NOTE: I HAVE NOT PLAYED THE VITA VERSION OF THIS GAME, BUT HAVE PLAYED THE NINTENDO 3DS GAME TO COMPLETION.
When it was announced last year, Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate had a lot going for it, at least in my books: Firstly, it was an “Arkham” game I could take with me on the go, secondly I’m a huge fan of anything that borrows the exploration model of Metroid (I.E most of the post Symphony of the Night Castlevania games, 2009’s Shadow Complex on XBLA), and it was being crafted by some of the staff who reinvigorated the Metroid franchise with 2002’s stellar Metroid Prime.
Launching day and date with the console game Batman: Arkham Origins on both the Nintendo 3DS and Sony’s PS Vita, Blackgate wasn’t the sure fire hit it could have been. It suffered from a map that was at times too difficult to comprehend (something EXTREMELY important in a game like this) and tracking issues during the games predator sequence where the map widened so much that you couldn’t accurately keep track of Batman during tense stealth sequences. Despite these issues, deep down I knew they would eventually be fixed in a console port, much like it’s other up console port brothers Resident Evil: Revelations and Castlevania: Mirror of Fate HD.
So is Blackgate Deluxe a better game than it’s handheld siblings? Unfortunately not resoundingly.
Armature studios (the developer of the game) traded one difficult to read map for another. In the 3DS SKU of the game, the map was completely two dimensional on the bottom screen and didn’t properly reflect sections where you traveled into the background of certain rooms or through vents to come out on other sides of the map. The Deluxe edition of Blackgate has a redesigned map reflecting the three dimensionality of the map and looks like it was ripped straight out of a Metroid Prime game. In theory this should clear up the problem, but it just trades one set of problems for new ones. The map is clumped way too close together and you only zoom in and out to view it with no option to pan around, something you could ironically due in Metroid Prime thirteen and a half years ago. Truth be told I found myself getting lost way more in Blackgate Deluxe than the 3DS version.
Thankfully the second issue, that of losing Batman on the map during stealth sections, is fixed simply by having larger screen real estate, making those particular sections feel more like their big brother counterparts. Much like the issues with the games map, however, this creates another flaw in the game: Blackgate is simply a boring environment to navigate.
I’m not sure how one goes about making a prison an interesting, but this game more or less recycles the scenario from 2009’s Batman: Arkham Asylum which had uniquely distinct environments in the sub sections of Arkham island. Here each of the various parts of the look nearly identical to one another: bland cell blocks and industrial areas. The game lets you tackle the various sections in which ever order you choose, and for a lot of games that would be seen as a plus, but this title would’ve greatly benefited from being narrower in focus.
If it sounds like I’m coming across as harsh on Blackgate Deluxe (which is sounding a lot more like a pizza the more I type it out…) it’s because I really wanted to flat out love this game. I’m a mark for these type of games and this has all of the trappings of the other Arkham games down to the stealth sections, free-flow combat and traversal gadgets. The boss encounters are also some of the best in a series that is not well renowned for its boss fights, the story is also quite good, further developing on the post credits scene of Origins without spoiling the events of the game it follows up on. Also for something that’s labeled as “Deluxe”, the game doesn’t feature anything the 3DS version doesn’t have, outside of a costume or two you unlock by linking up with your WBID.
I can’t condemn Blackgate Deluxe as a package overall, and fans of the Arkham universe of games or Metroid fanatics would be doing themselves a disservice by not checking it out. It just frustrates me that this chance to do over had the potential to correct the portable Blackgate’s mistakes but instead proceeds to build new ones.