Wasn’t at all planning to write a review for this game. Bit strangely enough, I had a lot of interest from friends who saw me playing the title on PSN. Well for you interested folk, this game is quite a treat.
Development has changed hands for the third instalment in the franchise, with Warner Bros. Games Montréal taking the helm. Along with that announcement, came the news that Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate, a 2.5D spinoff title was hitting the 3DS and PS Vita. I was a little hesitant to get excited when the title was announced, as I was worried the PSVita title would be little more than an uprezzed version of it’s 3DS counterpart (It happens).
Oh how wrong I was. What I need to point out first, is just how gorgeous this title looks on the PSVita. Character models are highly detailed and probably the best I’ve seen on the handheld. Animation is smooth and natural, with the ragdoll engine standing out, especially when Batman lays a slow motion drop kick onto a poor bad guys face. All this aside what really stood out for me are the animated cut-scenes. These are vibrant, frequent (but not too frequent) and really remind you that you’re playing a comic book game. Kudos to the folks who a hand in making these as it really sets the game apart from it’s home console counterpart.
Gameplay is of course what makes this game such a treat. It plays exactly like the home console versions but simply in 2D. I didn’t think it would work, but somehow it does. Perhaps it’s a testament to just how good the gameplay is in the older titles. Batman explores Arkham and Blackgate prison from left to right (and vice versa), this may sound quite simplistic but with most of the environments being multi levelled also, it means some locations are quite large. Secret locations and tunnels also help to expand the prison environment the game is largely set it. Touch screen controls are also implemented to utilise some of Batmans legendary gadget filled inventory. These rarely get in your way and use cleverly both in combat and exploration, which was refreshing to see on the handheld.
As much as I hate the term, “Metroidvania” is probably the best and most accurate description of how the title plays. Exploration is encouraged, with the promise of possibly finding items which improve our heroes stats and abilities. But the exploration will also lead you to areas in which you cannot advance, with you needing a certain item to get through. These items are obviously gained through story progression and unlike some titles in the genre, I never had the issue of the game not failing to explain or hint as to where I needed to go next.
Combat is a huge part of the game. What surprised me was just how close the combat is to the console versions. To keep it brief it’s exactly the same. Attacking, dodges and counters are all here to play with and master. And of course building up that combo meter is as thrilling and tough as ever.
Story wise I won’t spoil this by going to much into it. The premise is pretty much the same seen in Batman: Arkham Asylum. And takes place sometime after that title. Things have gone ape shit in Blackgate prison this time and it’s up to the caped crusader to go in and sort those pesky prisoners out (Does Gothams Police department do anything?). You will find popular heroes and villains all having a part to play in the narrative. But not just popular characters are featured; you will find a few obscure characters/mentions which delve deeper into the Batman lore. Sure most of these may be lost on most people, but I found it a nice touch and it made my inner nerd smile with glee.
One criticism of the game is its length. I found the game lasted around 10 hours, which I guess is long for a handheld title of this kind. But I found this limited the story and made it come to an abupt and unexpected end. The game does attempt some longevity with the addition of collectibles and sides quests in the form of “detective cases”. But these boiled down to scouting for and collecting items in the hope of solving these cases, which in turn help fill in some back story.
Overall I cannot recommend this game highly enough. Stunning visuals, great game play, non-obtrusive touch screen elements and a satisfying narrative make this one of the few stand out titles on the PSVita.
So please do go and save Gotham, someone has to.
- Stunning Visuals
- Fun slightly retro gameplay
- Great Story
- Brilliant Voicework
- A little on the short side