batman title – can step up to the plate is a whole new question.
Blackgate was not developed by Rocksteady Studios, the series creators, or even Warner Bros. Games Montreal like Origins, but was rather done by Armature Studio as their first original game.
From the very start of the game, Armature kept true to other games in the series, with similar art style and the same voice actors as used in Origins. It is easy to see that Armature Studios worked closely with Montreal to keep the story cannon but spoiler-free, making this a brilliant companion piece that can be played in any order.
With a 2.5D display, Blackgate has very little frame-rate or screen-tear issues and the gameplay feels smooth yet solid. Even with the depth of 3D graphics, animations, ledges to swing to, and the 90 degree camera rotations, the side-on view often feels like a side-scroller. However, the game is quite plain. There is hardly any variation with level design and the colour palate is stuck on grey, brown and a mixture of the two. Detective mode shows off slightly more colour, adding in blue and orange. While Blackgate looks exciting, it ends up feeling monotonous.
Due to the 2.5D display there is only so much can be done, which is predominantly running back and forth, unlocking doors, and taking down the rare pack of enemies. The best part of the gameplay is the combat but there is just not enough. The majority of the time you run from room to room, trying to decipher the barely readable map, attempting to open a door you can’t find. Backtracking is a common occurrence, especially after obtaining the required upgrade. There is nothing new in terms of gadgets either, they are exactly the same from previous games, and are stashed conveniently around Blackgate Prison in Wayne Enterprises boxes. When you do eventually encounter a combat scenario, they will grab your attentions and you’ll be entirely focused and engrossed in the action. It is a shame these fights are all so short lived and simple, it leaves you yearning for more, and yet doesn’t provide.
Blackgate’s biggest downfall is the lack of game modes. There is nothing on offer other than the story. Sure, there are a few hidden objects during the campaign, but it could benefit from some challenge maps to show off the awesome combat system. They could easily have shortened the story, or minimize the pointless backtracking, to give us such a mode but instead we are left with nothing once the story is complete. Thus, there is very little replayability.
Overall, Batman: Arkham Origins: Blackgate is a solid PS Vita game with good visuals, an interesting story and some pretty fun gameplay elements. Nevertheless, it falls short in terms of gameplay modes, replayability and, at times even enjoyment. I can’t imagine there being any different on the 3DS version either.
Final Round Rating - 6.5/10
- Frank van der Merwe