Batman Arkham City Lockdown
Only hardcore Bat fans need apply. Otherwise, stick with Arkham City on Xbox 360 and PS3.
Batman Arkham City Lockdown will draw comparisons with Infinity Blade 2 for its combat system, where players are unable to move Batman within the 3D environment, but can fight back by pressing the touch screen while at the same time parrying and blocking attacks.
That said, the controls are a real sticking point. As much as we appreciate the game's positives, the imprecise fight mechanics mar what could have been one of the best comic book adventures on the App Store. Instead, developer NetherRealm Studios (of Mortal Kombat fame) must settle with having an average one.
As the title implies, the game is Warner Bros' way of capitalizing on the critically acclaimed console Arkham City released this fall. Inmates, led by villains like The Joker and Two-Face, have escaped Arkham Asylum, and Batman attempts to track them down.
To start, the developers present players with a map of the area, broken into segments, including the Gotham Sewers, Steel Mill and Rooftops. Each section contains a series of enemy locations as well as a boss fight. Users select one of these icons, then set off to give bad guys what for.
Right away, it's obvious NetherRealm wanted to create a more original fighting system instead of copying Infinity Blade outright, to which we say, it should just copied Infinity Blade. Here, you slide a finger across the screen to make Batman punch left and right, then tap to dodge and slide downward to parry.
Unfortunately, the controls fail to respond at the worst possible moments. Granted, you must learn a particular opponent's rhythm to know when to dodge bullets and pipes, but tapping the play area (even at the correct times) may not yield a response from the Caped Crusader.
What's more, fast forwarding through one specific cut scene before the boss fight with Deathstroke resulted in damage, where Deathstroke immediately slashed Batman with his sword before we could respond, though we'd need Flash like quickness to achieve this.
On that note, dying means having to restart a mission from the very beginning, instead of picking up where you left off. We see the reasoning behind this, since earning more XP plays a valuable role in the game, but having to wade through the same lowlifes to reach the boss is a huge pain, especially with so little in the way of variety. You have the guy without weapons, the dude with the pipe and the one carrying the revolver, but with different outfits.
As for XP, you use it to upgrade Batman's abilities, imbuing the Dark Knight with special attacks (a series of bats to distract his foes), powerful gauntlets, advanced combat training and health boosts, the majority of which recharge over time, similar to a role-playing game.
At the same time, Batman doesn't have that many toys to play with, and the game produces a modest amount of XP per goon defeated. You can buy Waynepoints to spend as you wish, but we refuse to make the in-app purchase, since the game already costs $5.99 as is.
On the positive side, the story (what there is of it) is well done, and the voice acting is on par with the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 effort.
NetherRealm also deserves praise for the game's Unreal Engine powered graphics. The detailed environments and characters are among the best we've seen on the iPhone and iPad, while a series of special effects and action sequences (the boss fight against Solomon Grundy springs to mind) definitely impress.
We also had a great time tilting the iPad to control the Batarang, guiding it around corners and through obstacles en route to its intended target. If anything, we wanted more of that over the fisticuffs.
There's definitely a lot to love about Batman Arkham City Lockdown. We doubt many Batman fanatics will scoff at the visuals and free comic books (yes, the game has some comics), but the shoddy controls made us crazy like a bat with rabies. Some fun to be had, but serious room for improvement.
Review code provided by Warner Bros.
Requirements: Compatible with iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPod touch (3rd generation), iPod touch (4th generation) and iPad. Requires iOS 3.1.3 or later.
What's Hot: Sweet graphics, tilting to control the Batarang, a variety of upgrades, different Batman skins, comic books, universal.
What's Not: Unreliable controls, fighting the same old bad guys, not enough gadgets to play with.