Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate (Nintendo 3DS) Second Opinion Review

By Drew Hurley 28.06.2017

Review for Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate on Nintendo 3DS

The Arkham series of games are without a doubt some of the finest superhero-based video games of all time, delivering a rich world that rivals any incarnation seen in the comics. Thanks to that series, fans got the best Joker of all time, taking Mark Hamill's legendary performance from the animated series and unbelievably improving on it. It helped that the gameplay was superb, too. Handheld spin-offs rarely live up to their big brothers, though, and this Metroidvania style 2.5D scroller from Armature Studio has a high standard to live up to.

This was the first original work for Armature Studio, having only have produced the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection on PS Vita. Blackgate launched on both Vita and 3DS, and is set months after Batman: Arkham Origins. Commissioner Gordon calls in Batman to help at the prison, when a huge explosion and a mass inmate escape proves too much for the GCPD. Batman arrives to find the inmates running the show; they've taken hostages and some of the major players are claiming their own little plots of territory within Blackgate. Batman has to bust in, bust some heads, save some hostages, and restore law and order.

The prison has been split into the territories of Black Mask, The Penguin, and The Joker. Three unique zones for Batman to take on in any order he sees fit, though, like all Metroidvania titles, there is plenty of revisiting of each area as new abilities are unlocked. The Penguin has taken over the cells, Black Mask is trying to control the power system and The Joker is placing claim on the offices and administration areas, including the staff inside them. This story feels overly familiar to what has come before, with the Blackgate setting having just been explored in Origins, and the story of inmates taking over the Asylum already done better in the original Arkham Asylum.

The Metroidvania style is in full effect, giving the Caped Crusader just his trusty Batarang when he first arrives on the scene (Batman with no prep time is worthless!), then placing numerous obstacles through each area that require specialist tools to overcome them. It's a common theme in Metroidvania games, and one that can make or break the title. Thoughtful design is needed in locations, and backtracking to not end up making the player sick of revisiting the same zones. Thankfully, the design here is great, introducing tools at regular intervals and appropriately spacing the backtracking so that it never feels like a chore. These tools are going to be very familiar to players of the main series; the Batclaw to grab onto things and pull them down, the Explosive Gel to blow open walls, the Grapnel Gun to zip line across huge gaps.

Screenshot for Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate on Nintendo 3DS

The combat feels very much like the original system. The same sort of hit, dodge, counter system, just in 2.5D - and that 2.5D sadly makes it all feel less fun. The combat is not quite as smooth, and switching between enemies never really feels right and always feels far too easy, just mashing away at the Y button. It's a shame they tried to translate the same combat to the portable and didn't develop their own combat system, as it instantly forces comparisons to be drawn to the original and makes this combat feel so much worse for it. Thankfully, there are some interesting boss encounters and sections that help make up for it, taking on the big three villains, along with some other iconic comic crooks, like Deadshot.

Other familiar aspects of the now iconic series are adapted, too. The familiar "Detective Mode" makes a welcome return, as does the stealth gameplay it was based around. Bruce can duck and crawl through vents and shafts, using this tech to identify interactive aspects of the environments and to track enemies as they patrol.

Visually, the game is a real surprising treat. Although it's filled with linear pathways, smart design is used to hide its flaws. The paths twist and turn around corners, with the camera following smoothly behind. It's just a shame that the environments are so repetitive and lifeless. Blackgate Prison is made up of room after room of the same dull colours and concrete rooms. It really puts a dampener on playing through, and especially in this type of game where backtracking is a necessity, but everywhere just ends up looking the same. This is all during gameplay, although the story moments are told via a faux comic book style that never really hits the mark and again impacts the overall aesthetic style.

Screenshot for Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate on Nintendo 3DS

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

With so many handheld tie-in games being absolute abominations, it's so great to see one that delivers the same level of quality (almost) as the main series. This was a real pleasant surprise and a hidden gem that may have passed many fans of the original - and if so, it's one worth tracking down. The combat may be a bit repetitive and the story lacklustre, but the core gameplay redeems it.

Developer

Armature

Publisher

Warner Bros

Genre

Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10 (2 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

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