A long time ago, Batman was cursed. Back in the old generations of consoles, stretching back to even the Commodore 64, most games about the caped crusader tended to be mediocre, with some exceptions. This cycle continued to go, fated to meet the same end as the Superman games. And then everything changed when the Arkham games flew onto the scene. Arkham Asylum breathed new life into the series, and Arkham City continued to bring forth better and improved gameplay. Both games yielded great result and power, and for a time, the curse seemed over. But Arkham Origins brought forth a sidekick to do battle with dark evil that once was the Batman curse. Unfortunately, it brought forth a trap for the 3DS, simply known as: Batman Arkham Origins Blackgate.
Blackgate is the sequel to Arkham Origins on the home console, and also released on the Playstation Vita as well. It was close to being a good Batman game and certainly feels like it belongs to the Arkham series given how everything is first presented. The introductory level shows promise by actually being good, getting you used to the controls as you chase Catwoman through the city by using your grappling hook to go to each building, and fend off several DEO officers. Also a decent set-up for the story as well, as in the Blackgate prison, Joker, Penguin, and Black Mask have taken over, each fighting over territory just as Batman arrives on the scene to save some innocent people and the criminals from killing each other, while Catwoman works in the background to aid and fulfill her secret agenda. Sadly, the story doesn’t delve much into any of the characters featured, or offer any real good scenes aside from intro level. It all feels like filler for this other organization that made an appearance at the end of Arkham Origins.
Visually, the game’s not quite as sharp or as good as Resident Evil Revelations was, with character models looking pretty ugly and enemy grunts’ skin looking pretty horrible, as if they were mangled up and dumped in sludge. Bosses don’t fare much either, like Black Mask looking like he just has a helmet. Still, Joker scares the living hell out of me now. Environments fare much better and definitely help the feeling like this is an Arkham game, especially as you zip to one ledge to another and try to solve puzzles. Sound quality and music is top-notch as well, though as for memorable tracks, I couldn’t find any.
Gameplay tries to be Metroid-style by having collectibles and upgrades scattered throughout the levels, and you’ll need to do a lot of backtracking to find them. Usually you’ll either find gadget, health, or damage upgrades, or pieces of a costume to wear with added buffs. For instance, the Blackest Night/Zombie Batman outfit allows for the user to be invincible. Probably the most fun I was pretending to be zombie-Batman as I watched the enemies uselessly attack.
In addition to these upgrades, you can also find evidence for cases relating to what happened in Blackgate, like how some of the inmates broke out and such. One you find them all, you can get concept art and read exactly what they did, though that isn’t really much to add. Detective mode helps in finding them as you have to hold down on the touch screen to closely examine everything from clues to actual things that can be affected by gadgets to find new paths and such, but this must be done to interact with nearly everything, so if you don’t do it first, you won’t be able to interact with it, save for maybe doors, becoming more repetitive and annoying as time goes on. And simply activating detective mode isn’t enough either.
Hacking also returns, but in a rather simple form, and doesn’t really use the tilt controls too well with how easy everything is. There are still elements of the other Arkham games, like using stealth to avoid enemies and the usual combat that involves timing with the counter and attack buttons. Unfortunately, they took out the ability to counter knife and stun baton attacks. This wouldn’t be so bad if it worked. Unfortunately, everything here falls apart because of one simple thing:
The controls weren’t that responsive.
See, trying to control Batman can sometimes be easy, watching him jump around just by attacking and knocking foes down is still entertaining. Sadly, things like dodging which should be simple are made difficult when the command will only work when the game feels like it. The same goes for gadgets, as even during puzzles they wouldn’t work until they felt like it. In fact, there was one part where the game completely cut me off from Batman and I had to restart the game. The combo counter is also very useless as in other games, you could use them to pull off special moves. Now, it really only serves to show how well you are doing and nothing more, save for maybe making the rage meter rise, which increases your attack power, save for in boss fights, or can even act as small damage shields in battle.
This is made even worse by the boss fights. They are almost all puzzle fights, usually involving stealth and environment use, to actually learning an enemy’s attack pattern. Battles like Solomon Grundy and Deathshot can be decently fun, but others like Joker and Penguin can be frustrating if you do not know what you are getting yourself into. There are also elements to these fights that simply do not make sense in the slightest. For instance, in the Penguin fight, you cannot harm the gun-wielding inmates at all, or anywhere you fight them. Maybe I’m just being a nitpicker, but there didn’t seem to be a reason for them to be invulnerable. Super powerful offensively? Sure, I get that at least. Other reason, not so much. And the controls definitely harm the “battle boss fights.” I use air-quotes as they are incredibly quick. If the controls did work, they would last less than a minute.
It may not seem like much, but with irritating controls, a rather boring story that fails to add anything intriguing like other Arkham titles, and a severe lack of fun with it all, I can’t recommend this game. Keep in mind that I played a download from the eShop on the 3DS, so either a physical copy or the PS Vita is probably better; the latter at least should have much better visuals. However, I just cannot like this game. There’s a new game plus too, and even the ability to have slightly different endings depending on which boss you defeat last, but it just wasn’t a good enough incentive. Point is: don’t make the same mistake I did. Apparently my stupid day finally arrived.
Batman Arkham Origins Blackgate earns a 2 out of 5. If the controls worked, odds are I could have had more fun with it, and maybe it would have bumped to a 3. Keyword here is maybe. If you want good, cheap Arkham games, Asylum and Arkham City remain your best bet, as they are the best of what the series has to offer, and incredibly fun.