No, it's not the title of the next DC movie (although Batman Vs Superman isn't much better). This week I’ve been getting my teeth into Batman’s 3DS adventure – Arkham Origins Blackgate. My initial impressions were good, but after a few more hours of playing, I have to say the game is wearing thin. I understand Batman is all about stealth – he operates in the dark and strikes when least expected, giving him the air of mystery he uses to his advantage... HOWEVER, in Blackgate, all that means is that he has to crawl through more ventilation shafts than John McClane. Seriously, it gets tedious, quickly. What’s the deal with these huge shafts anyway – does anyone even have these in their buildings anymore?
To be honest, the crawling aspect was expected – this has been a prominent feature of all the recent Arkham games; maybe that’s why I’m growing tired of it. The main thing that’s annoying me is the aimless wandering around. It goes like this: you’re given an objective and work towards it. You get so close, then a barrier is thrown up and you have to figure out an alternative route. This may involve getting a piece of kit you haven’t got yet. That kit may be located in any one of the 3 areas. To get to another area, you have to find your way to an exit. The map isn’t much help, as all the floors of the building are shown as one level, i.e. you may think you’re heading towards an exit, then realise you need to be on another floor to continue (and it’s not always obvious how to get to the other floors). The fact that most of the rooms in each area look exactly the same doesn’t help either.
My point is, in between the beating up of thugs, you will spend most of your time trying to figure out how to get into the next area, or just wandering around, hoping you notice something you missed earlier. Unlike the other Arkham games, this all takes place in enclosed areas, void of anything to do once you’ve cleared the enemies. Gone is the joy of exploring the city, looking for secrets, or assaulting gangs of thugs.
Another gripe I have is the reliance on “detective vision”. If you’ve played any Arkham games before, you’ll be familiar with using this to scan an area for clues. It changes the visuals and sound, and you’ll only want to use it when you have to. In Blackgate, you may as well just leave it on permanently. You have to use it to analyse EVERYTHING. Not just the various scattered mystery clues (I still don’t know what purpose these serve),but for every weak wall that can be blown up, you have to hold the cursor over it and wait 5 seconds while it “analyses” and tells you what you already know. If you don’t go through these motions EVERY TIME you need to blow a wall or ceiling, you won’t be able to aim your explosive gel launcher at it, and won’t be able to advance. It’s not a gamebreaker, but another annoying niggle to add to the list.
So that’s the superhero game… not so super. More often than not I’ve reverted to the other game I picked up (well, downloaded) recently – Shinobi 3! And yes, it’s been given the full 3D overhaul by Sega, like Super Hang On and Space Harrier, which I’ve talked about before.
Having never owned a Megadrive until recently, I’d had only passing experience with Shinobi. Turns out I was missing out. Shinobi 3 is a great game. Great but hard – I’ve only been able to advance due to the save function that Sega has kindly added to these re-releases. Until you’ve played each level and memorised each attack pattern, the game seems impossible. You definitely have to invest the time to get the rewards. How kids did this in the 90’s without a save option I have no idea. Games were just harder back then. You could actually die and run out of continues and have to start right from the start again. And this isn’t a short game, either. I’ve just reached Level 5 (of 7), and that’s playing it for an hour or 2 every day this week, and using the save function. Yes I am lame.
What keeps me coming back is the platforming goodness. The fun of throwing daggers at enemies while trying to avoid their attacks. The joy of using the run and double-jump functions, and grabbing a ledge before swinging across a chasm. It’s pure gaming fun, and it stands up today. I didn’t need to download an update for it to work, I didn’t need a tutorial level to teach me how to press buttons; the game just started and I played it. And loved it.
The 3D is a nice touch, but this game doesn’t rely on it. It doesn’t rely on goddamn ventilation shafts or hidden objects and clues either, meaning I highly recommend spending £5 on it, rather than £20 on Blackgate. Sorry Batman, but I think a game of the Arkham scale just wasn’t meant for 3DS. Go back to the Batcave and come back when you can really spread your wings.
My name is Iain and my addiction is making pixel bead art. My main inspirations are comics, video games and movies.