[Vita Review] Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate
Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate is a 2.5-D game developed by Armature Studio that brings the Batman Arkham experience for the first time to Nintendo and Sony handheld systems. A companion game to Batman: Arkham Origins, players can continue the storyline of the console version and discover more details of the Dark Knight’s past.
Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate is a direct sequel to Batman: Arkham Origins on PS3, and it shows us what happens after Batman defeats the main villains of the console game and they are sent into Blackgate. It was developed by Armature Studio, which has some people who worked on the Metroid Prime series, which means that I learned that this game would be a 2.5D Metroid-style game, I definitely wanted to review it. For those that don’t know what Metroid is, it’s one of Nintendo’s flagship franchises, one that favors exploration and rewarding players with new items or skills that will allow them to go back to previously visited areas to unlock new sections or open the way into new areas. It’s something that the 2D portable Castlevania games took to heart on the GBA and DS, and now Sony fans can get a taste of the action in a similar package.
Most of the combat from its big console brother carries over to Sony’s portable, and you will be able to leap out of danger, use your cape to stun enemies, use your gadgets (even though you start only with the Batarang), counter and combo your enemies with the advantage of worrying about them attacking from your left or right, even though the game has some of them move around the foreground of background to try and outnumber you, which makes you stay alert when fighting large groups of enemies (speaking of combos, there are some trophies for doing combos, and one of them is missable and can only be obtained in one specific section in the whole game, so do keep that in mind).
In Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate you can decide on what order to go after each of the three main bosses (Blackmask, The Penguin and The Joker), and whoever you defeat last will trigger an exclusive set of cut scenes once you complete the game. This means that if you want to experience the whole story, you have to complete the game three times while making sure the last boss you defeat is different from the last one. You can do this in a New Game Plus mode that carries over all detective cases you’ve found and Batsuit pieces you’ve secured, but gadgets and upgrades do not carry over and must be collected again. This also means that if you want to Platinum the game you WILL have finish it at least 3 times
The Vita also uses the touchscreen to enter detective move by tapping it, or you can touch and drag around the screen to discover hidden objects, uncover trails that would otherwise remain invisible, and investigate one of 14 cases to unravel inside of Blackgate prison. As you might expect, there are some trophies attached to this (one for solving your first case, another for solving all cases), and luckily they can all be found in a single run since you can go back to other areas and search for them up until the last fight before finishing the game (and you’ll be told when you can’t return to Blackgate Prison, in case you want to explore for a little longer).
Scanning also helps you find items to interact with (such as, for example, a hatch that can be opened by hitting it with the Batarang, or a rusty door that can be pulled down by using the Batclaw), and said items (as well as those that you have never scanned) show up in Green when you touch the screen and move the scanner over them. Scanning takes a few seconds, so you must make sure there are no enemies around you or you will surely be damaged before the scan is completed.
One problem with the game is that even though Batman moves in and out of the screen, hallways feature turns, and there are several height levels on some of the rooms, the map is presented in 2D as viewed from the top (as if it was a blueprint) which does mean you’ll get lost at some point in the game when trying to remember if the door you’re looking for is accessed on the main floor, by using a vent, or if you need to grapple to higher ground and then glide into a whole in the wall.
Another issue is with glitches in the game which made me have to shut-off the game and restart from the last saved checkpoint since Batman once fell into the floor and never returned, and another time he was stuck next to a vent in the wall when he suddenly made everything in the game turn into monochromatic polygons with no textures. Nothing too big and it will only set you back 5-10 minutes to reload your last checkpoint, but something to consider. As always, back your saves to the cloud (if you have PS+) in case something worse happens.
As an extra bonus, if you’ve played Batman: Arkham Origins on PS3, the game will unlock a special Batman suit you can use to reduce gunfire damage by 50%, and since each game is different (and has a different story), playing both is worth your time and money.
Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate is a solid game from Armature Studio that follows the Metroid formula and brings the Batman Arkham series to new territory. Getting everything in a single run will take you about 10 hours or so, and depending on the order you battle the bosses you will unlock a different ending that will unravel new information that ties the game to future releases. Other than some bugs that make you restart from a previous checkpoint, the game is a fun release, and hopefully we can get something similar next year with the extra polish it deserves.
[review pros=”Direct sequel to Batman: Arkham Origins Tight gameplay
Voice acting” cons= “Having to complete the game 3 times for the Platinum trophy Some glitches here and there” score=80]