Gameloft's certainly thought big for this gaming tie-in to the Christopher Nolan trilogy closer currently filling seats at your local multiplex. The mobile developer, renown for packaging - some very familiar - home console experiences into handheld devices has pulled out all the stops this time. A sandbox Gotham akin to Batman's much recent console outings is highly ambitious.
It's simply amazing to see it in action: standing on rooftops while lightning flashes in the night sky, cars and street lights reflected in the ever-growing puddles below. The Dark Knight's in-built radio crackles: it's Alfred, voiced by someone who sounds so uncannily like Michael Caine we have to check the credits to be sure it's not. Bale's impersonator does a fairly decent take on the gravelly-voiced Batman.
Combat-wise it apes Rocksteady's effort with multi-enemy fights and use of Batman's arsenal, though it doesn't reach the same heights in versatility; unlikely anyway, as a mobile screen couldn't hope to emulate the complexity of Arkham. You wouldn't see the screen for fingers.
Criminal takedowns are executed with relatively simple methods. Hammer away at a single button and the Caped Crusader will strike and kick away at the crook you're focused on. Sometimes a context sensitive button will pop up for defence. Press and you'll block the attack. Simple but effective.
A few hours in though brings the conclusion it's too simple, the game basically finding a group of enemies, button-bashing, watch a takedown sequence, repeat.
That may sound boring, but there are several mitigating factors. Voice-acting, as mentioned, is superb, as is the music (again, not sourced from the film). There's also great variation in the environment.
The graphics are dazzingly impressive (especially on devices with little horsepower). The game's plot follows that of the movie to the letter: but if you're not yet ready to have that spoilt for you, Gameloft has included a free-roam part where you can swing and climb around as you please.
Unlike the Spider-Man tie-in released recently, TDKR's graphics are of sterner stuff. There's a lot of variation in locations, which both take place indoors and outdoors. Above and below ground. Lock-hacking mini-games and other elements that make for an enjoyable experience.
Batman can earn experience points and use them for better equipment or physicality. XP earned applies across the free-roam and story modes: a great idea if you've yet to see the movie but want to warm yourself up for it.
During the game you also get the opportunity to chase bad guys on the BatPod and the airborne Bat. Following the film's narrative, you meet the big bad and see some of the game through the role of Bruce Wayne.
There's enough content to defend the Ł4.99 asking price. Twenty-four missions in story mode, several of which took a solid half hour to finish, and three more main missions in the sandbox mode gives you a lot of play for your money.
However the combat system feels limited, and an unforgivable decision to combine context-sensitive buttons as one, and missing the opportunity to adjust the button placement makes the control of the camera much more difficult than it should be. On the tablet it's simply too often that you get tangled in another command when you're only trying to adjust the camera.
It's lazy and stupid, and something that drops the score down a notch, though it should be noted the problem is less pronounced on the iPhone and Samsung's Galaxy Note than on the somewhat larger iPad.
So, Arkham City-lite, where problems are more often due to hardware limitations than laziness. The also available Arkham City Lockdown is a great game with a fun battle system, but The Dark Knight Rises delivers a beautiful sandbox experience unmatched on mobiles.
It is an incredibly ambitious project, which unfortunately does not match the goals. But you won't feel cheated for coughing up what's
equivalent to half a movie ticket for a mobile version of The Dark Knight.