Taking place roughly 3 months after Batman Arkham: Origins (still in Batman’s early years of crime fighting) a mysterious explosion at Blackgate prison has allowed for three master criminals Penguin, Black Mask and The Joker to each claim a portion of the penitentiary for themselves as they begin their uprising against the opposing crime bosses and those who put them there. Although it seems something much more stranger is at work here.
Batman Arkham Origins Blackgate is a funny game in terms of aesthetics, from a distance this game looks brilliant but come too close and its finer flaws are clearly visible. The trade-off however is that whilst running this game is completely smooth, no frame rate issues or hiccups, which makes perfect sense to me. The story portions of this game are presented in still hand drawn images with the appropriate voices to accompany them. The voices provided are the same actors who have also portrayed their respective characters in Arkham Origins. Roger Craig Smith as Batman and Troy Baker as Joker just to name a few, which goes without saying that the calibre of the talent is sensational and the voice acting is certainly a strong suit of the game.
Developers Armature are an exceptionally tightknit company with great accomplishments and achievements in Nintendo’s Metroid franchise and boy have they transferred their previous games’ mechanics over. Blackgate takes an interesting approach to exploration by introducing a 2.5 Dimensional plain as you apprehend criminals, seeing as this game has only been released on portable consoles it’s the perfect idea to fully capture the hostile environment that is Blackgate prison. Unfortunately this method made it quite difficult for me to navigate the maps to find points of interest, which usually wouldn’t be too bad, but this game requires quite a large amount of backtracking to various locations once certain tools have been unlocked or tasked accomplished.
Another significant difference between its console entries is that rather than utilising an experience points system to level up the Dark Knight, Armature have imported their exploration/discovery method of finding Bat-gadgets and Bat-Upgrades. This is a breath of fresh air to the series and forces the player to keep a sharp eye for anything out of place that may lead to an upgrade, such as armour or parts of a new bat suit.
Controls play out quite well, utilising aspects of the Vitas touchscreen and gyroscope for detective mode and hacking respectively. Although fans of the series coming directly from the console counter parts may find that in terms of button presses there is a bit of latency or unrecognised presses that can hinder your progress momentarily. Predator rooms are once again present and offer you the opportunity to intimidate and instil fear into your prey by means on tactful take down. Although not as many gadgets are available in Blackgate as fans may be used to, the essentials are still there. You can snare enemies from gargoyles, bat claw enemies off ledges, batarangs to distract and silent takedowns. All said tools serve at maximum performance. Armature have also bought over free flow combat which to describe accurately I would say is on par with Arkham Asylum, no multiple counters can be performed and this is where a brief moment in control responses fails in the counters and stuns, apart from that chaining together hits and building combos as you evade attacks is fluid and fun.
Batman Arkham Origins Blackgate is essentially a smooth transfer from its console counterparts, bar a few instances such as button latency and simple A.I during the free flow combat. The backtracking and confusing navigating can at time become frustrating but apart from these minor hiccups Armature have bought an admirable entry of the Arkham Series to the portable front. The exploration reward system is impressive and utilises tools that certainly do make you become the world’s greatest detective. Blackgate improves on Batman’s and Captain Gordon’s developing relationship and the tutorial segment sees Batman introduced to Cat woman with their relationship being portrayed very similar to comic book lore.
Like I said an admirable entry from Armature Studios, they have handled their job well introducing the Arkham series to handhelds but unfortunately I think this game will only appeal to those who are already involved with Batman via means of comics, movies or games.