The Dark Knight Rises Game for iPhone and iPad (Review)
The Dark Knight Rises ios game is based loosely on the recent movie – but, frankly, the name is pretty much where the similarities end. Besides a few nods to Christopher Nolan’s storyline, as if the game had been plotted after overhearing someone describe the film down the pub, the game has none of the wit, drama or human interest you might hope for.
Vehicles are unlocked rather late in the game. Until then, Batman zips to the top of buildings using his web-slinger – sorry, ‘grapnel’ – and a new-found ability to fly, or rather, assisted by his cape, to glide with attitude. The handy grappling hook gun can also be used to grab and pull people and objects (wonder where that idea came from?) and so becomes your main medium-distance weapon. It’s used in a variety of implausible situations, from pulling down a conveniently located ceiling fan to take out an automated sentry gun to toppling a statue onto a group of baddies.
Our hero’s level of human interaction is limited. When he’s not knocking seven bells out of people, he’s not only hoarse but tongue-tied, with just a few stock phrases to draw on. The supporting cast is no more voluble. ‘Can you move?’ he asks newly rescued hostages. ‘Yeah, we’re good,’ is the reply – even when there’s only one of them.
The game features occasional puzzles, notionally involving unlocking doors or switching on power supplies. These take the form of a timed version of the old plumbing game where you have to orient pipe segments to connect two points – a tired old standby.
In one mission you have to disarm explosives, which is accomplished by holding down a button for two-and-a-half seconds. Again, hardly challenging.
One of the most distinctive conceits of Batman in the movies, and a principle that’s central to the plotting of The Dark Knight Returns, is that he avoids guns and tries not to kill anyone. But this honourable restraint is a problem for gamers, since he’s left with just fisticuffs with which to defeat the bad guys. And that means he can only fight one of them at a time, while the rest – even if, lacking such an ethical dimension, they’re equipped with firearms – stand politely by, waiting their turn. That’s if they show any awareness of your presence at all.
The caped crusader does have an impressive array of fighting moves at his disposal, from fists to headbutts to high kicks. Sadly, you’re not in control of any of them. All you can do is repeatedly bash the fight button 50 or so times per enemy while Batman performs an apparently random set of manoeuvres, automatically switching from target to target outside of your control.
Your main alternative is to hurl ‘batarangs’ (one of the less celebrated Olympic disciplines) at the baddies, but you only have a limited number of these. Fortunately – and idiotically – you’ll find extra ones floating in mid-air just when you’re about to need them.
EACH TIME YOU defeat a baddie, you’re awarded skill points and credits. These can be used to buy power-ups: weapons, armour, lock-picking skills and so on. Following a depressing trend in iOS games, you can also buy credits for real money through in-app purchases, from £2.99 for 2,000 tokens up to an eye-watering £69.99 for 150,000 – which gets you a generous 50% extra free.
As if to encourage you to help him out, poor game mechanics make Batman unnecessarily helpless. He can’t open locked doors, but that’s standard. Neither, however, can he jump over desks or slide swivel chairs out of the way; instead, he has to find a route unimpeded by clutter. Where Superman’s weakness was Kryptonite, Batman’s appears to be office furniture.
The action is occasionally interrupted by tedious cut scenes, during which you can only wait and watch. In better games, you can at least move the camera around during speeches. The end of the first fight with arch-baddie Bane, which you have to lose for plot reasons, moves from real action to a cut scene over which you have no control.
The weeks spend in Bane’s prison are, for no good reason, shown by a sequence of pencil sketches, depicting Batman recovering, doing push-ups, and growing a beard.
One of the iconic scenes in the film (mild spoiler) is when Batman escapes from Bane’s prison by repeatedly attempting to climb the inside of a tower. In the game, this isn’t quite a cut scene, but it’s little more: your only control over the character’s movement is to frantically tap a fingerprint icon each time it appears on the screen.
Batman can wander at will through the streets of an impressively modelled Gotham, and using the grapnel to leap to the top of tall buildings, then gliding off, is a fun pastime – but it’s a city free of people, except those you have to beat up. And free roaming is not enough to rescue this lazy, underpowered movie cash-in.