Much like the eponymous film currently raking in millions in ticket sales, The Dark Knight Rises($6.99) aims for great heights and mostly hits its marks. The game follows and expands on the events that unfold in the final entry in The Dark Knight trilogy film saga, but don’t worry: we won’t divulge any spoilers for the two of you who haven’t seen the movie. All you need to know is a masked terrorist named Bane has bad intentions for the people of Gotham City, and you, being Batman, need to strongly discourage him against those plans.
The game’s story comes from the movie, but The Dark Knight Rises owes most of its feature set to the popular Batman Arkham console games. Using a virtual stick and a few buttons, you swing, glide, and fight your way through Gotham’s darkest alleyways and tallest towers, all gorgeously detailed. Tapping the jump button after leaping into Gotham’s embrace spreads Batman’s cape, letting you glide around. You can slink, stride, and sprint to nearby locations, fire the grapping gun to pull yourself around, and pilot vehicles like the Bat-Pod and the new Bat flying machine, making travel even quicker and fun.
The game shepherds you along dozens of story missions, but barring a few exceptions, you’re free to break away from the beaten path and poke around. Inevitably, you’ll find yourself surrounded by arm thugs who wish to retire the Batman in the most violent manner possible. Combat is simple–a little too simple. Tap the attack button to perform combos and disarm thugs. A block button occasionally pops up, but you rarely need it. Enemies are happy to drop their guard and turn the other cheek until you finally deliver a crushing blow that leaves them crumpled on the pavement. Accessibility is nice and necessary given the limited screen real estate, but mashing one button over and over becomes repetitive and makes combat more a chore than a tactical engagement.
All Batman fans know the Dark Knight is equal parts ninja and brawler, and The Dark Knight Rises offers up plenty of opportunities to put Batman’s sneaking skills to the test. Perches like gargoyles conveniently line many rooms, giving you the chance to drop down on top of enemies for an instant K.O., or stalk them from on high before creeping up behind them and dispatching them silently. You can break into side areas and safes by solving a hacking mini-game under a strict time limit. Within, you’ll uncover extra items and gold credits to spend on upgrades like thicker armor, combat training, and greater batarang distance.
The sneaking controls operate more efficiently than the brawls, but more often than note, the game forces you to trade punches to progress. Context-sensitive buttons like the block button that pleads for your attention hinder more than help. To avoid cluttering the screen, batarangs and other gizmos like the grappling gun only appear when the game thinks you might need them, but they usually materialize right beneath your thumb. I can’t count the number of times I was inching my way behind a thug to choke him out, only to accidentally send Batman into a jumping fit or, worse, spasmodically lobbing batarangs every which direction and give up my position.
Now, I wouldn’t sweat a few wasted ‘rangs if they were infinite, but they’re not. Nor should they be. Determining how and when to use the supplies packed into your utility belt is integral to the strategy involved in some scenarios. You find items by breaking into locked rooms and at certain junctures during missions, but otherwise you attain them by spending credits in the store. Accidentally using up consumable items doesn’t sit well, especially if you shelled out real money to buy IAP credit packs.
The camera controls also do more harm than good. You slide your thumb along the right side of the screen to pan around, but good luck twisting the camera during combat without bumping buttons. This flaw balances out since you don’t really need to reposition the camera during combat; just tilt the left stick toward the bad guy you want to feed a knuckle sandwich and press attack. All the same, I rarely managed to orient the camera without accidentally tapping other buttons, in or out of combat.
The Dark Knight Rises might sound more like the Batman game mobile gamers need than the one they deserve, but that’s an unfair assessment. Like most Gameloft’s titles, it’s a small-scale rendition of a bigger console experience that’s worth playing for all the collectibles, missions, and upgrades, despite several shortcomings.
For another look at The Dark Knight Rises, check out: TA Plays: ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ – Gameloft’s Official Batman Movie Tie-In Character Action Game