‘The Dark Knight Rises’ Mobile Game Tries to Do Too Much With Too Little

In its own way, a The Dark Knight Rises tie-in game for mobile is impressive. I can’t emphasize that enough: this game looks good. Surprisingly good, even. If mobile games can turn out high-end PS2 style graphics, the entire gaming industry is in for an unpleasant jolt.

And in terms of gameplay, it’s not quite Arkham City but it does have perfectly serviceable open-world gameplay with random events. It’s a pretty fun game, in that sense. And there’s nothing like controlling Batman’s vehicles or using the grapnel gun to drag a sniper off his perch, even if you have to invest a lot of XP to get these to work right.

Then again, the PS Vita and 3DS have an unstoppable technological advantage: physical controls.

What ultimately does this game in is the unavoidably clunky interface. And the sad thing is that there’s really no way around it: this tries to be a modern game on a platform that just doesn’t have the controls for it.

Here’s the problem: the camera defaults to an over-the-shoulder third-person view, and the game does a pretty good job of highlighting where attacks are coming from: snipers, for example, have lasers that turn red when you’re targeted.

The problem is you control the camera with your finger and when you’re catching fire and trying to spot an opponent, that generally means you’ll be taking a few shots while you try to figure out where your opponent is. Running around with the virtual stick while controlling the camera is incredibly awkward and not remotely intuitive. You get the hang of it eventually but it also means adjusting your camera angle while attacking is impossible. Stealth becomes key because the fewer enemies there are the less likely the camera is to screw you.

The second problem is that for all the open-world nature of the game, the game itself is overly linear. It’s clearly a deliberate design decision since the controls can be overly limited but it doesn’t really say much about the game that they don’t let you explore the open world they built.

In short, it’s ambitious for the platform but it chokes in the execution. One simple decision would have fixed this, sadly enough: an isometric view would have not only made the game playable, but a lot more fun. On the other hand…it is also seven bucks.

image courtesy Gameloft