Batman Arkham Origins Blackgate Review Part1

November 17, 2013

Screenshot Batman Arkham Origins Blackgate taken with PS Vita

Batman Arkham Origins Blackgate (BAO Blackgate) is the PS Vita iteration of the popular games in the Arkham franchise. On the Arkham timeline the story told in Blackgate is set after the events of  Batman Arkam Origins , and has Batman investigate a hostage situation in the Blackgate prison.

Story

In Batman Arkham Origins Blackgate our favourite vigilante heads to Blackgate prison where a hostage situation is going on. The prison is divided in roughly three different areas where three of the main villains have burrowed themselves in.

The player is free to choose the order in which he plays through the different areas and takes on bosses , but expect the game’s level design to make sure that one will naturally travel back and forth between locations. Upon completion players will experience a different ending depending on the way they chose to go through the game, this offers replayability for completionists.

Graphics

Batman and the Blackgate prison look great, but there was something about the aesthetic of the run of the mill villains which I disliked. Bats truly looks good, but compared to him there is less detail in the looks of these low level enemies who try to stop you from taking down their bosses.  On regular occasions the game triggers cut-scenes which essentially are fancy animated stills supported by impeccable voice acting especially on the parts of Batman and the Joker.

Story wise the game is at it best when these two interact, and on occasion I literally found myself laughing out loud by some of the fun Joker has at the expense of Batman.

Gameplay & Controls

Like I have stated above BAO Blackgate is the handheld game in the Arkham universe, but this doesn’t mean that gamers should expect the same type of gameplay. Batman Arkham Origins Blackgate on both PS Vita and 3DS presents itself as a Metroidvania style game and in terms of backtracking and unlocking moves it is.

Metroidvania games characterize themselves as 2D side-scrollers with elements of platforming, and a heavy emphasis on exploration and upgrading of equipment and or skills. Imagine a game where the interconnected levels/room all have their own secrets to discover and depending on your progress you unlock the tools needed to fully explore and defeat the game. Popular and very well received entries in the Metroidvania genre are games like; Metroid, Castlevania and more recently on the Vita: Guacemelee.

Touchscreen & Hacking & move controls

Compared to some of those classic games Batman Arkham Origins Blackgate does have a slower more investigative vibe, which considering you are playing the world best detective shouldn’t be a surprise. The player uses the touchscreen to scan Batman’s surroundings, revealing interactive parts of the level which were previously unseen.

This makes perfect sense for the many collectables and secrets documents the player finds scattered around Blackgate , but sometimes the world’s best detective can’t interact with objects simply because the player hasn’t scanned them yet, even though there whereabouts are already obvious to the player. There were times when playing the game that it felt like a chore to scan every part of the levels. An act which slows the pace of the game down, mainly because Batman can’t move while scanning.

Truth be told this feeling is also very indicative of my wish to collect as many secrets as I could. I can see how players who  use the scan option only when they are stuck, feel differently about this feature.

But seeing how this translates to my experience as a gamer, I personally would’ve liked to see Batman do better in the multitasking department. I think that if the developer had chosen to let the player scan Batman‘s surroundings with the rear touchpad instead of the front touchscreen and also allowed Batman to move while in the process of doing so would have made discovering the secrets within levels more fun.

The PlayStation Vita hardware is equipped with an accelerometer and players can make use of this feature when doing the hacking mini-game. Because Blackgate is a prison certain doors are electronically locked, with the use of security passes Batman can hack specific terminals to these doors. The hacking mini-game is simple but a nice change of pace. Players can use either the button controls or tilting the PS Vita to find the correct sequence of numbers amidst a field of wrong codes.This right code (password) has to be found within a set amount of time before location where the password is hid resets. Using the accelerometer to do so works very well.

Thats it for part 1, hopefully you guys enjoyed my thoughts. Check back tomorrow for the part 2 of my Batman Arkham Origins Blackgate review, where italk :) about the game’s level design, combat and give you my recommendation.

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