Review: The Dark Knight Rises (iPad/iPhone/Android) / Version: 1.0.0 / Size: 819MB / Developer: Gameloft / Price: £4.99 / Release Date: Out Now
Perhaps wanting to avoid comparison with the phenomenally popular (and good) Arkham Asylum/City games, there has so far been no Dark Knight Rises tie-in for Xbox or PS3. The last Nolan-verse videogame adaptation to reach major consoles was Batman Begins for the PS2 - and that verged on unplayable. So having skipped the previous instalment altogether, The Dark Knight Returns in this adaptation of the film for the mobile and tablet market.
The Dark Knight Rises follows the plot of the film in the same way as most tie-in games do: loosely and occasionally taking huge liberties. Because there's a necessity to have Batman costumed in every scene, the film's "there's a storm coming, Mister Wayne" exchange is truncated to an encounter with Miss Kyle in an alleyway. The demands of a videogame mean that there are gangs of armed enemies everywhere the film had none. Wayne's underground prison, for example, is populated by wardens trying to kill Wayne.
There'll be a lot of fighting then, in this surprisingly ambitious adaptation. All of Gotham is yours to explore, provided you can get to grips with the virtual controller. The direction is controlled by a virtual joystick on the left hand side of the screen, while buttons on the right manage gadgetry and combat. The gliding mechanics of Arkham City are simplified, with it being possible to effectively fly around the city without once touching the ground. The combat is surprisingly intuitive, with the game even employing its own version of Arkham City's countering system. There are even vehicles too, with the Bat Pod and the Bat making the journey from one end of Gotham to the other seem like less of a slog. Stealth sections, levelling and upgrades also add variety to the gameplay.
However, despite all the Arkham City riffs, The Dark Knight Rises is never as fun to play. Quickly, combat becomes a chore; in free-roaming, it's difficult to move and the camera often finds itself stuck at odd angles. The grapnel gun is inaccurate, often firing off accidentally as the player attempts movement - sending Batman hurtling off across the city in entirely the wrong direction. The fighting is unsophisticated and boring. As mentioned earlier, there is a countering system, but too often you'll just be whacking the 'punch' button, waiting for your opponent to fall over. Not even past Chapter One, I got bored of the repetitive fighting and ran away, running in a decidedly un-Batman like manner for the exit. There's certainly no chance of anyone wanting to scour the city looking for random fights, as so many of us spent hours doing in Arkham City.
Worse, given the relatively hefty price tag, there's a cheeky reliance upon in-game purchases. If you really want to feel like Bruce Wayne, you can spend up to £70 at a time on in-game credits. Not only will you feel like a millionaire (your £70 will get you 150,000 credits) but it'll probably bankrupt you too, like the real Wayne. It's hard to imagine anyone being passionate enough to spend real money on this game, beyond the initial purchase.
Elsewhere, the story is enlivened by familiar faces from the film. Bane, Selina Kyle, Gordon and Alfred all appear, as does new boy John Blake. The actors' likenesses are borrowed for the purposes of the game, but not their voices. In some cases this is fine - you can actually understand what Bane and Batman are saying - but the Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine impressions are awful. Freeman looks horrible too, his face contorted into a strange smirk that makes it look as though he's suffered a recent stroke. Elsewhere, the animation is fine. For all my criticisms of the game, it's mindblowing that the developers managed to fit all of Gotham City and its inhabitants onto a mobile phone. Mobile gaming has come a long way since Snake.
The Dark Knight Rises is deeply flawed but good, in small doses. It's more playable than the rubbish Arkham City: Lockdown and a lot more fun than the PS2's Batman Begins. Like the film on which it is based, The Dark Knight rises is crushed by the weight of expectation thanks to what has come before. And like the film, it's very ambitious and technically adept - but there's always that sneaking feeling that it could have been better.
Thoughts? Share 'em with your fellow readers in the Comments section or on Twitter @starburst_mag