How could playing as Batman not be cool on a train full of commuters?
Over the years I’ve seen some bad Batman games and in recent times on the current generation of consoles we’ve been able to enjoy some rather fine Batman games. Launched alongside the console older siblings, Blackgate is a 2.5D flick screen adventure that has graced both the PS Vita and the 3DS.
Having enjoyed, but not wanting more of the previous console games the choice had to be the Vita. Well, unlike the Dark Knight we love, Blackgate is full of style and sadly lacking in substance. Graphically it stands up with some quality visuals, the environment is detailed and gritty and the character movement is on the whole pretty good, but the nature of the game is where it falls down.
The developers have taken a turn down Metroid Street, which in some cases might not be a bad thing, but in a Batman game, I think players want more, more freedom, more ability to choose. On the whole Blackgate sadly suffers from feeling like a big, drawn out quicktime event.
The narrative of Blackgate takes Batman on a spin through the titular prison, facing off against Joker, Penguin and Black Mask. Pace wise it is a pedestrian affair, with mileage in the environment created through unlocking gadgets that send you back over old ground mostly to collect a collectible.
Back to the environment, lavishly detailed as it is, but it soon becomes apparent that Batman is stuck to fixed routes around the screen and while those routes can swing the environment around, effecting the 2.5D they can become a chore to traverse. Seeking out grates and tunnel entrances with Detective Vision, then scanning the area with the touch screen feels a bit ho-hum, not great use of a gadget. Handy prompts appear next to doors, targets, even the available grapple sites that allow the Batman to zip up and out of trouble are all clearly marked with button names. However some of these prompts have tiny hotspots, so spending time spinning on the spot throwing out cape flourishes rather than crouching to enter a tunnel can become a regular occurence.
Then of course, Batman can’t jump. That’s right, the Batman, he couldn’t even jump over a slice of bread if it was in his way. That’s enough about that.
The combat is the most fun part of the game and Bruce regularly stumbles on a group of goons with various weapons, where the freeflow style of brawling has been carried over, albeit rebuilt. Up close it is pretty cool to watch, but feels limited in the scope that you can employ as Batman is pretty much mixing it up thanks to your repeated bashing of a couple of buttons. Looks great over somebody’s shoulder, but starts to feel a bit dull after a while. Not to mention the first real boss fight, which is so painfully repeated in its patterns, you’ll soon be back to thinking about quicktime events.
Gadgets unlock as the story progresses in true Metroid style however, that’s not really Batman’s style is it? Then of course there are side ‘missions’ i.e. collect documents in secret rooms. There is also some dalliance with Catwoman from the intro and she supports you through the narrative, but even she can’t explain why there are crates of Batman gadgets scattered around a high security prison.
Overall, that’s it, lifeless, too structured to make fun use of the Dark Knight, some slightly dodgy controls and a relatively dull experience in a flashy coat, sorry cape. I wanted to like this game a damn sight more, but I can’t.
Blackgate: more of a quiet night in than a Dark Knight out.