Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate Review
Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate Box Art
System: PS Vita
Dev: Armature Studios
Pub: Warner Bros.
Release: October 25, 2013
Players: 1
Screen Resolution: 544p Blood, Mild Language, Mild Suggestive Themes, Use of Tobacco, Violence
Insert Batman Wordplay Here
by Justin Cloyd

Others besides Bruce Wayne have worn the Batman costume. This changing of the guard happens occasionally in the comics, when the unthinkable occurs to Mr. Wayne and someone else takes up his legacy. The change never lasts, though. It never feels right. And that same feeling exists in Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate. It looks like an Arkham game, has all the gadgets of an Arkham game, and shares the same gameplay as an Arkham game, but something feels off—it feels like someone else is behind the cowl.

Not that the effort isn’t there. Blackgate has all the Arkham moves. Its story comes straight from Arkham Asylum. A few months after the events of Batman: Arkham Origins, an explosion occurs in Blackgate prison that frees the prisoners and enables them to engage in all sorts of criminal shenanigans. With innocent lives in danger and the police outmatched, Batman descends upon the prison’s hallways with the intent to deliver grim justice.

The story is told through beautifully animated pictures that resemble something you’d see in an adult cartoon such as The Animatrix. Like the panels in a comic book, the images jump from moment to moment. The animation always works, and sometimes, it approaches downright brilliance (the Joker has a really clever joke written on the bottom of his shoes [seriously]).

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The voice work also never misses a beat. Every voice conveys the essentials of the character. Batman’s dark and grim tone holds that restrained fury; the Joker’s voice spikes up and down, a thin thread of sanity covering the chaos of nonsense underneath, and Catwoman’s teasing talk has the amused quality of someone that always knows more than you do. The visuals and sounds of the game work, but the routine nature of the plot anchors the story to charted waters.

Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate Screenshot

The gameplay of Blackgate, like a Bruce Wayne-less Batman, uses the same moves of the original but without the same finesse. The fights look like they borrow the punch-and-counter, rhythm-based flow that made the original games a success, but they don’t. Although enemies flash when attacking to indicate a counter opportunity, the counter itself isn’t necessary. Batman punches quickly enough to knock most standard enemies out of attacks, so unless there’s a weapon-wielding foe around, Batman can mindlessly brawl his way through the criminal hordes.

Another change that takes some adjusting to is the way you navigate levels. Blackgate very much resembles a classic side-scrolling game. Although the environments present the illusion of depth, Batman can only move left or right. He can go north or south, but only by entering a door or vent or performing some other sort of similar action. The side-scrolling level design, once adjusted to, would work fine if not for the confusing map.

Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate Screenshot

Three major areas make up Blackgate prison. The Joker controls one; the Penguin controls one, and Black Mask has the last. Batman will often find himself not only having to navigate back and forth in a specific area, but also between areas as well. Unfortunately, the map may tell you what room you need to go to for your destination, but it doesn’t tell you how to get there. It might not seem like too big of an issue, except that each main area of the game feels more like a maze than a traditional prison. You might be one room away from your destination when Batman suddenly turns a corner that puts you on a path to the opposite side of the map. A frustratingly large portion of the game is spent looking for the correct vent or door to enter that will lead you to your current objective.

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