Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate

Back in the days of the Game Boy Advance, you'd see loads of big name 3D games getting dodgy 2D outings on portables, as publishers sought to make a quick buck off the back of major franchises. They were almost always rubbish.

Fast-forward to 2013 and those awkward ports seem a million miles away. Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate has the tricky task of not only transposing the Batman: Arkham series' gameplay into 2.5D, but also creating a unique experience with the same level of quality as the rest of the series. Incredibly, it pulls it off.

This is a must-buy if you're a fan of the series already, and a damned fine adventure if you're not.

Once you go Bat, you never go back

If you've played a Metroid, Castlevania, or indeed a Batman: Arkham game recently then you know what to expect - you have access to a number of facilities, each under the control of a villainous enemy of The Batman. You'll gradually explore these 2.5D areas using every skill and gadget at your disposal.

The Batman can kick and punch his foes in hand-to-hand combat that places emphasis on counter-attacks and spatial awareness. Direct confrontation with any baddie holding a projectile weapon is usually a very bad idea. To neutralise armed goons you need to grapple up to ledges and swoop down from above.

The majority of the gameplay isn't focused on combat, though, and that's much to the game's advantage. Most of the time you'll explore further and further into the maze-like Blackgate, spotting ways around obstacles in your path, solving puzzles, and using your Detective Mode scanner to understand more about your environment and the mysteries surrounding it.

As you progress, you'll unlock new abilities that open previously inaccessible sections. Take the Line Launcher by way of example: once you have it you'll be able to zip over a vast chasm of Joker gas that would otherwise claim your life, granting you safe passage to the next key plot event.


It's a solid story, well told through tip-top voice acting. The stiff 2D animated cutscenes look cheap, but anything using the in-game engine is great. That engine is 3D, which means the camera can be (and often is) used to great effect: zooming into the final blow of a punch, presenting a sniper's eye view of a gun battle, and otherwise framing the action beautifully.

Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate is not without its flaws of course. Load times are a fraction too long, and occasionally the game stutters between areas. The targeting system for the grappling hook will occasionally latch onto the wrong piece of environment geometry at just the wrong moment, and there are aggressive difficulty spikes along the way.

Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate's biggest failing, though, is one of clarity. There's not enough map detail to make it an easily navigable adventure, and occasionally you'll have to work out the exact order in which the game wants you to solve its environmental puzzles.

There's a series of electric switches, for example, that you activate by striking them with a Batarang. You can plainly see that one of them is hidden behind ultra flimsy wooden panelling, but you can't just throw a Batarang at it to break it open. Instead you must first scan the area, then pull it down with the Bat Claw, and only then can you chuck a Batarang in its direction.

Some will enjoy this inflexible and hands-off approach to progress, but I found that whenever I was left scratching my head these irritations would begin to wear on my nerves.

Don't let that put you off, though, because in every other respect this is a great game that just happens to feature The Batman. It's a strong adventure that you'll sink plenty of hours into, exploring the world of Blackgate until you've unravelled every case and found every secret.

Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate

An excellent choice for gamers wanting a new Metroidvania on their Vita, this adventure with the Caped Crusader comes close to being a classic
Peter Willington
Peter Willington
Die hard Suda 51 fan and professed Cherry Coke addict, freelancer Peter Willington was initially set for a career in showbiz, training for half a decade to walk the boards. Realising that there's no money in acting, he decided instead to make his fortune in writing about video games. Peter never learns from his mistakes.