Review: Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate (PlayStation Vita)

Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate: Official GBAtemp Review

PlayStation Vita 1,710 view 0 likes 5 comments
Reviewed by Thomas Hugh, posted Oct 22, 2013
There is always a lot of debate as to what qualifies as a Metroidvania game; Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate is a welcome addition that fits snugly into the genre. The game is a follow up to Batman: Arkham Origins released at the same time on PC, PlayStation 3 and XBox 360.
Oct 22, 2013
  • Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive
  • Genres: Metroidvania
  • Single player
    Local Multiplayer
    Online Multiplayer
    Co-operative
The developer Armature Studio was created from a few ex-members of Retro Studios, the developer behind the highly rated Metroid Prime Trilogy. Their first outing was on the PlayStation Vita in the form of the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection and they are currently working on the Injustice: Gods Among Us Ultimate Edition port, also for the Vita. Blackgate is the first title solely developed by Armature.
Thomas Hugh

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The game starts out with Batman learning from Captain Gordon that Blackgate Prison has been taken over by Black Mask, Joker and the Penguin. Each of the three evilties has taken over a specific portion of the prison which is split into 3 sections. Administration, Cell Blocks and Industrial. The story is set 3 months after the console game and is told with excellently animated comic book style cutscenes that are really well done and a pleasure to view. 

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The game is designed in 2.5D with movement and combat taking place on a 2D plane. The level design follows classic Metroidvania rules and the game world is like a huge puzzle box, with certain areas being inaccessible until you find the correct items and gadgets to grant access and allow progression. The only problem I had with this set up is the map.  It is a 2D map but is mapping a 2.5D/3D area which can become confusing and plenty of times I found myself opening up the map just to make sure I was heading in the right direction. I would have also liked to have a small touch screen icon on the lower right corner of the screen to access the map, as pressing the select button so often soon became a chore.

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Batman has a small arsenal of weapons and gadgets which will be familiar to anyone who has played the Arkham games. The Batarang, Line-Launcher and Explosive Gel all make a return here and all needed to fully explore the maps as well as take down enemies. There is also the Crypto Sequencer device that is used to open certain doors once the correct colour module is found. When activated, a hacking mini game pops up of match 3 numbers to open the door. You can move the selection box with the left stick or use the Vita's built in gyroscope for a bit of a novelty.  This is pretty fun the first few times it is used, but quickly becomes a tiresome exercise as the puzzle is used way too much with no variation at all.

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Combat is simplified from the console games but is familiar and fluid, with combos, cape stuns and counters all being present.  The combo gauge isn't as forgiving as it is in the other Arkham games, making anything above the 25 hit combo extremely difficult to pull off.  Brawls with basic thugs don't happen often enough and enemies don't respawn, making some sections a bit dull and backtracking less hazardous. Series staples such as glide kicking and stringing up enemies to perches are also available and are a viable option if you don't always fancy going head on with Blackgate's villains.

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Boss fights all differ in approach but are unforgiving until you figure out the exact sequence of how to proceed, sometimes involving using your gadgets in a certain way. I thought the Joker fight was the best of the bunch, but even that was over too quickly and once you know the pattern it becomes laughably easy to finish.

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Traversing the game world and finding the hidden paths and secret rooms was the best thing about the game for me. Movement is context sensitive kind of like Assassin's Creed. You hold down X to run and will auto jump onto platforms and grab ledges. The Grapnel Gun is used to reach higher levels with the R button and Batman can glide or use the Line Launcher to cross wider and longer areas of the map.

Detective Mode is used to find clues and seek out Wayne Tech crates that usually contain Batsuit upgrades such as armor or damage upgrades for the Dark Knight's Gauntlets. It is also a way to scan the area to highlight hidden paths or interactive objects, as well as gain information on enemies and obstacles. The scanning is operated via the front touch screen and although it works well I would have much preferred an option to use the rear touch pad, as it would have allowed me to keep a standard grip for the whole time I was playing. As you will be scanning every inch of every screen looking for a case clue or hidden collectible, you constantly have to move your right hand away from the buttons thus changing your whole grip on the Vita. A minor annoyance that could so easily have been an added option.

 

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Overall I think Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate is a solid entry to the series and is a great addition to the Vita's library. I have read of many people complaining that the Vita should have got a full 3D open world game like the console versions, but personally I am glad to get a different experience on a handheld.

Armature have shown they understand the genre and have created ways to make the source material fit into a Metroidvania style adventure, and with Igarashi no longer making Castlevanias, and who knows what Nintendo are doing with the next Metroid game, perhaps Armature can create a name for themselves as the go-to-guys in this ever popular genre.

 

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Verdict
Pros
+ Faithful Metroidvania design
+ Excellent comic book style cutscenes
Cons
- Not enough fighting
- Combo counter time out is harsh
8 Presentation
The graphics are crisp on the Vita and the levels within each area are highly detailed. The theme music and sound effects are all faithful to the Arkham universe. Even though the game plays out mostly on a 2D plane, the design is 3D with the camera constantly zooming in and out and panning around to capture all of the action.
7 Gameplay
The gameplay is solid with exactly what you would expect from a title touted as being a Metroidvania. Exploration is the main attraction and is often rewarded and progression doesn't feel linear. There isn't enough fighting though considering you are in a prison who's population are let loose to run amok!
8 Lasting Appeal
The game took me just over 8 hours to finish with a completion rate of 84%. You can play the areas and fight the 3 main bosses in any order you want, and you unlock a different ending and a special Batsuit part depending on who you face last. This gives the game 3 playthroughs for a 100% completion and the platinum trophy, good luck with that 100 hit combo though!
7
out of 10
Overall (not an average)
If you like the Metroidvania Genre then you will certainly like this game. If you go into it expecting the usual Arkham experience then you will most likely be disappointed. Armature have done a great job at slotting Batman into this not-used-enough genre and I hope they decide to bring out a sequel, or use another license or new IP and extend the formula.
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