The Dark Knight's return to handheld gaming will feature multiple endings in an homage to classic old-school games of bygone eras.
Set after the end of Batman: Arkham Origins:, Batman: Arkham Origins: Blackgate puts Bruce Wayne's alter ego inside of Gotham's max-security prison after an mysterious explosion allows inmates to take over the facility. When I saw the game yesterday at PAX, Mark Pacini dev studio Armature told me that you'll be able to take down Blackgate's three bosses — Black Mask, Penguin or the Joker — in order that you like. Furthermore, the last half-hour of the game changes depending on who players take on last, with different endings rolling out in accordance that choice.
I got to play 3DS and Vita versions of the game and came away impressed at how Armature is transposing the feel of the console games onto a handheld. Camera angles constantly get switched up, which made the game feel more layered than a typical 2D sidecrolling title. And it's worth noting that the game definitely looked better on Vita.
The first mission I played had Batman's first ever encounter with Catwoman — at least in the Arkhamverse — as he ran into the burglar while she was stealing data from a government building. This intro mission introduced the basics and showed how the portable adventure feels in line with other recent Bat-games.
Even though it's in 2D, the fighting in Blackgate retains the multifaceted style established in Batman: Arkham Asylum. You'll need to counter and stun certain enemies in order to pummel them senseless. The environment's peppered with grapple points that Batman can hook onto and reel himself up. Other elements like removable grates and breakable walls will also make getting around the 2D game feel familiar.
Some of these entry points won't be immediately obvious and you'll need to activate Detective Vision by tapping the touchscreen of the Vita or 3DS. Once that viewing mode's active, sliding your finger on the screen will reveal points of interest and holding it on those points scans them for info. So, you'll learn that a broken elevator's cables can be cut to clear a path.
The second mission I played happened in Blackgate and, after being apprehended by Batman, Catwoman serves as his guide through the riot-wrecked prison. Mowing down wave after wave of thugs, I eventually wound getting the Batclaw, which let me make my way to the prison yard. Once there, I fought DC assassin character Bronze Tiger, who was being forced to participate in a fight club run by the Penguin.
As this boss fight unfolded, the instances where I had to counter or evade escalated. First one counter let me get a flurry of hits in, then it was two counters, then two evades and a counter. Pattern-based, for sure, but one that definitely kept me on my toes.
Regarding Blackgate's endgame, Pacini told me that different bosses will be more vulnerable to different gadgets and that, ideally, players will run through the game multiple times to figure out which utility belt items work best against Joker, Penguin or Black Mask. It's a Bat-centric twist to the Mega Man formula, since Batman doesn't have powers and can't absorb enemy abilities.
And the prison itself is clearly modelled after the Super Metroid and Castlevania templates, encouraging players to backtrack to already encountered areas after getting new gadgets. Blackgate looks like it'll be a nice off-branch to the big-brother Arkham Origins games coming out this fall.