Batman is on a mission to beat the snot out of crime. If the bad guys happen to be in your Android phone, so be it.
The Dark Knight Rises hits theaters today, and along with it is an Android game from Gameloft. Much like The Amazing Spider Man, The Dark Knight Rises for Android is inspired by the movie, and though the mechanics are similar, the brooding atmosphere is what really sets the Batman game apart.
Players get to zoom across a bleak cityscape by gliding, swinging, or motoring through Gotham. Missions follow closely in the footsteps of the movie, but as you go, you can kit out Bruce Wayne with the latest tech and upgrade particular parts of his suit and vehicles to suit your playstyle. There's plenty of open world exploration too, and a whole bundle of hidden items to find.
Gameplay and controls
The Dark Knight Rises hosts the usual dual-stick set-up: the virtual joystick on the left side of the screen controls where Batman moves, while swiping anywhere else controls where he looks. There's a smattering of buttons on the right side that pop up depending on what's in range - grapnel hook launcher, attack, leap, sneak attack, counter, and a few others. Some actions, like hacking terminals and kicking open doors are initiated by tapping on the objects directly. Camera angles were twitchy at times, but most of the time performance was fine.
My only serious qualm with controls was driving. Steering is dictated by moving a slider bar to the left or right - no accelerometer controls or even left/right tap zones. Gliding would would feel a bit more natural if there was an option to invert the Y axis on the controls, but it's easy enough to make do. That said, it would be nice to have some more control options, such as repositional buttons dynamic virtual joystick placement as in other Gameloft titles.
The gameplay itself is pretty standard. Combat is mostly just bashing the attack button over and over while Batman acrobatically dispatches opponents with cape flourishes galore. The arsenal of gadgets helps you mix things up further in the game, but for the most part, they're just around to be fancy. Combat isn't the only part of the game, however. Simply navigating from point A to point B can be tricky under certain circumstances and activities like hacking puzzles can provide nice breaks from beating up the bad guys. The swinging from perch to perch indoors is a sight some players will recognize from the Arkham Asylum and Arkham City games for console.
Progression is standard fare as well - beat up bad guys, complete primary and secondary missions, earn experience points, level up, unlock new gear, and improve equipment with upgrade points. You also earn credits throughout gameplay that are used on smaller upgrades and consumables. There's a ton of customizability on this front that can be fast-tracked with in-app purchases. IAPs really don't need to be in $6.99 games, even if they amount to little more than progress acceleration. I already paid for the game, don't nickel and dime me to death. If in-app purchases allow a developer to release a game for free, super, but it really grates when devs try to double-dip.
I won't go too far into the storyline (especially since I haven't seen the movie yet), but it seems like there are at least few spoilers in the game - you've been warned. There are 6 chapters containing a total of 20 missions, and even once you've wrapped up the campaign, there's a bunch of collectible hidden items throughout Gotham that can be acquired in free roam mode.
Graphics and audio
The animation in Dark Knight Rises is particularly great. Combat motions move seamlessly from one attack to the next, and amply display Batman's agility and power. Sometimes it feels like the game goes overboard with the slow-mo effects, especially considering most of the time you're just tapping attack repeatedly and occasionally the counter button, but there's hardly anything wrong with theatrics for a title based on a movie. The menu system and UI has a high degree of polish with lots of smooth transition animations.
Much like The Amazing Spider-Man, the protaganist's visuals are all incredibly well done at the expensive of many others. Selina Kyle's out-of-costume model had a perfectly flat face, and the main villain, Bane, lacks the details to sufficiently counterpoint Batman. Despite that, The Dark Knight Rises still takes up 1.81 GB, so make sure you have enough storage on your device and time to download and install.
On the other hand, the voice acting is much better than in the Amazing Spider-Man; Batman is appropriately throaty, Alfred is nice and generically British - even Bane with some of his cheesier monologues is a nice representation of the voice in the movie. The music is dour and high-quality, as one would hope from a Batman game.
- Faithfully captures classic Batman gloominess
- Extensive progression and unlockables
- Dramatic combat
- In-app purchases are contrived
- Graphics on everyone else but Batman are less than great
- Spotty driving controls
The Dark Knight Rises on Android is a perfect companion to the film, and will no doubt be an attractive purchase once you've seen it and want to relive the action. In-app purchases for accelerated progression will be a significant turn-off for many. For seven bucks, nobody should have to deal with with developers asking for more money, even if the purchases are optional.
Though Batman looks great, it's very much at the expense of many of the other characters, If the supporting cast got a bit more love, maybe the difference in graphical quality wouldn't be so jarring.
There's a ton of unlocks to enjoy, a broad open-world Gotham to explore, and lots of bad guys to beat up. For casual and die-hard Batman fans alike, The Dark Knight is a no-brainer.
Download: The Dark Knight Rises ($6.99)
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