Developer: Warner Bros. Entertainment & Glu
Price: $0.99
Version Reviewed: 1.0

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★☆
Game Controls Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Re-use / Replay Value Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Overall Rating: ★★½☆☆

I really wanted to like this game. I’m a big fan of the Batman movies (well, the first 2 and the last 2) and I really enjoyed Glu’s other title, Space Monkey, but while this game might have some potential, it pretty much misses the mark.

The game uses very nice rendered graphics for the Batmobile and Gotham City, and has some very nice side graphics simulating status displays (which aren’t used for the game), but the soundtrack is a simplistic, repetitive, arcade-stlye music track loosely based on the movie’s theme. It works for the roughly 2 minute long game session, however, and the other sounds effects are good.

The game makes pretty good use of the iPhone/iPod Touch accelerometer in clever ways. Once you begin the game, which starts in the underground lair from The Dark Knight, you shake the device to start the Tumbler, and press the “after-burner” button on the screen to begin driving.

The game is essentially a “beat the clock” type of race game where you drive the Batmobile along a predetermined path through Gotham City, swerving around cars and jumping from rooftop to rooftop to achieve the lowest time through the course. Unfortunately, rather than having you steer the Batmobile around the obstacles, the player is simply required to tap the after-burner when indicated by the game (by a white circle that says “Now!”), in order to give the Tumbler’s speed a boost. This is not so much a game of skill and dexterity, as one of thumb or finger reflexes as you try to press the afterburner button, which moves with the Batmobile, before it goes away.

When you launch from a jump, 2 grids appear underneath the vehicle which you have to align so that the Tumbler lands at the correct angle. How well the grids are aligned when you land affects your score rating at the end, but I couldn’t tell if this also affected your time. The alignment process also uses the accelerometer which seems like a very natural control method. There is also one opportunity to use the Batmobile’s forward guns to knock out a wall, activated by another on-screen button, but it’s very unsatisfying. No explosions, the wall just disappears.

This might be a good twiddle game, except it takes too long to begin the game. The game is slow to start up since it first has to display logos for Warner Bros., DC Comics, and then a Bat symbol before the game even loads. The game displays a help screen for the controls while it is loading, which is useful, but this whole process is almost as long as the game itself!
Finally, once you’ve finished, you are presented with ratings based on how well you matched button presses and aligned the jumps, as well as a time score for your run. From this screen you can play again, go to Glu’s game website or send an email (taking you out of the game and into the Mail app) to challenge your friends to play the game and beat your score, providing a link to the iTunes download. So really, the game is designed to be a sort of viral marketing tool. It’s no coincidence that it was released just as The Dark Knight is about to be released on DVD.

I know, this sounds like a scathing review, especially considering the price is currently only $0.99, but I guess what is frustrating is that the game shows what could be a really good game warranting a $4.99 price-tag, but it is reduced to being the equivalent of a game demo that doesn’t have a great replay value. If they were to expand on this and work on the controls a little, it could be a compelling game. As it is, it was fun to play a few times, and as a fan it was cool to watch the Tumbler drive around on my iPhone, but it is pretty much a throw-away app and will soon be unchecked in my synced Application settings in iTunes….although I do kind of like seeing the Bat icon on my iPhone. =)

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