PS Vita Reviews: Batman Arkham Origins: Blackgate

(Note: This independent review is my personal opinion.  All screenshots were capture in-game on my PS Vita handheld system.)

2013-10-27-190554

Batman Arkham Origins: Blackgate is a 2.5D ‘side scrolling’-style adventure game developed by Armature Studio and published by Warner Bros. Interactive..  The game is also available for the Nintendo 3DS/2DS systems.

Set after the events of Batman Arkham Origins, Blackgate follows a less experienced Batman on his one-man war on crime.  After an encounter with Catwoman, Batman is called in to deal with a hostage situation in Blackgate prison.  Three supervillians, Penguin, Black Mask and the Joker, have taken over their own section of the prison using prisoners loyal to them.  With the help of Catwoman, Batman must rescue the hostages and wrest control of the prison from the inmates.

Batman meets Catwoman for the first (?) time.
Batman meets Catwoman for the first (?) time.

The game’s story is told through animated comic panels and voice acting. Batman is voiced by Roger Craig Smith who mimics Kevin Conroy’s iconic voice, but still sounding a bit younger.  Other voices seem to fit well, with Grey DeLisle reprising her role as Catwoman and  Nolan North as Penguin.

Slightly animated comic art are used in the cut scenes.
Slightly animated comic art are used in the cut scenes.

The gameplay is in a third-person 2.5D game similar to the  side scrolling Castlevania games.  Batman can move from the foreground to the background and vice versa at certain points such as door ways or air ducts and can move up and down the screen via grappling hooks and gliding.  Combat is done similar to the style found in the main Arkham series, with an attack, dodge, counter and stun button.  Enemies vary with what weapons they have, suck as baseball bats, knifes and stun rods.  Enemies with guns are harder to beat and require you to hide and stealthily take them out one by one.  Boss fights either require manipulating your environment or timing your counters to create an opening.  The game takes advantage of the PS Vita’s touch screen by letting you activate Detective Mode by touching the screen and any objects of interest.  I assume the 3DS version uses a similar approach with its touch screen.

You are at the mercy of the in game camera angles.  Sometimes it is not that bad.
You are at the mercy of the in-game camera angles. Sometimes it is not that bad.

Graphically the game is good for the PS Vita.  The game is dark, like it’s home system counterparts but the environments are well done.  A lot of the game involves going through a darkened prison to restore power so you use the Detective mode a lot.  The major problem is that you are stuck with a wide camera view of the action.  Sometimes your character looks small on the screen and you can sometimes lose track of where you are.  The camera is also a hindrance to trying to avoid machine gun-armed tugs, as sometimes you can see item, but they see you off-screen.  You also spend a lot of time back tracking and it is easy to miss a switch or a weak wall that you can blast through to get to your objective.

Batman diving into action
Batman diving into action

Once you get used to it, though, it can be a fun game.  It gave me my Batman fix over the weekend as I wait for my Collectors Edition of Batman Arkham Origins to arrive from Amazon (which they sent late.)  It is a good way to get your Batman fix on the go.

Batman Arkham Origins: Blackgate retails for $39.99 at most store and is rated T for Teen.

Still a better love story than Twilight.
Still a better love story than Twilight.

My rating 3/5

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PS Vita Review: Valhalla Knights 3

2013-10-17-183208(note;  This review is my opinion only.  All screenshots are taken directly from the game through the PS Vita. )

Valhalla Knights 3 is the fourth game in the Valhalla Knights series and the first on the PS Vita.  It was developed by K2 LLC  and localized and published in North America by Xseed Games.  The games is your typical action RPG, with a decent character creation mode with four races to choose from (two more are unlocked as you play/beat the game.).  The story puts your character in a sprawling prison in search of a legendary treasure.  To do so, you must take on quest given  to you by many of the prisons inhabitants to gain more information that will lead to the treasure.  The quest will take you throughout the prison and outside into the prison grounds which are infested by fellow bandits, monsters and killer rabbits (yes, rabbits).

The Prison Grounds are very expansive
The Prison Grounds are very expansive

The character creation lets you choose a male or female from the four main races (Human, Elf, Dwarf and Halfling) choose from one of the different character classes (fighter, mage, cleric, thief and prisoner, to name a few).  You can customize your face, hair eyes and voice from the games many pre-set options.  You character will remain heroically stoic for the most part, letting his or her companions do the talking.

One of the Personal Shoppers you can meet.
One of the Personal Shoppers you can meet.

The prison itself is divided into the Light District and the Lower Slums.  The Light District is where the rich and powerful reside, which the poor and weak survive in the slums.  While both have shops for weapons and supplies, and guilds to hire new companions, the Light District adds a new twist:  personal shoppers.  Yes, in order to even browse in the high end stores, you must pay a scantly clad girl about 300 gold  for the privilege and the company.  These girls can be flirted with by buying them gifts and if they like you enough, you can take them to the Love Hotel for Sexy Time.  Prison sex has never been so glamorous.

A Hostess welcomes the party to the guild "Star Kiss'
A Host welcomes the party to the guild “Star Kiss’

The game starts off really slow.  With no money and basic weapons, you will struggle though the first few missions.  So you have to resort to grinding in the outer prison grounds, killing rabbits and other prisoners to earn gold  or items to sell for gold.  You can use your money to change your characters class (or those of your compaions) to hopefully get an edge in battle.

Veronica is one of the NPCs that  will give you missions around the prison.
Veronica is one of the NPCs that will give you missions around the prison.

The graphics are nothing spectacular.  With long load times and bland colours, you would be excused if you though this was a PSP game.  Maybe later in the game you will see more variety in the game, but it all seems so bland.  Even spell effects are understated..  The most colourful area I’ve seem is the inside of the guild/brothel in the Light District.

When you first meet Emma, she is dragged off to work at the guild.  She seems to like it, though...
When you first meet Emma, she is dragged off to work at the guild. She seems to like it, though…

Speaking of which, I have yet to mention the feature that makes to touching of the mostly still pictures in Dragon’s Crown seem tame:  The Sexy Time mini game.  If you get a clerk to like you enough, you can engage in a mini game in which they strip to their underwear and you use the touch screen to…touch them.  Doing so will result in new quests, items and the character joining you party.  This is definitely an example of “fan service” in a Japanese game but it make you wonder if this distracted the developers from making improvements to the overall game.

You have to pay here 300 gold just to look at the overpriced crap they are selling.
You have to pay her 300 gold just to look at the overpriced crap they are selling.

To me, Valhalla Knights 3 falls short of my expectations.  While games like Dragon’s Crown did not have any customization, the gameplay was interesting enough to keep my playing.  I am having a hard time keeping interested in this game.  With the only draw being a creepy mini game that, at my characters level and wealth, seems like a pipe dream, there is not much to keep me playing.  I could always level up on rabbits, but that does not make for a compelling game.

My rating 2/5