Batman: Arkham City Lockdown for iPhone and iPad
Rocksteady Studios earned the praise of critics and gamers alike for finally creating a game series where players felt like they were actually Batman—Rocksteady’s console games offered stealth, Batman’s iconic gadgets, and even multiple-enemy brawling. But NetherRealm Studios seemingly ignored all of that when designing its spin-off iOS version Batman: Arkham City Lockdown. In this iPhone and iPad app published by Warner Bros., Batman’s gadgets are limited to quick-time event interludes, there’s no stealth to speak of, and every battle is between Batman and a singular goon.
In other words, if you’re looking for Batman’s triumphant arrival on the iOS platform, Batman: Arkham City Lockdown isn’t it.
The combat is largely derivative of the Infinity Blade formula—tap to dodge, gesture to fight back or deflect, and be on the look out for quick-time finish moves. But the controls are laggy—a major problem for some timing-focusing combat.
For each section of Arkham City, there are two low-level levels to complete before unlocking a boss encounter. There are also special challenge missions in each section that mix up the game’s rules—in one challenge, you may start out with less health or have to defeat enemies in a certain amount of time. But these challenges are so much lipstick on a pig, offering nothing you haven’t already experienced in the game.
You should also expect to die a lot in Batman: Arkham City Lockdown. In addition to shaky controls, the gap between the ease of the tutorial and the brutal challenge of the first levels is stark. A major design flaw of the game is that there are no in-level checkpoints or save capabilities. So if you defeat three enemies and keep dying at the fourth enemy, you’ll have no choice but to start the level over again. Even more frustrating, until you level up Batman’s armor and moves, the enemies are simply too strong for you in the initial stages. Once you gain several levels (unlocked in the sleek WayneTech interface), you’ll finally have the necessary stats to take on the same pipe-wielding goons who have been beating you to death the last hour or so.
The difficulty curve essentially flatlines after the initial levels, as all enemies essentially behave the same way and the bosses are never particularly challenging. That doesn’t meant the game is completely formulaic—NetherRealms tosses in segments where you’ll throw batarangs or have to engage in actual movement—but these moments are sporadic and often limited to boss fights. To get to these moments, you’ll have to slog through a lot of the same flawed, boring combat sequences.
One does have to give NetherRealms credit for creating a game that incorporates both the original voice cast of Arkham City and that truly utilizes the Unreal Engine 3’s powerful graphical capabilities. The game looks and sounds great—it’s just a shame that the actual gameplay is such a letdown.
Batman: Arkham City Lockdown never rises to be anything more than an expensive tie-in or watered-down gimmick compared to its source material. Strong presentation aside, it misses out on the soul of Batman—that idea that you’re a masked vigilante creeping in the shadows, using your smarts and your gadgets to defeat your foes. Arkham City: Lockdown could have easily been a game for another meat-headed superhero.
And that game wouldn’t be anything to get excited about, either.
[Former associate editor Chris Holt remains a frequent contributor to Macworld.]