Just as Batman is no stranger to the box office, the Dark Knight is similarly no stranger to videogames as countless games have been created featuring the caped crusader. Taking the name of Warner Brothers’ latest film release, The Dark Knight looks and plays like your standard 2D platform action game with a few wrinkles here and there to differentiate it from other mobile games.
Amongst platform action games on mobile, I consider Splinter Cell to be one of the standards of excellence. Measuring against this franchise, The Dark Knight is able to hold its own. The combat model is more sophisticated in The Dark Knight. Even the lowliest grunt takes more than one or two swipes to go down. Many are able to block whether it be above body or below body or at times even both types of blow. Some carry weapons, although it seems only The Joker carries a gun. As Batman you can use a dash attack or if the enemy is not facing, you can execute a stealth attack from behind. You can try to grab a hold of the enemy, although that means getting in close with them and potentially exposing yourself to danger. Once you have an enemy dazed after a chokehold or a severe blow, you can execute a finishing move on them. Beating up enemies enables you to gain health so this mechanic does away with collecting health powerups.
The Dark Knight features its share of gravity defying tricks. You can use Batman’s grappling hooks to swing yourself on to ledges and across buildings. You can also use stealth capabilities by using the batarang to knock out lights and hide in doorways to jump on your enemies.
These are all similar to what can be found in Splinter Cell or many of the other action games that have come before The Dark Knight but it’s the combat model that elevates The Dark Knight above the rest. Because beating up any grunt takes a nominal amount of time, The Dark Knight subtly urges you to find alternate ways to get the drop on the enemy. Whether it’s maneuvering to ambush them in a dark alleyway or gliding in behind them to do a sneak attack, The Dark Knight’s combat model naturally lends itself to smart combat and this is what makes the game a cut above the rest.
In terms of the graphics and setting, I found The Dark Knight to be a bit of a disappointment. It’s very playable to be sure but all the grunts look relatively the same. What’s the difference between the mafia grunts and Joker ones? The Joker ones have a clown face which on a cell phone screen is a couple blotches of color and the same rag tag green uniform. When the game moves to Hong Kong, other than the neon signs, I didn’t notice any difference from Gotham. The boss characters and Batman himself are done well. They look genuinely like their on screen counterparts. I liked the animation with Batman in particular because the cape’s movement conveyed a sense of agility. It also helped that the game maintained a clip pace when it came to visual performance.
The Dark Knight will take you from a meeting with Scarecrow to the mobster Lau in Hong Kong and then back to Gotham to face Joker in a series of his diabolical schemes. The sequence of events mirrors what happens in the film except the story is told with text and conversations with sidekicks like Lucius (doesn’t the guy have a company to run now that he’s CEO?) are not in person. When I was playing, I also felt like there was a missing boss fight during the Hong Kong level sequence. Much of the game is constructed with getting from point A to B. Whether you dispatch all the enemies or not is not always required. Some levels require you to track down bombs or toxins or some kind of canister that you have to activate. These aren’t constructed in an elaborate sequence in which you move from one item to another. You’re going to have to backtrack and sometimes it takes a little time since a lot of the game moves up and down vertically on roof tops as well as from side to side. The boss encounters are easily the most enjoyable. The game will give a little tip but only just enough for you to figure out the rest. The Batmobile and Batcycle don’t get any functional appearances in the game.
Still, I liked The Dark Knight game a lot. I actually didn’t see the movie at all but got a good sense of what to expect just from the game. It is not a flashy game by any means. Audio is all but non-existent. Nor is the game very original but the combat is tougher than your usual action game which makes it challenging enough to keep you hooked. Some of the levels like running around to disable bombs need some work to make them flow better but they aren’t so frustrating that you’ll put the game down. Like the film, you don’t expect a whole lot from a Batman game, but it does deliver some enjoyable gameplay.