The dudes who made Metroid Prime are now making a Metroid-inspired Batman game on 3DS. Sorry, I can't be subtle about such an awesome pairing.
We were pleasantly surprised to find that the 3DS version of this handheld Batman game is playable at E3. The demo takes place early in the game and is entirely outside in the city of Gotham. Apparently, most of the full game is set inside Blackgate prison, which will feature non-linear exploration and branching paths. Batman will find important upgrades along the way, while boosts to health and other basic attributes are hidden everywhere (much like missile expansions in Metroid). Though exciting, none of those elements were shown in the E3 demo.
Blackgate is a 2.5D game, meaning that Batman's movement is always two-dimensional, even as the environments wrap around him. The effect is similar to Klonoa, or the new Donkey Kong Country on Wii U. Occasionally, you can even use the grappling hook to move in or out of plane, which gives the game a surprising 3D feel. Completing the immersion, enemies can surround Batman in 3D; he will face them as needed and pull them into his own proximity, allowing for follow-up on the main axis of movement. All of this allows the developer, Armature Studios (founded by three ex-Retro Studios guys) to establish a fully 3D world that accurately captures the feel of Batman's console games, even as player movement is reliably two-dimensional. We've seen this recently in Castlevania: Lords of Shadow: Mirror of Fate, but this unfinished Batman demo is already more impressive.
For a 2D game with plenty of platforming, it's interesting to note that Batman cannot jump at will. He will take a running leap from ledges, as in a Zelda game, and you can even glide from a higher point, but vertical movement is restricted to climbing and grappling. This actually gave me a distinct association with Bionic Commando, which is another great touchstone for understanding how the game feels. There was plenty of hand-to-hand combat in the demo, and it perfectly captures the heaviness and rhythm of fighting in Arkham Asylum and Arkham City on consoles.
Batman's tools are all present, too. You can tap on the lower screen to activate Detective Vision – essential for stealthily eliminating guards and locating hidden entrances. Holding a thumb on the touch screen brings up the Analyzer reticule, which can be moved around (like a Scan Visor...) to discover additional information about the enemies and environment. Holding the L trigger arms your Batarang, which is a useful stun weapon that also triggers some environmental effects.
My limited time with Arkham Origins Blackgate proved that the popular game mechanics and presentation from Batman's console games can be transferred to 3DS, even with the loss of half a dimension. What excites me most, and remains mysterious, is whether these stewards of the genre can also evoke Batman's new Metroid tendencies to a handheld platform that desperately needs such a game. Though others have tried and failed, I think Armature has the chops to pull it off. We'll know soon, as the game launches in October.