I’ll admit, I rolled my eyes when Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate was announced for the 3DS and PSVita for release alongside the console versions of Arkham Origins this fall. Most handheld games that have a release which coincides with a larger version fall into the trap of having a limited, watered-down version of their console big brother.
However, after playing the 3DS version and having a short conversation with some of the developers at Armature Studios, the team behind the game, Blackgate shot up my “most wanted” list, more so than even the console title it’s attempting to augment.
Blackgate takes place about 3 months after the events which will take place in Arkham Origins, as Batman is lured into a prison break at Blackgate prison and must round up Gotham’s worst and restore order to the city.
The demo I played took place at the opening of the game, with Batman chasing down Selina Kyle in a typically-flirtatious cat-and-mouse which was designed to ease players into the mechanics of this new game, which admirably approximate the bigger versions while being usable for handheld gamers.
The game is presented on a mostly 2D plane with gorgeous 3D graphics. Occasionally the camera will rotate and move behind Batman in order to present a better view of the action, but mostly it feels like playing a diorama, ala LittleBigPlanet. The 3DS version makes no concessions for control, which was one of the main goals of the team and the reason behind the choice of perspective. By keeping all of the action flat, the necessity of having another stick to control the camera is nonexistent.
Speaking of the action, it moves as well as on the console versions, even if the scale is somewhat limited. There were only 4 or 5 enemies on screen at most times instead of the 8-10 seen on the console versions, and the Predator section I played featured 3 enemies and 3 hanging points compared to what we saw in the console version. Still, it works well and is challenging, as the enemies are well-aware of their surroundings and the game is well-balanced for the smaller scale of the encounters. Controls were responsive and adapted well to the 3DS, though there was one issue with the button placement of the ground finisher maneuver.
The narrative is told through a motion comic, which on the 3DS was well-presented in 3D. This would of course not be the case in the Vita version, but I was told the trade-off was that the Vita version ran at a higher resolution and was thus sharper and clearer. The 3DS version looked great, however, so those with access to both systems may want to lean more toward the 3DS version.
I was also told that the game would have equipment gating ala the past Arkham games where certain areas would be blocked off without access to certain equipment. This exploration would lead to story events and collectibles. Blackgate is more linear than Arkham Origins, but this is a fine trade-off for how well the game is adapted to the small screen and form factor of the handhelds.
Additionally, the team is moving away from XP and instead focusing on equipment for character buffs and progression. These equipment upgrades will be collected throughout the narrative as well as being hidden away for players to find.
In all, I’m excited by Blackgate and I can’t wait to get more time with it in the future. Provided the experience is robust enough in terms of length, this should be a satisfying companion to Arkham Origins that even outpaces its console brethren in many ways. It’s coming out the same day as Arkham Origins, on both PSVita and 3DS.