Warning: The following review contains story details from The Dark Night Rises film and game that may be considered spoilers.
With Rocksteady handling development of Batman games based on the comics, Gameloft has taken it upon itself to craft the movie-to-game adaptation of The Dark Knight Rises for mobile phones. The Dark Knight Rises follows a similar structure to that laid out by Rocksteady’s games, but ultimately fails to – pardon the pun – rise to the occasion.
The Dark Knight Rises follows the plot laid out by Nolan’s latest taking a few creative liberties along the way. It also assumes you’ve seen the movie as it begins with Batman chasing Catwoman after she steals Bruce Wayne’s fingerprints. Now, if I had not seen the movie, I would be scratching my head, wondering what was going on. How did Catwoman infiltrate Wayne manor and steal his prints? Why did she do so in the first place? Such questions often cropped up in my head during the game, making it clear that this game was meant to be played after you’d watched the movie. So unless you want to spoil the movie for yourself, do not play the game first.
With The Dark Knight Rises, Gameloft has aped gameplay mechanics laid down by Rocksteady. You have the free-flow combat system, where Batman can take on multiple goons, as well as stealth gameplay that made us all fall in love with Arkham Asylum. With the mobile version, the very first hurdle you encounter is the God awful controls. Using the left virtual stick to move Batman around is fine, but things go to the dogs when you use the right virtual stick to control the camera. Sometimes, it won’t move fast enough while sometimes it just wildly spazes out. While this isn’t much of an issue during combat, it makes stealth segments utterly crappy. Plus, since there’s no dedicated button to duck, you’re supposed to gently move Batman towards an unsuspecting enemy to initiate a stealth takedown. This rarely works as, more often than not, you end up sprinting and alerting the enemy of your presence.
Pretty soon, his backup appears and you’re forced to take them all out the hard way. To be fair, Gameloft has done quite a decent job in porting the combat to handheld platforms. The camera still goes all crazy from time to time, but Batman automatically targets the closest opponent, enabling players to pull off some sweet combos. Unfortunately, the combat mechanics are shoved down your throat far too often. Through most of the game, you’re being led from one area to another, where you’ll be forced to take down droves of enemies. You then move on, only to rinse and repeat the same gameplay mechanics all the way to the end. It really tends to get boring after a while.
Technically, you’re free to roam around most of Gotham City, and the city does look rather good, but it feels weird because it’s devoid of any life. There are the bad guys, there’s Batman and that’s about it. I was under the impression this game would offer players quasi open ended gameplay like Arkham City, where you could roam the city at your own pace, save people, stop crimes and so on. But the game is so keen on following the movie to the tee that it doesn’t offer players any sort of freedom, forcing them from one mission to another.
Batman’s gadgets, something that have been highlighted in Rocksteady’s games as well as Nolan’s movies, are present, but extremely subdued and often not needed. In both Arkham City and Arkham Asylum, these gadgets were crucial to gameplay, often to traverse certain areas, but in TDKR, they’re redundant. I got by just fine by smashing the crap out of everyone I encountered. The only gadget I consciously used was the grappling hook to traverse the environment simply because gliding between buildings felt clunky. There’s a section at the start where you use the Batpod, but I couldn’t be happier when it ended because that part controlled terribly. And the Batpod was so slow that I felt I was in a battery operated toy car as opposed to a state-of-the-art vehicle.
Rocksteady has already put out two stellar titles to satiate your craving for a Batman game, so there’s no real reason to go looking for one on the handheld platform. If, however, you lack a console or PC, The Dark Knight Rises could cure that itch. Just be prepared to deal with repetitive gameplay, a terrible control system, and a rather barren city.