Small-scale escapades with Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate

Once I’m done with a few other games on my plate, namely Adventure Time: Pirates of the Enchiridion, I plan to move on and finally play Batman: Arkham City. Well, start it again; I did play a wee bit of it on the ol’ PlayStation 3…uh, some long time ago. Anyways, I got another copy of it in a Black Friday bundle last year with Batman: Arkham Asylum for Xbox One, which I’ve already played and enjoyed, but it was actually cheaper to get both than purchase Batman: Arkham City on its own. Yeah, go figure, right? My cart total came to…$5.33. I’m all about them cheap-o gaming experiences. But that’s not at all what this post is about; I’m here to talk to you about Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate, which is a big Batman game on a tiny screen.

Taking place shortly after the events of Batman: Arkham Origins, Blackgate attempts to bridge the story gap between Batman: Arkham Asylum and its recent prequel. In this one, Batman learns of a robbery that leads to his meeting the feline burglar Catwoman. As events quickly unfold, the temptress leads the Caped Crusader to Blackgate Prison, home of Gotham’s criminals who haven’t been deemed criminally insane and consequentially sent to the much more infamous Arkham Asylum. The villains already behind bars, the most nefarious being Penguin, Black Mask, and the Joker, have managed to escape from their cells and take control of the joint. With the rest of the inmates at their employ, Batman must stop the complete takeover of the prison. It’s a decent setup, but it does feel a bit samey when you think of how events went down in Batman: Arkham Asylum.

What is Blackgate, other than a mouthful of a game title? Well, it’s a Metroid-style Dark Knight adventure designed by a few of the top people behind the three Metroid Prime games on GameCube and Wii. Their new studio is called Armature, and this is their big debut. In this, you are the titular Batman, exploring Blackgate Prison, automatically filling out a map as you search for clues about how to get from one part of the game world to the next. As you go, you’ll discover obstacles that are in your way and then, somewhere down the road, find new abilities and gadgetry that let you pass those obstacles. Shocking, I know. Also, there are enemies to fight, and the combat is handled similarly to the main entry series, wherein rhythm and timing is your best bet to remain standing at the end. Blackgate is two-parts detective work and one-third combat.

As I’m wont to do, I played a small amount when I first got Blackgate…and then put it down and completely forgot about it after a few days. Shame on me, but also…that’s just totally me. Well, I loaded it back up recently. My save slot says I’ve played a total of one hour and twenty-four minutes, which puts me at a 21% completion rate. All right then. Thankfully, it immediately told me where to go to next to move the story along–the lighthouse. However, getting there still proved troublesome as I completely forgot all the controls or how anything works, such as using detective mode to find clues in the environments you are navigating. Don’t worry, it eventually all came back to me, just took a few attempts.

While the story itself is not very engaging, the way it is told is super stylish, using somewhat animated comic book-like panels for its cutscenes, with strong voiceover work from the eclectic cast. That said, everything else visually is a bit bland and samey, and many of the environments are simply gray and drab, which makes it hard to know where you are because every place looks identical. There’s a map, but I didn’t find it too helpful when I really needed it; that said, the menus for the cases you are investigating and the gear/armor you have found are nicely done and full of vital information.

I truly intend to keep going with Blackgate and not immediately drop it like a bag of bat guano in a few days, but truth be told all it is doing is getting me excited for the larger-than-life series on the Xbox One, of which I’ve already installed Batman: Arkham City. I suspect I’ll be better at the combat when I can actually see what is going on instead of squinting at a tiny screen and hoping for the best.

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