The second it was announced and referred to as a "MetroidVania" style game about Batman beating up crooks, I wanted to play Arkham Origins: Blackgate. Seriously, if you threw in Bulbasaur and the Third Street Saints, it would be every single thing I want out of video games. At Comic-Con, I had the chance to go through a demo, and for better or worse (mostly better), it's everything you expect out of an Arkham game.

In terms of gameplay, Blackgate is like a handheld version of Arkham Asylum, which is fine by me. It's got the familiar counter-and-then-wreck-dudes-in-slow-motion combat style, and while the counters seem to lack the additional moves that were brought in for Arkham City, they're certainly pretty fun. Even the platforming elements are done in that same style, with Batman grappling along gargoyles and overhangs and then gliding down with your cape. The main difference, of course, is that it's all been translated into a 2D, side-scrolling environment, but even that blends nicely with re-creating the atmosphere of Asylum. Batman and the enemies both move back and forth on different planes, switching over for to trade punches, then flattening out to continue the stage. They've even re-created the "predator" levels, with Detective Mode showing you the thugs' lines of sight, complete with gadgets and takedowns.

The demo I played was essentially one long chase scene through Gotham City that, in the Arkham universe, at least, represented the first meeting of Batman and Catwoman. It did a great job of showing what they were going for, too, full of paths that twisted and turned and rose up skyscrapers and went through those gigantic, Batman-sized vents that all those buildings seem full of. It was nice way to treat that style, creating a side-scrolling game that felt like you were moving in a fully realized 3D environment, even if you were just following a linear path. As much as I'd like to see a straight up, 2D Symphony of the Night clone but with batarangs and grappling hooks, it seems like a really well-done attempt at bringing a full-sized Arkham game to a portable format.

One really interesting thing that was brought up while I was playing was that while the game mostly takes place within Blackgate Prison, it actually does feature a branching path -- and the choice of which to take affects how the other areas of the prison will be once you get to them. That's a really nice touch, and one that I'm excited to play through.

Of course, while it's got all the good parts of the Arkham games, it's got a little bit of that questionable, hilariously over-the-top tone to it as well. The level I played ends with Batman having a boss fight against Catwoman that ends with a sequence of counters and quicktime events, which is fine. What raised my eyebrow was the cutscene that follows, in which Catwoman sexily licks at her own bloody nose and then paws at herself while Batman swings away. Seriously. But, you know, that seems to be how the Arkham games work, with the lurid characters to match Batman's slow-motion bone-breaking face-punches.

I didn't get the chance to play Blackgate's console cousin, Arkham Origins, but I did see a little of it, and I can confirm that Anarky is in it, marking a dramatic increase in Anarky's appearances this year as compared to... well, to any year since like 1998. Plus, a new trailer dropped revealing Copperhead:


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