Everyone and his or her mother are undoubtedly psyched for Batman: Arkham Origins, but that news overshadowed something that piqued my interest just a tad more than that: its Blackgate spin-off.
Arkham Origins Blackgate works as a portable companion game to Arkham Origins, existing solely on handhelds and being set three months after the events of its bigger console brother.
While both the Vita and 3DS versions were available to play at New York Comic Con’s show floor, I thought I’d see how the 3DS one fared, especially given its lower visual fidelity when pitted against the Vita.
I must say that Armature Studio had me at “Metroidvania” with this game. Blackgate will feature one continuous map that players can explore, with certain locations requiring newly-acquired upgrades to reach. Even so, the full game will let you tackle its bosses in any order you like.
Unfortunately, the demo didn’t really show off this continuous map aspect, instead focusing on an early linear sequence where Batman is tasked with chasing after Catwoman.
The game is purely 2.5D, with Batman only being able to move left and right. Everything is modeled in 3D with some admittedly splotchy textures. Nevertheless, the game makes use of some interesting camerawork to make things look atypical from your usual Metroid or Castlevania.
If I had to make a comparison, Blackgate is much like Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate, in the sense that both manage to adapt their console compatriots’ control schemes surprisingly well on a 2D plane. Like previous Arkham games, combat is free-form, allowing you to start a combo with your first punch and granting the ability to shift from one enemy to another with just a direction and a button press. Countering is also included, and it still made me feel as badass as the previous games.
In addition to the funky new camerawork and the comic-styled cutscenes, I found it interesting how Batman would automatically move from the fore and backgrounds as he fought. It adds an interesting visual level of depth to the whole thing. This may be one you’ll want to turn the 3D slider up for.
And of course, what’s Batman without his tools? He has a few at his disposal, though not as many as previous games. You can still stun enemies and hit distant objects with a batarang, and the batclaw is the integral way of moving up to higher points. The x-ray-like “Detective Mode” from Arkham Asylum and City is readily available, allowing you to see the cones of vision from enemies for stealthy segments.
Aside from an annoying part that involved stealthily taking out three armed guards while evading detection by grappling between vantage points (sound familiar?), I had a pretty fun time with Blackgate. Unfortunately though, things turned sour when the fight with Catwoman suddenly led to the entire 3DS crashing on me. Whoops.
Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate will be available on the 3DS and the Vita, with a release date of Oct. 25. I’m still strangely looking forward more to this handheld iteration than the main console game.