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Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate - Review
Transforming big console games into portable adventures is no easy feat. The likes of Resident Evil Revelations are few and far between; most games have to sacrifice something in order to work on the 3DS or Vita. In Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate, that sacrifice was one of the game's dimensions. Gone is the fully 3D world and in its place is a 2D environment on which to take on Gotham's bad guys.
Even with the significant change, a lot of things manage to stay the same. Combat is still your typical free-form fighting, with one button to attack and another to initiate counter-attacks. Likewise, you slowly pick up new gadgets as you progress: Batarangs, the Line Laucher, Explosive Gel, they're all present and accounted for.
Despite all this, there's a lot that doesn't quite work with Blackgate. Armature Studio have taken elements that'll be familiar to Batman fans but the application doesn't work the same once you've crammed it all into a smaller device. Take the combat, as mentioned it works almost identically to the home console titles...except on the 3DS and Vita there's a limit to how many enemies fit on screen. As a result, fights at the beginning of the game are the exact same as those six hours later. A few new enemies might require a different approach, but the combat, along with every encounter, fundamentally remains the same.
The exploration side, meanwhile, has also been lifted wholesale from previous games. Armature Studios have amped up the "Metroidvania" aspect of Blackgate's gameplay. This shouldn't be too surprising considering that Mark Pacini, the game's director, also directed Metroid Prime 2 and 3. This means that you'll have to do lots of running back and forth between the three different areas of Blackgate prison, unlocking new areas as your collection of gadgets increases. There's a much slower pace to Blackgate's gameplay which should have opened up the chance for more thoughtful puzzles and inventive exploration. Unfortunately, the extent of the game's puzzles involves scanning rooms with your Bat-Vision by tapping the 3DS's lower screen and analyzing items of interest.
Since the game's plot acts as a prequel to Arkham Origins, there's very little room to tell a decent story. The same villains show up, with the Penguin, Black Mask, and the Joker each having control over different areas of the prison. This is another major problem with Blackgate. Each area suffers from any distinguishing features and means plenty of traipsing through dull, very grey, environments that suffer from muddy textures and unimaginative enemy designs. With no interesting story, or mystery, to solve the whole thing can quickly become a chore to play through.
Even the bosses, while not terrible, suffer from a lack of imagination, and fall into a rinse-and-repeat routine in most circumstances. Some, such as the fights with the Penguin and Black Mask, are the most infuriating stop-start affairs. You don't necessarily feel empowered as Batman and the battles rely so much on trial and error that any excitement quickly wanes.
With the constant back and forth design of the levels, Blackgate certainly isn't a short game. With auto-saving upon entering every room it does at least work as a very portable title, enabling you to sneak in an extra fifteen minutes here and there and actually get things accomplished. The frankly atrocious map design though, by far one of the game's biggest flaws, will leave you stuck on several occasions and pad out that runtime even further, especially if you're trying to get at all of the game's hidden collectibles. The map, which appears on the 3DS's lower screen, is from a 2D perspective, and doesn't take into account the fact that various areas that have multiple levels of height, or that occasionally, Batman can move into the foreground in order to access another room. Because of this, you'll regularly find yourself hopelessly lost in relation to your position on the map; which isn't great when the game places such an emphasis on level navigation.
Blackgate is not necessarily terrible, but it is bland, and suffers from a workmanlike approach to trying to create a Batman title for portable consoles. With a slower pace to the gameplay, Armature Studios could have worked in a lot more taxing puzzles to really emphasize the fact that Batman is a thinking hero and not just a fighting one. What we're left with though is the console trilogy of Batman games uncomfortably shoved into a tiny, stripped down, portable version.
There's plenty of game to play here but it's of dubious quality and the repetition wears any interest after a couple of hours. Throw in some rather annoying graphical glitches that cause the game to have to be rebooted from time to time and this is a rather underwhelming start to Batman's life on the 3DS and Vita.
Batman Arkham Origins: Blackgate was released worldwide on October 25th for Nintendo 3DS and Playstation Vita.
This review is based on the 3DS version.
© 2013 LudoLogic