Yup, another Vita title. I’ve been playing a lot of Vita lately and have been having a blast. The latest title I’ve recently finished was Batman Arkham Origins Blackgate which is a companion to the console releases back in 2013. It plays as a 2.5D side scrolling version of the main games. In many ways it works very well, but there are also some major flaws with the title that should be talked about, but nothing that would warrant avoiding it.
It’s a decent handheld title that can be picked up and put down almost at will thanks to frequent automatic save points. I wish more games adopted that mechanic. I mainly finished the game by playing for an hour or more at a time but there were plenty of times I could pick up for only 10 minutes, advance the story a bit and pick it back up later without losing that progress.
The story is based around taking Blackgate prison back from Joker, Penguin and Black Mask. You can choose to take them on in any order but it seems like there is a recommended order. While you have freedom of choice you can choose to adhere to everything the game says and it will take you through the game in a set order. That’s what I did and had a good experience. Throughout the game Catwoman helps you out by providing hints and guiding you where to go.
In true Metroid-vania fashion there is a lot of back tracking and this is one of the more tiring aspects of the game. The actual gameplay area isn’t very large so you quickly learn the lay of the land and get tired of passing through the same areas time and time again. By the fourth time I passed through the administration building there were no bad guys left and the whole place felt empty and lifeless.
Speaking of bad guys the combat is exactly what you expect from a modern Batman game. The same smooth mechanics from the console games make their way to the handheld and work very well most of the time. During some boss fights the controls can get a little finicky. You also have to wait for on-screen prompts to appear before being able to duck into floor vents which can really mess up a certain boss fight. After my fifth death on this fight I reset the game and it was fine but multiple times I found that having to wait for prompts was not only annoying but also inconsistent in when they wanted to work.
Overall it’s a good experience with just enough story to keep the gameplay moving along. If you are expecting a new, great Batman story then prepare for disappointment. There are some cool parts and the addition of Amanda Waller’s part in the game certainly adds to it. However the story is just as shallow as it appears. Deep enough to move you along with motivation but nothing ground breaking.
Where the game really shines is the atmosphere. For most of the game, before you take out most of the bad guys, the atmosphere is great. The art direction makes this game look and feel like the console games. They do a great job of making a 2.5D game feel like a fully realized area. It feels like a shrunken down console game and that’s a very good thing.
Where the game falls apart is all the backtracking and the map system that could have been done better. It does the job and once you learn how to read it you can use it well but it does come with a learning curve. The 2.5D presentation can definitely make orientating yourself on the map difficult and make the backtracking areas artificially longer because of not being able to correctly decipher the map.
To make matters worse as you near the end of the game you are forced to into a backtracking mission purely to extend the game it seems. Minor Spoiler: If you follow the path the game sets for you, you will end up fighting all three main bosses one after another and then finally gain access to the Arkham Wing where you will use a few mechanics that are not explained or have been used yet to access the vault. Once you figure it out you are then tasked with going back though the area you just came from to rescue hostages that are scattered throughout. By this point in the game I was just ready to finish it.
Once the game was over and I reflected on the experience, I really enjoyed most of my time with the game. It was a fun adventure set in a universe that you can’t help but like. As cheap as the game is now it’s definitely something that I’d recommend as it can be finished in a long afternoon and can be found on the 3DS, PS3 and 360 as well.