"The Soft Bigotry of Low Expectations"
Due to publishers banking on the power of brand names over the power of quality gameplay, licensed games are notorious for being poor. However, while this trend is likely, it is not inevitable. While there are tremendous flops like the 2002 Batman: Dark Tomorrow, there are also genuinely great games like the recent Batman: Arkham City title. While the iOS title Batman: Arkham City Lockdown is nowhere near the quality of its parent game, it's still a pretty decent experience, and that's more than can be said for most comic book-based games.
However, fans of Batman: Arkham City should not expect a sprawling open-world adventure from Lockdown. This game is basically Infinity Blade with Batman characters. Levels consist of linear hallways with brutish henchmen attacking Batman one after another, and players duel against the goons by swiping along the touch screens. Again, this is just like Infinity Blade, except with Batman's fists instead of a sword, and Batman's gadgets instead of spells. The core gameplay of swiping and tapping in response to your opponent's attacks is still there, but it's less varied than in Epic's iOS hit, and the levels are far smaller. Most of the game pits the Caped Crusader against the same set of a few henchmen.
But no Batman story would be complete without his rogues' gallery of colorful super-villains, and Batman: Arkham City Lockdown does the real bad guys justice - the ones that actually fit into the game, at least. There are only four named super-villains in Lockdown, and most of them are direct transplants from Arkham City (save for Deathstroke, a popular DC Comics villain and one of the few fighters actually able to match Batman in martial arts skill). Thankfully, these fights are more inventive than the regular henchman battles, and they even take advantage of the iPhone's unique features. For example, the fight with Two-Face has players use the internal gyroscope to steer a batarang mid-air and knock the gun out of the villain's hands, while the fight against the Joker forces players to rapidly swipe the screen to wipe off a patch of blinding green goop. If the rest of the game showed this kind of variation, Lockdown could have been a great game.
Unfortunately, it doesn't, and thus Lockdown is only a decent game. It's a decent approximation of the Infinity Blade formula, but it's too short and repetitive. The gameplay isn't deep enough to warrant multiple playthroughs, and even the achievements are feats of persistence rather than actual skill (like playing through the game in different costumes, such as Frank Miller's gloomy Dark Knight Returns design or the high-tech Batman Beyond outfit). Fans of Batman will still get quite a bit of fun out of Batman: Arkham City Lockdown, but everyone else can find better options.
GameDynamo's Score for Batman: Arkham City Lockdown (Mobile)
Neil Kapit is a freelance writer, cartoonist, and "La Li Lu Le Lo" agent based in Los Angeles. His work can be seen on www.therubynation.com.
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