Version Reviewed: 1.0
Device Reviewed On: iPad
Graphics / Sound Rating:
Game Controls Rating:
Replay Value Rating:
Batman's videogame history has been, well, more than little sullied. That is, until recently. With the advent of Arkham Asylum and Arkham City, Batman has claimed a spot among some of the best console beat-em-ups in recent memory. Is it any wonder, then, that Gameloft used the 'Arkham model' as a template for their Dark Knight Rises movie tie-in game? Copycat design is never a problem, if it's implemented properly, since videogame developers tend to learn from each others' strengths and weaknesses anyway. But does this one mirror the exceptional Batman experience delivered by recent console games? In short, no.
For a mobile game, The Dark Knight Rises has considerable style. A 3D map of Gotham to travel, decent graphics, and a wide array of unlockables are just a few of the many attractive features of the game. Unfortunately, the phrase, "for a mobile game" just doesn't cut it anymore. The new iPad can deliver a much richer gaming experience than any other device like it, so why aren't we seeing this in terms of game design and execution? If The Dark Knight Rises pretends to the throne of Arkham City, then why isn't it just as good as that game?
[img id="IMG_1184-300x225.jpg"]The answer lies predominantly in the controls and in the iPad's touchscreen. Arkham City was designed from the ground up for consoles with tactile controllers. The Dark Knight Rises has some of the gameplay elements, but they are difficult to pull off with grace and aplomb when a player is searching frantically for the virtual control stick or some other onscreen virtual button. If a player can't forget about the control scheme and just play, then there isn't much of a game present. Sadly, this is true for much of The Dark Knight Rises. Sure, there's a certain satisfaction from beating up a hired thug, but when the beatdown is administered by punching the same button over and over (and over and over and over) again, the vicarious thrill is gone.
Like its console step-cousins, The Dark Knight Rises allows players to upgrade and add equipment as they gain experience, including (unlike console games) vehicles like the Batpod. However, the upgrade process left a bad taste in my mouth, as many additional features are immediately available via in-app purchases. Hey guys! How about letting us play the game on its own merits, upgrading as we rack up experience points? Do we really need in-app purchases that effectively over-simplify (even break) the game early on?
Finally, I leave this review with a fair warning: there are spoilers aplenty in the game, so if you want an unsullied movie experience, but you still want to play the game, best to hold off until after the credits roll. Don't say I didn't warn you, bat-fanatic!